The resurrection of Jesus Christ is central to the Christian faith. It’s so important that the Apostle Paul said that people should pity Christians if it’s not true (1 Cor. 15:19). Yet every year without fail Resurrection Sunday is permeated with images of the Easter Bunny. This makes many people wonder what the Easter Bunny has to do with Jesus rising from the dead.
The Easter Bunny’s connection to the resurrection of Jesus Christ is rooted in the erroneous beliefs of certain influential Greek and Roman philosophers who thought hares were hermaphrodites. As a result, some Christians in the Middle Ages associated hares with Mary, who conceived as a virgin.
Why did Christians in the Middles Ages use hares as a symbol? Why did ancient philosophers think hares were hermaphrodites? What do Easter Eggs have to do with the Easter Bunny? Does the Easter Bunny distract Christians from the resurrection? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
Why did ancient philosophers think hares were hermaphrodites?
People have used hares and rabbits, which are often mistaken for each other because of their similar look, as symbols of love since the ancient world. The hare’s association with Greek gods like Eros and Aphrodite is well-documented. People have also connected it to love, marriage, and reproduction for centuries because of its high breeding rate.
As a result, the hare’s reproductive tendencies symbolized starting families and having children. People would give young couples hares as good luck charms for having lots of children.
What is a hermaphrodite? A hermaphrodite is “an animal or plant having both male and female reproductive organs, structures, or tissue.”  Because of their reproductive biology, hermaphrodites can reproduce on their own. Examples of hermaphrodites in nature are mostly invertebrates like worms, slugs, snails, and barnacles.  Some in the ancient world assumed that hares must be hermaphrodites because of their many babies.
Why did Christians in the Middles Ages use hares as a symbol?
To some Christians in the Middle Ages, hares represented producing offspring without mating. In other words, they self-conceived. Some leaders in the church thought this was analogous to Mary giving birth to Jesus since the Bible teaches that she was a virgin at the time of her conception.
Was Mary a hermaphrodite? Christians in the Middle Ages didn’t believe that Mary was a hermaphrodite. Like most Christians in history, they believed that Mary’s conception was a supernatural act of God, prophesied in Scripture (e.g. Isa. 7:14) and from the Holy Spirit (e.g. Matt. 1:18). They thought the reproduction of hares was like the virgin birth but didn’t equate their biology with Mary’s.
Bible verses about Mary’s virginity at conception
- Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (ESV)
- Luke 1:38, “And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.”
- Matthew 1:18, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.”
- Matthew 1:24-25, “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.”
What do Easter Eggs have to do with the Easter Bunny?
Hares don’t lay eggs, so many people are curious how the Easter Bunny became associated with Easter Eggs. Though the historical connection between the two is less than clear, their general association is that they are both symbols of fertility because hares have lots of bunnies and chickens lay lots of eggs.
Later in history, the symbol of an egg representing the resurrection became more elaborate: “Easter eggs are used as a Christian symbol to represent the empty tomb. The outside of the egg looks dead, but inside, there is new life, which is going to break out. The Easter egg is a reminder that Jesus will rise from His tomb and bring new life.” 
Decorating eggs has a long tradition because the shell can be colored, wrapped, or written on without damaging the food inside. For example, some royalty in Europe liked to have the shells of their eggs wrapped in a gold-colored material as a symbol of wealth. Some Christians adopted the custom, mostly painting eggs red to symbolize the blood that Jesus shed on the cross for sin.
Does the Easter Bunny distract Christians from the resurrection?
Some Christians incorporate the imagery of the Easter Bunny into their celebration of Resurrection Sunday. For example, children eat chocolate-shaped bunnies, color pictures of rabbits (or hares), and hunt for eggs that the Easter Bunny left for them. Some families who participate in these traditions also attend church and worship Jesus, who they believe rose from the dead after dying on the cross for their sins.
Other Christians don’t incorporate the Easter Bunny into their observance of the resurrection because they believe it confuses children and distracts adults from the real meaning of the celebration. moreover, they argue that Christians who incorporate the Easter Bunny into the observance don’t even do so like believers in the Middle Ages who at least saw it as a symbol of biblical teaching — the virgin birth.
Christians debate the inclusion of the Easter Bunny just as they do Santa Claus at Christmas. Some say Santa doesn’t distract them or their children from the true meaning of Christmas. Others argue that Santa is a secular or pagan figure and shouldn’t be part of a Christian’s observance of Jesus’ birth. Christians will likely continue to debate these issues for years to come.
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