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Easter/Passover Debate - Whitby 664 AD

The British Church did not observe Rome's Easter

               From the book "A History of the
                 English Church and People"



FOREWORD and added comments by Keith Hunt

The book by Bede is still in print and available through your
Bible Book Store. The "Introduction" by Leo Sherley-Price is most
revealing, as it admits that the practices of the British Church
were in many ways far different from that of Rome, yet in time
the Church of Rome dominated and all the "closer to the truth
practices" of the British church were finally extinguished in
those Isles we call Britain. A turning point in favor of the
Roman Church was the Synod of Whitby in 664 AD.

Bede recorded in his "History" the interesting debate that took
place. Here it is with my added comments throughout.


King Oswy opened by observing that all who served the ONE God
should observe one rule of life, and since they all hoped for one
kingdom in heaven, they should not differ in celebrating the
sacraments of heaven. The synod now had the task of determining
which was the truer tradition, and this should be loyally
accepted by all. He then directed his own bishop Colman to speak
first, and to explain his own rite and its origin. Colman said:

     "Thee Easter customs which I observe were taught me by my
     superiors, who sent me here as a bishop; and all our
     forefathers, men beloved of God, are known to have observed
     these customs.  And lest anyone condemn or reject them as
     wrong, it is recorded that they owe their origin to the
     blessed evangelist Saint John, the disciple specially loved
     by our Lord, and all the churches
     over which he presided." 

(This is indeed what church history of the SECOND century also
tells us, in that Polycarp stated to the bishop of Rome, in
their debate over the time to observe our Lord's death, that he
was taught by John the apostle, who always observed it on the
14th of the first month in the Jewish calendar - Keith Hunt)

When he had concluded these and similar arguments, the king
directed Agilbert to explain the origin and authority of his own
Agilbert replied: 

     "May I request that my disciple the priest Wilfrid be
     allowed to speak in my place? For we are both in full
     agreement with all those here present who support the
     traditions of our Church, and he can explain our view in the
     English language more competently and clearly than I can do
     through an interpreter."

When Wilfrid had received the king's command to speak, he said:  

     "Our Easter customs are those that we have
     seen universally served in Rome where the blessed Apostles
     Peter and Paul lived, taught, suffered, and are buried. We
     have also seen the same customs generally observed
     throughout Italy and Gaul when we travelled through these
     countries for study and prayer. Furthermore, we have learnt
     that Easter is observed by men of different nations and
     languages at one and the same time, in Africa, Asia, Egypt,
     Greece, and throughout the world wherever the Church of
     Christ has spread. The only people who stupidly contend
     against the whole world are these Scots and their partners
     in obstinacy the Picts and Britons, who inhabit a portion of
     these the two uttermost islands of the ocean."

(Of course Wilfrid was very correct here in stating that Easter
was observed in all parts of the world, where the Christian
Gospel had gone, for Easter was of great antiquity in the pagan
nations. A full study of Easter celebrations can be found on
this Website - Keith Hunt)

In reply to this statement, Colman answered: 

     "It is strange that you call us stupid when we uphold
     customs that rest on the authority of so great an Apostle,
     who was considered worthy to lean on our Lord's breast, and
     whose great wisdom is acknowledged throughout the world."

Wilfrid replied: 

     Far be it from us to charge John with stupidity, because he
     literally observed the Law of Moses at a time when the
     Church followed many Jewish practices, and the Apostles were
     not able immediately to abrogate the observances of the Law
     once given by God, lest they gave offence to believers who
     were Jews (whereas idols, on the other hand, being
     inventions of the Devil, must be renounced by all converts).
     For this reason Paul circumcised Timothy, offered sacrifice
     in the Temple, and shaved his head at Corinth with Aquila
     and Priscilla, for no other reason than that of avoiding
     offence to the Jews. For James said to Paul: 'Thou seest,
     brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe;
     and they are all zealous of the law.' But today, as the
     Gospel spreads throughout the world, it is unnecessary and
     indeed unlawful for the faithful to be circumcised or to
     offer animals to God in sacrifice. John, following the
     custom of the Law, used to be begin the Feast of Easter on
     the evening of the fourteenth day of the first month, not
     caring whether it fell on the Sabbath or on any other day.

(Interesting here to note Wilfrid knew that John observed the
Lord's death on the "evening" of the 14th day, yes, just as Jesus
did when He observed His last one with His disciples as recorded
in the Gospels. Also note that the same old argument that if you
do "anything" from the Law of Moses you do it to appease the Jews
only. Yes, it is the old argument from the early second century
that many of these "observances" were merely "ceremonial" and
"Jewish" while the NT Gospel did away with all them and
established new days and feasts to observe. It is the original RC
Church teaching - that they, with the Pope as the line of
succession from the apostle Peter, have the authority from God to
change "the times and seasons and laws" - Keith Hunt)

     But Peter, when he preached in Rome, remembering it was on
     the day after the Sabbath that our Lord rose from the dead
     and gave the world the hope of resurrection, realized that
     Easter should be kept as follows: like John, in accordance
     with the Law, he waited for moonrise on the evening of the
     fourteenth day of the first month. And if the Lord's Day,
     then called the morrow of the Sabbath, fell on the following
     day, he began to observe Easter the same evening, as we all
     do today. But, if the Lord's Day did not fall on the day
     following the fourteenth day of the moon, but on the
     sixteenth, seventeenth, or any other day up to the
     twenty-first, he waited until that day, and on the
     Sabbath evening preceding it he began the observance of the 

     Easter Festival. 

(This is of course utterly false and a plain lie from Wilfrid,
for there is NOTHING that even comes close to proving in all
recorded history in the Christian church and its writings, even
from the so-called "church fathers" that state the apostle Peter
ever practiced or taught such a things as what Wilfrid just
stated Peter did. In all my studies over the last 40 years in
Church History, I have never read anywhere, from anyone, that
Peter practiced such an observance of the Lord's death, or
Passover, or Easter, or what ever other name you want to call
that Spring Feasts - Keith Hunt)

     This evangelical and apostolical tradition does not abrogate
     but fulfil the Law, which ordained that the Passover be kept
     between the eve of the fourteenth and twenty-first days of
     the moon of that month.

(Again, Wilfrid tries to make out that Peter's observance of the
Lord's death could be anytime BETWEEN the 14th and 21st days of
the first month in the Jewish calendar. This is all very sloppy
Biblical scholarship. For the OT or law of Moses clearly states
the Passover is on the evening of the 14th and the Feast of
Unleavened Bread is from the beginning of the 15th to the end of
the 21st day of the first month. There was NOTHING in the OT to
state you could pick ANY day between the 14th and 21st to
celebrate the "Passover" or the Lord's death. But such do people
reason who think they have the weight of all the world - where
the RC Church had gone - to back them up. It becomes easy to make
up your own "theology" as you go along. It would seem Colman just
did not have the wisdom to see the gross error Wilfrid was
teaching, or he did not have the backbone to speak up LOUDLY
against such false Biblical understanding and show that the
apostle Peter would NEVER have developed such a practice as
Wilfrid was making out that Peter did - Keith Hunt)

     And this is the custom of all successors of blessed John in
     Asia since his death and is also that of the world-wide
     Church. This is the true and only Easter to be observed by
     the faithful. 

(Hummm....sounds like the "theology" that arose in another world-
wide church, under a man named Herbert W. Armstrong - a theology
that stated, "We are the only faithful, and I, as inspired of
God, as the leader of God's faithful, will tell you what to
practice, be it according to the Scriptures or not" - Keith Hunt)

     It was not newly decreed by the Council Nicaea, but
     reaffirmed by it, as Church history records.

(True per se, for Easter observance in the Roman Church began in
the early 2nd century, that is why Polycarp and Polycrates, who
came after Polycarp, went to Rome to debate the Easter/Passover
date issue with their respective bishops of Rome in their life
time - Polycarp and Polycrates were bishops in Asia Minor and
practiced what was taught to them by John the apostle - a 14th
day observance of the Lord's death on the in the first month of
the Jewish calendar - Keith Hunt)

     It is quite apparent, Colman, that you follow neither the
     example of John, as you imagine, nor that of Peter, whose
     tradition you deliberately contradict. Your keeping of
     Easter agrees neither with the Law nor with the Gospel. For
     John who kept Easter in  accordance with the decrees of
     Moses, did not keep to first day after the Sabbath; this is
     not your practice, for you keep Easter between the fifteenth
     and twenty-first days of the moon, you do not, for you keep
     it between fourteenth and twentieth days of the moon. As a
     result, you often begin Easter on the evening of the
     thirteenth day, which is not mentioned in the Law. Nor did
     our Lord, the Author and Giver of the Gospels, eat the old
     Passover or institute the Sacrament of the New Testament to
     be celebrated by the Church in memory of His Passion on that
     day, but on the fourteenth. 

(Here we begin to see some of the ERRORS of the then  British
church. Over the SIX centuries they had indeed fallen away into
some error on this issue and observance of our Savior's death.
When a people do this, be it by carelessness or by any other
means, the ones who are also in error have a readily made "crack
in the wall" to further their denunciation of what truth is
remaining by those who are somewhat closer to the truth, yet also
in error on parts of that truth - Keith Hunt) 

     Furthermore, when you keep Easter, you totally exclude the
     twenty-first day, which the Law of Moses particularly
     ordered to be observed. Therefore, I repeat, you follow
     neither John nor Peter, the Law nor the Gospel, in your
     keeping of our greatest Festival.

(And it was indeed true, the British Church had wandered from the
straight and narrow way, and had so fallen into error that made
their observance of the Passover or Lord's death, neither by the
standards of the Old or New Testament- Keith Hunt)

Colman in reply said:

     Do you maintain that Anatolius, a holy man highly spoken of
     in Church history, taught contrary to the Law and the
     Gospel, when he wrote that Easter should be kept between the
     fourteenth and twentieth days of the moon? Are we to believe
     that our most revered Father Columba and his successors, men
     so dear to God, thought or acted contrary to Holy Scripture
     when they followed this custom? The holiness of many of them
     is confirmed by heavenly signs, and their virtues by
     miracles; and having no doubt that they are Saints, I shall
     never cease to emulate their lives, customs, and discipline.

(Oh my, what a wrong mindset Colman had allowed himself and
others in the British Church to wander into. It is one of the
sure ways into error, even if you have a basic truth. God can use
and even show He is using and working with, men that are not all
infallible in their beliefs and customs, God allowing them to not
see all truth on all points of His word, in their life time. God
allows this, He reveals truth as He wills, sometimes it is for
other servants of His to find more truth on things that ones
before them did not find all truth on. To put yourself into the
mindset as what Colman had put himself into, is to surely trip up
and fall on your face as you basically try to hold to the faith
once delivered to the saints - Keith Hunt)

     It is well established that Anatolius was a most holy,
     learned, and praiseworthy man,answered Wilfrid; but how can
     you claim his authority when you do not follow his
     directions? For he followed the correct rule about Easter,
     and observed a cycle of nineteen years; but either you do
     not know of this general custom of the Christian Church, or
     else you ignore it. He calculated the fourteenth day of the
     moon at Easter according to the Egyptian method, counting it
     in the evening as the fifteenth day; similarly, he assigned
     the twentieth to Easter Sunday, regarding it after sunset as
     the twenty-first day. But it appears that you do not realize
     this distinction, since you sometimes keep Easter before
     full moon, that is, on the thirteenth day. And with regard
     to your Father Columba and his followers, whose holiness you
     claim to imitate and whose rules and customs you claim to
     have been supported by heavenly signs, I can only say that
     when many shall say to our Lord at the day of judgement:
     "Have we not prophesied in Thy name, and cast out devils,
     and done many wonderful works?" the Lord will reply, "I
     never knew you." Far be it from me to apply these words to
     your fathers; for it is more just to believe good rather
     than evil of those whom one does not know. So I do not deny
     that they were true servants of God and dear to Him, and
     that they loved Him in primitive simplicity but in devout
     sincerity. Nor do I think that their ways of keeping Easter
     were seriously harmful so long as no one came to show them a
     more perfect way to follow.   Indeed, I feel certain that,
     if any Catholic reckoner had come to them, they would
     readily have accepted his guidance, as we know that they
     readily observed such of God's ordinances as they already

(A great deal of "savvy" as we say used here by Wilfrid. He knew
the British Church had errors and mistakes in their observance of
when to observe the Lord's death. He could see the contradictions
in their "theological approach" to the issue, and with some
"kind" psychological charm, could make the debate swing
favourably in his Roman Catholic Church's direction to all those
listening to this debate. By using their weakest links Wilfrid
could then bring out the pomposity of the Church of Rome being
superior in Biblical understanding. Where truth is not fully
followed, or where there is no more "growing in grace and
knowledge" but only a looking to the outside of "men's lives" as
Colman had done towards some of his great men of God from the
past ages in his British Church, it is the surest way to destroy
what truth there might be remaining, as in this instance, for the
Church of Rome did finally succeed in implanting their observance
of Easter and Sunday all over the British Isles, over the next 3
or 4 centuries - Keith Hunt)

     But you and your colleagues are most certainly guilty of sin
     if you reject the indeed of the Apostolic See, indeed of the
     universal Church, which are confirmed by Holy Writ. For,
     although your Fathers were holy men, do you imagine that
     they, a few men in a corner of a remote island, are to be
     preferred before the universal Church of Christ throughout
     the world? And even if your Columba - or, may I say, ours
     also if he was the servant of Christ - was a Saint potent in
     miracles, can he take precedence before the most blessed
     Prince of the Apostles, to whom our Lord said: "Thou art
     Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the
     gates of hell shall not prevail against it, and I will give
     unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven"?

(Now, Wilfrid thought it was the right time to bring in the upper
cut to the jaw of Colman. He now knew that Colman was not much of
a debater and did not have the understanding of the Scriptures to
cause any "come-back" with what he was now going to throw up to
him. He knew he could now hit him below the belt, with this final
discourse he hurdled out to him and everyone standing by - Keith

When Wilfrid had ended, the king asked: 

     Is it true, Colman, that these words were spoken to that
     Peter by our Lord?' 

He answered: 

     It is true, Your Majesty.

Then the king said: 

     Can you show that a similar authority was given to your

     No, replied Colman. 

     Do you both agree, (the king continued), that these words
     were indisputably addressed to Peter in the first place, and
     that our Lord gave him the keys of the kingdom of heaven?

Both answered 'We do.' 

At this, the king concluded: 

     Then, I tell you, Peter is guardian of the gates of heaven,
     and I shall not contradict him. I shall obey his commands in
     everything to the best of my knowledge and ability;
     otherwise, when I come to the gates of heaven, there may be
     no one to open them, because he who holds the keys has
     turned away.

When the king said this, all present, both high and low,
signified their agreement and, abandoning their imperfect
customs, hastened to adopt those which they had learned to be


So it was, the part truth that the British Church had on
celebrating the death of our Lord Jesus, was mainly abandoned
from that day forward. It was to be another 500 years before the
7th day Sabbath of the British Church was finally extinguished
from Britain. Many small pockets of people in the hills and
valley of Wales and Scotland, held on to this truth, but the day
did come when the nation was fully drunk with the wine of the
spiritual fornication of the Woman who rode the beast (Revelation

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