How do I respond to my husband who maintains that the word Easter refers to Ishtar, the Babylonian fertility goddess? He refuses to go to any church that uses that title.
James F. Pope
The response to your question includes some uncertainty and certainty. Thankfully, there is certainty in what really matters.
It is difficult to determine precisely the origin of the word Easter. Some people have tried to identify it with the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring Eostre. That derivation is unlikely but, for argument’s sake, let’s pretend that is the case.
If we avoid using names that have ties to goddesses and gods, then we would not want to use Thursday because the name of the day is connected to the Norse god Thor.
When I write “August” on a check, even though it’s the eighth month of the year, it is named after Caesar Augustus—a god, according to the decree of the Roman Senate.
No matter how the word Easter came about, any connection to pagan gods, goddesses, or idolatry has disappeared a long time ago.
On the other hand, some propose that Easter is derived from the German “Ost” (“East”) and “Ostern” (“Easter”). The sun rises in the east. Those first rays of the sun’s light shatter the darkness of the night from the east.
Christians recognize that constructing a church calendar and including events like Easter are matters of Christian freedom. While God gave Moses a church calendar with major festivals for Old Testament Israel, that no longer applies to New Testament followers of the Lord (Galatians 4:10; Colossians 2:16). Exercising their spiritual freedom, Christians designed a church-year calendar and then designated important events in the life of Christ. Easter is one of them.
If your husband is concerned about our church’s usage of the title Easter, you may want to point out to him that in the church calendar the Sunday after Good Friday is called “The Resurrection of our Lord.” It is common for Christian churches to use “Easter” and “The Resurrection of our Lord” interchangeably because terminology is not as important as meaning, and the meaning of Easter is all about God’s declaration of acceptance and victory.
The apostle Paul wrote about Jesus: “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Romans 4:25). The message that God broadcast to the world on the first Easter Sunday was that he had accepted Jesus’ holy life and sacrificial death as the full payment for the sins of the world. On the cross Jesus proclaimed, “It is finished” (John 19:30). God verified that declaration by means of the empty tomb.
Easter points us to the empty tomb that temporarily housed Jesus’ lifeless body. Easter Sunday is God’s declaration of his victory over death. Jesus said about himself, “The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again” (Luke 24:7). Jesus did conquer death. In addition, the Lord imparted this promise: “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die” (John 11:25,26). Jesus guarantees that his followers share in his victory over death.
Easter, then, is an uncertain term with certain meaning. Jesus lives! We live!
Author: James F. Pope
Volume 106, Number 4
Issue: April 2019
- Q&A: Why is Pontius Pilate immortalized in our creeds?
- Q&A: How does remembering my baptism help with the guilt I carry?
- Q&A: Do parts of the Bible teach works righteousness?
- Q&A: How can I overcome my struggle with lust and pornography?
- Q&A: How should I help my child struggling with same-sex attraction?
- Q&A: Should Christians pray to saints?
- Q&A: Is anger sinful?
- Q&A: How can parents encourage adult children who wander from the faith?
- Q&A: Does the doxology belong in the Lord’s Prayer?
- Q&A: Is God fair?
- Q&A: When we pray, “Your kingdom come,” what are we praying for?
- Q&A: How can I better manage what God has given me this year so that I glorify him?
- Q&A: What are ways to glorify God besides singing in church?
- Q&A: I have no special gifts, and I mess up all the time. Does God really need me?
- Q&A: How do I overcome the feeling that my life has no purpose and I don’t make a difference?
- Q&A: My friend died and was not a professing Christian. What do I say to the family?
- Q&A: How can my mother and I forgive my father for being unfaithful and causing my parents to divorce?
- Q&A: Why were demon possession, gifts of healing, and gifts of tongues more prevalent in biblical times?
- Q&A: Is Christianity the only religion that gives the certainty of heaven?
- Q&A: If people go to hell, isn’t it their fault because God gave them free will and they rejected him?
- Q&A: Why are the 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension important for the disciples and for us?
- Q&A: Can you explain Jesus’ words to the wailing women he met on his way to be crucified?
- Q&A: What if spouses don’t “love” each other anymore?
- Q&A: Is it wrong to have a cross with Jesus’ body on it?
- Q&A: Is our time of grace really unchangeable?
- Q&A: I know that we are saved by grace apart from works, but how can it be that easy?
- Q&A: Are there degrees of glory in heaven as a reward for good works?
- Q&A: Do Lutherans take the Bible literally and teach millennialism?
- Q&A: Are there different interpretations of the Bible?
- Q&A: How can we be sure the Bible includes what God originally gave us?
- Q&A: Why does it seem like Christianity is so negative?
- Q&A: How can I explain how Jesus’ resurrection is possible and if the Bible is reliable?
- Q&A: Is it okay to live together if we are planning to get married?
- Q&A: How is the Bible God’s Word?
- Q&A: Were we “created to make a difference”?
- Q&A: Am I being judgmental if I point out someone’s sin?
- Q&A: Do I need to read the Bible to have a relationship with God?
- Q&A: Can a Christian vote for a political candidate who supports abortion?
- Q&A: Does God really care?
- Q&A: Does it really matter how God made the world?
- Q&A: Does God send people to hell?
- Q&A: Is death natural?
- Q&A: How can I forgive and forget?
- Q&A: Does God help those who help themselves?
- Q&A: How can we say that the Old Testament God is the same as the New Testament God?
- Q&A: Is Jesus the only way to get to heaven?
- Q&A: Doesn’t God want me to be happy?
- Light for our path: Does God hate us?
- Light for our path: What kind of comfort can you give someone when a loved one commits suicide?
- Light for our path: What does a submissive wife in a Christian marriage look like?
- Light for our path: Is it a sin to want to die from a terminal illness?
- Light for our path: What advice can you give about applauding in church?
- Light for our path: Can you please explain Matthew 5:20?
- Light for our path: What is karma?
- Light for our path: Can the devil personally be tempting me and a lot of other people at exactly the same time?
- Light for our path: Does the word Easter refer to Ishtar, the Babylonian fertility goddess?
- Light for our path: What role does emotion play in contrition?
- Light for our path: What does the white stone in Revelation 2:17 mean?
- Light for our path: Is the cross symbol now anti-Christian?
- Light for our path: Were Joseph and Mary engaged or married when Joseph learned of Mary’s pregnancy?