Note: I change Julie Parker’s use of the sacred name to “the Lord.”
Julie Parker’s “Sheepfold Gleanings” commentary on Passover, published by the new Messianic Covenant Community, goes down the well-trodden War on Christians path that many messianic Gentiles walk down.
In her commentary (although she is a woman teaching, she claims the “covering” of her husband, Carl, although I’m not sure how that biblically satisfies Paul’s objection in these matters in 1 Timothy 2:12), Parker goes down the path of proclaiming Easter to be a pagan holiday. As with most messianics engaging in such claims, she offers no documentation for her claims:
The second issue settled by Constantine at the Council of Nicean (sic) was the difference between (the Lord’s) scriptural Feast of Passover verses (sic) Easter. The Jews celebrated Passover for thousands of years on the eve of the 14th day of (Nissan), on the first biblical month of the year. The pagan celebration of Easter was celebrated on the first Sunday after the spring equinox of the sun.
Sometime in the second century, the Gentile pagan bishops in some western churches among the Greek believers began a campaign to incorporate the traditional worship of their gods into (the Lord’s) biblical Feast Days. The celebration of Easter was one of them.
As I pointed out in this post, the name for the celebration of the Resurrection is more likely related to a Germanic name for the month that the celebration usually fell in. In other languages, the word for the celebration is related to Passover. In fact, since the Latin name for it is Pascha, that is likely what it was called in the church from the get-go, making it as “Easter” mainly in the English and German languages. That fact undoes efforts to tie the early celebration of the Resurrection to pagan holidays.
Was it right for the church to separate the commemoration of Christ’s death and resurrection from the Passover? No. But that doesn’t call for inaccurate accusations. Parker even mixes up her goddesses, confusing Ishtar, a middle-Eastern goddess, with European Teutonic mythology, something that she may have drawn from web sites that try to find pagan sources under every church pew.
Besides the tone that Parker’s tome takes, her scholarship is questionable. For instance, she makes reference to “Article: Pagan Origin of Easter” without explaining who wrote it, where it’s published or where it can be located. The only link she offers is to a Wikipedia article about the Bar Kokhba revolt. Her other references are “The Church and the Jews” by Daniel Gruber, which does have a good reputation but also has been criticized for stopping short of endorsing the continuing mission of Israel; and two articles by the controversial and not very respected Ralph Messer.
Parker also uses speculative information as definitive. For instance, she claims the Easter egg hunt tradition stems back to ancient Canaan, which is a new one on me. Typically, the claim is made that it goes back to Germany. The springtime egg traditions probably go back to a number of various pagan/folklore sources. That doesn’t make them OK, but it does show that Parker isn’t careful about her information or her sources. If you don’t know something for sure, don’t state it as fact.
She also writes things like, “The second issue settled by Constantine at the Council of (Nicea) …”
The Roman Emperor Constantine called the council, but didn’t participate in its outcome. He mainly wanted peace between arguing church factions. (See Church History 101—The Fourth Century.) In addition, other issues weren’t suddenly settled at that council, they were instead confirmed as already having been accepted by the church in general.
Messianics like Parker need to be looking for ways to attract Gentile believers to a more Torah-centered way of worship, not looking for more ways to drive wedges between us.