In our work, There Is No Such Thing as a Conservative-Republican Christian: Jesus is a small-c communist, we wrote, "Passover begins at sundown on the 15th day of the lunar month of Nisan." Well, we'd like to express here that that statement is based upon the current practice of non-Christian Jews and not necessarily one that must be observed by real Christians.
For Christian followers in spiritual continuity with saint Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna on the Aegean coast of Anatolia (now Turkey), who was martyred AD 153 and was Johnnine (a disciple of the Apostle John) rather than a Pauline Roman Catholic (who were those who decided by Imperial Roman committee with the emperor Constantine having absolute veto power), the Christian Passover starts on the 14th day of Nisan at sunset. In this Johnnine observation, the Last Supper (the first Holy Communion; the last meal Jesus took with his closest disciples before his crucifixion) was not the date of the Passover meal as observed by the Pharisees (15 Nisan). However, the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) have the Last Supper as 15 Nisan.
If the John who wrote the Gospel is John the Apostle (and the author is quoted in the Gospel as saying that that particular Gospel was written by the disciple whom Jesus loved), then the author was there at that last meal.
It is said that Polycarp was taught directly by the Apostle John. It is from the history of Polycarp as recorded by the church historian bishop Eusebius (AD 275-339), among others, that we understand why 14 Nisan was observed.
Regarding John and Smyrna (the city of bishop Polycarp), consider the following:
I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death. (Revelation 2:9-11).
Regardless, it was though the new Passover of the New Testament. It didn't negate the Exodus Passover. It fulfilled it. That Passover in Exodus foreshadowed Jesus. The whole Old Testament foreshadows Jesus and real Christianity.
In this stream, Christians remember the Last Supper, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and Pentecost all based upon the Hebrew's lunar calendar as observed by the earliest Christians.
The reason any of this is significant is for the sake of spiritual continuity of the revelation of the Holy Spirit to human kind. If the story line is lost, then some of the enlightening impact can become hidden. This than is harmful and results from the hardening of hearts. It is a circular thing, meaning hardening hearts suffer and hardening hearts cause suffering. The cure is to head in the other direction, which is softening and necessarily requires understanding of that spiritual continuity.
So, who's right? Who's observing correctly?
If you want to delve into this subject and create various calendars based upon the different interpretations and traditions that have come down, you will want to include in your research the following terms: Passover, Quartodecimanism, Polycarp, Gregorian calendar, and where those will lead you.
It is vital for Christians to see and understand the continuity of message inherent in the Exodus of Israel, the Passover, and the life message of Jesus Christ (Yahoshua Mashiyach: God Saves the Anointed One).
The story of the Exodus and the story of Jesus go hand-in-hand. They inform each other. This is the real Christian approach. The Israelites were escaping bondage in Egypt. The Christians are escaping bondage to evil. These are steps in enlightenment. One never stops learning.
Regardless of any system one may settle upon, a crucial thing to remember is that the whole point of the revelation is to bring one to bringing forth. Remembering the stories is only as good as the fruit it bears. Remembering (observing) is to remember to bring forth. It is not to be turned into an exercise disconnected from the commandment to feed the lambs and sheep.
It must be understood that real Jews are real Christians. It was the false-hearted Israelites who murdered Jesus.
As for why the change from Passover to Easter, there's a great deal to it. Easter was already celebrated in much of the Roman Empire as the beginning of spring, when the Sun started coming back in the Northern Hemisphere and when the growing season began again. It was tying in the spiritual with the natural. God does provide through nature, but isn't limited to what is commonly termed nature. That's where the conflict arises. Those who celebrated Easter didn't necessarily tie in Easter with righteousness but rather tied it in with carnal lusting. Spring was a time of birth in nature and that was taken as a sexually stimulating sign.
Also, Mithraism was popular in the Roman military at the time, and Jesus seemed to many to be the real thing. Mithra was an ancient Persian god of light. There are heavy Zoroastrian overtones in Mithraism.
Zoroaster or Zarathustra was a sixth century BC Persian mystical prophet whose beliefs influenced the Israelites especially during their Babylonian exile. The Persians were big on the cosmic struggle between the forces of light and the forces of dark.
It is helpful if one keeps in mind that Persia is geographically between Mesopotamia and India.
The Zend-Avesta of Persia is in contradiction to the Vedas of India. This same contradiction is found in The Bible. There are places in The Bible where God is claimed as the one force that is both light and dark (meaning there is no separate personality known as Satan with any supernatural powers, per se). One may also correctly interpret portions of The Bible as claiming that such is not the case. Only the Holy Spirit sorts this out for individuals.
As Real Liberal Christians, we believe that it is understood contextually. We spell this out in detail in our work, There Is No Such Thing as a Conservative-Republican Christian: Jesus is a small-c communist.
One may see the same theme of light versus dark running heavily through the Gospel of John though it is by no means inconsistent with the other Gospels. The Gospel of Matthew for instance refers to the Magi (wise men) from the East who came to see Jesus shortly after his birth. They were stargazers (astrologers) who saw in the mundane heavens (realm of the stars; the cosmos) the divine sign that a king had been born in Israel as foretold by the prophet Micah.
But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. (Micah 5:2).
Now, the Roman church and the Roman emperor Constantine distanced themselves from the Old Testament and deliberately created parallels between Jesus and Sun-god worship to use the new religion (Christianity) as a tool for consolidating worldly Empire. The Roman Empire had been broken up. Constantine rejoined it. The Christians had been the persecuted, and now the misguided relished the coercive power of Constantine's Empire. It was a marriage of convenience.
Constantine railed against the Jews to get his newly consolidated followers to do what would be best for increasing the integration of his far flung (spread out) regime. He, however, didn't bring forth.
For all practical purposes, he set up his Empire for persecuting the Jews regardless of the individual spirits involved. This became the practice of invidious discrimination against the bloodline of Jacob (of which Jesus and his Apostles were a part). This is not to say that Constantine would not accept Jews who converted to, or mouthed, Constantine's own way of thinking. It is to say that he didn't take enough care to emphasize the difference concerning only those particular descendants of Jacob who were of the viperous spirit and who murdered Jesus. It was those particular descendants who were blameworthy (yet whom Jesus forgave on the cross, as the truly merciful soul that he was and is). By not so differentiating and emphatically qualifying, Constantine set up his Empire for persecuting. In any case, all persecution remains evil.
This by no means excuses those Jews who continued rejecting Jesus's message. They were, and still are, wrong.
Constantine though was full of half-truths. We don't judge him or condemn him, but we don't follow him wholesale. He was the leader of his church. It is his lead that his church has followed. Again, this is not to say that there is nothing redeeming among the Roman Catholics. There are numerous Roman Catholics who are earnestly trying. They just need more light.
They all must come to realize that it was Constantine's co-optation of Christianity that perverted the message away from pacifism to war. That was perhaps the greatest conjuring of evil since Jesus's crucifixion. It is a large part of why we still confront the total error that is the "just war." It's why Bush, Cheney, et al., have so far gotten away with the Iraq War. If everyone had already known that there is no justice in any war, no one would have gone to fight. No innocent blood would be on American hands.
The very argument that Constantine used to persuade the church to reject the use of the Jewish dating of Passover for the remembrance of Jesus is the very reason to reject Constantine's own arguments. He said that the Jews were vile for what they did and for what they still reject so we ought not to follow anything they do; yet, Constantine took the church into war after war, which is vile. Therefore, by his own logic (hypocrisy), we ought not to follow Constantine in anything he did. Of course, we ought to follow the part that is true, just as Jesus warned the people to follow the true part of the Pharisees' partial-truths.
All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not. (Matthew 23:3).
War is evil. It is offense. It is harm. In the flesh, it "must" come, but woe to those who bring it. It must come, because of those who won't/can't accept Jesus as he really was, and is (pacifistic; peaceful), as the right and only model for humanity. It must come, because of those who are materialists only, matterists only, who reject the spirit that rises above the flesh. It is part of the unfolding plan of salvation for those who will overcome the flesh. Remember that Jesus said the spirit can be willing but the flesh is weak. Consider what that means in this context of Constantine leading the world astray into warfare, subverting the faith away from the spirit of peace. It is the age-old tug of war between light and dark, just as stated above.
Constantine used Jesus to build Constantine's bloody empire against the pacifism of Jesus.
Regardless, while there were those of the descendants of Jacob who were severely misled and hypocritical, not all of his descendants were so. Therefore, those descendants who accepted Jesus on Jesus's terms, who strove to bring forth, and who continued to observe the Passover as Jesus, himself, had, were far from deserving of condemnation as "Jews." As we said above, Jesus was a Jew.
None of this is to say that Constantine didn't have it in mind that he was referring only to those whom Jesus was referring to as the "hypocrites." It is to say that the same light must be shined within in the act of personal soul searching to obtain the Holy Spirit of conscience rather than the evil conscience that is Satan's (confusion about right and wrong).
Let us say as Real Liberal Christians that Quartodecimanians are not heretics on account of their Quartodecimanism. If they remember Jesus on the 14th day of Nisan in continuity with the Passover of the Exodus and the Johnnine Gospel, there is nothing wrong with that. If it leads them to execute the new commandment to love each other as Jesus loved his disciples and all that Jesus was implying and stating openly, honestly, directly, clearly, and plainly throughout his ministry, then that is the greatest thing they can do.
The important thing is that Jesus was the Passover lamb. Which method most makes that connection clear, the Roman "Easter" or the Jewish "Passover"?
The object of Jesus is for us to have the law (the great commandment in exactly what it really means) written on our hearts so that we will do the law always. This then fulfills all legal observances. It is the spirit of the law, which is the real letter of the law (purged of all possible hypocrisy).
So, do we follow the sun or the moon or both? Following the moon, as the Jews do, is what Polycarp did after the Apostle John, who was there with Jesus. Following the sun first and then the moon is what the Roman Catholics dictated to the world.
Easter Sunday is the first Sunday which occurs after the first fourteenth day of the moon and following the 21st of March (the first day of spring, the vernal equinox, as declared at the time by the Romans) by the Gregorian calendar. The earliest possible date of Easter is 22 March, the latest 25 April.
Now, all of this was to 1) distance the church as much as possible from the Jews and 2) build up the centralization of the church under the worldly authority of the Roman Empire and emperor. However, in so doing, the import of what the message of Jesus was to mean in terms of those Jews and for the rest of the world was diminished. That was Satan's desire. Losing continuity aids in losing other implications. It distracts from the requirement to bring forth. It obfuscates. It gets the people arguing over those things that won't matter if the people don't bring forth. It is the opposite of the path of salvation and overcoming.
What did Constantine do?
He spent huge sums of money building ornate church buildings. He coerced into existence a great faÃ§ade of piety about the Empire. He did pay some attention on occasion to the poor, but he did not do what Jesus told Peter to do that was feed the lambs and sheep. He misdirected the emphasis of the churches, which consequently fell into apostasy.
It is wrong, and always has been, to do anything more than speak the truth and act in truth and let that be sufficient. It is wrong and always has been to coerce through threats and violence. True unity is not forced. It is only gained by the attraction of real love, which is not forced.