Monday, April 5, 2010


Since becoming a Christian ten years ago, I've been told on more than one occasion that the word "Easter" is derived from a pagan fertility goddess (hence the bunnies and eggs).

But, as David Koyzis writes, that may not be the case:

There is still no general agreement on the origin of the word, but it has been suggested that it may come, not from the name of a goddess, but from eostarun, the Old High German word for the dawn itself. (Our word east obviously has similar origins.) In fact there are some remarkable similarities between the words for resurrection, Easter and dawn in several Indo-European languages. The common meaning underlying these words is a rising of some sort.

If our own word Easter originally meant sunrise, then perhaps it was fittingly applied to the Rising of the Son of God from the dead by our Teutonic forebears. And if this is so, then it seems that we English-speakers do after all have a most appropriate name for the feast of Christ’s Resurrection.


  1. Larry, the attempt to link Easter with the rising of the Sun is totally unbiblical. Please read my recent post Easter Celebrations about Easter, for a proper biblical understanding. You will be surprised, and perhaps delighted, and it will clear up many of the misunderstandings about Easter, and put it in proper perspective.



  2. It is no accident that God chose to resurrect His Son from the dead during the Spring. The Spring season is associated with the renewal of the earth and life, after the death and slumber of winter (dead plants,hibernating animals, and so on). The rising sun concept is not a part of this, because the sun rises every day, whether winter, spring, autumn or summmer. Nothing special about the sun rising during the Easter season. That is a purely pagan concept.

  3. It should be noted that Mary Magdalene went to the tomb initially while it was still dark, and not at sunrise (John 20:1). Then Mary and the other women came at sunrise (Mark 16:1-2). Why? Not because the sunrise held any special religious significance, but because the Sabbath was over and they wanted to anoint the body of Jesus (Mark 16:1; Luke 24:1). Nicodemus and Joseph had wrapped Jesus' body in linen garments with spices of myrrh and aloes on Friday before sunset, before the Sabbath, after taking His body down from the cross (John 19:38-40. The sabbath that followed however was also a high holy day (as well as the Sabbath), which was the Feast of Passover/Unleavened bread, and the law prevented anyone who touched a dead body to eat of this feast (John 19:31; John 18:28; Numbers 9:10-11). The women came early Sunday morning to perform this anointing, which they did not have opportunity to do because of the Sabbath (Luke 23:56).

  4. The commentators here are missing the point: the common meaning of these words is that of "rising," which the sun happens to do in the east. My post was not an attempt to find biblical connections between the dawn and the resurrection of Jesus; it merely explored the etymological roots of our word Easter.

  5. Hi David, if that is the case, then everyday is Easter. I don't see what the sun rising has to do with Easter - the spring festival, except of course, the daylight hours do get longer and longer until June 21, when the Summer solistice occurs and we have the longest day. So maybe in pagan cultures, Easter is also associated with sun worship as well. In our biblical culture, Easter is associated with spring - God renewing the earth. So at Easter, we have pagans worshipping the sun, and thanking the sun for renewing the earth, and God-worshippers thanking God for renewing the earth and resurrecting Jesus from the dead.