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A Study on the KJV (Part 5) - "Easter"

Updated: Feb 15, 2022

Critics of the King James Version claim that “Easter” in Acts 12:4 is a mistranslation of the word “pascha” and should be translated as “Passover” as it appears in all modern translations. As the outline below will show, the King James translators were correct in translating “pascha” as “Easter” as scripture, history, etymology and logic all attest. There are NO errors in the King James Version. It is the inspired (2 Tim. 3:16), infallible, preserved word of God.


The Greek word “pascha” appears 29 times in the New Testament. Only in Acts 12:4 is the word rendered “Easter,” the other 28 times “pascha” appears the word is rendered “passover” in reference to the night when the Lord passed over Egypt and killed all the firstborn of Egypt (Ex. 12:12) thus setting Israel free from 400 years of bondage.


The key to unlocking the passage is verse 3, “Then were the days of unleavened bread…”; Peter was arrested DURING the “days of unleavened bread.”

  • AFTER the Passover (Ex. 12:13,14) – which included eating a lamb as well as unleavened bread (Ex. 12:5-8) – seven days were to be fulfilled in which the Jews were to eat unleavened bread (Ex. 12:15-18), these are “the days of unleavened bread”

  • The dates for the observance were the 14th through the 21st of April (the “first month” in the Jewish calendar) – 8 DAYS total; the first day is the Passover followed by SEVEN “days of unleavened bread” (Ex. 12:18; Lev. 23:5,6)

  • The Passover was sacrificed on the first night (Num. 28:16-18)

  • Whenever the Passover is mentioned in the New Testament, the reference is always to the meal, to be eaten on the night of April 14th, not the entire week

Acts 12:3 says that Peter was arrested during the DAYS (plural) of unleavened bread; the Passover had already come and gone

  • Luke 22:1 says, “Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover” – this doesn’t mean the WHOLE feast of unleavened bread was considered the Passover, JUST THE FIRST DAY; remember, unleavened bread was eaten with the Passover meal

  • Mark 14:12 says, “And the FIRST day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover…”

  • Luke 22:7 says, “Then came THE DAY of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed” – NOTE it is called “the day” (singular) not the “days” (plural), the “DAYS of unleavened bread” followed the DAY of the Passover (see Num. 33:3; Josh. 5:10,11; Ezra 6:19,22)

  • Ezekiel 45:21 says, “In the first month, in the fourteenth day of the month, ye shall have the passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten” – in other words, unleavened bread shall be eaten on THE DAY of the Passover (April 14th) followed by seven days of eating unleavened bread (“the days of unleavened bread”); the phrase in vs. 21b that “unleavened bread shall be eaten” is referring to both the Passover (on the 14th) as well as the feast of seven days (15th-21st)

Herod could not possibly have been referring to the DAY of the Passover in his statement in Acts 12:4 as noted above; Peter was arrested during the DAYS (plural) of unleavened bread after the DAY (singular) of the Passover.


Having established that “pascha” should NOT be translated as Passover in Acts 12:4 it should be noted that the word for Easter is exactly the same as the word for Passover in most languages of the world:

  • Pascha (Latin), Pâques (French), Pasqua (Italian), Pasen (Dutch) mean BOTH Easter and Passover; only the CONTEXT formulates the difference – PLEASE NOTE that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus occurred three days AFTER the Jewish Passover

  • The Oxford English dictionary lists many early English literary sources that employed the word Easter to refer to the Resurrection; the earliest being 890 AD

  • With the exception of English and German, all other European languages do not have a separate word for Easter and Passover but simply use a single term derived from Pesach (Hebrew for Passover) – in one way this is an advantage to the foreign believer who immediately associates Jesus Christ as the Passover Lamb

  • As we shall see the English rendition of Easter and Passover in the King James Version is superior and needs to be exalted into its rightful place instead of scorned by the critics – the Holy Spirit inserted a textual indicator that something other than the Jewish Passover was being referred to in the text

The etymology of our English word Easter was noted by C.F. Cruse (c. 1850 AD) that, “our word Easter is of Saxon origin and of precisely the same import with its German cognate Ostern. The latter is derived from the old Teutonic form of auferstehen/auferstehung, that is RESURRECTION”

  • The German word Ostern (equivalent of Easter) is related to Ost (meaning east or rising of the sun), and as Cruse noted, comes from the older Teutonic forms of erster (first) and stehen (stand), which then became erstehen (an older form meaning “resurrection”), and which in turn became auferstehen (current form meaning “resurrection”)

  • Thus Ester in English, which later morphed into Easter, came from Oster, which later morphed into Ostern in German

  • The English word Easter means RESURRECTION – specifically, the RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST

When Wycliffe provided the first English translation of the Bible from the Latin, he did not provide an English equivalent for pascha; the words he used were pask and paske – still a basic type of Hebrew word pesach and the Greek pascha.

  • Wycliffe’s translation had the same characteristics as most languages do today concerning the translation of pascha as meaning both Easter and Passover

  • When Tyndale applied his talents to the translation of the New Testament from Greek into English, he was not satisfied with the use of a completely foreign word, and decided to take into account the fact that the SEASON of the Passover was known generally to English people as “Easter”

  • Tyndale gave us a greater advantage by using the word Easter in his translation and then also inventing the term Passover; ultimately this gave us two separate words for two distinct occasions

Tyndale was responsible for both Easter and Passover to be in the English Bible; in his 1525 New Testament, Tyndale used the English word Easter to translate the Greek word pascha, which was formerly transliterated – this was the first time this Greek word had been translated into an English word in a Bible translation

  • Tyndale used this word as a synonym for the word expressing the Passover and also a descriptive word revealing the New Testament fulfillment of the Passover in Christ’s death, burial and RESURRECTION

  • Of the 29 times the Greek word pascha occurs in the New Testament, Tyndale has Ester (or Easter) 14 times, Esterlambe 11 times, Esterfest once, and Paschall Lambe three times

  • In 1525, Tyndale’s New Testament was printed, five years later in 1530 he printed the Pentateuch (Gen-Deut); when Tyndale was working on the New Testament, the word Ester (Easter) was adequate to translate Pascha, but when he started the Old Testament book of Exodus, in 12:11, he discovered the word Easter, which means resurrection was insufficient

  • If he used the English word Easter, which describes Christ resurrection, in the translation of the Old Testament Hebrew Pesach, he would be speaking of an event that had not yet happened

  • The Easter lamb or resurrection lamb was a logical translation in a New Testament setting, but seemed rather odd in the Old Testament; so Tyndale with his amazing linguistic ability formed the word Passover, and used it in all 23 places of the Old Testament Pentateuch

  • The Hebrew word Pesach was understood by the Israelites at the time to mean skip over or to limp; so Tyndale used two words (“pass” and “over”) meaning to skip over or limp over, which shortly became the one word Passover in the 1530 Pentateuch, but Ester (Easter) remained in Tyndale’s revision of the New Testament in 1534

It is likely that Tyndale’s use of Easter in his New Testament is indebted to his knowledge of Luther’s German translation, which uses “Oster” in the same way

  • Tyndale with his expertise in the German language knew of the Ester-Oster association; Luther obviously considered Oster as both a synonym for the Jewish Passover and a phrase used for the resurrection of Christ

The correct etymology of Easter was recognized by the King James translators who added an important factor to the use of the word Easter – they refined the semantic range of Easter to be translated only ONCE as Easter (Acts 12:4)

  • As stated earlier, the Greek word pascha appears 29 times in the New Testament; in 28 of those instances it is referring to the Old Testament Passover; but in Acts 12:4 it is referring to the Christian resurrection celebration and not just the Old Passover

  • Pascha is translated as Passover in 1 Corinthians 5:7 (“For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us”) as it alludes to the Jewish custom of carefully putting away from their houses all leaven upon the approach of the feast of the Passover, thus making Passover more readable than Easter (or Tyndale’s “Easter lamb”) in context

  • A paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 5:7 would be “For Christ our ‘fulfillment of the Old Testament Pascha’ is sacrificed for us”

  • There is a pre-resurrection pascha, and there is a post-resurrection pascha, the difference is night and day, and it is the very RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ Himself that forces the distinction

  • The fact that modern ‘bible scholars’ rigidly insist that pascha must mean Passover regardless of context is to ignore both Greek and English etymology, but even more, the dynamics of language itself

The word “Easter” signifies the resurrection of the Lamb of God (see Rev. 5:6,13)

  • The word Easter is derived from the word east – the sun rises in the east to bring the light of the new day; Malachi 4:2 testifies of Christ that, “unto you that fear my name shall the SUN of righteousness ARISE with healing in his wings” – a post resurrection event

  • The death of Jesus Christ – “Christ our passover” (1 Cor. 5:7) – occurred BEFORE the days of unleavened bread; the resurrection of Jesus Christ occurred DURING the days of unleavened bread

  • It should be noted that the translators of the King James Version translated pascha as Passover in all of its other contexts, thus demonstrating that they were fervently aware of the semantic range of this word, unlike our modern critics; they translated the word pascha as Passover in the other contexts because those passages clearly employ the word pascha in a pre-resurrection context

  • Due to the unction of the Holy Ghost, the translators of the King James Version had the grace to perceive the distinction in context in Acts 12:4, and thus realized that this distinction mandated the post-resurrection translation of Easter

  • The resurrection is preached consistently throughout the book of Acts; Acts 1:22; 2:31; 4:2,33; 17:18,32; 23:6,8; 24:15,21

“Easter” was not celebrated at this time so why would Acts 12:4 refer to “pascha” as Easter?

  • The Holy Spirit inserted the word Easter in the English to signify the day of the resurrection even though it was not known as “Easter” at the time of Luke’s writing

  • There are other examples in the Bible of celebrations being established by God’s people to commemorate a great deliverance or event (see Est. 9:26,27; Jn. 10:22) – it would not be inconsistent for early believers to recognize the day of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus

  • The early Christians began very soon to commemorate the yearly event later known as Easter; Polycarp (c. 120 AD), who was a disciple of the Apostle John, met with Anicetus to discuss the proper date for this celebration

Why would the pagan Herod wait until “after Easter” to bring Peter before the people?

  • At the time of the Jewish Passover celebration and the days of unleavened bread, there were multitudes of both Jews and Gentile proselytes present in Jerusalem

  • Herod knew if he brought forth Peter to be killed before the assembled masses, they would have to make public the accusations laid against him; Peter might well preach a sermon in his defense (see Paul in Acts 22)

  • Peter had already preached sermons with the result that 3,000 were converted at Pentecost and another 5,000 on a later day; thousands more could potentially be converted through the preaching of Peter about Christ and the RESURRECTION especially at the time of EASTER, and Herod might well have a riot on his hands

  • Perhaps Herod thought it better to wait till the multitudes had gone home after the days of unleavened bread and then deal with Peter in a quieter fashion

The Holy Spirit included the insertion of the words “then were the days of unleavened bread” just before the inclusion of the word Easter to prove that Luke (the author of Acts) was talking about the Christian Pascha (i.e. Easter, the celebration of the resurrection) and NOT the Jewish Pascha (the Passover)

  • The days of unleavened bread were AFTER the feast of the Passover and thus the pascha mentioned in Acts 12:4 is definitely NOT the Jewish Passover feast

  • The word is the Christian pascha (Easter), the resurrection celebration that occurs THREE DAYS LATER (in the midst of the days of unleavened bread), as Scripture, history, etymology and logic all attest

There are those that argue that the word Easter is a reference to the pagan festival celebrating the goddess of fertility and sunrise; this theory is based on phonetics and not on historical verification

  • The argument is based on the notion that Easter sounds like the female deity of spring Ishtar (Babylonian) and Eostre (Saxon) and therefore they must be related; the theory goes on to connect Eostre with the Hebrew word Ashtoreth (“the queen of heaven”)

  • It seems strange to think that the King James translators (as well as Tyndale, Martin Luther, Coverdale, Matthews, etc.) would insert the name of the pagan god of Spring called Ishtar in place of the word pascha – if it was true that the pagan name was inserted into Acts 12:4, then when Luther and Tyndale named Christ the Easter lamb (in 1 Cor. 5:7) were they calling Christ the ‘fertility goddess’ lamb? Absolutely not

  • This theory based on phonetics is complicated by the fact that Easter was originally pronounced and spelled Ester

  • It is unfortunate that some dictionaries and encyclopedias have endorsed this false view of the origin of the word Easter without one shred of evidence

It is true that pagan traditions often have become Roman Catholic practice, and many of those traditions are now associated with Easter (eggs, rabbits, etc.) but this does not overthrow the connection of the word Easter with the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ

  • Various pagan practices did attach themselves to the Easter celebration many centuries later, LONG AFTER the Easter celebration had its beginning

  • Easter has ALWAYS been celebrated during the season of the resurrection of Jesus Christ; this is testified to by early church ‘fathers’ such as Polycarp and Irenaeus

“So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17

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