How do we determine the date to celebrate Easter?

It is impossible to pinpoint the exact date of Jesus' resurrection. While the Bible tells us that Jesus was crucified the day before the Sabbath (John 19:31), there is speculation that the Sabbath in question may not have been the Friday-evening to Saturday-evening weekly Sabbath, but the day of the Passover. Even if the timeframe of the crucifixion and resurrection could be determined within the week, we still don't know the specific date—or even the year. The most that can be said was that Jesus was crucified around the Passover (the 15th of Nisan), sometime during Pilate's rule (AD 26-36). In fact, the date of Jesus' resurrection and the date that we celebrate Easter have only two connections: the early church held that Jesus was resurrected on a Sunday, and Passover is in the spring.

The date on which we celebrate Easter has more to do with pagan holidays. As Christianity spread, the belief in the new life in Christ took over pagan spring fertility ceremonies. While cultural details, such as an association with the vernal equinox and the name "Easter," remained, the religious aspect of the celebration completely changed. Thus it is that Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the new moon following the northern hemisphere's vernal equinox. Because western churches use the Gregorian calendar and eastern churches use the Julian calendar, and because the early church took quite a while in precisely describing the method by which Easter's date would be determined, it gets very confusing. In general, however, Easter falls on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25.

The flux in the date of Easter is a perfect example of what Paul meant when he said, "One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God" (Romans 14:5-6b). The Bible neither clearly identifies the day of Christ's resurrection nor instructs Christians to celebrate it. It is certainly a good thing to take time to acknowledge Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. And it's fine to determine a date each year to do so corporately. But the Bible gives no indication that God would care which date this should be.

Easter Calendar

2014 – April 20
2015 – April 5
2016 – March 27
2017 – April 16
2018 – April 1
2019 – April 21
2020 – April 12
2021 – April 4

Related Truth:

Easter origins - What are they? Should we even be celebrating Easter?

Where did the Easter Bunny and Easter eggs come from?

What is the significance of the resurrection of Jesus?

Why is the empty tomb so important?

Easter Monday - What is it?


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