Easter/Passover Debate - Whitby 664 AD
The British Church did not observe Rome's Easter
This Easter and Passover controversy is also known in church history as the Quartadeciman Controversy and is even mentioned in the Roman Catholic Encyclopedia. Philip Schaff in his second volume [of 8] goes into some detail regarding all the history of this controversy between the Christians of Asia Minor and those of Rome. Schaff takes up pages 209 to 220 in his second volume to explain all the details of this controversy between Asia Minor and Rome. The debate went on for some centuries, but Rome finally dominated the world with Easter.From the book "A History of the English Church and People" by Bede FOREWORD and added comments by Keith Hunt The book by Bede is still in print and available through your Bible Book Store. The "Introduction" by Leo Sherley-Price is most revealing, as it admits that the practices of the British Church were in many ways far different from that of Rome, yet in time the Church of Rome dominated and all the "closer to the truth practices" of the British church were finally extinguished in those Isles we call Britain. A turning point in favor of the Roman Church was the Synod of Whitby in 664 AD. Bede recorded in his "History" the interesting debate that took place. Here it is with my added comments throughout. THE SYNOD OF WHITBY - 664 AD King Oswy opened by observing that all who served the ONE God should observe one rule of life, and since they all hoped for one kingdom in heaven, they should not differ in celebrating the sacraments of heaven. The synod now had the task of determining which was the truer tradition, and this should be loyally accepted by all. He then directed his own bishop Colman to speak first, and to explain his own rite and its origin. Colman said: "Thee Easter customs which I observe were taught me by my superiors, who sent me here as a bishop; and all our forefathers, men beloved of God, are known to have observed these customs. And lest anyone condemn or reject them as wrong, it is recorded that they owe their origin to the blessed evangelist Saint John, the disciple specially loved by our Lord, and all the churches over which he presided." (This is indeed what church history of the SECOND century also tells us, in that Polycarp stated to the bishop of Rome, in their debate over the time to observe our Lord's death, that he was taught by John the apostle, who always observed it on the 14th of the first month in the Jewish calendar - Keith Hunt) When he had concluded these and similar arguments, the king directed Agilbert to explain the origin and authority of his own customs. Agilbert replied: "May I request that my disciple the priest Wilfrid be allowed to speak in my place? For we are both in full agreement with all those here present who support the traditions of our Church, and he can explain our view in the English language more competently and clearly than I can do through an interpreter." When Wilfrid had received the king's command to speak, he said: "Our Easter customs are those that we have seen universally served in Rome where the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul lived, taught, suffered, and are buried. We have also seen the same customs generally observed throughout Italy and Gaul when we travelled through these countries for study and prayer. Furthermore, we have learnt that Easter is observed by men of different nations and languages at one and the same time, in Africa, Asia, Egypt, Greece, and throughout the world wherever the Church of Christ has spread. The only people who stupidly contend against the whole world are these Scots and their partners in obstinacy the Picts and Britons, who inhabit a portion of these the two uttermost islands of the ocean." (Of course Wilfrid was very correct here in stating that Easter was observed in all parts of the world, where the Christian Gospel had gone, for Easter was of great antiquity in the pagan nations. A full study of Easter celebrations can be found on my Website - Keith Hunt) In reply to this statement, Colman answered: "It is strange that you call us stupid when we uphold customs that rest on the authority of so great an Apostle, who was considered worthy to lean on our Lord's breast, and whose great wisdom is acknowledged throughout the world." Wilfrid replied: Far be it from us to charge John with stupidity, because he literally observed the Law of Moses at a time when the Church followed many Jewish practices, and the Apostles were not able immediately to abrogate the observances of the Law once given by God, lest they gave offence to believers who were Jews (whereas idols, on the other hand, being inventions of the Devil, must be renounced by all converts). For this reason Paul circumcised Timothy, offered sacrifice in the Temple, and shaved his head at Corinth with Aquila and Priscilla, for no other reason than that of avoiding offence to the Jews. For James said to Paul: 'Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law.' But today, as the Gospel spreads throughout the world, it is unnecessary and indeed unlawful for the faithful to be circumcised or to offer animals to God in sacrifice. John, following the custom of the Law, used to be begin the Feast of Easter on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month, not caring whether it fell on the Sabbath or on any other day. (Interesting here to note Wilfrid knew that John observed the Lord's death on the "evening" of the 14th day, yes, just as Jesus did when He observed His last one with His disciples as recorded in the Gospels. Also note that the same old argument that if you do "anything" from the Law of Moses you do it to appease the Jews only. Yes, it is the old argument from the early second century that many of these "observances" were merely "ceremonial" and "Jewish" while the NT Gospel did away with all them and established new days and feasts to observe. It is the original RC Church teaching - that they, with the Pope as the line of succession from the apostle Peter, have the authority from God to change "the times and seasons and laws" - Keith Hunt) But Peter, when he preached in Rome, remembering it was on the day after the Sabbath that our Lord rose from the dead and gave the world the hope of resurrection, realized that Easter should be kept as follows: like John, in accordance with the Law, he waited for moonrise on the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month. And if the Lord's Day, then called the morrow of the Sabbath, fell on the following day, he began to observe Easter the same evening, as we all do today. But, if the Lord's Day did not fall on the day following the fourteenth day of the moon, but on the sixteenth, seventeenth, or any other day up to the twenty-first, he waited until that day, and on the Sabbath evening preceding it he began the observance of the Easter Festival. (This is of course utterly false and a plain lie from Wilfrid, for there is NOTHING that even comes close to proving in all recorded history in the Christian church and its writings, even from the so-called "church fathers" that state the apostle Peter ever practiced or taught such a things as what Wilfrid just stated Peter did. In all my studies over the last 40 years in Church History, I have never read anywhere, from anyone, that Peter practiced such an observance of the Lord's death, or Passover, or Easter, or what ever other name you want to call that Spring Feasts - Keith Hunt) This evangelical and apostolical tradition does not abrogate but fulfil the Law, which ordained that the Passover be kept between the eve of the fourteenth and twenty-first days of the moon of that month. (Again, Wilfrid tries to make out that Peter's observance of the Lord's death could be anytime BETWEEN the 14th and 21st days of the first month in the Jewish calendar. This is all very sloppy Biblical scholarship. For the OT or law of Moses clearly states the Passover is on the evening of the 14th and the Feast of Unleavened Bread is from the beginning of the 15th to the end of the 21st day of the first month. There was NOTHING in the OT to state you could pick ANY day between the 14th and 21st to celebrate the "Passover" or the Lord's death. But such do people reason who think they have the weight of all the world - where the RC Church had gone - to back them up. It becomes easy to make up your own "theology" as you go along. It would seem Colman just did not have the wisdom to see the gross error Wilfrid was teaching, or he did not have the backbone to speak up LOUDLY against such false Biblical understanding and show that the apostle Peter would NEVER have developed such a practice as Wilfrid was making out that Peter did - Keith Hunt) And this is the custom of all successors of blessed John in Asia since his death and is also that of the world-wide Church. This is the true and only Easter to be observed by the faithful. (Hummm....sounds like the "theology" that arose in another world- wide church, under a man named Herbert W. Armstrong - a theology that stated, "We are the only faithful, and I, as inspired of God, as the leader of God's faithful, will tell you what to practice, be it according to the Scriptures or not" - Keith Hunt) It was not newly decreed by the Council Nicaea, but reaffirmed by it, as Church history records. (True per se, for Easter observance in the Roman Church began in the early 2nd century, that is why Polycarp and Polycrates, who came after Polycarp, went to Rome to debate the Easter/Passover date issue with their respective bishops of Rome in their life time - Polycarp and Polycrates were bishops in Asia Minor and practiced what was taught to them by John the apostle - a 14th day observance of the Lord's death in the first month of the Jewish calendar - Keith Hunt) It is quite apparent, Colman, that you follow neither the example of John, as you imagine, nor that of Peter, whose tradition you deliberately contradict. Your keeping of Easter agrees neither with the Law nor with the Gospel. For John who kept Easter in accordance with the decrees of Moses, did not keep to first day after the Sabbath; this is not your practice, for you keep Easter between the fifteenth and twenty-first days of the moon, you do not, for you keep it between fourteenth and twentieth days of the moon. As a result, you often begin Easter on the evening of the thirteenth day, which is not mentioned in the Law. Nor did our Lord, the Author and Giver of the Gospels, eat the old Passover or institute the Sacrament of the New Testament to be celebrated by the Church in memory of His Passion on that day, but on the fourteenth. (Here we begin to see some of the ERRORS of the then British church. Over the SIX centuries they had indeed fallen away into some error on this issue and observance of our Savior's death. When a people do this, be it by carelessness or by any other means, the ones who are also in error have a readily made "crack in the wall" to further their denunciation of what truth is remaining by those who are somewhat closer to the truth, yet also in error on parts of that truth - Keith Hunt) Furthermore, when you keep Easter, you totally exclude the twenty-first day, which the Law of Moses particularly ordered to be observed. Therefore, I repeat, you follow neither John nor Peter, the Law nor the Gospel, in your keeping of our greatest Festival. (And it was indeed true, the British Church had wandered from the straight and narrow way, and had so fallen into error that made their observance of the Passover or Lord's death, neither by the standards of the Old or New Testament- Keith Hunt) Colman in reply said: Do you maintain that Anatolius, a holy man highly spoken of in Church history, taught contrary to the Law and the Gospel, when he wrote that Easter should be kept between the fourteenth and twentieth days of the moon? Are we to believe that our most revered Father Columba and his successors, men so dear to God, thought or acted contrary to Holy Scripture when they followed this custom? The holiness of many of them is confirmed by heavenly signs, and their virtues by miracles; and having no doubt that they are Saints, I shall never cease to emulate their lives, customs, and discipline. (Oh my, what a wrong mindset Colman had allowed himself and others in the British Church to wander into. It is one of the sure ways into error, even if you have a basic truth. God can use and even show He is using and working with, men that are not all infallible in their beliefs and customs, God allowing them to not see all truth on all points of His word, in their life time. God allows this, He reveals truth as He wills, sometimes it is for other servants of His to find more truth on things that ones before them did not find all truth on. To put yourself into the mindset as what Colman had put himself into, is to surely trip up and fall on your face as you basically try to hold to the faith once delivered to the saints - Keith Hunt) It is well established that Anatolius was a most holy, learned, and praiseworthy man, answered Wilfrid; but how can you claim his authority when you do not follow his directions? For he followed the correct rule about Easter, and observed a cycle of nineteen years; but either you do not know of this general custom of the Christian Church, or else you ignore it. He calculated the fourteenth day of the moon at Easter according to the Egyptian method, counting it in the evening as the fifteenth day; similarly, he assigned the twentieth to Easter Sunday, regarding it after sunset as the twenty-first day. But it appears that you do not realize this distinction, since you sometimes keep Easter before full moon, that is, on the thirteenth day. And with regard to your Father Columba and his followers, whose holiness you claim to imitate and whose rules and customs you claim to have been supported by heavenly signs, I can only say that when many shall say to our Lord at the day of judgement: "Have we not prophesied in Thy name, and cast out devils, and done many wonderful works?" the Lord will reply, "I never knew you." Far be it from me to apply these words to your fathers; for it is more just to believe good rather than evil of those whom one does not know. So I do not deny that they were true servants of God and dear to Him, and that they loved Him in primitive simplicity but in devout sincerity. Nor do I think that their ways of keeping Easter were seriously harmful so long as no one came to show them a more perfect way to follow. Indeed, I feel certain that, if any Catholic reckoner had come to them, they would readily have accepted his guidance, as we know that they readily observed such of God's ordinances as they already knew. (A great deal of "savvy" as we say used here by Wilfrid. He knew the British Church had errors and mistakes in their observance of when to observe the Lord's death. He could see the contradictions in their "theological approach" to the issue, and with some "kind" psychological charm, could make the debate swing favourably in his Roman Catholic Church's direction to all those listening to this debate. By using their weakest links Wilfrid could then bring out the pomposity of the Church of Rome being superior in Biblical understanding. Where truth is not fully followed, or where there is no more "growing in grace and knowledge" but only a looking to the outside of "men's lives" as Colman had done towards some of his great men of God from the past ages in his British Church, it is the surest way to destroy what truth there might be remaining, as in this instance, for the Church of Rome did finally succeed in implanting their observance of Easter and Sunday all over the British Isles, over the next 3 or 4 centuries - Keith Hunt) But you and your colleagues are most certainly guilty of sin if you reject the Apostolic See, indeed of the universal Church, which are confirmed by Holy Writ. For, although your Fathers were holy men, do you imagine that they, a few men in a corner of a remote island, are to be preferred before the universal Church of Christ throughout the world? And even if your Columba - or, may I say, ours also if he was the servant of Christ - was a Saint potent in miracles, can he take precedence before the most blessed Prince of the Apostles, to whom our Lord said: "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, and I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven"? (Now, Wilfrid thought it was the right time to bring in the upper cut to the jaw of Colman. He now knew that Colman was not much of a debater and did not have the understanding of the Scriptures to cause any "come-back" with what he was now going to throw up to him. He knew he could now hit him below the belt, with this final discourse he hurdled out to him and everyone standing by - Keith Hunt) When Wilfrid had ended, the king asked: Is it true, Colman, that these words were spoken to that Peter by our Lord?' He answered: It is true, Your Majesty. Then the king said: Can you show that a similar authority was given to your Columba? No, replied Colman. Do you both agree, (the king continued), that these words were indisputably addressed to Peter in the first place, and that our Lord gave him the keys of the kingdom of heaven? Both answered 'We do.' At this, the king concluded: Then, I tell you, Peter is guardian of the gates of heaven, and I shall not contradict him. I shall obey his commands in everything to the best of my knowledge and ability; otherwise, when I come to the gates of heaven, there may be no one to open them, because he who holds the keys has turned away. When the king said this, all present, both high and low, signified their agreement and, abandoning their imperfect customs, hastened to adopt those which they had learned to be better. .............. So it was, the part truth that the British Church had on celebrating the death of our Lord Jesus, was mainly abandoned from that day forward. It was to be another 500 years before the 7th day Sabbath of the British Church was finally extinguished from Britain. Many small pockets of people in the hills and valley of Wales and Scotland, held on to this truth, but the day did come when the nation was fully drunk with the wine of the spiritual fornication of the Woman who rode the beast (Revelation 17).
Schaff has this on volume two page 218: "In the course of the third century the Roman practice gained ground everywhere in the East, and, to anticipate the result, was established by the council of Nicaea in 325 as the law of the whole church. This council considered it unbecoming in Christians to follow the usage of the unbelieving, hostile Jews, and ordained that Easter should always be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon succeeding the vernal equinox (March 21), and always after the Jewish passover. If the full moon occurs on a Sunday, Easter-day is the Sunday after. By this arrangement Easter may take place as early as March 22, or as late as April 25. Henceforth the Quartadecimanians were universally regarded as heretic, and were punished as such. The Synod of Antioch, 341, excommunicated them......The last traces of it disappeared in the sixth century....."
Yes it was not until Rome spiritually conquered Britain, after 664 A.D. that the 14th observers were no more, except for a very few in the hills and valleys of Britain and Europe, who kept the faith once delivered to the saints. And now today the 14th observers are in the tens of thousands around the world, and as God's truth marches on, more and more will be added to the true Church of God.
I personally am working with 3 ministers in India who are part of the new generation of God's church, who teach and proclaim the Passover observance on the 14th of the first month of God's calendar. And the feast of Un-leavened Bread from the 15th to the 21st of the month.
Jesus said He would build His church [though it would be the "little flock" "the salt of the earth"] and the gates of the grave would never prevail against it.