26 Mar 2016

Easter/Pascha: Bobby V, History & What They Did not Tell Me about Easter in the Early Church, Part Two

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: A Gathered People, Bible, Christian hope, Church, Church History, Discipleship, Easter, Exegesis, Jesus, Jewish Backgrounds, Lent, Ministry, Patternism, Precision Obedience, Restoration History, resurrection, Sectarianism, Worship
A typical example of made up stuff.

Example of made up stuff on Facebook and Twitter

This blog continues part one linked here Easter/Pascha: Bobby V, Theology and Freedom.  If you have not read that I want recommend it.  In this blog I will trace some historical developments in the early church.

A Quote to Begin

Easter is the first Christian feast; like baptism, it is older than the church itself. We need not quest for the ‘origins’ of Easter, because at least in one sense they are self-evident” (Andrew McGowan, Ancient Christian Worship: Early Church Practices in Social, Historical, and Theological Perspective, p. 229).

A Recent Conversation … Two Days Ago

I posted on Facebook an outline of events for “Holy Week” showing how the Synoptic Gospels and John come together for the events of the week leading up to the crucifixion of our Lord.  The first comment on my post was “these are man made traditions rooted in the Roman Catholic Church.” The person who made this claim, a preacher btw, was not interested whether or not that claim was actually historically accurate true. Amazingly he did not care if it was true or not (so much for being a people of truth.), I suspect for him the commandment “thou shall not lie” was nailed to the cross!

All over Facebook there are memes and links galore that supposedly explain why Easter is paganism having nothing to do with Christianity.  Earlier this very morning I read a link posted by a preacher that claimed that Easter is in reality a celebration of the pagan goddess Ishtar and came into Christianity thru the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church after Constantine.  I saved the meme and include it here to illustrate the nonsense that is shamelessly promoted.

These kinds of claims about Easter are frequently propagated by atheists (notably Richard Dawkins) but also in some corners of Christianity by well meaning, but misguided, believers are on the side of the atheists.  This is a sad illustration of people being too lazy to be Berean.

Even if, at the end of the day, we decide that Easter is not something to observe we can still be truthful enough to not perpetuate untrue claims.

Outline of Events During “Holy Week” I placed on FB

“Easter” literally has nothing to do with Constantine nor Ishtar.  Easter was not invented by the Roman Catholic Church either.

Christians for two thousand years have occasionally debated when and how to observe Easter, there was never a debate on whether it should be observed in the early church. This is a telling and verifiable fact.

While it is true that Roman Catholics do observe Easter, so do the Greek Orthodox. So do the Russian Orthodox. So do the Mar Thoma Christians of India.  So do the Coptic Christians.  So the Ethiopian Orthodox. So does the Church of the East (Assyrian Orthodox). So do Lutherans.  So do Anglicans. So do practically every Christian group in history. Many of these groups would take considerable offense if we called them Roman Catholics.

This is not true of some present restoration traditions.  In Churches of Christ it is often simpler to castigate something as 1) Jewish or 2) Roman Catholic to shut it down.  No examination of facts need to be carried out.  Just say “man made traditions in the Roman Catholic Church” and prejudice does the rest. Some are more concerned with disagreeing with a Roman Catholic and thus gladly perpetuate false information … situation ethics seem acceptable if we can twist it too support our own position. But the historical realities of the early church are of no interest to many.

What the Preacher did not tell Me (An Illustration)

I want to use an analogy that may help us understand how the early Way/church came to be.  When a man or woman marry something radical happens to the relationship.

  • They put on a special ring.
  • The couple moves in and sleeps together.
  • They frequently open a joint checking account.
  • Share insurance and other expenses.
  • They even file a joint tax return.
  • There is a real distinction after the marriage than before.

However, though there are some significant changes for the most part there is continuity. The changes, most of the time, do not involve rejecting what came before. The woman does not suddenly change her hair style radically. The man does not suddenly change his political opinions. The woman does not stop going to the nail salon. The man probably still plays video games. Neither suddenly and radically change their wardrobe, their career, or even the car driven. The couple retains the same terms of endearment. They still hold hands. They still kiss even though more intimate ways of expressing love are available. Who and what the man was before is brought into the marriage, it is not rejected. The marriage brings new responsibilities and joys but it does not change who or what he was.  Who and what the woman was before the marriage is brought into the shared life with her husband. The embracing of newer and seemingly deeper expressions of intimacy does not mean, in any way, the rejection of previous modes. This is plainly and obviously true in every culture around the world. And it is “common sense.”

Yet, I was taught that when God poured out his Spirit bringing about the new/renewed covenant that everything about the people of God changed so suddenly, and drastically, that it is as if the people that got married are not the people who were engaged! 

But not only is this absurd in real life it is just as erroneous when it comes to the people of God in the pages of the New Testament. If the author of Luke/Acts is to be believed (some do not believe him, both theological liberals as well as so called conservatives) then we learn that God’s people are essentially the same, with new responsibilities and joys just as with the married couple.

For example, the people gather in the Temple as always.  As far as the New Testament record is concerned, there was never a time the “New Testament church” did not meet in the Temple.  The people of God followed the same liturgical hours of prayer that accompany the sacrifices in the temple and come from the “Old Testament.”  The people of God, like Paul, continue to observe the Sabbath day.  The people of God continue to worship God in ways that are voluntary in the Hebrew Bible as with Paul’s taking Nazarite vows both on his own and with fellow Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 18.18; 21.23).  The people of God did not reject worship from the “Old Testament” as the church’s participation in the sacrificial system in the temple makes explicitly clear (this is no inference) in Acts 21.17-27 and 24.11&17.

Were there changes? Yes.

Was there rejection of all the previous material/history of humanity’s relationship with God? No!

There is no evidence for rejection in the Book of Acts.  This matters for our subject.  If Paul kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread/Passover and Pentecost (Acts 20.5-6. I memorized v.7 in VBS but never once heard of vv. 5-6 and 20.16; 1 Cor 16.18), and if he offered sacrifices (Acts 24.11,17) then this is not so unbelievable, then it explains why there is discussion about days in places like Romans 14. Certainly, Paul did not believe accepting Jesus entailed rejecting being a Pharisee (Acts 23.6; 26.5-7).

But some one will object, Galatians condemns those that kept days.  No, it does not.  If Paul carte blanche condemned holy days in Galatians then he explicitly contradicts himself in Romans and condemns himself in Acts. Paul condemns days and circumcision as CONDITIONS of justification in Galatians.  That is what he rejects, as I suspect Moses would have too!!! Justification is the issue in Galatians. And if Galatians condemns “days” per se then the New Testament is in direct contradiction with itself for Paul states in Romans 14,

Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day [like Paul himself!], observe it in honor of the Lord …” (14.5-6, NRSV).

Context matters.  But the issue of “worship” never once comes up in Galatians. Context matters. If a day was used as a “condition” of justification, membership among God’s people, Paul would condemn it. That is Galatians.  Days in honor of God, that is Romans 14.

The early church inherited the calendar that governed the life of God’s people for over a thousand years. When that couple got married they did not suddenly switch from a Gregorian calendar to a Julian or Chinese calendar. They did not suddenly say birthdays no longer are important because we now have an anniversary. This is absurd.

That the calendar governed the life of Paul, and the Way, explains why Luke feels no reason to explain why, in a passage about sailing on a ship, he simply says “sailing was now dangerous, because even THE FAST had gone by” (Acts 27.9).  The Fast is the Day of Atonement. He even calls it by its typical JEWISH name! If Luke’s readers are Gentiles then some where along the line they learned when the Day of Atonement was, and what it was called in Jewish contexts, because Luke does not explain it rather he assumes the reader knows when and what it was.  Luke told us this in Acts 2.42 which ignore … “the prayers” … the rhythm of life in the Way follows the cadence of the temple. (See my blog They Continued Steadfastly in THE Prayers: What Does Luke say the Disciples are doing in Acts 2.42)

1333897466679443The Early Way Did Observe Pascha/Easter: The Second Century 

I speak only for myself, but I was supremely ignorant about the early church.

As noted in my previous blog the sole reference to the Lord’s Supper in the Epistles occurs in a context of correcting an abuse.  If the abuse did not need correcting then 1 Corinthians would be as silent on the Lord’s Supper as the Letter of James. As so often is the case in the early church we do not read about something until there is a problem needing to be addressed. The absence of the Lord’s Supper in James does not imply those disciples did not celebrate the Eucharist or were not taught regarding it.

John once wrote “I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 1.12, he says the same thing in 3 John 1.13-14). What else did John say? Maybe it was regarding Easter! We do not know.  Jesus clearly said more than what is in the Gospels (Jn. 21.25) and the apostles and inspired teachers in the first century said more than what we have in the Epistles. What we do know is,

There was no “pope” in the second century.

But there was Easter.

There was no Roman Catholic Church in the second century.

But there was Easter.

There was no “pope” as we use that term in the third century.

But there was Easter in the third century.

There was Easter in Asia Minor, North Africa, Palestine and the Middle East.  But there was no “pope.” Christians in the second century called Easter (they did not speak English!) … Pascha or Passover.

Letter of the Apostles

The first reference to Pascha emerges, as with the Lord’s Supper in Corinthians, in a controversy witnessed to in a document called Epistula Apostolorum or The Letter of the Apostles. The Letter of the Apostles known to us by name from various Church Fathers but had been completely lost only rediscovered in the early 20th century.  The document is apocryphal containing post-Resurrection teaching of the Lord Jesus to the Apostles.  It purports to be a letter of all the apostles to churches regarding the heretics Simon Magus and Cerinthus, early Gnostic like teachers.  The document stresses the physicality of the resurrection of Jesus as opposed to false notions of resurrection promoted by Gnostics. These false teachers did not celebrate the Christian Passover!  The letter reads in chapter 15,

Epistula apostolorum rediscovered in the early 20th century. Dates, most likely, to AD 120

Epistula apostolorum rediscovered in the early 20th century. Dates, most likely, to AD 120

And you therefore celebrate the remembrance of my death, which is the Passover; … When you complete my Agape and my remembrance at the crowing of the cock, he will again be taken and thrown in prison {this is a disciple that had been imprisoned} … And we said to him, ‘O Lord, have YOU then not completed the drinking of the passover? Must we, then, do it again?’ And he said to us, ‘Yes, until I come from the Father with my wounds” (Letter, 15)

The Christian Passover included an Agape meal and a vigil that extended “until the cockcrow.” The thoughtful reader will recognize the allusions to the “words of institution” preserved in the Gospels but are understood to refer to keeping the Pascha. Based on the argument leading up to the direction of Jesus (in the Letter) to keep the Passover, it seems that the Docetists and Gnostics rejected the celebration of the Passover because they rejected the physicality of the suffering of God’s Son as well as his physical resurrection.  The celebration of Pascha is tied directly to the literal suffering and literal rising of Jesus.

The Epistula Apostolorum is an anonymous apocryphal writing. But it is an orthodox writing.  Charles Hill voices the consensus of historical scholars that the Letter dates between AD 120 and 140 while he personally favors the 120 date (cf. Charles Hill, “The Epistula Apostolorum: An Asian Tract from the Time of Polycarp” in Journal of Early Christian Studies 7 [1999]: 1-53). If this is the case then the latest disciples are celebrating Easter is within thirty years of the Gospel and Letters of John. In the Letter of the Apostles the celebration of pascha/Easter had a doctrinal function, it proclaimed the literal bodily resurrection of the Messiah in opposition to Gnosticism.  This is hardly Ishtar or paganism.

Quartodecimans, Irenaeus, Polycarp, Apostle John

The Letter of the Apostles was not rediscovered until the twentieth century but the Quartodeciman “controversy” has been known by historians since the beginning. I did not know about it.  The Quartodeciman (means “the Fourteeners”)  controversy was centered on the celebration of Pascha/Easter.  The controversy was on when and the manner of observance not on whether to observe it or not.  The churches of Asia always celebrated Easter/Pascha on the 14th of Nisan, while the Roman church observed it on Sunday nearest to it. Again what we see about the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians and the Letter of the Apostles, the only reason this is mentioned is because a controversy erupted.  The controversy centered on Victor who was a leading bishop in Rome when he attempted to force a uniformity on the Christian Passover/Easter.  The churches of Asia resisted.

Irenaeus, the great Church Father, who was imprisoned for his faith, who defended the church against the Gnostics intervened on behalf of the churches in Asia.  Irenaeus, though now in Gaul (France today), grew up in Asia at the feet of Polycarp. For Irenaeus the diversity between the disciples in Asia and Italy on the date of Passover/Easter was not a point of division nor even controversy.  The difference in date did not undermine the fact that all were united in the one true faith because both celebrated the physical death of Christ on the Cross and his bodily resurrection in the feast (see Roch Kereszty’s discussion on this very point in “The Unity of the Church in the Theology of Irenaeus” in The Second Century: A Journal of Early Christian Studies 4.4 [1984], 202-218. Incidentally Everett Ferguson was the editor of this journal). The differences in date have to do with the calendar used in both places.  In America everyone follows the Gregorian Calendar (ironically created by the Roman Catholic Church).  But in the Roman Empire there were several different calendars operative. The churches in Italy (Rome) tended to follow the Julian calendar which is a solar calendar; while the churches in Asia followed a more Jewish calendar that is a lunar calendar.  These differences btw explain to this day the difference in date between Easter and Passover as most North American people know them.

What I do not want us to miss here is the fact that Christians were already celebrating Easter/Pascha in widely diverse geographical locations in Italy, Gaul, Asia, North Africa, and Palestine. They either did it on the actual day of the Passover or on Sunday. I stress, again, there was no “pope.” There was no “Roman Catholic Church.”

So where did this come from?  Why is it represented across such a vast geographical area? These questions have to be answered with integrity.

Polycrates, a bishop in Ephesus in the second century, wrote to Victor.  He insisted that the church in Ephesus had always celebrated Pascha on the 14th of Nisan. It was in fact the very tradition that “John, who leaned on the breast of the Lord” had passed on (Eusebius preserves portions of Polycrates letter in Ecclesiastical History v.24).

It is Irenaeus that provides us the most information however.  In at least two different places he addresses this matter, one in his letter to Victor and again in a letter to Florinus. Polycarp was one of the presbyters of Smyrna, his dates are AD 69-155.  When Ignatius of Antioch was on his way to martyrdom in Rome he addressed one of his letters to Polycarp around the year 110. Polycarp was a student of John. Polycarp became the most famous of disciples from Smyrna and would suffer martyrdom at the hands of the Romans because he refused to recant his allegiance to Jesus and worship the Emperor. We learn from Irenaeus, who grew up at the feet of Polycarp,

I can describe the place where the blessed Polycarp used to sit and discourse … also how he would speak of his familiar intercourse with John and the rest of the men who had seen the Lord and how he would call their words to remembrance. Whatsoever things he had heard from them respecting the Lord, both with regard to His miracles and His teaching, Polycarp having thus received [information] from the eye-witnesses of the Word of life, would recount them all in harmony with the Scriptures.”

Polycarp had visited Rome among the topics of discussion was the practices of the various churches in Italy and Rome on Pascha/Easter. The Romans observed the day on the first Sunday after the first full Moon after Spring Equinox, while Asian churches kept the 14th of Nisan regardless of the day it fell on. Irenaeus writes,

For the controversy {the Quartodeciman controversy postdates this information, this is just the matter of disagreement on when  } is not merely as regards the day, but also regards the form itself of the fast {Pascha/Easter}. For some consider themselves bound to fast one day, others two day, others still more, while others do so during forty: the diurnal and the nocturnal hours …”

The Romans and Polycarp did not persuade one another. They however remained in unity in diversity giving freedom to the other but being bound by the resurrection of Jesus in the celebration of Pascha/Easter.  Polycarp could not be persuaded because of his association with the practice of John.

For neither could Anicetus {a Roman presbyter} persuade Polycarp to forgo the observance [in his way], inasmuch as these things had always been so observed by John the disciple of our Lord, and by other apostles with whom he had been conversant …”

This piece of information preserved by Irenaeus is fascinating to say the least.  On the face of it it claims that the observance of Christian Passover/Easter was something the disciples had always done but that John and the other apostles kept it.

MaryAtEmptyTombEaster, the Christian Passover, Dates to the First Century

We have learned a number of important facts.  By the time the Letter of the Apostles was written around 120ish Christians already observed pascha in a formal way. This is not a new development in the Letter. Those who did not keep the festival, did not because of their heretical views on the nature of the suffering of Christ on the Cross and the physical nature of the resurrection.  Even if we dismiss the fictional nature of the dialog, scholars are all agreed that the practice testified to would be traditional and easily dates to the first century.

We have learned that later in the second century a controversy arose between churches in Asia and Italy not over if they kept Pascha/Easter but when and how. From three different sources: Polycrates, Irenaeus, and Polycarp we learn that the practice was universal though divergences existed on the when: 14th of Nisan or on the Sunday as in Roman practice. From Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History we do indeed learn that this was universal as churches in Egypt, Gaul, Palestine, Asia and the East all kept the festival.  Polycrates and Polycarp both testify that their practice was learned from John himself.

We learn that the phrase, adopted by all who reject Easter, “Old Testament” was coined during a Christian Pascha/Easter sermon.  Melito of Sardis (Melito, like Polycarp, celebrated Easter/Pascha) preached his famous sermon Peri Pascha, that is On the Passover. It was during this sermon that Christianity learned to call the books of the Hebrew Bible, the “Old Testament.”  It happened during a celebration of “Easter” … the preacher never told me that.

Kenneth Strand in an article called “John as Quartodeciman: A Reappraisal” published in the Journal of Biblical Literature after a study of the material came to this conclusion,

It is here suggested that the differing chronologies reflected in the Christian Quartodeciman and Sunday-Easter practices of the 2nd century do indeed both reach back through apostolic precedent (or at least precedent from apostolic times) to the differences which existed in Jewish modes of reckoning” (p. 252)

He believes that different ways of reckoning time that was inherent in Judaism itself was inherited by Christianity and witnessed in the date of Easter.  The differences are rooted in the differences of a lunar and solar calendar. But that both practices are through “apostolic precedent” or a precedent from “apostolic times.”

So what do we do with this information?

Above meme corrected for the misinformation within it.

First preachers can stop promoting untruth.  It is not true that the Christian observance of Pascha/Easter comes from 1) the Roman Catholic Church or 2) Ishtar after the time of Constantine.

The primary root of origin of “Easter” or Pascha is in fact the Passover itself.  Easter/Pascha is a distinctly Christian reinterpretation of the Passover in light of the physical death and the physical resurrection of Jesus. The Jewish context of early Christianity is of supreme importance not paganism. This is just bogus made up stuff by people more interested in not doing something than learning the facts.

Second we need to ask ourselves, do we believe that Polycarp and Polycrates lied about John? Even if we decide they did lie, we still have to explain how and why churches in the rest of ancient world were also already observing Pascha/Easter.  I personally do not believe Polycarp lied.  The man was burned alive as an old man because he refused to deny Jesus … I have a hard time believing he lied about this.

Third we need to take seriously the continuity of faith between that Peter, James, Paul and John all felt when they embraced the Messiah.  None of them believed they were changing religions and this is exactly what Preachers taught me! Paul observed the festivals of Israel as a believer in Jesus (unless Acts is lying). The Gospel of John places heavy emphasis on the festivals in the life of Jesus (John 2-11 mentions them repeatedly). The “rhythm” of time in the Way has continuity with that of the Hebrew Bible.  Just as that newly married couple will retain the same favorite date spots and date nights, so the Way did the same.  This goes a long way toward explaining early Christianity.

Fourth we need to reckon with the fact that the churches in Asia, Rome, Palestine, etc did not believe they were changing or adding to the worship of the church.  They claimed, their testimony is clear, they were following apostolic precedent on the matter. Changing the received tradition was anathema to them!  Some will argue that there is no first century evidence other than the testimony of Polycarp, Polycrates, Irenaeus and the Letter of the Apostles. Yet many scholars and most of the Fathers cite 1 Corinthians 5.7-8 as evidence that Pauline churches did in fact have a Christianized Pascha.

Everett Ferguson, while not discussing the matter of Pascha/Easter, notes the value of early second century information in understanding early Christianity.

Early Christian authors, such as the Apostolic Fathers, the second century Apologists, the early Theologians and Anti-Heretical Writers were nearer in time and place to the New Testament than either modern scholars or even the ‘background’ sources cited. They were therefore in a good position to preserve and transmit authentic information. They understood the customs, spoke the same language, and lived in the same tradition of faith and nearly the same historical context in which the New Testament was written” (Everett Ferguson, “Historical Foreground in New Testament Interpretation” in Biblical Interpretation: Principles and Practice, edited F. Furman Kearly, Edward P. Myers and Timothy D. Hadly, p. 256)

All the evidence, if one examines it, points to the reality that Christians have observed Pascha/Easter from apostolic times. The differences in when to observe it, that are attested in the Second Century, are rooted in the first century reality (as the divergent chronology in the Synoptics and John testify).

Early Christians celebrated resurrection every Lord’s Day. This is not disputed. The record also shows that the Way celebrated the Pascha in memory of the physical death and the physical resurrection of Christ every Passover.  I have no reason to doubt the veracity of the testimony of Polycarp and Irenaeus.  I have no reason to believe the author of the Letter of the Apostles invented a practice to show the heresy of the Gnostics.

I, therefore, believe that I not only have the freedom to honor the crucified and risen Christ in the pascha/Easter but I believe that the celebration itself is part of first century Christianity.

Some Sources to Study

Irenaeus, Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol 1, pp. 568-570

Andrew B. McGowan, Ancient Christian Worship

L. Sabourin, “Easter in the Early Church,” Religious Studies Bulletin 2 (1982): 23-32

Roch Kereszty, “The Unity of the Church in the Theology of Irenaeus,” Second Century 4 (1984): 202-218

Kenneth Albert Strand, “John as Quartodeciman: A Reappraisal,” Journal of Biblical Literature 84 (1965): 251-288

Oskar Skarsuane, In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influence on Early Christianity

19 Responses to “Easter/Pascha: Bobby V, History & What They Did not Tell Me about Easter in the Early Church, Part Two”

  1. Bobby Valentine Says:

    thanks for reading Charles. I was in a major hurry this am. had to get out the door and have not had a real chance to fine tune it. But I promised a friend to get it up before I had to leave. 🙂

  2. Wes Dawson Says:

    First of all let me say, that I am not “allergic to Easter”. The congregation where I attend had a really enjoyable Easter Celebration, although the point was made that we remember the Lord’s offering each Lord’s Day, not just once a year.

    Second, you are mistaken on at least two points. The first Christian reference to Pascha is not about 120 A.D. it is in the New Testament (Acts 12:4). Greek lexicons all say it means Passover and almost all English versions except the KJV translate it Passover. Also, the term Old Testament was not coined by Melito of Sardis. The Greek equivalent is found in the New Testament 2 Corinthians 3:14, and can be translated Covenant or Testament. The words mean essentially the same thing and you have to do an awful lot of hair splitting to make them different. Finally, I do not believe that most preachers object to the celebration of the Easter Holiday. They object to making it any more important than all the other Lord’s Days during the year.

    • Bobby Valentine Says:

      Wes, Bobby V here. Thank you brother 1) for reading my blog and 2) taking the time to reply. I am both humbled and grateful.

      I am delighted that the congregation you are at acknowledged Easter today. I thank God for that. I know the brothers and sisters were blessed by that greatly.

      I will comment only briefly on your second paragraph. Acts 12.4 is indeed a reference to “Passover.” And the KJV did insert the word “Easter” in this text. However the text is not a reference to Christian observance of the festival. The first reference to Pascha/Easter as observed by disciples of Jesus is AD 120. Unless we take 1 Cor 5.7-8 as noted in my blog. The practice of Pascha/Easter, as noted in my blog, certainly goes back to the first century but Acts 12.4 is not a reference to Christian celebration of the festival.

      Second Corinthians 3.14 is not a reference to the BOOKS of the Hebrew Bible. There is no place in early Christian writings where the BOOKS of the Hebrew Bible are called “the Old Testament” prior to Melito of Sardis’s sermon “On the Passover.” This is a recognized historical fact in all historical sources. I can provided numerous references on that if you want to pursue the matter.

      Again I am grateful for you taking the time to read. I hope there was something that was beneficial that may have blessed you.


      Bobby Valentine

  3. Bobby Valentine Says:

    I am posting this comment that I received via email …

    “Thanks, Bobby, for a very informative article. Through 62 years of preaching I have preached on the birth of Christ at Christmas, and the resurrection on Easter, and somehow I’ve gotten away with it! *:) happy You have given me new material to digest. I’ve argued, too that believing Jews did not cease observing Jewish feasts and the Sabbath. There’s too much evidence of the fact, making it incontrovertible. I have an article in “The Sower” (our church paper, on the Internet– http://www.arthurchurchofchrist.com/ ) on Purim and Easter this week. The feasts of the Jews speak volumes for the Christian faith God bless you in your good work. –Ron Bartanen”

  4. Joe Remmington Says:

    In a part of the country where higher education for preachers is often two years spent in a church basement preacher school, references to the writings of the church fathers carries no weight. I have been criticized for using Irenaeus and Justin Martyr to show practices in the early church because they were not inspired and therefore not to be consulted. Many of our leaders are not even familiar with modern CoC writers. I gave an elder an article by John Mark Hicks and while he said there was some truth in it he didn’t know who “this Hicks guy” was. He was also suspicious of Everett Ferguson because of his association with ACU, a “liberal” school. To people like this, nothing written after John laid down his pen at the end of Revelation counts.

    • Bobby Valentine Says:

      This is sad commentary Joe. 🙁

    • Wes Dawson Says:


      I admit that I am from that part of the country where preachers seldom have more than a high school education and have attended one of those “basement preaching schools” where most of our teachers have only an MA degree with a Phd. or two thrown in. I doubt that I will ever get a certificate there because I am nearing my 70th birthday and can not attend every session. I attended 3 semesters at FHU when it was FHC but had to leave to because of the exorbitant fees our “brotherhood schools” charge.

      No. I do not accept “the church fathers” on a level with the Bible. I do know who John Mark Hicks and Everett Ferguson are. I have read a good bit of brother Hicks work. I have not read any of brother Ferguson’s writing that I remember, but most likely will since I looked up his work.

      Let me clarify, I do read commentaries and histories as background material AFTER I have searched the scriptures FIRST, I accept what they say ONLY if I get book, chapter, and verse for their assertions. The Bible is not hard to understand if you do not accept the word of uninspired men above scripture.

      I use only the Bible and a concordance when preparing a sermon.

  5. Wes Dawson Says:

    You missed my point “Pascha” is Passover. Unless it is misused it means and has always meant Passover, never Easter regardless of what commentaries and histories might say.

    Is not the reading of Moses (2 Corinthians 3:15), reading from the Books of the Hebrew Bible? Get rid of the histories and commentaries and let the Bible interpret itself.

  6. Charles Stelding Says:

    There may be a reference to “Easter” in Didache 14: Κατὰ κυριακὴν δὲ κυρίου (“the Lord’s day of the Lord”). I can’t remember where I came across this in the literature and I can’t find it at the moment. The phrase is unusual with the addition “of the Lord”, so it may refer to a special “Lord’s day” in contrast to all the others.

  7. Wes Dawson Says:

    With all due respect, the Didache is not part of the Bible and can not be used as such. Anything after Revelation is unacceptable. As John made clear the church was already well on its way into false teaching and though it had not completely digressed into Catholicism, it was well on its way. You can not trust the so called “church fathers”.

    • Charles Stelding Says:

      Wes, I did not intend to imply at all that the Didache was part of the N.T. canon. I only mentioned it as a possible reference to a first century indication of a Lord’s Day that was different than the usual first day of the week.

  8. Dwight Says:

    I have found the ECF to be unreliable as scripture, but helpful when they agree with scripture. Sometimes they do and sometimes they are heavily influenced by their Greek/Roman biases and beliefs.
    Many of them were highly anti-Semitic as noted when they approach the use of things like incense, instrumental music, animal sacrifice, etc. They however do seem to appropriate some customs while not acknowledging their Jewish history.
    Only those Jewish ECF are going to argue from a Jewish perspective.
    One of the ironies I see is when we use the word Lord’s Day. To the Jews the whole day or the whole week was dedicated to God, as was the Passover in concept. The morning/noon, etc. were in preparing for the evening feast. Now when we come to the Lord’s Supper we spend fifteen minutes on the Lord’s Supper and three hours in assembly (although one hour is class time). In between we mow the grass, watch TV, take a nap, etc. The point is that The Lord’s Day is reduced to a few hours in assembly. If there is one thing we know how to do, it is partition God.

    • Wes Dawson Says:


      I have no idea of whether we agree on anything else, but we agree on what you said in this post. I have read some of the “early church fathers” and find a lot that is unusually wise, and some that misses the mark. As for the Lord’s Day, I am concerned with the fact that we have such a short acquaintance with God on the first day of the week and often forget all days really belong to Him. As Paul said, “…in Him we live and move and have our being.”

      • Dwight Says:

        I think one of the points of Rom.14:5-9 (and we miss it big time, I know I did) is that while we might go about putting more significance into one day or another, in reality we are to be in our life always in the “day”, meaning every day is God’s day, because every minute we live is Christ. The Lord’s Supper wasn’t meant to be worship to God, but unity in remembrance to God, as we can and should worship all days, but not all days do we come together. The Lord’s Day was to be a brief interlude with others who are also saints in remembering why we are. Then we should remember Him daily when we are alone. “Be Holy as I am Holy” didn’t start or stop at the Temple and shouldn’t stop or start at the church building threshold.

  9. Bobby Valentine Says:

    I appreciate the comments. Wes for my part I never suggested, that I am aware of, that the Church Fathers are on the level of Scripture. Pretty sure I did not do that.

    However some of these “Church Fathers” that I have referred are “Apostolic Fathers” … that is their lives overlap with the Apostles themselves and have direct connections to them. Not everything in the NT itself is written by an apostle (Mark, Luke, Hebrews, Jude, James, and Paul are not of the Twelve for sure. The word apostle is sometimes applied to some of these but never a claim that they were among the Twelve). Thus Polycarp is an Apostolic Father. Was his testimony fabricated. Did he have authentic teaching? I went over this in my blog. I have not read any comment that overturns the information provided in my blog.

    Charles, I would have to do some digging before I accept the Didache 14 as reference to Christian Passover. More than likely a reference to the Lord’s Supper. But I will do some digging. I have not seen any literature suggesting otherwise. But the Didache is an important witness to FIRST century Christianity. And it does date to basically the same time as the writings of John (and some place it earlier still).

    Blessings and I have appreciated the exchange brothers. I do want to recommend that if you have not read the first part of this two part series on pascha/Easter that you take the time to do so at this link: Pascha/Easter: Bobby V, Theology & Freedom … Part One

  10. Charles Stelding Says:

    If I remember correctly, I heard Oscar Cullmann make that suggestion in a lecture in Basel, Switzerland when I was a student there. The phrase in Did. 14 is unusual in the early Christian writings (which uses only “Lord’s day”). Of course, it’s only conjecture, but why would the phrase “Lord’s day of the Lord” in Did. 14 be used otherwise? A good suggestion is that it refers to a special Lord’s Day, which would be the yearly celebration of His resurrection. This suggestion would have some bearing on the indication of the celebration of the Christian Passover in early Christian writings.

  11. Randall Says:

    Great article Bobby. You have convincingly argued that the church has always celebrated pascha. I wonder what the etymology of the word “Easter” is and how/why it became for most prominent term used to refer to the day. Hesed

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