On Holy Saturday morning I read a column by Joe Kovacs at WND that derided the name ‘Easter’ as a Biblically objectionable evocation of the worship of a pagan goddess Ishtar (aka, Astarte or Ashtoreth). After reading it, I was moved to offer the following Easter reflection for our faith’s Resurrection Sunday:
The traditional name of Easter for our highest Christian Holy Day is a good call, and we need not repent of wishing one another “Happy Easter.”
Today we rejoice in Christ’s victory over sin and death – in the triumph of Christ’s passion, crucifixion and resurrection in vanquishing Satan, and through His Redeeming Blood procuring life eternal for all that believe in the Son of God.
For as St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15: “And as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive… And when this mortal hath put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? Now the sting of death is sin… But thanks be to God, Who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
According to St. Paul, “Christ humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross. For which cause God hath exalted Him, and hath given Him a name which is above all names. That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. And that every tongue should confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:8-11
Yet this same all-knowing, all-powerful God allows His Divine Word to prominently feature for the most transformative act in human history a name associated in pagan worship of the goddess Ishtar. Further, like Easter, God lets the Bible’s Book of Esther also tell the story of Hadassah (myrtle, a shrub or small tree with leaves that resemble a five pointed star), who is called Esther when she is chosen by the King of Persian to become Queen. In Persian ‘Esther’ means “star.” It is probably related to the name for the goddess Ishtar, whose worship was associated with the planet we call Venus when it rises in the East, shining brightly in springtime as the “morning star.”
The Book of Esther informs us that, on instructions from her father, Hadassah conceals her Jewish identity during the selection process that leads to her elevation. There is therefore meaningful irony in the fact that the Hebrew word that sounds like ‘Esther’ refers to concealment, or something concealed. In the Biblical account, when the King’s powerful minister, Haman, sets out to exterminate the Jews, on account of his hatred for Mordechai, Esther’s position as Queen becomes critical to the survival of all Jewish people in the Persian Empire.
Through a Providential combination of events, including their own faithful actions, Esther and her father thwart Haman’s genocidal intention. Snatched from the dark shadow of imminent death, the Jewish people are instead positioned to visit judgment on those who had been preparing their destruction. Haman ends up being hung from a gallows he constructed for his hated enemy.
All this gives a Biblical perspective to the name “Esther” that ought to be considered before we accept the notion that God wants us to have nothing to do with the word ‘Easter’ because of pagan associations. Apparently, since a Book of the Bible makes use of a name similarly steeped (in its Persian acceptation) in paganism, God doesn’t mean for us to have “nothing to do” with it.
Time and again the Scripture makes clear that God is the master of Creation. He is therefore the master of the essential meaning of the names applied to His creations (a dominion he delegates to Adam, but only within specified limits.) The Bible gives us, in great detail, an account of how the name ‘Esther,’ associated with a pagan understanding of the season that signifies rebirth (Spring), comes instead to be associated with God’s plan for the salvation of His chosen people, from whose midst He brings forth Christ, the anointed one, through whom He fulfills the plan to preach salvation to ALL creation.
Should we simply ignore this, or should we ponder it as proof that He is the sovereign God of all, using for good what humans abuse for evil? Apparently, His power and intention in this respect includes a name that once signified a false pagan goddess, until God used it in a plan to make the power of a pagan King, which Haman intended to use for evil, serve instead His plan for salvation.
This may also point to the fact that the pagan understanding of the divine significance of Spring was not without a kernel of natural truth. But that truth is fully revealed, in terms of our human understanding, not in some idol made by human hands, but in the person of Jesus Christ and His promise of new life and eternal salvation. Is it wisdom or arrogant false pride for us to assume that, as they spread the Good News of Jesus Christ, Christians were wrong to show pagans the true meaning, revealed in light of Christ’s resurrection, of the season naturally associated with the joyful hope of life’s renewal?
In Genesis, when God rebukes Cain’s anger over His disapproval of Cain’s offering, he tells Cain that a worthy offering is available, a sin offering that gives Cain the opportunity to turn things around, making up for his mistake. In this way, God affirms fallen humanity’s natural inclination to worship, but seeks to turn Cain’s heart from self-righteous worship of the accursed produce of his own hands, toward a righteous sacrificial offering, acknowledged as the work of God which God approves.
Was it wrong for the Christian evangelists of old to deal with pagan idolatry in this same way, turning pagans from a way of worship that made an idol of their own self-righteousness, toward the true way of worship God provides through the worthy sacrifice He raises up, to life and death, and even from the dead? Didn’t St. Paul teach in this way? Preaching in the Areopagus, he instructed the Athenians in the true significance of the temple they had erected to one they named the “unknown God”? Paul did not reject the name. Rather he explained its true signification.
Once we are reminded of Esther’s story, the use of the name “Easter” constantly brings to mind the deeply comprehensive nature of God’s will, which preserves His proffered hope for humanity through all vicissitudes, even when people who sinfully turn away from Him are in the throes of the bondage to evil brought about by their apostasy.
Isn’t this particularly relevant to the situation of Christians in the USA today? Doesn’t Esther’s Persian name at once bring to mind the light of Christ, and the judgment that will be revealed when that light shines into the dark places where those who hide from the light, refusing by their unrepentant behavior Christ’s offer of salvation, persist in actions that will be revealed and judged for what they are? (See Revelation 22:10-15)
In this respect, isn’t the irony of meaning that puts sinful idolatry in the context of Christ’s fulfilled promise of hope for sinners, perfectly suited to the momentous historical and spiritual event we celebrate today on Easter Sunday? Wherefore Christ says: “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” (Revelation 22:16)
So, despite the cavils of quite possibly arrogant pride, I am encouraged to wish all who have the ears to ear and understand [Click the link below to preview a beautiful Easter greeting]:
(Photo: Aish.com / YouTube)
Despite advances in modern medicine, China is setting up roadblocks to cope with an outbreak of an ancient plague that once wiped out one-third of the world’s population and may have been one of the plagues that God used to strike Egypt.
Chinese officials installed temperature scanners at airports and checkpoints on main roads in an attempt to stop the spread of Bubonic plague as a fourth case was discovered in less than three weeks. A program to exterminate rats and fleas, which carry the disease, was also launched in Inner Mongolia where the disease seems to be originating.
Demonstrators gather in solidarity with anti-regime protests in Iran outside the Iranian Embassy in Helsinki, Finland. Photo: Reuters / Lehtikuva / Heikki Saukkomaa.
Four human rights lawyers currently imprisoned by the Iranian regime have been awarded with the annual prize of Europe’s most prestigious lawyers’ association.
The Iranian lawyers received the 2019 Human Rights Award from The Council of Bars and Law Societies Of Europe (CCBE) — a body that represents the bars and law societies of 45 countries and through them more than 1 million European lawyers.
The University of Bristol campus. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
The University of Bristol in England has adopted “in full” the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, the school’s Epigram independent student newspaper reported on Monday.
The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) and Bristol’s Jewish Society (J-Soc) welcomed the move, saying, “The University of Bristol has not been free of antisemitic incidents and the adoption of this definition is an important first step in helping the university tackle anti-Jewish racism. We now expect the university to use this definition in outstanding disciplinary cases.”
Pope Francis Meets Thailand’s Buddhist Patriarch in Golden Temple (screenshot)
Pope Francis topped off his three-day visit to Thailand last Saturday with a meeting with Thailand’s supreme Buddhist patriarch Somdej Phra Maha Muneewong at Bangkok’s Ratchabophit Temple. The meeting took place in front of a 150-year-old gold statue of Buddha. The Pope followed Buddhist custom by removing his shoes.
During the meeting, the Pope gave the Buddhist Patriarch the Declaration on Human Brotherhood. The Declaration s a joint statement signed by Pope Francis of the Catholic Church and Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, last February in Abu Dhabi. The Pope met with the Imam last month to reinforce the Declaration.
An Israeli company says it is using space travel technology to help solve one of the most pressing problems down on Earth — the reliance on diesel fuel, a major source of pollution.
Israeli startup GenCell has developed an electric generator based on a hydrogen-energy technology used to power some of the most-famous space missions in history.
Feb 02, 2020 0The remarks from the US official came in wake of the Palestinian decision to reject the administration’s peace plan. US PRESIDENT Donald Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrive to...
On January 18, a Shia Muslim rebel group launched a terror attack that claimed the lives of 111 in Yemen.
Days earlier, a Pakistani general captured popular sentiment whenever Muslims kill fellow Muslims by saying “Those who targeted innocents [Muslims] in a mosque can never be true Muslim[s].”
Such is the nature of one of the greatest claims that Islamic terrorism is much more politically than religiously driven. Thus, after another terrorist attack claimed the lives of Muslims in Bangladesh in 2016, it prime minister,
Sheikh Hasina, declared that “Anyone who believes in religion cannot do such act. They do not have any religion, their only religion is terrorism.”
Having predicted last year that a recession would begin in the summer of 2019 and that it would likely start with a major repo crisis, I am now proven wrong by 2019’s fourth-quarter GDP. If the repo crisis that started in the final week of summer had actually been the start of a recession, we would have seen fourth-quarter GDP go negative. Instead, it came in at 2.1% growth.
I find that an interesting number because third-quarter GDP also came in at 2.1% growth, and second-quarter GDP came in at 2.0% growth. Now fourth-quarter GDP came in exactly at 2.1% growth. Coincidence or goal-seeking? Notice the numbers are “seasonally adjusted,” and think about how many assumptions are made in seasonal adjustments.
The effort to impeach and remove President Donald Trump from office has produced many losers and few winners. The drama of the trial in the U.S. Senate is must-see TV for political junkies, but it has also been dispiriting viewing for Americans of all political stripes.
Few issues have divided the country more starkly than the question of whether or not the president should be removed from office. The arguments from both sides of the spectrum and their lawyers, as well as from the talking heads on television, have not worked to change any minds from their original political positions.
Last week, President Donald Trump unveiled his long-awaited Middle East peace plan. Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his electoral opponent Blue and White leader Benny Gantz were at the White House for the announcement. So were a bunch of international diplomats, including three from Arab nations. The Palestinians refused to attend and rejected the plan sight-unseen.
Anyone surveying the history of Israeli-Palestinian relations already knows that the Palestinians’ goal is the eradication of Israel. The difference in the new U.S. plan, however, is that the initial major steps in its implementation can be taken unilaterally by Israel, even with no Palestinian participation
The U.S. “Peace to Prosperity” plan presented by President Donald Trump last week proposes unprecedented criteria for the formation of a Palestinian state. Among them is this one: “The Palestinians shall have ended all programs, including school curricula and textbooks, that serve to incite or promote hatred or antagonism towards its neighbors, or which compensate or incentivize criminal or violent activity.”
The context of this directive cannot be ignored; our 20 years of research show that the PLO has transformed Palestinian schools into a tool of war against Israel.