Leviticus 23: 4-8, 21 " 'These are YHVH’s appointed feasts, the sacred assemblies you are to proclaim at their appointed times: YHVH’s Passover begins at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. On the fifteenth day of that month YHVH’s Feast of Unleavened Bread begins; for seven days you must eat bread made without yeast. On the first day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. For seven days present an offering made to YHVH by fire. And on the seventh day hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. It is to be a perpetual statute in all your dwelling places throughout your generations.’ ”
Have you ever wondered how YHVH’s feast days became separated from man’s celebrations of God? Taking a historical look into the background reveals how this happened and why the Church never fully embraced the feast of Passover or any of YHVH’s appointed feast days.
Eusebius wrote The Ecclesiastical History, the acknowledged history of the Church delineated from the end of the Book of Acts to the time of the Council of Nicea, a counsel he convened. Eusebius was a student of Origen and inherited his perspective. Constantine followed, adopting Eusebius’ work as it fit his ideals. Constantine was the Emperor of Rome and thought of himself as the image of God and representative of the Almighty. The Emperor acted as the interpreter of Logos, the Word.
For Eusebius, there was no longer a precise and definite distinction between the Church and the Empire or State. They appeared to merge into each other.
If the kingdom was to be fulfilled through a personal earthly reign of Yeshua the Messiah from Jerusalem following the repentance of Israel, then the Jews were inescapably part of that kingdom. In which case, God’s faithfulness to the Jews had not expired and the kingdom was still future.
On the other hand, if Constantine, the emerging Holy Roman Empire, and the State-exalted Church were the kingdom, then there was no need for the Jews - the fullness of the kingdom was in the present.
Moreover, if the Jews held no special significance for the fulfilled kingdom of God, then God had no need or plan for them. Thus the rejection and replacement of the Jews was the means of fulfilling the kingdom. Instead of being natural citizens of the kingdom, the Jews, whether devout to Judaism or not, became the enemies of the kingdom. And if that were the case, then the Church needed to recognize and proclaim it.
In the fourth century, Eusebius firmly believed that the Church was the New Israel, replacing the Jews. Upholding his mentor, Origen’s, philosophy, Eusebius either rejected the normal meaning of the Scriptures that promised the restoration of not only the Jewish people but all the twelve tribes of Israel, or he ignored these Scriptures altogether. Eusebius was intentionally inaccurate. He had his own agenda. Eusebius was the product of the Alexandrian school of theology (that of Origen), “the first thoroughly dishonest historian of antiquity.” The Church that he wanted to help create was more important to him than the historical, biblical reality. Beginning in the third century he is credited with being the father of the allegorical method of interpretation and made allegory the only way to truly understand the Scriptures. He often denied the ordinary sense of the text, instead replacing it with allegories that he made up. These allegories then became the “real” meaning of the text. When the text said “Israel”, it meant “the Church” and not the Jews, so long as the promise or comment was good. If the promise or comment was not good, then “Israel” still meant “the Jews”, and not “the Church”.
Origen was considered by many to be a heretic. During his lifetime, two church councils held in Alexandria in 231 and 232 CE excommunicated him, and after his death his views were officially condemned. Nevertheless, most of the Greek fathers of the third and fourth centuries remained more or less under the influence of the spirit and works of Origen. It is Origen’s system of interpretation that produced the anti-Judaic New Israel theology where the Church replaces the Jews in the plans and purposes of God.
In his youthful zeal for ascetic holiness, Origen committed the act of self-emasculation (castration), which he repented for in his later years. Nevertheless, in 228 CE, he was ordained presbyter by two friendly bishops.
Almost all the Jews in Judea and Samaria had either died in the Bar Kokhba Rebellion of 132-135 CE or been carried off into slavery by the victorious Romans. Before the gospel was preached to the “Gentiles” (those of the nations), there were Jewish churches “throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria” (Acts 9:31).
From the end of the Bar Kokhba rebellion on, all Jews were forbidden to even enter the precincts of Jerusalem. The city itself had been destroyed and renamed Aelia, in honor of the divine Aelia Hadrianus, also known as the Emperor Hadrian (who destroyed Jerusalem), who was thought to be the very nature of Roman god Jupiter. Up until that time, the bishops of Jerusalem had all been Jewish.
The Roman Empire destroyed or removed the Jewish bishops and Gentile ones replaced them. The Gentile bishops and churches naturally began to think of themselves as having replaced the Jews, thus the start of Replacement theology began.
For Origen the whole debate between the Church and the Synagogue could be reduced to the one question of the interpretation of Scripture. Thus he viewed the difference between Judaism and Christianity as follows: Christians perceive the mysteries which are only hinted at in the Bible, whereas Jews are only capable of a strictly literal understanding of the text. Unfortunately, Origen chose to ignore or alter reality to make it fit with his beliefs. Origen decided to portray them as disgraceful “Jews” who were rejecting YHVH. Anyone who did not accept his allegorical system of interpretation was nothing more than “a Jew,” and really did not belong in the Church. Origen distorted the reality rather than change his beliefs.
Pamphilus was a great admirer of Origen who was a presbyter and theological teacher at Caesarea in Palestine. He was not an author himself but was nonetheless one of the most liberal and efficient promoters of Christian learning. He founded a theological school and collected a large library, from which his pupil and friend Eusebius, as well as Jerome and many others, drew or increased their information. Without that library the church history of Eusebius would be far less utilized than it has been to this point. Pamphilus transcribed with his own hand useful books, among others the Septuagint from the Hexapla of Origen.
The views of Origen had been declared to be heretical but, led by Pamphilus, the churches in “Palestine” established a theological school and library dedicated to establishing Origen’s views as the true orthodoxy throughout the entire Church. Pamphilus taught Eusebius, and Eusebius wholeheartedly gave himself to the task of publishing six volumes in defense of the views of Origen. Origen’s heresy inevitably triumphed in the fourth century at the Council of Nicea through Eusebius, Constantine, and those who followed them.
The Council of Nicea settled two main issues. The first concerned the heretical writings of Arius, a Presbyter in Alexandria. The second was in respect to the proper day of keeping Easter, because some were celebrating that festival in the manner of the Jews, while others, in the custom of Christians. Emperor Constantine assembled a general council of 318 bishops to meet at Nice, in Bithynia. When they assembled, Constantine admonished them against disunity. Constantine had united the Empire, now he intended to deliver the Church from “internal sedition” as well.
How did the Passover controversy arise? Throughout Yeshua’s life He and His family celebrated Passover on the fourteenth of Nissan because that is its Biblical date. Yeshua observed all the Levitical holy days on the days when YHVH decreed and designed them to be observed. On the fourteenth of Nissan, Yeshua was crucified at the same time the lambs were being slaughtered for the Passover. He became our Passover lamb, the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world. The Apostles and the first-century Church celebrated Passover and all YHVH’s feast days. Paul continued to celebrate them thirty years after the death of Yeshua. At first the two groups celebrated the feasts together on the same day, Nissan fourteen as required by YHVH.
Sometime in the second century, some churches in the west among the Gentiles (people of mixed background) began to celebrate Passover/Easter in a new way, choosing for their commemoration of YHVH’s resurrection to always take place on a Sunday regardless of the Biblical calendar and YHVH’s Word. Toward the end of the second century, western churches, led by the Gentile bishops of Rome, Caesarea, and Jerusalem (where there were no longer Jewish bishops), began to campaign for all the churches to keep the Passover on their fixed Sunday, rather than on the fourteenth of Nissan. Believers, along with the rest of society, were already accustomed to using the Roman calendar (like the one we have today), rather than God’s Biblical calendar. Churches who wanted to follow God’s Word and keep the Biblical celebration of Passover on the fourteenth of Nissan were threatened with excommunication.
The Council of Nicea in 325 CE finally settled the issue. There it was decided that all the churches should celebrate the Passover, or actually Easter, on the ecclesiastically chosen Sunday rather than the Biblical date. All the churches were thus informed, or rather, ordered, as Constantine did so under the threat of death if anyone should resist unifying with his decision.
A breakaway from the Word of YHVH, called Torah, and an institution of man’s word became the new law. Constantine said that “the most holy feast” of Easter should be celebrated on one and the same day. This was the new divine will of Constantine. The letter sent to the churches officially established an anti-Biblical foundation for the doctrine and practice of the Church, and declared contempt for the Jews, and separation from them as the only proper Christian attitude.
An excerpt from the Council of Nicea states, “…it seemed to everyone a most unworthy thing that we should follow the custom of the Jews in the celebration of this most holy solemnity, who, - polluted wretches! - having stained their hands with a nefarious crime, are justly blinded in their minds. It is fit, therefore, that rejecting the practice of this people, we should perpetuate to all future ages the celebration of this rite, Easter in a more legitimate order…Let us then have nothing in common with the most hostile rabble of the Jews…In pursuing this course with a unanimous consent, let us withdraw ourselves…from that most odious fellowship.”
It was Eusebius who provided the new calendar for determining the day to be celebrated so that no believer could celebrate Passover on the Biblically ordained day of Nissan the fourteenth. Thus Rome axed God’s feast of Passover regardless of God’s word in the Scriptures. God’s remaining feast days would shortly follow, as it was soon heresy to practice celebrating them upon threat of death.
The Church made their own religion to suit their political purposes. This was mainly due to the lack of the public’s ability to obtain the Word of God and read about the Truth for themselves. Due to lack of knowledge, the people plunged into this Roman system. Today there are more Bibles in the world than ever before. Some families have more than one, but even with this evidence in their homes few realize they are missing God’s appointed feasts, the gift of redemption for all Israel (Romans 11:26). With the beginning of this new allegiance to Constantine and his belief system came great compromise, which has distorted the nature of the Church to this day.
Constantine saw himself as the incarnate sun god, following the example of his father and earlier 3rd-century emperors. Constantine in his early life was a solar henotheist, believing that the Roman sun god, Sol, was the visible manifestation of an invisible Highest God, who was the principle power behind the universe. This god was thought to be the companion of the Roman emperor. They saw the rebirth of life in the spring after the death of winter as a spiritual and holy phenomenon, and invariably connected the rebirth of life with the resurrection of a deity, the archetypal symbolism once again readily apparent.
The name Easter is derived from the mythological pagan fertility goddess (either Eastre or Eostre) that the Saxons of Northern Europe held a festival to at the vernal equinox in order to celebrate the "resurrection" of life in the spring. Other names for her were - in Assyria: Semiramis and Ninus; in Babylon: Ishtar and Tammuz; in Egypt: Isis and Osiris; in Syria: Astarte and Bel or Baal (Marduk) (later Venus Urania and Adonis); in Greece: Aphrodite and Adonis; and in Rome: Kybele and Attis (or Venus and Adonis). In time, Ishtar, whose name can be pronounced "Easter," was honored in the Sumerian civilization on a day commemorating the resurrection of a god who died and was reborn, named Tammuz. He was believed to be the only begotten son of the moon goddess and the sun god. (Reference: Article: Pagan Origin of Easter.)
Of pre-Christian origin, the Teutonic Dawn-goddess, Ishtar, is called "the queen of heaven." Sunrise services began with ancient peoples who wanted to worship the sun as it came up to celebrate this "cross" of the heavenly bodies; it was and still is a pagan holiday. On this day the temple prostitutes would hold wild orgies and get pregnant. Then the next year the three-month-old babies would be sacrificed to her by fire on an altar. Eggs, symbols of fertility from the supposed egg laying rabbits, would be dipped in the blood of the infants who were sacrificed up to the goddess, and then hidden.
Later on during the day, the children of the Canaanite parents would often go and hunt for the eggs, which were symbolic of sex, fertility and new life. It was believed that these eggs came from rabbits, which in the pagan world were symbolic of lust, sexual prowess and reproduction. The modern Easter egg hunt, decorating eggs and eating candy eggs has become an accepted tradition for Easter celebration today, yet many who celebrate this, even Christians, are not aware of its origin.
The underlying scientific explanation is that at the vernal equinox the sun is directly over the equator, apparently moving northward from an earth based vantage point, and will soon be "born again" into the northern hemisphere as the light increasingly floods the earth with longer days, more warmth, and the return of vegetation from its dormant or "dead" state, a clear connection of journeys to, and return from, the underworld. Again, the dominant idea is the link to the sun as the giver and protector of life, the "savior" of the world.
Passover is always celebrated biblically in the first month (Nissan) on the fourteenth day according to God’s calendar, a day which falls on different days of the week each year on the Roman calendar. YHVH’s people celebrated Passover at God’s appointed time for thousands of years until man intervened in 325 CE. Constantine wanted unity among the churches, which was really control of the people under threat of the sword, so when he called the Council of Nicea in 325 CE, the date of Easter was finally firmly established. This was called the "Easter rule", and the festival has always been celebrated on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25 according to the equinox ever since.
Rome also intervened with the date of the birth of Yeshua, who biblically was born during the Feast of Tabernacles in the fall season. Constantine desired to retain continuity (control) among the churches and so again arranged for Yeshua’s accepted birth date to coincide with his Roman calendar. December 25th had long been recognized in antiquity, over 300 years before the birth of Yeshua, as the return of the sun. In ancient times, before the establishment of the Gregorian calendar, it was the date of the winter solstice, the point when the sun reaches its southern-most trek below the equator, where it appears to stand still for three days. After that time it begins to move back toward the Northern Hemisphere, gaining strength with each passing day as the "sun is born," or the "light comes into the world," or "the light of the world" is at hand. All terms we use today for the birth of Christ introduced by the Roman rule of Constantine, who saw himself as the incarnate sun god.
Also in the fourth century, Pope Julius I commanded a committee of bishops to establish the date of the nativity of Jesus. December 25 (the day of Sol Invictus, the invincible sun) was decided upon. Not coincidentally, that is the day when the “pagan world celebrated the birth of their sun gods – the Egyptian Osiris, Greek Apollo and Bacchus, Chaldean Adonis and Persian Mithra - when the Zodiacal sign of Virgo (the sun is born of a virgin) rose on the horizon. Thus the ancient festival of the Winter Solstice, the pagan festival of the birth of the Sun, came to be adopted by the Christian Church as the nativity of Jesus, and was called Christmas.”
Prior to convening the council, Constantine had already declared that whoever would disturb the unity of this Church doctrine would be a “malignant foe” motivated by a “malevolent demon,” exposing God’s law to “slander and detraction.” Constantine had achieved political victory by the sword in the name of YHVH. From that point on, Church doctrine was to be enforced by the sword of the State. The books of heretics were to be burned and exterminated from the earth. In an attempt to erase all Hebrew content of Yeshua, the Church ceased to be the Church of Jesus but became the Church of Constantine. It was no longer the bride of Messiah. It had become the bride of Caesar. The light within turned to darkness. The Church changed from a means of salvation into a means of destruction. Through the centuries, the Constantinian Church has sought and brought about the death of millions of people the world around. Many of them have been Jewish.
Under Constantine, Eusebius wrote a history of the Church, mentioned earlier, that pointedly eliminated any positive reference to the restoration of Israel and the earthly reign of Yeshua. The Church was now officially “Contra Judaeos” and “Adversus Judaeos” – set against and set in opposition to the Jews. Thus was established the anti-Judaic foundation on which both doctrine and practice were then built. The historical and theological eradication of the Jews prepared the way for the “lawful” attempts to physically eradicate them. The Church itself replaced the power of God with the might of the Roman Empire. The Church became its own kingdom. God’s Truth was henceforth to be determined by Church councils, and not by the Word of God.
It is remarkable that this change was made over such a clear but seemingly insignificant issue as when the Church should celebrate the Passover. The Bible sets the date for Passover as the fourteenth of Nissan, the first Biblical month. That is when Yeshua celebrated the Passover. The apostles did the same. Again, we read in Acts that the apostle Paul, whose ministry was to the Gentiles, celebrated YHVH’s feasts thirty years after Yeshua’s death (Acts 20:7, Acts 20:16, Acts 27:9). The Church built by the Apostles knew when Passover was. But three hundred years after, from the Council of Nicea on, the Church authority, with which Constantine governed the people, would no longer observe or allow the Biblical dates to be observed, because they were “too Jewish”, just as the Bible itself was “too Jewish.” The doctrines of men on the other hand could be whatever men wanted them to be.
The city of Jerusalem had her name taken away, and she was placed in subjection to the church that had embraced Origen. Constantine and Eusebius institutionalized many serious errors. They made changes that plunged the Church and the world into a literal thousand years of darkness. They laid a different foundation than Yeshua and His apostles had lain. A new era in the history of the Church had begun. In actuality, a new divergent Church began, one that separated itself from YHVH.
Did Constantine’s plan succeed? Did he override God and His plan for His people Israel and their redemption? God’s feast days are prophetic for all Nations and will unfold at their appointed times as stated in His Word. What Constantine did (and others like him) with the cross by turning it upside down to become a sword against God’s people will not prevail.
Hebrews 4:12 “For the word of God (Yeshua) is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”