Sunday, 31 March 2013

14-15 Nisan and Easter

Today many people in the western world celebrate Easter with luscious chocolate eggs, fragrant hot cross buns and newborn chicks, Easter bunnies, yellow ribbons, and have a lot of decoration that have more to do with fertility rites and nature coming back to life instead of picturing the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

The Feast of Easter itself is a moveable celebration, and can fall anywhere between 22 March and 25 April.
But the date in which the faithful celebrate Christ's resurrection has been surrounded in controversy from early Christian times

Lutz Doering, a reader in New Testament and an expert in calendars and festivals from the University of Durham, confirms: "According to the New Testament, Jesus rose from the dead on a Sunday. However, it is unclear on what day or date the earliest Christians celebrated Easter."
The Resurrection of Christ (Kinnaird Resurrection)
The Resurrection of Christ (Kinnaird Resurrection) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In history can be found many examples of the first Christians celebrating on 14 Nisan the death and resurrection of Christ. After Jesus’ sacrifice, the apostle Paul assured the early Christian community at Corinth that they have been saved “for Christ, our Passover lamb has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7).
Various Christian communities followed the “14 Nisan” rule and just asked their local Jews when Passover started, but after controversies in the second and third centuries, many Christians ended up settling the matter at the Council of Nicaea in 325.

Dr Doering explains that there is evidence that, in the middle of the 2nd Century, some Christians celebrated Easter on 14th of the Jewish month of Nisan - that is, on the preparationnight for the Jewish Passover. They were hence known as Quartodecimans, from the Latin word for '14'.
This group saw Easter as a "Christian form of Passover, celebrated at the same time as Jewish neighbours would get ready for the Pesach meal" like we all still should do, remembering the first Passover and the second Passover.

Those in favour of the Roman leaders and not wanting to go against their will, preferred to celebrate on the Sunday after Passover, not to have as such a connection with the Jews and being more in accord with the heathen feasts of the seasons, having the celebration of Spring.

So several Christian churches started to coincide their celebration with the traditional feasts of Springtime and basically tried and created their own “Christian Nisan” — figure out the full moon after the spring equinox — but also add on an extra rule, which is that Easter should fall on a Sunday, though originally the Passover feast was always on a different day.

The problem also was that full moon is not everywhere at the same moment. So it was easier to take the first  Sunday after the full moon after the spring equinox, so that everywhere in the world could be celebrated the same event on the same day. In principle, that still means that Western Easter should fall within Passover, but since Hillel II’s reforms in the 4th century, the Jewish calculations for Nisan are based on a formula and not on astronomy — see Gauss’s formula for the date of Pesach. Thus, in 2008, Western Easter fell on March 23, while Passover didn’t start until April 20.

But there is also a problem with the name the festival is be known today as well.

Normally God did ask to remember the Passover for ever. Jesus also celebrated it as a good faithful  believer. The Exodus was to be taken at heart and to be remembered for ever. At first the followers of Jesus, mostly Jews, kept to their Jewish feasts and so the group of 'The Way' like the followers were called, celebrated the Passover on the same date as the Jewish community. The day before the actual seder meal the Christians also came together to remember the Last supper of their master, rabbi Jeshua (Jesus Christ).

But the name in the English-speaking world is something else again. The word “easter” is probably a modified version of either “ostara” or “eostre“, which is a Pagan festival, based around the March equinox. It was the celebration of the goddess of fertility Eostra, Estra or Esdra and Ishtar the pagan Babylonian and Assyrian deity of fertility and sexuality, later adopted by the Romans, and formally introduced into Christianity by Emperor Constantine. Also the cross, the sign of Tamuz, the god of evil was taken over to become a symbol of bringing Jesus to his end. Jesus was namely impaled on a wooden stake, which was not in the form as it is known today and certainly should never be adored

not at all obvious why Christians should differ as to the date of Easter. "We can observe the spring equinox using astronomy. We can observe the full moon using astronomy (though that might differ by a day or two depending on where one is in the world). And everyone has the same Sunday. So why should there be any (significant) difference?"

According to her:

The answer is that “Sunday” really does mean “Sunday,” but “full moon” doesn’t necessarily mean “full moon,” and “spring equinox” doesn’t necessarily mean “spring equinox.” The equinox rule is the biggest factor in the East-West date divergence. For purposes of calculating Easter, we use March 21 instead of the true date of the equinox, which could be March 19 or March 20. (The complexities behind “full moon” will be in a later post.) So we immediately see how the Western and Eastern churches can differ: March 21 is considered to fall on a different day depending on your calendar, and March 21 in the Julian calendar is what we in the West would call April 3.
Sometimes there’s no full moon between March 21 and April 3, so the relevant full moon for Easter-computation purposes is the same. For instance, in 2011, there were full moons on March 19 and April 18, so both calendars celebrated Easter on (Gregorian) April 24, the Sunday after (Gregorian) April 18. But sometimes there is a full moon between March 21 and April 3, so the relevant full moons will be about a month off. For instance, in 1997, the full moons were March 24 and April 27, so the Western churches celebrated Easter on March 30, the Sunday after March 24, while the Eastern churches celebrated Easter on April 27 itself (which happened to be a Sunday).


Please do find more about this:

  1. Impaled until death overtook him
  2. Swedish theologian finds historical proof Jesus did not die on a cross
  3. Why 20 Nations Are Defending the Crucifix in Europe
  4. Easter: Why is it so early this year?
  5. Orthodox Easter: What’s up with that? + Orthodox Easter: What’s up with that? — Part 2
  6. 14 Nisan a day to remember #1 Inception
  7. 14 Nisan a day to remember #2 Time of Jesus
  8. 14 Nisan a day to remember #3 Before the Passover-feast
  9. 14 Nisan a day to remember #4 A Lamb slain
  10. 14 Nisan a day to remember #5 The Day to celebrate
  11. A Holy week in remembrance of the Blood of life
  12. High Holidays not only for Israel
  13. Festival of Freedom and persecutions
  14. Jesus begotten Son of God #2 Christmas and pagan rites
  15. A Great Gift commemorated
  16. Proclaiming shalom, bringing good news of good things, announcing salvation


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