Is “Easter” a mistranslation in the King James Bible in Acts 12:4?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Critics of our perfect King James Bible attack it using a barrage of complaints (most of these are exaggerations, distortions of facts, and just plain immature, careless, and downright stupid comments). Our 1611 translators are heavily criticized for using the word “Easter” in Acts 12:4—a supposed mistranslation of a word critics say “should be” rendered “Passover” like the modern versions handle it (sounds like a sales pitch!). Were the King James translators in error by using the word “Easter” in God’s Word? Or, did they have a special reason for using it rather than “Passover?” Let us search the Scriptures because they are our final authority—we do not appeal to “scholarship” or church tradition.

The word pascha appears 29 times in the Greek New Testament manuscripts. In 28 of those cases, the King James translators rendered it “Passover” (Matthew 26:2,17,18,19; Mark 14:1,12,14,16; Luke 2:41; Luke 22:1,7,8,11,13,15; John 2:13,23; John 6:4; John 11:55; John 12:1; John 13:1; John 18:28,39; John 19:14; 1 Corinthians 5:7; Hebrews 11:28). Our 1611 translators obviously knew the meaning of pascha—they demonstrated that they were competent in translating it over two-dozen times! Yet, they rendered pascha “Easter” in Acts 12:4, the one and only time they did so. Why not use “Passover” like every other instance? The key is found in verse 3.

Let us begin reading Acts chapter 12 as it is found in the King James Bible: “[1] Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. [2] And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. [3] And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) [4] And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.”

Herod Agrippa I, who reigned A.D. 37-44, troubled certain members of the Messianic Church (Matthew 10:18). In fact, he has the Apostle John’s brother James the apostle slain by the sword. This is noteworthy since Jesus Christ had previously surnamed brothers James and John “Boanerges,” or “The sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). In Scripture, thunder is often associated with God’s voice (2 Samuel 22:14; Job 37:4-5; Job 40:8; Psalm 18:13; Psalm 29:3; John 12:29; Revelation 14:2). In other words, by killing James, Herod is attempting to silence God who was speaking through James! The Jews are pleased that one of God’s apostles, who constantly preached Jesus Christ to unbelieving Israel, is now dead. Herod sees Israel’s joyful reaction to James’ death; seeking popularity with Israel, Herod pursues Peter’s arrest (probably intending to kill him, too).

The parenthetical note, then were the days of unleavened bread” of Acts 12:3 indicates the time of year. According to the Law of Moses, the Feast of Unleavened Bread immediately followed the Passover feast. Passover was Abib 14th / roughly mid-April (Exodus 12:6; Leviticus 23:5) and the Feast of Unleavened Bread lasted from Abib 15th until the 21st (Exodus 12:15-20; Leviticus 23:6-8). The Bible says after the week of Unleavened Bread, Herod arrested and imprisoned Peter. Herod had 16 soldiers (quaternion = four soldiers) guard Peter until Easter had passed, and then he would bring Peter before the people (Israel).

Notice how Acts 12:3 explains that the days of Unleavened Bread, and thus Passover, have already come and gone. Acts 12:4 could not be referring to Passover, unless a full year had passed since verse 3’s Passover (which is highly unlikely). Easter, not Passover, would follow the days of Unleavened Bread. Moreover, Herod is pagan (non-Christian), so he would be celebrating Easter rather than Passover anyway. The King James translators are thereby justified—the modern Bible version translators are those in error (in “correcting” the Bible, they introduced a blatant mistake!).

By the way, in order to cover up the mistake in modern “bible” versions, some have argued that the Feast of Unleavened Bread was also called Passover, so Passover rather than Easter is implied in Acts 12:4. While Luke 22:1 does say that the Feast of Unleavened Bread was called Passover,” that was obviously a colloquial phrase that Israel used—Luke did not write, “it was Passover.” God in His Word never collectively referred to Passover and the week of Unleavened Bread as “Passover.” “Passover” is one night. God did not “pass over” Israel seven nights in a row; He passed one night alone (this night;” Exodus 12:12). Passover, in the strict Bible sense, applied only to one day; not the entire week that followed it. The pro-modern-version “the Days of Unleavened Bread was Passover” argument simply does not work.

“Easter” is the correct translation in Acts 12:4: contrary to what you might expect from our “hard-to-read, archaic, unscholarly” King James Bible, it has the right translation in Acts 12:4! Additionally, the great Bible scholar and translator, William Tyndale (c. 1494–1536), the Christian brother God used most to get the English Bible into our hands, judged that “ester”—not “Passover”—belonged in Acts 12:4 for the verse to make sense. Again, the modern “bibles” have a mistake in Acts 12:4 (including the NKJV and the New American Catholic Bible); the King James Bible is vindicated.

NOTE: One popular study Bible has an interesting footnote at Acts 12:4: “Though Easter does communicate correctly the time of year, the Greek word must be translated Passover.” While the King James Bible communicates the correct time of year by using “Easter,” the editors of this study Bible reassure us that it is still wrong and that pascha must be translated “Passover.” Why must it be translated Passover? It is imperative that the King James Bible be wrong (either way)! If that is not doubletalk, I do not know what is! (I suppose if the King James translators had “Passover” in Acts 12:4, critics would complain that it taught the wrong time of year!)

Also see:
» Can we trust the King James Bible? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» Should Christians observe Passover?
» Should Christians celebrate Easter?