During the course of my search into the origins of ‘Resurrection Sunday’ I found some interesting information, but mainly to do with the name ‘Easter’:

The naming of the celebration as “Easter” seems to go back to the name of a pre-Christian goddess in England, Eostre, who was celebrated at beginning of spring. The only reference to this goddess comes from the writings of the Venerable Bede, a British monk who lived in the late seventh and early eighth century. As religious studies scholar Bruce Forbes summarizes:

“Bede wrote that the month in which English Christians were celebrating the resurrection of Jesus had been called Eosturmonath in Old English, referring to a goddess named Eostre. And even though Christians had begun affirming the Christian meaning of the celebration, they continued to use the name of the goddess to designate the season.”

Bede was so influential for later Christians that the name stuck, and hence Easter remains the name by which the English, Germans and Americans refer to the festival of Jesus’ resurrection. https://theconversation.com/why-easter-is-called-easter-and-other-little-known-facts-about-the-holiday-75025

From an informative Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter I found this reference to ‘Resurrection Sunday’:

Footnote [3] The term "Resurrection Sunday" is used particularly by Christian communities in the Middle East. Orthodox, Catholic, and all Reformed churches in the Middle East celebrate Easter according to the Eastern calendar, calling this holy day "Resurrection Sunday," not Easter. [5][6]

It seems to me that the term ‘Easter Sunday’ originated in the seventh or eighth century in England. I don’t know when the first day of the week was called Sunday, but when did Christians start to use the expression ‘Resurrection Sunday’? There seems to be a connection with Christian churches in the Middle East.

Edit: It must be obvious that the earliest christians had never heard of 'Easter' because that term did not come into existence till about the 8th century. I found this reference:

The celebration of this event, called Easter, or the Festival of the Resurrection, is the major feast day of the church. https://www.britannica.com/topic/resurrection-religion

And another:

Easter celebrates the Resurrection of Jesus Christ on the third day after his Crucifixion. The earliest recorded observance of an Easter celebration comes from the 2nd century, though the commemoration of Jesus’ Resurrection probably occurred earlier. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Easter-holiday

Is 'Resurrection Sunday' a modern invention? Or does it pre-date the name Easter?

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    Although I read the KJV on a routine basis and shall continue to do so, I have to admit their fault in translating πασχα (passover) as 'Easter' (!) in Acts 12:4. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 11:03
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    Related on EL&U : English names for days of the week.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 11:28
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    Related on EL&U : Etymology of 'Easter'.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 11:29
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    Great question. +1 I hope someone can find some obscure reference for you. Just as a little note for you: The Missal of Pope Pius V calls Easter Sunday: Sunday of the Resurrection in Latin: Dominica Resurrectionis (Page 332).
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Apr 12, 2022 at 14:12

1 Answer 1


Eusebius preserves much of the relevant history prior to his time.

Circa AD 190 a controversy arose regarding the date on which the Lord's Passover should be observed:

  1. A question of no small importance arose at that time. For the parishes of all Asia, as from an older tradition, held that the fourteenth day of the moon, on which day the Jews were commanded to sacrifice the lamb, should be observed as the feast of the Saviour's passover. It was therefore necessary to end their fast on that day, whatever day of the week it should happen to be. But it was not the custom of the churches in the rest of the world to end it at this time, as they observed the practice which, from apostolic tradition, has prevailed to the present time, of terminating the fast on no other day than on that of the resurrection of our Saviour.

  2. Synods and assemblies of bishops were held on this account, and all, with one consent, through mutual correspondence drew up an ecclesiastical decree, that the mystery of the resurrection of the Lord should be celebrated on no other but the Lord's day, and that we should observe the close of the paschal fast on this day only... (HE 5.23.1-2)

Eusebius records that Irenaeus was crucial in mediating the controversy:

  1. Among them was Irenaeus, who, sending letters in the name of the brethren in Gaul over whom he presided, maintained that the mystery of the resurrection of the Lord should be observed only on the Lord's day... (HE 5.24.11)

"The mystery of the resurrection of the Lord should be observed only on the Lord's day" is about as close as we're going to get to "Resurrection Sunday" in the ancient world.

(keeping in mind that although the first day of the week was indeed named for the sun, this was hardly a term that was comfortable for early Christians living under Roman pagan rule. Sun worship was pagan. Justin (see First Apology ch. 67) acknowledges Christians worshipping on the day that was called Sunday--that's what the Romans called it--but he himself eschewed their pagan customs. "Resurrection Sunday" is a natural simplification of Irenaeus' statement, once Christians were comfortable using the word "Sunday").

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    Appreciate the research and background information. Thank you.
    – Lesley
    Commented Apr 17, 2022 at 7:07

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