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]:
By ALAN ROSENBAUM
“We are a government agency with a start-up soul,” says Hagai Dror, managing director of HealthCare Israel, one of the three winners of the 2019 InnoDip Award for innovative diplomacy. The award, established by the Abba Eban Institute for International Diplomacy at the IDC Herzliya, will be presented at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference on Thursday, November 21 in Jerusalem.
Healthcare Israel was created by Israel’s Ministry of Health in 2016 to deliver life-saving and cost-saving healthcare innovation, technology and expertise to the world, and promotes cooperation and Israeli health system exports through collaborations between government, the health system and the healthcare industry. It has leveraged Israel’s existing diplomatic ecosystem to reach out and create new kinds of international cooperation projects and business deals specifically in the healthcare space.
By YAAKOV KATZ
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Leftist students verbally abused and ransacked tables belong to conservative students
Binghamton University’s downtown campus in New York.
A New York State assemblyman has slammed Binghamton University for the way it has handled a group of leftist students who verbally abused and ransacked tables belonging to the campus College Republicans group.
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A view of the Yehudit Bridge and the Ayalon highway in Tel Aviv, Feb. 17, 2019. Photo
CTech – Tel Aviv will officially launch its free weekend transportation service this Friday, the city announced Tuesday. In collaboration with neighboring towns Givatayim, Ramat Hasharon, and Kiryat Ono, Tel Aviv will operate six routes covering over 300 kilometers. Minivans will pick up and drop off passengers at over 500 stops across the metropolitan area at a frequency of once every 30 minutes between 6 pm on Friday and 2 am on Saturday, and between 9 am and 5 pm on Saturday.
Tel Aviv has long awaited a solution for transportation during Shabbat and other Jewish holidays. The principle of the “status quo”—a guideline which dictates maintaining the common practice when it comes to the fundamentals of Jewish Orthodoxy, especially Shabbat observance—effectively prevents the state from offering public transportation services on Shabbat, but since Tel Aviv’s service is free, it does not currently fall under the legal definition of public transportation.
A police car in the German capital of
An elderly man has been viciously beaten up in broad daylight on a Berlin street by a youth who showered him with antisemitic abuse.
According to the BZ online news outlet, the 76-year-old pensioner was walking along the Berliner Strasse in the Pankow district of the German capital at 9 a.m. on Monday when his passage was blocked by a 16-year-old youth and four of his friends.
Oct 25, 2019 0People arrive at a polling station to vote in the federal election in Beauce, Quebec, Canada, Oct. 21, 2019. Photo: Reuters / Mathieu Belanger. A top Jewish advocacy group said on Friday it...
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