Hapax Legomenon Part 2
Searching for ornately colored, or at least bright plastic, eggs is one of the main draws of the first Sunday after the vernal equinox. Believing, too, that an anthropomorphic, leporine being had placed them in not-too-conspicuous locations is part of the fun, too. And the candy! Imagine, though, standing up in the middle of your Easter egg hunt, basket in hand, wondering about the so-called “Easter bunny.” And then questioning where this tradition comes from. You look to the sky as the sun rises on the lawn.
“But now is Christ risen from the dead” (1 Cor. 15:20a).
Follow the etymology of “Easter” back to its origin and you come upon “Ashtoreth,” goddess of fertility (see 1 Ki. 11). Most agrarian societies had one: Astarte, Ishtar, among many others; the word itself further derived from an Indo-European root meaning “to shine.” Each of these deities representing dawn and springtime renewal.
Going forward, understanding that the Jewish people hold to a different calendar than the Gregorian one, the concept of Easter makes even less sense to the believer in Christ. The Passover—that which Jesus observed with his entry into Jerusalem (see Luk. 19:36–40)—takes place every year around the end of March. A joyous celebration of rebirth and renewal that gives glory to the One that conquered death, hell, and the grave can happen in April as well. Really, the Lord’s resurrection is worth celebrating year-round. Though perhaps we should instead be saying “Happy Resurrection Day”? And just because the word “Easter” appears in the King James Version (see Acts 12:4), it doesn’t mean it was translated as well as it could have been (Greek: pascha). Most other versions substitute some variation of the “feast of unleavened bread.”
“Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory” (1 Cor. 2:6–7).
Hidden wisdom. Jesus, when He held the Passover seder with His disciples, washed their feet prior to eating; Peter asks Him why. Jesus says, “What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter” (John 13:8). In other words, Peter would understand this odd order of events at some future point. Just like sacrifice (see 4/15), there are things we won’t understand except the Holy Spirit illuminate our hearts and minds (see also Rom. 8:6–8). Call it what you will: “secrets,” or “things hidden from the foundation of the world” (see Matthew 13:34–35), or even “Easter eggs,” the things God teaches us supersede any attempt of our own at elucidating the mysteries of this world that make no sense beyond tradition and superstition. In studying out the world’s mythologies and religions, the similarities prima facie might cause one to rest content, thinking they’re all the same and that if there is a god, we’ll find out hereafter. Going one further, projecting the gratitude that rightfully wells up in the heart of anyone blessed to see the sunrise might even look to be the progressive answer. And that’s good. But again, what Paul is saying in the above reference from 1 Corinthians 2 is that all the knowledge in the world won’t do you any good (“come to nought”) if you don’t believe. These things are hidden from anyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus Christ. Paul continues:
“Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him” (1 Cor. 2:8–9)
Here’s a secret. When Jesus was crucified, the so-called “princes of this world” murdered an innocent man. The perfect sacrifice, Jesus’s tacit acquiescence to the undercurrents of Pharisaical and Roman political maneuvering ensured He would meet the end laid out for Him by original sin (see Gen. 3:15; Rev. 13:8). And Paul says that because of the blindness of Satan and his fellow princes, they did not realize they were giving up the keys to death, hell, and the grave by committing such a heinous act. I did not learn this by reading about mythology. And whereas winter will come again, and the springtime will follow, a higher mystery overshadows all of it.
“And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the Lord, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me” (Isaiah 45:3–4)
We’ll look next month at some more stars in this constellation. And Happy Resurrection Day.