For the past several days, I’ve been compiling information on local services for Easter and Holy Week. Aside from the Easter and Christmas Christians, there really are people out there that don’t have a church they would feel comfortable walking into if they felt so led. This was my little contribution by removing one excuse from the equation.
I think I’ve mentioned before that I’ve always attended churches that were far in the Protestant spectrum of the family of Christ. I did attend a Methodist church for five years. There were two things that held me back from becoming a member. The first is that I never heard them give an altar call in the service, not once. The second was that part of the responsive readings including a pledge to the “Catholic” church.
I realize that catholic is the Greek word for “concerning the whole.” I’m just sharing this so you can get an idea of how completely not-about-catholic-practices I was. I thought Mardi Gras was only a New Orleans event until Kingwood held its first one. I had never heard of Ash Wednesday until all the news stories came out about Rick Santorum attending an Ash Wednesday service. 1 Santorum Attends Church on Ash Wednesday; Gingrich Skips It. National Journal. 22-2-2012. Accessed 2-4-2015.
And I literally did not know what “Maundy Thursday” was, I hadn’t even heard of the term, until I looked it up this week after seeing all these services that were to be held.
In a nutshell, Ash Wednesday is the kick-off to the official countdown to Easter. The day begins the season of Lent, which includes 40 days of fasting , prayer, and repentance ending on Resurrection Sunday. The time is in memory of the 40 days of fasting Jesus spent in the wilderness before he began his ministry.
In general, Protestants haven’t been really big on set times of repentance, prayer, and fasting, but the spiritual disciplines have always been a part of the Catholic church as well as the denominations more closely aligned with it such as the Lutherans, Anglicans, and Episcopalians.
At the Ash Wednesday service, the sign of a cross is placed on the congregant’s forehead in ashes from the previous year’s Palm Sunday palm branches. 2 Mark Hart. Why Do Catholics Put Ashes on Our Heads on Ash Wednesday. Life Teen. Accessed 2-4-2015.
In addition to Jesus’s time of temptation in the wilderness, throughout the Old Testament the wearing of sackcloth and ashes has been a sign of repentance and humbling oneself before God and was modeled by people such as Job, Daniel, David and Ezekiel (what Ezekiel’s ashes were made of is a question for another day.)
In reading about the history of Ash Wednesday, the early church continued the use of sackcloth and ashes as an outward show of repentance. Tertullian recommended it to his followers in the early second century as did Eusebius in the fourth. By the end of the tenth century, the pairing of ashes with the first day of Lent had become a common practice. 3 Ash Wednesday. Wikipedia. Accessed 2-4-2015.
I particularly like the explanation of the symbolism of Ash Wednesday as explained on this site, that ashes represent the death to our old nature and that we have new life in Christ. 4 Mark Hart. Why Do Catholics Put Ashes on Our Heads on Ash Wednesday. Life Teen. Accessed 2-4-2015.
Maundy Thursday is observed in remembrance of Jesus celebrating the Passover meal with his disciples, otherwise known as The Last Supper.
A few of the services mentioned the “stripping of the altar.” Again, this was something that I had never heard of. This is no longer a practice in the Catholic Church, although it is in denominations such as Lutheran, Episcopal, and some Methodist churches. 5 Catholic Encyclopedia (1913): Altar in Liturgy. Wikipedia Accessed 2-4-2015.
This ceremony is in remembrance of Jesus’s humiliation at the Garden of Gethsemane at the hands of the Roman soldiers.
An explanation from the 1913 version of the Catholic Encyclopedia (the Catholic Church discontinued this practice in 1955.)
Stripping of an Altar.—On Holy Thursday the celebrant, having removed the ciborium from the high altar, goes to the sacristy. He there lays aside the white vestments and puts on a violet stole, and, accompanied by the deacon, also vested in violet stole, and the subdeacon, returns to the high altar. Whilst the antiphon “Diviserunt sibi” and the psalm “Deus, Deus meus” are being recited, the celebrant and his assistants ascend to the predella and strip the altar of the altar-cloths, vases of flowers, antipendium, and other ornaments, so that nothing remains but the cross and the candlesticks with the candles extinguished. In the same manner all the other altars in the church are denuded. If there be many altars in the church, another priest, vested in surplice and violet stole, may strip them whilst the celebrant is stripping the high altar. The Christian altar represents Christ, and the stripping of the altar reminds us how He was stripped of his garments when He fell into the hands of the Jews and was exposed naked to their insults. It is for this reason that the psalm “Deus, Deus meus” is recited, wherein the Messias speaks of the Roman soldiers dividing His garments among them. This ceremony signifies the suspension of the Holy Sacrifice. It was formerly the custom in some churches on this day to wash the altars with a bunch of hyssop dipped in wine and water, to render them in some manner worthy of the Lamb without stain who is immolated on them, and to recall to the minds of the faithful with how great purity they should assist at the Holy Sacrifice and receive Holy Communion. St. Isidore of Seville (De Eccles. Off, I, xxviii) and St. Eligius of Noyon (Homil. VIII, De Coena Domini) say that this ceremony was intended as an homage offered to Our Lord, in return for the humility wherewith He deigned to wash the feet of His disciples.
Traditionally, Good Friday is commemorated as the day of Jesus’s death. It is a time of prayer and contemplative remembrance.
One of the earliest observances on Good Friday was the Way of the Cross or Stations of the Cross. The 14 stations mark the points of Jesus’s suffering on his last day on earth, from his condemnation by Pilate to his crucifixion on Calvary.
According to Catholic tradition, his mother Mary walked the route daily after his death. After Christianity was legalized by Constantine in 312, stations were set up in Jerusalem on the route he walked, also known as the Via Dolorosa, also known as the Way of Sorrows. By the fourth century, this was a focal point of pilgrims coming to Jerusalem as noted by Jerome. 6 Fr. William Saunders. How did the Stations of the Cross Begin? Catholic Education Resource Center. Accessed 2-4-2015.
On Saturday, the first celebration of Resurrection Sunday begins with a vigil. As with All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day where the evening service begins the celebration, it is rooted in the Jewish custom of the evening as the beginning of the day, which itself comes from Genesis 1:5 “and the evening and the morning were the first day.”
Resurrection Sunday is celebrated as the day Jesus rose from the dead, conquering death and claiming victory. This was foreshadowed in the Passover Celebration with the command from God to celebrate the Feast of First Fruits on the Sunday, the first day of the week, of the Festival of Unleavened Bread.
The early Christians did not only remember the resurrection once a year, they celebrated it weekly on Sunday, also known as “the Lord’s Day.” John the Beloved was giving the visions recorded in Revelation as he was praying in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day. Revelation 1:10
Besides the mention in the New Testament are letters from early Christians that confirm the move to Sunday worship in honor of Christ. Martyred in 107 AD, Ignatius of Antioch was a leader, a bishop, in the first century church appointed to the position by the Apostle Peter. There is a tradition that he was the child Jesus brought to his knee as he taught. Whether that is true or just a legend, it is clear that he knew the apostles, was a leader of the church himself, and was familiar with their teachings and the practical applications of them 7 St. Ignatius of Antioch. New Advent. Accessed 2-4-2015.
9 Those, then, who lived by ancient practices arrived at a new hope. They ceased to keep the Sabbath and lived by the Lord’s Day, on which our life as well as theirs shone forth, thanks to Him and his death, though some deny this.209 Through this mystery we got our faith, and because of it we stand our ground so as to become disciples of Jesus Christ, our sole teacher. 2How, then, can we live without him when even the prophets, who were his disciples by the Spirit, awaited him as their teacher? He, then, whom they were rightly expecting, raised them from the dead, when he came .
Ignatius, Letter to the Magnesians
A little later, in the early second century, Justin Martyr also confirms this in his first Apology: 8 Justin Martyr. Weekly Worship of the Christians. The First Apology of Justin. pg 186.
But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.
We’ve just gone through the history of the Easter observances. It’s neat, it makes service planning easy and fits really well into a long Easter weekend.
There’s just one problem. Jesus didn’t die on a Friday, he was crucified on a Wednesday.
So why does everyone think that Friday is the day and why do we celebrate it then?
I’m not really sure, but I know this belief started very early. Justin Martyr, in the same letter I quoted above, stated Jesus was crucified on a Friday. 9 Justin Martyr. Weekly Worship of the Christians. The First Apology of Justin. pg 186.
For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.
Just because someone said something, even if it was written a long time ago, it doesn’t make it true. What it means is that Martyr believed Jesus was crucified on a Friday, it doesn’t mean that he actually was.
How could someone so close to the time of Christ be mistaken in the day?
Again, I’m not sure. However, it is obvious there was some confusion in the teachings because in a little later writing, Didascalia Apostolorum, the author states that Jesus observed Passover with his disciples on a Tuesday, was taken early on Wednesday (which lies up with Scripture) and then was crucified on Friday. 10Didascalia Apostolorum 94
. . .but this was on Wednesday, for when we had eaten the Passover on Tuesday in the evening, we went out to the Mount of Olives, and in the night they took our Lord Jesus ; and on the next day, which was Wednesday, He remained in prison in the house of Cepha the High Priest. In that day the chiefs of the people were assembled, and they took counsel together against Him. Again, the next day, which was Thursday, they brought Him to Pilate the governor, and again He remained in prison with Pilate, in the night after Thursday. And when it dawned on Friday, they accused Him much before Pilate, yet they could show nothing true, but they brought false witness against Him. And they asked Him from Pilate, to put Him to death, and they crucified Him on Friday. At six o’clock therefore on Friday He suffered, and these hours during which our Lord was crucified have been reckoned a day, afterwards it was’ again dark for three hours, and it was reckoned a night ; and again from the ninth hour till the evening, three hours, a day ; and again afterwards the night of Passion Sabbath ;
This does not coincide with Scripture. It states he was arrested on a Wedneday, but the Gospels states that Jesus was arrested, tried and crucified the same day. The Pharisees pushed it because they didn’t want the issue hanging over the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
So, setting aside what people said and what the tradition has been, I want you to think about this.
No one, except Jesus, knew that Judas was planning on betraying him to the Pharisees. We don’t even know for sure that Judas knew the Pharisees had planned to kill him. The death was not expected.
Add to that, it was right at the time before one of the biggest holidays of the year. Think about your to do list in the few days before Christmas.
According to the popular timeframe, Jesus was taken, tried, crucified and buried all within a 24 hour period (that part is Scriptural,) the next day was Sabbath, during which no work was able to be done, but somehow the women had the supplies to anoint his body for burial Sunday morning.
Have you ever been in a conversation where someone is making plans and looked at them and said, “You have absolutely no idea the time and resources it will take to make what you just said happen?”
That is exactly what the proposed scenario above is. It was created by men sitting around theorizing who had probably never even prepared a meal, let alone a body, and have NO CLUE.
There is no way, no way. It happened that way. Without knowing anything else, logically it makes no sense.
They had to bury Jesus in a borrowed tomb because it was close to the crucifixion site and they didn’t have time to move his body farther before Passover began.
The women didn’t have cars to take them around, Super Walmarts or malls for one stop shopping, and no electricity to aid them in their preparations. If you’ve ever been without electricity for any length of time, you know how time consuming just preparing meals is.
With a Friday crucifixion, there was no time to prepare spices as is mentioned in the Scriptures and was the common burial practice of the time.
This is an overview from Biblical Archaeology on the customs: 11 Ancient Tombs. Biblical Archaeology. Accessed 2-4-2015.
It was the women’s task to prepare a dead body for burial. The body was washed, and hair and nails were cut. Then it was gently wiped with a mixture of spices and wrapped in linen strips of various sizes and widths. While this was happening, prayers from the Scriptures were chanted.
The body was wrapped in a shroud, but was otherwise uncovered.
Tombs were visited and watched for three days by family members and friends. On the third day after death, the body was examined. This was to make sure that the person was really dead, for accidental burial of someone still alive could happen.
At this stage the body would be treated by the women of the family with oils and perfumes. The women’s visits to the tombs of Jesus and Lazarus are connected with this ritual.
There was a multi-step process to prepare the body after death. I thought it was interesting that it was a common practice to revisit the body after the third day to complete the preparations of the body.
It’s questionable to me whether anyone had time to do the first phase of preparations on Jesus’s body. If the Sabbath, the next day, began at 6 pm and he died at 3 pm, three hours isn’t a lot of time to get the body down, move it, and do elaborate preparations.
The women certainly didn’t do it. The Scriptures say that they followed and saw where and how the body was laid (Luke 23:55,) but they weren’t part of the preparations themselves.
The key to understanding the timeline given in the Gospels regarding the crucifixion and Passover is understanding that there were not one, but two Sabbaths that week. Everyone is familiar with the Jewish custom of observing the Sabbath on the seventh day, on Saturday. However, there are other days, the High Holy days, which are also regarded as a Sabbath where no work is allowed to be done.
The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which began on Nisan 15, the day after the Passover lamb was sacrificed, is also a Sabbath.
If the 15th fell on a Saturday, making it both the weekly and the festival Sabbath, then the crucifixion could have been on a Friday.
However, this goes back to the issue of time. The gospel of Luke says that they women prepared the spices.
Moving back a day, assuming the crucifixion was on a Thursday, you would still run into the same problem of no time as the Friday would have been the High Holy Day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread and the next the weekly Sabbath. No work could have been done on either day.
Looking at a Wednesday crucifixion, the following day, Thursday, would have been a High Holy day where no work could have been done. Friday, the women prepared the spices and then the rested on the weekly Sabbath (Luke 23:54-55)
It was the preparation day, and the Sabbath was about to begin. 55 Now the women who had come with Him out of Galilee followed, and saw the tomb and how His body was laid. 56 Then they returned and prepared spices and perfumes.
And on the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.
This passage alone indicates the two Sabbaths. Jesus was laid to rest on the preparation day for the High Holy Day, just as it was about to begin. The women return home and prepared the spices and perfumes after the sabbath, the High Holy day that was about to begin, mentioned in verse 54 was over and then rested for the Sabbath. This wouldn’t have been done on the Sabbath that was beginning when he was laid in the tomb, there was no time. The day they rested on after their preparations would have been the weekly Sabbath this time.
Actually, that’s a good question. It’s obvious from the quotes in the early text that there was confusion about this. Justin Martyr lived from 100 to 165 AD. He was born in Judea in what is now known as the West Bank. His family was established there during Rome’s dominance and some believe they were diplomats. 12 Justin Martyr. Wikipedia. Accessed 3-4-2015.
He was born after the destruction of the Temple. From the First Jewish Revolt in 66 A.D. to the final crushing of the Bar Kokhba revolt in 136 A.D., there was a lot of turmoil going on. In 70 A.D. the temple was destroyed and razed. In 131 A.D. Hadrian banned Jews from entering Jerusalem. 13 History of Jews and Judaism in the Land of Israel. Wikipedia. Accessed 3-4-2015.
Also keep in mind that there weren’t the friendliest of relations between the Jews and the Christians at that time. Actually, there was a lot of outright hostility. Acts 12:1-4 describes the beginning of the systematic persecutions of the Christians in Jerusalem. Herod killed James, and when he saw how much it pleased the Jews, he arrested Peter.
In an effort to flush out the Christian Jews, the religious leaders introduced prayers into the synagogue services cursing Christians. 14 The Curse Against Christians at Jamnia About 90 A.D. Defending the Bride. Accessed 3-4-2015. This is an interesting situation. The article on this site quotes several passages from the Encyclopedia Judaica published in 1971 about the Birkat Ha-Minim with very clear and straightforward information that it was directed towards Christians. Going to the current Encyclopedia Judaica site and doing a search for, Birkat Ha-Minim, there is no information. Visiting the Jewish Virtual Library and their article on the topic, it includes “Encyclopedia Judaica” in the title; however, the content has obviously been changed from the 1971 edition and completely massages exactly what it was. 15 Encyclopedia Judaica: Birkat Ha-Minim. Jewish Virtual Library. Accessed
3-4-2015. This was at the time the Sanhedrin regathered under the power structure of the Pharisees and redefined what Judaism would be after the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D, taking it from its focal point of blood atonement (Lev 17:11) with God alone as Savior (Isaiah 43:11) and eagerly waiting for the coming of the Redeemer and Messiah (Job 19:25) to a works based religion focusing on personal self-righteousness.
This should be no surprise considering it was the Pharisees that were the main voice. They were the only one of the main sects of Judaism in the Second Temple period that believed in the Oral Torah. Jesus was constantly speaking against them for their man-made rules and hypocrisy. They did not acknowledge that they were sinners, which is why they rejected Jesus as the Messiah.
That is a partial picture of the dynamics of the relationship between Jews and Christians during the first century of Christianity. In light of that, is it such a stretch to believe that Justin Martyr who was not only a Gentile. . . but a Roman Gentile, the descendants of the oppressors of the Jews and who were actively crushing the Jewish revolutionaries during that time, and a Christian, one of those they were cursing daily . . that he really wasn’t all that familiar with Jewish customs and feasts other than what was taught through a Christian context? He was someone on the outside looking in. I’m pretty sure he wasn’t sitting down for dinner with Orthodox followers of the reworked Judaism and asking them what their beliefs were.
I think he just was stating what he believed, and in his understanding the Jewish Sabbath referred to Saturday and that is how he explained it in his Apology.
Most people who research the historicity of the Bible are familiar with who the Essenes are, a devout sect in Judaism during the Second Temple period. Their scroll repository was discovered in Qumran between 1946 and 1956. This discovery was ground breaking in establishing the reliability of the transmission of the Scriptures as well as shedding light on their thought and understanding of different concepts during that time. 16 Learn About the Scrolls. The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library. Accessed 3-4-2015.
One of those areas illuminated was on the differences in religious practices of the sects of Judaism, including the observance of Passover.
One thing that some skeptics will say is “how could the Last Support have been a Passover seder when according to the Gospels, Jesus was dead when it was normally observed?”
This is actually a really good question and one that doesn’t make any sense without an understanding of the dynamics going on.
The answer is, all Jews didn’t celebrate Passover (and all their feast dates) on the same day. Just as in the Christian Church where the Eastern and Western church have different calendars to calculate the date of Easter, the Essenes used a different calendar than the Sadducees and Pharisees.
I came across a really interesting article on the Essene Observances of Passover. You can click here to read it. The author provides support based on evidence discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls that the Last Supper was a Passover seder observed according to the Essene calculation, which was the day before the mainstream Jewish observance. 17 Charles D. Davis. Essene Passover Dates. Theos Spragis. Accessed 3-4-2015.
The Essenes used a 364 day solar calendar which they calculated their feasts by. This solar calendar is also referenced in the books of 1 Enoch and Jubilees.
The other thing that I thought was really interesting is that the Essenes calculated their new year by the vernal equinox. Where have we heard that before? Oh yes, that is how the Christian observance of the calculation of the Paschal Sunday was determined set by the Council of Nicea.
The conclusion? Jesus died on a Wednesday. This also eliminates the contortions one has to go through to explain away that Jesus said he would be in the grave three days and three nights (Matthew 12:40) if one claims a Friday crucifixion.
The argument I’ve heard (and read) explaining how that could be true with a Friday crucifixion is that, according to them, there was a Jewish custom of counting parts of days as a day. So he died at the end of Friday (day one,) was in the grave all of Saturday (day two,) and arose Sunday morning (day 3.)
No. Just no. That is a ludicrous explanation, foundationally dishonest, and one that denies the clear words of Jesus. He said
for just as JONAH WAS THREE DAYS AND THREE NIGHTS IN THE BELLY OF THE SEA MONSTER, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matthew 12:40
Not partial days, three 24 hour days. Three days and three nights.
That alone should give evidence of a Wednesday crucifixion.
Is this a salvation issue? No, of course not. Salvation is :
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9
Luckily for us, we don’t have to be historical scholars or expert theologians to come to Christ. Jesus actually said,
“I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 18:3-4
So it doesn’t matter if you believe he was crucified on a Wednesday or a Friday, as long as you believe in the resurrection.
And it doesn’t matter if you believe in a young earth or one millions of years old as long as you believe in the Creator and His Salvation (Yeshua.)
And it doesn’t matter what days you celebrate, whether you look at a boiled egg in the middle of a Passover plate or hunt a colored one in your yard, as long as you know that the new life it represents is only found in the person of Jesus Christ.
But the point of all this is that, truth matters.
You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” John 18:3
If we don’t care if something is true or not . . .
If we aren’t actively and passionately seeking it . . .
If we aren’t willing to give up our traditions for the truth . . .
How can we hear His voice?
This is a serious concern. Paul warns in 2 Thessalonians that the elect (believers) are deceived and fall away in the End Times because they do not love truth. ( 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 NLT )
Witnessing to Truth Seekers
The other reason this matters is in witnessing to truth seekers. Peter gives the following instructions to Christians:
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 1 Peter 3:15 NIV
There are nonbelievers who have no interesting in submitting to Christ or anyone else and argue just to argue. This is a spiritual issue and it doesn’t matter how many words you say or how many answers you have, as long as they resist the conviction of the Holy Spirit in their hearts . . . they will never hear the voice of Jesus (John 18:3)
We have to be willing to acknowledge our need for a Savior before we can see him. (Mark 2:17)
But there are others who are sincerely looking for the truth. They would like to believe, but they want to know that it is true.
How can we claim the truth of Christ while pushing a lie?
We all have things we misunderstand or are mistaken in. I would be shocked to find one growing Christian who believes exactly the same way about ancillary points of doctrine as they did when they first became a Christian.
Jesus said that the Holy Spirit guides us into truth. (John 16:13) We learn as we go.
But once we come to a truth He has guided us to, we have to be willing to accept it. If not, we are quenching the Holy Spirit.
So go ahead and observe the sacrifice of our Lord on Friday, but be prepared when someone who is struggling with the logic of a Friday crucifixion to explain it.
“Well, Jesus really died on a Wednesday, but we observe it on Friday. It’s just a family thing.”
So, what about the Easter eggs. Is it really a pagan fertility right as Easter bashers claim?
Here’s the deal, no one really knows where the Easter bunny and egg story came from. This is a pretty cool article on CNN about the first reference to colored eggs in Germany in the 1600’s. One of the theories is that they had to find something to do with all the eggs that were given up for Lent. 18 Ben Brumfield. Easter: Vatican Mass, the Easter Bunny, and that Blood Moon. CNN. 5-4-2015. Accessed 5-4-2015.
As for the various claims that Easter is based on a pagan festival of Ishtar/Eostre/et al.
First, Ishtar has no linguistic association with Easter, even though they sound similar in English. 19 Ben Stanhope. Ishtar does not Equal Easter: Stop Getting your History from Internet Memes from Richard Dawkins. Remythologized. 19-5-2014. Accessed 5-4-2015.
Also, this video by the History Channel illustrates that the common element between different countries is the colored eggs. In countries with a strong German influence, the eggs are delivered by rabbits, in others, cuckoo birds, foxes, roosters, or storks. 20 History.com Staff. Easter Symbols and Traditions. The History Channel. A&E Networks. 2009. Accessed 5-4-2015.
While Easter bashers claim that the festival was based on Eostre, there is actually no historical evidence of a goddess worshiped by that name other than anti-Christian fabrications that came later. 21 Anthony McRoy. Was Easter Borrowed from a Pagan Holiday? Christianity Today. 2-4-2009. Accessed 5-4-2015.
We have become so immersed in the neo-pagan propaganda that Eggs are a part of an ancient fertility rite, that most people believe that to be true.
However, while rabbits may be associated with fertility (that doesn’t explain the foxes and storks,) eggs have historically been associated with new life, and specifically resurrection life.
I first came across this concept in an article describing the ancient burial practices of the Pharaohs of Egypt who would put ostrich eggs in their tomb in the hope of resurrection. Not only were the eggs placed in their tomb, but the Ancient Egyptians dyed the shells and hung them.
The connection between the egg and resurrection can be found through a large swath of cultures: the Greeks and throughout the Mediterranean, 22 Berthold Laufer. Ostrich Egg-shell Cups of Mesopotamia and the Ostrich in Ancient and Modern Times. Field Museum of Natural History. 1926. Accessed 5-4-2015. Africa, Japan, and China. 23 Egg Symbology in Creation: Physical Birth and Spiritual Birth. Great Spirit Mother. Accessed 5-4-2015. The connection and hope of resurrection is very strong and it obviously predates any imagined Germanic pagan practices. 24 Easter Eggs Around the World. Maps of the World. Accessed 5-4-2015. 25 Jacke S. Phillips. Ostrich Eggshells. School for Oriental and African Studies. UCLA Encyclopedia of Egyptology. 31-8-2009. Accessed 5-4-2015. 26 Origin of the Pangu myth, the Cosmic Egg, the Creation of Heaven and Earth and Separation of Heaven and Earth imagery, Nuwa repairing the Heavens. Japanese Mythology & Folklore. Accessed 5-4-2015. 27 David Conwell. On Ostrich Eggs and Libyans: Traces of a Bronze Age People from Bates’ Island, Egypt. Expedition. Vol 29, No 3. Accessed 5-4-2015. 28 Manlius, N. (2001), The ostrich in Egypt: past and present. Journal of Biogeography, 28: 945–953. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2699.2001.00599.x
These avian materials previously possessed symbolic meaning and material value as early as the pre-dynastic period in Egypt, as well as amid the earlycultures of Mesopotamia and Crete. The main early cultural associations of the eggs and feathers were with death/resurrection and kingship respectively, a symbolism that was passed on into early Christian and Muslim usage. 29 Nile Green. Ostrich Eggs and Peacock Feathers: Sacred Objects as Cultural Exchange between Christianity and Islam. Al-Masaq. 18:1, 27-66. 1-3-2006. Accessed 5-4-2015.
I studied marketing in college and in one of my classes as a project, we had to do an area study on a country studying not only the demographic information, but also the history, culture, and mindset of the people.
The country I chose was Greece. This is the interesting thing about the Greek people, while at one time they were conquerors, they have also been conquered by various nations throughout their history. However, one characteristic that stands out about them is that they resist assimilation by those cultures. Their conquerors became Greeks versus the Greeks becoming one of the conquered.
Even the Jews did this. While researching this article, I found this quote in a reference to their burial customs. 30 Steven Fine. Death, Burial and the Afterlife. The Oxford Handbook of Jewish Daily Life. p442. 17-7-2010. Accessed 5-4-2015.
Bet She’arim catacombs in the Lower Galilee (Vito1996 : 115 – 146). In both the earlier and later cases, members of the Jewish elite participated in the general funerary architecture of their times. In fact, one would be hard pressed to distinguish the distinctly Jewish from general late Hellenistic and Roman funerary architecture, and even the speciﬁcally Jewish elements may well be seen within the contours of the general practice. Perhaps most interesting in both ﬁrst century Judaea and at Bet She’arim are the ways in which Jews chose to express their distinctiveness by adopting and adapting well-known Graeco-Roman models
There was a lot of assimilation in the Jewish culture, from the renaming of the months to names of the Babylonian gods during the exile, changing the civil year to begin in the seventh month (no one exactly knows why,) to adapting the language of those around them (those from the Babylonian exile spoke Aramaic, the Hellenists spoke Greek,) to adapting and putting their own flavor on the funeral customs on those of their conquerors.
Yes, Jesus lived on earth as a Jewish man and fulfilled his role as the Jewish Messiah being the only man who was able to fulfill and have victory over the bondage of the law. However, if you want to understand the world Jesus lived in and who he spoke to, you have to remember that he was born to Jewish parents in a country ruled by Romans and a people who spoke Aramaic adapted from the Babylonian captivity and used the language of the Greeks to communicate.
All of these cultures influenced them and there was no such thing as this cohesive “Hebraic” culture that some people like to promote.
So would the egg have this same meaning to them of resurrection life as those in the cultures around them? Absolutely. They were in Egypt for 400 years. Every Mediterranean culture had this association. The Passover seder that was instituted in the 13th century A.D. uses an egg as a symbol of new life and in replacement of the Temple sacrifice. 31 Passover: The Haggadah. Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2014-4-4. In a comment on the symbolism of the egg in the Passover seder, I found this wonderful illustration: 32 Yossy Goldman. The Egg in Exodus. Chabad. 2011. Accessed 5-4-2015.
There is even more about the egg. The egg comes from the hen (Tarnegolet) in Hebrew. from the egg comes out a chick (Efroah) in Hebrew.
Tarnegolet is written with a TAV and Efroah with an ALEPH.
The last and the first letter of the alphabet.
The egg is the necessary link between the “old life” finishing with the Tav and the new life starting with Aleph.
The egg is also used as a mourning sign, the end of a life and the beginning of a new eternal life in the World-to-come
Yes, exactly. A beginning of a new eternal life, which is what we have when we come to Christ.
Back to the Greeks, Easter and eggs. One custom I found when researching the country was the practice of dying eggs red during the Easter (Pascha) celebration. I have a Greek friend who still does this with her family.
An explanation of the symbolism, as well as instructions for traditional dying of the eggs, is found in this hub on Greek food on About.com. 33 Nancy Gaifyllia. How to Dye Red Eggs with Onion Skins for Greek Easter. Greek Food. About.com. Accessed 5-4-2015.
Red eggs (in Greek: kokkina avga, κόκκινα αυγά, pronounced KOH-kee-nah ahv-GHAH) are perhaps the brightest symbol of Greek Easter, representing the blood of Christ and rebirth.
Rebirth and resurrection, combined with the blood of Christ.
These eggs are used early Easter morning as day is dawning. Each person has a red egg and cracks it saying, “Christ is risen,” the cracked egg symbolizing the tomb that was open at the resurrection of Christ. 34 The Symbolism of Cracking Red Eggs on Easter. The Greek Reporter. 13-4-2012. Accessed 5-4-2015.
A tradition of the early church was that, like St Patrick who used the shamrock as an evangelism tool, Mary Magdalene used an egg in hers. There are a couple of versions of the accounts of this. Here is one: 35 Fr. Joseph Huneycutt. Red Eggs at Pascha (Easter. Pantheos. 27-4-2006. Accessed 5-4-2015.
There exists a tradition which makes Mary Magdalene to be the originator of the custom of using red eggs on Easter day. After the Ascension of our Saviour, Mary Magdalene went to Rome to preach the Gospel and, appearing before the Emporer Tiberius, she offered him a red egg, saying: CHRIST IS RISEN.” Thus was begun her preaching. Learning about this offering of Mary Magdalene, the early Christians imitated her, presenting each other with eggs. Hence, eggs began to be used by Christians in the earliest centuries as a symbol of the Resurrection of Christ and of the regeneration of Christians for a new and a better life along [with] it. The custom of presenting each other with red eggs was familiar to the Christians of the earliest Universal Church.
Another more colorful version of the same story is this: 36 The Symbolism of Cracking Red Eggs on Easter. The Greek Reporter. 13-4-2012. Accessed 5-4-2015.
A different, but not necessarily conflicting legend concerns Mary Magdalene’s efforts to spread the Gospel. According to this tradition, after the Ascension of Jesus, Mary went to the Emperor of Rome and greeted him with “Christ has risen,” whereupon he pointed to an egg on his table and stated, “Christ has no more risen than that egg is red.” After making this statement it is said the egg immediately turned blood red.
I began this article on Thursday and 6,000 words later, it is now evening of Resurrection Sunday.
My hope is that this inspires you to continue to always seek the truth and to learn more about the roots of our faith. Not what people say, but what really is as best we can ascertain, always keeping in mind that the players in the early church and throughout the last 2,000 years were humans just like us.
They had their prejudices and their misunderstandings, but while they may have been off in a couple of areas (just as we ourselves are at times.) it doesn’t mean that they weren’t all out for Jesus. Many of them were martyred, sometimes the most brutal deaths, for their faith just as we are seeing in the Middle East and in Kenya just this week.
They had a faith that stands.
Also, I hope that if you have been coming up against people condemning you for the way you celebrate the victory of our Lord using tired and bogus information, that this article will be an encouragement and provide some support for combatting the Antichrist spirit . . . because that is exactly what it is.
Don’t let anyone steal your joy in your celebration of Jesus and your family fellowship.
Christ is Risen!
References [ + ]
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