Excerpted from "Answers To Your Bible Version Questions" © 2001 by David W. Daniels
Question:Why should the KJV not say "Passover" in Acts 12:4? The King James translates pascha as "Passover" 28 times, in every other place it appears in the New Testament. Why not in Acts 12:4?
Answer: "Passover" is not the correct translation of pascha in this single New Testament passage. If we examine the Passover celebration and Days of Unleavened Bread from the Old Testament, we will see why Acts 12:4 cannot be about Passover.
When Are the Days of Unleavened Bread?
Here is what the Bible says in Acts 12:1-4
Please note the time in which the apostle James was killed: "Then were the days of unleavened bread." When were these days?
The Bible is very specific. In Leviticus 23:5-8 and Numbers 28:16-25 we find two very clear definitions of the days of Passover and the Feast / Days of Unleavened Bread.
The Bible tells us clearly: Passover is before the Days of Unleavened Bread, not after.
What Was Herod Talking About?
A simple summary of the Scriptures will help us understand. The Bible says Herod killed the apostle James (John's brother) with the sword. Then he took the apostle Peter as well. Those days were the Days of Unleavened Bread when he did this. But while Herod wanted to put Peter in front of the people, (intending to kill him with their approval), he decided to wait for something the Greek calls pascha. Then he would bring out Peter.
Here is a simple order to keep in mind:
Passover (14 Abib), then Days of Unleavened Bread (15-21 Abib), then pascha.
Please note that Passover was before the Days of Unleavened Bread, and this pascha Herod was waiting was after the Days of Unleavened Bread. Therefore while Herod may have been waiting for Easter (the feast of Ishtar*, which the Greeks also called pascha), he was not waiting for Passover. That is why the King James Bible, in this single instance, had to translate pascha by a word other than Passover.
The translators of the King James knew their Bible. Do the translators of the modern versions?