Easter 2023, on April 9th, from a Historical Point of View.
“Easter Sunday” is the most important day in the Christian calendar. It celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus three days after his crucifixion, and six days after Jesus’ celebrated the Jewish Passover with his twelve disciples. Many scholars believe Jesus died between 30 A.D. and 33 A.D. The New Testament was written after Jesus’s death. The first four books—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John—are known as the “Gospels,” which means “good news.” These texts, were composed sometime between 70 A.D. and 100 A.D., and provide accounts of the life and death of Jesus.
Easter Sunday, is part of the “Holy Week” and I believe it is important to understand this events within the context of historical and archeological views. I highly recommend you read “The Genuine Jesus” by “The Biblical World” by Prof. Jean-Pierre Isbouts, a National Geographic Historian and Award winning film making and best selling author, and Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews.There are some events that happened before the Holy Week that I believe everyone need to know.
People that play a role in the events during the Holy Week.
1- After Exodus, which is also known as “Passover” David a sheepherder was anointed as King of the Hebrews because of his bravery and intelligence in leading the army against the Philistines. He was anointed as the Messiah or liberator to be as close to God as God’s own son. [Messiah in Greek: Christos]
2- John the Baptist. Jesus mother Mary, and John the Baptist’s mother, Elizabeth, were 1st cousins, John belonged to a Jewish movement called Essen from Qumran that believed in fasting, prayer, abstinence, and wore white robes. John used to draw great crowds of followers, and was known as “Holy Man”, he encouraged people to get baptized in the waters of the river Jordan to repent and start a new life away from the Greek-Roman culture, and follow the Talmud.
3- Herod Antipas was the ruler of Galilee and Perea, and he divorced his first wife Phasaelis, the daughter of King Aretas IV of Nabatea, to marry Herodias, who had formerly been married to his half-brother Herod II. John the Baptist objected strongly and loudly to this immoral act (Lev. 18:16) of Herod Antipas and for that reason, Herod Antipas had John the Baptist arrested and he did not want to execute him, because he was afraid that would start a riot, but he did.
4- It was then that Jesus continued the mission of John the Baptist by preaching to exercise virtue and righteousness to one another, and piety towards God according to Jewish Law. Jesus became well known for his work as a healer. It is important to notice that Herod had raised taxes to everyone, and archeologist have found proof that the population at this time was undernourished and prone to sickness.
5- Pontious Pilate was appointed prefect of Judaea who wanted to get rich fast, and found a perfect partner in Joseph Caiaphas, the high priest of the temple. Both of them expropriated funds from the temple coffers without permission in the building of an aqueduct that brought water to the temple. And it was both of them who decided to open the Temple’s open court of gentiles to the money changers [ The temple coffers did not accept money with engravings on them from any nation] and the vendors of lams, and doves to be sacrificed during Passover.
Brief Timeline of the Christian “Holy Week” from a historic point of view.
The Christian “Holy week” as we know it, starts
On “Palm Sunday” when Jesus, a Jewish Rabbi and his disciples traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, Jesus, entered Jerusalem riding a donkey, and the Jewish people recognized him and welcomed him waving palm branches.
On “Holy Monday”Jesus went to the temple expecting to preach to a large crowd and instead he found vendors who changed the Roman and Greek money into Jewish currency, others selling lambs, oxen and doves to sacrifice for Passover, and he became enraged. Jesus accused the temple authorities by quoting:
Isaiah 56:7 ” My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations. “Jeremiah 7:11” But you have made it into a house of robbers.
This comment infuriated Joseph Caiaphas, the high priest of the temple.who then persecuted him.
On “Holy Tuesday” religious leaders upset at Jesus set out to arrest him, but there was so many people for the Passover, they could not find him. On “Holy Wednesday“, Jesus was in Bethany and resurrected Lazarus after being in a tomb for four days.
On Holy Thursday. Jesus and his disciples celebrated “Passover” a.k.a. “The Last Supper” [Maundy Thursday] later Jesus went to pray at the Garden of Gethsemane, where he was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, and arrested and taken to Caiaphas who wanted Jesus to say he was the Messiah, the “Son of God”, and have him accused of blasphemy, but, when the Sanhedrin did not convict him, Caiaphas sent Jesus to Pontious Pilate to be judged as a political rebel to the Roman authority. Then Jesus was arrested, judged, and sentenced without due process as would have normally given to any other “colonial” person arrested.
On “Holy Friday” He is then crucified on top of the “Golgotha” [a site immediately outside Jerusalem’s walls]
That night, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea took the body of Jesus to a cave tomb.
on “Holy Saturday“, which was the Sabbath, it was guarded by Roman soldiers throughout the day . When the Sabbath ended at 6 p.m., Jesus’ body was treated for burial with spices purchased by Nicodemus: In the meantime, Mary and Mary Magdalene, sat outside the tomb and kept vigil.
on “Easter Sunday” Joanna, Salome, and Mary the mother of James went to the tomb and discovered that the large stone covering the entrance had been rolled away. women found the tomb empty, and were told by angels that Jesus had risen! according to the Gospel of Matthew 28:5-6
Why is Easter celebrated on two different dates?
In 380 A.D., the Holy Emperor Theodosius the Great issued an edict proclaiming any service to the pagan gods was considered a violation of the law, and declared Catholicism the state religion of the Roman Empire. Early Christians were converted Jews and Gentiles [non Jews] who still celebrated Easter on the 14th. day of the Jewish month of Nisan.Therefore, the date for the celebration of “Easter Sunday” still depends to this day on the Spring Equinox according to the Hebrew Lunar calendar, which is the 14th day of the Jewish month of Nisan.
The world still refers to Easter as the hebrew word for Passover ‘Pesach’. Danish: Påske, French: Pâques, Italian: Pasqua, Norwegian: Påske, Portuguese: Páscoa, Romanian: Pasti, Russian: Пасха (Paskha), Spanish: Pascua, Swedish: Påsk, Welsh: Pasg. In the Slavic languages they refer to this holiday as ‘the long night’.
Then, on July 16, 1054, Patriarch of Constantinople Michael Cerularius was excommunicated, starting the “Great Schism” that created the two largest denominations in Christianity—the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths.
The reason we have two dates to celebrate “Easter Sunday” is because the Roman Catholic church adopted the Gregorian calendar, and the Eastern Orthodox church still use the Julian calendar.
Jesus lived at a time where people were very oppressed, poor, and longed to have a savior that would free them from the Roman soldiers. Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist to highlight a new beginning a reformation of the Jewish law, he spoke in Aramaic using parables, short stories with hidden messages in his teachings. Some of the main themes that Jesus taught, were directed to Jewish people to live according to Jewish Law [halakhah] and which all Christians later embraced. Some of these include:
- Love God. (Deut. 6:5)
- To imitate God’s good and upright ways (Deut. 28:9)
- Ask God for forgiveness of your sins. (Exodus 34:9)
- Repentance of sins is essential.To pray to G-d (Ex. 23:25;
- Love your neighbor as yourself. (Deut. 10:19)
- Forgive others who have wronged you. (Lev. 19:17)
- Love the stranger (Deut. 10:19)
- Not to covet what belongs to another (Ex. 20:14)
- Don’t judge others. [“1.6 chapter of Avot”]
- The Kingdom of God is near. Some scholars think it translates to: within you.
- Love God. (Deut. 6:5)
I hope you read more about the historic Jesus, his time, and understand his teachings better.
Books on Historical Jesus that you might like to read or gift.
Children Books about Easter you might like to read or gift