The following is a portion of Will Kinney’s work on Acts 12:4 and the rendering of pascha as Easter. You can find the full article here. Today’s gotcha question revolves around whether the KJV translators were negligent in translating pascha as Easter.
Is the word “Easter” an error in the King James Bible?
In Acts 12:4 we are told of Peter being taken prisoner by Herod. “Then were the days of unleavened bread. 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.”
Definition and origin of the English word “Easter”
Webster’s 1828 dictionary Easter – 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.
American Heritage Dictionary of the English language 5th edition, 2011 – Easter: Derivatives include East, Easter, aurora, aur – See page 2037. Easter, from Old English eastre, Easter, from Germanic austron – dawn. – the direction of the sunrise. 1.b. Ostmark – from the Old High German ostan, east. Both are from Germanic aust – eastern. 1. A Christian feast commemorating the Resurrection of Jesus. 2. The day on which this feast is observed, the first Sunday following the full moon that occurs on or next after the vernal equinox. — Page 2037 aur – to shine (said especially of the dawn)
Merriam Webster’s New World College Dictionary, 4th edition. Easter – Middle English estre, from Old English astre; akin to Old High German starun (plural) Easter, Old English ast east
Oxford English Dictionary – Easter – 1. The most important and oldest festival of the Christian Church, celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ and held (in the Western Church) between March 21 and April 25, on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the northern spring equinox.
2. The period in which Easter occurs, especially the weekend from Good Friday to Easter Monday.
Origin – Old English astre; of Germanic origin and related to German Ostern and east
Oxford English Dictionary online.
Excellent article on Easter from KJV Today.
The etymology of “Easter” on the other hand has nothing to do with “flocks” or animal fertility. “Easter” (“Ostern” in German) is a Germanic word derived from the word “east” (“Ost” in German). Today, “east” refers to the direction from which the sun rises. The direction of east goes by that name because the Saxon word “east” meant “dawn”, “sunrise” or “morning”. The etymology of “east” is as follows:
“Old English east “east, easterly, eastward,” from Proto-Germanic *aus-to-, *austra- “east, toward the sunrise” (cf. Old Frisian ast “east,” aster “eastward,” Dutch oost Old Saxon ost, Old High German ostan, German Ost, Old Norse austr “from the east”), from PIE *aus- “to shine,” especially “dawn” (cf. Sanskrit ushas “dawn;” Greek aurion “morning;” Old Irish usah, Lithuanian auszra “dawn;” Latin aurora “dawn,” auster “south”), literally “to shine.” The east is the direction in which dawn breaks.” (Online Etymological Dictionary)
Paska in the Modern Greek Dictionaries
The Greek word paska means Easter today. The Oxford Greek-English Learner’s Dicionary 2012 lists the word paska and the very first definition is Easter. The second one is Passover.
The same is true of the Collins Greek-English Dicitonary 2003, and in Divry’s Modern English-Greek Dictionary 1991. All three of these modern Greek-English Dictionaries list Easter as the first meaning, and Passover as the second meaning.
Here is an online Greek translation site that is very easy to use. Just click on the link and go to the site. On the left hand side you can type in the Greek word or on the right hand side you can type in the word Easter. See what the Greek word means, and how to say Easter in Greek.
Paska = Easter
Online Etymological Dictionary
paschal (adj) – early 15th century, “of or pertaining to EASTER”, from Old French paschal (12th century) and directly from Late Latin pastels, from pascha Passover, EASTER, from Greek pascha Passover, from Aramaic pasha “pass over”, corresponding to Hebrew pesah, from pasah “he passed over.” Past was an early Middle English term for EASTER.
Pascha can mean more than the Jewish holy day of Passover. In fact, Greeks today who wish to send the greeting Happy Easter say, kalee pascha. Literally it means good Passover. However it has come to mean good or happy Easter.
 See Dr. Walter Bauer’s, A Greek-English Lexicon Of The New Testament And Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1957) Under the Greek word pascha we find #4. “in later Christian usage the EASTER festival” (page 639)
 G. W. H. Lampe, A Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961), 1048-1049. He discusses the history and meaning of the Greek word Paska.
Dr. G. W. H. Lampe has correctly stated, Pascha came to mean Easter in the early church. Dr. Lampe lists several rules and observances by Christians in celebration of their Pascha or Easter. He also points to various Greek words such as “paschazo” and “paschalua” that came to mean “celebrate Easter” and “Eastertide.”
Christ’s observance of Passovers as evidence for chronology of his life, EASTER.
ref. Quartodeciman and other controversies; dispute about Asiatic observance of EASTER on Jewish Passover day, 14th day of Nisan. Polycarp and Anicetus dispute the question, each maintaining his own tradition (claimed by Polycarp to be Johannine). councils convened and decision that feast must be kept on Sunday only. EASTER to be observed after vernal equinox and so once only in any year; hence to be further removed from Jewish practice.
The Quartodecimans Controversy. This word (quartodecimans) simply means “the 14th”.
None of the Quartodecimans claimed that it was wrong to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. On the contrary, the evidence indicates that both Polycarp and Anicetus celebrated Jesus’ resurrection annually. Polycarp’s claim seems to have been that the best day to do so was on Nisan 14. Anicetus argued for the Sunday that was closest to the date of the Jewish Passover, since it changed days every year and Christ rose from the dead on Sunday.
 Gerhard Kittle, Theological Dictionary Of The New Testament, Vol. II. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 901-904.”In Christian usage EASTER is called pascha” (page 897). “The oldest accounts of a Christian Paschal feast take us back to the apostolic period. The N.T. tells us nothing about the details, but the gaps may be filled in from accounts of the Quartodecimans, since their EASTER, as we now know, was a direct continuation of that of the primitive Church.” (page 901). “The paschal feast thus took place in the primitive Church at the same time as the Jewish Passover, that is, on the night of the 15th Nisan…Hence the original Christian EASTER, as we have come to know and deduce it from the Quartodeciman sources, shared with the Jewish Passover not only the time and details of the rite but also the expectation of the Messiah…The first assured reference to a Sunday EASTER is in 155 A.D., but it was probably much older than this.” (pages 902-903)
From the article “Should it be Passover or Easter?”
There is no doubt that paska means Easter in modern Greek. The charge, however, is that it did not mean Easter until centuries after the composition of Acts 12:4. This is not true. In the Gospel of John there is already a distinction being made between the Christian paska and the Jewish paska. One of the words for Passover in modern Greek is paska (Passover of the Jews). We see this same phrase already in the time of John the Apostle:
John 2:13: And theJews’ passover was at hand.
John 11:55: And theJews’ passover was nigh at hand.
The fact that John writes, “Jews Pascha” indicates that there was a need to qualify the word Pascha for the immediate audience of John’s Gospel. Such a phrase would be redundant unless there were already a distinction between a Jew’s Pascha and another Pascha. Apparently within the first century, Christians had already appropriated the word Pascha to refer to the Christian celebration of the resurrection.
King James Bible Dictionary
EASTER, n. – 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.
There are two very different views among King James Bible believers concerning the meaning and significance of the word Easter as found in Acts 12:4. One view is that Easter was in fact the name of the Anglo-Saxon pagan goddess of spring and that Herod was waiting till after this pagan holiday was over before he was going to have Peter killed. There are however many serious problems with this view. Number one is the fact that the pagan goddess was named Eoestre or Eastre or some say Ishtar or Astarte (all different gods and goddesses), but the name is not Easter.
The King James Bible translators did not have some sort of a collective “senior moment”, and though they translated the Greek word paska as Passover some 28 times, suddenly they had some sort of a memory slip and make it Easter this one time in Acts 12:4. And they also knew how to spell English words correctly. There is no way that they really meant to say Eostre instead of Easter.
If the King James Bible had read: “intending after Ishtar” or “intending after Eoestre”, they might have a case for their argument. But it clearly does not read that way. It says: “intending after EASTER to bring him forth to the people.”
Let’s look at it from the Greek side of things. The Greek word used here is clearly paska. There is NO way on God’s green earth that the Greek word paska can possibly mean anything remotely like “Eoestre” or “Ishtar”. The King James Bible translators were not morons. They knew exactly what this word means and it means EASTER, particularly when it applies to the yearly celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and that is what they wrote. The second major problem with this view is that Herod was an Edomite and probably a Roman citizen, but by no stretch of the imagination was he an Anglo-Saxon.
The term Anglo-Saxon designates the population in Britain partly descended from the Germanic tribes who migrated from Europe and settled the south and east of the island beginning in the early 5th century, and the period after their initial settlement through their creation of the English nation up to the Norman conquest. The Anglo-Saxon era denotes the period of English history between about 550 and 1066. The term can be used for the language, also known as Old English, that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons in England (and parts of south-eastern Scotland) between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century, after which it is known as Middle English.
So it would be more than a little difficult to have a Roman/Edomite king in the first century celebrating an Anglo-Saxon pagan goddess who was never acknowledged among the Romans and in fact did not even exist until some 4 to 5 centuries later. About the only thing the term Easter and the Anglo-Saxon Eoestre could possibly have in common is that they are both derived from the Middle English word “east” meaning simply the East. Aside from that, it’s a theory totally devoid of and contrary to all known historical facts.
Here is part of a very long sermon given by Lancelot Andrews, one of the original KJB translators, in 1618
- Lancelot Andrewes Works, Sermons, Volume Two (In case you don’t know, Lancelot Andrewes was one of the King James Bible translators.)
- Sermons of the Resurrection Preached Upon Easter-Day, 1618.
Preached before King James, at Whitehall, on Sunday the Fifth of April, A. D. MDCXVIII – 404- 428
Transcribed by Dr. Marianne Dorman – AD 2002
Text 1 Corinthians xi:16
Lancelot Andrews was one of the chief translators of the King James Bible and he gives a lengthy discourse on the custom of keeping the Christian feast of Easter to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
“Then, will we descend to shew the keeping of Easter, to be such, ever in use with ‘the Churches of God’ from the time of the Apostles themselves. Which, if we can make plain, here is a plain text for it; that if one should ask, what Scripture have you why Easter may not be laid down? It may well be answered, Non habemus talem consuetudinem, nec EcclesiÃ¦ Dei. CUSTOM TO KEEP IT WE HAVE THE APOSTLES, THE CHURCH HAD IT; BUT TO ABOLISH IT, “SUCH CUSTOM HAVE WE NONE,” WE DEPART FROM THEM BOTH IF WE DO.”
EVEN BY AUTHORITY OF DIVINE SCRIPTURE IT IS, THAT EVERY YEAR EASTER IS KEPT SOLEMNLY.’ We have touched two Scriptures heretofore: ‘The day, which the Lord had made,’ applied ever to this feast. That text for the Old. And for the New Testament that verse in this Epistle, ‘Christ our Passover is offered, let us therefore keep a feast.’
He then continues in his discourse to cite many well known early church writers who referred to the yearly celebration of Easter.
It should be obvious that the King James Bible translators themselves believed that the yearly celebration of EASTER had both Scriptural and apostolic authority.
- Tyndale also translated several N.T. passages as “the Easterlamb” instead of “the Passover lamb”. Clearly he was not referring to some mythical pagan goddess called Ishtar or Eostre. If people would actually do some research on the Ishtar/Eostre thingy, and not just believe what men like Hisslop have said, there is a lot of doubt that such a thing even existed or was practiced.
- 1 Corinthians 5:7 Tyndale 1534 – Pourge therfore the olde leven that ye maye be newe dowe as ye are swete breed. For Christ OURE ESTERLAMBE is offered vp for vs. Coverdale 1535 – Pourge out therfore the olde leuen, that ye maye be new dowe, like as ye are swete bred. For we also haue an EASTER LAMBE, which is Christ, that is offred for vs.Matthew’s Bible 1549 – For Christ oure EASTERLAMBE is offered vp for vs.
- There is NO way on earth that the underlying Greek word paska can even remotely be translated as Ishtar or Eostre or Ashteroth. It has nothing at all to do with these things. Never did; never will. I think it was out of some misguided attempt to try to defend the KJB’s “Easter” that some over active imaginations came up with this Eostre thing as a possible explanation. But it is entirely wrong at every level.
- Had it said Ishtar or Eostre and not Easter, they may have had a point of some kind. But it doesn’t say that, does it. No, the KJB and previous English bibles say Easter, and even in places where it wasn’t correct to do so – like when they place Easter in the place of Passover. But here in Acts 12:4 it makes sense, because it is the only post resurrection mention of the paska, which for the Christian is now Easter.
- I think these earlier English Bibles were looking at the Easter lamb in the post-resurrection Christian sense as the fulfillment of the Old Testament “type” that was the Passover and that is why they translated it this way. The KJB perfected this revelation and placed “Easter” in the ONLY post-Resurrection reference in the New Testament.
- The word “passover” does occur in 1 Corinthians 5:7 “…For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” and in Hebrews 11:28 – “Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.” but in both cases the verses are referring to a time and an event PREVIOUS TO the Resurrection of our Lord. Acts 12:4 is the ONLY time the word paska is used when it refers to a time and an event that occurs AFTER the Resurrection.
The second view, and the one being increasingly accepted among King James Bible believers who have done a little more research into this matter, is that it really means Easter as Christians all over the world in many languages understand the word – a yearly celebration of the Resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
For another brother’s excellent study on the meaning of Easter as found in Acts 12:4 see his article here at KJV For Today – http://www.kjvtoday.com/home/easter-or-passover-in-acts-124
Here is another site, KJB Textual Technology, that has some very good articles defending the truth of the King James Bible. Here is their article called Easter Is Correct: One Place Where Passover Does Not Apply. You can see it here –
Thanks again to Will Kinney at https://brandplucked.webs.com/ for collaborating with us here at StandardSacredText.com.
Again, in the age of Google it is easy to find out for yourself that these gotcha questions have already been answered and it is easy to find those answers if want to.