Is Easter Named for a Pagan Goddess?

Eusebius of Caesarea

Our English word Passover, happily, in sound and sense, almost corresponds to the Hebrew [pesach], of which is a translation (Exodus 12:27). The Greek pascha, formed from the Hebrew, is the name of the Jewish festival, applied invariably in the primitive church to designate the festival of the Lord’s resurrection, which took place at the time of the passover.

Our word Easter is of Saxon origin, and of precisely the same import with its German cognate Ostern. The latter is derived from the old Teutonic form of auferstehn, Auferstehung, which means “resurrection.” The name Easter is undoubtedly preferable to pascha or passover, but the latter was the primitive name.

Adapted from An Ecclesiastical History to the Twentieth Year of the Reign of Constantine, 4th ed., trans. Christian F. Cruse (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1847).


Originally published April 19, 2011.

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