The Dating of Easter

It will soon be Easter again and here in York the church leaders are getting ready for the next open-air Easter baptisms in the city centre.

I think it is only a matter of time before we hear the usual from those who suggest that the business of Easter is sorted out, the dating of it I mean.

As a Christian you may be asked about why Easter is dated as it is. If you are new Christian a simple answer is to say that Easter is the celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ which took place at the Jewish passover festival. Passover is dated according to lunar months so it will be different every year as calendar months and lunar months do not coincide.

Full Moon

If you want to give the full answer, and don’t mind seeing their eyes glaze over, just say the following:

There is a real moon and an ecclesiastical moon. Easter is dated from the ecclesiastical new moon. The ecclesiastical new moon is the first day of a schematic lunar month in a computus. Such months have a variable number of whole days, 29 or 30, whereas true synodic months can vary from about 29.27 to 29.83 days in length. Medieval authors equated the ecclesiastical new moon with a new crescent moon, but it is not a phase of the true moon. If its computus is accurate, it can be any day from the day of the astronomical new moon or dark moon to two days later. It itself is only a minor part of a computus—the critical day is thirteen days later, specifically, the fourteenth day of the schematic lunar month which occurs on or next after March 21. This fourteenth day was loosely called the Paschal full moon by medieval computists. Easter is the following Sunday. [from Wikipedia ]

Or you could say..

Easter Sunday is the Sunday following the Paschal Full Moon date for the year. In June 325 A.D. astronomers approximated astronomical full moon dates for the Christian church for the years following, calling them Ecclesiastical Full Moon dates. From 326 A.D. the Paschal Full Moon date has always been the Ecclesiastical Full Moon date after March 20 (which was the equinox date in 325 A.D.).

There you go, simple!?

You could even whip out a chart and make their boredom complete.

2 thoughts on “The Dating of Easter

  1. or you could say…

    easter, like Christmas, is a pagan holiday and nowhere in the scriptures are we told to observe it!

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