Christian Churches of God
The Quartodeciman Disputes
(Edition 2.0 19990407-19990528-20071203)
The Quartodeciman disputes were seen as pivotal to the determination of the Christian Faith. They were the second series of innovations to occur in the Christian Church and perhaps the most fundamental. After Sunday worship had been introduced from Rome in the middle of the second century, the Roman system then set about introducing the pagan Easter system over the Passover. In 664 CE at Whitby in England, they finally succeeded by force of arms in having the British or Celtic Church accept Easter.
The Quartodeciman Disputes
Introduction to the Quartodeciman Disputes
Over the previous two thousand years in the Sabbath-keeping Churches and originally in the whole Church, there has never been any significant debate on which night the Jews ate the Passover meal. Christianity has always understood the dates in question. It has always been understood that the lambs were slain towards the end of the 14th and eaten during the night of the 15th. This matter, and some modern misconceptions surrounding it, are examined in the paper The Passover (No. 98). The debate for Christians centred around whether or not the Lord's Supper, consisting of the footwashing, bread and wine, ought to be observed on the evening of 14 Abib or Nisan (one day prior to the normal Passover meal) or as a Good Friday-Easter Sunday tradition.
The Samaritans kept two days, the 14th and the 15th of the First month, killing the Passover on the afternoon of the 14th and eating it on the night of the 15th Abib or Nisan. They spent this period on Mt Gerizim in vigil and they have done this every year – when they have been physically able to do so – for at least the last two thousand six hundred years. Their tabernacle on Mt Gerizim was destroyed by John Hyrcanus during the period of the Maccabees in the second century BCE, but otherwise their religion was left uninterrupted. This matter is examined in the paper The Night To Be Much Observed (No. 101).
This great controversy, which is really central to the Faith, erupted in the second century. The leading protagonists were the Bishops of Rome, Anicetus and later Victor or Victorinus, and Polycarp and his successor, Polycrates. The question was known but the terms were completely misunderstood by modern Christianity. Note in this text the festival of Easter is used as though it is a Christian term.
Although the observance of Easter was at a very early period the practice of the Christian church, a serious difference as to the day for its observance soon arose between the Christians of Jewish and those of Gentile descent, which led to a long and bitter controversy. The point at issue was when the Paschal fast was reckoned as ending. With the Jewish Christians, whose leading thought was the death of Christ as the Paschal Lamb, the fast ended at the same time as that of the Jews, on the fourteenth day of the moon at evening, and the Easter festival immediately followed, without regard to the day of the week. The Gentile Christians, on the other hand, unfettered by Jewish traditions, identified the first day of the week with the Resurrection, and kept the preceding Friday as the commemoration of the crucifixion, irrespective of the day of the month" (Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition, article ‘Easter’).
This came to be known as the Quartodeciman Controversy and, historically speaking, it has been the only major controversy surrounding the time when the Lord's Supper ought to be taken.
The term Quartodeciman means the Fourteenth and this controversy is the dispute of the determining of the Passover. There was no real dispute as to the timing of the Passover apart from the fact that Judaism introduced the later postponements. The timing issue concerned the difference in the timing of the Bible festival and that of the pagan worship of the god Attis in the West from Rome, and the god Adonis in the East from Greece and the Hellenised world. The festival is also called by the Anglo-Saxon word Easter, derived from Ishtar and Ashtoreth. This issue has been examined in the papers The Golden Calf (No. 222); The Origins of Christmas and Easter (No. 235) and Purification and Circumcision (No. 251). The most fascinating aspect is that the term is used by modern-day Christians in some form of reverence when it has nothing to do with Christianity but is clearly identified with the system of Baal/Ashtoreth or Ishatar/Astarte, Anath/Athargatis and ‘Ate or Derketo or Ceto, the mermaid or fish goddess to whom the fish and dove were sacred (cf. ibid. No. 251 and also The Piñata (No. 276)).
The Crucifixion did not occur on a Friday and the Resurrection was not on a Sunday. The Crucifixion was on Wednesday 5 April 30 CE (cf. The Timing of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection (No. 159)).
The Passover itself was pivotal to the determination of the First month of the year.
The rule according to which the First month of the year was decided and whether to intercalate or not is very simple.
The feast of Passover, to be celebrated at full moon in the month of Nisan (14 Nisan), must always fall after the vernal equinox [meta isemerian earinen] ... Anatolius, in a fragment of great importance for the history of the Jewish calendar preserved in Eusebius HE vii 32, 16-19, characterizes this as the unanimous view of all the Jewish authorities...The statements of Philo and Josephus also accord with it. If therefore, it was noticed towards the end of the year that Passover would fall before the vernal equinox, the intercalation of a month before Nisan was decreed (Schürer, ibid., p. 593).
Schürer inserts "(14 Nisan)" here in the text based on the important fragment of Anatolius, which he says shows that 14 Nisan must fall after the equinox (cf. Ante-Nicene Fathers [ANF], Vol. VI, pp. 147 ff.). We mentioned this matter in the paper God’s Calendar (No. 156). It has been accepted in the twentieth century that 14 Nisan could fall on the equinox but this may not be the case, as we will see. The real issue seems to be with Anatolius, that the sacrifice at the end of the Fourteenth must see the full moon; and thus he is speaking of the vernal equinox preceding the sacrifice at 3 p.m. at the end of the 14 Nisan and beginning the night of the Fifteenth of the First month. This matter has great significance for the start of the year. Anatolius also makes a significant error in this text involving the start and finish of Unleavened Bread which is contradicted by the Bible source and by the Samaritan and other practices (cf. ibid.). From a careful reading of Anatolius, the rule is that the time of the equinox must precede the 3 p.m. sacrifice on the afternoon of 14 Nisan. If it does not, the year must be intercalated. This is and was calculated months and years in advance.
The first instance of the intrusion of the Easter system into Christianity, according to Irenaeus, seems to have been as early as the time of Sixtus in Rome around 120 CE (cf. Catholic Encylcopedia, Vol. V, article ‘Easter’, p. 228).
Polycarp, disciple of John and tutor of Irenaeus, came to Rome around 150-152 to persuade Anicetus. He was unsuccessful, and this pagan Easter system became more entrenched from that time. The British Church was to continue observing the Quartodeciman system for centuries until Whitby in 664 at least, and was slow to give it up even then, when it went underground.
As we have said, this dispute came to be known as the Quartodeciman Controversy and, historically speaking, it has been the only major controversy surrounding the time when the Lord's Supper ought to be taken. The move to break the Christian Passover free of Judaism came from Rome. Schaff notes the dispute as occurring there and that the Asian Churches commemorated the death of Christ on 14 Nisan, in the same day as the Jews kept Passover and Unleavened Bread. He notes the dispute as being in three acts. The first discussion was from a visit of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, to Anicetus, bishop of Rome, between 150 to 155 CE. The account of Irenaeus, disciple of Polycarp, disciple of John is of significance.
When the blessed Polycarp sojourned at Rome in the days of Anicetus, and they had some little difference of opinion likewise with regard to other points, they forthwith came to a peaceable understanding on this head [the observance of Easter], having no love for mutual disputes. For neither could Anicetus persuade Polycarp not to observe, inasmuch as he [Pol.] has always observed with John, the disciple of our Lord, and the other apostles with whom he had associated; nor did Polycarp persuade Anicetus to observe (JZD,Ç<), who said that he was bound to maintain the custom of the presbyters (= bishops) before him. These things being so, they communed together; and in the church Anicetus yielded to Polycarp, out of respect no doubt, the celebration of the eucharist (J¬< ,ÛP"D4FJ\"<), and they separated from each other in peace, all the church being at peace, both those that observed and those that did not observe [the fourteenth of Nisan], maintaining peace (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Eerdmans, Michigan, 1987, Vol. II, p. 213).
Irenaeus spent much time trying to mediate and settle this dispute and prevent dispute between East and West. There is no doubt that the problem emerged from and was centred in Rome.
At about 170 CE, the controversy broke out in Laodicea. The controversy can only be seen from an understanding of the Quartodeciman adherents (or Quarta-Decimanians (Schaff)) themselves. Modern Christianity does not understand what was in dispute in Laodicea. The dispute was confined to Asia and appears to have been among the Quartodeciman adherents themselves. Eusebius only mentions that Melito of Sardis wrote two works on the Passover (H.E. IV. 26). These are lost, as are two works by Clement of Alexandria on the same topic, with the exception of a few fragments in the Chronicon Paschale (see Schaff, p. 214). The chief source of information is from Claudius Apolinarius (Apollinaris), bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia, from two fragments preserved in the Chronicon Paschale.
There are some now who, from ignorance, love to raise strife about these things, being guilty in this of a pardonable offence; for ignorance does not so much deserve blame but needs instruction. And they say that on the fourteenth [of Nisan] the Lord ate the paschal lamb [*] with his disciples, but that he himself suffered on the great day of unleavened bread [i.e. the fifteenth of Nisan]; and they interpret Matthew as favouring their view from which it appears that their view does not agree with the law, and that the gospels seem, according to them, to be at variance.
The fourteenth is the true Passover of the Lord, the great sacrifice, the Son of God in the place of the lamb...who was lifted up upon the horns of the unicorn...and who was buried on the day of the Passover, the stone having been placed upon his tomb (Schaff, ibid.).
* cf. the papers The Passover (No. 98) and Timing of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection (No. 159).
From the comments in the footnote 5, Schaff does not appear to understand the nature of this error, although he correctly notes (fn. 6) that the view of Apolinarius was that Christ died on the 14th, the day of the legal Passover.
This dispute can be correctly identified by a Quartodeciman (Quarta-decimanian). Indeed, it is the very dispute that is being addressed in the 14-15 Nisan controversy examined in the paper The Passover (No. 98) and herein. The argument being refuted by Apolinarius was that Christ ate a Passover meal on 14 Nisan and that his death occurred on the first Holy Day of Unleavened Bread. Christ’s death, from this fact, was thus not according to Law. Those in error draw this view from the Synoptic Gospel, here as Matthew being in conflict with John and Luke. That is the same argument that seeks to assert that Christ had a Passover meal on the evening of 14 Nisan and that the Jews were in fact a day late, holding their Passover sacrifice on the First Holy Day of Unleavened Bread. That view was quietly denounced as one of ignorance by Apolinarius.
It does indeed demonstrate an ignorance of the Law and the requirement for Messiah to be the Paschal Lamb. Thus, the dispute that arose from ignorance in the twentieth century had occurred through the same ignorance and misapprehension of the Law in the second century. Easter apologists seek to assert from this that there was some confusion over the acceptance of the 14 Nisan Passover in lieu of Easter. That is quite incorrect. Schaff himself seems to think that the truth of the matter does not depend upon the chronological coincidence of the crucifixion and the Jewish Passover. Schaff, like most Trinitarians, does not apprehend that Messiah had to die in accordance with the Law and the prophecies in order to fulfil them. Schaff knows full well that the nexus between the Passover and the Crucifixion has to be broken to defend the Friday-Sunday position of the Easter sequence as it was imposed on Christianity. Schaff does admit the question as to whether Apolinarius protested from the Western and Roman or Quartodeciman standpoint. His comments on page 215 show that he has entirely missed the point of Apolinarius’ rebuttal, which seems clear enough on the face of it.
Schaff notes that this dispute was agitated between Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus and disciple of Polycarp, and Victor of Rome into one of hierarchical and intolerant violence (by Rome). This was the third stage of the controversy between 190 and 194 CE, which extended over the whole Church and occasioned many synods and synodical letters.
The Roman bishop Victor, a very different man from his predecessor Anicetus, required the Asiatics, in an imperious tone, to abandon their Quartadecimanian practice. Against this Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus, solemnly protested in the name of a synod held by him, and appealed to an imposing array of authorities for their primitive custom (Schaff, ibid., p. 216).
Polycrates’ letter to Victor, Bishop of Rome, dated between 190 and 194 CE and preserved by Eusebius (V. 24), is of interest. It provides some insight into the nature of the controversy and of the trials that the Church has endured over the centuries.
“We”, wrote the Ephesian bishop to the Roman pope and his church,
“We observe the genuine day; neither adding thereto nor taking therefrom. For in Asia great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again in the day of the Lord’s appearing, in which he will come with the glory from heaven, and will raise up all the saints: Phillip, one of the twelve apostles, who sleeps in Hierapolis, and his two aged virgin daughters; his other daughter; also, who having lived with the influence of the Holy Spirit, now likewise rests in Ephesus; moreover, John, who rested upon the bosom of our Lord, who was also a priest, and bore the sacerdotal plate, both a martyr and teacher; he is buried in Ephesus. Also Polycarp of Smyrna, both bishop and martyr, and Thraseas, both bishop and martyr of Eumenia, who sleeps in Smyrna. Why should I mention Sagaris, bishop and martyr who sleeps in Laodicea; moreover the blessed Papirius and Melito, the eunuch [celibate], who lived altogether under the influence of the Holy Spirit, who now rests in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, in which he shall rise from the dead. All these observed the fourteenth day of the passover according to the gospel, deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith.
Moreover, I, Polycrates, who am the least of you, according to the tradition of my relatives, some of who I have followed. For seven of my relatives were bishops, and I am the eighth; and my relatives always observed the day when the people of the Jews threw away the leaven. I, therefore, brethren, am now sixty-five years in the lord, who having conferred with the brethren throughout the world and having studied the whole of the Sacred Scriptures, am not alarmed at those things with which I am threatened, to intimidate me. For they who are greater than I have said ‘we ought to obey God rather than men’.... I could also mention the bishops that were present, whom you requested me to summon, and whom I did call; whose names would present a great number, but who seeing my slender body consented to my epistle, well knowing that I did not wear my grey hairs for nought, but that I did at all times regulate my life in the Lord Jesus.” (from Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. II, “on the Quartodeciman disputes”.)
Irenaeus is alleged by Schaff to have remonstrated with Victor for his arrogance, even though he allegedly agreed with Victor on the disputed point. Irenaeus said that the Apostles ordered that we should judge no one in meat or in drink, or in respect of Feast day or a New Moon or a Sabbath day (Col. 2:16). He then said:
Whence these wars? Whence these schisms? We keep the feast but in the leaven of malice by tearing the church of God by observing what is outward, in order to reject what is better, faith and charity (Schaff, ibid., p.218).
There is little doubt from his comments that Irenaeus kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread, as did his teacher. The Roman practice, however, gained ground and was enforced by the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE under the military arms of the emperor Constantine. The Council of Nicaea introduced the full Easter error. They considered that it was:
… unbecoming in Christians to follow the usage of the unbelieving, hostile Jews, and ordained that Easter should always be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon succeeding the vernal equinox (March 21), and always after the Jewish Passover. If the full moon occurs on a Sunday, Easter-day is the Sunday after. By this arrangement Easter may take place as early as March 22, or as late as April 25. Henceforth the Quarta-decimans were universally regarded as heretics and were punished as such. The Montanists and Novatians were also charged with the Quartadeciman observance. The last traces of it disappeared in the sixth century [see note].
But the desired uniformity in the observance of Easter was still hindered by differences in reckoning the Easter Sunday according to the course of the moon and the vernal equinox, which the Alexandrians fixed on the 21st of March, and the Romans on the 18th; so that in the year 387, for example, the Romans kept Easter on the 21st of March, and the Alexandrians not till the 25th of April. In the West also the computation changed and caused a renewal of the easter controversy in the sixth and seventh centuries. The old British, Irish and Scotch [sic] Christians, and the Irish missionaries on the Continent adhered to the older cycle of eighty-four years in opposition to the later Dionysian or Roman cycle of ninety-five years, and hence were styled “Quartadecimanians” by their Anglo-Saxon and Roman opponents, though unjustly; for they celebrated Easter always on a Sunday between the 14th and the 20th of the month (the Romans between the 15th and the 21st). The Roman practice triumphed. But Rome again changed the calendar under Gregory XIII. (A.D. 1583). Hence even to this day the Oriental churches who hold to the Julian and reject the Gregorian calendar, differ from the Occidental Christians in the time of the observance of Easter (Schaff, op. cit., pp. 218-219).
Note that Schaff alleges this early cessation, however, this conjecture is demonstrably false. It was present among the Paulicians and also the Waldensians and the Hungarian churches descended from them. It was also found in Trans-Carpathia. It was found among the Sabbatati (incorrectly linked with the Cathars). In short, its observance has never ceased (cf. The Role of the Fourth Commandment in the Historical Sabbath-keeping Churches of God (No. 170) and Cox/Kohn The Sabbatarians in Transylvania, CCG Publications, 1998).
Schaff seems to ignore the fact that the British church was Sabbath-keeping over this period. The Celtic Church were Bible literalists who observed the Holy Days and, “even the food regulations in the Old Testament were received as the law of God” (David L. Edwards, Christian England, Vol. I, p. 27).
The Anglo-Saxons were converted to Catholicism from 597 CE over a period of ninety years and “hardly a court was converted that did not suffer at least one subsequent relapse into paganism” (Edwards, ibid., p. 45). The conversion commenced with Ethelbert king of the Saxons in Kent. Roman Catholicism and its traditions were not present in England until 597 CE and then seemingly for political reasons. Hence, Schaff’s comments are at best dangerous over-simplifications. Schaff observes that all these useless ritualistic disputes (sic.) might have been avoided if it had been made an immovable feast. Here Schaff misses the entire point of the Passover and the Wave-Sheaf harvests. Their placement with the harvests and the lunar cycle ties the symbolism to the Plan of Salvation, which 'orthodox' Christianity does not comprehend.
The New Moon and the Festival
The New Moon was the most important aspect of determining the months. The New Moon of Nisan determined the beginning of the year rather than that of Tishri, as observed by Judaism from the third century of the current era. Rosh HaShanah, under its present system of determination, cannot be regarded as a correct biblical or Temple-period observance, or as being a correct Judeo-Christian observance.
Philo of Alexandria (The Special Laws, II, xi, 41, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1937, tr. by F.H. Colson) tells us: “The third [feast] is the new moon which follows the conjunction of the moon with the sun”. And: “This is the New Moon, or beginning of the lunar month, namely the period between one conjunction and the next, the length of which has been accurately calculated in the astronomical schools” (ibid., II, xxvi, 140). It should be noted that the popular Hendrickson Publishers edition (1993) of C.D. Jonge’s 1854 translation does not have the same information that the Colson translation gives. The indications are that the conjunctions were determinative in deciding the First day of the month.
The Samaritans and the Sadducees both determined the calendar according to the conjunction, and the festival was determined in accordance with the conjunction by all systems during the Temple period, except for the Essene who had a fixed calendar, whereby 14 Abib fell on a Tuesday each year, with intercalation on a fixed cycle. The Samaritans determine the New Moon according to the conjunction to this day (cf. the paper God’s Calendar (No. 156)).
The Samaritans introduced an error into their calendar, whereby they determined that the New Moon of the First month must always fall on or after the equinox; and the equinox itself they determined as falling on 25 March. The calculations (1988-2163 CE) as noted by the priest Eleazar ben Tsedeka, are included in the prayer book for Passover and Mazzot, Knws tplwt hg hpsh whg hmswt (Holon, 1964, pp. 332-336; cf. Reinhard Pummer Samaritan Rituals and Customs, pp. 681-682, fn. 201 in Alan D. Crown (Ed.), The Samaritans, 1989, J.C.B. Mohr (Paul Siebeck) Tübingen). This fact also indicates that we are looking at an ancient common source, which is based on a calendar in use when the equinox was at 25 March. This date long preceded the time of Christ and was standardised in the calendar of Julius Caesar (cf. David Ewing Duncan, The Calendar, 4th Estate London, 1998, p. 81).
This indicates the probable source of the error. The ancient time for determining the conjunction at 25 March is seemingly derived from the period of the First and early Second Temple and indicates that we are probably looking at the precise nature of the calendar under Jeroboam (cf. Jeroboam and the Hillel Calendar (No. 191)). Thus, the holding of the Feast in the Eighth month as condemned by the Bible, would have occurred from the practice of making the New Moon always occur on or after the equinox. This appears not to have been altered in the case of the Samaritans since the fall of Israel. For this reason, they came under a curse and are still the only remnant of Israel not blessed with the birthright promise of Joseph. The Samaritan calculations were kept secret, perhaps for precisely this reason. However, they and the Sadducees always determined the calendar according to the conjunction, which was the original practice during the entire Temple period.
The Calendar of ‘Christianity’
Readers should note that there were no postponement rules in the early Church. The early writers are pertinent to our decision-making on these matters of determining what calendar Christians ought to observe. When referring to the early Greek writings, the English translations still use this pagan term Easter when they translate the term Pascha or Passover. The term Easter is an aberration of the later Trinitarian translators of the Bible (cf. Acts 12:4) and the early Church writings into English.
Hippolytus (170-236 CE), in The Refutation of All Heresies, VIII, xi (ANF, Vol. V, p. 123), wrote:
Easter [Passover] should be kept on the fourteenth day of the first month, according to the commandment of the law, on whatever day (of the month) it should occur.
Anatolius of Alexandria (ca.230--ca.280 CE) stated in The Paschal Canon (ANF, Vol. VI, pp. 146-147):
(I) just as they [Isodore, Jerome, Clement] differ also in language, have, nevertheless, come harmoniously to one and the same most exact reckoning of Easter [Passover], day and month and season meeting in accord with the highest honour for the Lord’s resurrection. But Origen also, the most erudite of all, and the acutest in making calculations, .... has published in a very elegant manner a little book on Easter. And in this book, while declaring, with respect to the day of Easter, that attention must be given not only to the course of the moon and the transit of the equinox, but also the passage of the sun, (II) There is, then, in the first year, the new moon of the first month, which is the beginning of every cycle of nineteen years, on the six and twentieth day of the month called by the Egyptians Phamenoth. But, according to the months of the Macedonians, it is on the two-and-twentieth day of Dystrus. And, as the Romans would say, it is the eleventh day before the Kalends [first] of April. (III) And this may be learned from what Philo, and Josephus, and Musaeus have written ... the two Agothobuli, who were surnamed the Masters, and the eminent Aristobulus, who was one of the Seventy who translated the sacred and holy Scriptures of the Hebrews for Ptolemy Philadelphus and his father.... These writers, in solving some questions which are raised with respect to Exodus, say that all alike ought to sacrifice the Passover after the vernal equinox in the middle of the first month. And that is found to be when the sun passes through the first segment of the solar, or, as some among them have named it, the zodiacal circle. (IV) But this Aristobulus also adds, that for the feast of the Passover it was necessary not only that the sun should pass the equinoctial segment, but the moon also.
Anatolius goes on to provide some very interesting comment regarding the calculation of the month, and the necessity for the equinox to be before the time of the sacrifice on the afternoon of the Fourteenth day; also that the period from the Fourteenth day to the Twenty-first day must have the light of the full moon in predominance, because of its relationship to the light of the world. The argument does not hold water on any substantive basis for every Feast and hence must be dismissed as merely a general rule; but it serves to illustrate the rule of the placement of the Fourteenth day of Abib and the equinox. Also, his arguments demonstrate that the Fourteenth and the Fifteenth were both kept and that the time was able to be calculated not only for the moon, but also for the time of day of the equinox and its relationship to the New Moon and the full moon.
From Anatolius, we see that the basis of the calculation was that the equinox could fall on the Fourteenth, but not after the 3 p.m. or ninth-hour sacrifice, as it then was. Thus, modern arguments that the Passover was the meal that Christ ate have no basis in fact or history. The Samaritans still keep this two-day vigil and this is examined in the paper The Night To Be Much Observed (No. 101).
The involved nature of the astronomical arguments show that they had the capacity to make these complex calculations, and did make them, while the argument for observation of the crescent moon by modern Judaism and the Kairites is fanciful nonsense simply to justify the postponements, and worse.
Anatolius also makes an error as to the structure of Unleavened Bread, which can be seen by reference to the Bible and also to Samaritan practice (cf. ANF, Vol. VI, pp. 146-151).
He states in his ‘Passover Table’ that the Passover circulated over the nineteen-year cycle between the 6th day before the Kalends of April and the 9th day before the Kalends of May (ibid., p. 150). Thus the Passover fell between 24 March and 21 April. The notion that Passover could have occurred on 25 April is impossible, either historically or within modern Judaism. It only occurred within the Easter system, as we saw above.
Anatolius is also invaluable in showing that the Fourteenth was the Passover and the Fifteenth began the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and that this Passover can and did go on to the Twentieth day of the moon, and through to the end of Unleavened Bread because of the placement of the Sunday (which he terms the Lord’s Day), being the day of the Wave-Sheaf (ibid., XI, p. 149). It is clear by this time that the emphasis was on the period from 14 Abib to the Wave-Sheaf Sunday, wherever it fell – but they also kept Unleavened Bread for the full seven days. It appears that, from an error of calculations, they may have begun to eat unleavened bread for only the evening of the last Holy Day, but the argument is clumsy. Anatolius, however, states that the Feast cannot be celebrated on the 22nd or 23rd of the moon (ibid., VII, p. 148). Thus, the Twenty-first is the last day of the Feast and the Wave-Sheaf or Lord’s Day must fall on or before 21 Abib, the First month.
The calculations of the so-called Easter system were determined from the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. From that Council the pre-eminence was given to Alexandria and the pope or bishop of Alexandria had responsibility for calculation. Local customs prevailed at Rome and also at Antioch (cf. ANF, Vol. 2, p. 342).
This post-Nicaean letter from the emperor, Constantine I (306-337 CE), should further illustrate the kind of calendrical problem with which we are confronted. The texts in this matter have also been placed within the paper The Calendar and the Moon: Postponements or Festivals? (No. 195).
Constantine, august, to the churches. ...
When the question arose concerning the most holy day of Easter, it was decreed by common consent to be expedient, that this festival should be celebrated on the same day by all, in every place. ... it seemed to every one 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, in a more legitimate order, which we have kept from the first day of our Lord’s passion even to the present times. Let us then have nothing in common with the most hostile rabble of the Jews. We have received another method from the Saviour. A more lawful and proper course is open to our most holy religion. In pursuing this course with a unanimous consent, let us withdraw ourselves, my much honored brethren, from that most odious fellowship. ... As it is necessary that this fault should be so amended that we may have nothing in common with the usage of these parricides and murderers of our Lord; and so that order is most convenient which is observed by all the churches of the West, as well as those of the southern and northern parts of the world, and also by some in the East, it is judged therefore to be most equitable and proper, and I pledged myself that this arrangement should meet your approbation, viz. that the custom which prevails with one consent in the city of Rome, and throughout all Italy, Africa and Egypt, in Spain, Gaul, Britain, Lybia, the whole of Greece, the diocese of Asia, Pontus and Cilicia, would be gladly embraced by your prudence, ... and to have no fellowship with the perjury of the Jews. And, to sum up the whole in a few words, it is agreeable to the common judgment of all, that the most holy feast of Easter should be celebrated on one and the same day (A Historical View of THE COUNCIL OF NICE; with a TRANSLATION OF DOCUMENTS by Rev. Isaac Boyle, D.D.; T Mason and G Lane, New York, 1839; pp. 51-54).
Not only do we perceive a high level of manipulation of power, propaganda and religious belief, but we also see the expression of the roots of anti-Semitism in Western culture from the world government of the day.
It is worthwhile to see how the larger last bastion of resistance, Britain, fell to the onslaught of calendrical and further religious distortion. The British historian and bishop, Bede (ca. 672-735 CE), in his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, especially in chapters 25-26 of Book III, has much to say about the synod and the discussions presided over by King Oswy (612-670), particularly between Bishop Colman and the Rome enthusiast, Wilfred, the Abbot of Ripon, in the monastery of Streanaeshalch, i.e. St Hilda's Abbey, where they held the historic (and infamous) Synod of Whitby of 664 CE.
Bede makes it very clear that the calculation of the date of Easter was not merely a technical or isolated issue. The movement of Easter was one of the many things which argument in terms of symbols (as we would say, but symbol is for us a limiting word, mysteries they would say) showed to be loaded with significance. Easter had to be just at the equinox, for the lengthening days represented Christ’s triumph over the powers of darkness. It had to be in the first month of the lunar year, for this was the month in which the world had been created and in which it ought to be newly created. It had to be as the moon was about to wane, for the moon turns from earth to heavenly things [Rev. 12:1; Mal. 4:2; Lk. 2:32; Isa. 60:1-3]. It was appropriate that Easter should always fall within a space of seven days, for seven was a number of divine significance. Considered from another point of view, Easter was to be calculated in such a way as to fulfil both of the Old Law of the Jews and the New Law of Christ. If it was celebrated at the right time, then all was in harmony. (Introduction, p. xviii, by James Campbell, who translated Bede’s The Ecclesiastical History of the English People for The Great Histories Series by Washington Square Press, NY, 1968).
That is why, for example, in 1997 we celebrated the Wave Sheaf on Sunday 15 Nisan and from which date we counted Pentecost, and why the mainstream church system waits until the next or following Sunday (which was effectively 22 Nisan in 1997) to celebrate Easter Sunday and from which to count Pentecost. This rule is made to ensure that the Trinitarian Church seldom follows biblical Law and is often a week later with Pentecost.
Before quoting directly from Bede, let us look at a footnote (n. 44, pp. 400-401):
Both the Celts and their opponents agreed that Easter was to be calculated by reference to the full moon which came on or first after the spring equinox. But the Celts held Easter Sunday to be that which came in between the fourteenth day of the moon (i.e., the day of the full moon) and the twentieth, both included. That is to say, that if the full moon came on a Sunday, they made this Easter Sunday. The other churches refused to make the day of the full moon Easter Sunday. Thus the system which Bede used, and which became universal in the west, reckoned Easter Sunday as that which fell between the fifteenth and the twenty-first days of the moon. If the full moon on or next after the equinox came on a Sunday, then the next Sunday was Easter Sunday.
After Bishop Colman had indicated that his observance of Easter was received from his elders and was “the same which the blessed Evangelist John, the disciple especially dear to the Lord, celebrated”, the founder of the Benedictine Order in Britain, Wilfred, responded:
The Easter which we observe we saw celebrated by all at Rome, where the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul lived, taught, suffered, and were buried. This is what we saw observed by all in Gaul and in Italy when we travelled through them to study and to pray. This we have learned to be practiced in Africa, Asia, Egypt, and Greece, and by the whole world wherever the faith of Christ has been spread through various races and tongues; all make use of the one single way of determining the date of Easter. The only exceptions are these people and their accomplices in obstinacy, I mean the Picts and the Britons, with whom (the inhabitants of the two last islands of the ocean, and only on part of those) they stand against the whole of the world, struggling foolishly (ibid., pp. 160-161).
Wilfred’s next comment is fascinating, especially when we note that both were wrong; but Wilfred was obviously the more cunning and informed:
Far be it from us to charge John with foolishness, for he observed the precepts of the Law of Moses literally, at a time when the church still followed the Jews in many things; and the Apostles were not able suddenly to set aside the entire observance of the Law laid down by God ... So, John, according to the custom of the Law, began the celebration of the feast of Easter on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month, paying no attention to whether it fell on the Sabbath or on some other day (pp. 161-162).
We can note the fact that there were no postponements in use here. Wilfred then proceeds to contradict what he said and espouses the Catholic convention.
This pattern of universal imposition of the dating and mode of observance in the Passover/Easter controversy has persisted through the centuries. The New Catholic Encyclopedia comments:
Since the majority of the early Christians were Jewish converts, it is understandable that from the outset the Christian calendar was governed by the fact that the death and Resurrection of Christ had taken place at the time of the chief Jewish feast, the Pasch, or Passover, celebrated on the 14th day of the month of Nisan, i.e., at the full moon following the Spring equinox. However, rather than literally follow the Jewish Passover, since this would necessitate the commemoration of the Resurrection on a different day of the week each year, Christian custom (sanctioned by the Council of Nicaea I in 325; ConOecDecr 2-3, n.6) fixed the anniversary of Christ’s Resurrection on the actual day of the week (the first day) on which the Resurrection had taken place. As a result, Easter falls on the first day of the week (Sunday) after the first full moon following the spring equinox, and thus can be as early as March 22 and as late as April 25 [which would make it the second full moon after the equinox] (ibid., McGraw Hill, NY, 1967, pp. 1062-1063).
The latest dates here do not deal with the determination of the Passover dates of 14‑15 Abib or Nisan, but refer to the latest dates on which Sunday falls, which may be many days after the 14th day of the First month. The latest possible dates on which the Passover may fall are dictated by the ancient rules, which also state that the sun is in the sign of Aries. The sun leaves Aries from the 10-20 April and the latest possible date for the Passover is therefore 20-21 April.
Most importantly from the quotes here, we see that the influence of both Rome and (later) Judaism has all but obscured the true Passover. The later Orthodox schisms have made the problem even more complicated in that they adopted the later Jewish postponements and then kept their Easter a week after the Jewish dates for 14-15 Nisan.
From the text on The Origins of Christmas and Easter (No. 235), we see that the argument at Nicaea was merely regulating the conflict in an existing adopted pagan practice. It did not resolve the Quartodeciman dispute. We repeat that text in this matter.
The method of calculating the ‘day of the Sun’ at the vernal equinox was similar to the calculation of the Wave-Sheaf offering of Leviticus 23, but it was not quite the same. That is why there is a slight difference between the Passover and the Easter system.
The Universal Oxford Dictionary gives the method for determining Easter Sunday or Easter day, which is the true Day of the Sun as Easter.
It is observed on the first Sunday after the calendar full moon, i.e. the 14th day of the calendar moon - which happens on or next after 21 March. Applied colloq. to the week commencing Easter Sunday (1964 print, p. 579).
This is the rule for determining the Easter or Ishtar festival and not the rule for the biblical Passover.
The arguments are clearly demonstrated in the history of the Quartodeciman dispute, which occurred from the reign of Anicetus to that of Victor (or Victorinus), bishops of Rome from the middle to the end of the second century (ca. 154-190).
Thus, from the Quartodeciman dispute we know that this false dating system emanated from Rome in the second century, and was opposed by those in the Church who were taught by the Apostles, namely Polycarp who opposed Anicetus, and his pupil Polycrates, opposing Victor (or Victorinus). The later writings of Socrates Scholasticus (ca. 439 CE) introduce error into the history and are incorrect on a number of grounds, many of which are outlined by the compilers of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (cf. NPNF 2nd series, Vol. 2, introduction to the text).
Socrates records that the Quartodecimans kept the 14th day of the moon disregarding the Sabbath (ibid., Ch. XXII, p. 130). He records that it was Victor, bishop of Rome, who excommunicated them and was censured for this by Irenaeus (ibid.). He tries to introduce, at this later stage, an appeal to Peter and Paul for the support of the Roman practice of Easter and the Quartodeciman’s practice with John (ibid., p. 131). He alleges that neither party can produce written testimony to their views. However, we know correctly that the Quartodecimans appealed to John from the writings of Polycarp and Polycrates, who were taught directly by John. No appeal is made to Peter and Paul for support of Easter in any serious way. Moreover, it is absurd to suggest that the twelve Apostles would be divided on how to calculate the Passover.
Socrates is clear on one thing, which is that the Church and the Quartodecimans did not keep the dates for the Passover in accordance with the modern Jewish calculations (he wrote ca. 437 CE, long after the introduction of the Hillel calendar in 358). He holds them to be wrong in almost everything (ibid., p. 131).
In this practice they averred, they conformed not to the modern Jews, who are mistaken in almost everything, but to the ancients and according to Josephus in what he has written in the third book of his Jewish Antiquities.
He is referring to Antiquities of the Jews, III, 10, which is quoted here in full:
In the month of Xanthicus, which is called Nisan by us, and is the beginning of the year, on the fourteenth day of the moon, while the sun is in the sign of Aries (the Ram), for during this month we were freed from bondage under the Egyptians, he has also appointed that we should sacrifice each year the sacrifice which, as we went out of Egypt, they commanded us to offer, it being called the Passover.
The sign of Aries finished on 19-20 April and thus the Passover could not fall after this period (Anatolius holds it was the 21st day of April from above). Neither could the 14th fall prior to the equinox; and thus we have the ancient parameters for the Passover. Here we see that the early Church did not follow the later Jewish traditions under Hillel. Most quotations of Socrates ignore this most important piece of evidence.
The Preparation Day of 14 Nisan was thus seen anciently as the commencement of the Passover and that date could fall on the equinox; but 15 Nisan, which was the first Holy Day and the night on which Passover was eaten, could not fall on the equinox. The ancient practice is the basis for the rule now, but after the dispersion the Jews observed only 15 Nisan and not both days as they did previously, in accordance with Deuteronomy 16:5-7.
We also see from Socrates here that the Council of Nicaea did not fix the timing of Easter as the Audiani claimed (see NPNF, ibid., p. 131 and fn. 14 to p. 131). We know it was determined according to ancient tradition, that is, according to the worship of the god Adonis and the god Attis, in conjunction with Ishtar or Venus and the worship of the Sun system. It resolved the conflict in the heathen systems of Attis and Adonis. Nicaea simply adopted Easter as the official festival using existing pagan practice, but also harmonised it. It did not fix or determine the festival. The Jews had established an entirely false calendar by 358, not long after Nicaea, as we see here from Socrates. This event is much closer to his time and, hence, more accurately noted.
Thus, the Christian Passover was all but eliminated by paganism, establishing Easter or a false calendar of rabbinical Judaism and moving the Passover dates in Nisan in relation to the moon. The Council of Nicaea decreed that the determination of Easter Sunday as the Sunday following the full moon in effect made it virtually impossible (but not quite) for Easter Sunday to fall on the same Sunday as the Wave-Sheaf offering of the Passover, should it fall on 15 Nisan. Thus, it is almost impossible to have Easter and the Passover coincide correctly on some occasions. This was allegedly out of a desire to distance Christianity from the Jews, but it is in reality the determination of the system of a false god to dislocate the true festival and bring it into conformity with pantheistic worship.
The language involved in the English is itself most telling. The Passover was termed Pash in the early Church writings. The term Easter is from the ancient Anglo-Saxon form.
The Universal Oxford Dictionary gives the meaning of Easter as coming from the Old English éastre or the feminine plural éastron. It says:
Baeda [Bede] derives the word from Eostre (Northumb. sp. of Éastre), a goddess whose festival was celebrated at the vernal equinox (ibid.).
The dictionary then proceeds to ignore this lead-in and goes on to associate it with a Christian festival, after identifying its earliest use with the cult of the goddess.
The vernal or spring equinox is the time when the days begin to lengthen beyond the length of the night (hence, equinox: equal night) and the growth is beginning to quicken. Thus, the symbolism is of fertility. From this we associate such symbols as rabbits, eggs, etc. The rabbit was a symbol of fertility in the ancient Babylonian system and has been found in the archaeological record. Rabbits were used in ancient homoeopathic magic from Africa to America (Frazer, The Golden Bough, i, pp. 154-155). They were also used in ceremonies to stop rain (ibid., i, p. 295).
Not only Christianity adopted the egg symbol in its ritual, but also rabbinical Judaism adopted the practice of including an egg in the Seder table at Passover, thus profaning the Passover meal on a yearly and ritual basis. Coupled with their adoption of the Hillel calendar, they virtually never keep the Passover themselves and prevent any who try to follow their system from doing so by virtue of the false calendar system they have adopted.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (St Pauls, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1994, Item 1170) says: “At the Council of Nicaea, in 325, all the Churches agreed that Easter, the Christian Passover, should be celebrated on the Sunday following the first full moon (Nisan 14) after the vernal equinox. The reform of the Western calendar, called “Gregorian” after Pope Gregory XIII (1582), caused a discrepancy of several days with the Eastern calendar. Today, the Western and Eastern Churches are seeking agreement in order once again to celebrate the day of the Lord’s Resurrection on a common date”.
The difficulty is seen in the following modern example. In 1997, the Western churches celebrated Easter one week after the Sunday, which fell on the true 15 Nisan in March. The Orthodox system, of which the Ukrainian church is an example, held its Easter on the Sunday a week later than the Jewish postponements on 27 April. The Jews were a month later than the West, in the eighth and the nineteenth year of their calendar cycle. There was an additional consequence, in that Pentecost and the end of the sacred year’s festivals (Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement, Feast of Tabernacles) were then a month later.
An effect similar to that of the Jewish postponements was taken into the Orthodox system. Originally the Western convention was not accepted by the Eastern church in Syria and Mesopotamia, especially from Antioch. They kept to the Quartodeciman system until that matter was resolved. Canon I of the Council of Antioch of 341 shows that the Eastern bishops were coerced into accepting the Roman system as determined from Alexandria (see the paper Jeroboam and the Hillel Calendar (No. 191) for details). The Russians were converted to Christianity following the baptism of Olga of Kiev in 955 CE. Her son, Svyatoslav of Kiev, sacked the Khazar Jewish kingdom of the Askenaz in 967. Thus, they were absorbed into Russia and Olga’s grandson Vladimir accepted Christianity and officially adopted the religion in 988/989 CE (cf. Milner-Gulland and Dejevsky, Cultural Atlas of Russia and the Soviet Union, Time-Life Books, 1994, p. 8).
The influence of the Khazar Jewish system should not be underestimated. The Judaic influence on the Russian Orthodox system was so great that by the latter half of the fifteenth century it was considered necessary to place it under severe repression (see ERE, art. ‘Russian Church’, Vol. 10, p. 869). Until 1480, with Ivan III Vasilievich, Russia had been under the Tartars or Mongols (ibid., p. 870) and they had been extremely tolerant of religions, as had Khazaria before them. Russia was divided into two political aggregations in the middle of the fifteenth century and the western section under Lithuano-Polish Catholic domination repressed the Orthodox in every way (ibid., pp. 869-870). Combined with the effect of the failure of the Orthodox Church to adopt the Gregorian calendar, this probably accounts for the variation in the Easter dating. It is a combination of the failure to adjust the errors in the calendar to coincide with the Gregorian system and the postponement to the following New Moon, which in the year 1997, corresponded to the Jewish postponements (cf. also Why is Passover So Late in 1997? (No. 239)).
When Jesus Christ met with the Apostles for what Paul calls the Lord’s Supper (1Cor. 11:20; see also Jn. 13:2,4; 21:20), that night was the night before the Jewish Passover. The event that Christians should observe is on the evening of the 14 Abib, whereas Jews observe only the evening of 15 Abib, with the killing of the Passover lambs in the afternoon immediately preceding that night – which also is described in Exodus 12:40-42. The Lord’s Supper for 1997 fell on the evening of Friday, 21 March (14 Abib), since the vernal equinox was just before midnight of 20 March. Perhaps it was ironic that, in this year, 22 March coincided with the Jewish Purim. (See also Esther 9:18-19.)
The evening of 15 Nisan is described as the Night to Be Much Observed (cf. the paper The Night to Be Much Observed (No. 101)), and the Christian thus observes both evenings; but the emphasis is on 14 Nisan not 15 Nisan and the Passover proceeds until the Sunday (as is recorded by Tertullian) regardless of when 14 Nisan falls. According to Tertullian, the crucifixion and the resurrection were treated equally and the word Pascha (or Passover) designated both days, or the period of the crucifixion commencing from 14 Nisan to the Sunday (which was the Wave-Sheaf Offering and from which Pentecost was determined) (cf. Cath. Encyc., Vol. III, art. ‘Calendar’, pp. 159 ff.). It should also be remembered that the fixing of the Easter system is accorded to the Council of Nicaea, but there is no record in the canons of the Council of such a decision. We are dependent upon Eusebius’ Life of Constantine (III, xxviii sq.) for the record of Constantine writing to the churches after the Council (see above, and cf. Cath. Encyc., ibid., p. 160; cf. Turner, Monumenta Nicaeana 152; cf. Cath. Encyc., Vol. V, art. ‘Easter’, p. 228).
Easter is not the correct Passover but is a pagan system. The Quartodeciman Passover is the only true and biblical practice for the Church of God.
Christian Churches of God
PO Box 369 Woden, ACT 2606 Australia
E-mail: CCG Secretary
Copyright: The papers on this site may be freely copied and distributed provided they are copied in total with no alterations or deletions. The publisher's name and address and the copyright notice must be included. No charge may be levied on recipients of distributed copies. Brief quotations may be embodied in critical articles and reviews without breaching copyright.
| Search | Alphabetic Index | Long Catalogue | Home Page | Webmaster | Additional |