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SOME FACTS ABOUT EASTER
(from the book The Baptist Story, pp. 167-171)
Matt. 28:1--"In the end of the Sabbath as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre."
(Note:--The Jew reckoned his time from sundown to sundown. Since the Sabbath was the seventh day, the time in this text is evidently about sundown, Saturday afternoon. The Grave was empty.)
John 20:1--"The First day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene, early when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre."
Note:--This visit is not the same visit Matthew records. Note the time element.)
Mark 16:2--"And very early in the morning, the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun."
(Note:--This is still another visit made at sunrise, Sunday morning. Luke evidently records this same visit. Thus much confusion will be eliminated if we understand that separate visits were made to the tomb. The first one recorded by Matthew, who says it was near the end of the sabbath or about sundown Saturday afternoon. Note, also, that Matthew mentions an earthquake. None of the other writers make mention of an earthquake. Surely if they are all writing of the same visit to the tomb, they are very confusing to say the least. Since we believe the Bible is divinely inspired, we must believe that each of the writers told the truth.)
Please Note Matthew 12:40--"For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale's belly, so shall the son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."
We are asked to believe in the Easter celebrations that Jesus was crucified on Friday and was raised at sunrise Sunday morning. We would like to meet the man who can get three days and three nights from Friday afternoon to sunrise Sunday morning. If the Easter story is true, then Matthew 12:40 is false.
Who started this Easter business anyway? "There is no trace of the celebration of Easter as a Christian festival in the New Testament or in the writings of the Apostolic followers. The sanctity of special times or places was an idea quite alien from the early Christian mind; too profoundly absorbed in the events themselves to think of their external accidents." (Enc. Brit.--Ed. 9, Vol. VII, p. 531)
"The Christian who dwells on the truths of Christ as our passover and the gift of the Holy Spirit is every day keeping an Easter and pentecostal feast." Origin (contr. Celsum VIII--22)
'The Ecclesiastical historian, Socrates, (Hist. Eccl. VII) "Neither Christ nor His Apostles enjoined the keeping of this or any other festival. The Apostles had no thought of appointing festival days, but of promoting a life of blamelessness and piety."
"The word Easter is derived from the Anglo-Saxon Eostre or Ostrae. The Anglo-Saxon Goddess of Spring and fertility, to whom the fourth month, answering to our April, thence called 'Eoster-monath' was dedicated. The name of this Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring was unfortunately blended with the passover festival. The Paschal festival was observed by the early Christians of Jewish descent early in the history of Christianity. The Jewish and Gentile elements were engaged in a long, continued and bitter controversy and an unhappy severance of Christian union. No rule as to the rule of the Paschal festivals having been laid down by authority, Christians were left to follow their own instincts. With the Jewish Christians, the Paschal Feast would end at the same time as that of the Jews on the 14th day of the moon at evening. And the great festival day would follow immediately, entirely irrespective of the day of the week. With the Gentile Christians, on the other hand, unfettered by Jewish traditions, the first day of the week would be identified with the resurrection festival and the preceding Friday would be kept as the commemoration of the crucifixion, irrespective of the day of the month. With one group, therefore, the observance of the day of the month; with the other, the observance of the day of the week was the ruling principle. The chief point was the 'keeping' or 'not keeping' the fourteenth day of the moon corresponding with the month, Nisan. Those who adopted the Jewish rule, did so keep the fourteenth day and were called 'Quartodeciman' and were stigmatized as heretics." (p. 531-Enc. Bri. 9 ed. Vol. VII.)
"How was this controversy finally settled? This diversity of usage was gradually brought to an end by the verdict of the Church of Rome. The Roman Christians adopted the ordinary Gentile usage, which within certain limits placed the observance of the crucifixion on Friday and that of the resurrection on the following Sunday. A decretal of Pope Plus I, (C. 147) pronounces that the 'pasch' should be celebrated on the Lord's Day by all." [Note: The word Easter is not used. This is the Paschal Feast.--A. A. Davis] Polycarp, the venerable Bishop of Smyrna, who according to Irenaeus (Apud Euseb, H.E.V 24) visited Rome in 159 A.D. with this object, failed to induce Anicetus to conform to the Quartodeciman usage which Polycarp had inherited from his master, the apostle John." (Enc. Bri.)
The Apostle John was baptized by John the Baptist. (Acts 1.22).
Polycarp was baptized by John the Apostle, Dec. 25, A.D. 95. (Neanders Ch. Hist.--p. 285).
At the time the above visit to Rome A.D. 159, Polycarp was Pastor of the church of Smyrna. Certainly we would be safe in assuming that these brethren, Polycarp and John, were representatives of the New Testament faith to their generation. You remember John was an apostle of the Lord and wrote the Book of Revelation. They certainly aligned themselves with the Quartodecimans which was the Jewish interpretation of the Paschal festival, which was to be observed, according to the Jewish calendar and not the Roman calendar. The feast of unleavened bread and the passover feast were identical. Luke 22:1; Exodus 12:14-20.
John 19:31--"The Jews, therefore, because it was the Preparation that the body should not remain upon the cross upon the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath was a high day) besought Pilate that their legs be broken that they might be taken away."
Now, what means the Preparation? What kind of a Sabbath does it refer to? The Preparation Day was always the day of the feast of unleavened bread preceding the Passover Sabbath. The Sabbath referred to was the great Sabbath of the Passover that began at sundown on this Preparation day. You will please note that John is careful to say that this Sabbath was not the ordinary seventh day of the week, but a High Sabbath. This Sabbath came only once a year, and always came on the fourteenth day of Nisan. Now if the Jewish calendar is correct, He was crucified on the day before this Great Sabbath, which would have been Wednesday, April 13th. Now figure your Matthew 12:40 text and harmonize it with Matthew 28:1. I believe that from the moment He entered the grave late Wednesday evening that exactly 72 hours to the minute He was raised from the dead. [A. A. Davis]
Further thoughts: See Romans 14:5; Romans 6:1-4; "There is only one authorized Bible method of celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is Believer's Baptism. Every time a believer in Christ is baptized, he preaches and testifies that Jesus has been raised from the dead. Never in the scriptures is there any reference to a day or a season for the purpose of observing the resurrection of Jesus. Col. 6:16-17--"Let no man therefore judge you in meat or in drink or in respect of an Holy day or of a new moon, or of the sabbath days which are a shadow of things to come, but the body is of Christ."
We believe that those who have respect to holy days and new moons and sabbath days are Shadow worshippers. The term Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Whit Sunday, Easter Sunday, Blue Monday, Sad Tuesday, by what ever name, these terms are meaningless to the informed new Testament Christian. While we believe in the resurrection of Jesus, since the moment of His resurrection, we cannot accept the Roman Catholic dogma of Easter anymore than we can accept their dogma on the virgin Mary and purgatory. Because of this conviction, Baptists have been persecuted and rivers have run with Baptist blood, because Baptists would not accept a Roman Catholic decree that contradicted their conscience and their Bible. For the Resurrection we have everything. For Eostre, the pagan goddess of spring and fertility, for whom the Easter festival was evidently named, we have no place for her in our religious life. Let Baptists everywhere beware of the Easter heresy. Watching the sunrise doesn't prove anything. It rises three hundred and sixty-five times a year, but watching a Believer rising from the waters of baptism, is God's appointed testimony. And Jesus rose from the dead to die no more. But I do believe this much about Easter, the women should get new dresses and hats for Easter, but I do not believe rabbits lay eggs.
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