How Is Easter’s Date Determined? | Church History

Eusebius of Caesarea records the events of the controversy surrounding the date of Easter at the time of Pope Victor I c. 190. It was common for the Churches of Asia to celebrate Easter on the fourteenth day of the Jewish month of Nissan regardless of whether it was a Sunday or not. As such, they observed the feast of Christ’s Passover whenever the Jews did. The Churches in the rest of the world would determine the day of Easter being a Sunday. The controversy reached its summit when Pope Victor I considered excommunicating those celebrating the feast on the 14th day of Nissan. He was however rebuked by Irenaeus of Lyons in a letter. To Irenaeus, the difference in practice whilst maintaining communion confirmed the unity of faith. At this point, the Church agreed to disagree when it came to the dating of Easter. The fathers of the early Church were perspicacious to maintain that uniformity was not to be confused with unity. The challenge was identifying and maintaining cohesiveness and unity within a diverse body. The Church would later settle the Quartodeciman controversy at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD and most Orthodox Churches continue to follow the date as determined by the formula of Nicaea. However, there are exceptions today such as the Orthodox Church of Finland, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Roman Catholic Church and virtually all Protestantism which calculate the aforementioned date differently. Regardless, the celebration itself and its theological and spiritual significance greatly surpass the timing of the celebration.