EASTER (es'ter), (Gr. irficxa, fias'khah, from Heb. fieh'sakh, the Passover).
The occurrence of this word in the A. V. of Acts xii :4—"Intending after Easter to bring him forth to We people"—is chiefly noticeable as an ex ample of the want of consistency in the translators. In the earlier English versions Easter had been frequently used as the translation of pascha, but Passover was substituted in all passages but this in the King James version. The anachronism of this version was inherited from older versions which avoided, as far as possible, expressions which could not be understood by the people.
This is illustrated by such words as "robbers of churches" (Acts xix :37), "town-clerk" (xix: 35), "serjeants" (xvi :35), "deputy" (xiii :7, etc.). The translators acted on the principle of choosing, not the most correct, but the most familiar equiv alents. (Comp. Trench, On the Authoriced Ver sion of the New Testament p. 21 [2d ed. p. 491. In the R. V. it is properly rendered Passover.
(1) Festival of. It is an ecclesiastical festival commemorative of the resurrection of Christ. It originated in the circumstance that Christ was typified by the paschal lamb. ordained by Moses to be slain at the feast of the Passover ; the feast being considered as a continuation, in its fulfill ment, of the Jewish festival. The English name Easter, and the German Ostern, are derived from the name of the Teutonic goddess Ostera (Anglo Saxon Eostre), whose festival was celebrated by the ancient Saxons with peculiar solemnities, in the month of April. and for which, as in many other instances, the first Roman Catholic mission aries substituted the paschal feast.
Easter was observed as a most joyous day— catechumens were dressed in white and solemnly baptized—the Lord's Supper was administered with great solemnity—alms were liberally dis tributed to the poor, etc. The day before Easter was called Sabbatum magnum. the great Sabbath
—its observance was perpetuated long after the seventh-day Sabbath was discontinued ; it was kept as a solemn fast, and by a nocturnal assembly called the Easter vigil. "By degrees the fast pre paratory to Easter Sunday was lengthened, until. probably about the time of Constantine, it reached forty days (Quadragesima, Lent). The rejoicings were also continued through the whole period of fifty days (Quinquagesima) ) from Easter to the day of Pentecost (Whitsunday)" (Bennett, Christ. Archool., p. 455)• The day is now generally celebrated by the Christian Church of all faiths.
(2) Controversies. As early as the second century, there were keen disputes respecting the day on which this feast should be kept : the East ern church persisting in observing it on the same day with the Jews; while the Western celebrated it on Sunday, as the day of Christ's resurrection. The dispute was finally settled at the Council of Nice, in 325, which ordained that it should be kept always and everywhere on one and the same day, and on the Sunday next after the full moon that came on or first after the vernal equinox (which falls on March 2tst), provided that when that moon was full on a Sunday, Easter should be the Sunday after : thus it never could be coin cident with the passover. According to this rule Easter may occur as early as March 22d, and as late as April 25th. As it is not in the Nicene can ons, Dr. \Vaterland suggests that the council mere ly prohibited the custom of the Quartodecimans, and ordered the observance to be always on Sun day—the day to be fixed every year by the Alex andrians. However that may be, the foregoing rule has ever since governed the celebration of this festival, except in a few churches.