Leviticus 23:4-5, ‘These are the appointed times of the Lord, holy convocation which you shall proclaim at the times appointed them. In the first month on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the Lord’s Passover.’
The celebration of Easter is really the Jewish feast of Passover which was instituted by God in the Bible and it was to commemorate the deliverance by God of His people from Egyptian slavery. The account of their slavery can be found in Exodus 1-15 and the specifics of Passover are detailed in Exodus 11-13.
There are no references to Easter in the Bible or in the Apostolic first church, it was introduced after the death of the Apostle John by some Gentile churches that had spread outside of Asia Minor and Polycarp, who was directly discipled by the Apostle John himself, contested the alternate dates for celebrating the death and resurrection of Christ. Among them, all parties agreed it was not really something they should all break fellowship over.
Those who maintained the celebration falling on the 14 Nisan according to the Bible and the Jewish calendar, came to be known as the Quartodecimans, which is just the fancy Latin word for the number ‘fourteen’.
By the 3rd & 4th centuries, anti-Semitism was becoming dangerously common place within the official church and in the year 325 at the Council of Nicea, the First Ecumenical Council declared that ‘Easter’ was never allowed to fall on the same date as the Jewish Feast of Passover, which God commanded to take place on the 14th of Nisan. The church required that Easter from then on, had to fall on the first Sunday after the Jewish Passover.
This resulted in the excommunication of individual and whole church communities who didn’t want to change the date, specifically isolating any Jewish believers that were still part of the Christian community. Some Quartodecimans were executed because they wanted to remain faithful to the dates laid out in Scripture and for not falling in with church dogma and official policy at that time.
Emperor Constantine said that all those in attendance had decided to adopt a uniform date, because the eastern orthodox church celebrated Easter on a different date but primarily, this decision was made in order to sever any semblance of Jewish connection, blaming them for Jesus’s death. Following is an excerpt from the letter Emperor Constantine sent out to all the bishops and church leaders who were not able to attend the council…
“It was resolved by the united judgment of all present, that this feast ought to be kept by all and in every place on one and the same day. For what can be more becoming or honourable to us that this feast, from which we date our hopes of immortality, should be observed unfailingly by all alike, according to one ascertained order and arrangement?
And first of all, it appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast we should follow the practice of the Jews, who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin, and are, therefore, deservedly afflicted with blindness of soul. For we have it in our power, if we abandon their custom, to prolong the due observance of this ordnance to future ages, by a truer order, which we have preserved from the very day of the passion until the present time.
Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way. A course at once legitimate and honourable lies upon to our most holy religion. Beloved brethren, let us with one consent, adopt this course, and withdraw ourselves from all participation in their baseness…being altogether ignorant of the true adjustment of this question, they sometimes celebrate Easter twice in the same year. Why then should we follow those who are confessedly in grievous error?
Surely we shall never consent to keep this feast a second time in the same year…and let your holinesses sagacity reflect how grievous and scandalous it is that on the self-same days some should be engaged in fasting, others in festive enjoyment; and again, that after the days of Easter, some should be present at banquets and amusements, while others are fulfilling the appointed fasts.
It is then, Divine providence (as I suppose you all clearly see), that this usage should receive fitting correction, and be reduced to one uniform rule.”
The Eastern Orthodox church and the Western Orthodox church each celebrated Easter on their own preferred dates, and Constantine wanted both sides of the church to unify on one date only and to ensure that the date chosen would never, ever coincide with the Jewish Passover.
In the letter he also wrongly stated that from the time of the passion event itself, God ordained that the dates were to change and that this decision to change the dates was God approved. Both positions are completely false.
Over the past 50 years however, there has been a concerted effort by small interested groups of Christians wanting to learn about the Jewish foundations of the Christian faith and this has brought considerable understanding and significance to all that we believe and all that Jesus did for us, amplifying and explaining the prophetic implications. This interest however hasn’t come about from within the official or structured church denominational leadership, rather it’s come about from believers in the pews, and the reason many in church leadership ignore or consider the Hebrew foundations to be of no importance or significance, is because of the commonly held belief in replacement theology, the belief that God has rejected completely and utterly disowned the Jewish people. That God has now conferred all the promises and blessing that were originally made to the Jews and instead, granting them all to the church universally.
This explains why the dates we celebrate Easter rarely ever coincide with the dates of the Jewish Passover.
Listen to Mandy’s full message on Foundations below: