Searching for the Truth in the King James Bible;
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EDITOR:
Steve Van Nattan

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EASTER AND THE REFORMATION BIBLES

 

EASTER IN ACTS 12:4 REVISITED

We have revised the section on Easter in our Defense of King James VI & I emphasizing the overriding fact that the insertion of the word "Easter" began in 1525 with William Tyndale's English Bible -- and not the 1611 Authorised Version. A table is now available which shows the places in the first English New Testaments, beginning with Tyndale's, where the word "Easter" was used to translate the Greek word "pascha." 

Moreover, we have eliminated the Trinitarian Bible Society's claim that William Tyndale "coined" the word "passover." This argument does not carry weight since the English words "pass over" and "passover" -- used in the translation of Exodus 12:11 and 12:13 [where the Hebrew word "pechah" is found] -- make literal sense.  Strong's Concordance includes the words "leap" and "pass over" to define the word "pacash" from which "pechah" is derived.
 

The Trinitarian Bible Society, however, does offer a reasonable proposal that William Tyndale substituted the word "Easter" because "he was not satisfied with the use of a completely foreign word, and decided to take into account the fact that the season of the passover was known generally to English people as 'Easter'.

Bear in mind that in 1525 the Reformation was newly underway and the masses, not yet unfettered from the Roman Catholic strait-jacket, were unfamiliar with many facts of Old Testament history.   

 
REVISED SECTION:
 
EASTER
The Trinitarian Bible Society Quarterly Record credits William Tyndale with translation of the word "pascha" as "Easter" in twenty-nine places of his 1525 New Testament. Although this was not a literal translation, it is understandable considering the period of transition during which Tyndale produced this first printed Bible. The Reformation was in progress and readers of the new Bible were, for the most part, biblically illiterate:
"When Tyndale applied his talents to the translation of the New Testament from Greek into English, he was not satisfied with the use of a completely foreign word, and decided to take into account the fact that the season of the passover was known generally to English people as 'Easter', notwithstanding the lack of any actual connection between the meanings of the two words. The Greek word occurs twenty-nine times in the New Testament, and Tyndale has ester or easter fourteen times, esterlambe eleven times, esterfest once, and paschall lambe three times." 17.
The New Unger's Bible Dictionary confirms that the word "Easter" is often used in the English versions which predate the 1611 A.V.

"Easter. [Gk. pascha, from Heb. pesah] The Passover ..., and so translated in every passage except the KJV: "intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people" [Acts 12:4]. In the earlier English versions Easter had been frequently used as the translation of pascha. At the last revision [1611 A.V.] Passover was substituted in all passages but this. . .  

"The word Easter is of Saxon origin, the name is eastra, the goddess of spring in whose honor sacrifices were offered about Passover time each year. By the eighth century Anglo-Saxons had adopted the name to designate the celebration of Christ's resurrection." 18.

Two centuries prior to William Tyndale, John Wycliffe produced a hand written English translation of the Bible using only the Latin Vulgate. The History of the English Bible chronicles developments which made possible the mass publication of an English Bible from the Greek and Hebrew languages:

John Wycliff's hand-written manuscripts were the first complete Bibles in the English language (1380's). Wycliff (or Wycliffe), an Oxford theologian translated out of the fourth century Latin Vulgate, as the Greek and Hebrew languages of the Old and New Testaments were inaccessible to him. . .

Wycliff spent many of his years writing and teaching against the practices and dogmas of the Roman Church which he believed to be contrary to the Holy Writ. Though he died a nonviolent death, the Pope was so infuriated by his teachings that 44 years after Wycliff had died, he ordered the bones to be dug-up, crushed, and scattered in the river!

Gutenburg invented the printing press in the 1450's, and the first book to ever be printed was the Bible (in Latin). With the onset of the Reformation in the early 1500's, the first printings of the Bible in the English language were produced illegally and at great personal risk of those involved.

William Tyndale was the Captain of the Army of English reformers, and in many ways their spiritual leader. His work of translating the Greek New Testament into the plain English of the ploughman was made possible through Erasmus' publication of his Greek/Latin New Testament printed in 1516.

Erasmus and the printer and reformer John Froben published the first non-Latin Vulgate text of the Bible in a millennium. For centuries Latin was the language of scholarship and it was widely used amongst the literate. Erasmus' Latin was not the Vulgate translation of Jerome, but his own fresh rendering of the Greek New Testament text that he had collated from six or seven partial New Testament manuscripts into a complete Greek New Testament.

Erasmus' translation from the Greek revealed enormous discrepancies in the Vulgate's integrity amongst the rank and file scholars, many of whom were already convinced that the established church was doomed by virtue of its evil hierarchy. Pope Leo X's declaration that "the fable of Christ was very profitable to him" infuriated the people of God. . .

Tyndale New Testament was the first ever printed in the English language. Its first printing occurred in 1525/6, but only two complete copies of that first printing are known to have survived. Any Edition printed before 1570 is very rare and valuable, particularly pre-1540 editions and fragments. Tyndale's flight was an inspiration to freedom loving Englishmen who drew courage from the 11 years that he was hunted.

Books and Bibles flowed into England in bales of cotton and sacks of wheat. In the end, Tyndale was caught: betrayed by an Englishman that he had befriended. Tyndale was incarcerated for 500 days before he was strangled and burned at the stake in 1536. His last words were, "Lord, open the eyes of the King of England".

As previously stated, the English Bibles based on the Textus Receptus which preceded the 1611 A.V. were: William Tyndale's New Testament [1534], the Coverdale Bible [1535], the Matthews Bible [1537], the Great Bible [1539], Cranmer's Bible [1540], the Geneva Bible [1560] and the Bishop's Bible [1568].  

When considering the single use of "Easter" in the 1611 A.V., it is imperative that one also consider its multiple occurrences in the English Bibles which preceded it. Following the transmission of the word "Easter" in these early Bibles, it becomes apparent that the A.V. translators were helping to phase out this mistranslation -- but retained the word in Acts 12:4 for a good reason which will demonstrated shortly.

In the Textus Receptus, the Greek word "pascha" is found in the following verses:
Matthew 26:2, 26:17, 26:18, 26:19
Mark 14:1, 14:12, 14:14, 14:16
Luke 2:41, 22:1, 22:7, 22:8, 22:11, 22:13, 22:15
John 2:13, 2:23, 6:4, 11:55, 12:1, 13:1, 18:28, 18:39, 19:14
Acts 12:4
I Corinthians 5:7
Hebrews 11:28.
Occurrences of the word "Easter" in New Testament verses cited above: 
  • John Wycliffe's translation based on the Latin Vulgate used the word "paske" or "pask" in all of the above New Testament verses.
  • William Tyndale's translation used "Easter" in all the above verses except Mt. 26:17 and Jn 18:28.
  • The Great Bible used "Easter" in 14 verses: [Mt. 26:2, 18; Mk. 14:1; Lk. 2:41,22:1; Jn. 2:13, 2:23, 6:4, 11:55, 12:1, 13:1, 18:39, 19:14; Acts 12:4].
  • The Geneva Bible eliminated "Easter" altogether.
  • The Bishop's Bible [1568] used "Easter" in 2 verses: John 11:55 and Acts 12:4.
  • The Authorised Version of 1611 used "Easter" in only one verse: Acts 12:4.
The following table shows graphically the occurrences of the word "Easter" in these five English Bibles which preceded the Authorised Version of 1611. [The Coverdale Bible (not represented in graph) used "Easter" in Acts 12:4. We have not examined the other verses in the Coverdale Bible, nor the Matthews Bible. The Cranmer Bible is the 2nd edition of Great Bible which is shown in the table.]

N. T. VERSES WITH EASTER

Wycliffe Bible [1382]

Tyndale Bible [1534]

Great Bible [1539]

Geneva Bible [1560]

Bishop's Bible [1568]

Authorised Version [1611]

Matt. 26:2

 

X

X

   

26:17

      

26:18

 

X

X

   

26:19

 

X

    

Mark 14:1

 

X

X

   

14:12

 

X

    

14:14

 

X

    

14:16

 

X

    

Luke 2:41

 

X

X

   

22:1

 

X

X

   

22:7

 

X

    

22:8

 

X

    

22:11

 

X

    

22:13

 

X

    

John 2:13

 

X

X

   

2:23

 

X

X

   

6:4

 

X

X

   

11:55

 

X

X

 

X

 

12:1

 

X

X

   

13:1

 

X

X

   

18:28

      

18:39

 

X

X

   

19:14

 

X

X

   

Acts 12:4

 

X

X

 

X

X

I Cor. 5:7

 

X

    

Hebrews 11:28

 

X

    

So much for Rapture Watch accusation #5 that King James had the translators of the Authorised Version "insert" the word "Easter." The only instance the A.V. translators chose to retain "Easter" is Acts 12:4:
"And when he [King Herod] had apprehended him [Peter], he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people."
Why did the translators revert to the earlier -- Tyndale, Coverdale, Great Bible and Bishop's Bible's -- translation of "Easter" rather than "Passover"? The answer is found in Acts 12:1-3, which describes the scene and establishes the time-frame for this passage:
"Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.)"
According to Exodus 12:6, the Passover lamb was slain on the 14th day of the first month which was Abib. Exodus 12:17 equates the Passover with the Feast of Unleavened Bread:

"And ye shall observe the feast of unleavened bread; for in this selfsame day have I brought your armies out of the land of Egypt: therefore ye shall observe this day in your generations for ever."

Exodus 12:15 requires that Israelites eat unleavened bread for the full week following:


"Seven days shall ye eat unleavened bread; even the first day ye shall put away leaven out of your houses: for whosoever eateth leavened bread from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall be cut off from Israel."


The original Passover occurred on the 14th Abib and the exodus from Egypt began the following day, the 15th. Numbers 33:3 states:

"And they departed from Ramses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the morrow after the passover the children of Israel went out with an high hand in the sight of all the Egyptians."

In Deuteronomy 16:6, however, God changed the day of celebration of the Passover to the 15th of Abib:

"But at the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place his name in, there thou shalt sacrifice the passover at even, at the going down of the sun, at the season that thou camest forth out of Egypt."

In the New Testament, Luke 22:1 also equates the Feast of Unleavened Bread with the Passover celebration and other Scripture verses indicate that these interchangeable terms referred to one day which would have been the 15th day of Nisan, which was 15 Abib before the Babylonian captivity. Mark 14:1,2 indicate that the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover were identical and verse 12 refers to


". . .the first day of unleavened bread when they killed the passover."

The week following the Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread is referred to in Acts 12:3 as "the days of unleavened bread." It was during this week that Herod imprisoned Peter, whom he intended to bring forth to the people -- not after the Passover, for that day was past -- but after Easter, the pagan festival of Astarte, which was yet to come.

It is important to note that Scripture differentiates between the Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread which was only the first day of unleavened bread and the "days of unleavened bread." This explains why the AV translators did not confuse the "feast of Passover" with all seven "days of unleavened bread." [Although modern Jews commonly refer to a full week of Passover observance, there seem to be no Scriptural references to a week-long observance of Passover, but only one feast day followed by the "days of unleavened bread."] For this reason, it would have been less accurate for the translators to state that Herod would bring Peter forth after the Passover, which was already past.

___________

Here is another view of the question.

It shows that the single use of Easter in Acts 12:4 had to be for a very good reason. The KJV translators were highly informed scholars in linguistics and the original languages. They were also very familiar with the views of the early Church fathers. This video presentation is very useful.



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