I am going to assume that most everyone knows the fundamental story of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus, as painted above by Pietro Perugino. So, today we will take a look at a few things that perhaps you do not know. This post was inspired by a blogpost entitled 25 Random Things About the Resurrection, so thanks go to blogger Mike Mennonno.
Note the flag - I had seen this in numerous paintings and gathered that for centuries this has been fairly common, but I did not know the meaning. Apparently Jesus is bearing the standard of resurrection and victory over death, a red cross on a white background. Purportedly the Emperor Constantine saw this in a vision, and thus it became a part of his "Christianity." The flag is often in the left hand such that the right hand is free to give the sign of the cross.
What about the date for Easter, which is not a standardized date? From timeanddate.com
What about the thieves?
Many of us know a bit about the unsavory thieves who were crucified along with Jesus, but did you know that one of them is referred to as Saint Dismas? He is generally called the Penitent Thief or the Good Thief, but in the Gospel of Nicodemus, he is named Dysmas! Similarly, the Impenitent Thief is named Gestas, and note that Gestas is on the left side of Jesus with a devil emerging from his mouth. The Good Thief is on the right side and Jesus is often shown with his head toward the Penitent Thief to symbolize his acceptance of the thief's rebuke of the Impenitent Thief.
And why is Easter called Easter? Turns out that the origin is pretty pagan. "Easter", and the German, "Ostern", derive from the name Eostre, the Germanic Goddess of the Dawn and thus of Spring. Renewal and fertility explain the eggs and bunnies, but I am not sure about the chocolate. A good postulation is that Easter comes at the end of Lent, and obviously folks give up chocolate for lent.....and the most popular Easter candy after chocolate? Peeps of course!! Some trace the tradition of giving eggs at Easter time back to Persians, Egyptians, Gauls, Greeks and Romans, to whom the egg was a symbol of life.
There are some who prefer to call Easter Sunday Resurrection Sunday or Pascha. However, a lot of other countries/languages have their own names for Easter - French - Paques, Spanish - Pascua, Italian - Pasqua, Albanian - Pashke, German - Ostern, Greek - Pascha, Norway - Paaske, Holland - Pasen and Swedish - Pask. Looks like English and German are the outliers!
Interesting tidbit from Mike M - Muslims do not believe that Jesus was crucified and resurrected. According to the Koran: "They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but they thought they did" (Koran 4:156). Some say the person crucified was Titian, whom Judas had sent to kill Jesus. Some say it was Judas, himself. Many early Gnostic sects, the Basilideans among them, believed Simon of Cyrene, who was forced by the Romans to carry the cross of Jesus as Jesus was taken to his crucifixion, was then crucified instead of Jesus.
It seems that quite a few Christians do not know the meaning and significance of INRI. John 19:19-20 states: "And Pilate wrote a title also, and put it on the cross. And there was written, JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. This title therefore read many of the Jews, for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city; and it was written in Hebrew, [and] in Latin, [and] in Greek." And thus the Latin is INRI, Iēsus Nazarēnus, Rēx Iūdaeōrum, and the Greek is ΙΝΒΙ, representing Ἰησοῦς ὁ Ναζωραῖος ὁ Bασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων. The Hebrew acronym is YHMH for ישוע הנצרי מלך היהודים. I think. Sometimes there is a Roman soldier in the scene holding a banner with SPQR, Senatus Populus Que Romanus" or The Roman Senate and People that was presiding over the crucifixions.
And lastly, the Germans take Easter quite seriously. Karfreitag, or Good Friday is a holiday and similar to every Sunday, nearly all shops, banks, businesses and post offices are closed. Interestingly Ostermontag, the Monday after Easter, is also a holiday in all German states and again, most everything is closed.