Posted Mar 29, 2018 by Michael L. Brown

This year, as Christians celebrate Good Friday, Jews will be celebrating Passover. But most years, the two holidays are separated, sometimes by several weeks. How did we end up with two distinct holy seasons when, in the beginning, they were one?

It’s important to remember that, two-thousand years ago, there were not two different faiths, Judaism and Christianity. Instead, Jesus the Jewish Messiah came to His Jewish people with a message of salvation, and that message was then preached to the whole world.

In the beginning, it was an exclusively Jewish movement, and the first disciples were all Jews, with names like Yaakov (James) and Yehuda (Judas) and Yochanan (John). In fact, the Lord’s name was Yeshua, not Jesus, and He was a rabbi, not a reverend. As for His mother, her name was Miriam, not Mary.

And when did Yeshua die for our sins? It was in conjunction with the Passover. And He rose from the dead on Firstfruits, which took place on the first day after the Passover Sabbath. (In other words, on that Sunday.) And when did He send the Holy Spirit? It was at Pentecost, the Jewish feast of Weeks (Shavuot).

So, these momentous events – the Messiah’s death and resurrection and sending the Spirit – all happened in conjunction with the Jewish biblical calendar. (See Leviticus 23; for more on the Jewish roots of the faith, see my book The Real Kosher Jesus.)

This was understood by many of the first Gentile converts, which is why Paul wrote this to the believers in Corinth: “Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:7-8).

Over time, the followers of Jesus began to mark the day of His death and the day of His resurrection, leading to what we know today as Good Friday and Resurrection (or, Easter) Sunday. But at first, this was done during the Passover season. How, then, did it get separated, becoming a separate holiday called Easter?

Messianic Jewish scholar Mark Kinzer explains:

“The point of disagreement was this: should the Gentile ekklesia [congregation, church] commemorate the death and resurrection of Yeshua on the fourteenth of Nisan, when the Jews celebrate the Passover? Those who said yes were called the Quartodecimans (from the Latin word for “fourteenth”). Their practice likely derived from the early Jewish ekklesia. The small communities of Jewish Yeshua-believers in the second century almost certainly maintained this custom. . . . The problem came from the fact that the Gentile ekklesia of the province of Asia (in Asia minor) was Quartodeciman and claimed that their practice was of apostolic origin.

 

“The Quartodeciman controversy observing was disturbing, since (if followed) it would obligate the entire ekklesia to order its liturgical calendar in accordance with the decisions of the Jewish community. In a matter of great practical import it expressed dependence upon and even solidarity with the wider Jewish world” (Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism, 199).

The problem, then, was simple: Following the Jewish calendar was too Jewish for the increasingly Gentile church! The idea of a Sunday celebration of the resurrection was not the real issue, since that could have been done, theoretically, in conjunction with Firstfruits. The issue was having a major Christian (which by then meant “non-Jewish”) holy day determined by the Jewish calendar. That was simply unacceptable, leading to the final decision at the Nicene Council in A.D. 325. As Kinzer notes, “Constantine’s language is almost embarrassingly direct.”

To quote the decision directly:

“It was declared to be particularly unworthy for this, the holiest of all festivals, to follow the custom [the calculation] of the Jews, who had soiled their hands with the most fearful of crimes, and whose minds were blinded. In rejecting their custom, we may transmit to our descendants the legitimate mode of celebrating Easter, which we have observed from the time of the Saviour’s Passion to the present day [according to the day of the week]. We ought not, therefore, to have anything in common with the Jews, for the Saviour has shown us another way; our worship follows a more legitimate and more convenient course (the order of the days of the week); and consequently, in unanimously adopting this mode, we desire, dearest brethren, to separate ourselves from the detestable company of the Jews, for it is truly shameful for us to hear them boast that without their direction we could not keep the feast . . . it would be still be your duty not to tarnish your soul by communications with such wicked people [the Jews].”

Yes, such language is “almost embarrassingly direct,” not to mention shamefully unchristian. How painfully ironic that the resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah had to be separated from anything Jewish! If ever there was a tragic severing of Jewish roots, this was it.

How, then, do we reconnect these severed roots? My proposal is radical, requiring a change of the most commonly-used Church calendar. But, to be candid, severing Easter from Passover was radical.

Here, then, is what I propose. Let the Church celebrate Easter in conjunction with Passover, coordinating its calendar with the biblical, Jewish calendar. And during the Passover week, commemorate Yeshua’s death on Friday and His resurrection on Sunday. Can anyone give me a biblically-based reason not to?

Sign Up or Login to post comments.

Comments

user profile
FX posted a comment · Apr 18, 2018
Bonjour JFS, Merci for your comment! In my responde to Dr Brown, I state that "the pagan festival of Easter is likely to have been derived from Ishtar, the fertility goddess". If Dr Heiser thinks or proves otherwise, it still does not change the issue. The fact is Christians are still worshiping Elohim on different days than on His appointed days. They have replaced His apointed times, namely Pessah/Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of First fruit by "something" called Easter that clearly does not fall on His apointed times (Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon on or after the vernal or spring equinox). In this they are following on the footsteps of Jeroboam who was guilty of worshiping Yahweh on days and through means He has not commanded. Think about the testimony to the Jews first had Christians celebrated Pessah at the right time throughout the years. The Jews would have a lot more easily understood that Yeshua is our/their Passover. Think about the testimony had Christianity celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread throughout the years and how they would have been able to show to the Jews how Yeshua perfectly fulfills this feast (He is without leaven)! Think about the impact had Christianity celebrated Yeshua's ressurection on the right biblical day, that is during the Feast of First Fruit (the sunday during the Feast of Unleavened Bread). We know Yeshua is our First fruit, the first One to be resurected from the dead! Christianity needs to repent of the sins of Jeroboam and return to worshiping Yahweh in Truth and Spirit if we want to fulfill our calling...to the Jew first! Be blessed, FX
user profile
jfsipley posted a comment · Apr 08, 2018
First, Thank you VERY much, Dr. Brown, for an excellent article. I do have a rebut for the brother from France. I might direct you to an article on Dr. Micharl S. Heiser's blog. For those interested it may prove interesting and informative. Since he is a Biblical scholar he tends to be a bit technical. Follow the link for more: http://drmsh.com/easter-named-pagan-goddess/ May YOUR kingdom continue to come and YOUR will be done Lord God of the hosts. JFS
user profile
FX posted a comment · Apr 07, 2018
Bonjour Mr Brown, Shabbat shalom from France! Merci for your article. You ask: “How, then, do we reconnect these severed roots?” And then state: “My proposal is radical, requiring a change of the most commonly-used Church calendar”. => Your proposal is a step in the right direction, but I’m afraid you fail to see the bigger picture here. What is at stake here is not just the calendar, it’s the actual feast. Your article does not address the issue, but the pagan festival of Easter is likely to have been derived from Ishtar, the fertility goddess, who was worshipped year after year a couple of weeks after the Spring equinox. The Nicene Council turned this pagan worship into a feast celebrating the resurrection of Jesus, but one has to be blind not to see the pagan symbols (associated with fertility) still used by believers during this celebration today (rabbits, eggs…). Do we think is it OK to mix the holy with the profane?! I think Yeshua would be a lot more radical than you and would clearly tell the Church to stop worshiping Him on the wrong dates and through paganism. God clearly hates this and actually calls this sin the sin of Jeroboam. Jeroboam was guilty of changing God’s commands to worship Him on His appointed days, to other days and through other means. This is exactly what the Church is still doing today. No wonder why King Solomon said that there is nothing new under the sun… Instead of condoning such abomination (Yes, Dad calls this an abomination, see Deut 17.4), we should be condemning such practices. You then go on to say: “Here, then, is what I propose. Let the Church celebrate Easter in conjunction with Passover, coordinating its calendar with the biblical, Jewish calendar”. => With your proposition, the Church continues to err. Without realizing it, you are encouraging believers to disobey the Messiah and to continue in the sins of Jeroboam. Then you write: “And during the Passover week, commemorate Yeshua’s death on Friday and His resurrection on Sunday”. And ask: “Can anyone give me a biblically-based reason not to?” => Sure! - First, like we have just seen, to our God, the God of Israel, there is a vast difference between worshipping false gods, and worshipping Him on days and through means He has not commanded. The latter are called the sins of Jeroboam. All of Christendom still walks in these sins today, and Abba is NOT happy AT ALL about it. It would be foolish to think otherwise. - Second, Yeshua did not die on a Friday. This is impossible, unless Yeshua is a liar...and we know He is not a liar!!! Yeshua clearly states He would be 3 days AND 3 nights in the tomb (see Mathew 12.40). It is IMPOSSIBLE to count 3 days AND 3 nights between a Friday crucifixion and a Sunday resurrection. The reason people make such mistake, thinking that the crucifixion was on a Friday is because they do not know the Torah commandment regarding the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Since they are not familiar with this feast, they are unaware that the first (and last) day of this Feast is a Shabbat (not necessarily a weekly one), so they all fall into the trap and must conclude that the Shabbat the Apostles were talking about had to be a Saturday. Truth is it did not have to be! And it was not! The only way to reconcile the words of Yeshua about 3 days AND 3 nights is to understand that He was put in the grave NOT before the weekly Shabbat, but before the Shabbat of the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread which began at night fall after the day Yeshua was crucified (that is in the afternoon of the 14th of Nisan/Pessah day). So we have Yeshua fulfilling Pessah, dying on the cross on Pessah. We have Yeshua fulfilling the Feast of Unleavened Bread by being put in the grave just before its start. Yeshua was sinless (leaven is associated with sin in the Bible). He is our unleavened bread. The most probable date for Yeshua's crucifixion would have been a Wednesday. He resurrected 3 days AND 3 nights after, that is right after the weekly Shabbat, on the first day of the week...which happens to be the Feast of First fruit! What a testimony! So coming back to your previous question: “Can anyone give me a biblically-based reason not to?” => Biblically speaking, the Church, or should we better say the assembly of the called out ones (which is made of Jewish and non-Jewish believers in Yeshua) should actually be celebrating these 3 biblical Feasts, which are NOT Jewish Feasts. They are YHVH's Feasts (see Lev 23.2). Celebrating these Feasts is cleary part of Abba's plan to make Himself known to the world, to the Jew first, then to the Greek. If ha satan did not have his ways, separating the Church from Israel, blinding it and having it make the exact same sins as Jeroboam (breaking Torah), think about the testimony it would have been to the (unsaved) Jews over the years! Our duty in these end of times is to return to the faith that was once given to the saints. It's about time the Church understands that it not a separate entity from Israel (with its own sets of laws different from the Torah) and returns to walking the way God wants Israel to walk, that is : - to rest on the weekly Shabbat (instead of Sun day rest and worship), - to stop celebrating pagan feasts (Christmas and Easter to name but two) and start celebrating His appointed times, - to adopt a Biblical diet (instead of eating things that are an abomination to God, see Lev 11.10) Yeshua used to do these 3 things. Aren't we supposed as believers in Yeshua to walk like He walked? When believers walk like Yeshua walked, this will not only please our Heavenly Abba, but believers will start to be living testimonies (by their set apartness/holiness) to the Jew first. Blessings from France, FX