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True Easter: A Theology and History

Updated on July 18, 2014

What's the Big Deal?

Easter. For Non-Christians (and admittedly a lot of Christians as well), it is a time of chocolate, bunnies, and eggs. For those who know the "true meaning of Easter", however, it is the most joyful time of the year. In the Christian Faith, Easter is the culmination of everything that we believe in and the most important celebration of the year--yes, even more important than Christmas.

Therefore, this hub aims to show not only the theological significance of Easter and its practices, but also to give [links to and] an historic account of Easter, so that the reader may come to a fuller appreciation of what Easter has been from the beginning of its practice.

The Resurrection

The primary focus of Easter is on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Church holds this as the highest celebration of the year, and one Popesaid that even Christmas is only celebrated in preparation for Easter.

So why is Easter and the Resurrection so important to Christians? The Resurrection is the culmination of everything Jesus taught--that the Kingdom of God really is at hand, and can be received by us if we follow Christ. It shows that Jesus has forgiven sins and conquered death. Finally, it proves Jesus' claims, that he is indeed the Son of God, can usher us into eternal life, and really is the savior and messiah.

Like I said, the Resurrection prefigures the resurrection of every Christian, and as such Easter is a time of intense Joy and Hope. It is why all of the Easter season we exclaim Alleluia as much as we can. It shows us that at the Eschaton we will have Glorified Bodies, but even until then we will live forever united to God.

The Fulfillment of Prophecy

Easter is also the fulfillment of prophecies throughout the Bible, both about Jesus himself and about salvation and God's love.

The fact that Jesus rose fulfills prophecies about him being the messiah. For example, John 2:19-21 shows Jesus giving prophecy about his resurrection. There are also prophecies of resurrection in the Old Testament books of Ezekiel, Isaiah, Daniel, and 2 Maccabees. While these passages are not specifically Messianic, they do point to a resurrection of the dead that Christ both fulfills and prefigures for us. Paul seems to affirm this in 1 Cor 15:3-4 when he states that Christ rose according to scripture.

Besides specific prophecies about Jesus himself, the resurrection of Christ also fulfills salvation history. While covenant theology is too big to be entirely covered in this hub, the importance of Easter is best seen through the Old Testament event of the Passover. Passover happened as the last plague of Egypt when Moses led the Jews out of slavery. The Angel of Death descended upon the land to kill the first born of every family. Moses told the Jews that, in order for the Angel to "pass over" them and their firstborns, they had to 1) sacrifice an unblemished lamb, 2) eat the meat of the lamb, and 3) spread the blood of the lamb on the post and lintel of the door.

This is why we call Jesus the "Lamb of God". Jesus, an innocent and sinless person was sacrificed, his blood spread on the wood of the cross, and now we eat his Flesh through the Eucharist. Thus by his cross Jesus fulfills the first two parts of Passover, and by his resurrection and giving of the Eucharist he fulfills the third. This is why his death is meaningless without his resurrection, for if he had not risen we could not have the Eucharist, and death would not "pass over" us. Also, the Hebrew word for "Passover" is "Pesach" which is translated to Greek and Latin as "Pascha", and then English as "Easter". This is why we call Jesus the "Paschal Lamb" and also shows that Easter, in its essence, is actually a celebration of the fulfillment of the Jewish Passover.

The History of the Celebration

Acts 12:4 gives us evidence of the almost universally accepted belief that the early disciples and Apostles of Christ celebrated Easter in some fashion (at least as a type of Passover), but besides that we have no historical mention of it until the late second century, in what is known as the "Quartodeciman Controversy". This was the debate over when exactly Easter should be celebrated. Many churches, especially those in the East (Bishop Polycarp the most well known) believed that Easter should be celebrated on the day of passover. These were the Quartodecimans. Others however, including the Bishop of Rome (Anicetus) and Alexandria believed Easter should be celebrated on Sunday, the day of the Lord's Resurrection. The Issue wasn't resolved until the Council of Nicaea in 325, when the date of Easter was fixed as the first Sunday after the full moon following the northern hemisphere's vernal equinox.

Historically, in the Catholic Church, the three days before Easter are called the "triduum" (Lt. 3 days). It consists of Holy Thursday (The Last Supper and Washing of the Feet), Good Friday (The Death of Christ), and Holy Saturday (Easter Vigil). It is on Holy Saturday that people seeking to be members of the Church complete their catachesis and are Baptized, Confirmed, and receive First Eucharist. This is an ancient practice of the Church that can be traced back to some of the writings of the early fathers.

It's About Joy!

Easter is meant to be the most joyous time of the ecclesiastical year. It follows Lent, a 40 day time of penance and fasting in preparation for the death of Christ, and the Easter season runs 50 days, ending with the celebration of Pentecost. It is joyful because we celebrate the conquering of death, the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies, and the hope that we ourselves have of being resurrected on the last day. It is for this very reason that, during Easter, we say Alleluia as much as possible!

© 2012 rdlang05


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    • rdlang05 profile image

      rdlang05 5 years ago from Minnesota


      Thanks for your contribution. It's good to hear it explained in another way.

    • profile image

      Amos 5 years ago

      The three days of Easter are understandable from a Jewish/lunar perspective.

      The last supper happened on Maundy Thursday night, sometime after sunset. That was the beginning of the first day, the end of that day was Friday at sunset.

      The Sabbath began with Friday's sunset and ended at sunset on Saturday. In keeping the commandments to do now work or take on any activity beyond something that would be appropriate to the Sabbath, no Jew would go to the Garden Tomb that day, nor after sundown either (the beginning of the Third Day.

      The resurrection happened on Sunday, the third day by Jewish count.

    • rdlang05 profile image

      rdlang05 5 years ago from Minnesota

      Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed it :D

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 5 years ago from southern USA

      Wow, what a great hub here on not only truth but history. Yes, if it were not for the Resurrection! That is the foundation. It is the greatest of all celebrations for Christians. Amen to that! In His Love, Faith Reaper

    • rdlang05 profile image

      rdlang05 5 years ago from Minnesota

      A very good article explaining how Jesus could be crucified on friday and rise on sunday and still fulfill the prophecy.

    • rdlang05 profile image

      rdlang05 5 years ago from Minnesota

      Thanks Dave! I didn't know about that reference so I'll look into it. Actually I believe the Church says Jesus was in the tomb more like 36 hours, which I agree with. I'm not sure I agree with your exegesis about when Mary finds him and especially not that he was killed on a Wednesday. I believe he Gospel reference that they had to bury him quickly because the Sabbath was approaching. I also don't think I agree with your view of Biblical Innerrancy... but that's a discussion for another time.

    • Dave Mathews profile image

      Dave Mathews 5 years ago from NORTH YORK,ONTARIO,CANADA

      rdlang: Thank you for this lovely Hub. Indeed Easter is forcertain thee most important most happy and most joyous time of the year especially for Christians, as we celebrate our being liberated from both sin and death. We are cleansed by Christ's crucifixion, and resurrected in spirit through his resurrection thus defeating death.

      I thought you might like to know, if you don't know already, there is "Scriptural" reference to Easter in the New Testament. I believe the Apostle Luke is responsible for recording this for us.

      In ACTS:12:4; "And when he had aprehended him(Peter), he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quarternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after EASTER to bring him forth to the people."

      Unfortunately, I have to disagree with the "Catholic" Church's three days.

      When Jesus was asked for a sign he referenced the three days and three nights, Jonah spent in the belly of the fish or whale.

      During the time of Jesus ( ONE DAY ) went from sunset to sunset.

      Mary Magdelene finds the grave empty early around

      5:30 a.m. the first day of the Hebrew week which is a Sunday. This would have to be the ( fourth day ) for Jesus to fulfill his own prophecy of the timeline of Jonah.

      Sunset to sunset Saturday would complete day (3).

      Sunset to sunset Friday would complete day (2).

      Sunset to sunset Thursday would complete day (1).

      We know that Jesus was declared dead around 3.00 p.m. which would mean that Jesus was actually crucified, on a Wednesday.

      I know this does not jive with Roman Catholic beliefs, BUT, facts are facts, truth is truth, and God's Holy Word The Holy Bible cannot lie, nor can it be in error.

    • rdlang05 profile image

      rdlang05 5 years ago from Minnesota

      Thanks Michele!

    • Michele Travis profile image

      Michele Travis 5 years ago from U.S.A. Ohio

      The hub is wonderful! It has given a lot of very good information and facts. You know a lot about not only the bible but the things the history outside of the bible. Voted this hub up.

    • rdlang05 profile image

      rdlang05 5 years ago from Minnesota

      Thank you very much!

    • Joshua Tilghman profile image

      Joshua Tilghman 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Well written and informative.