The Celebration of Easter

One of the great debates of church history is little known among non-scholars–the Quartodeciman Controversy. This was the debate that raged for nearly 200 years about when Easter should be celebrated. The early Church practice was to observe it on 14 Nisan (hence, Quartodeciman), and this dominated in the east; the Roman custom developed to observe it always on a Sunday, and Rome’s lead caused this to become universal.

Wikipedia has a helpful summary. Polycarp, a disciple of John, advocated for 14 Nisan before Anicetus, Bishop of Rome, and remained in communion; later generations were not so fortunate, and were excommunicated by Victor I–who was promptly reproached by other bishops, including Irenaeus (see Eusebius). The controversy didn’t die down; in 325 Nicea addressed it, and Emperor Constantine wrote a letter to those who didn’t attend the council to let them know about the Easter discussion. Constantine’s letter is a painful read. His bottom line (and, apparently, the council’s) is that we should not do what the Jews do. In other words, anti-Judaism was a major reason for the suppression of the original practice of celebrating the Pasch on 14 Nisan.

It was, in the first place, declared improper to follow the custom of the Jews in the celebration of this holy festival, because, their hands having been stained with crime, the minds of these wretched men are necessarily blinded. By rejecting their custom, we establish and hand down to succeeding ages one which is more reasonable, and which has been observed ever since the day of our Lord’s sufferings. Let us, then, have nothing in common with the Jews, who are our adversaries.

4 thoughts on “The Celebration of Easter

  1. I think the real reason is what I learned as a kid. It’s called Easter Sunday. How could it be celebrated on any other day of the week?

  2. Well, it was. It was celebrated as Pesach/Pascha/Pascua (as still called in many languages). It was celebrated on the anniversary, 14 Nisan, just as the Nativity is celebrated on the same day each year, 25 December.

    And when is our primary celebration of Easter? It isn’t Sunday morning–it’s Saturday night.

  3. Would you believe that Jesus could not be crucified on any day of the week except Thursday? Did you know that He was crucified after the Feast of Unleavened Bread? Did you know that he was crucified on August 17, 1 BC? Yes, in August and in the year 1 BC. Please see my blog here at wordpress or my website at geocities. The date was revealed by the Holy Spirit Himself. I first heard the date in 1983 but checked it when we connected to the Internet in 1999. After four years, in 2003, I was able to prove that the Holy Spirit is correct in His revelation.

    Did you know that Jesus resurrected on the evening of Sunday and the tomb was discovered empty the following morning, already Monday? This is in the proleptic Gregorian calendar wherein the day starts at midnight. Jesus resurrected between 6pm and midnight that Sunday. In the Jewish calendar where the day starts at sundown, when Jesus resurected, it was already Monday evening. The following morning, it was still Monday because in the Jewish calendar, a day consists of a full nighttime followed by a full daytime.

    • Very funny. But contrary to everything in the Bible, which says he died on the preparation day, Friday; that he rose on the First Day of the week; that it was early Sunday morning, at sunrise, when they went to the tomb. He was much too young to be crucified in 1 BC. Pontius Pilate was not procurator then. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but it wasn’t the Holy Spirit who revealed this to you.

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