Monday, April 21, 2014

Isthar and Easter - is there really a connection?

There is a picture floating around on the internet that you may have come across and perhaps even believed to be true.

I'm talking about this picture:

The claim that the word Easter is related to an Assyrian and Babylonian goddess at first look seems plausible. Right off the bat trying to say that Easter and Germanic-English word is related to Ishtar an Assyrian word is like saying elephants and tigers are related because they are both found in Africa!

Wikipedia says this about the origin of the word Easter:

The festival that early Christians celebrated was called in Greek Πάσχα (Pascha), a transliteration of the Aramaic form of the Hebrew פֶּסַח, the Passover feast of Exodus 12.1
If early christians called it Pascha then how did it become easter is the obvious question. 
Frankly English and German are one of the few languages that actually use the word Easter instead of Pascha. English as you know has germanic roots. The modern English term Easter developed from the Old English word Ēastre or Ēostre, originally referring to the name of the Anglo-Saxon goddess Ēostre - NOT Isthar as this picture suggests.
But then why did someone along the way select this goddess as opposed to another to express idea behind easter is another reasonable question.The Anglo-Saxon goddess Ēostre was considered the goddess of the dawn. The closest connection that can be made as far as I can make out is in terms of symbolism:
Just as the “morning star” breaks forth from the darkness of night, so the Lord’s people will break out of the darkness of the grave - William Barclay
In Revelation 22:16, Jesus unmistakably identifies Himself as the morning star. Maybe therein lies the symbolic connection of the origin of the word Easter.

Another point to note is that in this article from Ralph Woodrow regarding the book Babylon Mystery Religion he explains that just because something looks or seems related like similar sounding words does not necessarily follow that they are related using this example.

By this method, one could take virtually anything and do the same—even the “golden arches” at McDonald’s! The Encyclopedia Americana (article: “Arch") says the use of arches was known in Babylon as early as 2020 B.C. Since Babylon was called “the golden city” (Isa. 14:4), can there be any doubt about the origin of the golden arches? As silly as this is, this is the type of proof that has been offered over and over about pagan origins.2
In conclusion, Easter refers to the resurrection of Christ and that just happens to use the word (in English) which was once used to describe an Anglo Saxon goddess. Although there is an connection as far as the origin of the word is concerned there is no other connection that can be inferred.
Then why don't we just use another word for Easter and do away with problem for good.
Well many words we use today, the days of the week for example, have pagan origins but does that mean by using them we are referring to greek gods when we use the word as a day of the week. We understand that the name refers to the day of the week and also that once referred to some greek or roman gods.

1. The Antenicene Pascha: A Rhetorical History Volume 7 of Liturgia Condenda Series, ISSN 1381-2041 Author Karl Gerlach
2. Ralph Woodrow regarding the book Babylon Mystery Religion.

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