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Bob, Can you please help me understand the real meaning of Good Friday celebration and why is it called Easter?
Thank you for this question! I sense your frustration in "getting to the truth" of the matter of "Resurrection week". When we search the web and check commentaries and encyclopedias, it is frustrating to read all the "could be this", and "could be that". Searching the Scriptures though, gives us, what I believe, are solid answers, answers that remind us of the wonderful Riches of God's Word and Grace!
God's people are free to worship and celebrate the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, any day and way they please:
Romans 14:5 "One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind".
Ideally, shouldn't we wake up every morning, and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and live in His Resurrection Power every day?
But, our question here is the modern traditions of "Easter", and "Good Friday", and what God's Word says about "Resurrection Week". Let's begin our "research" by looking up "Good Friday" in our Bible. I was not able to find "Good Friday" in any Bible translation. OK, let's try "Easter". The only modern Bible I find "Easter" in is the 1611 King James Bible, in Acts 12:4! All the other modern Bibles I checked said "Passover" in Acts 12:4! So I look at the original Greek text, and underneath the "Easter" of the King James, is the Greek word "Pascha", which is translated "Passover" in the 28 other passages where "Pascha" occurs. I check some commentaries, and they say "Easter" being inserted in the King James Bible in Acts 12:4 is "an absurd, and most unfortunate translation". (See many parallel Bible versions and Bible Commentary comments on Acts 12:4, at www.Biblios.com)
Researching the origin of the word "Easter" revealed that this word originated in ancient Babylon, with the pagan goddess of fertility - "Ishtar". Turns out that the pagan "Spring Festival", the "Feast of Ishtar" occurred within a few weeks of the Jewish Passover, so, the Christian Church adopted "Easter" as the time to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. When we study the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah, we find that Babylon called Ishtar "the Queen of Heaven", and that God was going to destroy Israel because they had adopted the pagan worship of Babylon. We find this in Jeremiah 7:18, and 44:17, 18, 19, and 25.
When we study the worship of the Babylonian goddess "Ishtar", we find that she had an "only begotten son" named "Tammuz", who was supposedly resurrected from the dead! In Ezekiel 8:14-16, we find that Israel had brought the worship of Ishtar, and her son "Tammuz", into the Temple at Jerusalem, and that worshippers "wept" for the untimely death of Tammuz and celebrated his resurrection at "sunrise":
Eze 8:14 "Then he brought me to the door of the gate of the LORD’S house which was toward the north; and, behold, there sat women weeping for Tammuz.
15 Then said he unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? turn thee yet again, and thou shalt see greater abominations than these.
16 And he brought me into the inner court of the LORD’S house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the LORD, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the LORD, and their faces toward the east; and they worshipped the sun toward the east".
Incidentally, the Prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah lived and prophesied as Israel's last king, King Zedekiah was on the throne, and he had brought Babylonian paganism into the very Temple of God in Jerusalem! This is the subject of the Books Ezekiel and Jeremiah, and why they prophesy about the final destruction of Jerusalem. In Jeremiah 10:2-4, we also find a reference to the Babylonian custom of celebrating the "birth" of Tammuz on the Winter Solstice, near December 25th:
Jer 10:2 "Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.
4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not".
There is much more to read about the pagan origins of Lent, Good Friday, and Easter, by "Googling" the words "Ishtar", and "Tammuz". Also, the book "The Two Babylons", by Alexander Hislop outlines how Satan tried to "muddy the water" by counterfeiting God's Truth. It can be downloaded free, as a .PDF, at www.ultimatebiblereferencelibrary.com/FreeDownloads.html. An explanation of the origin of "Easter" begins on page 101 of this book.
The Council of Nicaea, convened by the Emperor Constantine, in AD 325 is credited with adopting the time of the "Easter Festival" as the time to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. (www.newadvent.org/fathers/3801.htm)
It appears that the King James insertion of the word "Easter", in place of the correct translation "Passover", is responsible for the modern Christian Church adopting the time of the "Easter" Spring Festival to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. This is the reason for the "fertility symbols", like "eggs" and "rabbits" etc. at "Easter". Interestingly, the pagan worshippers also wore a new suit of clothes to the "Feast of Ishtar".
If we treat the study of this "mystery" of "Good Friday", and Easter" like "a cold case file", and believe the Bible has all the answers God wants us to have, we start by compiling "facts" from God's Word:
The first "fact" I find is that Jesus was raised from the dead on the Sabbath - our Saturday, before the first day of the week, Sunday, began. In Matthew 28:1, we find the very first trip to the empty tomb, and the Greek actually reads "Now late on the Sabbath, as it was beginning to draw near (Greek word "epiphosko") toward the first day of the week". This first visit clearly occurred "on the Sabbath" sometime before 6 PM - it was not yet Sunday, the first day of the week, and the tomb was already empty. Greek scholar A. T. Robertson, in his "Word Pictures in the New Testament" comments on Matthew 28:1 - "This careful chronological statement according to Jewish days clearly means that before the sabbath was over, that is before six P.M., this visit was made by the women to see the sepulchre". ("Epiphosko" is used one other time, in Luke 23:52-54, where the body of Jesus was placed in the tomb on the "day of preparation" and "the sabbath drew on", or "was getting near")
We need to take a little "side bar" here, to examine the Jewish reckoning of a "day".
It is important here to understand that the Jewish "day" began at "sundown", or what we call 6 PM. This is the order that God set in motion when He created Adam and Eve. In Genesis Chapter one, God forms the light, and begins "days" and He says "the evening and the morning were the first day":
Gen 1:4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
God continues to state the "evening" first and then the morning, and this is why the Jewish "day" began at "sundown" - "The evening and the morning" for each "day". So, for example, Passover was the 14th day of the first month, which began at 6 PM (sundown), at the end of the 13th day.
The second "fact" I find is that the Jewish "Passover Meal" was eaten the same day of the month, and hour of the day, every year since the Jews left Egypt, in Exodus chapter 12. According to Ex 12:1-6, and 14-16, and repeated in Lev 23:5, it was to be eaten on the 14th day, of the first month, at sundown, which is the BEGINNING of that 14th Jewish "day". Again, that would be our 14th of April - every year.
The third "fact", Jesus and His disciples ate the Passover meal the night Jesus was betrayed, just after 6 PM, at the beginning of the 14th day, and Jesus was Crucified in the middle of that same day, the Jewish day of "Passover", at 9 AM:
Matthew 26:2 "Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover (Pascha), and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified".
Mark 15:25 "And it was the third hour, (9 AM) and they crucified him".
So, now we know the actual date of the Passover and Crucifixion, the 14th day of the first month on the Jewish calendar. That is our April 14th.
Next, let's see if the Bible states how long Jesus was going to be in the tomb.
In Matthew 16:21, Mark 8:31, and Luke 9:22, Jesus told his disciples that he would be rejected by the elders and chief priests and be killed and after three days rise again. On another occasion the scribes and Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign. He responded by saying that the only sign they would receive was that of the prophet Jonah, "For as Jonas 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." Matthew 12:40.
Mark 8:31 Clearly states "AFTER three days rise again". "After" here is the Greek word "meta", clearly stating that Jesus would rise from the dead AFTER three days had passed.
The Biblical answer to the question, "How long was Jesus dead, and His body in the tomb?", absolutely must be: Three days and three nights. If we believe the Bible is the infallible Word of God, and, as Jesus said "the Scriptures cannot be broken", then we must believe Jesus was in the tomb three days and three nights, as the Scriptures clearly state.
Now, if Jesus died on the Cross and His body was placed in the tomb near the end of the 14th day of the first month (Passover), and Matthew 28:1 states that the tomb was empty before the end of the Saturday "Sabbath" day, shouldn't we "back up" three days and three nights, to find out what "day of the week" Jesus died on?
It is becoming clear, from our research here, that Jesus could not have died on a Friday. The "tradition" of a "Friday Crucifixion" then must be based on a misunderstanding of the Scriptures.
I find three verses of Scripture that must have given support for the teaching that Jesus died on Friday. They are:
--- Mark 15:42 "And now when the even was come, because it was the preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath..."; (On the surface this sounds like "Friday", the "day before the Sabbath")
--- Luke 23:54 "And that day was the preparation and the Sabbath drew on."; (again, sounds like the "Day of Preparation" was a Friday)
--- John 19:31 "The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was a high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away."
The common conclusion is that Jesus died on Friday and the bodies of those crucified must be taken down from the cross and be buried before the "Saturday Sabbath", which began Friday at sundown. (6 PM)
The problem here is our understanding of the word, "Sabbath". Most Christians would probably say that the term "Sabbath" is synonymous with our modern "Saturday", but there were many "Sabbaths" on the Jewish calendar that were not "seventh day Sabbaths"!
In Leviticus Chapter 23, the Lord's Seven Feasts are declared, and there were at least seven "extra Sabbaths", associated with the major Jewish feasts. These "special Sabbaths" are also called "a holy convocation", and at other times, a "HIGH day", but they were special "Sabbaths", that could occur on any day of the week. These special "Sabbaths" often occurred in the middle of the week, between the "Seventh Day Sabbaths".
The Sabbath that concerned the elders and the chief priests on the day Jesus died was not a Saturday Sabbath, but the special Sabbath (a holy convocation, or a day of rest, or "HIGH Day" as we saw in John 19:31) which celebrated the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Now, we're getting somewhere! In Leviticus 23:5-7, we find that the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is a "special Sabbath", and it occurs the day after Passover day!
Exodus 12:1-6, and 14-16 also makes this very clear, as God institutes the first Passover:
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt, saying,
2 This month shall be unto you the beginning of months: it shall be the first month of the year to you.
3 Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb, according to the house of their fathers, a lamb for an house:
4 And if the household be too little for the lamb, let him and his neighbour next unto his house take it according to the number of souls; every man according to his eating shall make your count for the lamb.
5 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year: ye shall take it out from the sheep, or from the goats:
6 And ye shall keep it up until the fourteenth day of the same month: and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it in the evening.........
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 forever.
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, and in the seventh 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".
We see these "holy convocations" called "Sabbaths", in Lev 23:39:
Lev 23:39 "Also in the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when ye have gathered in the fruit of the land, ye shall keep a feast unto the LORD seven days: on the first day shall be a sabbath, and on the eighth day shall be a sabbath".
Here, in Ex chapter 12, we find that God introduces a new calendar to the Nation of Israel (Ex.12:2). The first month of the new calendar for the Nation of Israel, God named "Abib" (Ex 13:4, 23:15, 34:18, and Deut 16:1), (the Babylonian name is "Nissan", as the modern Jews call it), corresponding to our month of April. (See "The Strange Hebrew Calendar")
On the 14th day of the 1st month, this lamb was to be killed in the evening. (Ex.12:6) (The "Passover Meal").
The seven day Feast of Unleavened Bread immediately follows, the next day, the 15th. (Ex.12:13-14)
And, the first day and the last day of this feast were to be special "Sabbaths", a holy convocation, in which no work was to be done. Since Israel was on a "lunar" calendar, the first day of every month was the first day of the new moon, so, the first "day" of the month, could be ANY day of the week. The "seventh day Sabbath", or "Saturday" could also occur on any day of the week within the seven day feast.
We have now established that the "Feast of Unleavened Bread" began the day after Passover, and that it lasted seven days, and that the first day and last day were "special Sabbath Days", and that this seven day Feast always included a "Seventh Day Sabbath" somewhere within it.
Now we know the meaning of "for that Sabbath day was a high day" in John 19:31:
John 19:31 "The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation (The Passover, preparation for the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread), that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was a high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away."
The "preparation day" was the day of Passover, when the Jews had to prepare for the next day, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was always a "Special Sabbath". Resurrection week had two "Sabbaths", the day after Passover, and the regular Seventh day Sabbath.
These Scriptures, with the dates for the Passover meal and the Feast of Unleavened Bread give us a clear track to follow.
According to Matthew 26:17; Mark 14:12; and Luke 22:7, the disciples came to Jesus and asked him where they should prepare for the Passover meal. After receiving their instructions, they made preparations in the upper room. According to Ex.12:6 and Lev.23:5, the Passover feast is eaten at sundown, the beginning of the 14th day of the first month.
The disciples then made ready for the Passover, and at 6:00 PM, the beginning of the l4th day, Jesus and His disciples ushered in the new day by eating the Passover meal. This is referred to today as "The Last Supper" - at sundown, the beginning of the 14th day of the first month.
After this supper Jesus led his disciples to the garden of Gethsemane where he was betrayed and arrested. During the night of the 14th, he was tried before the Jewish council, before Pilate and before Herod. In the morning, He was then turned over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified. The Passover meal, the prayer in the garden, the arrests, the trials, and the crucifixion, all took place during the evening, morning, and day of the 14th. (The day of Passover).
It would become the 15th day at 6:00PM, which would be the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a day which the Lord had declared through Moses to be a holy convocation, in which, no work was to be done. (a special Sabbath) Notice again, John 19:31 "The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day, (for that Sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away."
Pilate granted the Jews request. Jesus was taken down from the cross on the 14th and placed in the tomb before 6 PM, the beginning of the special Sabbath, the 15th, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
Jesus only spent an hour or so in the tomb on the 14th, because the Jews had to rush to finish getting the body prepared and into the tomb before 6 PM. On the 15th Jesus spent his first night in the tomb. At daybreak, on the 15th, Jesus spent his first day in the tomb.
At evening, at 6 PM it became the 16th, and Jesus spent his second night in the tomb and beginning at daybreak his second day in the tomb. At this point, Jesus has only been in the tomb for two full days, and two full nights.
Again, at evening, 6 PM, the 17th began.
Remember, in Matthew 28:1, we found the very first trip to the empty tomb, and the Greek actually reads "Now late on the Sabbath, as it was beginning to draw near toward the first day of the week". This first visit clearly occurred "on the Sabbath" sometime before 6 PM - it was not yet Sunday, the first day of the week, and the tomb was already empty.
Jesus was raised from the dead some time during the Saturday Sabbath, BEFORE 6 PM Saturday.
So, Resurrection Week had two Sabbath days. For Jesus to be in the tomb three days and three nights, like He said he would, and be raised AFTER three days, like the Scripture says, Passover, the 14th day of the first month, had to be a Wednesday (the day of "preparation"), followed by Thursday, the 15th, a special Sabbath, the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, followed by Friday the 16th, and the regular "seventh day Sabbath", Saturday, the 17th. Jesus spent the "evening" of this seventh day Sabbath in the tomb also, which would be the third full night. At daybreak on this seventh day Sabbath His body was in the tomb the third day.
Matthew 28:1 gives us another important clue, where the word "Sabbath" is actually "plural":
Matt 28:1 "In the end of the Sabbath, ("SabbatOn", "Sabbaths", plural) as it began to dawn toward (draw near to) the first day of the week, (which is our "Sunday") came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre".
So, the very first trip to the empty tomb, was "at the end of the Sabbaths", (Thursday and Saturday) as it was beginning to draw near to the first day of the week". BEFORE Sunday, the first day of the week began at 6 PM Saturday. This first visit clearly occurred "on the Saturday Sabbath" sometime before 6:00PM - it was not yet Sunday, the first day of the week, and the tomb was already empty. I wonder if this is why Jesus told the Pharisees that He was "Lord of the Sabbath"?
How long was the body of our Lord Jesus Christ in the tomb? I must believe God's Word is correct, three days and three nights, just as he said. This had to be from the very end of Wednesday, just before 6 PM, through Saturday to fulfill the Scriptures that state three days and three nights.
"And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures." 1 Corinthians 15:4.
Now that we understand all this, the "symbology" becomes amazing!
The first "Passover", in Ex chapter 12 speaks of Jesus and His death on the Cross as the "unspotted Lamb of God" who was sacrificed for us, and by whose Blood, we are "passed over" by the death Angel:
In verse 5, we see Jesus, the unspotted Lamb of God. He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us.
In verse 6, the Passover is to be celebrated in the evening, the beginning of the 14th day of the first month. Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Passover, in the evening, which is the BEGINNING, of the 14th day of the first month. All the "Passovers" between Exodus and the Cross spoke of Jesus and His death on the Cross, and being "saved" by His blood!
2 Corinthians 5:21 "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him".
1 Corinthians 5:7 "....Christ our passover is sacrificed for us"!
In Ex 12:7, the "Blood" on the door post speaks of all Jesus had to do to save us, from His virgin birth, to His ascension, and, even the "Door" speaks of Christ:
John 10:9 Jesus said "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved".
Ephesians 2:13 "But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ".
In verse 8, The "unleavened bread" speaks of Jesus, the only sinless man to be born on earth. And, the "bitter herbs" speak of the unimaginable sufferings of Jesus.
In verse 10, we see the lamb being eaten and everything left of it being burned and nothing left. "Fire" in the Bible speaks of "Judgement", and Jesus was "judged in our place". That judgement was "total" and "complete". After being judged for our sins in three hours of supernatural darkness on the Cross, Jesus said "it is finished" - total judgement - nothing left.
In verse 14, the Nation of Israel was commanded "ye shall keep it a feast by an ordinance for ever." Jesus kept the Passover in the evening (the beginning) of the 14th day of the first month, while the whole Nation of Israel celebrated the Passover - the Feast that spoke of Him and what He was about to do. On this day, Jesus and His disciples ate the Passover meal (Last Supper) in accordance with Ex. 12:14, and Lev 23:5, and after the Passover meal (Last Supper) Jesus and His disciples sang a hymn and went out toward the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:30 and 36). As they walked, Jesus spoke John Chapters 15 - 17. That night of the 14th and then the day of the 14th:
- Jesus prayed in the Garden
- Jesus is then betrayed & arrested in the Garden
- Jesus brought before the High Priest and then before the Council during the night
- Peter denies Jesus three times before the cock crows that morning
- Judas hangs himself
- Jesus is brought before Pilate
- He is sentenced by Pilate
- Jesus is placed on the Cross at approximately 9 AM, Mark 15:25
- From Noon to 3 PM there are 3 hours of darkness, in which Jesus bore our sins, Matt 27:45
- Jesus is removed from the Cross and buried sometime before 6 PM, John 19:31.
All of this happened on the 14th day of the first month, while the whole Nation of Israel celebrated the Passover!
Again, the only way I can see for the words of Jesus to be fulfilled, is for this 14th day of the first month, to be a Wednesday, and the next day a special Sabbath, the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The "Unleavened Bread" also speaks of the sinless body of Christ which was "broken for us"!
I hope this issue of "Passover" and "Resurrection Week" is clear, and that it points us to Jesus and the truths of God's Word, that so often are covered up by "rituals" and "traditions of men".
Colossians 2:16 NKJV "So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths,
17 which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ.
18 Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.
20 Therefore, if you died with Christ from the basic principles of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to regulations —
21 "Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle,"
22 which all concern things which perish with the using — according to the commandments and doctrines of men?
23 These things indeed have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, false humility, and neglect of the body, but are of no value against the indulgence of the flesh.
Colossians 3:1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.
2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.
3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory".
Now that we know the Truth, we are free to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus any way we please!
John 8:32 "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free".
John 8:36 "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed".
2 Corinthians 3:17 "...."where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty".
Your questions are a blessing to me, and my answers are written in Christian Love. I pray that the Scriptures we examine are a blessing to others also.
Students together "in Christ",