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Dispelling Common Misconceptions About the Date of Easter

This article explains in impressive and unusual detail the reasoning behind the calculation of the dates for Eastern and Western Easter. Along the way, it reveals some little-known facts about the dating methods, and the consequences of keeping the current calculating practices in place — facts that may surprise you. Above all, it shows a way forward for Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Christians to find a common date for the celebration of the Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and is thus a step toward securing the stability of the holy churches of God, and the unity of all.


by John Fotopoulos

This essay was originally published in 2017. It has been updated for 2021.

A common misperception among Orthodox Christians is that Orthodox Easter (i.e. Pascha) often occurs so much later than Western Christian Easter because the Orthodox Church abides by the rules for calculating the date of Pascha issued by the 1st Ecumenical Council at Nicaea in AD 325. Another element of this misperception is the belief that the Orthodox Church must wait for Passover to be celebrated by the Jewish community before Pascha may occur. Despite these views being held by so many Orthodox Christians, as well as being promoted in popular essays written by some Orthodox priests, they are inaccurate. The reason why Orthodox Pascha frequently occurs so much later than Easter celebrated by Roman Catholics and Protestants is neither because the Orthodox Church follows the Paschal formula of Nicaea, nor is it because the Western Churches fail to adhere this formula. It is also not because the Orthodox Church must wait for the Jewish celebration of Passover. Rather, Orthodox Pascha frequently occurs later than Western Easter because the Orthodox Church uses inaccurate scientific calculations that rely on the inaccurate Julian Calendar to determine the date of Pascha for each year. Some background information is necessary to help explain precisely what the problems are.

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