A few times every nineteen years, the conflict in the Jewish and Christian dating methods of Passover and Resurrection Day result in the separation of those celebrations. This year marks one of those unfortunate occurrences.
Since the crucifixion and resurrection of our Messiah, and the observance of Passover are intrinsically aligned biblically, obviously their timetable should be concurrent. However, there are two key factors which have created a conundrum.
First, the Hebrew calendar, as established by God, is based on the lunar year. This requires leap years (this year is one) that add an extra month to adjust to the solar year calendar. So while the Passover always occurs on the fourteenth of Nisan, the first month on the Hebrew calendar, it falls on a different day every year on the world’s secular (Gregorian) calendar.
Secondly, and more importantly, is the position taken by the Roman Emperor Constantine in 325 AD as he dramatically altered Christianity from its Jewishness. Constantine, known as the first Roman ruler to become a Christian, had an extreme dislike of the Jewish people. When he convened a huge gathering of religious leaders at the Council of Nicaea, one of his goals was the separation of Resurrection Day from Passover.
Up until that time, the calculation for the celebration of the Resurrection was dependent on the Jewish leaders’ provision of the appropriate date.
At the Nicaean Council, a non-Passover reckoning of the day was instituted. It was ordained that Easter (which is an English word not in use in those days) should be celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Spring (Vernal) Equinox, therefore always between March 22nd and April 25th.
Here is a sample of Constantine’s position, taken from historical documentation of his writings about this issue. Bold lettering has been added for emphasis.
First of all, it appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast we should follow the practice of the Jews, who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin, and are, therefore, deservedly afflicted with blindness of soul. For we have it in our power, if we abandon their custom, to prolong the due observance of this ordinance to future ages by a truer order, which we have preserved from the very day of the passion until the present time. Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd, for we have received from our Savior a different way.
We should note, this method of determining the date typically fits with the observance of Passover, except in years like 2024. Indeed, this year, because of the differences in date calculations, the joyous holiday of Purim will be held only a week before Easter. Passover will come a little more than three weeks after Resurrection Day. Oy Vey, such a dilemma.