When Did Easter Replace Passover?

Matthew 28:1, When did the early Christians first celebrate a day commemorating the resurrection of Yeshua?

Although the resurrection of Yeshua the Messiah is a biblical and historical fact, it’s celebration (known as Easter), is neither commanded in the Scriptures, nor was it celebrated by the original disciples of Yeshua. It is purely an invention of the church, which eventually replaced Passover! Here are the facts:

In A History of Christianity (vol. 1), Kenneth Scott Latourette states that notice of Easter as a festival occurs in the middle of the second century, but that festivals commemorating the resurrection of Messiah were presumably observed by at least some Christians from much earlier times (p. 137). Church historian, Philip Schaff, also attributes the beginning of the Easter festival to the middle of the second century (History of the Christian Church, vol. 2, p. 207). He states that the Christian Passover naturally grew out of the Jewish Passover, as the Lord’s Day (Sunday) grew out of the Sabbath. “It is based on the view that Christ crucified and risen is the centre of faith. The Jewish Christians would very naturally from the beginning continue to celebrate the legal Passover, but in the light of its fulfillment by the sacrifice of Christ, and would dwell chiefly on the aspect of the crucifixion. The Gentile Christians, for whom the Jewish Passover had no meaning except through reflection on the cross, would chiefly celebrate the Lord’s resurrection as they did on every Sunday of the week.” He notes that the early Christians commemorated the entire period between the death and resurrection of Yeshua with vigils, fasting, special devotions, meetings culminating in a resurrection feast celebrating the whole work of redemption. The feast of the resurrection gradually became the most prominent aspect of the Christian Passover (Easter celebration), but the crucifixion continued to be celebrated on Good Friday” (ibid., pp. 207–208).

Christians universally kept the Passover on the biblical date of Abib (also known as Nisan) 14/15, irrespective of the day of the week until A.D. 135 according to leading Sabbath scholar Prof. Samuele Bacchiocchi quoting the fourth century Christian historian Ephiphanius (From Sabbath to Sunday, p. 81). “This conclusion,” continues Bacchiocchi, “is supported indirectly by the two earliest documents mentioning the Passover celebration, since both emphasize the commemoration of the death rather than the resurrection of Christ. The Ethiopic version of the apocryphal Epistle of the Apostles [or Didache] says, ‘and you therefore celebrate the remembrance of my death, i.e., the Passover’ (ch. 15). In the Coptic version the passage is basically the same, ‘And you remember my death. If now the Passover takes place …’ (chap. 15)’ (ibid., p. 82).

The second document that attests to the early church’s emphasis on the death rather than the resurrection of Yeshua is the Sermon on the Passover, by Melito, Bishop of Sardis (died ca. A.D. 190). According to Bacchiocchi, Melito provides a most extensive theological interpretations of the meaning of the Passover for early Christians. “Though Melito makes a few passing references to the resurrection, it is clear from the context that these function as the epilogue of the passion drama of the Passover. The emphasis is indeed on the suffering and death of Jesus which constitute the recurring theme of the sermon and of the celebration” (ibid., p. 83).

“The resurrection,” Bacchiocchi admits, “however, did emerge in time as the dominant reason for the celebration not only of the annual Easter-Sunday, but also of the weekly Sunday. The two festivities, in fact,… came to be regarded as one basic feast commemorating at different times the same event of the resurrection.” Bacchiocchi concludes,

It would seem therefore that though the resurrection is frequently mentioned both in the New Testament and in the early patristic literature, no suggestion is given that primitive Christians commemorated the event by a weekly or yearly Sunday service. The very fact that Passover, which later become the annual commemoration of the resurrection held on Easter-Sunday, initially celebrated primarily Christ’s passion [death] and was observed on the fixed date of Nisan [Abib] 15 rather than on Sunday, makes it untenable to claim that Christ’s resurrection determined the origin of Sunday worship during the lifetime of the Apostles. (ibid. p. 84)


5 thoughts on “When Did Easter Replace Passover?

  1. Thank you Natan. So sad that these facts infuriate people and seekers of truth are lambasted. I am so thankful Yah is revealing things to me through teachers like you. I am happy to be considered an outcast in the world’s eyes, as long as Elohim sees me as set-apart and peculiar; for his glory.

  2. I am wondering on your thoughts on how First Fruits connected to the resurrection, and whether it’s being celebrated on the 1st day (Sunday) would have made it part of the celebration of the Passover/Feast of Unleavened bread week? Could it be that the resurrection was not a replacement for passover among the Jewish/early believers, but an addition to the celebration of First fruits rejoicing in how Yah has so richly provided for His people, not only materially, but spiritually as well?

    As Bacchiocchi states, there is little evidence of the early ekklesia celebrating the resurrection as a special occasion. However, it features so prominently in some of the epistles as to seem like a special event especially if we compare it to Passover. In Passover, we include the celebration and remembrance of Yeshua’so death. DI you think the early believers did the same with First fruits and the inclusion of the resurrection?

    Thank you for your hard work and willingness to share. Many blessings.!

    • This is a good question, but the evidence in the Scripture points us in a different direction.

      True, First Fruits Day points to the resurrection, but it was never a feast day or a Sabbath. To say it was is adding to the Torah something not there. It’s fanciful thinking on the part of Christians trying hard to find an Easter substitute among the biblical feast of YHVH. It simply isn’t there. As important as the resurrection of the Messiah was and is, there is no specific day to commemorate it in the Bible. It’s not there. Why? Don’t know. I’ve pondered over this for years, but with no answer.

      First Fruits Day was a work day for the ancient Israelites; they harvested their barley crops on this day. On the same day, the priests did the wave sheaf offering in the tabernacle and temple. This is a picture of the resurrection of Yeshua, to be sure, but it was a work day for the Israelites. This is a historical fact. There is no indication the apostles celebrated the resurrection with a day either.

      So what’s going on here? If First Fruits Day is simply a work day and not a biblical feast or Sabbath, what’s the point? The only thing I can come up with is that now that the resurrection has occurred and our faith is secured by it, it is time for the works of the harvest to get busy harvesting the spiritual crop by taking the gospel to the world and bringing in the lost sheep to Yeshua our Shepherd.

      I go into this all in much more detail in my long article on the subject entitled “The Resurrection of Yeshua from a Hebrew Roots Perspective at

    • https://www.hoshanarabbah.org/pdfs/firstfruits.pdf
    • . You can also type “First Fruits” into the search engine located on this blog’s front page to pull up teachings I have presented on this forum relating to this subject.

      • Thank you for your response and thoughts. I will continue to ponder this and look up your article. Many blessings and Shabbat shalom!

      • If you come to any revelations on this subject that can be firmly substantiated from the Scriptures, please pass them along. We all still have a lot to learn on this and everything else.

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