Over the Easter weekend, I was asked by a friend how I felt about the festival, and what the thoughts of Adventists are. I’m going to point out right now that I don’t know what the official line of the Adventist church is, but I do know how most Adventists I’ve met feel. Of course the other half of the question is how I feel.
Firstly, most Adventists I’ve met see it as a fundamentally pagan festival which they want nothing to do with. Yes, there is all the resurrection stuff, but there are things added. Firstly the name: some prominent evangelists within the SDA church claim the name is derived from Ishtar, this is highly unlikely, since the origin of the word is known, it comes from Ēostre. The goddess connection is still there though, and considering the often overlapping characteristics of pagan goddesses, it’s doesn’t really matter to those making the claim.
Ēostre is incredibly obscure and seems to be a uniquely Anglo-Saxon take on Ostara. The only reference is from Bede who wrote after the festival surrounding her had died out. I’m not going to go too in depth here (you can read the Wikipedia article) since I’m sceptical as to how relevant it is. This practice of using words relating to the spring celebration of a pagan goddess seems to be something Germanic and the roots of Easter go back long before that. Romance languages (and their parent) all use words derived from the Passover.
The thing is, the pagan worries don’t end there. Eggs and Bunnies are symbols of fertility, and thus seem to have a very serious link to goddesses like Ostara; Ishtar. There is no way to resolve the bunny with the resurrection of Jesus or the Passover. Eggs, on the other hand, represent new life, which Christians often say represents Christ’s rebirth, but that’s ad hoc reasoning to make the eggs sound relevant. There is no reason to have eggs or bunnies as part of celebrating the resurrection.
Many SDAs also have problems with hot cross buns.
“The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke Me to anger.” Jeremiah 7:18 (NKJV) (emphasis mine)
Jeremiah refers to the kneading of dough (not an unusual practice) for the “queen of heaven.” Now, no description is given as to what the dough looked like once done, so I’m not entirely sure what the connection is. Furthermore,a number of people have told me that the cross on the bun has something to do with Tammuz, a male, not a goddess, so we can ignore that unless someone has input on it. Sure, perhaps the buns being rolled were similar to hot cross buns, and perhaps there is a connection, I’m still not sure it is relevant.
Let’s just look at the context (I don’t even need to leave the verse here). People still collect wood and “kindle” fires, and nobody seems the slight bit upset about that. The issue with the buns is that they happen to have a relationship to the festival in question. I do think that we’re over thinking the hot cross bun though. I doubt that many (if any) of the people who make the buns do it for the queen of heaven, I think it’s more likely that they do it for their celebration of the resurrection, or simply for the same reason anyone makes buns now, for money. I do think the intention is important here, since the text specifically references it.
The fact that it doesn’t fit in with the passover also seems to be an issue. Obviously an anniversary would come at the same time every year, but I’m not sure how this is connected to paganism. It is possible that Adventists see the connection between Easter Sunday coinciding with the early church adopting Sunday over Saturday worship, and there does seem to be some kind of a connection here. But at the heart of the celebration of the resurrection celerabtion is the wish to make it historically fit into the weekly time frame as it did. As misguided as this change may have been, that doesn’t make it anything to do with a pagan Goddess.
The resurrection is the most important part of Christianity (1 Cor 15:13-14). Whether we keep a festival to it probably has nothing to do with making us good Christians. I think that every opportunity should be used to remember the event, and having a time each year could be useful to that, provided it doesn’t become confined to that festival. As for eggs and bunnies, perhaps they’re better left out, even if they taste good, chocolate comes in many forms, buy a slab. Hot cross buns has me divided, if there is a pagan origin, then same as the bunnies, but they are tasty, so, if you’re worried, get a recipe and make them yourself with the icing doing something other than a cross.
What are your thoughts?
I adapted the title of this post from Chris Hallquist’s critical look at the resurrection, UFOs, Ghosts, and a Rising God.