“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” (Acts 12:4 KJV—emphasis mine).
Is Easter a valid translation of pascha in Acts 12:4? It is according to Nick Sayers in his video and companion two-part article, “Why We Should Not Passover Easter.” Sayers points to the presence of early forms of the word Easter in pre-KJV translations of the New Testament. He shows how from Tyndale’s use of ester and esterlambe (haven’t taken the time to check the spelling) and his coining of the English word “Passover” there is a transitional pattern in the intervening translations of the New Testament between Tyndale’s and King James’. Sayers’ ultimate point is that, if you look at Acts 12:4 in context, it would be clear that Herod had the Jewish Passover in mind, but that the KJV translators retained Easter as their translation of pascha because they believed Luke’s pointing out that the events in the passage took place during the days of unleavened bread that his use of the word pascha was also an allusion to the supposed apostolic practice of an annual commemoration of Christ’s resurrection, which in the seventeenth as well as the twenty-first centuries, is called Easter. Ironically, Sayers links to a Trinitarian Bible Society article on Easter in the KJV which states unequivocally that there was no apostolic annual commemoration of Christ’s resurrection, only the weekly Lord’s Day.
There is much I find compelling about the presentation in this video, yet I still have some lingering doubts. I do agree with modern version proponents that “Passover” is still the better translation of pascha in Acts 12:4, but given some of the information in Sayers’ video, coupled with the fact that the Venerable Bede is the uncorroborated source of the claim that the word Easter is derived from an ancient pagan goddess, I can see how it may have been that the KJV translators had some decent reasons for wanting to retain the use of the word Easter, if only once, in their version.
One thing that I appreciate most about the presentation in the video, is that it does a good job of demonstrating the flaws in Alexander Hislop’s claim that the word Easter comes from ancient Phoenician worship of Ishtar on phonetic grounds (“Easter sounds like Ishtar”). Another helpful expression of critical thinking skills is how Sayers points out early in his video that cultists are drawn to old wive’s tales like Hislop’s treatment of Easter in his widely read (among fundamentalists) book, The Two Babylons. A great take-away quote from Sayer is, “If you are a Bible believer, you believe the Bible; if you are superstitious, you will believe Hislop.” Amen!
I find myself hesitant to latch on to Sayers’ attempt to demonstrate that due to its etymology in the German word oster, Easter basically means “resurrection.” Until I see more authoritative evidence of this, I think it’s safest to say that this is just a little too good to be true, as much as I would like for it to be. If any of my readers have done some homework on this topic, and is able to correct or corroborate Sayers’ claims in his video and articles, please share your findings with me in the comments. My mind is open regarding these things, and I solicit your input.
I’m afraid, however, I’m drawn to this line of argumentation because I’m personally so eager to encourage those who think Easter really is an allusion to a pagan goddess to embrace the very real possibility that it actually springs from a Christian source of origin rather than pagan (see my post “Treating Easterphobia“). This just goes to show that I may not be quite as Reformed as I’d like to be. Help me, dear readers, and may you have an edifying Lord’s Day and a happy Easter.