Is Easter a pagan festival? And Leah said, Happy am I,
for the daughters will call me blessed:
and she called his name Asher.
The Hebrew text uses three almost identical words in the above passage.
Strong's #837 'osher - "Happy"
Strong's #833 'ashar - "blessed"
Strong's #836 'Ashar - "Asher"
Per Strong's "Hebrew and Chaldee Dictionary", from #833 came #836, #837 and the more often used form #835. #835 ('esher), which Leah did not use, is used 43 places in the Old Testament Scriptures and is either translated blessed or happy.
While we are quite sure that it was a very blessed and happy event for Leah, the subject of this small write up will be a more earth shattering and blessed event, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. You ask how do we get from Leah to the resurrection! The answer is in the meanings and soundings of the Hebrew words. For we as Christians can think or no more blessed and happy event than the resurrection. Many scholars have written that the Christian celebration of Easter was a convenient borrowing from the ancient pagan ceremony of Eastre, Eostre, Eostur, or Ostara. (see Appendix).
Let us take a closer look at other possibilities for the name of the Easter celebration! Isaac E. Mozeson in his book "The Word" (Shapolsky Publishers, 1989) on page 23 under the topic "ASIA / AYSH" has the following.
"ROOTS: ASIA is pronounced much like the Hebrew term ASH (fire-Deuteronomy 4:24). Dr. Shipley's "Dictionary of Word Origins" (p. 144) cites an ancient Assyrian marker inscribed Asu, "land of the rising sun". We call this land mass Asia, and the direction of the fiery sunrise we name EAST.
BRANCHES: Christians celebrate the rising Son at Easter" ....
The Hebrew word that Mr. Mozeson is proposing as the ancient Hebrew patriarch word for our EAST and EASTER consists of two hebrew letters, 'Aleph and Shiyn, it is Strong's #784. 'Aleph represents a vowel and the differences between the a, e, or o sounds are represented by combinations of marks below the 'Aleph. Per Mr. Mozeson, "Vowels are certainly interchangeable and ought to be largely ignored when comparing words from different languages. In effect, Biblical Hebrew has no vowels; the vowel letters in English (A, E, I, O, and U) are chaotic contrivances that help to make English a nighmare to spell." And we might add the way they are used in Hebrew texts seem even more chaotic and confusing for the original handwritten parchment form of the Bible has no vowel marks, and only verbal tradition allowed the scribes to add the form of vowel markings presently used. As with most all languages, variants in pronunciation are noted among Hebrews from various locations and traditions
Adding the Hebrew letter Reysh (adding the r sound) after the 'Aleph and Shiyn we get our family of words #833, #835, #836 and #837, with #833 and #837 being the "Happy" and "blessed" in Leah's statement. We are most interested in #835 which is pronounced eh'-sher and is translated as either blessed or happy. #837 is pronounced o'-sher. They are sound a like words for Eastre, Eostre, Eostur, or Ostara, the names of the "ancient pagan festivals" which the early Christians supposedly adopted as a means to celebrated unnoticed in ancient pagan times. See the extract from Strong's below.
Conclusion: It is proposed that early Christians who had a good knowledge of Biblical Hebrew when the concept of celebrating the resurrection was being formed would be very comfortable with the name of Eostur or Eoshur or Eostre or Eoshre for the celebration of the Lord's resurrection, whichever form was used in the early days before it became the more modern Easter. It is truly a most blessed and happy celebration! Of course the Christian would know the true meanings even if it did sound similar to and was being celebrated at the same season as the pagan celebrations! Note also that the parent word, #833 - 'asher', also has a meaning of being right or leading in the right way.
Per Mr. Mozeson, "More English words can be clearly linked to Biblical Hebrew than to Latin, Greek, or French."
APPENDIXEastre, Eostre, Eostur, or Ostara
[a] From "Heathen Holidays" by Denise Snodgrass, CHAPTER III, EASTER: THE GODDESS OF SPRING
The name of this festival, itself, shows its heathen origin. "Easter" is derived from Eastre, or Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of spring and dawn. There also is some historical connection existing between the words "Easter" and "East," where the sun rises. The festival of Eostre was celebrated on the day of the Vernal Equinox (spring). Traditions associated with the festival of the Teutonic fertility Goddess survive in the Easter rabbit and colored eggs.
Spring is the season of new life and revival, when, from ancient times, the pagan peoples of Europe and Asia held their spring festivals, re-enacting ancient regeneration myths and performing magical and religious ceremonies to make the crops grow and prosper.
[b] From "The American Book of Days," by George William Douglas we read:
As the festival of Eostre was a celebration of the renewal of life in the spring it was easy to make it a celebration of the resurrection from the dead of Jesus. There is no doubt that the Church (of Rome) in its early days adopted the old pagan customs and gave a "Christian" meaning to them.
It would have been suicide for the very early Christian converts to celebrate their holy days with observances that did not coincide with celebrations that already existed. To save lives, the missionaries cleverly decided to spread their religious message slowly throughout the populations by allowing them to continue to celebrate pagan feasts, but to do so in a Christian manner.
As it happened, the pagan festival of Eastre occurred at the same time of year as the Christian observance of the Resurrection of Christ. It made sense, therefore, to alter the festival itself, to make it a Christian celebration as converts were slowly won over. The early name, Eastre, was eventually changed to its modern spelling, Easter.
[c] The Pagan origins of the holiday according to a Venerable Bede, English historian of the early 8th century, the name Easter, like the name of the days of the week, is a survival from the old Teutonic mythology. According to Bede it is derived from the Norse Ostara or Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, to whom the month of April, and called Eostur-monath, was dedicated. The Greek myth, Demeter and Persephone, with its Latin counterpart, Ceres and Persephone, conveys the idea of a goddess returning seasonally from the nether regions to the light of day. This is in conjunction with the festival of spring, or vernal equinox, March 21, when nature is in resurrection after winter.