By John Dickson
Actually, only English and German (both latecomers to the Christian party) have words that sounds like ‘Easter’.
Here’s what most of the world calls ‘Easter’…
GREEK – Páscha
FRENCH – Pâques
ITALIAN – Pasqua
RUSSIAN – Paskhal’nyy
SUDANESE – Paskah
The thing we call ‘Easter’ is actually derived from the Hebrew word ‘Pesach’ – which means ‘Passover’.
Passover is that central Jewish festival that celebrated Israel’s deliverance from Egypt millennia ago – God’s judgment fell on the oppressors and ‘passed over’ the Israelites. You can read about it in Exodus 12.
According to all four Gospels, Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem by the Romans during the Jewish Passover festival in the early 30s AD.
Christians immediately saw the connections. Just as a lamb was always sacrificed during Passover, so Jesus gave his life so that through him God’s judgment would ‘pass over’ all who trust in Christ.
Ever since then, most Christians called their annual celebration of Jesus’ death and resurrection ‘pesach’ – or a word related to that – until, of course, Christianity made its way into German and English lands centuries later.
A silly argument that comes up around this time every year is that the Christian celebration of ‘Easter’ is just an appropriation of a pagan spring festival. The English term derives from Eostre, which is both a god (of Spring) and the word “Spring”. So the Christian “Pascha” – which falls in Spring – got called “Spring/Easter” in England. The Christian festival itself, however, had been celebrated for centuries before it arrived in either England or Germany.