"Easter" in Acts 12:4 a mistranslation?
By Dr. Samuel C. Gipp
This is a section from the excellent book
"The Answer Book: A Handbook for Christians" by Dr. Sam Gipp. Dr. Gipp
is the author of several books. Dr. Gipp is a popular Evangelist, teacher,
author and Bible Conference speaker. He has the unique ability to digest large
amounts of information and present it in an analytical, understandable, format.
His humorous and informative preaching style makes him popular with all ages and
keeps him in demand as a Revivalist and Bible Conference speaker. Dr. Gipp
appeared as a defender of the King James Bible on the "John Ankerberg
Show." Dr. Gipp's life story was featured on the national radio program,
"Unshackled." The complete Answer Book is available for
on-line viewing and can also be
"Easter" in Acts 12:4 a mistranslation of
the word "pascha" and should it be translated as "Passover"?
No, "pascha" is properly translated "Easter" in Acts
12:4 as the following explanation will show.
The Greek word which is translated "Easter" in Acts
12:4 is the word "pascha". This word appears twenty-nine times
in the New Testament. Twenty-eight of those times the word is rendered
"Passover" in reference to the night when the Lord passed over Egypt
and killed all the firstborn of Egypt (Exodus 12:12),
thus setting Israel free from four hundred years of bondage.
The many opponents to the concept
of having a perfect Bible have made much of this translation of "pascha".
Coming to the word
"Easter" in God's Authorized Bible, they seize upon it imagining that
they have found proof that the Bible is not perfect. Fortunately for lovers of
the Word of God, they are wrong. Easter, as we know it,
comes from the ancient pagan festival of Astarte. Also known as Ishtar
(pronounced "Easter"). This festival has always been held late in the
month of April. It was, in its original form, a celebration of the earth
"regenerating" itself after the winter season. The festival involved a
celebration of reproduction. For this reason the common symbols of Easter
festivities were the rabbit (the same symbol as "Playboy" magazine),
and the egg. Both are known for their reproductive abilities. At the center of
attention was Astarte, the female deity. She is known in the Bible as the
"queen of heaven" (Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17-25). She is the mother of Tammuz
(Ezekiel 8:14) who was also her husband! These
perverted rituals would take place at sunrise on Easter morning (Ezekiel
8:13-16). From the references in Jeremiah and Ezekiel, we can see that
the true Easter has never had any association with
Problem: Even though the Jewish
passover was held in mid April (the fourteenth) and the pagan festival Easter
was held later the same month, how do we know that Herod was referring to Easter
in Acts 12:4 and not the Jewish Passover? If he was
referring to the Passover, the translation of "pascha" as
"Easter" is incorrect. If he was indeed referring to the pagan holyday
(holiday) Easter, then the King James Bible (1611) must truly be the very word
and words of God for it is the only Bible in print today which has the correct
To unravel the confusion
concerning "Easter" in verse 4, we must
consult our FINAL authority, THE BIBLE. The key which unlocks the puzzle is
found not in verse 4, but in verse
3. (Then were the days of unleavened bread... ") To secure the
answer that we seek, we must find the relationship of the Passover to the days
of unleavened bread. We must keep in mind that Peter was arrested during the
"days of unleavened bread" (Acts 12:3).
Our investigation will need to
start at the first Passover. This was the night in which the LORD smote all the
firstborn in Egypt. The Israelites were instructed to kill a lamb and strike its
blood on the two side posts and the upper door post (Exodus
12:4- 5). Let us now see what the Bible says concerning the first
Passover, and the days of unleavened bread.
Exodus 12:13-18: "And
the blood shall be to you for a token upon the houses where ye are: and when I
see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to
destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt.
14 And this day shall be unto you for a memorial;
and ye shall keep it a feast to the LORD throughout your generations; ye shall
keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever.
15 Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even
the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth
leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut
off from Israel.
16 And in the first day there shall be an holy
convocation to you; no manner of work shall be done in them, save that which
every man must eat, that only may be done of you.
17 And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened
bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of
Egypt: therefore shall ye observe this day in your generations by an ordinance
18 In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the
month at even ye shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of
the month at even."
Here in Exodus
12:13 we see how the Passover got its name. The LORD said that He would
"pass over" all of the houses which had the blood of the lamb marking
After the Passover (Exodus
12:13-14), we find that seven days shall be fulfilled in which the Jews
were to eat unleavened bread. These are the days of unleavened bread!
In verse 18 we
see that dates for the observance were April 14th through the 21st. This
religious observance is stated more clearly in Numbers
16 "And in the
fourteenth day of the first month is the passover of the LORD.
17 And in the
fifteenth day of this month is the feast: seven days shall unleavened bread be
18 In the first day shall be an holy convocation;ye
shall do no manner of servile work therein:"
In verse 16 we
see that the Passover is only considered to be the 14th of the month. On the
next morning, the 15th begins the "days of unleavened bread."
Deuteronomy 16:1-8: "Observe
the month of Abib (April), and keep the passover unto the LORD thy God: for in
the month of Abib the LORD thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night.
2 Thou shalt therefore sacrifice the passover unto
the LORD thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which the LORD shall
choose to place his name there.
3 Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it; seven
days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction:
for thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt in haste: that thou mayest
remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of
4 And there shall be no leavened bread seen with
thee in all thy coast seven days; neither shall there any thing of the flesh,
which thou sacrificedst the first day at even, remain all night until the
5 Thou mayest not sacrifice the passover within any of
thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee:
6 But at the place which the LORD thy God shall
choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at
the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt.
7 And thou shalt roast and eat it in the place which the
LORD thy God shall choose: and thou shalt turn in the morning, and go unto thy
8 Six days thou shalt eat unleavened bread: and on
the seventh day shall be a solemn assembly to the LORD thy God: thou shalt do no
Here in Deuteronomy we see again that the
Passover is sacrificed on the first night (Deuteronomy
16:1). It is worth noting that the Passover was to be celebrated in the
evening (verse 6) not at sunrise (Ezekiel
In II Chronicles 8:13
we see that the feast of unleavened bread was one of the three Jewish feasts to
be kept during the year.
II Chronicles 8:13: "Even
after a certain rate every day, offering according to the commandment of Moses,
on the sabbaths, and on the new moons, and on the solemn feasts, three times in
the year, even in the feast of unleavened bread, and in the feast of weeks, and
in the feast of tabernacles."
Whenever the Passover was kept,
it always preceded the feast of unleavened bread. In II Chronicles 30 some Jews
who were unable to keep the Passover in the first month were allowed to keep it
in the second. But the dates remained the same.
30:l5, 21: "Then they killed the passover on the fourteenth day of the
second month: and the priests and the Levites were ashamed, and sanctified
themselves, and brought in the burnt offerings into the house of the LORD. And
the children of lsrael that were present at Jerusalem kept the feast of
unleavened bread seven days with great gladness: and the Levites and the priests
praised the LORD day by day, singing with loud instruments unto the LORD."
"And the children of the captivity kept the passover upon the fourteenth
day of the first month. And kept the feast of unleavened bread seven days with
joy: for the LORD had made them joyful, and turned the heart of the king of
Assyria unto them, to strengthen their hands in the work of the house of God,
the God of Israel."
We see then, from studying what the BIBLE has to
say concerning the subject that the order of events went as follows:
On the 14th of April the lamb was killed.
This is the Passover. No event following the 14th is ever referred to as the
On the morning of the 15th begins the days
of unleavened bread, also known as the feast of unleavened bread.
It must also be noted that whenever the
Passover is mentioned in the New Testament, the reference is always to the meal,
to be eaten on the night of April 14th not the entire week. The days of
unleavened bread are NEVER referred to as the Passover. (It must be remembered
that the angel of the Lord passed over Egypt on one night, not seven nights in a
Now let us look at Acts
"And because he saw
it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the
days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in
prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending
after Easter to bring him forth to the people."
Verse 3 shows
that Peter was arrested during the days of unleavened bread (April 15-21). The
Bible says: "Then were the days of unleavened bread." The Passover
(April 14th) had already come and gone. Herod could not possibly have been
referring to the Passover in his statement concerning Easter. The next Passover
was a year away! But the pagan holiday of Easter was just a few days away.
Remember! Herod was a pagan Roman who worshipped the "queen of
heaven". He was NOT a Jew. He had no reason to keep the Jewish Passover.
Some might argue that he wanted to wait until after the Passover for fear of
upsetting the Jews. There are two grievous faults in this line of thinking.
First, Peter was no longer considered a Jew.
He had repudiated Judaism. The Jews would have no reason to be upset by Herod's
Second, he could not have been waiting until
after the Passover because he thought the Jews would not kill a man during a
religious holiday. They had killed Jesus during Passover (Matthew
26:17-19, 47). They were also excited about Herod's murder of James.
Anyone knows that a mob possesses the courage to do violent acts during
religious festivities, not after.
In further considering Herod's position as a
Roman, we must remember that the Herods were well known for celebrating (Matthew
14:6-11). In fact, in Matthew chapter 14 we
see that a Herod was even willing to kill a man of God during one of his
It is elementary to see that Herod, in Acts
12, had arrested Peter during the days of unleavened bread, after the
Passover. The days of unleavened bread would end on the 21st of April. Shortly
after that would come Herod's celebration of pagan Easter. Herod had not killed
Peter during the days of unleavened bread simply because he wanted to wait until
Easter. Since it is plain that both the Jews (Matthew
26:17-47) and the Romans (Matthew 14:6-11)
would kill during a religious celebration, Herod's opinion seemed that he was
not going to let the Jews "have all the fun." He would wait until his
own pagan festival and see to it that Peter died in the excitement.
Thus we see that it was God's providence which
had the Spirit-filled translators of our Bible (King James) to CORRECTLY
translate "pascha" as "Easter". It most certainly did not
refer to the Jewish Passover. In fact, to change it to "Passover"
would confuse the reader and make the truth of the situation unclear.
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