William Tyndale and Easter 

Appendix 4: William Tyndale and Easter 

A question that comes up is whether Ishtar is the same as the word we see in the Bible, Eástre, and is this goddess the namesake for the Easter holiday? This question is isolated to English and German speakers because it is a language-related phenomena from an interpretation of a verse in Acts:  

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 (Eástre) to bring him forth to the people (Acts:12:4). 

The word for Eástre, in Spanish and other Roman languages is “la Pascua” or “la Pâque”. It comes from the word Pascha, which is Latin for Passover, Pesach [Hebrew], but it has been ascribed to the resurrection event. It was William Tyndale who coined the term “Passover,” which he used in his translation of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). Tyndale was faithful in times of persecution to translate the Bible, specifically the New Testament, from Greek into English so that “the plowboy would know more than the church clergy.” Tyndale was hunted and had to flee England for Germany to finish translating. In 1525, the Tyndale New Testament was printed in English, the language of the common man. The Catholic Church confiscated and burned many of the Tyndale Bibles; and Tyndale, himself, was hunted for eleven years and then burned at the stake for making God’s Word available to the public. The complete Bible was published in English in 1560 and was known as the Geneva Bible. It retains over 90% of William Tyndale’s original English translation. 

Ostara 1884 by Johannes Gehrts-BW

Figure 65 Ostara (1884) by Johannes Gehrts. The goddess, divinity of the radiant dawn, surrounded by beams of light, animals, and people looking up from the realm below. 

Ironically, he used the term Eástre in the New Testament to refer to the Passover event, not the resurrection of Jesus. In my opinion, Tyndale used the wrong word simply due to confusion and being unfamiliar with the Passover.  

Before Tyndale, a 7th-century monk, Venerable Bede, wrote extensively on the question of whether the church should celebrate the Resurrection on the floating date of Passover or on the Sunday after the spring equinox. While writing at length about this question, he mentions the origin story for the name of the holiday: a goddess named Eostre, who represents spring and fertility. Pagans had celebrated Eostre in spring, so people new to Christianity started celebrating the Resurrection at the same time with the same name. It is quite possible that Ostara or Eástre comes from the word Ishtar. This has not been decided conclusively on a linguistic basis. Nevertheless, I am persuaded that they are the same. 

As the cult of Inanna-Ishtar / Ashtoreth / Astarte / Aphrodite spread into the world and went to the British Isles, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring and rebirth may have taken on the name of Ishtar with the adapted pronunciation: Eástre or Ostara. Ishtar was venerated not only in Britain, but in Germany and other Germanic speaking lands as Ostara, Eostre or Eastre, the goddess of the sunrise. We know that Venus was also the goddess of sunrise and of the spring. As we look for clues, we see similarities with ancient Inanna / Ishtar and the more modern Ostara or Eástre. For example, we know that Inanna / Ishtar went down into the underworld where she was compelled to remain for half the year, which is symbolic of the fall and winter. When she emerged from the underworld, the earth put on green leaves and blossomed with rebirth. The goddesses’ stories are the same; their names sound similar. We see remarkably similar epithets for this particular goddess suggesting they are the same.cclxxvii (See Appendix 3 Inanna). 

For early Americans, the Easter festival was celebrated by Catholics, but was rejected by Protestants because of its pagan influences. The Protestants also shunned the celebration because it was historically a day of heavy drinking and carousing. Over time and through immigration, America adopted wild hares and colored eggs, obvious symbols of fertility, into the traditions of the Resurrection holiday.  

Ancient rites of the spring equinox celebrated the emergence of Inanna from the underworld as one resurrected or re-born. Other cultures celebrated annual spring rituals honoring the annual rebirth of the dying sun god, Sol Invictus, or Egyptian Horus, or Greek Dionysus, or Phrygian Attis. As spring blossomed and the warm sun tarried longer in the sky, people celebrated the sun. Modern “sunrise services” clearly hearken back to pagan solar celebrations at this time of year.  

Currently, the fun focus of the day is the “Easter Bunny” and hunting eggs. The hare (rabbit) and eggs are the symbolic representation of the goddess Eostre (See Figure  65). A rabbit is known for fertility, giving birth multiple times per year with only a 30-day gestation period. The goddess of fertility was celebrated on the vernal equinox in March through April. When Christianity spread to the Anglo-Saxons, many traditions from the festival to Eostre were incorporated into the celebration of the Resurrection. The blending of goddess-honoring traditions with the Resurrection ceremony pleased pagans and encouraged many to convert. The celebration was even called Eostre (Easter) which was easy on the convert’s ear. To make the church more palatable to pagans, it brought in ancient practices in order to score converts. 

Do we have the authority to blend pagan practices with our worship of God? When the children of Israel built the golden calf, they said their feast was in honor of the true God. Do you recall how God reacted to worship that was mixed with pagan practices? 

Three thousand people died. When they entered the Promised Land, Israel was told: “When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations” (Duet 18:9). God does not allow us to mix pagan elements into our worship; He will not accept it.  

Take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods (Duet 12:30–31) (Emphasis mine). 

But you say, “God knows my heart. The easter bunnies are just for the kids to have fun. I’m not engaged in pagan practices when I color eggs or go to a sunrise service.” We have seen in this book that even our prayers can be an abomination if we are walking in disobedience. There are practices that belong to the goddess, and these practices cannot be Christianized. We must not say we are celebrating Jesus’ resurrection when we are really “baking cakes to the queen of heaven.” We must not worship God in pagan ways and tell Him that He better like it. God is light and He has no darkness mixed in. In the same way, our worship must be pure with no pagan elements mixed in.  

In sum, we have a religious holiday named after a pagan goddess with non-biblical practices – we knew an egg-laying rabbit was a strange holiday mascot! Perhaps we should abandon the bunnies and just observe the feast days that Jesus and the Apostles celebrated.