By John Henry

March 29, 2005

This article is the result of the statement by Mr. Terence H. Brown in the Trinitarian Bible Society's Quarterly Record no. 470, January to March 1980 which said,  "The fifteen New Testament occurrences of Easter in the Great Bible of 1539 were reduced to only one in the Authorised Version, and it seems probable that this was left inadvertently rather than intentionally, in Acts 12.4."

The Greek word for "Passover" is used about 27 places in the New Testament .  It is translated "Passover" every time, except in Acts 12:4 where it is correctly translated, "Easter".  "Easter" is correct in Acts 12.4 because it is not referring to the Jewish Passover, but rather to a pagan passover.

As stated in the article in question,  "Wycliffe translated the Bible into English from the Latin version, he could find in the English language no satisfactory equivalent, so he just gave the Latin word an English form -- pask or paske."

The New Unger's Bible Dictionary says this about the word:  "Easter. [Gk. pascha, from Heb. pesah]  The Passover ..., and so translated in every passage except the KJV: 'intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people' [Acts 12:4]. In the earlier English versions Easter had been frequently used as the translation of pascha. At the last revision [1611 A.V.] Passover was substituted in all passages but this. ... The word Easter is of Saxon origin, the name is eastra, the goddess of spring in whose honor sacrifices were offered about Passover time each year. By the eighth century Anglo-Saxons had adopted the name to designate the celebration of Christ's resurrection."

The word seems to have originally been used because it identified the general time of year of the Lord's Passover (Ex 12:27; Lev 23:5) which coincided with a pagan festival.   The Lord's Passover pointed to the Lord Jesus Christ's death, burial and resurrection.  Herods pagan passover pointed to an ancient pagan goddess.

There are festivals all over the world, even here in Buddhist Thailand, all having to do with fertility that are perversions of the Lord's Passover.  They have their origins in ancient Babel.

The name "Easter" comes from the pagan goddess Ishtar of the Chaldeans and Babylonians. She was introduced into the British Isles by the Druids as Eastre.  She is the Biblical Ashtoreth and Diana (Artemis).  In other cultures she was known as Astarte, Eostre, Ostera, Isis, Venus, etc., the fertility goddess, the moon goddess, the queen of heaven.

Alexander Hislop says, "The term Easter is of pagan origin. It bears its Chaldean origin on its very forehead. Easter is nothing else than Astarte, one of the titles of Beltis, the queen of heaven." (Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons , p. 103).

Note the passage of Scripture in question in context:

1 Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church.  2 And he killed James the brother of John with the sword.  3 And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)  4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. (Acts 12:1-4)

Now, "the days [plural] of unleavened bread" (Acts 12:3) come after "the day [singular] of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed" (Luke 22:7; cf. Ex 12:5-8).  The day of unleavened bread or "Passover" is observed on the 14th day of the first month of the Hebrew calendar (Lev 23:5), whereas the 7 days of the "Feast of Unleavened Bread" are observed from the15th to the 21st of the first month of the Hebrew calendar (Lev 23:6).  So it is clear that the Easter of Acts 12:4 cannot be the Jewish Passover, because it comes after rather than before the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  Herod was waiting for his pagan "pascha" (1 Sam. 7:3; 1 Kings 11:5, 33; 2 Kings. 23:13; Jer. 7:18; 44:18), rather than the Lord's "pascha" (Ex 12:27; Lev 23:5).  As an Edomite, Herod, and his people had long associated with the false gods of the Babylonian mystery religion (2 Chron 25:14; 20).

"Even though the Jewish passover was held in mid April (the fourteenth) and the pagan festival Easter was held later the same month, how do we know that Herod was referring to Easter in Acts 12:4 and not the Jewish passover? If he was referring to the passover, the translation of 'pascha' as 'Easter' is incorrect. If he was indeed referring to the pagan holyday (holiday) Easter, then the King James Bible (1611) must truly be the very word and words of God for it is the only Bible in print today which has the correct reading." (Samuel Gipp, The Answer Book, Shelbyville, TN: Bible and Literature Missionary Foundation, 1989)

"The NASV gives the impossible and therefore inaccurate rendering 'Passover' in Acts 12:4.  According to Scripture, Herod killed the Apostle James and intended to kill Peter, whom he had captured during the days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  After the pasca (NASV 'Passover;' KJB "Easter") Herod planned to kill Peter.  The OT declared the order of events for the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, requiring that the Passover fell on the 14th day of Nisan and the Feast of Unleavened Bread followed on the 15th through 21st days of Nisan (Lev. 23:5-6; cf. Ex. 12:3 ff.).   Luke could not possibly be referring to the Passover following the Feast of Unleavened Bread, contrary to the dictates of the OT and context, but must be referring to Herod's 'Easter' (Ishtar worship) holy day. Passover is a translational error in the NASV, NIV, RSV, and NKJV." (Dr. Thomas Strouse, Sound Words from New England, Vol. 2., Issue 1, June-August 2001, Emmanuel Baptist Theological Seminary, Newington, CT)

Furthermore, in the article in question the author, T. H. Brown, says this about the translation of the word "Easter" in Acts: "... it seems probable that it was left inadvertently rather than intentionally, in Acts 12.4."  However, even humanly speaking, the use of the word "Easter" could not have been an over site on the part of the KJV translators because they diligently compared it with the former translations.  It says this on the title page of the New Testament of 1611:  "The Newe Testament of our Lord and Saviour JESUS CHRIST. Newly Translated out of the Originall Greeke: and with the former Translations diligently compared and revised, by his Majesties speciall Commandment." They compared their KJV translation with the translations that had the word "Easter" in Acts 12:4: i.e Tyndale's Bible (1534) the Great Bible (1539) and the Bishop's Bible (1568);  and to those which did not have "Easter" there i.e Wycliffe's Bible (1382) and the Geneva Bible (1560).  There were 47 translators of the KJV organized into six groups, and met respectively at Westminster, Cambridge, and Oxford. Eight of the 15 men in the Oxford group worked on Acts.  Fifteen general rules were advanced for the guidance of the translators.  One of the rules was:  "The ordinary Bible read in the Church, commonly called the Bishops Bible, to be followed, and as little altered as the Truth of the original will permit."  The Bishops Bible had already eliminated all but 2 (John 11:55 and Acts 12:4) of the many places where the Tyndale and Great bibles had retained the word "Easter."  The KJV translators further eliminated John 11:55, but retained Acts 12:4.  Other rules of translation stated,  "Every particular Man of each Company, to take the same Chapter or Chapters, and having translated or amended them severally by himself, where he thinketh good, all to meet together, confer what they have done, and agree for their Parts what shall stand. ... As any one Company hath dispatched any one Book in this Manner they shall send it to the rest, to be considered of seriously and judiciously, for His Majesty is very careful in this Point."  So the word "Easter" in Acts 12:4 was translated and then checked by the other 46 translators from all six translation groups.

Therefore, even humanly speaking it would have been next to impossible to have "inadvertently" left "Easter" in Acts 12:4,  and we have not yet even mentioned that God's providential hand was guiding in the translation (John 16:13-14; 1 Cor 2:12)

In 1525 Tyndale's New Testament was the first English Bible ever to be printed. Tyndale printed and smuggled his Bibles into England and was hunted for 11 years and eventually caught and imprisoned before he was burned at the stake in 1536. His last words were, "Lord, open the eyes of the King of England".  King James was the answer to his prayer!  "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will." (Prov 21:1)


*  The Answer Book by Samuel Gipp

*  A Brief History of the King James Bible by Dr. Laurence M. Vance

*  The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop

*  Easter In Acts 12:4 Revisited by Bro. Terry