Special Services?

Every year at about this time, we begin to receive calls to inquire about our "special Easter services." And every year we find it necessary to quietly explain that we do not observe Easter. This explanation is often met with stunned silence. But in spite of how shocking it might seem to some, the observance of Easter originated centuries after the completion of the New Testament and is therefore not authorized in this Divine source of authority.

It is true that in the King James Version in Acts 12:4, the word "Easter" does appear. Herod the king had imprisoned Peter, and intended to kill him after "Easter." It is notable that this word never appears in any of the other major translations (ASV, RSV, NKJV, NASB, NIV, etc.). The Greek word there is "PASCHA" and is translated by the word "Passover" everywhere else that it occurs in the King James Version and in all other translations.

The great Presbyterian commentator, Albert Barnes, made the following interesting comment on this passage in the KJV:

"There never was a more absurd or unhappy translation than this. The original is simply after the Passover. The word 'Easter' now denotes the festival observed by many Christian churches in honour of the resurrection of the Saviour. But the original has no reference to that, nor is there the slightest evidence that any such festival was observed at the time when this book was written. The translation is not only unhappy, as it does not convey at all the meaning of the original, but because it may contribute to foster an opinion that such a festival was observed in the time of the apostles. The word Easter is of Saxon origin, and is supposed to be derived from Eostre, the goddess of love, or Venus of the North, in honour of whom a festival was celebrated by our pagan ancestors in the month of April. As this festival coincided with the Passover of the Jews, and with the feast observed by Christians in honour of the resurrection of Christ, the name came to be used to denote the latter." - Barnes Notes On Acts, in loco

As a congregation of God's people, we have bound ourselves to do only those things which are authorized in the New Testament. Setting aside a special day, once a year, to honor the resurrection, originated many centuries after the completion of the New Testament. We cannot and do not look to the traditions of men as our marching orders (see Matthew 15:9; 1 Corinthians 4:6; Colossians 2:8, etc.)

As I explained in the December, 95 Messenger regarding "Christmas" (See "The Christmas Season"), I am glad that the world, from whatever source or from whatever motives, is reminded that Jesus was raised from the dead. The fact of the empty tomb and the testimony of the eye-witnesses to His resurrection, is the validating essence of the Gospel. But we celebrate the atoning death of Jesus and the reality of His triumph over death every first day of the week, not once a year. So, yes, we have special services all year round, every Lord's Day!