Below is a meme that gets played out by atheists and cultists every Easter. It has been debunked time and time again by people far more knowledgeable than I. Perhaps next year I will do a more in depth analysis but for now I am going to quote a friend of mine on Facebook named Reese Currie. He put together a 5 point analysis that I think about sums up the major flaws of the Ishtar argument.
But first here is the meme:
1. Ishtar is pronounced “Ishtar.” Check Wikipedia.
2. Constantine’s language was Latin. In Latin, following the Greek, the holiday English speakers call “Easter” is called Pascha. Germans and English much later named the festival after the month in which it was normally celebrated; their old names for April were Ostar-manoth (German) and Eostra (English). Polycarp and Anicetus debated the differing Eastern and Western views concerning the date to celebrate Easter well over 120 years before Constantine was born. Constantine did not invent Easter.
3. Ishtar’s symbols were not bunnies and eggs. Ishtar’s symbols were a lion and an 8-pointed star. Again, check Wikipedia.
4. Some ancient Christians viewed the rabbit hole as a symbol of Christ’s tomb. The rabbit symbolizes the resurrected Christ; as the rabbit came out of his hole, Christ came out of His tomb. As for the egg, it symbolizes the end of the Lenten fast. During Lent early Christians would not eat meat or birds (including eggs). On Easter morning, decorated eggs were eaten for breakfast to break the fast. Breaking the shell came to represent Christ breaking out of His tomb.
5. The foregoing points thoroughly bust this final assertion. This meme depends on ignorance of history, language and culture, and an unwillingness to do simple fact checking on the assertions made in points 1 and 3. It can only work on a unilingual English audience; for example the French word for this holiday is Pâques. As a show of sophistication, it is a FAIL.
Simple yet effective. If you want a more detailed breakdown of this with cited sources I recommend the article linked HERE.
Unfortunately, although these claims are very popular with atheists and other critics of Christianity, they have crept their way into conservative Protestant churches as well, including SDA churches. There are also claims that Easter was named after Eostre, a supposed Norse/Germanic goddess. This is also false; there is no solid historical evidence that such a goddess ever existed, aside from one or two questionable sources. The name “Easter” likely comes from eostarum, which means “dawn” or “morning” (which makes sense given its similarity to “east,” the direction in which the sun rises.) There is solid historical evidence that Christians were observing a feast celebrating Jesus’ resurrection as early as the second century, long before they had ANY contact with Germanic pagans. Here is an excellent source refuting the myths about Easter being “adapted” from paganism: http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/2009/april/was-easter-borrowed-from-pagan-holiday.html
It reminds me of the claims that that December 25 date for Christmas was taken from the birth of the Babylonian god Tammuz (a claim I have heard from both my pastor and an elder at my church). Never mind that the Babylonians who worshipped both Tammuz and Ishtar were conquered by the Medes and Persians several centuries BEFORE the birth of Christ, or the fact that Hislop’s The Two Babylons, an early source of these claims, has been widely discredited as pseudo-scholarship by nearly everyone knowledgeable about mythology and ancient history.
One question I will ask, however: is there any solid historical evidence to back up the supposed Christian imagery in bunnies and eggs that you mentioned?
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