Is the Name "Easter" of Pagan Origin?

The modern controversy over the name Easter, when used in association with the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus, is interesting, to say the least. The controversy seems to have blossomed at the beginning of the twentieth century and has caused many disturbances through the years. Examining this question is important to many Christians who do not wish to mix the worship of false gods with their worship of the only true God. As discussed in the previous article, the date of Easter has been claimed to follow pagan feasts. However, this claim falls flat when examined against the record of history. The name and symbols used in the celebration of the Resurrection have faced similar claims, and we should examine these with the same rigor.

The Claims of Pagan Origin

According to various sources, the name Easter has its origin with a goddess of the Anglo-Saxons named Eostre (also Estre, Estara, Eastre, Ostara, and similar spellings in various sources). It is believed that she is the goddess of the dawn and was worshipped in the spring by pagans in Northern Europe and the British Isles. In The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop claimed Eostre is actually a name derived from the Babylonian goddess Astarte. Hislop extended this connection to include goddesses from around the world: Ishtar, Ashtoreth, Venus, and others. In fact, Hislop argued that all of the systems of gods and goddesses find their origin with Nimrod and his wife Semiramis at the Tower of Babel. Thus, every primary god is a figure of Nimrod, and every primary goddess is a figure of Semiramis.

Similar claims are made by Ralph Woodrow in his 1966 book Babylon Mystery Religion, but Woodrow drew heavily on Hislop's work to support his claims. The thesis of each of these books is to connect the modern practices of the Roman Catholic Church to the idolatrous worship of various gods. While many of the claims in the books are sound, the connection of Eostre to these other goddesses is tenuous at best.

To those who have used Woodrow's early work, please note that he has changed his position on many of the conclusions in the book. Woodrow has stopped circulating his early work and replaced it with an updated title The Babylon Connection? To demonstrate some of the false conclusions concerning pagan connections proposed by Hislop, Woodrow explains:

By this method, one could take virtually anything and do the same — even the "golden arches" at McDonald's! The Encyclopedia Americana (article: "Arch") says the use of arches was known in Babylon as early as 2020 B.C. Since Babylon was called "the golden city" (Isa. 14:4), can there be any doubt about the origin of the golden arches? As silly as this is, this is the type of proof that has been offered over and over about pagan origins.

Hislop's logic becomes incomprehensible in places, and he made fundamental errors demonstrating his thinking to be false. For instance, he argued on a phonetic basis that Eostre from Saxony must be the same as Astarte, Ishtar, and Ashtoreth. This is a leap to consider their relationships based on the sound of the names alone. We might find many examples of words that sound the same in various languages but share no common root or meaning. Hislop attempted to make other connections, but they are unconvincing and do not take into consideration the time these goddesses were worshipped or the importance of the confusion of languages at Babel. He also neglected to consider the relationship between the English and German words used today.

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