Short answer: Nope.

A bit more of an answer: Nope, and let’s stop the “Easter is pagan” madness.

For the longer answer, keep reading — both what follows and the article I’ve linked to.

I thought I had posted this last year, but I guess I had not. I want to share a scholarly article specifically on the earliest known occurrence that connects the term “Easter” with a goddess figure (Ostara / Eostre). It’s quite interesting:

Richard Sermon, “From Easter to Ostara: The Reinvention of a Pagan Goddess?” Time and Mind The Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture 1:3 (2008): 331-343

The article was posted on, so it should be accessible via the link. Here is the abstract (emphasis mine):

In most European languages the Christian festival of the Resurrection has a name derived from the Hebrew word Pesach for the Jewish Passover, when Jesus was said to have been crucified. However, in English and German the festival goes by a very different name: Easter and Ostern. This was first explained in AD 725 by the Northumbrian monk Bede, who wrote that Easter takes its name from an Anglo-Saxon goddess called Eostre. In 1835, Jacob Grimm proposed that the German equivalent Ostern must have derived from the name of the same goddess, whose Germanic name he reconstructed as “Ostara.” More recently it has been suggested that Bede was only speculating about the origins of the festival name, although attempts by various German linguists to find alternative origins have so far proven unconvincing. Nevertheless, there may be a more direct route by which Ostern could have entered the German language. Much of Germany was converted to Christianity by Anglo-Saxon clerics such as St Boniface (ca. AD 673–754), who could have introduced the Old English name Eastron during the course of their missionary work. This would explain the first appearance of Ostarun in the Abrogans, a late eighth-century Old High German glossary, and does not require any complex linguistic arguments or the existence of a Germanic goddess Ostara.

I have to admit I don’t understand the consternation that occurs every year (mostly in Christian Middle Earth) about Easter. Folks, there’s nothing wrong with remembering the resurrection. You’re celebrating an event and its meaning, not a term. And, as the article notes well, the term would have meant something that wasn’t pagan to those in whose language it arose.

As we discussed at length on the Naked Bible podcast in relation to Christmas, the reason that people in antiquity cared about a date or used a term is often lost to history or usurped and made to serve a different cause than its origin intended. Fixating on a contemporary, unfavorable connotation of the term “Easter” (due to its regular flogging) is like fixating on the Crusades to justify anti-Christian ideas. Even f the term had some pagan association (again, see the article — that’s dubious), why should we care if the content of the celebration is biblical? How about some biblical illustrations …

1) Josh 18:28; Judg 9:10-11; 1 Chron 11:4-5 (“redeeming” a pagan site) – When David conquered the pagan capital of Jebus (the Jebusites were targeted for removal in the conquest) and renamed it Jerusalem did he sin? I don’t think so. Maybe we should start a movement intolerant of anachronisms. What a work for God that would be.

2) The reverse (not re-naming a pagan site) – an excerpt from that book I’m working on about biblical astral-theology:

In Joshua 19:49-50 we read of Joshua’s retirement:

49 When they had finished distributing the several territories of the land as inheritances, the people of Israel gave an inheritance among them to Joshua the son of Nun. 50 By command of the Lord they gave him the city that he asked, Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim. And he rebuilt the city and settled in it.

The point of interest is where Joshua retires—a city he requested—Timnath-seraḥ. After Joshua’s death he is buried in this city. The record of this burial in Josh 24:30 spells the city the same was as Josh 19:50. These are the only two verses in the Hebrew Bible that record this place name with this spelling. But in Judges 2:8-9 note the alternative spelling of the name:

And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of 110 years. And they buried him within the boundaries of his inheritance in Timnath-ḥeres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash.

Here the city name is spelled Timnath-ḥeres. The consonants of the last element of the place name are the reverse of what we see in Joshua 19:50 (Timnath-seraḥ). Why should we care? Because the word ḥeres is another word for “sun” (as opposed to the more common shemesh). In Job 9:7 it is God who “commands the sun (ḥeres), while in Judg 14:18 Samson’s riddle lasted until the seventh day when the sun (ḥeres) went down. The name of the city Timnath-ḥeres literally means “portion of the sun.” Why would Joshua ask for a city that was apparently dedicated to the sun as his retirement inheritance?

3) The Angel of Yahweh didn’t give Samson’s parents a name for the promised child, nor did God change Samson’s name after his parents bestowed it:

From the same book as above:

The issue of sun worship crops up a bit later in the story of Samson (Hebrew: shimshon; šimšôn) The discerning reader might have seen that the consonants of Samson’s name (shimshon) are the same as the word for sun (shemesh). The added –on is what is known as a diminutive construction in Hebrew, a suffix that makes its noun “little” in terms of meaning. The name “Samson” literally means “little sun.” Block notes in this regard:

Although names were chosen for a variety of reasons in biblical times, it is not clear what we are to make of the name Samson. It consists of the Hebrew word for sun, šemeš, with the diminutive ending, -ôn, hence Šimšôn, “little sun” [“sunny-boy!”]. A variety of explanations for the name have been proposed. It is tempting to give the name a positive spin as a celebration of the ray of light the birth of this boy represented in the dark days of the judges. Some have suggested it was given in anticipation of his “sunlike” strength. A more common view links the name with the solar cult, which provides the background for the Samson narratives. Strong support for this interpretation is found in the fact that Samson’s name incorporates the same element as Beth-Shemesh (lit. “house of Shemesh”), the name of an important town just a few miles from Zorah and Eshtaol down the Sorek Valley, once the focal point of sun worship. The interpretation of the Samson narratives as a whole as an adaptation of a solar myth seems forced, but it still seems best to find in the name a memory of the sun god, Shemesh. Theophoric names involving Shemesh / Shamash were common in the ancient Near East and are exemplified in the Old Testament by Shimshai in Ezra 4:8.[1]

I would agree with Block’s caution about not reading too much into the story itself, but the sun elements are certainly not trivial. For sure Samson cannot be regarded as a shining example of orthodox Yahweh worship, and we know next to nothing about his parents, who gave the name to their son. At the very least it seems clear that by this time in Israel’s history some sort of cultic dedication to the sun had taken hold.

[1] Daniel Isaac Block, Judges, Ruth (vol. 6; The New American Commentary; Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 416–418. Block notes in a footnote found within this section: “According to Josh 19:41; 21:16, Ir/Beth Shemesh was allotted to the tribe of Dan. But Judg 1:34–36 reports the Danites were unable to conquer this territory. As noted at 1:35, the name הַר חֶרֶס, “Sun Mountain,” which occurs only there in the OT, may be associated with Beth-Shemesh (cf. 1 Sam 6:9–15; 1 Kgs 4:9). Beth-Shemesh is identified with modern Tell er-Rumeilah, sixteen miles west of Jerusalem.

I could go on but the post doesn’t need to be long. Why wasn’t a place name like Beth-Shemesh ever condemned? Renamed? And these sorts of passages are the tip of the iceberg. The only rationale conclusion is that neither God nor the biblical writers cared about the terms. They cared about believing loyalty.

So, can we stop getting hung up on proper nouns like “Easter” and focus on the message? I suspect that in today’s Christian Middle Earth, this bickering is ultimately going to land in the Hebrew Roots neighborhood. But why don’t the Hebrew Roots folks adopt biblical names like Timnath-ḥeres and Beth-Shemesh (and plenty of others) for their fellowships? It’s likely because those are Hebrew “forbidden terms” and they don’t want people to know that.

Again, doctrinal meaning trumps proper nouns. If all you do this weekend when you’re talking to either Christians or non-Christians is bring up your distaste for the name to let people know you’re deep because you’re into Hebrew stuff, or feel the need to telegraph to anyone listening that you avoid the term “Easter” because of its “pagan associations,” you’ve entirely missed the reason for the day.

He is risen no matter what you call the day (or not). That should be the subject of conversation. The Great Commission isn’t about purifying vocabulary. Its about sharing the message of the cross and the resurrection.