‘Quartodeciman Controversy’… of the second century.

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…But it was not the

custom of the churches in the rest of

the world…But the bishops of Asia, led

by Polycrates, decided to hold to the

old custom handed down to them. He

himself, in a letter which he addressed

to Victor and the Church of Rome, set

forth in the following words the

tradition which had come down to him.

(Eusebius, Church History, Book V,

Chapters 23, 25, circa 190-195 CE)


Hebrew festival of the Passover also gave way to the

pagan festival of Easter (Ishtar). First the timing of the

Passover was shifted away from the Hebrew eveningto-

evening calendar, to the Roman midnight-tomidnight

one. The date was then changed from the

14th of Nisan (Aviv) to a Sunday which fell around that

same general timeframe. Then the name of the festival

was changed from Passover to Easter, in honor of the

Babylonian mother-goddess Ishtar.

A crisis came about in the second century when the

bishops of Asia decided to keep the Passover on the

Hebrew calendar, as they had been taught by the

Apostles Phillip and Yochanan (John).

The Church father Eusebius records that the Quartodeciman

Controversy erupted when Bishop Victor of

Rome began to insist that all the assemblies must keep

the Passover on a Sunday (on the Roman calendar),

rather than on the 14th of Nisan (on the Hebrew one).

Eusebius also reproduces the letter that Polycrates, a

major figure in Asia, personally wrote to Bishop Victor

of Rome, protesting Bishop Victor’s decision to change

the date of the Passover from the 14th of Nisan (Aviv),

to a Sunday. Polycrates points out that the tradition of

keeping the Passover on the Hebrew calendar had

been given in Asia by the apostles Philip and

Yochanan themselves, and that the tradition had been

held fast in Asia over generations, by a number of

distinguished and devout believers. Polycrates then

insisted that all believers should do as the Scriptures

said, rather than accept a man-made tradition.

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