How much difference does one word make? It isn’t often that a word stirs up as much controversy among otherwise rational Christians than does the word “Easter” as placed in Acts 12:4 in the King James Version of the Bible. Let’s see what that verse says according to the translators of the KJV:
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.
In the context, Herod had already killed James the brother of John, pleasing the crowd before him. Seeing this, he decides to capture Peter as well, and he throws him in jail, intending after Easter to bring him before the people. These events took place during the “days of unleavened bread” (Acts 12:4).
This “Easter” of course is a translation of a Greek word, pascha, which occurs 29 times in the New Testament, and in all but one instance (above), it is translated “Passover.” Only once did the King James translators choose to render the word as “Easter.”
King James Onlyists, such as Terry Watkins of Dial-the-Truth Ministries, may insist that because the KJV is the only translation to rightly translate Acts 12:4, the use of Easter “ends the argument once and for all.”:”(Terry Watkins, according to his homepage as of June 29, 2006.)”:
But is Acts 12:4 the ultimate proof of the KJV’s perfection, or does it contain a mistranslation? It is very possible that the King James Only tradition stands or falls upon this verse. If it is a mistranslation, nothing else the Onlyists say concerning their position matters.
I have looked at the claims of two King James Onlyist defenders, a Mr. Jack A. Moorman and a Dr. Samuel C. Gipp, Th.D. Both men insist that “Easter” is the proper translation of pascha in Acts 12:4, and they both do so for the same reason.
It is precisely in this one passage that “Easter” must be used, and the translation “Passover” would have conflicted with the immediate context. In their rush to accuse the Authorized Version of error many have not taken the time to consider what the passage actually says: “(Then were the days of unleavened bread.)…intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.”
And Dr. Gipp likewise states (emphasis his),
It must also be noted that whenever the passover is mentioned in the New Testament, the reference is always to the meal, to be eaten on the night of April 14th not the entire week. The days of unleavened bread are NEVER referred to as the Passover. (It must be remembered that the angel of the Lord passed over Egypt on one night, not seven nights in a row.
These arguments make sense. If Passover represented the beginning of the Feast (or days) of Unleavened Bread, then it wouldn’t make sense for Herod to be waiting until after the Passover in Acts 12:4 for it had already passed and the Feast of Unleavened Bread was underway.
Dr. Gipp provides numerous scriptures in his attempt to show that the Passover always precedes the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but it can be summed up as he stated above, “The days of unleavened bread are NEVER referred to as the Passover.”
That is an absolute statement. It comes from one with a doctorate in theology. And though many may be inclined to believe it, it is an error, and may be a blatant (may I be so bold?) lie used solely to vindicate the King James Onlyist position.
Forgetting the claims of Moorman and Gipp for a moment, let us turn to the word of God. We’ll use the King James Version so we cannot be accused of using a “faulty version” for this. Watch what God says:
In the first month, in the fourteenth day of the month, ye shall have the passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten.:”(It is very interesting that in all the pro King James Only material I have read concerning the “Easter” issue, I have never seen Ezekiel 45:21 mentioned. Numerous verses are listed showing a distinction between Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, but this verse which combines them is conveniently ignored. I used to be a King James Onlyist, and I was honestly shocked when I stumbled upon Ezekiel 45:21. Should King James Onlyists separate what God has joined together in order to defend their position? NAY!)”: Ezekiel 45:21, emphasis mine
What was that? Did you catch that? How can that be, if the Passover is strictly a one night affair? How can that be if the weeklong feast is separate from the Passover?
God Himself defines the Passover for us as “a feast of seven days,” shattering the claims of Moorman, Gipp, and other KJV Only defenders that the Passover was a single night followed by the days of unleavened bread.
Let the word of God stand on its own:
And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after pascha to bring him forth to the people. Acts 12:4
The previous verse tells us that the Feast of Unleavened Bread was going on. Ezekiel tells us that the Feast of Unleavened Bread is known as Passover. Knowing these things, what do you think Luke was inspired to write in Acts 12:4?
Logic and consistency demands that the Passover is meant in Acts 12:4; there is no contextual reason to assume that Luke meant something different in using pascha than it meant in the other 28 times it is used in the New Testament.
This is an error in the translation of the King James Version, one which has failed to be corrected in the version’s numerous revisions. I am not saying that you should not use a King James Bible or even that you should not believe it is a wonderful and mostly accurate version. It is those things. However, it is not perfect, and you are deceiving yourself (and perhaps others) in thinking so. We do not have a perfect version; only God does, for His word is settled in Heaven.