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Having previously reviewed J.P. Holding’s Christmas book, see Book review: “Christmas is Pagan and Other Myths”, I was pleased to see what he had in store this time (see end of this article for a list on his other books). J. P. Holding heads Tekton - Education and Apologetics Ministries and produces research pertaining to apologetics, polemics and much else.
Well, I sure did learn a thing of two about Easter from this book such as that there is such a thing as “Hot cross buns.” I mean, what do I, a Jew, know about such a thing? When I accepted the messiahship of Jesus and experienced my first Easter, I just realized the correlation between the Passover and Easter (listen to the lecture here for details). But now, I guess I got to try some hot buns…but then again, as Holding notes, some claim that, “Hot cross buns are a symbol of the evil of Easter! They come from a pagan practice!”
What to do? What to do!
Form the get go, J. P. Holding notes that he is pulling info from 5 websites as well as books by Murl Edward Glynn, Lew White, Charles Halff and J. R. Terrier.
Yet, a main source for many claims of Paganism in Christianity (funny how so many are concerned about Judaizing but not Paganizing of the church) is Alexander Hislop’s book The Two Babylons. As it turns out, both Holding and myself have run across research demonstrating that the book is problematic (even though I grant that there is some Paganizing in the church). As Holding notes:
“The Two Babylons by Alexander Hislop – this book is a very old one, from the 1800s, and it covers a lot more than just Easter. It’s a long-winded, poorly-researched, highly contrived attempt to trace all manner of religious traditions (especially Catholic ones) to pagan Babylonian religion. A lot of the sources below use Hislop as a source. I tackled a lot of Hislop’s material in a prior e-book titled Jesus Was a Mushroom and Other Lies You Won’t Believe, so if you want more of the skinny on Hislop himself, that’s the place to look. Here, though, we’ll cover his claims about Easter.”
What often happens with such old sources is that at first, they are properly cited (author, titled, year of edition, page number, etc.) but over time the contents of such works find their way into, particularly popular, works that paraphrase statements which then become the sort of thing which “everyone knows”…even if no one know how we all know such things.
As for the issue of Easter in general, Holding seeks to respond to those who make claims such as that “‘Easter’ comes from Ishtar, the name of a pagan goddess!” Well, Ishtar sounds exactly like Easter—if, well, you know, you pronounce them so as to force them to sound exactly alike.
Yet, J. P. goes beyond pronunciation and seeks to determine, historically (and geographically) whether there truly is a correlation between Ishtar and Easter. Likewise, with the claimed correlation between Easter and “the pagan goddess Ostara/Eostre” as well as “Eastre, the Teutonic goddess of spring.”
There is also more than a mere name game as. For example, another claim is that “Easter eggs are linked to ‘Ishtar’s eggs;’ Ishtar had a day that was celebrated with eggs and she was symbolized by the hare.” About this, Holding admits that “Ishtar was a real goddess, and she was in charge of fertility” who was “worshipped a long, long, long time ago, in Babylon and Assyria. We’re talking about the 600s BC here.”
As for Ostara/Eostre, J. P. Holding notes that, “The basis for this claim comes from an explanation by an 8th century Christian historian Bede.”
So, Ishtar was symbolized by the hare and some claim that “The use of rabbits in Easter themes comes from pagan sources! Tammuz was fond of rabbits, and they became sacred in his religion! And Ishtar’s holidays were celebrated with rabbits, too!” In fact, “There’s even a story around that Eastre had a pet rabbit who laid colored eggs.”
Yet, that to which Holding returns time and time again is the question, “but what do serious scholars say about this?” Which is, obviously, an important question as some rely on “popular sources” such as “cookbooks.”
You will also find out what Saturn automobiles, Athena brand goat cheese and…Midas mufflers have to do with this.
Other topics covered are the following claims:
Ezekiel Chapter 8 records a sunrise service! That proves sunrise services are evil!
…the sunrise services came from that fake Christian emperor, Constantine! He was a secret sun worshipper
Eating ham on Easter comes from a pagan practice! [oi vey!]
And in the end, J. P. Holding focuses us to where our focus belongs:
“we need to keep a laser focus on the real ‘reason for the season,’ which is Jesus’ triumphant Resurrection from the dead and His Ascension to Heaven.”
And we leave off with a likewise note from C. S. Lewis:
“There is a stage in a child's life at which it cannot separate the religious from the merely festal character of Christmas or Easter. I have been told of a very small and very devout boy who was heard murmuring to himself on Easter morning a poem of his own composition which began ‘Chocolate eggs and Jesus risen.’ This seems to me, for his age, both admirable poetry and admirable piety.
But of course the time will soon come when such a child can no longer effortlessly and spontaneously enjoy that unity. He will become able to distinguish the spiritual from the ritual and festal aspect of Easter; chocolate eggs will no longer be sacramental.
And once he has distinguished he must put one or the other first. If he puts the spiritual first he can still taste something of Easter in the chocolate eggs; if he puts the eggs first they will soon be no more than any other sweetmeat. They have taken on an independent, and therefore a soon withering, life.”
Here is a list of J.P. Holding’s books:
Was Hitler a Christian? Was Nazi Germany a "Christian nation"?
The ultimate resource for debunking the claim that Jesus didn't even exist! Takes on writers like Earl Doherty, G. A. Wells, Acharya S, and many more!
Was the information in the New Testament transmitted reliably? Looks at oral transmission, textual transmission, authorship issues, and the canon.
Our full-orbed historical defense. Looks at all the usual theories (swoon, stolen body, etc.) and makes a positive apologetic for the Resurrection.
A "food for thought" version of arguments in Defending the Resurrection.
Analysis of Mormon truth claims related to the Bible, and how Mormon apologists use it.
Is hell really literal, fiery torture? A fresh look at hell from a social-contextual perspective.
The moral teachings of the New Testament distilled and applied for today.
A fresh look at the doctrine of the atonement from a first century perspective.
A response to the "Know Your Enemy" e-book and video series by Mark Fairley.
An intelligent alternative to those "other" cartoon tracts.
John Hagee, Mark Biltz, and other prophecy writers claim that the upcoming occurrence of four "blood moons" (lunar eclipses) indicate that something significant is about to happen in terms of Biblical prophecy. In Blood Moon Lunacy, internet apologist James Patrick Holding exposes the errors of Hagee and Biltz, showing that their arguments are exegetically unsound, illogical, and heavily reliant on the telling of only partial truths about both history and astronomy.
Do you have questions about Christianity? Or do you know someone who does? And are you having a hard time finding answers that are easy to understand?
Christian Answers to This Generation's Questions gives easy to understand answers to more than 50 common questions asked about Christianity, whether by seekers or young people. With recommendations for further reading included, this collection of Q and A is a great place to get started on your spiritual journey.