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Passover or Easter

God gave Feasts to Israel as illustrations that speak about the nature and character of the God of Israel. Aspects of each Feast point to Yeshua as the promised Jewish Messiah.

The early Church celebrated The Resurrection of the Messiah during Passover, but when Roman Emperor Constantine I gathered 318 bishops from all over the world at the First Council of Nicaea in AD 325, they decided that Christians should celebrate the Resurrection on Easter instead.

Here is a translation of the letter that Constantine sent to churches around the world, documenting the council's decision.

In this letter, Constantine declared that contempt for Jewish people — and separation from them — is the only proper Christian attitude. Read it, and think about what they really decided and why.

How should the modern Church respond?

Taken from The Church and The Jews by Dan Gruber, © 2001 Elijah Publishing, pages 33-35.

Constantine, august, to the Churches.

Having experienced, in the flourishing state of public affairs, the greatness of the divine goodness I thought it especially incumbent on me to endeavor that the happy multitudes of the Catholic [i.e. universal] Church should preserve one faith, be united in unfeigned love, and harmoniously join in their devotions to Almighty God. But this could not otherwise be effected in a firm and solid manner, than by an examination, for this purpose, of whatever pertains to our most holy religion, by all the bishops, or greater part of them at least, assembled together. Having therefore convened as many as possible, I myself being present, and, as it were, one of you, (nor do I deny that I exceedingly rejoice in being your fellow-servant,) every thing was examined, until a unanimous sentiment, pleasing to God, who sees all things, was brought to light; so that no pretence was left for dissension or controversy respecting the faith.

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. For what can be more beautiful, what more venerable and becoming than that this festival, from which we receive the hope of immortality, should be suitably observed by all in one and same order, and by a certain rule. And truly, in the first 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.

It is indeed in the highest degree preposterous, that they should superciliously vaunt themselves, that truly without their instruction, we cannot properly observe this rite. For what can they rightly understand, who, after the tragical death of our Lord, being deluded and darkened in their minds, are carried away by an unrestrained impulse wherever their inborn madness may impel them. Hence therefore it is, that, even in this particular, they do not perceive the truth, so that continually wandering in the grossest error, instead of duly reforming their calculation, they commemorate the passover twice in the same [Roman] year. Why then should we follow those who are acknowledged to labor a grievous error? for we will never tolerate the keeping of a double passover in one year.

But if what I have said should not be thought sufficient, it belongs to your ready discernment, both by diligence and prayer, to use every means, that the purity of your minds may not be affected by a conformity in any thing with the customs of the vilest of mankind. Besides, it should be considered that any dissension in a business of such importance, and in a religious institution of so great solemnity, would be highly criminal. For the Saviour has bequeathed us one festal day of our liberation, that is, the day of his most holy passion; and it was his pleasure that his Church should be one; the members of which, although dispersed in many and various places, are yet nourished by the same spirit, that is by the will of God.

Let the sagacity of your holiness only consider, how painful and indecorous it must be, for some to be experiencing the rigors of abstinence, and others to be unbending their minds in convivial enjoyment on the same day; and after Easter, for some to be indulging in feasting and relaxation, while others are occupied in the observance of the prescribed fasts. Wherefore, that a suitable reformation should take place in this respect, and that one rule should be followed, is the will of divine providence, as all, I think, must perceive.

As it is necessary that this fault should be so amended that we may have nothing in common with the usage of the parricides and murderers of our Lord; and as 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 was 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, considering that not only the greatest number of churches exist in the places which have been already mentioned, but also that it is most religious and equitable that all should wish what strictest reasons seem to require, and to have no fellowship with the perjury of the Jews.

And, to sum up the whole in a few words, it was agreeable to the common judgment of all, that the most holy feast of Easter should be celebrated on oæ and the same day. Nor is it becoming, that in so sacred an observance there should be any diversity; and it is to follow that decision, in which all participation in the sin and error of others is avoided.

This being the case, receive with cheerfulness the heavenly and truly divine command. For whatever is transacted in the holy councils of the bishops, is to be referred to the divine will. Wherefore, having announced to our beloved brethren what has been already written, it is your duty to receive and establish the arguments already stated, and the observance of the most holy day; that when I shall come into your beloved presence, so long desired by me, I may be able to celebrate, with you, on one and the same day, the holy festival, and that in all things I may rejoice with you; seeing that the cruelty of the devil is taken away by divine power, through my instrumentality, and that your faith, your peace and concord is everywhere flourishing.

May God preserve you, my beloved brethren.