What Does A Bunny Have to Do With The Cross?
Easter is the most important holiday of the church, intending to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus. Sadly, pre-Christian customs originating from paganism have been assimilated into the present day traditions and practices, polluting the significance of the resurrection of Jesus. The Layman’s Bible Encyclopedia gives the following information about Easter:
Modern observance of Easter represents a convergence of three traditions: (1) The Hebrew Passover, celebrated during Nisan, the first month of the Hebrew lunar calendar; (2) The Christian commemoration of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, which took place at the feast of the Passover; and (3) The Norse Ostara or Eostra (from which the name, “Easter” is derived), a pagan festival of spring which fell at the vernal equinox, March 21. Prominent symbols in this celebration of the resurrection of nature after the winter were rabbits, signifying fecundity, and eggs, colored like the rays of the “returning sun” and the northern lights, or aurora borealis (Martin 209).
The King James Version is the only translation that has the word “Easter” in it (Acts 12:4). All other translations have rendered the Greek pascha correctly as “Passover.” A comment on this mistranslation in the much respected Barnes’ Notes states “There was never a more absurd or unhappy translation than this.” The ancient Germanic calendar had a month called Eoasturmonath which got its name in honor of their ancient goddess Eostre (Chuvin 204-5). Spring fertility festivals in honor of Eostre involved “Rites of Spring” celebrated at the time of the equinox, a time when pagan’s believed the earth mother was impregnated by the sun.
The Dictionary of Mythology, Folklore, and Symbols, tells more about this Spring Festival:
“It incorporates some of the ancient Spring Equinos ceremonies of sun worship in which there were phallic rites and spring fires, and in which the deity or offering to the deity was eaten…The festivial is symbolzed by an ascension Lily…a chick breaking its shell, the colors white and green, the egg, spring flowers, and the Rabbit. The name is related to Astarte, Ashtoreth, Eostre, and Ishtar, goddess who visited and rose from the underworld. Easter yields ‘Enduring Eos’…’Enduring Dawn’ (487).”
The name of the goddess changed from culture to culture…
A thorough review of the literature reveals that goddess worship was very prevalent in the Mediterranean area, beginning in the Babylonian culture. The name of the goddess changed from culture to culture, however, the attributes,symbols and rituals remained very similar with her name varying. The Norse knew her as Eostra, Eastre, Eostre, Eastra, or Ostara. In the Greek Classics of Homer and Hesiod she was Eos, same as the Roman Aurora and the Assyrian Ishtar, and Astarte, and recorded in the Old Testament as Astarth and Astoreth, or the queen of heaven. In Hindu mythology the goddess was known as Ushas, daughter of heaven. Eos was known by the Greeks as the sister of Helios, the Sun-deity, and was represented in sculpture with sun-rays radiating around her head (Koster 25).
The festivals associated with goddess worship involved phallic rites and temple prostitution. It was expected for women in these cults to sacrifice their virginity on the feast day at the temples or to become temple prostitutes. A description of a site of this type of worship can be seen in II Kings 23:4-8. The significance of the temple prostitutes is evident in the following information taken from The Interpreter’s Dictionary of The Bible, Volume 3:
“The prostitute who was an offical of the cult in ancient Palestine and nearby lands of biblical times exercised an important function. This religion was predicated upon the belief that the processes of nature were controlled by the the relations between the gods and goddesses. Projecting their understanding of their own sexual activities, the worshipers of thse deities, through the use of imitative magic, engaged in sexual intercourse with devotees of the shrine, in the belief that this would encourage the gods and goddesses to do likewise. Only by sexual relations among the deities could man’s desire for increase in herds and fields, as well as his own family, be realized. In Palestine the gods Baal and Asherah were especially prominent…These competed with Yahwah the God of Israel and, in some cases, may have produced hybrid Yahwah-Baal cults. Attached to the shrines of these cults were priests as well as prostitutes, both male and female. Their chief service was sexual in nature-the offering of their bodies for ritual purposes (933-934).”
The Watson’s Biblical and Archaeological Disctionary connects this Phoenician-Canaanite goddess Ashtaroth (Greek), or Astarte (Hebrew) with the queen of heaven found in the Bible:
“The word Ashtaroth properly signifies flocks of sheep, or goats; and sometime the grove, or woods, because she was goddess of woods and groves were her temples…She was also called the queen of heaven…She is almost always joined with Baal, and is called a god, the scriptures having no particular word to express a goddess. It is believed that the moon was adored in this idol. Her temples generally accompanied those of the sun; and while bloody sacrifices or human victims were offered to Baal, bread, liquors, and perfumes were presented to Astarte. Soloman, seduced by his foreign wives, introduced the worship of Ashtaroth into Israel; but Jezebel, daughter of the king of Tyre, and wife of Ahab, principally established her worship. She caused altars to be erected to this idol in every part of Israel; and at one time four hundred priests attended the worship of Ashtaroth, I Kings 18 (7).”
There are several other Bible scriptures that are specific to these forms of idolatry. I Kings 15:13 and II Kings 21:7 are specific to a cult object that must be cut down and was detestable to the faithful followers of Yahweh. This object was set up in the high places beside the altars if incense and the stone pillars. In Judges 6:28 it appears that the male god is represented by the stone pillars, while this cult object of Ashera, most likely a tree or pole, constituted a symbol of the goddess. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia gives a description of her symbol as follows:
“…the tree-trunk or cone of stone which symbolized Asherah was regarded as a Beth-el, or “house of the deity,” wherein the goddess was immanent…The trunk of the tree was often provided with branches, and assumed the form of the tree of life. It was as a trunk, however, that it was forbidden to be erected by the side of “the altar of Yahweh” (Duet 16:21; Judges 6:25,28,30; 2 Kings
The familiar symbols of the rabbit and eggs obviously represent fertility, which was a commonality in goddess all of the various goddess worship. In the book, The Two Babylons, Hislop presents an interesting story from which the present day Easter egg has it’s roots:
From Egypt these sacred eggs can be distinctly traced to the banks of Euphrates. The classic poets are full of the fable of the mystic egg of the Babylonians; and thus its tale is told by Hyginus, the Egyptian, the learned keeper of the Palatine library of Rome, in the time of Augustus, who was skilled in all the wisdom of his native country: “An egg of wondrous size is said to have fallen from heaven into the river Euphrates. The fishes rolled it to the bank, where the doves having settled upon it, hatched it, and out came Venus, who afterwards was called the Syrian Goddess”-that is, Astarte. Hence the egg became one of the symbols of Astarte or Easter; and accordingly, in Cyprus, one of the chosen seats of the worship of Venus, or Astarte, the eff of wondrous size was represented on a grand scale (taken from an internet resource).
Paul records in chapter 19 of the Book of Acts about the people of “all Asia and the world” worshipping the goddess Diana of the Ephesians. He relates how she is the image that fell down from Zeus. This compares to the myth of Astarte falling from heaven in an egg.
The worship of Cybele, also know as the “Mother of the Gods,” the Asiatic goddess of fertility, was adopted in Rome in 204 B.C.E. Her beloved was Adonis, also know as Attes, Attis, or Atys. Their spring festivals were well know and lasted from March 22-25. The last day, the vernal equinox, the mourning turned to joy for the resurrection of Attis, also a sun god (Koster 26) A similar union is found in the Sumerian and Baylonian god of fertility and vegetation, Tammuz and the queen of heaven-Easter/Ishtar. According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Volume 4 the origin of the name Tammuz, which is dumuzi, literaly means “invigorator of the child.” The festival for this pair was also observed at the time of the vernal equinox (725). Tammuz is mentioned once in the Bible in the Book of Ezekiel 8:13-14:
And He said to me, “Turn again and you will see greaer abominations that they are doing.” So He brought me to the door of the north gate of the Lord’s house; and to my dismay, women were sitting there weeping for Tammuz.
This abomination was part of a fertility rite in which they wept for their dead vegetation god because the land had ceased to be fertile. At the time of the Vernal Equinox, they would mourn and grieve with Ishtar over the death of Tammuz. He would then be resurrected by the mother goddess Ishtar and reunited with her. This sexual reunion of the gods would assure the success of the crops and cause the animals and people to be fertile the coming year.
The hot cross buns were also part of the worship of Ishtar/Easter and Tammuz worship. The Bible also records this in Jeremiah 7:17-20:
Do you not see what they do in the cities of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke me to anger.
The sunrise service observed each Easter morning can also be traced back to pagan worship of the sun gods at the time of the vernal equinox. This practice was condemned by God as recorded in the book of Ezekiel 8:15-18 just after the abominational practice of the followers of Tammuz are mentioned:
Then He said to me, “Have you seen this, O son of man? Turn again, you will see greater abominations than these.” So He brought me into the inner court of the Lord’s house; and there, at the door of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs toward the temple of the Lord and their faces toward the east, and they were worshipping the sun toward the east.
God gave us a strong example in the Bible that should serve as a warning to His church today. In I Kings 11:33 we see judgement prophecied regarding Israel because… “They have forsaken Me, and worshiped Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians,..” We also see judgement prophecied in the future in the book of Revelation 2:20-23. Here we see a church that is committing fornication with “that woman Jezebel.” The church was given time to repent but she did not, so God cast her into Jezebel’s sickbed and great tribulation because of her fornication. The church is committing fornication with this spirit each time we mix the worship or our Lord with the polluted practices of paganism. Revelation 18:4 says… “Come out of her, my people, least you share in her sins, and lest you receive her plagues.”