Passover And Easter: What Do They Have In Common? (john 1.29-31 )

29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ 31 I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”

Passover-doorpostJesus is portrayed in the Gospel of John as the Passover Lamb. You may recall in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament (Ex.12), in order for the angel of death to pass over the homes of believing Israelites families, the families needed to put a special sign on their doorposts – the blood of a lamb. The gospel of John pictures Jesus as the ultimate Lamb of God who not only symbolically covered the sins of Israelite households, but he actually took away the sin of the entire world (vs. 29).

A short side trip into church history will make it more interesting for us. In many predominantly Christian, countries, the festival of Easter was called by a different name. It was called the “Christian Passover.” Why? It’s simple. In the resurrection of Jesus Christ – the judgment of God passed over the sinner’s heads, just as it passed over the heads of the Israelites in their exodus from ancient Egypt. You see, all early Christians celebrated a festival that later came to be known as Easter. However, it used to be called Pascha (Easter in Syriac/Aramaic) or Peisach (Passover in Hebrew).  Christian and Jewish leaders eventually worked to create and establish a clear separation between what became Christianity and Judaism. This process in spite of the popular opinion, took centuries and did not take place in the early second century as commonly thought.Ressurection Jewish Jesus

Some Christians believed that Pascha (Christian Passover) had to be commemorated on the same date as the Jewish Passover while other Christians believed that Pascha should be celebrated on a different day than the Jewish Passover. The latter view won and the first view was eventually declared heretical.

Usually, Christians who held to the first view looked at Pascha as the day of Jesus’ sacrificial death. Others though believed that this holiday was meant instead to signify his resurrection. All of this is to say that while anti-Judaism in the early church did contribute to the date separation between Jewish and Christian Passovers, it was not the main factor. There were several other important considerations. Anti-Judaism, though present, was not the driving force behind the creation of a separate Christian identity and culture in the early centuries.

Important note: In the future posts we will discuss in detail the use of the technical term the “Passover of the Jews ” in this Gospel. It will be shown that the reason John’ keeps saying Passover of the Jews, is not to explain to Gentiles that it was a Jewish holiday, but to highlight which one of the various Israelite Passovers Jesus actually observed (most notably, Passover of the Jews vs. Passover of Samaritans).

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© By Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg, Ph.D.

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  1. sinopoli

    Easter my brother/friend was a pagan practice of celebrating the rebirth if the fertility of the earth in the spring of the growing season. Historically, Easter was the God-Worship of the sex goddess Ishtar, also known as Ashtoreth. AbbaYAH condemended the nation of Israel for this form of worship (I Kings 11:5,33 & II Kings 23:13). However, the government set up this form of unity for peaceful worldly means and these customs are still practiced today, but, must be exposed and the devil will not like it. Can UU really stand for the Truth? Do not worry….just pick up UUr cross and try it. Hang in there. Because all the lies are going to be exposed and there is no place to hide….Praise Yah’s Way! HalleluYAH!!!

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      In most European languages, the word for Easter comes from the Hebrew Pesach.We can see the connection easily in French Pâques, Italian Pasqua, Spanish Pascua, Dutch Pasen, Danish Påske or Russian Paskha, for example. All of these words refer to the Jewish feast of Passover, which was the setting for the Easter events recounted in the Christian Gospels. Why is it, then, that the English word for this feast is so different? Where does the word Easter come from?

      The most popular theory is reflected in the entry for Easter in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary: the Old English word eastre came “apparently from Eostre, a goddess associated with spring.” The basis for this theory is found in a work written in AD 725 by Saint Bede, an English monk and historian. According to Bede, April was called Eosturmonath (“Easter-month”) because in pagan times the month was dedicated to Eostre, an Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring. When Christian beliefs spread throughout England, says Bede, Easter-month lent its name to the new April festival. Another theory is that Eostre was simply the Anglo-Saxon word for spring festivals. Linguists trace this word to roots thousands of years old meaning “shine” and “dawn.” Spring is a season of lengthening days and increased light. It would make sense for early peoples to give their spring festivals a name that celebrated the rising sun. (http://www.noslangues-ourlanguages.gc.ca/bien-well/fra-eng/vocabulaire-vocabulary/mot-word-eng.html)

  2. Maureen Harrison

    It saddens me to see how Passover has been quashed in ‘christian’understanding as if to avoid its Jewish origin. God SET TIMES for certain events to take place. One of them is marked by the Passover and Deliverance of his chosen people out of slavery in Egypt. This event was marked each year thereafter.
    While the temple remained they could offer the sacrifices as God had specified morning and evening.At times the practise lapsed.Lambs wereoffered 9am noon and 3pm. This was the Day on which the Messiah was crucified. Those times are marked. Jesus The Lamb of God was nailed to the cross at 9am. At noon the sun was darkened and at 3pm He gave up his spirit. They placed him in the grave by sundown… 3 nights and three days brings us to 6pm Saturday evening when the first day of the new Jewish week began. Jesus rose during those night hours. The details are
    so particularly given aligning the departure from Egypt the moment of deliverance.
    The Lamb of God who Takes away the sin of the world. Born near the House of Bread, Bethlehem, Visited immediately by shepherds whose job was to check the new born lambs for perfection that they be perfect for temple sacrifice. So they are sent to check The Lamb of God. Lambs are born in spring at the time of Passover! These events all concur.
    The narative is already written throughout the Torah. When Jesus comes to fulfil each part in fine detail.We have no doubt as to God’s plan and purpose in snding His Son.
    The Resurrection sealed the plan.
    The word Easter is a misnoma.
    As also the directive to eat fish on Friday rather than a Shabbat meal!
    I undestand the Jews were forced to speak Greek. The saying was They would rather eat pork than speak Greek. Just other ways of quashing everything Jewish..along with the calendar and ignoring New moons.

  3. Kingsley Fulbrook

    Thank you Dr Eli for raising this interesting subject of the relationship of the Jewish and Christian Passovers. It’s interesting that the word can refer both to the Festival and to the sacrificial lamb, as Paul/Saul wrote: ‘Christ our Passover/Pasch is sacrificed.’ Also interesting that the synoptic Gospels seem to use a different calendar to date the Passover than John’s Gospel does: there were it seems different calendars in use at that time by the Temple priesthood, the Essenes, and the Samaritans.
    St Bede thought the English word for the Christian Passover derived from the pagan goddess Eostre: however he was almost certainly wrong there! As a catholic deacon I prefer to refer to the Paschal feast to keep in continuity with Pesach.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear Kingsley,

      I agree with you Easter had probably nothing to do with Eshtar (the godess) therefore it has no pagan origins as many believe. Here is a worthwhile link on the subject – http://www.noslangues-ourlanguages.gc.ca/bien-well/fra-eng/vocabulaire-vocabulary/mot-word-eng.html

  4. Phillip De Lange

    I have always been fascinated by the Jewish verses Christian celebration of passover. Your explanation cuts to the heart and I cannot wait for the final product. Thank you and to all others who contribute to this very important subject.

    Phillip

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Thanks, Phillip, welcome to the study group! Look forward thinking together with you. Dr. Eli

  5. Marianna

    Thank you for today’s lesson the Passover. What a joy to learn the early Christions observed a “Christian Passover”. I wish we still did. Then others could have their bunnies, chicks and easter eggs. It really bothers me that is the main focus of easter and that Jesus, the cross and the ressurection are left as just an asside.

  6. Eugenia

    Shalom,

    Its real important to understand the meaning, because the old testament is the new testament concealed, and the new testament is the old testament revealed, I do not want to call its easter festivity, what can I relate a bunny with Yehsua, eggs with the Lam of YHWH, and all Yehsua said is the truth, I personally think that the Torah is a instruction for us, as gentiles who accepted the Son of God as our saviour, redeemer, and we can celebrate it as He YHWH instructed,

    Thank you,

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear Eugenia, thank you for your comment. Dr. Eli

      1. steve

        Shalom Dr Eli,
        Here in Aruba (Caribbean) we speak Papiamento (mixture of many languages including Judaeo-Espanol)! We use the word “Pasco” for easter(resurection) very close to Pascha! I counted like 80 words that is similar in papiamento and Judaeo Espanol! Blessings Steve

        1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

          This is very interesting. We keep getting these kinds of comments! It seems like calling Easter Easter not Pascha is a minority use. This puts an interesting twist on the whole talk about its supposedly pagan origins connecting with the goddess Ishtar cult.

  7. Kristine Holland

    Do you not think that Yahweh wants the Jews to keep this celebration alive because he forever wants them to be ready to obey, to be alert and know they may one day need to do this again.
    Also, is it not an annual reminder at that point in celestial time when the ‘Pharoah’ of this world likewise is reminded that Yahweh is ALL powerful and blesses His people/s.
    If you conceptually overlay the Jewish and Christian ‘passover’ events they become one in your mind, earth’s time and ‘Pharoah’s defeat; and thus synchronise into one harmonious message to become the central connection between two great faith traditions. Concentric circles of peace resonating outwards….

  8. Andrew More

    Having just celebrated a Passover Seder last night with my home congregation where I serve, I can honestly say that to fully appreciate the significance of what Jesus said and did in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, a deeper understanding and appreciation for Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread adds tremendously to our own observance of Maundy Thursday (and Holy Communion in general).

    Scripture is very clear that the reason Jesus was in Jerusalem was to observe the Passover (Matt. 26:17-20; Mark 14:12-17; Luke 22:7-14; John 13:1). Passover was one of three Jewish pilgrimage festivals in Jesus day where Jews travelled from all around Judah, Galilee, and all across the region to Jerusalem. The city would have swelled to several times its normal size, huge crowds of people all converging on the city to observe and celebrate Passover. The context for this gives extra significance to events like Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his overturning the tables outside the Temple, and the crowds’ mob mentality as they shift from saying “Hosanna” to “crucify him!”

    Jesus instructs his disciples to prepare a room where they can share the meal of the Festival of Unleavened Bread (Seder) together. During the course of the meal, Jesus talks about how this will be the last time he will share this very special meal with them. He identifies Judas as his betrayer by pointing him out as the one who was dipping his bread (matzah) into the bowl with him (maror?).

    At significant points in the Seder, Jesus reinterprets the words that are used during the meal in light of himself – for he is the Passover lamb. Jesus takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and shares it with his disciples (Motzi Matzah?). After supper, he takes the wine, blesses it, and gives it for all to drink (3rd Cup – Cup of Redemption?). But to these traditional rites of the Seder, Jesus adds the powerful and life changing words, “this is my body”, “this is my blood” and instructs his disciples about the new covenant and the forgiveness of sins.

    The Last Supper emerges from this evening where Jesus prepares his disciples, not only for his upcoming arrest and execution, but also for the new life which follows the resurrection, revealing Jesus as God’s Son and Messiah.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Andrew, I agree, but do keep in mind that the Passover Seder as we know it today has gone through centuries of transformation and it remains to be shown that Jesus’ Passover Seder was similar to the one we now often cerebrate in our churches.

  9. LM Holmes

    Dear Dr. Lizorkin-Eyzenberg,
    This may be a bit out of your line, but I wonder whether you have any thoughts on why Paul would have told the Gentile converts, who were converting from traditional polytheism to Paul’s brand of reformed Judaism, that they should not be observing any holidays at all? (Galatians 4.8-11) Interesting that subsequent Christian congregations have all ignored that advice.
    I am a Greek scholar with no particular axe to grind, just trying to understand.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Dear Dr. Holmes, after taking almost three weeks to think about your question. I feel that I have to say that I am not sure. If (and that needs to be first checked fully) we are reading Paul’s commands to Galatian Gentile Christians correctly, it is possible that Paul’s universal Judaism as you call it was in his mind formed more in terms of the universal God more so that universal or universalized Judaism in the center and God being part of it.

      Moreover, we don’t really know what Paul would have said today. I think this may be more significant than my first point. In our modern 21 century Christian settings. There are, as you well know, great differences between then and now that are in fact relevant to Paul’s points.

      For example, Christians that celebrate “Jewish” holidays today celebrate them with a very clear Christ-centered message. Christ in the Passover kind of thing. They want to see Jesus. They want to see him clearer and Jewish costumes of Passover among other fests is a great way to do so. Now… back then Jewish holiday celebrations and they were, probably, conducted by non-Christian Jews did not at all serve the same purpose (St. John Chrysostom speaks in his sermons about Christians that in large numbers go to Jewish celebrations in the synagogues so much so that his own congregation of Gentile Christians was near empty around Jewish holidays!). This is 4th century already, but the problem persists 🙂 ) Perhaps, this is a beginning of finding an good answer (if one can be found) to your question.

  10. ruth hirt

    In my homecountry, Philippines, our dialects, which are almost countless, particularly my dialect, term the Passion week as Pascua. The national language does not.
    At this juncture, however we believers in general may term it, the essence of the Season falls into the same significance, heretical to one or not. Your explanation here is clear and lucid, the application of redemption which firstly demonstrated during the exodus is without any doubt HaSHEM’s Foretaste for mankind of the great eternal salvation completed and perfected by Jesus Christ. The personal decision of an individual to take, accept this divine offer determines his eternal destiny.

    1. Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg

      Thanks, Ruth.