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Holman Bible Dictionary [1]

Although the New Testament does not give any account of a special observance of Easter and evidence from before A.D. 200 is scarce, the celebrations were probably well-established in most churches by A.D. 100. The earliest observance probably consisted of a vigil beginning on Saturday evening and ending on Sunday morning and included remembrance of Christ's crucifixion as well as the resurrection. Evidence from shortly after A.D. 200 shows that the climax of the vigil was the baptism of new Christians and the celebration of the Lord's Supper. By about A.D. 300 most churches divided the original observance, devoting Good Friday to the crucifixion and Easter Sunday to the resurrection.

The early centuries saw considerable controversy over the proper date for the Easter celebration. A minority, influenced by the Jewish origins of Christianity, insisted that the celebration should occur on 14Nisan of the Jewish calendar, the day of the crucifixion according to the Gospel of John. Most Christians rejected this practice because it meant that the special yearly celebration of the resurrection would usually not occur on Sunday, the weekly day of the resurrection. Since about A.D. 300, the date of Easter has been determined by a complex calculation using the lunar calendar. In general, Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox.

Since Easter occurs in the spring, many of the traditional non-Christian springtime symbols of the renewal of nature became attached to the Christian celebration. In some cases an attempt has been made to Christianize the symbols. Thus, for centuries many Christians have regarded the egg as a symbol of the resurrection. The English word “Easter” comes from the name of the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the dawn. See Church Year .

Fred A. Grissom

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [2]

1: Πάσχα (Strong'S #3957 — Noun Neuter — pascha — pas'-khah )

mistranslated "Easter" in  Acts 12:4 , AV, denotes the Passover (RV). The phrase "after the Passover" signifies after the whole festival was at an end. The term "Easter" is not of Christian origin. It is another form of Astarte, one of the titles of the Chaldean goddess, the queen of heaven. The festival of Pasch held by Christians in post-apostolic times was a continuation of the Jewish feast, but was not instituted by Christ, nor was it connected with Lent. From this Pasch the pagan festival of "Easter" was quite distinct and was introduced into the apostate Western religion, as part of the attempt to adapt pagan festivals to Christianity. See Passover.

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary [3]

The day on which the Christian church commemorates our Saviour's resurrection. It is called by the Greeks Pasga; and by the Latins Pascha, a Hebrew word signifying passage, applied to the Jewish feast at the passover. It is called Easter in English, from the Saxon goddess Eostre, whose festival was held in April. The Asiatic churches kept their Easter upon the very same day that the Jews observed their passover, and others on the first Sunday after the first full moon in the new year. This controversy was determined in the council of Nice, when it was ordained that Easter should be kept upon one and the same day, which should always be Sunday, in all Christian churches in the world.

Webster's Dictionary [4]

(1): ( n.) An annual church festival commemorating Christ's resurrection, and occurring on Sunday, the second day after Good Friday. It corresponds to the pasha or passover of the Jews, and most nations still give it this name under the various forms of pascha, pasque, paque, or pask.

(2): ( n.) The day on which the festival is observed; Easter day.

(3): ( v. i.) To veer to the east; - said of the wind.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [5]

Easter.  Acts 12:4. In the earlier English versions, Easter has been frequently used as the translation of pascha , (Passover ). In the Authorized Version, Passover was substituted in all passages but this; and in the new Revision, Passover is used here. See Passover .

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [6]

the day on which the Christian church commemorates our Saviour's resurrection. Easter is a word of Saxon origin, and imports a goddess of the east. This goddess was Astarte, in honour of whom sacrifices were annually offered about the passover time of the year, the spring; and hence the Saxon name "aeaster" became attached by association of ideas to the Christian festival of the resurrection.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [7]

EASTER (AV [Note: Authorized Version.] of   Acts 12:4; RV [Note: Revised Version.] ‘the Passover’). The anachronism of AV [Note: Authorized Version.] was inherited from older VSS [Note: SS Versions.] which avoided, as far as possible, expressions which could not be understood by the people.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [8]

Is improperly put for  Acts 12:4; Passover being the name of the ancient Jewish festival here referred to; while Easter, from the Saxon goddess Eostre, is the modern name of a Christian festival, in commemoration of the events of Passover-week, and fixed at the same period of the year.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [9]

The KJV of Pascha (to be translated instead as "the Passover") in  Acts 12:4. "Easter" is a Christian feast; the Passover is a Jewish feast. ( Ρesach ("Feast of Passover".))

People's Dictionary of the Bible [10]

Easter,  Acts 12:4 (originally the festival of the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eastre), is a mistranslation. It should be, as in the Greek, translated, Passover; the Jewish feast. It is so translated in the R. V.

King James Dictionary [11]


A festival of the christian church observed in commemoration of our Savior's resurrection. It answers to the pascha or passover of the Hebrews, and most nations still give it this name, pascha, pask, paque.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [12]

πάσχα. Simply 'the Passover,'  Acts 12:4 , as the word is elsewhere translated.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [13]

 Acts 12:4

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [14]

See Passover.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [15]

ēs´tẽr ( πάσχα , páscha , from Aramaic פסחא , paṣḥā' and Hebrew פסח , peṣaḥ , the Passover festival): The English word comes from the Anglo-Saxon Eastre or Estera , a Teutonic goddess to whom sacrifice was offered in April, so the name was transferred to the paschal feast. The word does not properly occur in Scripture, although the King James Version has it in  Acts 12:4 where it stands for Passover, as it is rightly rendered in the Revised Version (British and American). There is no trace of Easter celebration in the New Testament, though some would see an intimation of it in   1 Corinthians 5:7 . The Jewish Christians in the early church continued to celebrate the Passover, regarding Christ as the true paschal lamb, and this naturally passed over into a commemoration of the death and resurrection of our Lord, or an Easter feast. This was preceded by a fast, which was considered by one party as ending at the hour of the crucifixion, i.e. at 3 o'clock on Friday, by another as continuing until the hour of the resurrection before dawn on Easter morning. Differences arose as to the time of the Easter celebration, the Jewish Christians naturally fixing it at the time of the Passover feast which was regulated by the paschal moon. According to this reckoning it began on the evening of the 14th day of the moon of the month of Nı̄ṣān without regard to the day of the week, while the Gentile Christians identified it with the first day of the week, i.e. the Sunday of the resurrection, irrespective of the day of the month. This latter practice finally prevailed in the church, and those who followed the other reckoning were stigmatized as heretics. But differences arose as to the proper Sunday for the Easter celebration which led to long and bitter controversies. The Council of Nice, 325 ad, decreed that it should be on Sunday, but did not fix the particular Sunday. It was left to the bishop of Alexandria to determine, since that city was regarded as the authority in astronomical matters and he was to communicate the result of his determination to the other bishops. But this was not satisfactory, especially to the western churches, and a definite rule for the determination of Easter was needed. By some it was kept as early as March 21, and by others as late as April 25, and others followed dates between. The rule was finally adopted, in the 7th century, to celebrate Easter on the Sunday following the 14th day of the calendar moon which comes on, or after, the vernal equinox which was fixed for March 21. This is not always the astronomical moon, but near enough for practical purposes, and is determined without astronomical calculation by certain intricate rules adopted by ecclesiastical authority. These rules involve the Dominical Letters, or the first seven of the alphabet, representing the days of the week, A standing for the first day of the year and the one on which Sunday falls being called the Dominical for that year. There are also involved the Golden Numbers and the Epacts, the first being the numbers from 1 to 19, the cycle of the moon when its phases recur on the same days of the year, the first of the cycle being that in which the new moon falls on January 1. The Epacts indicate the moon's age at the beginning of each year. Easter was Thus fixed by these rules, but another difficulty arose when the Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1582, the difference between it and the Julian being then 10 days. This of course affected the determination of Easter, and its celebration by the Greek church, which has never admitted the Gregorian calendar, occurs usually at a different time from that followed by the western churches. This difference may be as much as five weeks and it may occur as late as April 30, while in the West it cannot occur later than April 25 nor earlier than March 22. Occasionally the two come together but this is rare, since the difference between the two calendars is now 13 days. The Easter feast has been and still is regarded as the greatest in the Christian church, since it commemorates the most important event in the life of its Founder.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [16]

( Πάσχα , a Greek form of the Hebrews פֵּסִח , and so Latinized by the Vulgate Pascha), i.e., Passover. Easter is a word of Saxon origin, and imports a goddess of the Saxons, or, rather, of the East, Estera, in honor of whom sacrifices being annually offered about the Passover time of the year (spring), the name became attached by association of ideas to the Christian festival of the resurrection, which happened at the time of the Passover: hence we say Easter-Day, Easter Sunday,, but very improperly; as we by no means refer the festival then kept to the goddess of the ancient Saxons. So the present German word for Easter Ostern, is referred to the same goddess, Estera or Ostera. Calmet, s.v. The occurrence of this word in the A.V. of  Acts 12:4 "Intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people" is chiefly noticeable as an example of the want of consistency in the translators. (See Authorized Version). In the earlier English versions Easter had been frequently used as the translation of Πάσχα . At the last revision Passover was substituted in all passages but this. It would seem from this, and from the use of such words as "robbers of churches" ( Acts 19:37), " town-clerk" ( Acts 19:35), " sergeants" ( Acts 16:35), " deputy" ( Acts 13:7, etc.), as if the Acts of the Apostles had fallen into the hands of a translator who acted on the principle of choosing, not the most correct, but the most familiar equivalents (comp. Trench, On The Authorized Version Of The N.T. p. 21). Smith, s.v. For all that regards the nature and celebration of the feast referred to in  Acts 12:4, (See Passover).

The Nuttall Encyclopedia [17]

An important festival of the Church commemorating the resurrection of Christ; held on the first Sunday after the first full moon of the calendar which happens on or next after 21st of March, and constituting the beginning of the ecclesiastical year; the date of it determines the dates of other movable festivals; derives its name from Eastre, a Saxon goddess, whose festival was celebrated about the same time, and to which many of the Easter customs owe their origin.