Did Jesus die on a cross?

An exhaustive analysis of the claims of Jehovah’s Witnesses


 

 

Table of Contents

Introduction.. 1

The Claims of Jehovah’s Witnesses. 1

Comparison of Watchtower Society Assertions with Archeological and Literary Fact: 1

What really happened in history with the word stauros and crucifixions?. 2

Examples of Claims in Their Publications. 3

Their Depictions. 5

Embarrassing and Self-Contradictory History of This Teaching.. 6

Possibly Abandoning This Teaching.. 13

Why is this important? Who cares?. 14

What proof do they have?. 15

What if you disagree with the Watchtower Society?. 16

Foundations in Missing and Incomplete Information.. 18

Summary of Evidence for the Cross, Contradicting Their Claims. 19

Summary of Claims by Jehovah’s Witnesses. 19

How this False Teaching Began.. 20

1853 - Alexander Hislop. 20

1871 - Henry Dana Ward – A Millerite.. 24

1877 - Bullinger & the “Torture Stake”. 25

1887 - Fulda -The Cross and the Crucifixion.. 27

1896 – John Denham Parsons. 30

1904 – Paul Wilhelm Schmidt – Follower of Fulda.. 33

1905 - William Edwy Vine – Follower of Hislop. 34

1936 - Adoption of This False / Misinformed Teaching by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. 37

The Greek and Latin Words for Cross. 38

Understanding the Greek Words stauros & xulon.. 38

The Greek Word Stauros (σταυρός) 39

The Classical Greek Period (500 BC - 323 BC) 39

Koine (common) Greek (300 BC – AD 300) 40

Modern Greek (After AD 300 ) 40

The Greek Word Xulon [also spelled Xylon] (ξύλον) 42

The Latin Words Patibulum (crossbeam) & the crux (cross); the Roman crucifixion method.. 45

Origins of the Patibulum.. 45

Origins of crucifixion (without the patibulum) 46

Combination of the Patibulum and crucifixion by the Romans. 46

Biblical Clues to the Method of Jesus’ Execution.. 50

Archeology and the Cross. 58

Ossuaries Near Bethany.. 58

The Catacombs of Rome.. 59

Early Christian Jewelry.. 60

Other Discoveries. 61

Jehohanan – A man crucified near the time of Jesus. 63

Early Literary Depictions of the Cross of Jesus. 65

Summary of Literary Evidence.. 68

The Staurogram... 69

Medical Studies and Evidence.. 70

leBec, Barbet, and Moedder.. 70

Zugibe’s Medical Experiments. 70

The Arguments & Claims of the Watchtower Society.. 72

Argument Hall of Shame.. 73

Comprehensive List of Watchtower Society Claims and Arguments. 74

Summary of Claims. 74

Complete List of Claims. 74

Meaning of the Greek word stauros. 78

(Argument-Stauros) Only one Possible Meaning of the Greek word stauros. 78

(Argument-Stauros-Classical) The meaning of the word stauros in the Classical Greek Period. 79

(Argument-Stauros-Homer) Citation of the writer Homer’s usage of the word stauros. 79

(Argument-Stauros-Koine) In Koine Greek, the word stauros could only mean one thing. 80

(Argument-Stauros-Later) The word stauros only meant “cross” sometime later. 81

(Quote-Stauros-Lucian) The Greek author Lucian used the word anastauroo as a synonym for “to tie” or “to fasten.”. 82

Meaning of the Greek word xylon.. 84

(Argument-Xylon) The word xylon (ξύλον) is asserted to have only one possible meaning. 84

(Quote-Xylon-Liddell) Citation of A Greek-English Lexicon by Liddell and Scott for the word xylon, asserting only one possible meaning. 85

(Quote-Xylon-LXX) Xylon is used in Ezra 6:11 with the meaning of “beam” in the Septuagint (Greek Translation of the Scriptures). 87

Meaning for the Latin word crux.. 89

(Argument-Crux-Later / Quote-Crux-Lewis-Short) “Cross” is only a later meaning of the Latin word Crux. 89

(Quote-Crux-Livy) Writings of Livy. 91

Miscellaneous Arguments. 93

(Argument-Light) If a single pole were used, the entire execution instrument would have been light enough for a single person to carry. 93

(Argument-Murder) - Appeal that an instrument of murder should not be a symbol of anything holy. 95

(Argument-Phallic/Argument-Previous/Argument-Ankh) - Some ancient shapes used as phallic / pagan symbols, which were similar to the cross  98

Biblical Arguments. 108

(Argument-Deuteronomy) Deuteronomy 21 somehow shows that a pole was used, rather than a cross. 108

(Argument-Ezekiel)- Ezekiel 8:17 might refer to usage of a phallic symbol 111

(Argument-Idolatry) - The usage of the cross is idol worship and/or is condemned by Exodus 20:3-5. 116

Historical Claims and Arguments. 117

(Argument-Constantine) In the fourth century, however, pagan Emperor Constantine became a convert to apostate Christianity and promoted the cross as its symbol. 117

(Argument-No-Usage) The cross was not used as a symbol of Christianity until the time of Constantine. 119

Various Quotations. 120

(Quote-Achen) Quote from Sven Tito Achen. 120

(Quote-Americana) Quote from the Encyclopedia Americana. 121

(Quote-AP) Quote from Associated Press - Michelangelo and the Cross. 123

(Quote-Aquinas) Quote from Thomas Aquinas. 126

(Quote-Arnobius) Quote from Arnobius of Sicca shows no use of images by Christians. 127

(Quote-Baring-Gould) Quote from Curious Myths of the Middle Ages shows pagans using the cross. 129

(Quote-Bailey) Quote from Harold Bailey shows pagans using the cross. 134

(Quote-Bevan) Quote from Edwyn Bevan’s Holy Images attributes the cross to Constantine. 137

(Quote-Bibica) Quote from the Encyclopaedia Biblica shows that the cross was uncertain. 140

(Quote-Britannica) Quote from the Encyclopedia Brittannica shows pagans using the cross first 142

(Quote-Britannica2) Quote from the Encyclopedia Britannica. 144

(Quote-Britannica3) Quote from the Encyclopedia Brittanica shows no cross usage before 312 AD.. 146

(Quote-Brittannica4) Quote from the Encyclopedia Britannica shows cross is only a tradition. 149

(Quote-Budge) Quote from A W. Budge shows the cross not associated with Christianity until 4th century. 151

(Quote-Bullinger-Companion) Quote from The Companion Bible shows a stake was used. 154

(Quote-Bullinger-Lexicon) Quote from A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament 159

(Quote-Burgon) Quote from Dean Burgon shows no cross usage until 5th century. 162

(Quote-CatholicDigest) Quote from Catholic Digest Magazine. 163

(Quote-CatholicEncyclopedia) The Catholic Encyclopedia shows cross usage long before Christ 166

(Quote-CatholicEncyclopedia2) The Catholic Encyclopedia depicts the sign of the cross as a superstition. 168

(Quote-CatholicEncyclopedia3) Quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia. 170

(Quote-Chambers) Quote from Chambers’ Encyclopedia. 172

(Quote-Complete-Jewish) The Complete Jewish Bible uses the expression “execution stake”. 174

(Quote–CrucifixionInAntiquity) Quote from Gunnar Samuelsson’s Crucifixion in Antiquity. 177

(Quote-Cutner) Quote from H. Cutner’s Short History of Sex Worship. 178

(Quote-Cyclopedia-of-Biblical-Literature) Quote from The Cyclopædia of Biblical Literature. 180

(Quote-Dallas-Morning-News) Quote from the Dallas Morning News. 183

(Quote-Damascus) Quote from John of Damascus. 185

(Quote–d’Aviella) Quote from Eugène Goblet d'Alviella. 187

(Quote-Dictionary-of-Folklore) Quote from the Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend. 189

(Quote-Douglas) Quote from Douglas’ New Bible Dictionary. 191

(Quote-Dual-Heritage) Quote from Dual Heritage: The Bible and the British Museum.. 193

(Quote-Easter-And-Customs) Quote from Easter and Its Customs. 196

(Quote-Ethics) Quote from The Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics. 200

(Quote-Ecclesiastical) Quote from the Ecclesiastical Review.. 204

(Quote-Felix) Quote from Minucius Felix’s Octavius. 207

(Quote-Fulda) Quote from Hermann Fulda’s Das Kreuz und die Kreuzigung (The Cross and the Crucifixion) 210

(Quote-Garnier) Quote from John Garnier’s The Worship of the Dead. 211

(Quote-Gibbon/Taylor) Quote from Gibbon’s History of Christianity. 214

(Quote-Great-Religions) Quote from Great Religions of the Earth. 224

(Quote-Hall) Quote from James Hall’s Dictionary of Subjects & Symbols in Art 226

(Quote-Hannay) Quote from J. B. Hannay’s Sex Symbolism in Religion. 228

(Quote-Hislop) Quote from Alexander Hislop’s The Two Babylons. 230

(Quote-Hurst) Quote from J. F. Hurst’s History of the Christian Church. 231

(Quote-Illustrated-Bible-Dictionary) Quote from the Illustrated Bible Dictionary. 232

(Quote-Imperial) Quote from The Imperial Bible-Dictionary. 234

(Quote-Interpreter) Quote from The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible. 237

(Quote-ISBE) Quote from the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 239

(Quote-Killen) Quote from W. D. Killen’s 1895 The Ancient Church. 242

(Quote-Knight) Quote from Richard Payne Knight 244

(Quote-Koch) Quote from Kurt E Koch’s Demonology, Past and Present 245

(Quote-Krishna-Painting) Citation of an Indian painting of Krishna. 246

(Quote-Lipsius) Illustration from Justus Lipsius. 249

(Quote-Louvre) Artwork in the Louvre. 259

(Quote-Mainichi) Quote from the Mainichi Daily News. 262

(Quote-McClintock) Quote from McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia. 264

(Quote-McClintock2) Quote from McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia. 268

(Quote-McClintock3) Quote from McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia. 271

(Quote-McClintock4) Quote from McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia. 273

(Quote-Neander) Quote from Dr. Augustus Neander somehow shows that the cross is an idol or heathen object 276

(Quote-New-Catholic) Quote from the New Catholic Encyclopedia regarding pre-Christian cultures. 279

(Quote-New-Catholic2) Quote from the New Catholic Encyclopedia regarding non-use by Christians. 280

(Quote-NewJerusalem) Quote from The New Jerusalem Bible. 283

(Quote-New-Light) Quote from Chlde’s New Light on the Most Ancient East 284

(Quote-NewSchaafHerzogEncyclopedia) Quote from the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia. 286

(Quote-Parsons) Quote from J. D. Parsons’ The Non-Christian Cross. 288

(Quote-Perret) Quote from Mons Perret 289

(Quote-Réau) Quote from Louis Réau’s Iconographie de L’Art Chrétien (Iconography of Christian art) 294

(Quote-Records) Quote from Records of Christianity. 297

(Quote-Rocco) Quote from Sha Rocco. 300

(Quote-Schmidt) Quote from Paul Wilhelm Schmidt’s Die Geschichte Jesu (The History of Jesus) 303

(Quote-Smith’s) Quote from Smith’s New Bible Dictionary. 309

(Quote-Smithsonian) Quote from the Smithsonian Institution. 310

(Quote-Snyder) Quote from Professor Graydon F. Snyder. 313

(Quote-Strong’s) Quote from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance for the Bible. 315

(Quote-Thorne) Quote from Guy Thorne. 318

(Quote-Tyack) Quote from The Cross in Ritual, Architecture, and Art 323

(Quote-Union) Quote of the Brooklyn Standard-Union Newspaper. 332

(Quote-Varone-Pompei) Quote from Antonio Varone’s Presenze giudaiche e cristiane a Pompei 333

(Quote-Vine) Quote from A Comprehensive Dictionary of the Original Greek Words with their Precise Meanings for English Readers. 338

(Quote-Ward) Quote from Henry Dana Ward’s History of the Cross. 339

Questions to ask Jehovah’s Witnesses. 345

Notes. 347

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Introduction

The Claims of Jehovah’s Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses (a.k.a. the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society) make the following claims, and have written several justifications about them which sound very scholarly and convincing at first glance.   However, we will see that they contradict scholars, scripture, historical writings, historical artwork, the writings of early church fathers, and even their own past publications.  Furthermore, we will see that most of their purported evidence is actually a misrepresentation of the sources that they quote.

The claims & actions:

·         The instrument of Jesus' execution was a simple upright stake, not a cross. [1]

·         The use of the Greek word stauros in the Gospel accounts when referring to the instrument of execution on which Jesus died can only refer to an upright pole, stake, or post without a crossbeam. [2]

·         The cross was adopted as a Christian symbol only under the 4th-century emperor Constantine the Great, who promoted the usage of pagan symbols and practices. [3]

·         Their New World Translation of the Bible therefore uses the phrase "torture stake" 27 times to translate the Greek word σταυρός (stauros) in the following passages: Matthew 10:38, 16:24, 27:32, 27:40, 27:42, Mark 8:34, 15:21, 15:30, 15:32,  Luke 9:23, 14:27, 23:26, John 19:17, 19:19, 19:25, 19:31, 1 Corinthians 1:17, 1:18, Galatians 5:11, 5:12, 6:14, Ephesians 2:16, Philippians 2:8, 3:18, Colossians 1:20, 2:14, Hebrews 12:2.  [4]

·         Persons that use the cross symbol are “Babylonish,” not “true Christians,” and part of “false religion.” [5] [6]

 

Comparison of Watchtower Society Assertions with Archeological and Literary Fact:

Watchtower Society

Reality

The cross’ history began as a pagan symbol used by many societies before Christ.

Many symbols that loosely resembled the t-shaped cross were used by a variety of societies before Christ.   This included the plus-sign, ankh, and x-shapes.  There is no evidence linking these symbols to the Christian cross symbol.   Likely, they developed independently and coincidentally of each other.   Symbols also developed that were variants of other common geometric shapes.

The Greek words stauros and xulon that are used to describe the “cross” in the New Testament can only mean an upright stake.  The same definition applies to the Latin word crux.  Any other possible meanings of these words must have developed afterward.

The Greek words used in the New Testament to describe the cross were generalized terms that could have been used for anything from a simple piece of wood to a very complex wooden construction.   There are many literary examples both before and after the time the New Testament was written to illustrate this fact.  The same applies to the Latin word crux.

Jesus must have carried the pole/stake to the place of execution.  The idea that it was a crossbeam is based on traditions or fabrication.

Not one historical author has even written about a criminal carrying a pole and then being executed upon it.  However, several authors wrote accounts of prisoners carrying a crossbeam and then being executed with it upon a cross.

There is no record of usage of the cross as a symbol by early Christians, prior to the time of Constantine in the 4th century.

There are pre-Constantine archeological and literary records of early Christians using the cross as a symbol & proclaiming that it was both the instrument of Jesus’ execution and a Christian symbol.  This includes tombs, artwork, jewelry, and writings.

From the time of Constantine forward, the cross was used as a symbol, as it was a re-purposed pagan symbol which had nothing to do with Jesus’ crucifixion.

From the time of Constantine forward, the cross was used much more openly by Christians, as Christianity was no longer an outlawed practice & crucifixions were no longer practiced.  In general, there was very little Christian artwork of any kind seen before this time.  The sign introduced by Constantine was actually a monogram, and not a cross symbol.

Anyone that uses the cross symbol must therefore be an idol worshipper or not a “true Christian.”

The Watchtower Society used the cross symbol themselves until 1938. They use this new and false teaching to cause their members to treat other Christians and their churches with contempt, as many have crosses either on or within their buildings and literature.

What really happened in history with the word stauros and crucifixions?

How did a word for stakes and palisades (fortifications) really evolve into an instrument used for crucifixions?  A concise explanation is provided by the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary:

Brand, Chad. (2003). Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (p. 368). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

As we can see, the word used for “cross” in Jesus’ time had its origins as a word for a stake or fence post.  This is because the heads of foes were displayed on top of posts long before Jesus’ time.  Logically, the same word slowly evolved to include similar types of punishment and public display using wooden constructs.  This included both simple posts and complex constructions that were used to publically execute or display the dead body of a foe.  In the following pages, we will see evidence that this included a variety of forms of crosses, gallows, and others.  Some were used to suspend the foe with nails or ropes as torture or until dead.  Others were used as an instrument to simply impale the person, which would have obviously resulted in death within a few minutes.  In some cases, the victim was already dead before being publicly displayed on the apparatus.

The Watchtower Bible & Tract Society apparently clung to writers in the late 1800s and early 1900s who discovered that the word for “cross” in the Greek language back then had origins that meant “post” or “pole.”  Not having any contrary literary examples to go by, or being dismissive of them, these writers devised a conspiracy theory of sorts that Jesus was actually executed on a simple pole.  They then concluded that since crosses were widely seen around the 4th century in artwork, the idea of the cross must have been invented at that time.

Now that an enormous amount of contradictory evidence exists that originates from before the 4th century, supporters of this theory are forced to either try and discredit the evidence, ignore it, or make false claims.

Throughout this document, we will see a consistent pattern of these tactics by the Watchtower Society and a presentation of the overwhelming evidence that Jesus actually was executed on a T-shaped instrument.  With the illumination of the facts that Watchtower Society arguments are faulty, and often deceitful, a reasonable person must conclude that they are aware of the truth, but simply afraid of the repercussions of being honest as they continue to boastfully tell their members that their view of the “execution stake” clearly distinguishes them as the only religion with the truth regarding this matter.

Examples of Claims in Their Publications

What Does the Bible Really Teach? (p. 204). (2009). Brooklyn, NY: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.

Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life (p. 66). (1995). Brooklyn, NY:

Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, International Bible Students Association.

 

What Does God require of us? (p. 23). (1996). New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.

“The Cross-Symbol of Christianity?”. (1992, November 15). The Watchtower, p. 7

.

Reasoning from the Scriptures (p. 90). (1989). Brooklyn, N.Y., U.S.A.: Watchtower Bible and
Tract Society of New York, International Bible Students Association.

“Use of the Cross” (November 8, 1972). Awake!, p. 28

 

(2007, November 1). The Watchtower, pp. 645-646

(1969, October 15). The Watchtower, p. 632

(1960, February 15). The Watchtower, p. 126

(1957, March 15). The Watchtower, p. 168


 

Their Depictions

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_dTSEBZ7tOe0/TTZucfeaEwI/AAAAAAAAAmI/Ilv8iDYj6wA/s1600/WTFromParadiseLostp141.JPG

From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained (p. 141). (1958).
Brooklyn, NY: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York

You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth (p. 171). (1982). Brooklyn, NY: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.

 

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_dTSEBZ7tOe0/R8pcB7jeJuI/AAAAAAAAAK8/QiQaXqriaiU/s1600/WTKnowledgeStake.JPG

Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life (p. 67). (1995). Brooklyn, NY: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, International Bible Students Association.

 

(1987, August 15). The Watchtower, p. 24

 

 

Embarrassing and Self-Contradictory History of This Teaching

From its founding, and under three presidents (Conley, Russell and Rutherford), the Watchtower Society depicted crosses in its literature.

Cover of The Watch Tower depicting a cross and crown symbol
that appeared from 1891 – October 1, 1931 Issues

Rutherford, J. The Harp of God  (p. 113).  (1921). Brooklyn,  NY: International Bible students Association

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_dTSEBZ7tOe0/R9KYXYH4b2I/AAAAAAAAALU/yH1np0OuOxc/s1600/WTCreation209.JPG

Rutherford, J. Creation (p. 209). (1927). Brooklyn, NY: International Bible Students Association.

Rutherford, J. Creation (p. 336). (1927). Brooklyn, NY: International Bible Students Association

http://leavethecult.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/watchtower_memorial_site_by_russell_s_grave03.jpg

President Russell’s Grave Marker
in Pittsburgh, PA



Cross-and-crown pins were even sold by the Society. In the November 1, 1927 issue of the Watchtower on page 335, there is a price list for cross-and-crown jewelry.

Carey W. Barber, later a member of the Governing Body, described the pin: "It was a badge really, with a wreath of laurel leaves as the border and within the wreath was a crown with a cross running through it on an angle. It looked quite attractive and was our idea of what it meant to take up our 'cross' and follow Christ Jesus in order to be able to wear the crown of victory in due time."[7]

Price list for Watchtower Society “cross” items
(1927, November 1). The Watchtower, p. 335

 

In the May 1, 1989 Watchtower, the Society acknowledged that the early Bible Students wore the cross as a lapel emblem. On pages 3-5 of an article titled "Babylon the Great; Fallen and Judged":

 

The typical reader would conclude from this quote that the Watchtower Society views usage of “the cross” as “Babylonish” and part of “false religion.”  The reader would also be deceived into concluding that they stopped using this symbol around 1917-1919.  In reality, however, the crown-and-cross image was used on the cover of the Watchtower until 1931.[8]  One has to wonder why this organization would knowingly make false statements about its own history.


 

Apparently, others noticed, and they later revised their claimed history.  The February 15, 2006 Watchtower almost-correctly marked 1937 as when their anti-cross teaching began, although it was explained in a confusingly-worded manner:

(2006, February 15). The Watchtower, 29

According to their 1975 yearbook, the change did not occur because of careful biblical analysis or a revelation from God, but because Rutherford didn’t like the cross pins.

1975 Yearbook of Jehovah's witnesses (p. 148). (1974). Brooklyn, N.Y.: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania

Eight years after Rutherford declared that the cross pins were not necessary, he declared that the cross wasn’t what Jesus was executed on after all.  As we see from the 1975 yearbook, this was downplayed as merely “a few years later.”

Even more embarrassing is a 1913 article in the Watchtower discussing the cross and its “cross-beam.” The article estimates that the weight of the cross was 150 – 200 pounds and specifically states that it had a crossbeam.  After Jesus failed to carry it on his own, Simon carried it on his own. (Matthew 27:32; Luke 23:26)  Since their own writings point out that the entire cross might have been heavier than a typical person could manage, this leads us to conclude that only the cross-beam was carried.  We will see later that the height of the cross likely made the overall structure greater in weight than Russell’s estimates, strengthening the case that the entire cross was not carried, but merely the crosspiece.

Apparently realizing that Russell’s weight estimate would be damaging to their new doctrine, they later revised their estimated weight of the cross to “little more than 45 kg (100 lb).”

Insight on the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1191). (1988). Brooklyn, NY: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, International Bible Students Association.

 

(1913, April 15). The Watchtower, p. 5221

 

The Watchower Society currently claims that the Greek word stauros, translated “cross” in most bibles, can only meant a plain pole.   However, they admitted earlier that it also can mean “a cross.”

What does the Bible really teach? (p. 204). (2009). Brooklyn, NY:

Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.

 

(1963, April 8). Awake!, p. 28

(1976, November 22). Awake!, p. 27

 

 

 

Apparently, they initially had some confusion about what they were going to claim Jesus’ execution instrument was.  In 1936, they declared that he was simply nailed to a full tree.

Rutherford, J.  F. Ritches (p. 27), (1936).. Brooklyn, NY: Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.

 

This idea had one major problem: if Jesus was nailed to a full tree, then what exactly did he carry to Golgotha?  After this publication was printed, the “tree” idea quickly went away, never to return.

Also embarrassing is a self-contradiction within Watchtower Society publications.  They claim that the Greek word xylon (used elsewhere in the Bible to denote the cross) only means “a piece of wood.”  However, in their own translation of the Bible, they translate the word in Acts 16:24 as “stocks.”

 

(1963, April 8). Awake!, p. 28
Claiming that the word ‘xylon’
only means ‘a piece of wood’

The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures (p. 620). (1969). Brooklyn, NY: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.
Showing that they translate the word ‘xylon’ as “stocks,” which is
obviously something other than “a piece of wood.”

 

Continuing in their self-contradictory writings, we see that they were still using the word “cross” in association with crucifixions as late as 1990.  This would have been 71 years after they proclaimed to be free of this “cross” teaching and “Babylonish restraint.”

 

All Scripture is Inspired of God and Beneficial (p. 237). (1990). Brooklyn, NY: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.
Quote from Tacitus regarding the usage of the “cross”

Revelation: Its Grand Climax at Hand! (p. 101). (2006). Brooklyn, NY: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.
The same quote from Tacitus has changed meaning

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps the most embarrassing statement of all regarding the cross appeared in the August 15th, 1958 Watchtower:

(1958, August 15). The Watchtower, p. 510

It began by pointing out that one of the words used to describe the cross is where we get the name of an object “made of wooden pieces.”  Then, they stated that this somehow should incline us to believe the exact opposite: that the cross of Jesus was not an object made of pieces of wood, but a single piece.

 

Finally, they finish up their argument with an equally self-contradicting statement.  It is laughable and truly embarrassing that one would argue that the cross is a “phallic symbol,” while a “straight, erect pole” is not.

 

 

A phallic symbol, according to the
Watchtower Bible & Tract Society

Not a phallic symbol, according to the Watchtower
Bible & Tract Society

 

 

Thus, we see from the Watchtower Society’s own documents that their abandonment of the cross symbol was not a product of Bible study, scholarship, or revelation from God.  We also see that their adoption of the “torture stake” doctrine came from non-Watchtower sources, which they still appeal to today.  We will examine these claims, their origins, and their validity.


 

Possibly Abandoning This Teaching

Many of the Watchtower Society’s past teachings have been changed or abandoned.  Whenever this occurs, the Watchtower Society claims that it has received “new light” from God.  The most notable organization that has abandoned this teaching is the Worldwide Church of God, publishers of the magazine The Plain Truth. This group’s doctrines were very similar to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and it abandoned many of its teachings between 1986 and 1995.  

Apparently, the Watchtower Society has been slowly backing down on their assertions of the correctness of this doctrine.  In the 1969 edition of the Interlinear New World Translation, this statement was made, which was later removed.

The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures (p. 620). (1969). Brooklyn, NY: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.

The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures (p. 1151). (1985). Brooklyn, NY: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.

 

Indicating that they didn’t like the cross symbol, regardless of the means of Jesus’ execution, this statement was made in 2008:

(2008, March 1). The Watchtower, p. 22

Why is this important? Who cares?

As we have seen in the past, the Watchtower Bible and Tract society produced many predictions / prophecies that proved to be false.   If it is also teaching things that are false, then they are both a false prophet and a false teacher.  The scriptures warn us against such people.

(2Peter 2:1 - NWT) However, there also came to be false prophets among the people, as there will also be false teachers among YOU. These very ones will quietly bring in destructive sects and will disown even the owner that bought them, bringing speedy destruction upon themselves.

(1992, November 15). The Watchtower, p. 7

Additionally, they use this issue to bad-mouth any Christian church or organization that uses the cross symbol, stating that such persons are not “true Christians,” are “Babylonish,” and are “false religions.”

(1968, February 1). The Watchtower, p. 93

 

(1987, August 15). The Watchtower, p. 24

 

If they are wrong about the instrument of Jesus’ execution or their judgement of others, then they are insulting and opposing the followers of Christ.   Paul directed Timothy regarding such self-proclaimed Christians who “oppose themselves,” hoping that they “may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him unto his will." (II Timothy 2:24-26)

What proof do they have?

We will now look at the reasoning and proof that the Watchtower Society provides.  As you will soon see, it sounds very academic and convincing at first glance, especially to an uninformed person.   However, as we look at their reasoning piece by piece, we will see that it is nothing more than a series of misleading quotes, half-truths, and intentional deception. 

Additionally, we will see that they have no evidence of any kind that suggests the specific type of device used for Jesus’ execution.   Instead, they are simply working with their own unfounded ideas and denying the enormous mountain of academic and historical evidence to the contrary.

The sad fact is that so many well-meaning Jehovah’s Witnesses blindly repeat these things as facts, never bothering to check them out for themselves.  Even sadder is that they have been tricked by the Watchtower Society into avoiding doing any independent research or reading outside sources.   They are told that any printed material that contradicts the viewpoint presented by their “organization” should be regarded as “apostate material,” and they are prohibited from reading it at all.[9]  In fact, they are forbidden from reading the Bible by itself.[10]  The Watchtower Society has even gone so far as to state that “independent thinking” is wrong and must be avoided.[11]

 

 

 

(1983, January 15). The Watchtower, pp. 22-27

(2006, July 15). The Watchtower, p. 22

 


 

What if you disagree with the Watchtower Society?

According to the 1954 court testimony of H.C. Covington, vice-president of the Watchtower Society, it doesn’t matter what the facts show.  If you are a Jehovah’s Witness, you must agree with their teachings, even if they are shown to be false.   Failing to do so, even if they are wrong, makes you worthy of being disfellowshipped, and of death.  By “death,” they imply exclusion of any opportunity for salvation or everlasting life.

(1954, November) Pursuers Proof of Douglas Walsh Vs. The Right Honorable James Latham Clyde, M.P.,
Court Transcript, The Scottish Record Office

 

 

If you find that anything stated in the Watchtower Magazine is incorrect, then you are opposed to God and “not capable of discerning the truth.”

(1931, November 1) The Watchtower, 327

 

(1942, January 1), The Watchtower, 5


 

Foundations in Missing and Incomplete Information

Because of previously undiscovered writings, the difficulty in accessing existing discoveries, and the injection of their own ideas, some researchers (1800 – 1940) drew inaccurate conclusions about the meaning of some words in the Koine Greek language, the generation of Greek that the New Testament was written in.  Some concluded from the lack of writings and contrary evidence that the type of instrument used for Jesus’ crucifixion could not be determined.   Others erroneously concluded that the meanings of the words used in the scriptures must have identical meanings to the few surviving examples of their usage in the Classical period in Greek history, about 400 years earlier.  With this conclusion they also made the additional false conclusion that church history and traditions from the 4th century forward regarding this matter must be incorrect. 

Thousands of manuscripts in Koine Greek were discovered at Oxyrhyncus in Egypt during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries which revolutionized our understanding of the language of the New Testament.   The documents, known as the Oxyrhynchus Papyri contained writings from AD 50 through the 5th century.   The writings included Greek translations of the Old Testament, Old Testament Deuterocanon, the earliest known copies of the New Testament, early Christian writings, historical writings, legal writings, comedies, and artistic works.[12]  As the contents of these writings became circulated, it became apparent that some scholars had made very incorrect interpretations of word definitions and some historical events.  As a result, Lexicons and dictionaries were updated accordingly.  Among the updated entries were newly confirmed definitions, based on usages of the words stauros and xylon; the same words used in the New Testament to describe the instrument of Jesus’ Crucifixion.

Every few years, additional manuscripts have been discovered, but have taken a while to become accessible to the general public.  For example, a major find was uncovered by monks of Saint Catherine's Monastery when they discovered a room beneath the St. George Chapel in 1975.  Among these fragments were twelve complete leaves from the Sinaiticus, 11 leaves of the Pentateuch and 1 leaf of the Shepherd of Hermas.[13]  It was not until June 2005 that a team of experts from the UK, Europe, Egypt, Russia, and the USA began to digitize these discoveries.[14] 

With the wealth of new information from the many newly discovered writings, accurately-dated documents can now confirm the usage of the cross symbol by Christians in both the 2nd and 3rd centuries.   These writings include the Octavius of Minucius Felix, the Epistle of Barnabas, and Tertullian’s De Corona.  They contain enough descriptive detail to eliminate any doubt that the instrument of Jesus’ crucifixion was widely reported as being t-shaped during this period.

Many archeological discoveries were also made that confirmed early Christians associated the crucifixion of Christ with a t-shaped cross. Beginning in 1873, multiple groups of Jewish ossuaries (stone coffins) from the first century of the Christian era were discovered that were inscribed with crosses and/or the name "Jesus," indicating  that these Jewish deceased were Christians.  Some of the ossuaries are confirmed to have been used for burial of Christians before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.

With these recent discoveries, we now have concrete evidence that Christians from at least AD 70 associated themselves with the cross as a symbol of Christianity and believed that Jesus was crucified on a t-shaped cross.

Amazingly, some of the people that began the “torture stake” theory were well-aware of some of the opposing evidence and deliberately chose to either ignore or discredit it.

 

 

Summary of Evidence for the Cross, Contradicting Their Claims

In summary, we now have the following hard evidence as to the method of Jesus’ crucifixion, which will be discussed in this publication:

1.      Scripture that uses Koine Greek words to describe the method of His execution

2.      Accurately-dated writings in Koine Greek that use the exact same words to describe a variety of cross-like structures used for crucifixion, many of them used to specifically describe a t-shaped cross

3.      Accurately-dated writings of both early Christian and secular sources describing the cross of Jesus as being t-shaped, and having a crossbeam.  Scholars agree that these writings date to the 2nd and 3rd century.  One of them was possibly written as early as the 1st century.[15]

4.      A symbol similar in appearance to to the cross, the staurogram, was used to abbreviate the Greek word for cross in very early New Testament manuscripts. (200 AD-250 AD)[16]

5.      3rd century BC and later Latin writings which describe the practices of crucifixion; the description includes the carrying of a crossbeam to which the victim was nailed and then raised on a central piece to form a cross.

6.      Many items of jewelry and archeological evidence that the cross was being used from the 1st century forward (at least from AD 70) as a symbol for Christianity.

7.      Approximately 2,000 years of uninterrupted Christian church writings and traditions of the cross that agree with these ancient writings and archeological discoveries.

8.      Multiple medical experiments to study the effects of being hung on a simple upright stake clearly demonstrate that the victim will perish in a matter of minutes, rather than the hours noted in the Biblical account.

Summary of Claims by Jehovah’s Witnesses

In contrast, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other persons that believe the idea of a simple upright stake as the method of Jesus’ execution have no hard evidence at all.   This will also be discussed throughout this publication.

·         No ancient writings of any kind have been produced that clearly describe a simple upright stake being used in association with Jesus.

·         No ancient archeological discoveries of any kind have been made that depict a simple upright stake being used in association with Jesus or His followers.

·         As presented in the rest of this document, the only arguments made in favor of a single upright stake fall into one of the following general categories:

a.       The definition of the words used in the New Testament to describe the cross, but using only definitions used in the Classical Greek period, instead of the period when the New Testament was written

b.      Quotations from a small number of other authors who drew their own conclusions in the period of AD 1800 – 1940. They did not have full access to the information revealed by manuscript and archeological discoveries from AD 1800 to present.

c.       The Watchtower Society’s own reasoning, opinion, or statement of fact with no evidence cited

d.      Appeals that the shape of a “t” had “pagan” usages in ancient history, which has no bearing whatsoever on the method of Jesus’ execution.  The shape of an upright stake also had pagan uses in ancient history.

e.       Intentional misquotes and misrepresentations of works from other authors


How this False Teaching Began

1853 - Alexander Hislop

In 1853, Hislop (1807-1865) published a pamphlet titled “The Two Babylons.”  The pamphlet was expanded in 1858, and finally published as a book in 1919. Its central theme is that the Catholic Church is a veiled continuation of the pagan religion of Babylon.

According to Hislop, Semiramis was an exceedingly beautiful woman who was instrumental as the wife of Nimrod, the founder of Babylon, and its religion, complete with a pseudo-Virgin Birth.  Later, Nimrod was killed, and Semiramis, pregnant with his child, claimed the child was Nimrod reborn.

Hislop attempted to show that the cult and worship of Semiramis spread globally, her name changing with the culture. In Egypt she was Isis, in Greece and Rome she was called Venus, Diana, Athena, and a host of other names, but was always prayed to and central to the faith which was based on Babylonian mystery religion. However, all of these goddess figures play different roles and have no connection whatsoever beside the fact that they are Greek goddesses. There is no established connection between any goddesses and Semiramis except that they were women. According to Hislop, Constantine claimed to convert to Christianity, but remained pagan and renamed the gods and goddesses with Christian names to merge the two faiths for his political advantage.

Although scholarship has shown the picture presented by Hislop to be based on a gross misunderstanding of historical Babylon and its religion, his book remains popular among Jehovah's Witnesses, with The Watchtower frequently publishing excerpts from Hislop until 1989.

When scrutinized, the scholarship of Hislop quickly becomes laughable.  The main premise of his book, that Semiramis was the wife of Nimrod, is impossible from a historical standpoint.   The historical Assyrian queen Shammuramat (Semiramis) was the wife of Shamshi-Adad V of Assyria.  She reigned from 810-783 BC.   Diodorus Siculus elaborated a whole legend about her, which included her building Babylon and conquering distant lands.  Nimrod, however, comes from a much earlier period in time.  He is mentioned in Genesis 10:8-12, 1 Chronicles 1:10 and Micah 5:6.  The most prominent theories identify him as either the Babylonian hero Izdubar or Gishdubar (Gilgamesh), or the Babylonian Marduk.  Gilgamesh lived somewhere from 2,800-2,500 BC.  Marduk lived around 1800 BC.  To suggest that Semiramis and Nimrod were married is incredulous, as they existed at least 1,000 years apart.

According to Hislop, the following persons or legends all referred to Nimrod:

Adonis of Babylon, Aesculapius, Ala-Mahozim, Alorus, Apollo, Baal, Baal-Aberin, Bacchus, Bassareus, Belus, Bol-Kahn, Centaurus, Chusorus, Consus, Dagon, Dayyad, Dionysus, E-anush, Guebres, Hephaistos, Hercules, Janus, Janus Matutinus, Kentaurus, Khons, Khuk-hold, Kronos, Lateinos, Latus, Linus, Lucifer, Mamers, Mars, Mavors, Melikerta, Memmon, Merodach, Mithra, Moloch, Mulciber, Nar-kissos, Nebrod, Ninus, Oannes, Orion, Orpheus, Osiris, Phaethon, Phoroneus, Pluto, Saturn, Tahmurs, Tammuz, Tithonus, Vulcan, Wodan, Zer-Nebo-Gus, Zoroaster

Similarly, Hislop claimed that alternate names for his wife Semiramis were:

Alma Mater, Amarusia, Aphrodite, Artemis, Asht-trt, Ashtarte, Atergatis, Athor, Aurora, Bellona, Beltis, Bona Dea, Ceres, Cybele, Derketo, Diana, Dione, Easter, Irene, Isis, Juno, Melkat-ashemin, Melissa, Mylitta, Myrionymus, Pambasileia, Pessinuntica, Prosperpine, Rhea, Sacca, Semele, Shing Moo, Venus, Vesta

Even more laughable is that Hislop concludes that the Devil, Adam, Noah, Nimrod, and Saturn were all the same person.

Hislop then connects anything associated with or practiced by these various persons, cultures, and religions back to Babylon.   In his analysis, if something happened anywhere in the world, then it must have come from Babylon, and been practiced there.

The Watchtower Society frequently quotes Hislop in an effort to show that anything they disapprove of is of pagan origin.

A detailed analysis of Hislop’s work is presented in Ralph Woodrow’s The Babylon Connection

Ralph Woodrow, The Babylon Connection? 1999, p. 20

Hislop used four combined processes to accomplish his work and puff it up into compelling "proof":

1.      Hislop cherry-picked trivial details. He strained seeming connections where there weren't any and drew conclusions through false analogies. He drew on minute similarities and ignored huge differences.

2.      Hislop partially quoted historical sources, misquoted and often misrepresented his connections by simply distorting the facts. He drew parallels of practices into a false conclusion of cause and effect influences.

3.      Hislop invented relationships which weren't called for and used them to build even greater strained arguments. He used partial information and not entire contexts.

4.      Hislop painted with a broad brush while amassing a mountain of irrelevancies. He employed a scholarly tone of academic neutrality while employing assaults on writers, rather than their positions to poison the reader's conclusions. He passed off his speculations as fact-based.

5.      Because Hislop wrote in the mid-1800s, the books he refered to or quoted are now quite old: books such as Layard’s Nineveh and Its Remains, Kitto’s Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature, Wilkinson’s Ancient Egyptians, as well as old editions of Pausanias, Pliny, Tacitus, and Herodotus. When checking his footnote references, in numerous cases, they do not support his claims.

We will see later in this document that the Watchtower Society uses similar tactics in convincing Jehovah’s Witnesses of their doctrine regarding the cross.

In “The Two Babylons,” Hislop asserts that the cross is actually the symbol of the Greek God Bacchus, as there are “crosses” depicted on his headband.   He seems to ignore the fact that the “crosses” are actually plus-signs.  Hislop then asserts that the Catholic Church, whom he has a bitter hatred of, uses the symbol of the cross as a secretive way to further the worship of pagan gods.

 

 

He identifies the capital letter T as associated with the worship of the pagan god Tamamuz, asserting that any T-shaped object is really the symbol of this god, ignoring the fact that it is a basic geometric shape.  Ignoring the need for consistency, he also declares elsewhere in his book that it is the mark of Teitan.  He also ignores the fact that the letter T was only more recently the first initial for Tammuz.  In Old Testament times, it would have been the letter Tau, which is not shaped like a T at all. See the discussion in Quote-Hislop on page 230 for details.

He recalls that the cross was made popular as a symbol by Constantine when he marched with his armies having this symbol, so he concludes that Constantine must have invented it as a Christian symbol when it was really the symbol of a pagan god.  Hislop is apparently unaware of any of the many prior writings that depict the cross as actually being the shape of the instrument of Jesus’ crucifixion.

Hislop does not make any suggestions as to the details of the actual shape of Jesus’ cross.  Nor does he present any facts to show that others believed the cross of Jesus to have a different shape.  He merely makes the claim that the cross was introduced to the church as a symbol that came from pagan gods.

Hislop’s book is regarded by some as a great example of inventing connections between things that have absolutely no relationship at all.  [17]

Grabbe, Lester (1997). Can a History of Israel be Written? (p. 28). Sheffield, England:Sheffield Academic Press

(1859, September 17). The Saturday Review of Politics, Literature, Science, and Art, No. 203, Vol. 8, London, p.340


 

1871 - Henry Dana Ward – A Millerite

Henry Dana Ward (Shrewsbury, Massachusetts 1797-1884) was a Millerite Adventist.  Many of the doctrines of the Jehovah’s Witnesses have roots in the movement of the Millerites, their teachings, and their failed predictions/prophecies that Jesus would return around 1843-1844.  The Millerites, just like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, claimed to have a special insight into the scriptures and supposed prophecy details that were hidden from the average reader.

In his 1871 book, History of the Cross: the Pagan Origin, and Idolatrous Adoption and Worship, of the Image, Ward makes the following series of false claims to formulate his ideas:

·         “Neither stauros nor zulon ever mean two sticks joining each other at an angle, either in the New Testament or in any other book.” (page 14)

·         Because crucifixions were carried out in large quantities sometimes, only the simplest construction possible (a post) would have been used for all crucifixions to conserve both labor and wood. (pages 16-17)

·         Ward draws from Hislop’s writings that claim the cross shape was actually a pagan worship symbol that was introduced by Constantine as a Christian symbol. (pages 48-51)

 

As we will see later, the Watchtower Society copied this reasoning to add it to their system of beliefs.  Similarly, they copied the false predictions that the Millerites proclaimed about the 1844 second coming of Christ.  In the long run, the Watchtower society kept both teachings.  With regard to the failed second coming dates, they ultimately shifted the dates forward and claimed that Jesus came, but was “invisible,” an explanation that they took directly from the Millerite N. H. Barbour.[18]

 

Where did Ward get his ideas?  He tells us in his book on page 48, calling Hislop’s work “a work of great research and of the highest authority.”

 

Ward was aware that writings dating earlier than the time of Constantine existed that describe the cross of Jesus as t-shaped.  On pages 24-28, he attempts to address the writings of Barnabas (who claimed to be a fellow-traveler and companion of Paul the apostle) by arguing that Barnabas is the one to “prepare the way of the Anti-Christ, and to provide the pagan form of the cross for his mark and banner.”

 

His assault on the overwhelming evidence continues throughout his book.   On pages 28-30, he attempts to discredit the purported writings of Nicodemus.    On pages 30-32 he attempts to discredit Justin Martyr.  On pages 32-33, he addresses Marcus Minutius Felix.  On pages 33-37, it is Tertullian.  On pages 37-38, he addresses the writings of Cyprian. 

 

No evidence of any kind is presented as to alternate depictions of the cross in the Bible or by any other historical writings.

 

As we know, Ward’s teachings on the imminent second coming of Christ proved false in the event known in Millerite history as “the great disappointment.”  Thus, his own teachings and failure condemn his credibility as a discerner of spiritual truths and scriptural understanding.  See the additional notes on page 339 of this document.

1877 - Bullinger & the “Torture Stake”

E. W. Bullinger (1837-1913) was known as a Hyperdispensationalist, an adherent to a more extreme version of teachings regarding older time periods of the Bible being no longer applicable that are shared by the Millerites, Adventists, Mormons, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.  For example, Bullinger belived that baptism is no longer necessary, but was for New Testament times only.  Similarly, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the time for being “born again” is over, and that the majority of the population of their congregations comprise a second class of Christians that will remain forever on a paradise earth, never hope to see heaven. 

Bullinger apparently ran with Ward’s ideas and in “A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to The English and Greek New Testament” (1877), in contrast to other authorities, stated:

E. W. Bullinger, A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to The English and Greek New Testament.
 (1877), edition from 1895 pp, 818-819 194

Bullinger was apparently influenced by the writings of Hislop too, as he notes on the same page that crosses (plus symbols inside circles) were “solar wheels” or “symbols of the Babylonian sun-god.”   

.Among the many documented facts that easily disprove his statement are:

1.      The writings of the Epistle of Barnabas.  Written long before the end of the fourth century, certainly earlier than 135,[19] and possibly of the 1st century AD.,[20] Barnabas likened the stauros to the letter T (the Greek letter tau),[21] and to the position assumed by Moses in Exodus 17:11-12.[22]

2.      The shape of the stauros is also likened to that of the letter T in the final words of “Trial in the Court of Vowels” among the works of 2nd-century Lucian. Other 2nd-century witnesses attest to the fact that at that time the stauros of Jesus was envisaged as being cross-shaped and not in the form of a simple.

In “The Companion Bible” (which was completed and published in 1922, nine years after Bullinger’s 1913 death), Bullinger was emphatic in his belief that stauros never meant two pieces of timber placed across one another at any angle, "but always of one piece alone ... There is nothing [of the word stauros] in the Greek of the N.T. even to imply two pieces of timber." Bullinger wrote that in the catacombs of Rome Christ was never represented there as "hanging on a cross" and that the cross was a pagan symbol of life (the ankh) in Egyptian churches that was borrowed by the Christians. He cited a letter from English Dean John William Burgon, who questioned whether a cross occurred on any Christian monument of the first four centuries and wrote: "The 'invention' of it in pre-Christian times, and the 'invention' of its use in later times, are truths of which we need to be reminded in the present day. The evidence is thus complete, that the Lord was put to death upon an upright stake, and not on two pieces of timber placed in any manner." 

Of course, we now have a great amount of evidence to the contrary that was not available to Bullinger or Burgon.  This evidence includes the Christian archeological evidence that Burgon quested the existence of. 

See also the section on Bullinger’s work titled The Companion Bible.  In this work, he quotes various authors to support his theory about the cross, but ignores the unquestionable facts presented by the same authors that easily disprove him.

Bullinger apparently dabbled in astrology too, publishing The Witness of the Stars in 1893, where he claims that the various stars and constellations are sources of “Divine Revelation” about the Messiah.  He goes into great detail, about the various constellations and their meanings.  He claims that these constellations were placed in the heavens as a “Revelation of God.”  (page 2)  Of special interest to us is his explanation of the “Southern Cross” constellation representing Jesus’ death. 

It seems that Bullinger could not make up his mind on whether the cross represented Jesus’ death in some way or not. 

1887 - Fulda -The Cross and the Crucifixion

At nearly the same time, Hermann Fulda published “Das Kreuz Und Die Kreuzigung” (The Cross and the Crucifixion).  Fulda was a pastor near Halle, Germany.   He states his belief that Joseph Lipsius was wrong about the method of Jesus’ crucifixion.

 In this book, he states that it is “likely” that the entire crucifixion instrument was carried by Jesus, as it is Fulda’s opinion that the pabulum alone would not have required the assistance of Simon of Cyrene (par. 304).  He believes that Christ was crucified by nailing his hands to either side of a simple post, and tying his feet to the post, rather than nailing them.

Overall, he claims to draw this conclusion also from:

1.      The types of executions in ancient countries of the East

2.      The narratives of the crucifixion

3.      Early church fathers (par. 339)

Here is his reasoning, based on the 3 points mentioned:

1.      Fulda rules out single-piece crosses.  A single-piece cross is one where the pole and crossbeam part are unsepaerably connected to each other, rather than a having a crossbeam that is raised one the main pole and is a clear piece.  Fulda points out that there is no evidence of these single-piece crosses being used at the time and place of Jesus’ crucifixion.   He has no evidence to show that they were not used, just a lack of evidence stating that they were.   Thus, he concludes that the cross of Jesus must have been either a pole with a removable crossbeam (two-piece cross), or simple pole.

2.      He concludes that a crossbeam was not used because the execution was carried out with great haste.  He assumes that crossbeams were not reused or already waiting for condemned prisoners.   He has no evidence to back up these assumptions or the idea that the Romans could not have manufactured a crossbeam quickly. 

He states that the “probable” position of the crucifixion would be nailing his hands to either side of a simple post, and tying his feet to the post, rather than nailing them.  Again, this statement is made without any evidence.  It is just his opinion, using his other unfounded opinions to rule out other cross forms.

He supposes that this form of execution was used intentionally by the Roman soldiers so that Jesus would die quickly, as convicts were allowed to hang on the cross for up to 7 days, according to some accounts. (par. 342)  Fulda seems to overlook the fact that the other two condemned men did not die as quickly, and their legs were broken to hasten death.  He also seems to overlook the fact that Pilate was surprised that Jesus died so quickly.  These two facts would tend to discredit Fulda’s theory.

3.      Fulda makes the following faulty interpretation that he believes show early church fathers envisioned Christ on a simple pole: (par. 343)

Minucius Felix ​​says in the dialog Octavius to the Gentiles: “Your victorious trophies show not only the shape of a simple cross, but even the figure of a crucified man” (Chapter XXIX).  Fulda believes that this statement shows that early Christians pictured only a “simple” cross.  “Your” refers to the non-Christian Romans.  In this text, Christians are being contrasted with the pagan Romans.  Apparently, Fulda did not understand the chapter, or intentionally misrepresented the quote. See page 207 of this document for the full text and explanation.

 

 

 

Speaking of Christians, Minucius Felix goes on to say: “We assuredly see the sign of a cross, naturally, in the ship when it is carried along with swelling sails, when it glides forward with expanded oars; and when the military yoke is lifted up, it is the sign of a cross; and when a man adores God with a pure mind, with hands outstretched.” 

What do these things look like?

A typical roman ship with a t-shaped mast.

A military yoke, usually carried over the shoulder.

A man adoring God with his hands outstretched

The sentence prior to this quote is: “You, indeed, who consecrate gods of wood, adore wooden crosses perhaps as parts of your gods. For your very standards, as well as your banners; and flags of your camp, what else are they but crosses glided and adorned?”  The author is contrasting the cross of Jesus with the fancy & adorned shapes used by others, and thus calls the Christian cross “simple” in comparison.

The overall chapter referenced in Octavius is a defense of the accusation that Christians were worshipping or praying to mere images or idols when they displayed crosses. 

With regard to the feet being tied, rather than nailed, several facts contradict Fulda:

·         This is possibly contradicted by Luke 24:39, where Jesus asks those present to examine his hands and feet. 

·         We have the contradicting prophecy in Psalm 22:16-18

Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet.  I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.  They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing.

·         The elsewhere-mentioned archeological discovery of Jehohanan shows that crucifixions of that period included placing at least one nail through the foot, which is contrary to Fulda’s claim. See page 63 of this document.

As we have seen, Fulda’s analysis of the biblical narratives and writing of early church fathers is based on his own faulty reasoning, rather than any actual statements by early writers.

In the light of recently discovered writings which clearly describe the crucifixion instrument as t-shaped, his arguments quickly fall apart, as each one contains words like “perhaps” and “maybe,” rather than any statements of fact or actual texts offered in support of his theory.

Fulda’s work inspired “conspiracy theory” types to suppose that the cross had been invented by later Christians.  In paragraphs 344-346, he accuses early church fathers of inventing the t-shaped cross for various reasons.  He supposes that people would have been disappointed to learn that Jesus died on a mere stake.  In making this assumption, he seems to forget that there were many eye-witnesses to the actual crucifixion, who would have surely contradicted any attempts to re-write history.  Even if they were not still alive at the time, we would expect at least some of their accounts of the crucifixion to be re-told by the next generation of Christians, including the general shape of the cross.

A general outline of Fulda’s work is as follows, for those that want to read his book:

·         Introduction – Fulda presents his work as a re-investigation of the crucifixion in Christian and secular texts, as the 1629 book De Cruce Libri Tres by Justus Lipsius is suggested to be outdated.

·         Fulda defines a crucifixion as an extended death by suspension.  He claims that this topic needs careful examination, as a lack of vocabulary or terminology essentially treats all types of crucifixions as a singular thing. (chapter 10, pages 57-79)

·         Fulda states that he believes that the exact construction used for crucifixion was not consistent, and was essentially whatever could be found. (chapter 14, pages 106-113)

·         Fulda explains that prior to Jesus’ time, the furca was a type of punishment used in Rome, where the victim was fitted with some type of yoke and then lead around. (pages 116-117; 254-263)

·         Fulda states that the furca was later replaced with a simple horizontal bar, the patibulum.  This was sometimes attached to a vertical beam after the victim was led around in shame, concluding with a crucifixion. (pages 116-120)

·         Fulda states that he believes that the texts which reference “cross bearing” are about carrying the patibulum, not a fully-constructed cross.  He is unable to find any text that discusses a single-piece cross (pages 118-121; 137-140)

·         Because he is unable to find any text that specifically discusses a single-piece cross (the crux immissa), he doubts that such a thing existed. (pages 120-121)

·         Using his own faulty reasoning, as previously discussed, he rules out a patibulum for Jesus, and then concludes that He must have carried a simple pole & was crucified on it. (pages 200; 219-220)

1896 – John Denham Parsons

Parsons apparently subscribed to many of the ideas of Hislop regarding Babylon, but extended these ideas to claim that nearly everything in Judaism and Christianity was based on Babylon and astronomy.  In 1895, he published his ideas in Our Sun-God or Christianity Before Christ – A Demonstration That, as the Fathers Admitted, Our Religion Existed Before Our Era, and Even in Pre-historic Times.   Parsons believed that the Bible’s narrative of Noah’s flood was “plainly mythical,”[23] and that it was “borrowed by the Jews from Babylon.”[24]  He claimed that Judaism and Christianity were both based on “ancient astronomical lore,”[25] and that Noah’s flood was merely “an astronomical allegory.”[26]

 

Parsons tells us that Babylon existed “long before the alleged date of Adam’s creation.”[27]  He asserts that “the stories of the Creation, the Temptation, the Fall, the Deluge, and the Confusion of Tongues” were originally Babylonian, and were adopted by the Jews.[28]

Parsons, John Denham, Our Sun-God or Christianity Before Christ,  London, 1895, p. 68

 

With regard to the cross of Jesus, Parsons published a book one year later titled The Non-Christian Cross – An Enquiry Into the Origin and History of the Symbol Eventually Adopted as That of Our Religion.  Parsons is much less certain about the shape of the cross than Ward or Bullinger.  However, he essentially re-interates the same points and ideas of Hislop, Ward, and Bullinger in his book.

·         He states that the “stauros to which Jesus was affixed may have been in the shape of a cross.” (pages 15-16)  However, he believes that the presence of a crossbar for Jesus is “unproven.” (page 17) .

·         Since Christians use many different styles and shapes of crosses, then we must not know what kind of cross Jesus died on (page 22)

·         Since we do not know what type of cross Jesus died on, then it is misleading to translate the word stauros as cross without researching the primary meaning of the word in those days.

·         He then gives usage examples of the words in the Bible used for “crucify” and “crucified,” but cites examples of their usage from works that were written over 400 years earlier than Jesus’ time. (pages 25-26)

·         He then proceeds to credit Constantine with the invention of the cross shape (pages 28-29)

·         He then cites the writings of Livy (xxviii. 29), and erroneously concludes that in his time, the word crux meant a single piece of wood (see later details in this document that show the exact opposite).  This conclusion is flawed, as Livy used the word palus, not crux, in the referenced passage.  (page 31)

·         In a very peculiar argument, he dismisses the writings of early church fathers such as Miucius Felix, stating that they should have written that the cross should be venerated as a symbol if they truly believed their own writings about it. (pages 33-34) 

·         In an additional peculiar argument, he quotes a passage where it is stated that Christians do not venerate crosses or worship wooden gods, and concludes that this implies Christians didn’t believe that Christ was crucified on a cross.

This book is a continuation of Parsons’ earlier work, Our Sun-God or Christianity Before Christ.  He asserts that Christian Baptism is a rite adopted from Sun-God worshippers (p. 8), and that the cross shape was similarly adopted by Christians.  While focusing on the topic of the cross, he reminds us that he believes the Bible’s account of creation was borrowed by the Jews from Babylon (p. 103).  He compares the God of the Bible with the androgynous gods of the ancients (presumably Babylon), and states that God must also be “our mother,” therefore, “Man was not created in the likeness of God.”

Parsons, John Denham, The Non-Christian Cross, 1896, London, p. 103

The evidence that Parsons provides is the existence of objects and images that are similar to a cross in design.  His specific examples are:

The Cross of the Logos (p. 163)

Continuing his assertion that Jesus is called the “light of the word,” as an adoption of sun-worship, Parsons claims that the original text of the New Testament called Him the “Light of the Cosmos.” (p. 165)  He cites Plato’s writing, where the soul is represented as two circles drawn, one following the circle of the zodiac, and one drawn in the opposite direction, such that the two circle intersect and form an X.  This X was supposedly adopted by Christians and rotated to form a cross. (p. 166-167)

The Pre-Christian Cross in Europe (p. 169)

Parsons points out that crosses (a plus sign) appeared on funeral urns in ancient history.  He also notes the usage of plus-signs and the swastika symbol in Europe, which he reports is associated with solar movement. (p. 173) He goes on to discuss similarly-shaped golden objects found in tombs.

 

 

The Pre-Christian Cross in Asia (p. 178)

Parsons notes that the swastika and the ankh are found in Asia.  He also notes that the symbol of Astarte, the bride of the Sun-God was a “cross” (p. 179).  In reality, the symbols associated with her were: a star within a circle, the lion, and the horse.  In Phoenicia, the most common symbol was the crescent moon.[29]  Parsons falsely claims that the letter T was associated with her in occasional artwork to represent Tammuz, her mythological father.

Parsons points out the existence of some paintings that depict John the Baptist with a cross of some type.  For example, the oil paintings attributed to Caravaggio around 1598 and 1604 depict John the Baptist with a walking staff with a small crossbeam at the top.    Something similar appears from Andrea del Sarto in 1528.  While the artist likely included this detail to make the viewer ponder the role John played in Christ’s life, Parsons expresses his own theory:  John the Baptist is supposed to represent the sun’s declination in the expression of sun worship.  Thus, Parsons suggests that Christ represents the sun’s inclination, and the Gospels merely adopted these aspects of sun worship to form their narrative.  He explains that Jesus baptizing with fire represents the hot summer days that follow after Christmas, which is close to the winter solstice, and John baptizing with water represents the cooling that occurs after the summer solstice. (p. 180)

The Pre-Christian Cross in Africa (p. 183)

In Africa, Parsons focuses on the ankh as a cross-like symbol, and an x-shaped symbol that he associates it with the Sun-God, calling it a “St. Andrew’s Cross.” (p.185)  Of course, the reality is that Church historians recorded that St. Andrew was crucified on an x-shaped instrument, thus naming it. 

Evidence of Troy (p. 187)

In this section, Parsons discusses pottery discovered in Troy, indicating that a St. Andrew’s cross marked the vulva.  The actual pottery is illustrated in the section of this document for “Argument-Phallic.”  It is essentially an x-shaped marking, which could have some meaning, or could be purely decorative.  Because of its location, this is a phallic symbol, according to Parsons, and “phallic worship and Sun-God worship were admittedly always closely connected.” (p. 191) He also describes an item of pottery with a shape resembling a swastika, which he calls a “cross.”  Since this symbol has been reported elsewhere to be associated with solar movements, then he concludes that it too closely ties Troy with Sun-God worship. (p. 192)

Evidence of Cyprus (p. 193)

Parsons notes that a symbol like a “swastika cross” is found on vases and graves in Cyprus.  He points out that symbols for the sun and moon are located next to lines or symbols representing light.  He implies that this idea transferred over to Christianity, and was adopted as the Father (sun) and His Son (light). (p. 196)

 

Herma from Pompeii.  Parsons believed that the platform at the top combined with the pillar formed a “cross.”

Misc. Evidence (p. 204)

Parsons believes that the various Hermae or Herma (a sculpture with a head, and perhaps a torso, atop a pilar with a small platform) erected for Greek gods formed the shape of a cross of-sorts.

It is incredible that a book used to propose that all of Judiasm and Christianity originated from Sun-God worship in Babylon is considered by the Watchtower Society as an accurate source to quote.

See the additional discussion on page 288 of this document.

1904 – Paul Wilhelm Schmidt – Follower of Fulda

Schmidt’s 1899 work, Die Geschichte Jesu (The History of Jesus) Vol 2, claimed to embody the present-day criticism of the Gospel narratives.  Schmidt believed that:

·         The Gospel of John was actually written by someone else, and very little of it was accurate.

·         Everything in the book of Mark after Mark 16:8 was written by someone else and should be discarded. (page 49)

·         2 Thessalonians was written by an imposter, not Paul and should be dismissed.

·         That Jesus’ ministry only lasted about one year

·         The chapters of the Bible that deal with Jesus’ early life should be dismissed as being unreliable. 

He manages to find fault with a great deal of the Gospels.  For example, he doubts that Jesus was given vinegar on a sponge as told in Matthew 27:48, claiming that vinegar was not available to the Romans at that time.

When he comes to the topic of the cross, he turns to Fulda as apparently his sole source of information and Gospel criticism.  From pages 384-393 alone, he mentions or quotes Fulda eight times, making his discussion of this topic simply a series of ideas copied from Fulda’s book. While he agrees that crosses often had a crosspiece (page 388), he ultimately quotes Fulda, contradicting himself with confusing logic by stating that the cross of Jesus must not have had a crosspiece because crucifixions were sometimes carried out by the thousands. (page 389) 

Fulda supposed that during these mass crucifixions, it would have been too much trouble for executioners to get crossbeams for all of these crosses.  Of course, there are two bad conclusions in this statement. First, that mass crucifixions had anything to do with the crucifixion of Jesus and the two that accompanied him that day.  Second, he has no evidence whatsoever as to how these mass crucifixions were carried out, only his own ideas. 

 

Die Geschichte Jesu, Paul Wilhelm Schmidt, Volume 2, 1899, p. 389
Showing that his ideas regarding the “cross” came from the writings of Fulda.


 

1905 - William Edwy Vine – Follower of Hislop

W. E. Wine began his writing career in 1905, and is best known for his work “Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words,” first published in four parts, in 1940. This lexicon traces the words of the King James Version of the Holy Bible back to their Ancient Koine Greek root words and to the meanings of the words for that day.

 Vine was apparently always looking for a way to remove traditions form the church that he could not find a documented source for.  According to his biography at PlymouthBrethen.org, he once wrote:

It is incumbent upon all who profess the Christian faith to respect the plainly revealed intentions of the Head of the church, instead of burdening it with doctrines and regulations of human fabrication.

In his dictionary, under the word “cross” Vine writes:

W. E. Vine, An expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, 1966, p.256

It is obvious from this quote that Vine had not been exposed to any of the literary or archeological discoveries previously mentioned, or he would not have made the statements that he did.

Throughout the book, Vine inserted his own theological bias in its definition of various words, rather than sticking to definitions.


 

The book is now regarded by many as obsolete and replaced by works such as Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words.

William Mounce, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Zondervan, Dec 15, 2009, p. 438

Interestingly, Vine was an opposer of Jehovah’s Witnesses.  In spite of this, they continue to quote him regularly.  Vine was quoted by the Watchtower Society 52 times in their publication “Insight on the Scriptures” alone.

 

W. E. Vine, Witnesses to The Second Advent, (approx. 1929), p. 23



 


 

Where did Vine get his ideas about the cross and Constantine?  His 1921 book tells us:

W. E. Vine, The Twelve Mysteries of Scripture, Pickering & Englis, 1921, p.5

W. E. Vine, The Twelve Mysteries of Scripture, Pickering & Englis, 1921, p.85

 

Vine apparently subscribed to the writings of Alexander Hislop, whom we have already demonstrated was deeply flawed in his historical facts and reasoning (see page 20).

1936 - Adoption of This False / Misinformed Teaching by the Jehovah’s Witnesses

In 1936, Rutherford began to change his position to what would become the current Watchtower Society position - that of the torture stake theory.  Although he never attributed his discovery of this theory to Bullinger, is it hard to deny the fact that both use the exact same line of reasoning and references.

From the statements shown in the 1975 “Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” one can solidly conclude that this "change in viewpoint” was not some revelation from God, but from Rutherford.   Rutherford changed many teachings which originated with his predecessor, Charles Taze Russell.

This new teaching was first introduced by Rutherford without any real explanation in the 1936 book “Riches.”  In this book, Rutherford stated that Jesus was simply “nailed to a tree.”  Obviously, this raised concerns about how He would have carried a tree to the place of execution, so this verbiage didn’t last long.

To further support this teaching, the New World Translation Committee (the committee under the control of the Jehovah’s Witnesses which produced their own version of the Bible to support Watchtower dogma) inserted the words "torture stake" where the word stauros appears in the original Greek manuscripts. The Watchtower Society explains this interpretation in the November 8, 1972 Awake! magazine by stating that the word stauros in the Bible means "upright stake" or "pale". They also go on to say that the cross is a "non-Christian symbol" and "the adoration of the cross is outright idolatry, disguised under the label of being Christian." Through such harsh statements, one might conclude that the Watchtower Society has concrete evidence that Jesus was indeed impaled on a torture stake.  In the following pages, we will see that this is not the case.

 

 

Official statement regarding the changed doctrine of “the cross”
1975, “Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses”

 

Initial change in “cross” doctrine
Ritches, p. 27, 1936

 

The Greek and Latin Words for Cross

Understanding the Greek Words stauros & xulon

By reading commonly-used Bible dictionaries and Greek-English lexicons, including those cited by the Watchtower Society, we can see that these words, which are translated “cross” or “tree” in the Bible can have several different meanings.  Note that “cross” is clearly one of them, although you will read statements from the Watchtower Society to the contrary.  We have similar words in our modern English as well.  For example:

These are several types of “poles” that are very different than the narrow dictionary definition of “a long slender usually cylindrical object (as a length of wood).”

The Watchtower Society argues that since the definition of “a stake or post” is the simplest and most generalized one (even though it had other uses at the time the New Testament was written), it must be what the authors of the Bible meant, with no possibility of anything else.   Additionally, they deny or ignore all historical writings, archeology, and Biblical clues that indicate the type of construction that Jesus was executed on was other than a simple upright stake or post. 

This would be no different than a future historian arguing that any of the types of “poles” shown above must only be simple cylindrical wooden objects.  It seems like such a poor argument that nobody should be deceived or convinced by it.

An argument using the same type of logic as the Watchtower Society, but in the English Language

·         First, begin by ignoring the fact that Webster’s 1828 Dictionary of the English Language lists the #1 definition of “unicorn” for that time period as “an animal with one horn; the monoceros. this name is often applied to the rhinoceros”

·         Now, take the definition from a modern dictionary: “a mythical animal generally depicted with the body and head of a horse, the hind legs of a stag, the tail of a lion, and a single horn in the middle of the forehead”

·         Find another modern dictionary or reference that describes unicorns as being able to fly, possibly with some illustrations.

·         Point out to readers that the 13th century traveler Marco Polo claimed to have seen a unicorn in Java.

·         Ignore the fact that Polo’s description of the animal sounds a lot like a rhinoceros.

·         Point out to readers that the King James Bible (translated in 1611) uses the word “unicorn” 9 times.

·         Make the claim that unicorns are magical flying horse-like creatures with one horn, and that they are real because they are mentioned in the Bible 9 times, and that Marco Polo even wrote about seeing one.

Does this sound like good reasoning to you?  If so, perhaps you should go on a quest to find these mythical beasts.  If not, then you can probably understand what silly and faulty reasoning is being used by the Watchtower Society.

The Greek Word Stauros (σταυρός)

Liddell & Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, 1897, p. 1422

James Strong, The New Strong’s Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words, 2001, p. 1377

From these commonly-used Greek reference books, we see that the word stauros means “a stake or post,” but also is used to refer to more complex things made of wood, such as “the cross.”  We also see that the time period of each usage of the word is distinctive by looking up the usage references given.

The etymological meaning of this word is essentially “an object that stands firm.”  The word comes from the root “sta” – “to stand,” from which words like “stand,” “stern,” and “stem” were derived.[30]

Over several general periods, the Greek meaning of this word changed.

The Classical Greek Period (500 BC - 323 BC)

The "Classical Age" is "the modern designation of the period from about 500 BC to the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. [31]

In Homeric and classical Greek, until the early 4th century BC, stauros meant an upright stake, pole,[32] [33] or piece of paling, "on which anything might be hung, or which might be used in impaling [fencing in] a piece of ground."[34]

In the literature of that time, which ended almost half a millennium before the time the Gospels were written, it never was seen to refer to two pieces of timber placed across one another at any angle, but always one piece alone.[35]

The only usage examples cited by Liddell & Scott (above, left) having the definition “an upright pole or stake”:

Author

Work

Approximate Date

Homer

Odyssey

850 BC

Homer

Iliad

850 BC

Thucydides

History of the Peloponnesian War

410 BC

Xenophon

Anabasis

370 BC

 


 

Koine (common) Greek (300 BC – AD 300)

In Koine Greek, the form of Greek that the Bible was written in (used between about 300 BC and AD 300), the word stauros (σταυρός) was already used to refer to a cross, as when Justin Martyr said in the 2nd century that the stauros of Christ was prefigured in the Jewish paschal lamb:[36]

"That lamb which was commanded to be wholly roasted was a symbol of the suffering of the cross (stauros) which Christ would undergo. For the lamb, which is roasted, is roasted and dressed up in the form of the cross (stauros). For one spit is transfixed right through from the lower parts up to the head, and one across the back, to which are attached the legs of the lamb."

The word stauros was used in the Bible to refer to the instrument of execution by crucifixion, which at that time involved binding the victim with outstretched arms to a crossbeam, or nailing him firmly to it through the wrists; the crossbeam was then raised against an upright shaft and made fast to it about 3 metres from the ground, and the feet were tightly bound or nailed to the upright shaft.[37]

Usage examples cited by Liddell & Scott having the definition “the Cross” “represented by the Greek letter T”:

Author

Work

Approximate Date

Diodorus Siculus

Bibliotheca historica

60 - 30 BC

Uncertain

Book of Matthew in the New Testament

AD 40 – 100

Plutarch

On the Delays of Divine Vengeance

AD 60 – 120

Lucianus

The Death of Peregrinus &

Trial in the Court of Vowels

AD 125 - 180

Luke

Book of Luke in the New Testament

AD 80 - 110

 

Usage examples cited by Liddell & Scott having the definition “a pale for impaling”:

Author

Work

Approximate Date

Plutarch

Artaxerxes (Writing a historical account of a ruler in 522 BC)

60 – 120 AD

 

But will you nail him to a cross (eis stauron kathélóseis) or impale him to a stake (skolopi péxeis)?
What does Theodorus care whether he rots above ground or beneath?
(Plutarch, Moralia, Ad Vitiositas 499D; author lived between AD 45-125).

Another example of a t-shaped stauros before the time of Constantine:

Author

Work

Approximate Date

Epictetus

Discourses of Epictetus 3,26,22[38]

1st Century AD

 

Modern Greek (After AD 300 )

In Modern Greek the word stauros (σταυρός) means:

1.      (a) "The combination of two beams crossing each other perpendicularly on which Christ was crucified and killed, and by synecdoche any object of that shape; (b) by synecdoche, the sign of the cross as a religious gesture

2.      (a) a design consisting of two lines crossing perpendicularly and producing four right angles; (b) by synecdoche, a cross-shaped design with various arrangements of the arms

3.      the ordeals one undergoes in life.[39]

Since crucifixion was a Roman practice, not Greek, it is logical that there wasn’t a specific Greek word to describe a specific form of the instrument used to carry it out.  Since such t-shaped crucifixions were a historical fact for that period, the simple unanswerable question to the Watchtower Society would be:

If stauros was not the word used to denote such crucifixions on a t-shaped cross, then what word was used?

As stated earlier, the discovery of additional literature has resulted in lexicons being updated.  Here is the first part of the listing for word stauros in one of the most thorough lexicons currently available:

 A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament
and Other Early Christian Literature, Third Edition (DBAG), (University of Chicago Press, Chicago:2000), p. 941

Initially admitting that their rendering of stauros as “torture stake” was unconventional, they made this statement, where time has shown that the opposite of their expectation has occurred:

The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures (Brooklyn, N.Y.: 1950), p. 771

The Greek Word Xulon [also spelled Xylon] (ξύλον)

Liddell & Scott ,A Greek-English Lexicon, (1897), p. 1019

James Strong, The New Strong’s Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words, (2001), p. 1259

From these commonly-used Greek reference books, we see that the word xulon means “cut wood,” but also is used to refer to just about “anything made of wood,” such as “the cross,”  “the Trojan Horse,” “staff,” and “stocks.”   In general, we also see from the examples listed that the common meaning of “timber” or “firewood” changed to “anything made of wood” from the end of the Classical Greek period throughout the period that Koine Greek was used, confirming that it certainly was a word that would have been used to refer to a cross.

Some of the usage examples cited by Liddell & Scott from the Classical Greek period (above, left):

Author

Work

Meaning

Approximate Date

Homer

Odyssey

firewood / timber

850 BC

Plato

Laws

ship-timber

360 BC

Alexis

Fragment

Stake on which criminals were impaled

375-288 BC

Aristophanes

The Frogs

Gallows

405 BC

Aristophanes

Nubes

A wooden collar, put on the neck of the prisoner

405 BC

Aristophanes

Equites

A combination of a wooden collar and stocks for a prisoner

405 BC

Xenophon

Anabasis

Of live wood, tree

370 BC

 

 

 

Some of the usage examples cited by Liddell & Scott from the period of Koine Greek:

Author

Work

Meaning

Approximate Date

Anonymous

Book of Acts in the New Testament

Of the cross

AD 80-90

Anonymous

Book of Acts in the New Testament

Stocks, in which the feet were confined

AD 80-90

 

Additional usage examples of xulon:

Author

Work

Meaning

Approximate Date

Aristophanes

Vespae (The Wasps) 90[40]

Bench

446 – 386 BC

Aristophanes

The Acharnians 25[41]

Benches of wood

446 – 386 BC

Demosthenes

Private Orations 1111, 22[42]

Bench, desk, or counter

384 – 322 BC

 

Further evidence of the meaning of xulon as something other than “a single upright stake for impaling” can be seen in the Septuagint (Koine Greek Translation of the Old Testament).  In the Hebrew Bible, Deuteronomy 21:23 states that "cursed of God is everyone who hangs on a tree." In the Septuagint, this was translated as epi xulon "upon a piece of wood," and usage for "hanging"[43]  (Joshua 8:29; 10:24).  The usage of this phrase “on a tree” as a parallel for the crucifixion is carried into the New Testament as the method of Jesus’ execution.   Reading Deuteronomy 21:22, we see that this is not referring to someone killed by affixing them to a tree; they are first killed, then publically disgraced by displaying the dead body by hanging it from a tree.  We see that Peter liked this phrase and uses xulon in this manner 3 times (Acts 5:30, 10:39; Acts 13:39) compared to Paul who only uses xulon "piece of wood" once in the same manner.[44] [45] [46]    

Overall, in the New Testament, the xulon appears with the following usages, including “stocks”:

Reference

Translation or Meaning
(KJV & NIV & NAS)

Refers to the Instrument of Jesus’ Execution

Matthew 26:47

Staves / Clubs / Clubs

 

Matthew 26:55

Staves / Clubs / Clubs

 

Mark 14:43

Staves / Clubs / Clubs

 

Mark 14:48

Staves / Clubs / Clubs

 

Luke 22:52

Staves / Clubs / Clubs

 

Luke 23:31

Tree / Tree / Tree

 

Acts 5:30

Tree / Tree / Cross

*

Acts 10:39

Tree / Tree / Cross

*

Acts 13:29

Tree / Tree / Cross

*

Acts 16:24

Stocks / Stocks / Stocks

 

1 Cor. 3:12

Wood / Wood / Wood

 

Galatians 3:13

Tree / Tree / Tree

*

1 Peter 2:24

Tree / Tree / Cross

*

Revelation 2:7

Tree / Tree  Tree

 

Revelation 18:12

Wood / Wood / Wood

 

Revelation 22:2

Tree / Tree / Tree

 

Revelation 22:14

Tree / Tree / Tree

 

 

This confirms that the word’s usage at that time did not exclusively mean “a single stake for impaling,” as implied by the Watchtower Society.  They even translate the word as “stocks” in their own New World Translation of the Bible in Acts 16:24.

As a final example, we have the Epistle of Barnabas, which clearly describes it as a two-beamed cross:

 

Author

Work

Meaning

Approximate Date

Barnabas

Epistle of Barnabas

Two-Beamed Cross

AD 70 - 135


He uses the word xulon in his Epistle at 8:5; 12:1; 12:7, then clearly states that it is a two-beamed cross in 9:8 and 12:2.

8:5 And what signifieth the wool upon the stick [xulon] ?  Because the kingdom of Jesus is upon the cross [xulon], and because they who hope upon him shall live for ever.

12:1 In like manner again he signifieth concerning the cross [stauros] in another prophet, who saith, And when shall these things be fulfilled? The Lord saith, When the tree [xulon] hath been bent and shall rise up again, and when blood shall flow from the tree. You have again a prophecy concerning the cross [stauros] and about him who is about to be crucified.

12:7 When, therefore, they had come together they besought Moses, that he should offer supplication for them concerning their healing. Moses therefore said unto them, When any of you is bitten let him come unto the dead serpent, that is placed upon the tree [xylon], and let him believe and hope that, though it is dead, it is able to make him live, and immediately he shall be saved; and so did they. You have, therefore, again in these things also, the glory of Jesus, that in him and to him are all things.

9:8 For he saith, And Abraham circumcised out of his household eighteen and three hundred. What, then, was the knowledge that was given by this? Learn ye, that he mentioneth the eighteen first, and then, having made an interval, he mentioneth the three hundred. In the eighteen, IH, you have Jesus; and because the cross in the letter T was about to convey the grace of redemption, he mentioneth also the three hundred. Therefore, he showeth Jesus in the two letters, IH, and the cross in the one, T.

12:2 And he saith again in Moses, when Israel was being made war upon by aliens, even that he might remind them while they were being made war upon, that for their sins they were being delivered over unto death, the Spirit saith unto the heart of Moses, that he should make the form of a cross, and of him who was about to suffer, for if, he says, they shall not hope upon him, they will be made war upon for ever. Moses, therefore, arranges weapon against weapon in the midst of the battle, and standing higher than all, stretched out his hands, and so again Israel conquered; then, when he let them down, they were again slaughtered.

From all the definitions and examples given from the Bible and other sources, it would seem foolish or misinformed to insist that the word can only refer to an upright simple stake.

In spite of all this evidence, the Watchtower Society still argues that since the definition of “a piece of wood” for xulon is the simplest and most generalized one, it must be the only possibility of what the authors of the Bible meant.   Additionally, they deny or ignore all historical writings, archeology, and Biblical clues that indicate the possible type of objects that a xulon was referring to with regard to Jesus’ death, and conclude that Jesus was executed on a specific type of xulon that they chose: a simple upright stake or post. 

The Latin Words Patibulum (crossbeam) & the crux (cross); the Roman crucifixion method

Origins of the Patibulum

Patibulum is a Latin word which essentially means “crossbeam.”  This word was specifically used to describe either the crossbar of a cross used for crucifixion or a horizontal wooden beam which was used to humiliate someone without actually crucifying them. 

Prior to the invention of crucifixion, the Romans used the patibulum (a horizontal beam of wood) to humiliate condemned slaves marching to their execution. Dionysius of Halicarnassus (60 BC – 7 BC) described this ancient practice in Greek:

A Roman citizen of no obscure station, having ordered one of his slaves to be put to death, delivered him to his fellow-slaves to be led away, and in order that his punishment might be witnessed by all, directed them to drag him through the Forum and every other conspicuous part of the city as they whipped him, and that he should go ahead of the procession which the Romans were at that time conducting in honour of the god. The men ordered to lead the slave to his punishment, having stretched out both his arms and fastened them to a piece of wood which extended across his breast and shoulders as far as his wrists, followed him, tearing his naked body with whips. [47] [48] [49] [50]  (Dionysius, Roman Antiquities, VII, 69:1-2)

 

Dionysius the Historian

This patibulum-bearing punishment, during which a slave is whipped and lead through the city, was practiced in pre-Republican times and was the direct ancestor of the portion of the crucifixion ritual in which the victim carries his own cross. It did not always precede execution; it was often used for humiliation. Other descriptions of this early form of punishment can be found in Livy (59 BC – AD 17) and Plutarch (AD 46 – AD 120), who both describe its use in pre-Republican times and reveal that the wood carried by the victim was also called a furca "fork".

At an early hour of the day appointed for the games, before the show had begun, a certain householder had driven his slave, bearing a yoke (furca), through the midst of the circus, scourging the culprit as he went (Livy, Roman History 2.36.1).

A certain man had handed over one of his slaves, with orders to scourge him through the forum, and then put him to death. While they were executing this commission and tormenting the poor wretch, whose pain and suffering made him writhe and twist himself horribly, the sacred procession in honor of Jupiter chanced to come up behind....And it was a severe punishment for a slave who had committed a fault, if he was obliged to take the piece of wood (xulon) with which they prop up the pole of a wagon, and carry it around through the neighborhood. For he who had been seen undergoing this punishment no longer had any credit in his own or neighboring households. And he was called a 'furcifer' (phourkipher), for what the Greeks call a prop, or support, is called 'furca' (phourkan) by the Romans (Plutarch, Coriolanus 24.4-5).

 

Plutarch's (AD 46 – AD 120) bust at his home town of Chaeronea, Greece

Upon becoming a Roman citizen, he was named Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus, and was known as Greek historian, biographer, and essayist.

Origins of crucifixion (without the patibulum)

The ancient Persians are credited with inventing impalement by nailing to a tree or pole as a form of execution.  [51]  Some speculate that they did so to prevent defiling the earth with the person executed.   The victim was still alive when the nails were driven into him.  Some believe that the references to "hanging" in Ezra 6:11 and Esther 7:9-10 are of Persian crucifixion, though the texts themselves are not specific. The Greco-Persian Wars (499-479 BC) introduced the Greeks to this form of execution and Herodotus (Historiarum, 1.128.2, 3.125.3, 3.132.2, 3.159.1, 4.43.2-7, 6.30.1, 7.194) makes frequent reference to its use by the Persians. Thucydides writes about its use in Egypt at the time (Thucydides, Historia 1.110.3).

The device used varied in shape, and the victim was often alive when placed on it.  In a specific instance, Herodotus mentions a viceroy named Sandoces, son of Thamasius, who was "taken and crucified (anestauróse) by Darius" but then Darius had a change of heart and released Sandoces so that "he thus escaped with his life from being put to death by Darius" (7.194). This passage clearly indicates that Sandoces was still alive when he was "crucified" (the verb, an inflected form of anastauroó, is obviously a form of stauros). The shape of the instrument used in Persian crucifixion also varied considerably.  Herodotus said that it was comprised of "boards" (9.120), whereas Plutarch shows that even four vertical stakes were used for a single victim (Artaxerxes, 17.5). Apparently, the appearance of the apparatus did not matter to the Persians, as long as it performed its function.

Combination of the Patibulum and crucifixion by the Romans

The Romans made their own modifications to this method of execution, combining it with the act of carrying a crossbeam as an additional form of punishment.  During the Punic Wars (264-146 B.C.), the Romans encountered the Phoenician version of crucifixion and used it as a means of capital punishment and torture.   This was accomplished by adding a second piece of wood called the patibulum to the execution stake, as well as a thorn-shaped sedile (seat) upon which the victim rested his weight.   The crux compacta (compound stake) thus came into existence when Phoenician crucifixion was fused with the pre-existing Roman patibulum-bearing punishment. Not only was the victim punished by being paraded throughout the city yoked to a patibulum, but he now died suspended from it.

Seneca the Younger (4 BC – AD 65) used the phrase infelix lignum (unfortunate wood) for the transom (patibulum) or the whole cross.[52]  Plautus (The Charcoal Woman 2 and The Braggart Warrior 2.4.6-7) and Plutarch (Moralia 554AB), wrote in Latin about “bearing the cross” as a criminal carrying his own patibulum.

Multiple Latin sources, which more clearly distinguish the patibulum from the cross by having a distinct term for each, are quite explicit that it is the crossbeam that is carried and not the stipes (upright pole).    In fact, nowhere in ancient sources is a prisoner ever described as dragging a pole without a crosspiece, and such a practice would have nothing to do with the well-attested ancient Roman practice of forcing prisoners or slaves to bear a patibulum while walking through the city or a public area.

Tacitus has two references from these first two citations to patibulo adfixus which are clear references to crucifixion on a crux compacta. In the last quotation, references to the patibulum and crux are paralleled with references to carnage and arson. One further reference to the patibulum occurs in Annals 1.61, pertaining to the army erecting patibula for the prisoners of war.

A number of other references to the two-timbered cross (or at least, hanging from a patibulum) can be found in the literature. Clodius Licinus (first century BC) refers to the executioner who would "bind [the victims] to the patibulum (ad patibulos); thus bound they are carried around and then nailed to the cross (cruci defiguntur)." [53]


 

Plautus (254-184 BC)

I admit it, I hold up my hands! And later you will hold them up on a furca. Do go along to the crux  (Persa, 295).

I suspect you're doomed to die outside the gate, in that position: Hands spread out and nailed to the patibulum (Miles Gloriosus, 359-360).

Oh, I bet the hangmen will have you looking like a human sieve, the way they'll prod you full of holes as they run you down the streets with your arms on a patibulum, once the old man gets back  (Mostellaria, 55-57).

 I'll give two hundred pounds to the first man to charge my crux and take it -- on condition his legs and arms are double-nailed, that is (Mostellaria, 359-360).

Let him bear the patibulum through the city; then let him be nailed to the crux (Carbonaria, fr. 2).

Seneca (4 BC- AD 65)

Though they strive to release themselves from their crosses---those crosses to which each one of you nails himself with his own hand--yet they, when brought to punishment hang each one on a single stipes; but these others who bring upon themselves their own punishment are stretched upon as many crosses as they had desires. Yet they are slanderous and witty in heaping insult on others. I might believe that they were free to do so, did not some of them spit upon spectators from their own patibulum! (De Vita Beata, 19.3).

another to have his limbs stretched upon the crux (De Ira, 1.2.2).

Yonder I see crosses, not indeed of a single kind, but differently contrived by different peoples; some hang their victims with head toward the ground, some impale their private parts, others stretch out their arms on a patibulum (De Consolatione, 20.3).

I should deem him most despicable had he wished to live up to the very time of crucifixion....Is it worth while to weigh down upon one's own wound, and hang impaled upon a patibulum?....Can any man be found willing to be fastened to the accursed tree, long sickly, already deformed, swelling with ugly tumours on chest and shoulders, and draw the breath of life amid long drawn-out agony? I think he would have many excuses for dying even before mounting the crux! (Epistle, 101.10-14).

...or his hands to be extended on a patibulum (Fragmenta, 124; cf. Lactantius, Divinis Institutionibus, 6.17).

    Tacitus (AD 56 -120)

The Tarracines, however, found comfort in the fact that the slave of Verginius Capito, who had betrayed them, was crucified (patibulo adfixus) wearing the very rings that he had received from Vitellius (Historia, 4.3).

The soldiers stationed to supervise the tribute were seized and nailed to the patibulum (Annals, 4.72).

He was hasty with slaughter and the patibulum, with arson and the crux (Annals, 14.33).

Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79) referred to the yearly crucifixion of dogs near the temple of Juventas, making them "affixed to a furca" (furca fixi).[54]  Another Roman writer who somewhat later alluded to the patibulum to which prisoners are nailed was Lucius Apuleius (AD 123-170), who made several references to the patibulum in his Asinus Aureus:

The captain Lamachus stuck his hand through a large keyhole to jimmy the door open, but Chryseros grabbed a big nail and hammered it through Lamachus' hand, pinning him to the door, and left him "nailed there like poor wretch on a crossbeam (patibulatum)” (4.10)

In pondering over the kind of execution to give their prisoner, a group of thieves discussed whether to burn her, throw her to beasts, or hang her from a crossbeam (patibulo suffigi), (4.31)

so that she shall remain on the crossbeam (patibuli), while dogs and vultures drag out her innermost bowels (4.32), but it was decided that she "should not be crucified (cruces), nor burned nor thrown to beasts" (6.31).

This last text uses crux "crucifixion" interchangeably with patibulum suffigere "to hang from a crossbeam."

Still later, the third-century Historia Augusta relates that when Emperor Celsus was killed by a woman named Galliena, "his image was set up on a cross (in crucem)," so that the spectators looked at as if Celsus himself was "affixed to a patibulum (patibulo adfixus)" (29.4).

 

Finally, the Latin Vulgate translates the Hebrew terms for "gallows" and "hanging" with patibulum in Esther 2:23, 6:4 (affigi patibulo), 7:10, 9:13 (patibulis suspendantur), and 16:18.

 

A bust of the early Greek historian Herodotus, whom Plutarch criticized in On the Malice of Herodotus.

In summary, the Latin literary evidence is quite conclusive that:

1.      The Roman crux compacta emerged by the late third century BC, combining the pre-existing patibulum-bearing punishment with crucifixion.

2.      The Latin word crux was used from the third century BC onward to refer to an execution stake (stipes, palus) that included a patibulum to which the victim's arms were nailed. That crossbeams were common is indicated by the use of the expression "bind/nail to a patibulum" by Tacitus, Apuleius, and the late Historia Augusta to refer to crucifixion. Any suggestion the Watchtower Society may have made that crux did not mean "cross" in the first century BC or AD can easily be dismissed as without any support and with much evidence to the contrary.

In spite of all this contradictory evidence, the Watchtower Society continues to insist that the Latin word crux did not have the meaning of “cross” during Biblical times.  This viewpoint was repeated in several of their other publications, including:

·         15 March 1957 Watchtower

·         15 August 1987 Watchtower, p. 23

Quote in the Watchtower which
contradicts their own claims

 

 

 

 

 

The Watchtower, November 1, 1970, p. 646

False claim that Livy’s writings support the Watchtower Society’s views (New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society. New York: 1950: p. 769)

References in Biblical times where crux clearly refers to something combined with a patibulum, directly contradicting the Watchtower Society’s claims:

Author

Work

Approximate Date

Titus Maccius Plautus

Carbonaria ("The Female Charcoal-Burner"), fragment 2

254 – 184 BC

M. Clodius Licinus

Fragment 3.1: (Nonius on patibulum)

1 Century BC

Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Epistulae morales ad Lucilium, (moral letters to Lucilius) 101.10-14

4 BC – AD 65

Publius Cornelius Tacitus

Annales (Annals), 14.33

AD 56 -120

Lucius Apuleius

Asinus Aureus (The Golden Ass), 4.10-6.31

AD 123 - 170

 

Exactly when the patibulum was first used for executions is unknown.  Ancient writings give us a general idea, but some writings are too vague to be certain. 

In Esther 2:23 and 5:14 (written about 475 BC), the act of being “hanged” is too vague to determine if it is a crucifixion with a patabulum, a simple impalement, or a hanging by rope.

The historians Herodotus (484-425 BC) and Thucydides (460-400 BC) refer to the use of a stauros of some type for executions by the Persians, but don’t give any details as to the type used.

Jeremiah mentions princes that were hung by their hands in Lamentations 5:12 (written about 400 BC), which could refer to the use of a patibulum for crucifixion.  It could also, however, simply be the displaying of dead bodies after a battle.


 

Biblical Clues to the Method of Jesus’ Execution

Since the word stauros can be used to describe many different types of objects, we must look to the context and other scriptures to help determine the exact intended meaning of the authors.

(Clue #1) - Jesus was led away, and carrying the cross by himself (bastazón hautó ton stauron), went out to what is called the Place of the Skull (John 19:17)

This is suggestive to the Roman practice of patibulum-bearing (carrying a crossbeam, rather than the entire cross). The verb bastazón "carrying" is the same verb used by first and second-century writers Chariton and Artemidorus to refer to the same thing ( "the man who is to be nailed carries [bastazei] it beforehand"), and Artemidorus was quite explicit that the same victim who carries the stauros would hang from a two-beamed stauros. [55] [56]

"For the cross (ho stauros) is like death and the man who is to be nailed carries it beforehand (proteron bastazei)" (Artemidorus Daldianus, Oneirocritica 2.56; written in the second century AD.

"Being crucified (staurousthai) is auspicious for all seafarers. For the cross (ho stauros), like a ship, is made of wood and nails, and the ship's mast resembles a cross (hé katartios autou homoia esti stauró)" (Artemidorus Daldianus, Oneirocritica 2.53).

 

Just as it is today, a ship's mast consisted of a tall pole rising upward from the deck or keel intersected at right angles by the yard-arm. In fact, the Latin word for "yard-arm," namely antenna, was also used to denote the patibulum.[57]  Rock carvings from that period show that a ship's mast did indeed resemble the traditional cross.[58] Elsewhere, Artemidorus (Oneirocritica, 1.76) mentioned that those who are "crucified" (staurothesetai) "stretch out their hands" (tón cheirón ektasin), an expression reminiscent of Epictetus, Seneca, Plautus, and other writers who make explicit reference to the patibulum.

 

Jesus in His weakened state, having been scourged (Mt 27:26; Mk 15:15; Jn 19:1) with a Roman flagrum, i.e. "several thongs fastened to a handle" with "Hard material" (i.e. pieces of sharp metal and bone) "affixed to [those] multiple thongs to give a flesh-tearing 'bite'," could not carry the upright stake (stipes) weighing between 75 and 100 kg (165 and 220 lbs).

 

The mast of a typical Roman boat

Even the Watchtower's underestimate of "little more than 45 kg (100 lb)" (let alone a more realistic ~4.8 metre stake weighing 62 kg or 136 lb) would be very difficult for a scourged man, as Jesus was, to carry about 650 metres from Pilate's Antonia fortress to Golgotha.  Some estimate that the entire weight of the cross could have reached 300 pounds, with the crossbeam weighing up to 100 pounds,[59] depending on the thickness and height.

Note that no ancient writer has ever mentioned someone carrying a pole and then being executed on it, thus, there is not a single recorded event that parallels or supports the Watchtower Society’s version of details.


 

Clue #2 - Luke 23:26 - As the soldiers led him away, they seized Simon from Cyrene, who was on his way in from the country, and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus.

The synoptic gospels explain that Simon of Cyrene carried Jesus' cross. The version in Mark 15:31 (see also Matthew 27:32) says that Simon lifted Jesus' cross (aré ton staurou autou), but Luke’s version has a more elaborate depiction of the event: "and put the cross on him (epethékan autó ton stauron), and made him carry it (pherein) behind Jesus" (Luke 23:26). The verb pherein "to be bearing" was also used by Chariton and Plutarch to refer to cross-bearing, and the verb epethékan "placed upon" is especially suggestive of a patibulum placed squarely upon the victim's back (as Plutarch described it) or across his chest and shoulders (as Dionysius of Halicarnassus put it). The same verb is used in Luke 15:5, describing a shepherd placing his lost sheep on his shoulders (epitithésin epi tous ómous)."  It is also used to refer to the soldiers placing the crown of thorns on Jesus' head (Matthew 27:29, John 19:2) and the people putting their garments on a donkey’s back so Jesus could sit on it (Matthew 21:7).

Clue #3 – 37 And set up over his head his accusation written, This Is Jesus The King Of The Jews.
(Matthew 27:37)

 If Jesus were impaled on a simple stake, the titilus would have been placed above his hands. J. H. Bernard observes that this statement in Matthew "suggests that the cross was of the shape called crux immissa, with a cross-bar for the arms, as painters have generally represented it to be".[60]   Similarly, William R. Wilson commented: "There is no definite evidence about the shape of Jesus' cross, but it was probably a vertical stake and a crossbeam. This is indicated by the placing of the titilus over the head of Jesus, evidently along the crosspiece.”[61] The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia makes the same observation: "The form usually seen in pictures, the crux immissa (Latin cross †), is that in which the upright beam projects above the shorter crosspiece. From the mention of an inscription nailed above the head of Jesus, it may safely be inferred that this was the form of cross on which He died."[62] This evidence is not as conclusive as the references to cross-bearing (the patibulum), but it does support the overall picture.

Clue #4 – Unless I see  in his hands (en tais khersin) the print of the  nails (hélón), and place my finger in the mark (tupon) of the nails (hélón), and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.  (John 20:25)

Artwork depicting a single stake usually features a single nail piercing through Jesus' hands, whereas the plural "nails" suggests that two nails were used to affix the "hands" (plural) to the stauros; the use of a patibulum would require each hand to be nailed separately. Compare Lucian (Prometheus, 2), who describes the crucifixion of Prometheus in terms of nails being driven through each hand. The Gospel of Peter (one of the non-Canonical gospels from the 2nd century) also refers to a plurality of nails piercing Jesus' hands: "And then the Jews drew the nails from the hands (apespasan tous hélous apo tón kheirón) of the Lord and laid him on the earth" (6:21). The best explanation for the wording in both texts is that the authors regarded each hand as nailed separately. Other interpretations are possible though. It is possible that two nails pierced through each hand or through both hands together. It may be recalled that Plautus, who earlier in the same play described the patibulum-bearing punishment (Mostellaria, 55-57), described an especially severe crucifixion as one in which "are nailed twice the feet, twice the arms" (offigantur bis pedes, bis brachia).

 

Two interpretations are possible:

1.      The usual crucifixion method was to drive one nail through each hand and foot, and the unusually severe method was to drive two nails through each limb, or

2.      the usual crucifixion method was one nail through each of the hands, and the unusually severe method was to drive nails through the feet as well.

The text is ambiguous, but interpreters favor the first possibility, and such a reading would attest the use of multiple nails through the hands. However, the use of two nails through Jesus' hands on a crux simplex is unlikely considering the use of the singular tupon (print, mark) in John 20:25 which presumes that only one mark would be present on each hand. Thus, the combination of the singular tupon and the plural hélón is best accounted for by presuming crucifixion on a crux compacta, so that a total of two nails were used to pierce the hands, leaving a single mark on each hand. Moreover, we know from other sources that if additional support were required to restrain the prisoner, a combination of rope and nails was often used (see also Pliny,  Historia Naturalis 28.46).

Clue #5 - 'Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you grow old,  you will stretch out your hands (ekteneis tas kheiras sou), and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go.' This he said to show by what kind of death (poió thanató) he was to glorify God. And after this he said to him, 'Follow me'  (John 21:18-19)

The word ekteneis "you will stretch out" here is the same verb that Epictetus used to refer to men who have been crucified (estauromenoi) (Dissertationes, 3.26.22), and  Artemidorus (Oneirocritica, 1.76) mentioned that those who will be "crucified" (staurothesetai) have "outstretched hands" (tón kheirón ektasin). We also see similar phrases used by  Lucian, Plautus, and Seneca. Since the death being described in John 21:18-19 is that of Apostle Peter, and since Christian tradition claims that Peter was crucified upside down (Acts of Peter 36-37; Tertullian, De Praescriptione Haericorum 36.12, Scorpiace 20,  Adversus Marcion 4.5;  Lactantius, De Mortibus Persecutorum, 2; Origen, Commentary on Genesis, 3; Eusebius, De Theophania, 5.31, Ecclesiastical History, 2.25.5; compare  Seneca, De Consolatione 20.3, which refers to upside-down crucifixions), the understated text in John 21:18-19 would appear to refer to crucifixion as involving a "stretching of the hands."

Since the epilogue to the Fourth Gospel was written in the early second century AD at the earliest, its anonymous author probably was in contact with the traditions circulating about the death of the apostles. Sources contemporary with it, such as 1 Clement (AD 98) and  Ascension of Isaiah (late first century to early second century AD) rather vaguely suggest that Peter was martyred during the Neronian persecution of AD 64 (1 Clement 5:3-4; Ascension of Isaiah 4:2-3). Tacitus explained how numerous Christians were executed at that time: "They were fastened on crosses (crucibus adfixi), and, when daylight failed were burned to serve as lamps by night" (Annals, 15.44). It is of course impossible to know whether Peter was executed on one of those crosses, or even whether he was in Rome; many scholars remain divided on this latter issue (see also F. Lapham, Peter: The Man, The Myth, The Writings, 2003 for a discussion of the problem). What does matter however is that a tradition did exist in the second century that Peter was crucified, and since the second-century author of the epilogue connected Peter's death with a stretching-out of the hands, the most elegant explanation is that the author is making a veiled reference to this tradition here.

Early church historian Eusebius Pamphilus (AD 263-339) recorded that Peter was “crucified”:

Thus Nero publicly announcing himself as the chief enemy of God, was led on in his fury to slaughter the apostles. Paul is therefore said to have been beheaded at Rome, and Peter to have been crucified under him. (Eusebius, "The Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius Pamphilus," Cruse, C.F., transl., Baker: Grand Rapids MI, 1955, Fourth printing, 1966, p.80).

The death of St. Peter on a cross is attested to by Tertullian (AD 160-220) at the end of the 2nd century, and by Origen (AD 185–254):

According to the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia, St. Peter labored in Rome during the last portion of his life, and there ended his life by martyrdom. The death of St. Peter is attested to by Tertullian at the end of the 2nd century, and by Origen in Eusebius, Church History III. Origen says: “Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downwards, as he himself had desired to suffer.” This is why an upside down cross is generally accepted as a symbol of Peter, who would not have considered himself worthy enough to die the same way as his Savior.

Clue #6 - And one ran and filled a spunge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take him down. (Mark 15:36)

And straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink. (Matthew 27:48)

“As was their custom with more notorious criminals, the Romans raised Jesus on a rather high stake, so that He could be seen by everyone; it was in fact so high that, when the soldiers wanted to put a sponge soaked in wine to His lips, they first had to put it on the end of a stick.” [63] This extends the credibility that the main part of the stauros was tall, and too large or heavy for a beaten man (or even a healthy man) to possibly carry.

Clue #7 - And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,  He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. (Matthew 27:40-42)

Save thyself, and come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save. Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him. (Mark 15:30-32)

The passers-by insults for Jesus to "come DOWN from the cross" imply that Jesus on the Cross was high above them. Otherwise they would have said "come OFF the cross.”  Again, we see that the stauros was very tall.

Clue #8 - And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him:  (Matthew 27-55)

There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome;  (Mark 15:40)

And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off, beholding these things.  (Luke 23:49)

The statements that the women disciples were "looking on from afar off" would also imply that he was up high, or they would not have been able to see him for the crowd.

Clue #9 - And with him they crucify two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left.
(Mark 15:27)

And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. (Luke 23:33)

“Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words” says that euonumos is, “with the preposition ex (for ek), signifying ‘on the left hand’...” If this is unimpressive, consider that Matthew 6:3, as well as 2 Cor 6:7, are very clear indeed in using aristera to mean “left hand,” as it always does in the New Testament, and dexia to mean ”right hand.” Dexios is often clearly used to mean, specifically, the right hand — as in Mt 27:29, “a reed in His right hand”; or Gal 2:9, “the right hand (dexias) of fellowship”; and throughout Revelation: 1:17 (NKJV) — “But He [Jesus] laid His right hand (dexian) on me, saying, ‘Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.’” Rev 1:20 — “The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand (dexias)”; 2:1 — “These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand (dexia)”; 5:1, 7 — “And I saw in the right (hand) [dexian] of Him who sat on the throne a scroll... . Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand (dexias) of Him who sat on the throne.”

Does this prove outstretched hands on the cross? Of course not — these terms (in Mark 15, etc.) could be used to signify “right-hand side,” similar to the English usage. But had “side” specifically been meant rather than “hand,” there were perfectly good Greek words available for the gospel writers: in the noun pleura, meaning side, as in John 20:25; and in the adjective peran; or the preposition para; and plesion, “near,” would do, as in John 4:5. The point is that the words translated as “right” and “left” have, as cited, the natural implication, and indeed the outright demand, of right and left hand, and it is a fair understanding that the thieves were closest to His hands, as the charges were closest to His head. It does no violence to the text, and indeed is consistent with the usage, to render Mark 15:27 as: “And they crucified two robbers with Him, one at His right hand and one at His left hand.”

Note that the Watchtower Society’s own interlinear translation shows “right-hand” and “left-hand” as the word meanings, but ultimately translates the words as simply “right” and “left.”

The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures
p. 257 (Mark 15:27)

Clue #10 - (Matthew 10:38, 11:29-30 — NKJV) “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.” “Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”

How is a yoke carried, and where are one's arms? The answer is obvious. In like manner, the cross (patibulum) was “laid on” Simon of Cyrene (Luke 23:26),  so that he “carried” it (Mt 27:32), as did Jesus (Jn 19:17).   Jesus was possibly using a metaphor when he referred to His yoke — the similarity between the two images, yoke and cross (patibulum), immediately suggests itself.

Clue #11 – (Mark 15:22; Matthew 27:33; Luke 23:33; John 19:17) “They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means ‘the place of the skull’).” “They came to a place called Golgotha (which means ‘the place of the skull’).” “When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left.”  “Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha).”

Jesus was not crucified at some random location.   He was taken to a place with a name meaning “the place of the skull.”

It has been suggested that the Aramaic name is actually Gol Goatha, meaning “mount of execution,” possibly the same location as the Goatha mentioned in Jeremiah 31:39.  An alternative explanation is that the location was a place of public execution, and the name refers to abandoned skulls that would be found there, or that the location was near a cemetery, and the name refers to the bones buried there. [64]

In any case, the location with such an ominous name appears to be a location where crucifixions were held, and not just a last-minute location where a makeshift execution needed to be carried out.  This lends credibility to the idea that executions occurred there regularly and the main part of the cross was already waiting for the condemned to arrive bearing a patibulum.

According to John 19:20, the location chosen was near the city so that “Many of the Jews read this inscription” that was placed above his head.

Clue #12 - And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:  (John 3:14)

According to Numbers 21:8, with regard to the serpent in the wilderness, “he put it upon a pole.”  While this could be interpreted to fit just about any type of stauros, we also read that it was placed so that everyone could see it that was bitten by a serpent.  For Jesus to be lifted up high one could conclude that the stauros used must have been more than a minimal height to suspend a person.  If so, then this adds even more credibility to the claim that a single stake would be too large or heavy for a scourged man to carry. 

Apparently, this bronze serpent from Numbers 21 eventually became a type of idol.  According to 2 Kings 18:4, King Hezekiah made many reforms and destroyed "the brazen serpent that Moses had made; for unto those days the children of Israel did offer to it; and it was called Nehushtan."   This should serve as a warning to us that the cross or any other symbol that might serve as an icon of Christianity should never be worshipped in any way.  Of this particular point, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are absolutely correct.  Of course, we do not see the cross worshipped in any present mainstream Christian denomination.

We should consider that a bronze snake could not be simply be attached to a simple pole, as there is nothing to keep it in place and it would fall off easily.   If the snake were crafted as a perfectly straight, object, so that it could be attached at the top of the stick by nails or ropes, then it would hang in such a fashion that it would be difficult to distinguish the snake from the pole at a distance.  Hence, most artists conclude that a small support of some kind was used to hang the snake on.   These depictions look remarkably similar to a cross, in harmony with John 3:14.


 

The Brazen Serpent as an illustration Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company, 1907

The Bronze Serpent as illustrated in Dore’s English Bible, 1866

Copper plate engraving in a book by the French priest Jacques Paul Migne, 1864

Depiction by the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society. My Book of Bible Stories, 2006: 41

Note that the Watchtower Society’s depiction is very different than the others.   It is without any kind of physical support for the bronze snake.   It is difficult to imagine how a bronze snake that was created in the wilderness by the Israelites in this fashion could be lifted high on a pole without the snake simply sliding back down.  Yet, this is how they are forced to depict it to prevent providing a contradiction to their doctrine.

The Watchtower Society might be surprised to go to the summit of Mt. Nebo and see the cross-shaped monument erected there to commemorate this event.  The “Brazen Serpent” monument was created by Italian artist Giovanni Fantoni.


 

Clue #13 – (Ezekiel 9:1-6) He cried also in mine ears with a loud voice, saying, Cause them that have charge over the city to draw near, even every man with his destroying weapon in his hand.  And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brasen altar. And the glory of the God of Israel was gone up from the cherub, whereupon he was, to the threshold of the house. And he called to the man clothed with linen, which had the writer's inkhorn by his side; And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof. And to the others he said in mine hearing, Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women: but come not near any man upon whom is the mark; and begin at my sanctuary. Then they began at the ancient men which were before the house

Many consider this passage to be clear Old Testament allusions to the Cross and Crucifixion of Jesus Christ. [65]  The word translated “mark” (word #8420 in “Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words”) is tav or tawu, the last letter of the Greek alphabet. “This, in many of the ancient alphabets, and especially in that in use among the Hebrews up to this time, and long retained upon their coins, was in the form of a cross—X or +. Much stress was laid upon this use of the sign of the cross as the mark for the Divine mercy by the older Christian writers, Tertullian, Origen, Cyprian, and Jerome. This marking was done, it is true, in vision, but the symbolism is taken from such passages as Genesis 4:15; Exodus 12:7; Exodus 12:13; Exodus 28:36; and it is used several times in the Apocalypse (Ezekiel 7:3; Ezekiel 9:4; Ezekiel 14:1). “ [66]


 

Archeology and the Cross

Ossuaries Near Bethany

Ossuaries (stone coffins) that date to the 1st century have been discovered in a cave near Bethany. They were inscribed in Greek and Hebrew with names of many Christians listed in the New Testament. Some had inscribed crosses, some did not. Listed names in Hebrew include: Salome, wife of Judah (with a cross); Judah (with a cross); Simeon the Priest; Martha, daughter of Pasach; Eleazar, son of Nathalu; and Salamston, daughter of Simeon the Priest. In Greek was written: Jesus (twice repeated with a cross); Nathaniel (with a cross).  Another set of ossuaries: Inscribed with “Alexander, son of Simon of Cyrene,” as well as a cross. 

In 1945, many more ossuaries were found with crosses: two inscribed with the name of Jesus, and one containing a coin minted in AD 41 for King Herod Agrippa I, indicating it was sealed by AD 42.  The ossuaries were found by archaeologist P. Bagatti on the Mt. of Olives.  The first catacomb found near Bethany was investigated by renowned French archaeologist Charles Clermont-Ganneau. The other, a large burial cemetery unearthed near the modern Dominus Flevit Chapel, was excavated by Italian scholar P. Bagatti.  As Claremont-Ganneau further investigated the tomb, he found inscriptions, including the names of "Eleazar"("Lazarus"), "Martha" and "Mary" on three different coffins.  He wrote: "[This catacomb] on the Mount of Olives belonged apparently to one of the earliest [families] which joined the new religion [of Christianity]. In this group of sarcophagi [coffins], some of which have the Christian symbol [cross marks] and some have not, we are, so to speak, [witnessing the] actual unfolding of Christianity."

One of the first-century coffins found on the Mt. of Olives contains a commemorative dedication to: "Yeshua" (Jesus).  Bagatti also found evidence which clearly indicated that the tomb was in use in the early part of the first century AD. Inside, the sign of the cross was found on numerous first-century coffins.  He found dozens of inscribed ossuaries, which included the names Jairus, Jonathan, Joseph, Judah, Matthias, Menahem, Salome, Simon, and Zechariah. In addition, he found one ossuary with crosses and the unusual name "Shappira" - which is a unique name not found in any other first-century writtings except for the Book of Acts (5:1).  As he continued his excavations, Bagatti also found a coffin bearing the unusual inscription "Shimon bar Yonah" ("Simon [Peter] son of Jonah"). Other than its existence among the burial tombs of some of the very first Christians, no conclusive evidence was found to identify this stone coffin as that of the disciple and close companion of Jesus, Simon Peter.

However, when Bagatti began excavating the burial place which he numbered 299, he stumbled upon several unique surprises. On one ossuary (number 97, which bore the sign of the cross), Bagatti found a Greek inscription.  The inscription was hard to read but could be deciphered: "[Here are the] bones of the younger Judah, a proselyte [to Christianity] from Tyre." References to Tyre, a port city north of Galilee, are found in Matthew 15 and Mark 7. It was a city visited by Jesus.

Above the inscription, on the same coffin, the Greek letters Chi and Rho were unmistakably inscribed together, written as a monogram. According to Prof. Jack Finegan of the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, who also studied the inscription, this particular monogram was used frequently in Antioch (44 AD) and Rome in the first century and was a well-known designation for those who were among the first non-Jewish Christians (Acts 11:26).

While the actual identities of these persons remain speculative, it is obvious that they were early followers of Christ, and the cross symbol was associated with them.

 

The Catacombs of Rome

Giovanni Battista de Rossi, (1822-1894) was an Italian archeologist famous for rediscovering early Christian catacombs.  In his Bullettino di archeologia Cristiana (Bulletin of Christian Archeology), he writes of the cross symbol being found in the catacombs dating to the third century, before the time of Constantine.  He says, in one example, that it is found purposefully written between the letters of the deceased’s name.  He then states that with respect to the primitive Christians and the cross, “the letter T is the true picture of the outline of what is well-known.”

De Rossi, Giovanni Battista. (1863). La croce d'oro rinvenuta nella basilica di s. Lorenzo. Bullettino Di Archeologia Cristiana, 1(5), 35-35.

In other writings of De Rossi, he clearly refers to the cross as the shape of the instrument of Jesus’ execution, and confirms the “sign of the cross” as being used by early Christians in pre-Constantine times.

 


 

Early Christian Jewelry

Many rings and gemstones, which have been dated to the second and third century, clearly show that the cross was associated with Jesus by early Christians.

A gemstone in the British Museum, dated to the 2nd or early 3rd century depicts Christ on a cross, with the words “Son, Father, Jesus Christ” inscribed in Greek.

The British Museum. Inventory #G 1986, 5-1, 1

Here, we see examples of rings from the third century that combined a cross symbol with fish or with writing denoting their association with Jesus.

 

Longenecker, B. (2015). The cross before Constantine: The early life of a Christian symbol (pp. 90-91). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

 

Other Discoveries

The Alexamenos graffito was once thought to be the earliest surviving pictorial representation of a crucifixion. It has been interpreted as mockery of a Christian, showing a cross as an instrument of execution. Its date is uncertain: some have posited for it a date as early as 85 AD, but it may be as late as the 3rd century, and would be prior to AD 300 and the time of Constantine in any case.  It is a drawing of a crucified donkey on a cross; a mockery of a Christian prisoner who followed Christ. It is currently in the Palatine Antiquarium Museum.

The image depicts a human-like figure affixed to a cross and possessing the head of a donkey. In the top right of the image is what has been interpreted as either the Greek letter upsilon or a tau cross.[67]  To the left of the image is a young man, apparently intended to represent Alexamenos,[68] a Roman soldier/guard, raising one hand in a gesture possibly suggesting worship.[69]  [70] Beneath the cross is a caption written in crude Greek: Αλεξαμενος ϲεβετε θεον. ϲεβετε can be understood as a variant spelling (possibly a phonetic misspelling) of Standard Greek ϲεβεται, which means "worships". The full inscription would then be translated as "Alexamenos worships [his] God".[71] [72]  Several other sources suggest "Alexamenos worshipping God", or similar variants, as the intended translation.[73] [74]

This depiction of Jesus as a donkey goes along with the writings of Tertulluan[75] (155 – 240 AD).  As noted by William Cave:

Tertullian tells us that Christians were calledasinarii, “ass worshippers;” and that Christ was painted and publicly exposed, by the bold wicked hand of an apostate Jew, with asses’ ears, one of his fett hoofed, holding a book in his hand, and having a gown over him, with this inscription: DEUS CHRISTIANORUM ONONYCHITES, “The ass-hoofed God if the Christians.”  A most ridiculous representation, and the issues of the most foolish spite and malice.[76]

This clearly shows us that people of the time believed Christ to have been crucified on a cross.

In 1939, excavations at Herculaneum, the sister city of Pompeii (destroyed in AD 78 by volcano) produced a house where a wooden cross had been nailed to the wall of a room. According to “Buried History,” (Vol. 10, No. 1, March 1974 p. 15): “Below this (cross) was a cupboard with a step in front. This has considered to be in the shape of an ara or shrine, but could well have been used as a place of prayer….If this interpretation is correct, and the excavators are strongly in favor of the Christian significance of symbol and furnishings, then here we have the example of an early house church.”

What now appears to be the most ancient surviving image of a Roman crucifixion is a graffito found in a taberna (an inn for wayfarers) in Puteoli, dating from the time of Trajan (98–117) or Hadrian (117–138). The cross has the T shape. [77]

Renowned archeologist De Rossi found Christian monuments in the catacombs of Rome.  For additional details, see the section of this document titled Quote-Ecclesiastical on page 204.

Wiliam M. Calder identifies a Phrygian Christian monument with a cross that dates to the second half of the third century, well before Constantine.  The monument contains the words “Christians for Christians,” perhaps to identify both those that erected the monument and those buried there.

 

Calder, W. M.. (1955). Early-Christian Epitaphs from Phrygia. Anatolian Studies, 5, 25–38.


 

Jehohanan – A man crucified near the time of Jesus

The significance of the remains of a man crucified in Palestine in the 1st century has been interpreted in different ways,[78] and in any case does not prove that Jesus was executed in the same way.  However, it does show us that this type of crucifixion was occurring in the same general place and time as Jesus’ crucifixion.

Jehohanan (Yehohanan) was a man put to death by crucifixion in the 1st century CE, whose ossuary was found in 1968 when building contractors working in Giv'at ha-Mivtar, a Jewish neighborhood in northern East Jerusalem, accidentally uncovered a Jewish tomb.[79]

Greek archeologist Vasilius Tzaferis was instructed by the Israeli Department of Antiquities to carefully excavate these tombs. They found the first skeletal remains of a crucified man to be uncovered in modern times. The skeleton was of a man who had been crucified between the age of 24 and 28

The Jewish stone ossuary had the Hebrew inscription "Jehohanan the son of Hagkol". In his initial anthropological observations in 1970 at Hebrew University, Nicu Haas concluded Jehohanan was crucified with his arms stretched out with his forearms nailed, supporting crucifixion on a two-beamed Latin cross.[80] However, a 1985 reappraisal discovered multiple errors in Haas's observations, concluding that he carried only a crossbeam. [81] [82]

 

Photograph of the ankle bone of a man found at Giv'at ha Mivtar; the original nail is still lodged firmly in the bone of the crucified man

Close-up of the ankle bone found at Giv'at ha-Mivtar; the original nail is still lodged in the bone, even though the man was crucified two thousand years ago, at about the time that Jesus of Nazareth died

 

Zias, J., & Sekeles, E. (1985). The Crucified Man from Giv'at ha-Mivtar: A Reappraisal. Israel Exploration Journal, 35(1), 26.

Mr. Tzaferis wrote an article in the Jan/Feb. 1985 issue of the secular magazine “Biblical Archaeology Review “(BAR), and here are some of his comments regarding crucifixion in Jesus' time:

At the end of the first century BC, the Romans adopted crucifixion as an official punishment for non-Romans for certain limited transgressions. Initially, it was employed not as a method of execution, but only as a punishment. Moreover, only slaves convicted of certain crimes were punished by crucifixion. During this early period, a wooden beam, known as a furca or patibulum was placed on the slave's neck and bound to his arms.

...When the procession arrived at the execution site, a vertical stake was fixed into the ground. Sometimes the victim was attached to the cross only with ropes. In such a case, the patibulum or crossbeam, to which the victim's arms were already bound, was simply affixed to the vertical beam; the victim's feet were then bound to the stake with a few turns of the rope.

If the victim was attached by nails, he was laid on the ground, with his shoulders on the crossbeam. His arms were held out and nailed to the two ends of the crossbeam, which was then raised and fixed on top of the vertical beam. The victim's feet were then nailed down against this vertical stake.

In order to prolong the agony, Roman executioners devised two instruments that would keep the victim alive on the cross for extended periods of time. One, known as a sedile, was a small seat attached to the front of the cross, about halfway down. This device provided some support for the victim's body and may explain the phrase used by the Romans, "to sit on the cross." Both Eraneus and Justin Martyr describe the cross of Jesus as having five extremities rather than four; the fifth was probably the sedile. (p. 48,49)

In a follow-up article on this archeological find in the Nov/Dec. issue of BAR, the statement is made:

According to the (Roman) literary sources, those condemned to crucifixion never carried the complete cross, despite the common belief to the contrary and despite the many modern re-enactments of Jesus' walk to Golgotha. Instead, only the crossbar was carried, while the upright was set in a permanent place where it was used for subsequent executions. As the first-century Jewish historian Josephus noted, wood was so scarce in Jerusalem during the first century AD that the Romans were forced to travel ten miles from Jerusalem to secure timber for their siege machinery. (p. 21)


 

Early Literary Depictions of the Cross of Jesus

Christians of the first centuries described the structure on which Jesus died as having a transom, not as a simple upright stake.

The marking of a cross upon the forehead and the chest was regarded by some as a talisman against the powers of demons (Tertullian, "De Corona," iii.; Cyprian, "Testimonies," xi. 21-22; Lactantius, "Divinæ Institutiones," iv. 27, and elsewhere). Accordingly the Christian Fathers had to defend themselves, as early as the 2nd century, against the charge of being worshipers of the cross, as may be learned from Tertullian, "Apologia," xii., xvii., and Minucius Felix, "Octavius," xxix. Christians used to swear by the power of the cross (see Apocalypse of Mary, viii., in James, "Texts and Studies," iii. 118).

St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch in Syria (AD 67- 107), parallels the components of the cross of Jesus to the components that lead us to God.  He indicates the use of a rope and pulley, which would be more consistent with a raised crossbar than a simple stake.

And ye are prepared for the building of God the Father, and ye are raised up on high by the instrument of Jesus Christ, which is the cross; and ye are drawn by the rope, which is the Holy Spirit; and your pulley is your faith, and your love is the way which leadeth up on high to God. (The Second Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians, Chap IX)

The “Epistle of Barnabas,” which scholars suggest may have been written before the end of the 1st century,[83] and certainly earlier than 135,[84] described the shape people at the time attributed to the device on which Jesus died: the comparisons it draws with Old Testament figures would have had no validity for its readers if they pictured Jesus as dying on a simple stake. Referring to what he saw as Old Testament intimations of Jesus and his cross, he likened the cross to the letter T (the Greek letter tau), thus describing it as having a crossbeam. He also wrote, with regard to Exodus 17:11-12: "The Spirit saith to the heart of Moses, that he should make a type of the cross and of Him that was to suffer, that unless, saith He, they shall set their hope on Him, war shall be waged against them for ever. Moses therefore pileth arms one upon another in the midst of the encounter, and standing on higher ground than any he stretched out his hands, and so Israel was again victorious."[85]

Celsus, a 2nd century Greek philosopher, (was quoted by Origen Contra Celsum, II:36)[86] and Origen in his own writing[87] [88] uses the verb "ἀνασκολοπίζω", which originally meant "to impale", of the crucifixion of Jesus. It was considered synonymous with "σταυρῶ", which also seems to have originally meant "to impale", and was applied also to the device of Jesus' execution; but the shape of the device is compared by Origen to that of the letter Τ.[89]

The very form of the cross, too, has five extremities, two in length, two in breadth, and one in the middle, on which [last] the person rests who is fixed by the nails. (Approximately AD 175-185 , “Against Heresies, Book II,” Saint Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, [Haer. 2. 24. 4.])

The 2nd-century “Odes of Solomon,” probably written by a heterodox Christian, includes the following: "I extended my hands and hallowed my Lord, /For the expansion of my hands is His sign. /And my extension is the upright cross (σταυρός)."[90]

Justin Martyr (100–165) explicitly says the cross of Christ was of two-beam shape: "That lamb which was commanded to be wholly roasted was a symbol of the suffering of the cross which Christ would undergo. For the lamb, which is roasted, is roasted and dressed up in the form of the cross. For one spit is transfixed right through from the lower parts up to the head, and one across the back, to which are attached the legs of the lamb."[91]

As described in the Epistle of Barnabas, Justin saw the stretched-out hands of Moses in the battle against Amalek as foreshadowing the cross of Jesus: "If he gave up any part of this sign, which was an imitation of the cross (σταυρός), the people were beaten, as is recorded in the writings of Moses; but if he remained in this form, Amalek was proportionally defeated, and he who prevailed prevailed by the cross (σταυρός). For it was not because Moses so prayed that the people were stronger, but because, while one who bore the name of Jesus (Joshua) was in the forefront of the battle, he himself made the sign of the cross (σταυρός)." [92]

In his “First Apology,” (chapter 55) Justin refers to various objects as shaped like the cross of Christ: "The sea is not traversed except that trophy which is called a sail abide safe in the ship … And the human form differs from that of the irrational animals in nothing else than in its being erect and having the hands extended, and having on the face extending from the forehead what is called the nose, through which there is respiration for the living creature; and this shows no other form than that of the cross (σταυρός)."

The apocryphal “Acts of Peter,” of the second half of the 2nd century, attaches symbolic significance to the upright and the crossbeam of the cross of Jesus: "What else is Christ, but the word, the sound of God? So that the word is the upright beam (to orthon xulon[93]) whereon I am crucified. And the sound is that which crosseth it (to plagion), the nature of man. And the nail which holdeth the cross-tree unto the upright in the midst thereof is the conversion and repentance of man."[94]

Irenaeus of Lyons, who died around the end of the 2nd century, speaks of the cross as having "five extremities, two in length, two in breadth, and one in the middle, on which [last] the person rests who is fixed by the nails."[95]

Hippolytus of Rome, writing about the blessing Jacob obtained from his father Isaac (Genesis 27:1-29), said: "The skins which were put upon his arms are the sins of both peoples, which Christ, when His hands were stretched forth on the cross, fastened to it along with Himself."[96]

In his “Octavius,” Marcus Minucius Felix, responding to the pagan jibe that Christians worship wooden crosses – an indication of how the cross symbol was already associated with Christians – denies the charge and then retorts that the cross shape (a crossbeam placed on an upright) is honoured even by pagans in the form of their standards and trophies and is in any case found in nature: "Crosses, moreover, we neither worship nor wish for. You, indeed, who consecrate gods of wood, adore wooden crosses perhaps as parts of your gods. For your very standards,[97] as well as your banners; and flags of your camp, what else are they but crosses gilded and adorned? Your victorious trophies not only imitate the appearance of a simple cross, but also that of a man affixed to it. We assuredly see the sign of a cross, naturally, in the ship when it is carried along with swelling sails, when it glides forward with expanded oars; and when the military yoke is lifted up, it is the sign of a cross; and when a man adores God with a pure mind, with hands outstretched. Thus the sign of the cross either is sustained by a natural reason, or your own religion is formed with respect to it."[98]

In language very similar to that of Minucius Felix, Tertullian, too, who distinguished between stipes (stake) and crux (cross),[99] noted that it was the cross that people associated with Christianity.[100] And he indicated that the shape of the cross is that of the letter T: "The Greek letter Tau and our own letter T is the very form of the cross, which (God) predicted would be the sign on our foreheads," [101] and compared it to the shape of a bird with outstretched wings.[102]

The anti-Christian arguments thus cited in the “Octavius of Minucius Felix,” (chapters IX and XXIX) and Tertullian's “Apology,” (chapter 16) show that the cross symbol was already associated with Christians in the 2nd century. Tertullian could designate the body of Christian believers as crucis religiosi (devotees of the Cross).[103] In his book “De Corona,” written in 204, Tertullian tells how it was already a tradition for Christians to trace repeatedly on their foreheads the sign of the cross.[104]

So closely associated with Christ was the cross that Clement of Alexandria, who died between 211 and 216, could without fear of ambiguity use the phrase τὸ κυριακὸν σημεῖον (the Lord's sign) to mean the cross, when he repeated the idea, current as early as the “Epistle of Barnabas,” that the number 318 (in Greek numerals, ΤΙΗ) in Genesis 14:14 was a foreshadowing (a "type") of the cross (T, an upright with crossbar, standing for 300) and of Jesus (ΙΗ, the first two letter of his name ΙΗΣΟΥΣ, standing for 18).[105]

Hail, o cross (ho staure), be glad indeed!...And one part of you stretches up to heaven so that you may point out the heavenly logos, the head of all things. Another part of you is stretched out to right and left (to de sou -- tai dexiai kai aristerai) that you may put to flight the fearful and inimical power and draw the cosmos into unity. And another part of you is set on the earth, rooted in the depths" (Acts of Andrew, 150 – 200  A.D., 14:3-11)


 

Summary of Literary Evidence

We clearly have many literary references dating from the 1st – 3rd centuries that describe the cross of Jesus as being t-shaped, and a symbol or sign used by early Christians.  The writers include:

Writer

Work

Approximate Date

Barnabas

Epistle of Barnabas

AD 70 - 135

Origen

Contra Celsum

AD 248

Saint Irenaeus

Against Heresies, Book II

AD 175-185

Unknown

Odes of Solomon

1st – 3rd Century

Justin Martyr

Dialogue With Trypho

AD 100 - 165

Leucius Charinus

Acts of Peter

2nd Century

Irenaeus of Lyons

Adversus Haeresus

2nd Century

St Jerome

Epistle 36, Ad Damasum, Num. xviii., quoting Hippolytus of Rome

Lived AD 170-235
Quoted AD 384

Marcus Minucius Felix

Octavius

AD 197

Tertullian

Apologeticus 16

AD 197

Tertullian

De Corona

AD 204

Clement of Alexandria

Stromata

AD 198 – 203

Cyprian

Testimonies Against the
Jews xi. 21-22

AD 200-258

Unknown

Acts of Andrew

AD 150 - 200

Lactantius

Divinæ Institutiones iv. 27

AD 303 - 311

 

 


 

The Staurogram

The Staurogram (meaning monogram of the cross, from the Greek σταυρός, i.e. cross), or Monogrammatic Cross or Tau-Rho symbol, is composed by a tau (Τ) superimposed on a rho (Ρ). The Staurogram was first used to abbreviate the Greek word for cross in very early New Testament manuscripts such as P66, P45 (250 A.D.) and P75 (175 – 225 A.D.) , almost like a nomen sacrum.[106]

 

Ephrem the Syrian in the 4th-century explained these two united letters stating that the tau refers to the cross, and the rho refers to the Greek word "help" (Βoήθια [sic]; proper spelling: Βoήθεια) which has the numerological value in Greek of 100 as the letter rho has. In such a way the symbol expresses the idea that the Cross saves.  The two letters tau and rho can also be found separately as symbols on early Christian ossuaries.[107]

 

The staurogram in John 19:15-20 from manuscript P66

The staurogram only refers to the crucifixion of Christ, and is not seen in usage elsewhere. The tau-rho combinations create a rough image of Jesus on the cross, making the staurogram the earliest Christian images of Jesus on the cross.

Medical Studies and Evidence

leBec, Barbet, and Moedder

LeBec (1925)[108] and Barbet (1937, 1963)[109] [110] concluded that a person hung by his arms overhead would suffocate in a manner of minutes, due to the inability of the lungs to expand and contract in such a position.

Additionally, an Austrian radiologist, Dr. Hermann Moedder of Cologne, Germany, experimented with medical students in the 1940's, hanging them by their wrists with their hands directly above their heads (much like the Watchtower pictures Jesus on a stake). In a few minutes, the students became pale, their lung capacity dropped from 5.2 to 1.5 liters, blood pressure decreased and the pulse rate increased. Moedder concluded that inability to breathe would occur in about six minutes if they were not allowed to stand and rest. [111]

The same would apply to Christ, if he were suspended on a stake as the Watchtower depicts him, hung from hands bound directly overhead. He would have suffocated in a matter of minutes.

Zugibe’s Medical Experiments

Frederick Thomas Zugibe (May 28, 1928 - September 6, 2013) was an American expert in forensic medicine. He was the chief medical examiner of Rockland County, New York from 1969 to 2002.[112] Zugibe was one of the United States' most prominent forensics experts, known for his research and books on forensic medicine. 

Zugibe held a Bachelor of Science, Master of Science (Anatomy/Electron Microscopy), and a PhD (Anatomy/ Histochemistry), and an M.D. degree. He was a diplomat of the American Board of Pathology in anatomic pathology and forensic pathology, and a diplomate of the American Board of Family Practice. Zugibe was an adjunct Associate Professor of Pathology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and is a Fellow of the College of American Pathologists, a Fellow of the American Academy of the Forensic Sciences, Forensic Pathology Section, and a member of the National Association of Medical Examiners.

He was formerly Director of Cardiovascular Research with the Veteran's Hospital in Pittsburgh, and was a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology, Fellow of the Council on Arteriosclerosis of the American Heart Association, Fellow of the New York Cardiological Society, and Member of the International Atherosclerosis Society.

Zugibe spent most of his career as the chief medical examiner of Rockland County, New York, appointed on August 15, 1969, to his retirement on December 31, 2002, and continuing as Acting Medical Examiner to March 31, 2003, until his successor was confirmed. On his retirement he estimated his office had done 10,000 autopsies during his tenure.[113]

In 1998, Zugibe published “The Cross and the Shroud: A Medical Inquiry into the Crucifixion,” which examines the possibilities for the method of execution of Jesus.  [114]

Zugibe carried out his experiments using a number of volunteers who were willing to try hanging from a cross with several variations, none requiring the mutilation of their flesh or bodily damage. Special leather gloves were used to attach the hands to the crossbeam.

Zugibe demonstrates quite conclusively that:

·         Jesus did not die of asphyxiation, but rather from shock and trauma.

·         An impaled man with arms stretched straight over his head (as the Watchtower depicts) would suffocate in minutes, whereas a man with hands outstretched to the side at an angle of 60 70 degrees (as on a cross) could live for hours without suffocating.

·         There are two locations in the palm of each hand that will allow a nail to penetrate and carry the full body weight up to several hundred pounds, making the "wrist theory" unnecessary to explain how Christ's arms were attached to the cross.

Zugibe, however, discovered that if students were hung by hands outstretched to the side at 60-70 degrees, they would have no trouble breathing for hours on end. Since Luke 23:44 and Matthew 27:45,46 show that Christ was on the cross for about three hours, the evidence points again to death on a traditional cross. [115] [116]

The popular theory that the breaking of the victim’s legs to hasten death (John 19:31-32) by making breathing more difficult is unexplained by Zugibe’s tests, as the persons hung with arms at 60-degree angles had no difficulty breathing at all.  However, his test subjects only stayed on their simulated crosses for less than one hour, and their legs were affixed to the cross, prividing at least a minimal amount of support for the body.  Perhaps the additional weight-bearing stress on the upper body or the longer hanging time causes additional stresses on the body that make it more difficult to breathe.   Additionally, there is the possibility that actual victims were hung such that their arms formed less than a 60-degree angle, making it more difficult to breathe without support from the legs.  Another theory is that breaking the legs hastened death for another reason: the consequence of leg fractures is instant and severe loss of blood.[117]

To demonstrate that a nail through the hand could hold several hundred pounds, Zugibe, in another experiment, used the severed arms of fresh cadavers, nailing them through either of two locations in the palm of the hands and suspending weights from the arms.


 

The Arguments & Claims of the Watchtower Society

Over the years, the Watchtower society has used the same arguments to support their viewpoint.   This is a list of the arguments, followed by a direct addressing of each.   You may be surprised to discover that most of the sources cited by the Watchtower Society are actually deceptive quotes, and the authors believe that Christ was executed on a cross.  The few remaining sources all stem from the works mentioned previously as the origins of this false teaching.  They will also be individually addressed, so that the faults in their logic may be exposed.

An abbreviation for each argument will be used, so that a summary may be presented to show that all arguments provided by the Watchtower Society have been shown faulty.   The point of this list is not to address the proper usage of the cross as a symbol, or in worship.   It is to document that their arguments for Jesus being executed by some other means are without any evidence, are intentionally deceptive, and contrary to early writings.

Sample classification of arguments (What Does The Bible Really Teach?, 2013, pp. 204-205:

 

 

 

 

 

 

<- Argument-Stauros (page 78)

<- Quote-Bullinger-Companion (page 154)

 

 

<- Argument-Xylon (page 84)

<- Quote-Fulda (page 210)

 

 

 

 

<- Argument-Deuteronomy (page 108)

 

 

 

<- Argument-No-Usage (page 119)

 

<- Argument-Constantine (page 117)

 

<- Quote-New-Catholic (page 279)

 

<- Argument-Idolatry (page 116)

Argument Hall of Shame

Before we get lost into the detailed list of arguments, let’s get a general idea of the quality and type of arguments and quotations presented by the Watchtower Society.  Keep in mind that by quoting these sources, the Watchtower Society indicates their belief that the author and information is trustworthy and accurate.

 

Argument Name

Major Concerns with Argument’s Validity

Argument-AP

The artwork supposedly depicting Jesus on a stake actually depicts Him on a cross.

Argument-Crux-Later

A lexicon is cited as evidence that a word only meant “cross” later in history, not during the time of Jesus.  The lexicon agrees with the word meaning “cross” at a later time, and gives several examples, showing “later” to mean 159 BC – AD 119.

Argument-Xylon

It is argued that a word only means “an upright stake.”  In their own Bible translation, the same word is translated once as “stocks,” regarding the punishment of a criminal.

Quote-Complete-Jewish

The author states that Jesus died on a cross, and calls the Jehovah’s Witnesses a “quasi-Christian cult.”

Quote-Cutner

In the book quoted, the author states that all the following are phallic in nature: Adam, Eve, Noah’s Ark, the construction of church buildings, the date of the resurrection, the word “Jew,” and the names Abraham, David, Elohim, Jesus, Jehovah, Joshua, Jerusalem, and Mary.

Quote-Easter-And-Customs

The quoted author claims that bread sliced like a pizza into eight pieces is a cross, thus linking sliced bread (and pizza, we suppose) to the Christian cross.

Quote-Gibbon/Taylor

Quoted author proclaims that the devil and God are the same thing.

Quote-Great-Religions

The quoted author states that baptism, the virgin birth, confessing sins, and praying against evil are all pagan ideas and concepts.

Quote-Hislop

The author quoted taught in the same book that the Devil, Adam, Noah, Nimrod, and Saturn were all the same person.

Quote-Imperial

The middle of the quote is edited by the Watchtower Society to remove the statement that the cross had a crossbeam & then used as evidence that it did not.

Quote-Lipsius

An illustration is reproduced and claimed to be how Jesus was killed.   However, the author indicates that the type of execution using this method was rarely used.  On a different page in the same book, the author includes an illustraton of a cross and states that this is the type of cross that Jesus died upon.

Quote-Louvre

A sculpture is claimed to be a good example of someone executed on a stake, in a manner similer to Jesus.  However, all literary references to the event depicted describe it as a pine tree and that the person was merely tied to it.  Visual inspection of the sculpture confirms this.

Quote-Parsons

The author quoted as evidence of the shape of the cross states elsewhere that the entire story of Jesus was fabricated.

Quote-Réau

Quoted art authority is supposed to state that “the cross was a pole.”  The author actually wrote that in spite of a minority claim that “the cross was a pole,” all available Christian artwork indicates otherwise.

Quote-Rocco

Quoted author states on other pages in the same book, that Jehovah, Brahman, and Jupiter are ficticitous and all just variations on a phallic theme.

Quote-Thorne

The quotation presented is actually a quotation of the dialoge of a fictional character in a novel.  The character being quoted plays the role of a villin that fabricates religious evidence to disprove others.

 


 

Comprehensive List of Watchtower Society Claims and Arguments

Summary of Claims

In general, the Watchtower Society makes the following claims, which are easily disproven by the existence of counterexamples:

·         The Greek words used in the Bible for the instrument of Jesus’ execution can only mean “a stake” and not “a cross.”

·         The Latin word crux did not mean “cross” until sometime after the time of Jesus.

·         Early Christians knew that Jesus was not executed on a T-shaped instrument.

·         Constantine was responsible for the usage of the cross symbol, and no usage of the cross by Christians prior to Constantine can be found.

·         The usage of a cross as a symbol for Chrstianity was not due to anyone believing that Jesus died on a cross.  Instead, it was the retention of various pagan symbols that look like crosses.

Complete List of Claims

This is an exhaustive list of the claims found within the Watchtower Society’s literature regarding the cross.  Each argument is thoroughly discussed and addressed in the remaining portion of this document.  In general, each argument is shown to fall under one or more of the following categories:

·         A quotation from an author that actually believed Jesus died on a cross

·         A misrepresentation of the facts or a quoted author

·         An outright fabrication

·         A claim that is easily disproven by counterexample

·         A claim or information that has no bearing whatsoever on the shape of the cross

·         Quotation of an author with reasoning or evidence that is easily disproven by the same methods

Unless the Watchtower Society can provide additional evidence or claims, their entire set of arguments and claims are thus shown to be faulty.  The Watchtower Society has also lost credibility by presenting these arguments, when a high percentage of them are shown to be either misprespresentations or fabrications.

(1933 July 1). The Watchtower, 198

Argument-Constantine

(1934 February 28). Golden Age, 336

Quote-Thorne

(1936). Riches, 27

Argument-Deuteronomy

(1936 November 4). Golden Age, 72

Argument-Xylon, Argument-Stauros, Quote-Union, Quote-Bullinger-Companion, Argument-Stauros-Homer, Argument-Constantine

(1937 September 1). The Watchtower, 232-233

Argument-Idolatry, Argument-Deuteronomy, Quote-Hislop, Quote-McClintock4

(1937). Enemies, 186-188

Argument-Idolatry, Argument-Deuteronomy, Quote-Hislop, Quote-McClintock4

(1940 June 26). Consolation, 12, 24-25

Argument-Idolatry

(1944 November 22). Consolation, 7

Argument-Constantine, Quote-Gibbon/Taylor

(1948 December 8). Awake!, 5

Quote-McClintock3, Quote-Rocco, Argument-Deuteronomy

(1950). New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, 768-771

Argument-Stauros, Argument-Stauros-Classical, Argument-Stauros-Koine, Argument-Xylon, Argument-Crux-Later, Quote-Crux-Livy, Quote-Lipsius, Argument-Constantine, Argument-Deuteronomy, Quote-Fulda

(1950, November 1). The Watchtower, 425-427

Quote-CatholicDigest, Quote-CatholicEncyclopedia, Quote-Gibbon/Taylor, Argument-Phallic, Quote-Hislop, Argument-Stauros, Augument-Stauros-Classical, Argument-Stairos-Koine, Argument-Xylon, Argument-Xylon-LXX, Quote-Crux-Livy, Quote-Lipsius, Quote-Ecclesiastical, Quote-Brittanica, Argument-Constantine,

(1950, November 15). The Watchtower, 456

Argument-Stauros, Argument-Xulon, Argument-Constantine

(1951). What Has Religion Done for Mankind? 110, 269-272

Argument-Phallic, Argument-Constantine

(1951). The Watchtower, 190

Argument-Stauros-Classical

(1951). The Watchtower, 473-476

Argument-Constantine

(1951). The Watchtower, 485-486

Argument-Idolatry, Argument-Constantine, Argument-No-Usage

(1951 October 8). Awake!, 25-26

Argument-Pagan, Quote-Americana, Quote-Rocco, Quote-Hislop, Quote-Knight, Quote-Ecclesiastical, Quote-Britannica3, Argument-Constantine, Argument-Stauros, Argument-Crux-Later

(1954 July 8). Awake!, 25

Quote-CatholicDigest, Quote-CatholicEncyclopedia, Argument-Stauros-Classical, Argument-Stauros-Koine, Argument-Xylon, Quote-Xylon-LXX, Argument-Crux-Later, Quote-Crux-Lewis-Short, Quote-Crux-Livy, Argument-Murder, Quote-Fulda, Quote-Burgon, Argument-Xylon, Argument-Deuteronomy, Quote-Killen, Quote-Hislop, Argument-Idolatry, Argument-Constantine, Argument-Murder

(1955). Qualified to Be Ministers, 271

Argument-Phallic, Quote-Hislop

(1955). Qualified to Be Ministers, 286

Argument-Phallic

(1957 March 15). The Watchtower, 165-168

Quote-Brittanica4, Quote-Biblica, Quote-NewSchaafHerzogEncyclopedia,  Quote-Smith’s, Quote-Fulda, Quote-Burgon

(1958, July 22). Awake!, 5-7

Argument-Ankh, Argument-Phallic, Argument-Stauros, Quote-NewSchaafHerzogEncyclopedia, Argument-Constantine, Argument-Murder

(1958, August 15). The Watchtower, 510

Argument-Stauros, Argument-Xylon, Argument-Phallic

(1959, January 8). Awake!, 24

Argument-Constantine, Argument-Phallic

(1960, February 15). The Watchtower, 125-127

Argument-Ankh, Quote-Brittanica, Quote-Dictionary-of_Folklore, Quote-Hislop, Argument-Phallic,  Argument-Stauros, Argument-Xylon, Quote-Lipsius, Quote-Britannica2

(1962 April 22). Awake!, 9-10

Quote-Felix, Quote-Arnobius, Quote-Hurst, Quote-Felix, Argument-Ezekiel,

(1963, April 8). Awake!, 8, 27-28

Quote-Brittanica, Quote-New_Schaaf-Herzog Encyclopedia, Quote-Ward, Quote-Fulda, Argument-Xylon

(1963). Babylon the Great Has Fallen! God’s Kingdom Rules!, 144-146, 476

Quote-Hislop, Quote-New-Light, Argument-Ezekiel, Argument-Previous

(1963). New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, 3584-3586

Argument-Stauros, Argument-Stauros-Classical, Argument-Stauros-Koine, Argument-Xylon, Argument-Crux-Later, Quote-Crux-Livy, Quote-Lipsius, Argument-Constantine, Argument-Deuteronomy, Quote-Fulda

(1964, February 22). Awake!, 18

Argument-Phallic, Quote-Hislop

(1964, July 22). Awake!, 8-11

Quote-Felix, Quote-Hannay, Quote-McClintock3

(1964, July 1). The Watchtower, 394-395

Argument-Xylon, Argument-Stauros, Argument-Murder, Argument-Pagan, Quote-Hurst

(1964, November 1). The Watchtower, 666-667

Quote-Hislop, Argument-Pagan, Quote-New-Light, Argument-Ezekiel

(1965). Make Sure of All Things; Hold Fast to What is Fine, 139-140

Argument-Stauros, Quote-Vine, Argument-Xylon, Argument-Pagan, Quote-Britannica, Quote-Ecclesiastical, Argument-Idolatry

(1966, May 1). The Watchtower, 278

Argument-Pagan

(1966, September 15). The Watchtower, 567

Argument-Stauros, Argument-Crux-Later,

(1966 February 22). Awake!, 14-15

Argument-Phallic, Quote-Hislop

(1967 March 8). Awake!, 6

Argument-Phallic

(1967 March 8). Awake!, 15

Argument-Idolatry

(1967 March 22). Awake!, 20

Argument-Idolatry

(1967). Qualified to Be Ministers (Revised edition), 271

Quote-Hislop

(1967). Qualified to Be Ministers (Revised edition), 286

Argument-Idolatry

(1968 February 1). The Watchtower, 93-95

Argument-Pagan, Quote-CatholicEncyclopedia, Quote-Killen, Quote-Vine, Quote-Felix, Argument-Stauros, Quote-Bullinger-Companion, Argument-Stauros-Homer, Argument-Phallic

(1968, February 8). Awake!, 23

Argument-Constantine

(1968). The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, 141-145

Argument-Pagan, Quote-CatholicEncyclopedia, Quote-Killen, Quote-Vine, Argument-Xulon, Quote-Bullinger-Companion, Argument-Murder, Argument-Idolatry, Quote-McClintock, Quote-Neander

(1969). The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, 1155-1157

Argument-Stauros, Argument-Stauros-Classical, Argument-Stauros-Koine, Quote-Stauros-Lucian, Argument-Xulon, Argument-Xulon-LXX, Argument-Crux, Argument-Crux-Later, Quote-Crux-Livy, Quote-Lipsius, Quote-Ecclesiastical, Argument-Murder, Quote-Fulda

(1969 May 8). Awake!, 4-5

Argument-Pagan, Quote-CatholicEncyclopedia, Quote-Killen,  Quote-Vine, Argument-Xulon, Quote-Bullinger-Companion, Argument-Murder, Argument-Idolatry, Quote-McClintock, Quote-Neander

(1969 September 22). Awake!, 15

Quote-Felix

(1970 March 22). Awake!, 20

Quote-Bailey, Argument-Previous

(1970 July 22). Awake!, 22

Argument-Pagan, Quote-Felix, Quote-New-Light

(1970, November 1). The Watchtower, 645-646

Quote-Reau, Argument-Pagan

(1971). New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, 1360-1361

Argument-Greek-Classical, Quote-Parsons

(1971) Aid to Bible Understanding, 1608-1609

Argument-Greek-Classical, Quote-Parsons

(1971). The Nations Shall Know That I Am Jehovah – How?, 151-152

Quote-Hislop

(1972, September 15). The Watchtower, 572-573

Quote-Hislop, Argument-Pagan

(1972, November 8). Awake!, 27-30

Argument-Murder, Quote-New-Catholic2, Quote-Tyack, Argument-Constantine, Quote-Felix, Argument-Stauros, Quote-Vine, Quote-Parsons

(1974 September 22). Awake!, 27-28

Quote-Brittanica, Argument-Stauros, Argument-Stauros-Classical, Argument-Stauros-Koine, Quote-Parsons, Quote-Vine, Quote-Imperial, Quote-Fulda, Argument-Deuteronomy, Argument-Xulon-LXX,

(1975). Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 148-149

Quote-Hislop

(1976, November 22). Awake!, 27-28

Quote-Imperial, Argument-Crux-Later, Argument-Stauros, Argument-Xylon, Quote-McClintock2, Argument-Constantine, Argument-Previous

(1976, December 22). Awake!, 15

Quote-Brittanica, Quote-d’Alvellia

(1978, June 22). Awake!, 10-11

Argument-Ankh

(1978 July 22). Awake!, 13

Quote-Louvre

(1978 November 8). Awake!, 7

Quote-Koch

(1980 February 15). The Watchtower, 30

Quote-AP

(1981). The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, 141-145

Argument-Pagan, Quote-CatholicEncyclopedia, Quote-Killen, Quote-Vine, Argument-Xulon, Quote-Bullinger-Companion, Argument-Murder, Argument-Idolatry, Quote-McClintock, Quote-Neander

(1983). The Time for True Submission to God, 30

Argument-Stauros, Argument-Stauros-Homer, Quote-Bullinger-Companion, Argument-Murder, Argument-Idolatry

(1984, June 22). Awake!, 15-17

Argument-Constantine, Quote-Thorne, Quote-Krishna-Painting, Quote-Baring-Gould, Quote-Cyclopedia-of-Biblical-Literature, Quote-Records, Quote-Hall, Quote-Lipsius, Quote-Budge, Argument-Constantine, Argument-Stauros, Argument-Xulon, Arhument-Crux, Quote-Bullinger-Companion, Argument-Idolatry, Argument-Murder

(1984 September 15). The Watchtower, 21

Quote- Mainichi

(1984). New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures With References, 1577-1578

Argument-Stauros, Argument-Pagan, Argument-Stauros-Classical, Quote-Stauros-Lucian, Argument-Stauros-Koine, Argument-Xylon, Argument-Xylon-LXX, Argument-Crux-Lewis-Short, Quote-Crux-Livy, Quote-Lipsius, Quote-Fulda, Quote-Schmidt

(1984). Bible Topics for Discussion, 6

Argument-Idolatry

(1985). Reasoning from the Scriptures, 89-93

Argument-Stauros-Classical, Argument-Crux-Later, Quote-Imperial, Quote-Xylon-Liddell, Quote-Parsons, Quote-Bullinger-Companion

(1987 August 15). The Watchtower, 21-24

Quote-Americana, Quote-Chambers, Quote-Bullinger, Argument-Constantine, Quote-Vine, Quote-Ethics, Quote-ISBE, Quote-Imperial, Quote-Parsons, Quote-Lipsius, Argument-Stauros, Argument-Xylon, Argument-Xylon-LXX, Quote-Louvre, Argument-Idolatry, Argument-Constantine, Quote-Snyder

(1987 August 15). The Watchtower, 28-29

Quote-ISBE

(1988 August 1). The Watchtower, 4-5

Argument-Constantine, Quote-Bevan, Quote-Damascus, Quote-Aquinas, Argument-Idolatry

(1988). Insight on the Scriptures, Vol 1, 240

Quote-New-Light

(1988). Insight on the Scriptures, Vol 1, 548

Argument-Previous, Argument-Phallic

(1988). Insight on the Scriptures, Vol 1, 1190-1191

Argument-Stauros, Argument-Xylon, Quote-Douglas, Argument-Light, Quote-Vine, Quote-Tyack, Quote-Parsons, Quote-Bullinger-Companion

(1988). Insight on the Scriptures, Vol 2, 530

Argument-Ankh

(1988). Insight on the Scriptures, Vol 2, 1116-1117

Argument-Stauros-Classical, Quote-Parsons

(1989 January 22). Awake!, 22

Argument-Previous, Quote-Vine

(1989 May 1). The Watchtower, 23-26

Argument-Stauros, Quote-Vine, Argument-Pagan, Quote-Bullinger-Companion, Argument-Stauros-Homer, Argument-Xylon, Argument-Previous, Quote-Dual-Heritage, Quote-New-Catholic2, Argument-Constantine, Argument-Pagan, Argument-Murder

(1989). Reasoning From The Scriptures (Revised), 89-93, 180

Argument-Stauros-Classical, Argument-Stauros-Later, Argument-Crux-Later, Quote-Imperial, Quote-Xylon-Liddell, Quote-Parsons, Quote-Bullinger-Companion

(1990). Mankind’s Search for God, 273

Argument-Constantine

(1992). Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 221-222

Argument-Pagan

(1992 November 15). The Watchtower, 7

Argument-Previous, Quote-Great-Religions, Quote-Smithsonian, Argument-Stauros

(1993). Jehovah’s Witnesses – Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, 200

Statement that usage of cross was stopped by Jehovahs Witnesses in 1936

(1993 January 15). The Watchtower, 27-28

Argument-Idolatry, Argument-Ezekiel, Argument-Deuteronomy

(1996). What Does God Require of Us?, 23

Argument-Stauros, Argument-Pagan

(1996 April 22). Awake!, 29

Quote-Dallas-Morning-News

(1996 September 8). Awake!, 24

Quote-Varone-Pompei

(1996 April 1). The Watchtower, 4

Quote-Easter-And-Customs

(1996 July 1). The Watchtower, 5

Argument-Idolatry

(2000 August 8). Awake!, 30

Quote-CatholicEncyclopedia2

(2002 August 8). Awake!, 31

Argument-Previous

(2005). What Does the Bible Really Teach?, 204-206

Argument-Stauros, Quote-Bullinger-Companion, Argument-Xylon, Argument-Deuteronomy, Argument-Murder, Argument-Idolatry

(2006 April 6). Awake!, 12-13

Argument-Previous, Argument-Ezekiel, Argument-Stauros, Quote-Parsons, Quote-Lipsius, Argument-Xylon,  Argument-Constantine, Argument-Murder, Argument-Idolatry

(2008 March 1). The Watchtower, 22

Argument-Previous, Quote-Achen, Quote-New-Catholic, Quote-Vine, Quote-Bullinger-Companion, Quote-Achen, Argument-Murder

(2011 March 1). The Watchtower (Public Edition), 18-20

Quote-Vine, Argument-Stauros, Argument-Crux-Later, Quote-CatholicEncyclopeda3, Argument-Xylon, Quote-Xylon-Lydell, Quote-Bullinger-Lexicon, Quote-Lipsius, Quote-Complete-Jewish, Argument-Previous, Quote-CatholicEncyclopedia, Quote-Vine, Argument-Constantine, Quote-Parsons, Quote-Illustrated-Bible-Dictionary, Argument-Idolatry, Argument-Murder

(2013). New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, 1714-1715

Argument-Stauros, Argument-Pagan

(2014). What Does the Bible Really Teach?, 204-206

Argument-Stauros, Quote-Bullinger-Companion, Argument-Xylon, Argument-Deuteronomy, Argument-Murder, Argument-Idolatry

(2014) God’s Kingdom Rules!, 103-105

Argument-Stauros, Quote-Cyclopedia-of-Biblical-Literature, Quote-CrucifixionInAntiquity, Quote-Ward, Quote-Bullinger-Companion, Quote-Bullinger-Lexicon

(2014 February) Awake!, 12

Argument-Constantine

(2015) What Can the Bible Teach Us?, 213-214

Argument-No-Usage, Quote-New-Catholic, Argument-Stauros, Argument-Xylon, Quote-Bullinger-Companion, Argument-Idolatry

(2015) Jesus – The Way, the Truth, the Life, 300

Argument-Stauros, Quote-Ward

(2017). Awake! no. 2 (Public Edition), 14-15

Quote-NewJerusalem, Quote-CrucifixionInAntiquity, Quote-Bullinger-Lexicon, Argument-Deuteronomy, Argument-Constantine, Argument-Idolatry

Meaning of the Greek word stauros

(Argument-Stauros) Only one Possible Meaning of the Greek word stauros

New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (pp. 1714-1715). (1970).

New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.

As we have already discussed, there are numerous examples of the usage of the Greek word stauros to mean something other than a simple stake or pale.  We have also seen that this was the original meaning of the word in the Classical Greek period (500 BC – 323 BC), and new meanings came into usage during the Koine Greek period (300 BC – AD 300).  The meaning of “stake” or “pale” is listed as #1, as this was the first meaning of the word, not necessarily the number one meaning in New Testament times.

 This argument is easily disproven by example.

This type of phenomenon happens frequently with word meanings.  Words change meaning completely in a short period of time.  A few examples are:

Awful

Awful things used to be “worthy of awe” for a variety of reasons, which is how we get expressions like “the awful majesty of God.”

Broadcast

In 1767, “broadcast” meant sowing seeds with a sweeping movement of the hand or a “broad cast”.

Its media use began with radio in 1922.

Cute

“Cute” was a shortened form of “acute,” meaning “keenly perceptive and shrewd” in the 1730s.

By the 1830s it was part of American student slang, meaning “pretty, charming and dainty.”

Meat

“Meat” originally referred to solid foods of any kind.

Nice

From the Latin “nescius” meaning “ignorant”, the word began life in the 14th century as a term for “foolish” or “silly.”

It soon embraced bad qualities, such as wantonness, extravagance, cowardice and sloth.

In the Middle Ages it took on the more neutral attributes of shyness and reserve.

Society’s admiration of such qualities in the 18th century brought on the more positively charged meanings of “nice” we know today.

 

When the Watchtower society asserts that the meaning of stauros had not changed in over 850 years, they are either being intentionally deceitful, or are ignorant of the many works of literature that demonstrate the word being used to mean something else.   These usage examples include those from the time period when the New Testament was written.

(Argument-Stauros-Classical) The meaning of the word stauros in the Classical Greek Period

This is an irrelevant point, as the meaning of a word 370 – 850 years earlier than the New Testament has no bearing on its later usage.   We see numerous examples of the word being used in the Koine period to represent things other than a post.

The Watchtower Society writers apparently are hoping that the reader will not realize that a discussion of the Classical period’s meaning has no relevance with the Koine period.  Note the follow-up sentence beginning with “It was just such a stake…” that tries to take this ancient meaning and apply it to New Testament times as fact without any supporting references.

 

New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures with References (p. 1577). (1984).
New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.

Citing the Classical Greek period suggests that the writer knows that there are other periods of the Greek language, and is intentionally laying out a baseless argument with the intent of deceit.

 

 

(Argument-Stauros-Homer) Citation of the writer Homer’s usage of the word stauros

This is also an irrelevant point.   Homer’s writings were in 850 BC (the Classical Greek period).  The Watchtower Society writers apparently are hoping that the reader will not realize this.  If they have researched the matter at all, then they are surely aware of these facts, indicating the likelihood of intentional deception.

The “authoritative reference work” mentioned in the quote is “The Companion Bible,” which is also discussed in this document under Quote-Bullinger-Companion on page 154.

The Time for True Submission to God (p. 30). (1982).

Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.

 

 

 

 

 

(Argument-Stauros-Koine) In Koine Greek, the word stauros could only mean one thing

This claim is easily disproven.  It is made without any evidence, and is followed by: “there is no proof to the contrary.”

New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures with References (p. 1577). (1984).
New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.

Here is some of the proof to the contrary:

·         Multiple authors of the same time period used the word stauros to mean “cross” or other objects

·         Every early church fathers that described the shape of the cross described it as t-shaped.

·         Writings that describe early Christians making the “sign of the cross” on their forehead

·         2,000 years of church tradition that it was t-shaped, without any contradictory traditions or writings

·         Christian ossuaries from that period with cross symbols on them

Lidell & Scott’s Lexicon, which the Watchtower Society frequently quotes shows several meanings for this word.   The lexicon lists “stake” as one possible meaning, citing examples in the Classical Greek period.   In fact, the only example outside of the Classical Greek given for the definition of “stake” was of an author writing about events that occurred in the Classical Greek period.  Additionally, it cites “the Cross” as “the Roman instrument of Crucifixion.”  Additionally, it cites the books of Matthew and Luke as examples under “cross.”  Finally, it states under “cross” that this word refers to an object whose form was “represented by the Greek Letter T.”  See the complete discussion on this word for additional details, which begins on page 39.

 

Liddell, H., & Scott, R. (1883). Greek-English Lexicon (Seventh ed., p. 1422).

New York: Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square.

 

(Argument-Stauros-Later) The word stauros only meant “cross” sometime later

Reasoning from the Scriptures (p. 89). (1989). Brooklyn, N.Y., U.S.A.:

Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, International Bible Students Association.

Here, it is claimed that the Greek word stauros meant an upright stake in Classical Greek, and only “later” came to unclude a crosspiece.  The next paragraph shows that the Watchtower Society bielieves that Liddell and Scott’s lexicon is a good place to check these definitions.

Let’s begin by looking at what time periods “Classical Greek” and “later” refer to.

As previously discussed, “Classical Greek" is "the modern designation of the period from about 500 BC to the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC.

Also, as previously discussed, Liddell and Scott’s lexicon gives examples of the word stauros meaning “cross.” (See page 39)  The examples of this usage cover the years 60 BC – 140 AD, when the style of Greek language used was known as Kione Greek (300 BC – 300 AD).

Adding the facts that we have now gathered, let’s look at the Watchtower Society’s claim and see it it supports the idea that the Gospel writers could only have been talking about a pole:

In Classical Greek (500-323 BC), this word meant merely a stake.  Later (60 BC – 140 AD), it came to be used for an execution stake having a crosspiece. Thus, they must have been writing about a stake in -70-90 AD, when they wrote the Gospels. 

At this point, it is obvious that the Watchtower Society’s argument is simply taking advantage of the reader’s ignorance of dates & their argument actually contradicts itself.

(Quote-Stauros-Lucian) The Greek author Lucian used the word anastauroo as a synonym for “to tie” or “to fasten.”

New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures with References

(p. 1577). (1984). New York:

Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.

 

Here, we have yet another misleading statement, where the work cited actually states the exact opposite of what the Watchtower Society is trying to prove. 

Lucian did use anastauroó to refer to the fastening of Prometheus to the rocks of the Caucasus: "Let him be crucified (anestaurosthai) half way up this precipice" (Prometheus, 1.12). But the next phrase indicates what type of cross Lucian had in mind: "...with his hands outstretched (ekpetastheis tó kheire) from crag to crag". This implies a horizontal stretching of the arms from one rock to another, a posture which "will make a very handy cross (ho stauros genoito)" (1.19). Lest there be any doubt about the matter, Lucian next describes the hands as being nailed separately with separate nails: "Come, your right hand! Clamp it down, Hephaestus, and in with the nails; bring down the hammer with a will. Now the left; make sure work of that too" (2.3-8). Clearly, then, Lucian pictured the mythological Prometheus as stretching out his hands horizontally, as if on a patibulum, with each hand nailed individually, and he uses the word stauros to refer to this configuration. One wonders why the Society would cite this text, knowing that it actually disproves their claim that stauros meant only "stake".

Moreover, Lucian elsewhere explicitly described the stauros as shaped like the letter T. In his humorous essay "Trial in the Court of Vowels," the Greek letter Tau (which otherwise had an awful reputation) was found guilty of murder:

"Men weep and bewail their lot, and curse Cadmus with many curses for putting Tau into the alphabet; for they say that their tyrants, taking his body as a model (somati phasi akolouthésantas) and imitating his shape (mimésamenous autou to plasma), have fashioned similar-looking timbers (skhémati toioutói xula) to crucify (anaskolopizein) men upon them, and the vile device is even named (eponumian) after him (i.e. sTAUros). Now, with all these crimes upon him, does not Tau deserve to die many times over? As for me, I think the only just thing to do would be to punish Tau on what has been made in his own shape (tó skhemati tó hautou), for the cross (ho stauros) owes its existence to Tau, but its name to man (hupo de anthrópón onomazetai)" (Lis Consonantium, 12).

 

Note the use of anaskolopizoó to refer to crucifixion on a crux compacta. Some scholars, such as Sommerbrodt, excise the last sentence referring to the stauros explicitly as an explanatory gloss. But even without it, the obvious pun between "Tau" and stauros and the several references to the T-like shape of the cross prove beyond doubt that Lucian regarded the stauros as double-beamed. The Society's attempt to cite Lucian in support of their "torture stake" theory is either dishonest or sadly misinformed.

Just to be sure, let’s see what some commonly-used lexicons have to say about the word stauroo (σταυρόω), since this is the word commonly translated as “crucify” in the Bible.

Liddell, H., & Scott, R. (1883). Greek-English Lexicon (Seventh ed., p. 1422).

New York: Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square.

 

 

Author

Work

Meaning

Approximate Date

Thucydides

History of the Peloponesian War

Fence with pales

423 BC

Diodorus Siculus

Historical Library

Fence with pales

8 BC

Polybius

The Histories

Crucify

167 BC

Matthew

Book of Matthew

Crucify

80 AD

 

 

 


 

Meaning of the Greek word xylon

(Argument-Xylon) The word xylon (ξύλον) is asserted to have only one possible meaning

New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures with References

(p. 1577). (1984). New York:

Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.

 

As previously discussed, this is easily disproven by example.

In Greek texts the word xylon "piece of wood" could be used for any object made of wood, including in varying contexts, gallows, stocks, pales and stakes.

 

Contradicting themselves, the Watchtower Society translates the word as “stocks” in their own New World Translation of the Bible in Acts 16:24.  Clearly this claim about the word only meaning an “upright stake” is false.

 

The Kingdom interlinear translation of the Greek Scriptures (p. 620). (1969). Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.

 


 

(Quote-Xylon-Liddell) Citation of A Greek-English Lexicon by Liddell and Scott for the word xylon, asserting only one possible meaning

Reasoning from the Scriptures (p. 89). (1989). Brooklyn, N.Y., U.S.A.:

Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, International Bible Students Association.

This is easily disproven my simply reading the reference, which includes “anything made of wood.” In additional, note the abbreviation “al.” after the references to Acts 5:30 and 10:39.  Of course, the abbreviation is for the commonly used “et al.” or “et alii,” which is the Latin phrase “and others.”   The authors of this argument certainly saw the various definitions, which suggests intentional deceit.   Apparently, the Watchtower Society hopes that readers will not check the reference.  We have already shown the reference in the discussion of xylon, but here it is again.

Liddell, H., & Scott, R. (1883). Greek-English Lexicon (Seventh ed., p. 1019).

New York: Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square.

What are the “others” in the Bible?  Here is a list of usages of the word Xulon, in case you missed them elsewhere in this document:

Reference

Translation or Meaning
(KJV & NIV & NAS)

Refers to the Instrument of Jesus’ Execution

Matthew 26:47

Staves / Clubs / Clubs

 

Matthew 26:55

Staves / Clubs / Clubs

 

Mark 14:43

Staves / Clubs / Clubs

 

Mark 14:48

Staves / Clubs / Clubs

 

Luke 22:52

Staves / Clubs / Clubs

 

Luke 23:31

Tree / Tree / Tree

 

Acts 5:30

Tree / Tree / Cross

*

Acts 10:39

Tree / Tree / Cross

*

Acts 13:29

Tree / Tree / Cross

*

Acts 16:24

Stocks / Stocks / Stocks

 

1 Cor. 3:12

Wood / Wood / Wood

 

Galatians 3:13

Tree / Tree / Tree

*

1 Peter 2:24

Tree / Tree / Cross

*

Revelation 2:7

Tree / Tree  Tree

 

Revelation 18:12

Wood / Wood / Wood

 

Revelation 22:2

Tree / Tree / tree

 

Revelation 22:14

Tree / Tree / Tree

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

(Quote-Xylon-LXX) Xylon is used in Ezra 6:11 with the meaning of “beam” in the Septuagint (Greek Translation of the Scriptures). 

This is asserted to prove that the word, which is also used in the New Testament can only mean “beam.”

 

New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures with References

(p. 1577). (1984). New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.

Again, this is easily disproven by example.   As previously discussed, the word can be used to refer to anything made of wood.  In the New Testament alone, the word is used as: Stocks, Clubs, Wood, and Tree.  See the previous discussion on xylon on page 42 for a complete list. Whatever it meant in Ezra, there is no reason to believe that it has the same meaning in the New Testament, as the word had many meaning.

More interesting is the actual text of Ezra 6:11, which is vague enough that it is not possible to determine exactly what type of xylon is being referred to.   Here are some common translations:

Also I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let timber be pulled down from his house, and being set up, let him be hanged thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this. (King James Version)

I hereby also decree that whoever shall alter the wording of this edict, let his residence be torn down for timber to build a gallows, hang him on it, and turn his home into an outhouse. (International Standard Version)

Also I have made a decree, that whosoever shall alter this word, let a beam be pulled out from his house, and let him be lifted up and fastened thereon; and let his house be made a dunghill for this: (American Standard Version)

Furthermore, I decree that if anyone defies this edict, a beam is to be pulled from their house and they are to be impaled on it. And for this crime their house is to be made a pile of rubble. (New International Version)

 

The phrase used could mean a variety of things.   Using the possible definitions of the Hebrew words, a literal translation would be:

“let him be (affixed / impaled / hanged) and (impaled / hanged / set-up) to timber that is torn from his house”

Without any additional information, we can only guess at the meaning, which is apparently what other translators were forced to do.  Any of the following are possible:

·         Hanging from a gallows

·         Impaling with a sharpened single piece of wood

·         Affixed to a single piece of wood (horizontal or vertical)


 

The NIV Study Bible includes this note:

2:23 impaled on a sharpened pole (literally hanged on a tree, or hanged on wood): This phrase has traditionally been translated hanged on a gallows, but inscriptions from ancient Persia show that impalement was a standard form of execution. Xerxes’ father, Darius I, claimed to have impaled 3,000 Babylonians when he conquered Babylon. Sometimes criminals were executed first and then displayed on a stake, as with the execution of Haman’s sons (9:5-14).

The Watchtower Society is now in trouble, if we are looking to the Septuagint for usages of the word xylon.   Here are a few of the incidences of this word, and how the Watchtower Society translates the word.

Reference containing ‘xylon’ in the LXX

Translation of word in New World testament (2013 edition)

Genesis 2:9

Tree

Leviticus 14:4

Cedarwood

2 Kings 23:6

Pole

Isaiah 10:15

Staff

Isaiah 45:20

Carved Images

Esther 5:14

Stake (fifty cubits high)

 

We easily see now, from the Watchtower Society’s own translation that xylon can mean a variety of things.

The last reference (Esther 5:14) should be familiar to some readers.   This is the narrative of Haman and Mordecai. 

Recall that this object for killing Mordecai was to be made 50 cubits (75 feet) high.  This is clearly not a pole, as trees that tall could not easily be found.   Such a pole would need to have about one third of it below-ground to support itself, requiring it to be at least 112.5 feet in total length.  It would be equally difficult to quickly erect one for an execution, even if it could be found, as a 37.5-foot deep hole would need to be dug.  Erecting a 75-foot high gallows from readily-available timber would, however, be easily possible with some manpower.   Here is what other translations say:

Let a gallows be made of fifty cubits high, and to morrow speak thou unto the king that Mordecai may be hanged thereon: (King James Version)

Have a gallows fifty cubits high made and in the morning ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on it (New American Standard)

Have a gallows built, seventy-five feet high, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai hanged on it. (New International Version)

Let a gallows fifty cubits high be made, and in the morning tell the king to have Mordecai hanged on it; (New Revised Standard)

 

The Watchtower Society is stuck using this translation and explanation of Esther 5:14, lest they contradict themselves even more by showing that xylon could also mean “gallows.”  Of course, we have already given examples from other writers who used the word to mean “gallows,” “wooden stocks,” and other wooden structures.





 

Meaning for the Latin word crux

(Argument-Crux-Later / Quote-Crux-Lewis-Short) “Cross” is only a later meaning of the Latin word Crux

New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures with References

(p. 1577). (1984). New York: Watchtower Bible and

Tract Society of New York.

 

When we go to the actual reference, we see that it has been misrepresented.  The “general” definition does include “frame, or other wooden instruments of execution.”  As we see in part b of the definition, “other wooden instruments” includes, in particular, “a cross.”

With regard to “cross” being “only a later meaning” of the word, let’s look at the usage examples listed by Lewis & Short:

Usage examples cited by Lewis & Short having the definition “a cross.”

Author

Work

Approximate Date

P. Terentius

Andria

159 BC

M. Tullius Cicero

Actio in Verrem

43 BC

M. Tullius Cicero

Oratio in Pisonem

43 BC

M. Tullius Cicero

De Finibus

43 BC

M. T. Quintilianus

Institutiones Oratorie

AD 95

C. Cornelius Tacitus

Annales

AD 119

Q. Horatius Flaccus

Satirae

8 BC

Q. Horatius Flaccus

Epistulae

8 BC

 

From these examples in the reference sited by the Watchtower Society, we can clearly see that they are misrepresenting Lewis & Short by claiming that ‘crux’ meant ‘cross’ as “a later meaning.”  The examples given by Lewis & Short clearly show that the word ‘crux’ has a meaning of ‘cross’ both before and after the New Testament was written.

Additionally, note the examples given by Lewis & Short for the general definition of “a tree, frame, or other wooden instruments of execution on which criminals were impaled or hanged”

Author

Work

Approximate Date

L. Annaeus Seneca

De Providentia

65 AD

M. Tullius Cicero

Oratio pro P. Quinctio

BC 43

 

Lewis, C., & Short, C. (1891). Harpers' Latin Dictionary a New Latin Dictionary Founded on the Translation of Freund's Latin-German Lexicon (pp. 485-486) (E. Andrews, LL.D., Ed.). New York: Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square.

 

Clearly, these usages of the word ‘crux’ as something other than a cross did not occur prior to the usage of the word to mean “cross,” as the Watchtower Society is claiming.   Embarrassingly, and once again, their own reference disproves their claim.

(Quote-Crux-Livy) Writings of Livy

New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures with References

(p. 1577). (1984). New York: Watchtower Bible and

Tract Society of New York.

 

The Watchtower Society attempts to use the writings of Livy to support their view, but his writings actually end up showing the opposite.  The word crux in its various inflected forms actually appears six times in Livy's writings.  Each and every one of these references to crucifixion are without any detail as to the manner of the execution or shape of the execution device. Unlike what the Watchtower Society states, none of the six excerpts reveals any information of the specific type of crux.  

Here are the six occurrences in Livy’s writings:

"Whereupon he scourged the guide, and, to terrify the others, crucified [crucem sublato] him ... [217 BC]" ("History of Rome," 22.13).

"... five and twenty slaves were crucified [crucem acti], on the charge of having conspired in the Campus Martius. [217 BC] " (22.33).

"He thereupon enticed their sufetes-the highest magistrates among the Phoenicians-together with the treasurer to a conference and ordered them to be scourged and crucified [cruci adfigi]. [206 BC]" (28.37).

"The deserters were more severely treated than the runaway slaves, Latin citizens being beheaded, Romans crucified [crucem sublati]. [201 BC]" (30.43).

"... some, who had been the instigators of the revolt, he scourged and crucified [crucibus adfixit], others he turned over to their masters. [196 BC]" (33.36).

"...even if I were pleading ... before the Carthaginian senate, where commanders are said to be crucified [crucem tolli] if they have conducted a campaign with successful result but defective policy ... [187 BC] " (38.48).

 

While the specific type of crux is not specified when Livy refers to its usage in crucifixion, when Livy did specifically refer to an obvious crux simplex (an upright stake), he used the word palus (rather than crux).  These are the actual occurrences in his writings:

"Bound to a stake [Deligati ad palum] they were scourged and beheaded ... [206 BC] " (28.29).

"... bound to a stake [ad palum deligatus], with my back mangled by rods... [211 BC] " (26.13).

 

From these examples, it can be seen that Livy (59 BC - AD 17), made a distinction between being crucified (crucem) on a cruci and being bound to a stake (ad palum deligatus). That is, between being affixed (adfigi, adfixit = ad "to" + figo "to fix, fasten, attach, to drive in, pierce"[118]) to a cruci and being tied to a palum

We see that the Watchtower Society’s own reference is misleading and directly contradicts the very point that they are trying to prove.


Embarrassingly, the Watchtower directly contradicts their own statement that the Latin word crux did not have a possible meaning of “cross” in the November 1, 1970 Watchtower.  The quote indicates that the word crux actually implies “the crossing of two beams.”

 

(1970, November 1). The Watchtower, p. 646

 


 

Miscellaneous Arguments

(Argument-Light) If a single pole were used, the entire execution instrument would have been light enough for a single person to carry

Insight on the Scriptures (p. 1191). (1988). Brooklyn, N.Y., U.S.A.:

Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, International Bible Students Association.

To estimate the weight of a simple stake that could be used for crucifixion, we simply need to estimate the necessary length of the post, and required thickness.  Using the dimensions and a best-guess for the type of wood used, we can estimate the weight.  Using the Watchtower’s measurements, we would have a 100-pound pine log, a 150-pound dogwood log, or a 177-pound olive log.

The question then becomes if the 6-inch x 11 feet measurements are reasonable to the entire instrument.  Any post requires that about 1/3 of the post remain underground for it to support itself.   Depending on the load, an additional amount may need to be underground.   With only 1/3 underground, the 11-foot post becomes only 7.3 feet tall.

There are several problems presented by this theory:

·         It would have taken a considerable amount of time and effort to bury 1/3 of the post.  If the prisoner was to carry the post, it would make much more sense to use it as a crossbeam, and raise them up on a fixed post.

·         If the victim were 5.5 feet tall, the post would not be tall enough to support them with their hands nailed above their head, as that would add at least another foot or two to the required length. 7.3 feet is not quite enough.

·         Additional height would be required to leave space for the sign to have been nailed above Jesus’ arms that were extended upward.

·         The criminals were intentionally displayed for many to see.  The scriptures indicate that witnesses stood at a distance and saw everything going on in spite of the crowd, which would indicate that the victim’s feet would likely be high off the ground, thus requiring additional pole length.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(1913, April 15). The Watchtower, p. 5221.

 

As previously mentioned, the Watchtower printed in 1913 that the probable height of the cross was a minimum of 12-14 feet high, which would give us a weight of 150-200 pounds, stating themselves that it was “no light weight.” 

Olive wood weights about 62 pounds per cubic foot.  Pine weighs about 35 pounds per cubic foot.  If it was indeed made of olive wood, as suggested by the Watchtower, then even the estimate they printed in 1988 would have been 1 177-pound log.

In any case, we have overwhelming evidence that a t-shaped structure was used, regardless of whether it would be even possible for a pole of ample size to be carried by a single person.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

(Argument-Murder) - Appeal that an instrument of murder should not be a symbol of anything holy

The Time for True Submission to God (p. 30). (1982). Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.

This directly contradicts early Christians who felt that it was a symbol and reminder of what Christ suffered on their behalf.   As already discussed, we see the symbol of the cross being used at grave sites by early Christians.  We also see them putting this mark on their foreheads.  Writers noted this to be a symbol of Christianity.  As argued in the Catholic Encyclopedia, the cross (“an instrument of shame and ignominy”) became sanctified by the death of Jesus, just as our sinful selves have undergone the same cleansing.

 

 

 

 

Archæology of the Cross and Crucifix. (1908). In The Catholic Encyclopedia (Vol. IV, p. 520). Robert Appleton Company

Article written by: Orazio Marucchi, Professor of Christian Archeology, Director of the Christian Museum at the Lateran, Rome

 

Paul also seemed to have the exact opposite idea about the cross as the Watchtower Society:

I do not want to be proud of anything except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of the cross, the ways of this world are dead to me, and I am dead to them. (Galatians 6:16 – NLV)

The Watchtower Society’s argument seems to miss the simple idea that representation of one’s means of death is a powerful way to remember the sacrifice of their life and commitment to their mission.

Using simple symbols to commemorate historical persons of faith, sacrifice, or leadership are very common.  Here are just a few that have been associated with historical figures.  Note that many include their means of death as a reminder of their sacrifice:


 

 

Symbol

Person

Reason

Eagle

St. John

The eagle represents God's authority over the world and the ascension of the holy word. John wrote the fourth gospel with unerring devotion to God's guidance, synonymous with the focused determination the eagle exhibits in nature.

Axe, Spear

Thomas the Apostle

Supposedly his means of martyrdom.

X-Shape

Andrew the Apostle

Supposedly the shape of the cross he was martyred upon.

Saw

Simon the Zealot

Supposedly he was martyred by being sawn in half.

Inverted Cross

St. Peter

Supposedly the shape of the cross he was martyred upon.

Arrow

St. Sebastian (3rd century)

The arrow is a symbol of his death at the hands of emperor Diocletian.

Body Holding Head

St. Denis (3rd century)

Martyred by beheading.

Lion

St. Jerome (4th century)

Supposedly, Jerome plucked thorn from a lion’s paw when it entered the monastery. The lion represents the wild nature of the world, and Jerome's vigilance in uncovering the truth (plucking the thorn) of Christ, hence taming that nature of man.

Heart

St. Augustine (4th century)

Augustine had a “heart on fire” for God's word.

Axe

St. Boniface (8th century)

Supposedly, Boniface used an axe to chop down an oak tree which was worshipped by pagans.

Bread

Saint Elisabeth of Thuringia (13th century)

Elizabeth is remembered for her compassionate giving to the poor.

 

 

Late Gothic statue of Saint Denis as seen in Paris’ Musée national du Moyen Âge (National Museum of the Middle Ages). 

A more modern version can be found at the left portal of la cathédrale Notre-Dame (right).  

(Argument-Phallic/Argument-Previous/Argument-Ankh) - Some ancient shapes used as phallic / pagan symbols, which were similar to the cross

(1960, February 15). The Watchtower, p. 126

Before we directly address this issue, let’s begin with the examples cited as “pagan crosses.”

1.      The crux ansata (ankh):

It does look a little bit like a cross, but not exactly.

 

Note this symbol underneath both chairs on these Ivories from Numrud (9th – 7th century BC).  This is the “cross” referred to in the Watchtower Society’s quote.

The ankh symbol (claimed to represent male and female reproductive organs), which the Watchtower Society claims to be similar enough to a Christian Cross symbol that Christians should not use it, as it makes the Christian cross a “phallic symbol.” (February 15, 1960 Watchtower; July 1, 1964 Watchtower; November 1, 1964 Watchtower; February 1, 1968 Watchtower; June 22, 1984 Awake!, p. 15)  The Watchtower Society fails to mention that the ancient meaning of this symbol is still debated, as many scholars do not feel that it was a phallic symbol at all, and even point out instances where it appeared next to obvious phallic symbols, indicating that it meant something else.

 

 

The origin of the symbol remains a mystery to Egyptologists, and no single hypothesis has been widely accepted. One of the earliest suggestions came from Thomas Inman, first published in 1869, which suggested that it was a sexual symbol:

Inman, T. (1884). Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism (Fourth ed., pp. 44-45). New York, NY: J.W. Bouton.

Inman found similarities with various religious symbols, and thus determined that they must somehow have been adapted from each other.  He finds similarities with crosses, anchors, the plus-sign, circles, stars, triangles, fish, and even the “mother & child” of the nativity.  Just like Alexander Hislop (discussed earlier in this document), he ignored huge differences and clung to tiny similarities.

Note that he orients the ankh sideways to fit his description of it being a sexual symbol.  However, it is oriented differently in Egyptian artwork (see previous page).

 

One might wonder what Inman was reading that lead him to make the same conclusions as Hislop that nearly every religious symbol was of pagan origin.  Fortunately, he cited some of his sources:

Inman, T. (1884). Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism (Fourth ed., p.8). New York, NY: J.W. Bouton.

Inman, T. (1884). Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism (Fourth ed., p. 28). New York, NY: J.W. Bouton.

So, Inman seemingly got his ideas from Hislop, a person who thought that nearly every symbol was pagan, and that Adam, Noah, and the devil were the same person.  This leaves us with many concerns as to the validity of Hislop’s ideas.  Inman gives us no actual archeology, ancient writings, or other evidence to support his ideas.

Other scholars disagree with Inman’s idea of the ankh being a sexual symbol.  E. A. Wallis Budge postulated that the ankh symbol originated as the belt buckle of the mother goddess Isis[119], an idea joined by Wolfhart Westendorf with the notion that both the ankh and the knot of Isis were used in many ceremonies. Sir Alan Gardiner speculated that it depicts a sandal strap, which is also written with the ankh hieroglyph.[120]

In their 2004 book The Quick and the Dead,[121] Andrew Hunt Gordon and Calvin W. Schwabe speculated that the ankh, djed, and was symbols have a biological basis derived from ancient cattle culture (linked to the Egyptian belief that semen was created in the spine), thus:

·         the ankh, symbol of life, thoracic vertebra of a bull (seen in cross section)

·         the djed, symbol of stability, base on sacrum of a bull's spine

·         the was, symbol of power and dominion, a staff featuring the head and tail of the god Set, "great of strength"

Interesting, A.W. Budge, whom the Watchtower quotes as a reliable source of information (see page 151 of this document) has this to say about the ankh and its relationship to the cross:

 

Sir E. A. Wallis Budge (1968) Amulets and Talismans (p. 339-340) New York: University Books

Whatever the ankh symbol was supposed to represent, there is no evidence to show that the cross symbol is in any way related to it, other than the vague similarity in shape.

 

2.      Female figure at ruins of Troy

This is a reference to the items recovered at the excavations of Heinrich Schliemann at Hissarlik.  Schliemann began work on Troy in 1871.

 

 

 

 

 

Illustration from:

Schliemann, H., & Virchow, R. (1880). Ilios: The city and country of the Trojans: The results of researches and discoveries on the site of Troy and throughout the Troad in the years 1871-1872-1873-1878-1879. Including an autobiography of the author. (p. 521). London: J. Murray.

 

Which is noted by the Watchtower Society to have “a cross” on the vulva

 

Pages 522, and 523 contain similar illustrations, but the “cross” is either missing or not well-defined.  It takes quite an imagination to equate or connect these markings with the t-shaped cross used by early Christians.

On pages 349-354, Schliemann discusses the more-common plus-sign, square containing a plus-sign, and swasticka.  These symbols are also described as a “cross.”

As shown, the author then makes the following comment which directly contradicts what the Watchtower Society would have us believe about these “crosses”:

but the fact that the same sign has the same power elsewhere, as for instance in the Hieratic numerals, does not prove by any means that the one figure was derived from the other. We forget too easily that what was possible in one place was possible also in other places; and the more we extend our researches, the more we shall learn that the chapter of accidents is larger than we imagine.

Apparantly, the Watchtower Society missed this comment.

Schliemann, H., & Virchow, R. (1880). Ilios: The city and country of the Trojans: The results of researches and discoveries on the site of Troy and throughout the Troad in the years 1871-1872-1873-1878-1879. Including an autobiography of the author. (p. 349). London: J. Murray.

 

 

3.      Inverted Tau crosses have been used as phallic symbols.

This is true, except for the minor detail that they were not really inverted Tau crosses.   They resembled an inverted Tau, if dumbed-down, or if you use your imagination.

The hammer of Thor or Mjölnir :

Yes, it looks a little bit like an upside-down T, but it looks more like a hammer, which is what it is supposed to represent.

 

The symbol of Venus:

The alleged Greek inverted-T was actually an evolution of an abbreviation for the name of the planet Venus (Phosphoros or Φωσφόρος).  It was abbreviated to Φκ, which evolved as follows:

Because planets were synonymous with gods back then, the symbol was used to refer to both the planet and the goddess associated with it.  It was a phallic symbol only in the sense that the planet was associated with “the goddess of love.” 

It was not used as a symbol for gender until the 18th century when biologist Carl Linnaeus appropriated it.  In his notes, he used the Venus symbol as shorthand for female and the Mars symbol for male. He also used Saturn to denote woody plants, the Sun for annual plants and Jupiter for perennials. As for gender, the Mercury symbol was used by Linnaeus for hermaphrodite plants and the Mars symbol for biennial plants.[122]

Thus, we see that this “pagan phallic cross” symbol developed independently of other cross-like symbols, and has a cross-like component by mere coincidence.  This is not what the Watchtower Society would have us believe, as they imply that cross-shaped symbols were phallic in nature & were adopted or re-appropriated by various cultures and societies.  This symbol for Venus was seen in Greece and Rome, among other locations. 

 

 

 


 

Overall, “it looks a bit like some other crosses” is a really poor argument, as one can find a pagan association with nearly any shape at some point in history if we search hard enough.

To illustrate this point, here are some examples of pagan symbols:

Symbol

Pagan meaning

An upright pole or stick

Phallic symbol
Monoliths, used at worship sites by pagans

Circle or Ring

Protective symbol
A creature feeding off its own tail, or two creatures feeding off each other's tails, representing eternity
Symbol of the sun god
Symbol for asexuality

Triangle

Some occultists use the triangle as a summoning symbol
Point-up triangles can also represent ascension toward the spiritual world, while the point-down triangle can represent a descent into the physical world.

Plus or Cross

Crosses very commonly represent the earth and the physical universe, particularly in Western culture. This comes primarily from two associations: the four physical elements (earth, water, air and fire) and the four cardinal directions (north, south, east and west).

Square

Magic squares are squares that have been broken up into smaller squares, each with a number within it, and each column and row of numbers add up to the same value. They are sometimes used to construct occult sigils (including some planetary seals), and each magic square is associated with a particular planet.

Pentagram (5-pointed star)

The Pentagram with two points in the ascendant represents Satan as the goat of the Sabbath

Heptagram or Septagrams (7-pointed star)

The ancient world recognized only seven planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, plus the Moon and Sun. The heptagram often reflects these seven planets by occultists.

Spoked Wheel

 

The eight-spoked wheel symbolizes the cycle of the year.  Each spoke represents one of the eight Sabbats: Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lamas, Mabon, Samhain, and Yule.

 

 


 

Symbol

Pagan Meaning

Cats

Represented cats, which were worshipped by the Egyptians

Shape of the lower-case letter n

Structures built at Stonehenge and other sites where astrology and pagan worship was practiced

 

Cat symbol from ancient Egypt.  Cats were worshipped as sacred animals.

Anubis, God of the dead.  Depicted with a dog’s head.

Dogs have a major religious significance among the Hindus in Nepal, also in India. The dogs are worshipped as a part of a five-day Tihar (festival).

Hindu sacred cow. Bulls were common among Egyptian animal cults.

Other sacred animals, which have been represented by symbols, paintings, and carvings include: bear, whale, buffalo, sheep, goat, horse, elephant, wolf, leopard, tiger, monkey, rodent, hawk, various birds, serpent, and fish.

Pole worship in the idolatry of Babylon.  Idols were placed on top of the poles.

Obelisk of Pharaoh Senusret I

The all-seeing eye of the Sun-God Horus

N-Shaped structure at Stonehenge

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the logic of the Watchtower society is sound, then we can make this argument:

The Watchtower symbol has long been known as a pagan symbol.  It closely resembles the Canaanite alters, which were symbols of apostasy to Ezekiel who predicted their destruction (Ezekiel 6:4, 6) and to Jeremiah who said that there were as many incense altars in Jerusalem as there were streets (Jeremiah 11:13).  A watchtower is found on top of a statue of the Ephesian “great mother goddess” Artemis.  This goddess is mentioned in Acts 19:27-28, where it is said that she “should be despised, and her magnificence should be destroyed.”   Finally, in the tradition of the 1880s Order of the Golden Dawn a watchtower or guardian in ceremonial and derived neopagan magical tradition is a tutelary spirit of one of the four cardinal points or "quarters" (north, east, south, and west). They are also variously associated in many traditions with each the four classical elements (earth, air, fire, and water) and stars (Fomalhaut, Aldebaran, Regulus, and Antares). The Watchtowers are evoked during the ritual of casting a magic circle.

We should then conclude that the watchtower symbol is of pagan origins and not to be used.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cover of the Watchtower Magazine,
 July 1, 2012
Status of the Greek Goddess Artemis of Ephesus.A horned Canaanite
incense altar

 

 

As we can clearly see, there are only two possibilities with this argument:

1.      The argument is invalid, as just about anything can be compared to some pagan symbol

2.      The argument is valid, and the Watchtower Society and its followers are hypocrites for using the watchtower symbol, wedding rings, and other pagan symbols in addition to having pet dogs and cats. Additionally, a pointed stake should be considered a phallic symbol much more eagerly than a cross shape.


 

The self-contradicting Watchtower Society made this comment, regarding the well-documented pagan origins of the piñata:

(2003, September 22). Awake!, p. 24.

 

They also made this statement, with regard to symbols, which also seems to contradict their position:

(1976, December 22) Awake!, p. 14

In defending the creation of cross-shaped symbols by Christians, Tertullian (AD 160-225) explains that pagan deities and the phallus are not at all shaped like the cross, and an “upright stake” is merely a “portion of the cross.” 

And yet how far does the Athenian Pallas differ from the stock of the cross, or the Pharian Ceres as she is put up uncarved to sale, a mere rough stake and piece of shapeless wood? Every stake fixed in an upright position is a portion of the cross; we render our adoration, if you will have it so, to a god entire and complete. We have shown before that your deities are derived from shapes modelled from the cross. (Tertullian, 1 Apology, XVI)

This comment by Tertullian (an early church father) should upset the Watchtower Society, as he explains that;

·         The cross is not a phallic symbol

·         A mere stake is a phallus

·         Their pagan symbols are “modelled from the cross.”  

 

This is the exact opposite of what the Watchtower Society teaches and wants us to believe.

 


 

Biblical Arguments

(Argument-Deuteronomy) Deuteronomy 21 somehow shows that a pole was used, rather than a cross

What does the Bible really teach? (p. 205). (2005). Brooklyn, N.Y.: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.

According to this claim by the Watchtower Society, the text in Deuteronomy is being quoted when referring to Christ.  Thus, the type of object being referred to in Deuteronomy must be the same type of object used to crucify Christ.

Let’s start be looking at the actual scriptures being quoted:

Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: (Galatians 3:13 KJV)

Most translations, including the NLT, ESV, NASB, and YLT use the word “tree” here.  The one exception is the NIV, which uses the word “pole.”  The word in question is the Greek xylon.

Let’s move on to the text in Deuteronomy which is being quoted in Galatians:

And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree:  His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance. (Deuteronomy 21:22-23 KJV)

The word here for “tree” is the Hebrew word ץעֵ (`ets or ates, Strong’s word #6086).  How do various translations read?  Here are some popular translations of verse 23:

KJV

His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.

NIV

you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God's curse. You must not desecrate the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.

ESV

his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance.

YLT

his corpse doth not remain on the tree, for thou dost certainly bury him in that day -- for a thing lightly esteemed of God is the hanged one -- and thou dost not defile thy ground which Jehovah thy God is giving to thee -- an inheritance.

Here are some of the locations in the Bible where this word occurs:

Reference

Translated As

Genesis 1:11

Trees

Genesis 2:9

Tree

Genesis 40:19

Tree, pole or gallows

Exodus 31:5

Timber (to be carved)

Deuteronomy 4:28

Wood carved into idols

Haggai 1:8

Timber (for construction)

Leviticus 11:32

Wood (a vessel constructed of)

Ezekiel 37:16

Stick

Joshua 2:6

Stalks (of flax)

 

We now realize that the text is no help in determining the exact type of wood used.  It could have been a live tree, a pole, or something else that was wooden.  This, of course also directly contradicts the Watchtower Society’s claim that it can only mean “tree.”

We see the same word and procedure used when Joshua hung the body of the king of Ai on a tree (Joshua 8:29).  From the text, it is unclear if he was hanged alive, and by what means (nails, ropes, etc.).  Similarly, the bodies of the five kings of the southern confederacy were hung on five trees (Joshua 10:26-27).  In this case, they were clearly dead before being hung.   We see something similar in Numbers 25:4, where Moses is told to kill the leaders of sexual immorality and Baal worship, hanging them out in the sun.  There is no specific mention of how they are to be hung, or if a tree is involved. 

Thus, the texts of the Bible give us no definitive details on whether a live tree, pole, or wooden apparatus was used.  Hebrew dictionaries tell us that the word in question, just like the previously discussed Greek words, can be used to refer to just about anything wooden.

Strong, J. (1996). The new Strong's complete dictionary of Bible words (p. 480). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

In any case, whatever wooden instrument is used to hang or display the body, Deuteronomy 21:22 is not referring to someone killed by affixing them to a tree; they are first killed, then publicly humiliated by displaying the dead body by hanging it from a tree (or some wooden instrument). 

Note that in Deuteronomy, the reason for removing the person before nightfall is explained.  Failing to do so would defile the land.  This seems to be a reference back to the ceremonial uncleanness of a dead body, as described in Numbers 19.  Since a person became unclean by even touching a dead body, it was certainly unacceptable to leave them hanging around.

The criminal was then said to be under the curse of God, likely a judgment as a perpetrator of the worst kind of sin.  Possibly the hanging was two-fold in purpose: to publicly disgrace the person even further, and to display them as neither fit for the earth or the heavens (by being suspended between the two).

In all cases, one of the main charges against the criminal is blasphemy or direct opposition to God, which would explain why the criminal is “accursed of God.”  It is easy to see why the Jewish people, who accused Jesus of blasphemy, sought this type of punishment.  

Since the passage quoted in Deuteronomy is about displaying a body after the person is dead, and Christ was crucified while alive, we must infer that the writer of Galatians was merely trying to show only a parallel.  In both cases the person was publicly suspended by something wooden and thus seen to be “cursed by God.”  Additionally, if the word literally means “tree,” instead of “log” or “stake,” then whatever Jesus carried must have been a crossbar, which was then suspended on a live tree, as it is not plausible that a live tree was carried.

Another clear distinction between the passage in Deuteronomy and Jesus’ execution is that Deuteronomy requires the dead body to be removed by sundown.  That was not the case with Jesus and the others crucified with him.  They were taken down because the Sabbath was the next day.

The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. (John 19:31 KJV)

Even if we do decide that the word must mean “pole,” that doesn’t help us to determine the shape of the instrument of Jesus’ execution.  Being tied, nailed, or fully impaled with a pole would be considered “hung on a tree” just as equally as someone that was suspended from a pole with their arms attached to a crossbeam.  It is simple to see why.  If Jesus and the crossbeam were hung upon a tall stake or tree trunk in a fashion similar to that described in Deuteronomy, the main part was, in essence, a tree. 

We see that Peter liked using the phrase “on a tree,” and uses xylon in this manner 3 times (Acts 5:30, 10:39; Acts 13:39) compared to Paul who only uses xylon "piece of wood" once in the same manner.  In Galatians 3:13, Paul quotes Deuteronomy 21:22-23. 

No doubt, Paul saw the public display of Jesus being suspended from a wooden structure as a parallel to the hanging of a dead criminal in Deuteronomy.  In both cases, the victim was publically displayed, was hung from wood of some type, and was said to have God turn His back on the individual.  In the Deuteronomy case, the curse was possibly exclusion from God’s covenant with Israel.  In the case of Jesus, it was the bearing of the sins of the world.

Thus, we can’t use this scripture to draw any conclusions about the shape of the instrument of Jesus’ crucifixion, which is the opposite of what the Watchtower Society states.

 

 

 


 

(Argument-Ezekiel)- Ezekiel 8:17 might refer to usage of a phallic symbol

Reasoning from the Scriptures (p. 93). (1989). Brooklyn, N.Y., U.S.A.: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York,

International Bible Students Association.

Let’s begin by taking a look at the scripture reference:

Then he said unto me, Hast thou seen this, O son of man? Is it a light thing to the house of Judah that they commit the abominations which they commit here? for they have filled the land with violence, and have returned to provoke me to anger: and, lo, they put the branch to their nose.  (Ezekiel 8:17 – KJV)

Here are the common translations of the last portion of the verse:

NWT

Here they are thrusting out the branch to my nose.

NLT

thumbing their noses at me

ESV

Behold, they put the branch to their nose.

NASB

For behold, they are putting the twig to their nose.

KJV

lo, they put the branch to their nose

 

Let’s begin by noticing the variations in the verse.  There are two notable variations.  The first is whose nose the object is being thrust toward.  The second is the usage of the word “branch” or “twig.”

The Watchtower clearly explained this verse in 1931 as being a parallel to holding incense to their nose: 

The Watchtower, August 15, 1931, p. 243

 


 

The same explanation is offered in the 1937 Watchtower:

The Watchtower, December 1, 1937, p. 365

According to both editions, the stench in question is a foreshadowing of crime waves that were supposedly the doings of the various religious leaders of the time (other than the Watchtower Society, of course), who were part of “Satan’s organization.”

With the adoption of the “torture stake” idea beginning in 1936 and this “crime wave”
passing away, the text of this scripture changed by 1960, when the Watchtower Society printed its New World Translation.  There, it appeared with a new explanation, as being a representation of “a male sexual organ,” without any facts to back up that claim.   The textual changes were explained to be due to the “Eighteen Emendations of the Sopherim.”

New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, (Vol. V, p. 32). (1960). Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.

This is the explanation offered on for the textual changes:

New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, (Vol. V, p. 398). (1960). Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.

What are these Emendations of the Sopherim (corrections of the scribes?)  These are notes that are inserted into the margins of various copies of the Massorite Text.  This text is considered to be the authoritative version of the Hebrew Bible, and is what most Protestant Bibles are based on.  The oldest existent copy dates back to the 9th century AD. Dr. Christian D Ginsburg studied the Massorite Texts from the 9th and 10th century AD at great length.  He noted that some copies had comments written in the margins to indicate that rabbinic tradition held that the cited verse had been altered by the scribes.  In his 1897 book, titled “Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical Edition of the Hebrew Bible,” he claims that the alleged changes were made by well-meaning scribes for various reasons.  A commonly cited reason was that the original text was thought to be disrespectful toward God.  Some cite at least 134 alleged Emendations of God’s name alone (changing YHWH to Adoni or Elohim).  Ginsburg himself made this comment about the marginal notes and alleged Emendations:

Ginsburg, C. (1897). Introduction to the Massoretico-Critical edition of the Hebrew Bible (p. 362). Trinitarian Bible Society, London.

 

 

These so-called emendations are not taken seriously by most translators for several reasons.   The most obvious is that, at best, they are simply a Jewish tradition that is hundreds of years old.  The Massorite Text is certainly not the oldest existent copy of some of these scripture passages.  Older copies of some of the text exists, such as the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, which date back to somewhere between 408 BC and 318 AD.  In many cases, the Dead Sea scrolls, the older manuscript, is consistent with the Masoretic text, which would tend to discredit at some of the alleged alterations by scribes.  Unfortunately, this particular verse in Ezekiel was not recovered from the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Interestingly, a big proponent of Ginsburg and the alleged emendations was E. W. Bullinger, mentioned earlier as one of the fathers of the “torture stake” movement. 

All major translations, except the Watchtower Society’s New World Translation indicate that the branch/twig is being raised up next to the person’s nose, following the Masoretic text.  The NWT created by the Watchtower Society, however, indicates that it is being raised up to God’s nose.

None of this has any bearing on the exact nature of the branch / twig and the Watchtower Society’s claim that it was some type of phallic symbol.  To move forward, we will look at the actual word used in the scripture.

The word for "branch" (Strong’s word #2156 – zemorah) is used in Numbers 13:23 and Ezekiel 15:2 for a vine branch.  The same word is used in Isaiah to denote the “exotic vines,” “imported vines,” or “strange slips” of other gods. 

This act has several possible explanations.  None of them involve a cross-like object or phallic symbol. 

Various offered explanations:

1.      Prevalent today is the irreverent insult or taunt in which one places the tip of their thumb on their nose, extending and waving their fingers like a branch blowing in the wind.

2.      The act described may finds its explanation in the Persian ritual of the Avesta. When men prayed to the sun, they held in their left hands a bouquet of palm, pomegranate, and tamarisk twigs, while the priests for the same purpose held a veil before their mouth[123], so that the bright rays of the sun might not be polluted by human breath. And this was done in the very temple of God by those who were polluting the whole land by their violence.

3.      Saint Jerome (347 – 420 AD) explains that by `a branch of the palm tree which they adored the idols;' and it seems plainly to allude to the Magian fire-worshippers, who, Strabo tells us held a little bunch of twigs in their hand, when praying before the fire.[124] [125]

4.      There is an Akkadian expression (laban appi) that refers to a gesture of humility used to come contritely before deity with a petition. When this act is portrayed in art, the worshiper has his hand positioned in front of his nose and mouth, and is sometimes shown with a short cylindrical object in his hand. From the Sumerian tale called Gilgamesh in the Land of the Living there is some evidence that what is held is a small branch cut off a living tree. This would suggest that in Ezekiel the people are putting on a show of humility. It must be admitted, however, that these connections are very hazy and the significance may lie somewhere else entirely.[126]

5.      There is a powerful double entendre in this expression that only the Hebrew reveals. The word for “nose” in the Hebrew (אַף -”aph”) can also be translated as “anger” or “ruin.” The snort of emotion from the nose and the flaring of the nostrils provide the reason for this association. Sometimes scholars in different English versions can translate a verse using these two different meanings with the same effect, as in Job 4:9.

•“By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of His nostrils they are consumed” (KJV).

•“By the breath of God they perish, and by the blast of His anger they come to an end” (NASB).

With this in mind, John Calvin said that by God describing them as putting the twig to the nose, they were in effect putting the twig to their ruin. In other words, by putting the twig to their nose, they were putting the twig to His nose.[127] They were arousing His burning anger, which is why He follows this expression with these words, “Therefore, I will indeed deal in wrath.”

A great deal of effort has been made by others to explain this passage.  For the interested reader, please see the following references:

·         Robert Gordis, The Branch to the Nose: a Note on Ezekiel VIII 17 , Journal of Theological Studies (1936) os-XXXVII (147): 284-288  doi:10.1093/jts/os-XXXVII.147.284

·         The Branch to the Nose, H. W. F. Saggs, The Journal of Theological Studies , New Series, Vol. 11, No. 2 ctober 1960) , pp. 318-329 Published by: Oxford University Press

In fairness, some Jewish interpretations of the word “twig” are that of a phallic symbol or an euphemism for a male sexual organ.[128]  They also believe that the “his nose” refers to either Ezekiel’s nose or God’s nose.   In such a context, they would be essentially waving it in someone’s face.  This would certainly explain the response of “provoked me to anger.”

Should this indeed be a reference to a phallic symbol, then the “twig” could refer to any number of possible things.  It could represent a phallus, actual body part, or an Asherah (a carved phallic symbol to honor a pagan goddess, which was not cross-shaped).

In any case, the big problem with the Watchtower’s logic is that there is no evidence of a connection between phallic symbols and the cross symbol used by Christians.  It is easy to agree that God detests the activity of phallic worship, but the link between the Christian cross and some ancient symbols that vaguely resembled a cross needs to be proven.  Without proof to the contrary, we should reasonably assume that the shape of the Christian cross was initially intended to represent the shape of the instrument of Jesus’ crucifixion. 

 


 

(Argument-Idolatry) - The usage of the cross is idol worship and/or is condemned by Exodus 20:3-5

Reasoning from the Scriptures (p. 92). (1989). Brooklyn, N.Y., U.S.A.:

Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, International Bible Students Association.

The cross is used by most as a symbol for Christianity or as a reminder of the sufferings of Christ.   In general, it is not worshiped in any way.  The passage in Exodus is clearly referring to the creating of anything that is worshipped as an idol.  If someone wants to worship a cross or any other object as an idol, then that is an entirely different matter,

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.   Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.  Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; (Exodus 20:3-5 (KJV))

An example of this being permissible is God ordering the creation of art and items that represent things in “heaven above” or “earth beneath.”   Just a few chapters later in the book of Exodus, depictions of angels were used both on the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:18-20)  and the curtains of the Temple of Moses (Exodus 26:1), as instructed by God Himself.  Of course, these items were not intended to be worshipped in any way, but were used at the location of worship.  Similarly, relics were stored in the Ark to remind them of past events that occurred with God (Exodus 37:16; Hebrews 9:4).

Since the cross was actually used by early Christians as an icon, it should not surprise us that they were falsely accused by some of worshipping it.  Octavius wrote this response to such accusations in 160-250 AD:

Thus they invoke their deity, they supplicate their images, they implore their Genius, that is, their demon; and it is safer to swear falsely by the genius of Jupiter than by that of a king. Crosses, moreover, we neither worship nor wish for. You, indeed, who consecrate gods of wood, adore wooden crosses perhaps as parts of your gods. For your very standards, as well as your banners; and flags of your camp, what else are they but crosses glided and adorned? Your victorious trophies not only imitate the appearance of a simple cross, but also that of a man affixed to it. We assuredly see the sign of a cross, naturally, in the ship when it is carried along with swelling sails, when it glides forward with expanded oars; and when the military yoke is lifted up, it is the sign of a cross; and when a man adores God with a pure mind, with hands outstretched. Thus the sign of the cross either is sustained by a natural reason, or your own religion is formed with respect to it.[129]

In his comments, note that he states that crosses are found as components of some of their items of worship.  Not deliberately, seems to be his point, as if they were deliberate components, then their “own religion is formed with respect to it.”  This argument completely contradicts the ideas of the Watchtower Society that crosses were important elements of pagan worship, and were then adopted by Christians.  Rather, it seems that crosses or shapes that were vaguely similar were simply a coincidental and non-essential component.

Furthermore, if the cross is a pagan symbol and offends God, then why did He command people to make such a mark on their foreheads in Ezekiel 9:4 (see page 57)?

Historical Claims and Arguments

(Argument-Constantine) In the fourth century, however, pagan Emperor Constantine became a convert to apostate Christianity and promoted the cross as its symbol.

What Does the Bible Really Teach? (p. 205). (2005). Brooklyn, N.Y.: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.

To assert that the cross is not the shape of Jesus’ execution instrument, the Watchtower Society must come up with an explanation for how it began usage by Christians.   They assert that it began being used by Emperor Constantine.

This, however, contradicts the facts.  As previously discussed, we have many writings that pre-date Constantine that state Jesus was crucified on a cross.  We have also discovered crosses in Christian Ossuaries, and a cross on a piece of graffiti that was intended to mock Christ.

It is true that the cross symbol in Christian art became popular around the time of Constantine.   There are several logical explanations for this:

·         Constantine stopped the Roman persecution of Christians in AD 313 and the usage of the cross as an instrument of execution.[130] [131] Until then, it is likely that they had to be secretive to avoid persecution. 

This idea is backed up by the lack of early Christian art, in general.  The first known Christian images emerge from about 200 AD, though there is some literary evidence that small domestic images were used earlier. The oldest known Christian paintings are from the Roman Catacombs, dated to about AD 200, and the oldest Christian sculptures are from sarcophagi, dating to the beginning of the 3rd century.[132]

·         According to post-Nicene historians such as Socrates Scholasticus, the Empress Helena, mother of Constantine, the first Christian Emperor of Rome, travelled to the Holy Land in 326–328, founding churches and establishing relief agencies for the poor. Historians Gelasius of Caesarea and Rufinus claimed that she discovered the hiding place of three crosses that were believed to be used at the crucifixion of Jesus and of two thieves, St. Dismas and Gestas, executed with him, and that a miracle revealed which of the three was the True Cross.

Whether the crosses found were genuine or not, these events certainly called attention to the cross itself, and helped to popularize it as a symbol for Christianity.  The fact that a cross-shaped instrument was sought-after and proclaimed to be the cross of Jesus indicates that people of the time did not have contrary ideas about the shape of the execution instrument.

Emperor Constantine I was exposed to Christianity by his mother, Helena.   At the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312, Constantine was reported to have commanded his troops to adorn their shields with the Christian symbol in accordance with a vision that he had had the night before. After winning the battle, Constantine was able to claim the emperorship in the West.[133]  In 313, he issued the Edict of Milan, officially legalizing Christian worship.  There is debate as to whether a formal edict was actually issued, as the text of the edict varies among historians of the time.[134]

How much Christianity Constantine adopted at this point is difficult to discern. The Roman coins minted up to eight years subsequent to the battle still bore the images of Roman gods. Nonetheless, the accession of Constantine was a turning point for the Christian church. After his victory, Constantine supported the Church financially, built various basilicas, granted privileges (e.g., exemption from certain taxes) to clergy, promoted Christians to some high-ranking offices, and returned property confiscated during the Great Persecution of Diocletian. [135]

Between 324 and 330, Constantine built, virtually from scratch, a new imperial capital that came to be named for him: Constantinople. It had overtly Christian architecture, contained churches within the city walls, and had no pagan temples. In accordance with a prevailing custom, Constantine was baptised on his deathbed.

Constantine also played an active role in the leadership of the Church. In 316, he acted as a judge in a North African dispute concerning the Donatist controversy. More significantly, in 325 he summoned the Council of Nicaea, the first Ecumenical Council. Constantine thus established a precedent for the emperor as responsible to God for the spiritual health of their subjects, and thus with a duty to maintain orthodoxy. The emperor was to enforce doctrine, root out heresy, and uphold ecclesiastical unity.[136]

The accusation by the Watchtower Society does not seem to match historical accounts.  If there was anyone that might have tried to mix paganism with Christianity, it would have been those that followed him.

Constantine's son's successor, known as Julian the Apostate, was a philosopher who upon becoming emperor renounced Christianity and embraced a Neo-platonic and mystical form of paganism shocking the Christian establishment. He began reopening pagan temples, and intent on re-establishing the prestige of the old pagan beliefs, he modified them to resemble Christian traditions such as the episcopal structure and public charity (previously unknown in Roman paganism). Julian's short reign ended when he died while campaigning in the East. 

He purged the top-heavy state bureaucracy and attempted to revive traditional Roman religious practices at the cost of Christianity. His rejection of Christianity in favor of Neoplatonic paganism caused him to be called Julian the Apostate by the church.[137]

In summary, we have plenty of writings and some artwork depicting crosses in association with Christianity that pre-date Constantine (see the next topic).  These facts alone disprove the claim of the Watchtower Society.  With regard to “apostate Christianity,” historical writings tell us that those that succeeded Constantine (Julian the Apostate in particular) were known as the apostates who tried to bring back paganism or combine it with Christianity & were spoken against for their actions.  Certainly, if Constantine had tried to adopt pagan symbols for Christianity, similar critical writings would be seen.

Some Watchtower Society writings additionally attack the character of Constantine, accusing him of being a “murderer” after his conversion to Christianity to disprove the tale of his “vision of the cross.”  Constantine’s character has nothing to do with the historical facts concerning the Cross of Jesus, as we have shown that this symbol was accepted an in usage by early long before Constantine arrived on the scene.  Even if he was the worst of sinners, that fact would not change history.  With respect to the so-called “murders” committed by Constantine, you can read under the section titled Quote-Gibbon/Taylor on page 214 that the persons killed were guilty of a variety of crimes. Most even attempted to kill Constantine.

(Argument-No-Usage) The cross was not used as a symbol of Christianity until the time of Constantine

What Does the Bible Really Teach? (p. 205). (2005). Brooklyn, N.Y.: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York.

 

This is easily disproven by examples of usage of the cross in association with Christianity before the time of Constantine:

Artwork that pre-dates Constantine that associate the cross with the execution of Jesus:

·         Ossuaries Near Bethany (see page 58)

·         The Alexamenos Graffito (see page 61)

·         Excavated House-Church at Herculaneum (see page 61)

 

Authors that pre-date Constantine that associated the cross with the execution of Jesus (see page 68):

·         Barnabas

·         Clement of Alexandria

·         Cyprian

·         Irenaeus of Lyons

·         Justin Martyr

·         Leucius Charinus

·         Marcus Minucius Felix

·         Origen

·         Saint Irenaus

·         St. Jerome

·         Tertullian

 

 

 


 

Various Quotations

(Quote-Achen) Quote from Sven Tito Achen

  

(2008, March 1). The Watchtower, p. 22

The Watchtower fails to convey the author’s intent, making it sound like he agrees with them.  From examining the actual book, we see that in the first quote, Achen is referring to a plus-sign, which he describes as “the cross with four arms of equal length.”  This is not the t-shape that Christians use.

 

 

Achen begins by writing about the cross symbolizing Christianity, and then expounding on the plus-sign, used in pre-Christian times.
Sven Tito Achen (1978). 
Symbols Around Us (p. 205)

Achen states that the infrequent usage of the cross was likely out of fear, not because they believed that he was crucified in some other manner, as the Watchtower
Sven Tito Achen (1978).  Symbols Around Us (p. 208)

 

Several paragraphs later, Achen begins to discuss “the instrument of torture and execution on which Jesus died” as something separate.  He acknowledges:

·         The cross is recognized as a symbol for Christianity.

·         The scriptures themselves do not give us any specifics as to the exact shape of the cross.

·         There have been few discoveries of crosses before the time of Constantine, which he attributes to Christians needing to be secretive and living in fear before this time.

·         It is pointed out that crosses were used “covertly” by early Christians, and examples are cited.

·         He quotes Minucius Felix, who wrote to defend the accusation that early Christians were “worshipping” crosses, rather than using them as an icon around 200 AD, and to proclaim that those pagans that used cross-like symbols were merely imitators of the true Christian cross.

So, the Watchtower has misled its readers as to an author’s intent.   The book actually does much more against their position than for it.

(Quote-Americana) Quote from the Encyclopedia Americana

The Watchtower, August 15, 1987, p. 21

The Encyclopedia Americana has been around since around 1883.  It was later released in 1902 in 16 volumes.  A new 30-edition volume was released in 1918-1920.  In 1945, it was purchased by Grolier, and has been continued as an online encyclopedia.  As noted in the encyclopedia itself, the article quoted was written by Dr. Edward Nason West, who was the author of several books, including ''The History of the Cross,'' ''Meditations on the Gospel of St. John'' and ''Things I Always Thought I Knew.'' Dr. West died at age 80 in 1990.[138] 

Being the master of ceremonies for more than 40 years at the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, a structure with an intentionally Roman cross-shaped floor plan, we would naturally be surprised if he believed that Jesus was not crucified on a cross.

In his 1960 book, “The History of the Cross,” Dr. West credits St. Ignasius of Antioch (approximately A.D. 35-117) to have initiated the practice of signing at baptism, and goes on to discuss other Christian uses of the cross as a symbol of Christ before the time of Constantine.  Obviously, he does believe that a cross-shaped instrument was used for Jesus’ crucifixion.

The “cross” article that he wrote for the Encyclopedia Americana contains three sections: “Non-Christian Forms,” “The Christian Cross,” and “Heraldic Use of the Cross.” 

The quote used by the Watchtower Society comes from the section titled “Non-Christian Forms”:

West, Edward N. "Cross." Encyclopedia Americana. Grolier Online, 2015. Web. 17 Feb. 2015.


Note the type of “cross” being discussed is one having “four equal arms.”  In other words, it is a plus-sign.

Later in the same article, we see what is said about the “Christian Cross”:

Dr. West states that early Christians pictured the cross as t-shaped, and “this was historically accurate.”  This directly contradicts what the Watchtower is trying to imply.  They would like us to believe that since the cross was used as some type of religious symbol well before the time of Christ, and thus was adopted by Christians because they liked and used the symbol, rather than the historic accuracy of the cross of Jesus being crucified on a t-shaped construct.  The work quoted shows the exact opposite of what the Watchtower Society wants us to believe.


 

(Quote-AP) Quote from Associated Press - Michelangelo and the Cross

(1980, February 15). The Watchtower, p. 30

Here is another completely misleading article quotation.   The writer implies that the sculpture depicts the crucifixion in a manner which is consistent with “an upright pale or stake.”  The actual Associated Press article appears below.   Note that the article also indicates that the item is “a crucifix,” which surely did not escape the attention of the Watchtower writer.  Of course, crucifix comes from the Latin cruci fixus meaning "(one) fixed to a cross."  The A.P. article’s intent was to describe the sculpture as having hands which hung upward, rather than being parallel to the crossbeam of the cross, a common depiction with non-realistic crucifixes.

The actual sculpture that the Associated Press article referred to.  

The item was donated to Paris's Louvre museum by Canadian collectors Peter Silverman and Kathleen Onorato, who had purchased it in 1985 in Germany.

 

Crucifix created AD 1287-1288 by  the Italian painter and mosaicist Cimabue, depicting Jesus with his hands parallel to the crossbeam

(an unrealistic depiction of the arm positions in actual crucifixions)

 

The Associated Press article as it appeared in
The San Bernardino County Sun October 21, 1979, p. 2

 

 

Michelangelo is more famously credited with the creation of another crucifix, known as the “Santo Spirito figure.”  Some believe that it was made for the high altar of the Church of Santa Maria del Santo Spirito in Florence, Italy.  However, neither crucifix is universally accepted as his.   Both are fully nude, which is thought by some scholars to be more historically accurate and foretold in Psalm 22:18.

The sculpture mentioned in the AP article (which the Watchtower Society misrepresented) is known as the “Crucifix Gallino,” as it was acquired from the antique dealer Giancarlo Gallino in December 2008 for €3.2 million by the Italian government.[139]  It is described as a “polychrome corpus for a crucifix in limewood,” and is about half of the size of the Santo Spirito figure.  It measures 41.3 by 39.7 centimetres (16.3 in × 15.6 in) and was allegedly made around 1495.  German art historian Margrit Lisner suggests that it was made by the Italian sculptor Sansovino.

As of 2014, it was on display in Florence’s Bargello Museum. [140]

The amount paid for the carving in 2008 was still under scrutiny in 2009, and the following article appeared in the April 22, 2009 issue of the New York Times.  Note that the article included pictures of the carving.

We clearly see that the Watchtower Society’s implied meaning of “hands stretched out above his head” as representing a simple pale, rather than a cross is blatantly misleading.

A close-up detailed image of the carving appeared on page C5 of the same New York Times issue:

Regardless of its origins, the Watchtower Society states that the sculpture does not illustrate the crucifixion of Christ “on a cross frame.”  This is a blatantly false statement, and apparent to anyone that views the carving.  Similarly, their statement that the carving shows that impalement on a cross frame “has not always been so certain” is completely the opposite of reality.

 

 

 

 


 

(Quote-Aquinas) Quote from Thomas Aquinas

(1988, August 1).The Watchtower, p. 4- 5

Before we even address this quote, it should be clarified that we are discussing the historical accuracy of the cross as the instrument of Jesus’ crucifixion.  The opinions of anyone regarding the adoration or worship of images of the cross, crucifixion, or Christ himself have no bearing whatsoever on the historical facts of the instrument of execution.

The quotes from Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica are actually from two different topics of discussion (note the “…” in the quotation).

The first part: “The same reverence should be displayed towards an image of Christ and towards Christ Himself” is part of his discussion of the topic: “Whether the image of Christ should be adored with the adoration of ‘latria’?”  In this discussion, Aquinas expresses his opinion that images of Christ should receive reverence, as they lead us to think about Christ Himself.  He is not speaking about crosses at all, but about images that are supposed to represent Christ.  He uses the image of Christ in Rome, which is believed to have been painted by Luke, as justification that creation of such images is permissible.   Additionally, he argues that showing adoration for such images is different than the idols and images prohibited in Exodus 20:4, as those images led to the worship of other gods.   This discussion has absolutely nothing to do with the cross or crosses, and has no bearing whatsoever on the historical means of crucifixion used.

The second part: “The Cross is adored with the same adoration as Christ, that is, with the adoration of latria, and for that reason we address and supplicate the Cross just as we do the Crucified Himself” is part of a separate discussion by Aquinas titled: “Whether Christ's cross should be worshipped with the adoration of ‘latria’?” 

Aquinas argues that the cross itself is not being worshipped or reverenced, but the image of Christ, as he sacrificed Himself for us.  He appeals to the comments in John of Damascus’ Exposition of the Orthodox Faith (675-749 A.D.), which claim: “The precious wood, as having been sanctified by the contact of His holy body and blood, should be meetly worshiped; as also His nails, His lance, and His sacred dwelling-places, such as the manger, the cave and so forth.”  Aquinas then goes on to express his opinion that all objects other than the cross should be excluded from this list, as they “these very things do not represent Christ's image as the cross does, which is called ‘the Sign of the Son of Man’ that ‘will appear in heaven,’ as it is written.”  So, apparently, John of Damascus believes that the cross is the “Sign of the Son of Man” that Matthew 24:30 refers to.

Again, whether you prescribe to these teachings or not, has no bearing whatsoever on the historical facts of the crucifixion.  It does, however, show that there was a strong belief at the time of John of Damascus (675-749 AD) that the cross was the “Sign of the Son of Man.”

(Quote-Arnobius) Quote from Arnobius of Sicca shows no use of images by Christians

(1962, April 22). Awake!, p. 9

This quotation is used to suggest that early Christians did not use images of any kind, and thus, the cross was somehow an invention of later times.  The quote comes from Arnobius of Sicca, an Early Christian apologist, during the reign of Diocletian (284–305).

In this passage, however, Arnobius makes no such claim.  He is discussing the fact that the heathens worship stone and wooden images that are actually likenesses of real living people.  He is mocking them, as the images they worship are not connected to anything real and he knows who many of the people are that the idols were fashioned to resemble.  The reader of the Watchtower Society quote would be led to assume that “fashioned after human models” meant that objects were fashioned after man-made shapes, as the context they quote this in refers to the shape of the cross.  In reality, the phrase “fashioned after human models” means that people posed and statues or carvings were made to resemble them.

The quote comes from Book VI of Seven Books Against the Heathens, which the Watchtower Society quoted from the 1897 Library of Biblical and Theological Literature, which contains English translations of many early Christian writers.

Hurst, J., & Crooks, G. (Eds.). (1897). Biblical and Theological Literature (Vol. VII - History of the Christian church, p. 204).
New York: Eaton & Mains.


Another translator presents it this way:

Roberts, A., & Donaldson, J. (Eds.). (1871). Ante-Nicene Christian Library; Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325
 (p. 286). Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark.

Arnobius goes on to mock their gods, as they are pointed out to be the likenesses of well-known people, harlots, and so on.  He points out that they cannot have possibly performed any of the feats attributed to them in folklore, as they are inanimate objects.

As we see, this is not a discussion about whether Christians use any symbols or icons, as the Watchtower Society claims.  Instead, it is an opposition to pagan gods, as even the gods themselves are carved or sculpted in the likenesses of ordinary people.


 

(Quote-Baring-Gould) Quote from Curious Myths of the Middle Ages shows pagans using the cross

(1984, June 22), Awake!, p. 16

This quote is supposed to convince that the cross was in use as a symbol long before the time of Christ, and was merely adopted by Christians, rather than having anything to do with the shape of the cross of Jesus.  From the quotation, the reader would infer that:

·         Wooden crosses were erected in Mexico as sacred symbols

·         The cross symbol was considered symbolical and sacred in South America

·         The cross symbol was revered in Paraguay

·         The Incas in Peru honored a cross made of jasper

·         The Muyscas at Cumana believed that the cross had the power to drive away evil spirits & placed new-born children under this sign.

The book quoted is one of comparative mythology.  Thus, the author is stating facts about various different types of “crosses.”  In page 81 of the quoted book, we see a sampling of the various types of shapes that he is discussing.  The shapes vary wildly, and it takes a good bit of imagination to believe that they might be related to each other.   The author provides no suggestion that they are related to each other.  He is simply discussing them for the sake of comparison.


 

Baring-Gould, S. (1868). Curious myths of the Middle Ages. Second series (p. 81). London: Rivingtons

Now, let’s look at these claims:

·         Wooden crosses were erected in Mexico as sacred symbols

There were various shapes that resembled plus-signs and the ankh in Mexico, but this is not discussing them.  It is specifically talking about wooden crosses.  Peter Standish’s book explains that they were Christian symbols:

Standish, P. (2009). The states of Mexico: A reference guide to history and culture (p. 287). Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press.

•           The cross symbol was considered symbolical and sacred in South America

This is correct, but nobody would mistake it for the Christian cross.  The Sun-Star Glyph (Magic Square of Mercury) was such an important symbol that ones were created that could be seen from the sky.  This enhanced image is of the Nazca Desert in southern Peru.

 

·         The cross symbol was revered in Paraguay

This is also true.  The “cross” being discussed is sometimes called the Buddhist cross, which has nothing to do with the Christian cross.  The swastika was also used in Paraguay.

•           The Incas in Peru honored a cross made of jasper

The historian Garcisalo de la Vega, el Ynga (1539-1616 AD), reported a cross of white and red marble or jasper, which was venerated in 16th-century Cusco. The report can be read in the 1670 French book Histoire de la Floride,[141]

Apparently, the cross had been kept in a royal house, in a sacred place or huaca, but the Incas did not worship it. They simply admired it because of its beauty. The cross was square (quadrada), measuring about two by two feet, its branches three inch wide, the edges carefully squared and the surface brightly polished.  The only facts that we have to go on are that it was plus-shaped and beautiful.  It’s possible that it wasn’t even a religious object at all. Here is an English translation of what he wrote:

Vega, G., & Livermore, H. (1966). Royal Commentaries of the Incas, and General History of Peru (pp. 73-74). Austin: University of Texas Press.

As we can see, the object was not worshipped, it is square or plus-shaped, it is unknown how old it is, and it was seen in 1,560 AD, which makes it very likely that the object does not pre-date Christianity.

 

•        The Muyscas at Cumana believed that the cross had the power to drive away evil spirits & placed new-born children under this sign.

The Muisca are the Chibcha-speaking people that formed the Muiscan Confederation of the central highlands of present-day Colombia's Eastern Range. They were encountered by the Spanish Empire in 1537, at the time of the conquest. Muisca artifacts date to 1200-1500AD, so these people came along long after the time of Christ.

The Solstice (June 21)  was then the Day of Sue, the Sun-god, also called Bachica or Nemquetaha. The Sue temple was in Sogamoso, the sacred city of the Sun-god and the seat of the Iraca (priest). The Muisca name of the city, Suamox or Sugamuxi, means The City of the Sun. On the solstice, the Zaque went to Suamox for a major festival. Ritual offerings were made.   The symbol of the sun god varied, but was mostly a plus-sign with a circle around it.  This symbol was regarded by many as a source of life or healing.  Apparently, the Watchtower Society also believed that the sun had magical healing powers too:

(1933, September 13). Golden Age, p. 777

 

As we can see, the text cited by the Watchtower Society is citing usage of different types of “crosses,” none of them similar to the Christian cross.  Several of the societies mentioned post-date the time of Jesus and Constantine.  Certainly, this provides no evidence whatsoever that the Christian cross was fashioned after a symbol used by another society or culture.

It is interesting, however, that the Watchtower Society believed and taught the same thing as the sun-god worshippers, thinking the rays of the sun to have healing powers.

 

 


 

(Quote-Bailey) Quote from Harold Bailey shows pagans using the cross

(1970, March 22). Awake!, p. 20

This quote is supposed to show us that the cross was used in Mexico, and thus, cast doubt on whether it originated with early Christians or was adopted by them.  The quote comes from a section of Bailey’s book titled “The Tree of Life,” which is a discussion of Mayans.

Bailey, H. (1912). The Tree of Life. In The Lost Language of Symbolism: An inquiry into the origin of certain letters,
words, names, fairy-tales, folklore, and mythologies. (Vol. 2, p. 267). London: Williams and Norgate.

This statement by Bailey is derived from this 1884 book:

 

 

Rogers, J. (1884). Bible Folk-Lore; a Study in Comparative Mythology (p. 333). London: Kegan Paul, Trench and Co.

 Rogers got his information from this book:

Colenso, J. (1873). Lectures on the Pentateuch and the Moabite stone, with appendices containing (p. 436). Pietermaritzburg: P. Davis.

Calenso’s book simply contained a reprint of an article from the Edinburgh Review:

The Prechristian Cross. (1870). The Edinburgh Review, 232.

The “cross” symbol mentioned was actually a representation of the Mayan “tree of life.”  This object was essentially a plus-sign, with the center representing the origin of life.   The four directions represented east, west, north, and south.   According to the Popol Vuh, a well-organized collection of of mytho-historical narratives of the creation of the world, this World Tree was the first creation in the universe and then everything comes from it, and continues to do so.  While this looks vaguely like a cross in the central part, it is intended to be a tree. 

The world tree, the sarcophagus cover of Maya ruler Pacal the Great, as found in the Temple of The Inscriptions at Palenque in Chiapas, Mexico.

There is one glaring problem with trying to assert that these drawings or carvings were pre-Christian usages of the Cross: The ruins mentioned are dated at 600-1,200AD, many years after Christ and even Constantine.  

The Spanish arrived in the 16th century.  According to the article in the The Edinburgh Review where this information originated: if they really did see a similarity with the Christian cross, knowing that Christ pre-dated these ruins, they tried to “ascribe the fact to the pious labors of St. Thomas.”

Clearly, this object has no association with the Cross used by Christians, and has only a vague similarity in shape, if dumbed-down a lot.  Because of its date, it certainly cannot be an example of a pre-Christian cross, as asserted by the Watchtower Society.

 

(Quote-Bevan) Quote from Edwyn Bevan’s Holy Images attributes the cross to Constantine

(1988, August 1). The Watchtower, p. 4

This quote allegedly shows that the symbol of the Cross is not seen on Christian monuments or artwork before Constantine, thus proving that Constantine invented the idea of the cross

From reading Bevan’s book, we see that he expresses no doubts that the cross was the instrument of Jesus’ crucifixion.  He actually expresses belief that it was, contradicting what the Watchtower Society claims that he meant.

On pages 94-97, he is discussing the usage of images in general by the early church and whether the usage of them is viewed as idolatry when they are worshipped.  Our topic for this discussion is not the worship of anything, but the historical accuracy of the instrument of Jesus’ execution.

Bevan discusses that the Catholic Church appeals to the archeological evidence of Christian tombs that were decorated with Christian artwork, whereas Protestant scholars maintain that “was, as a whole, staunch against any veneration of images and shy of images and pictures altogether.”  Thus, the text quoted by the Watchtower Society is not showing that the church was void of cross references before Constantine, but void of Christian art in general.

Edwyn Bevan (1940) Holy Images (p.96)

Even more deceptive is the second part of the quotation by the Watchtower Society.   Reading it as quoted would lead the reader to believe that the author is implying that the cross was not believed to be the instrument of Jesus’ execution until around the time of Constantine.  Bevan is clearly stating that no Christian artwork has been discovered depicting a cross before the time of Constantine.  With regard to this statement, history has proven him to be wrong.  Please see the section titled “Argument-No-Usage” on page 119 for a complete list.  However, reading the sentences that immediately follow the quotation from Bevin reveal that Bevan acknowledges the pre-Constantine existence of non-Christian artwork that associates Jesus with a cross and both Christian and secular writings that do so as well.   His statement is simply that he is surprised at the lack of discoveries of Christian artwork with crosses when these writings and non-Christian artwork clearly show that the cross was associated with Jesus before the time of Constantine.

 

 

Edwyn Bevan (1940). Holy Images (pp. 97-98)  Note the green-highlighted portions that the Watchtower Society seems to have overlooked.

Edwyn Bevan (1940). Holy Images (pp. 117-118)  Note the green-highlighted portions, indicating that this is a discussion about images of Christ in general, rather than about the Cross being the correct instrument of Crufixion.

In conclusion, the text cited is commenting on the fact that no artwork of his knowledge depicting Christ or His crucifixion has been found until about the time of Constantine.   It is also commented that the lack of artwork is in contrast to the existence of writings and non-Christian graffiti, which depicted Christ as Crucified on a cross and various writings.  This completely contradicts the Watchtower Society’s doctrines.

 

 


 

(Quote-Bibica) Quote from the Encyclopaedia Biblica shows that the cross was uncertain

(1957 March 15) The Watchtower, p. 168

This quote by the Watchtower Society is supposed to shed doubt on whether Jesus was crucified on a cross or not.  It is presented in the context that “any degree of certainty is impossible” for determining this.  In fact, this quote is a misrepresentation of the encyclopedia.   The words quoted are with regard to determining which variant of a t-shape cross was used, not with regard to if it was a two-piece cross or not.

Cheyne, T., & Black, J. (Eds.). (1899). Encyclopædia Biblica: A critical dictionary of the literary, political and religious history, the archæology, geography, and natural history of the Bible (p. 958). New York: Macmillan.


 

Take note that the footnotes for the encyclopedia refer to evidence from early Christian writers.  The discussion is clearly related to which form of a cross was used, not even considering non-cross instruments.

Cheyne, T., & Black, J. (Eds.). (1899). Encyclopædia Biblica: A critical dictionary of the literary, political and religious history, the archæology, geography, and natural history of the Bible (p. 958). New York: Macmillan.

We see that the Watchtower Society has clearly misrepresented this source as supporting their position, when it actually does the exact opposite.  It tells us that scholars debate on exact details as to which form of a t-shaped cross was used, and that early Christian writers were used as sources of information.

 


 

(Quote-Britannica) Quote from the Encyclopedia Brittannica shows pagans using the cross first

(1963, April 8). AWAKE!, p. 27

 

Under the section in the encyclopedia titled “cross,” we find the quote:

Cross. (1910). In The Encyclopædia Britannica: A dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information
(11th ed., Vol. 7, p. 506). New York: The Encyclopaedia Brittanica Company.

We see that the specific types of crosses being discussed are the ankh and the swastika.  The article goes on to discuss that the ankh is seen primarily in Egypt. Both are discussed at length as having nothing to do with the Christian cross on page 98 of this document.

The ellipsis in the Watchtower Society quote skips over some stuff.  Let’s see what it is:

It seems that the author of the encyclopedia thought that Christ died on a cross.

Cross. (1910). In The Encyclopædia Britannica: A dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information
(11th ed., Vol. 7, p. 506). New York: The Encyclopaedia Brittanica Company.

 

We see that the Watchtower Society’s quote is intentionally misleading and taken out of context.  The sentence that follows the quoted text states that the cross was used by Christians before Constantine in a fashion that was “restricted and private among the Christians themselves.”

 


 

(Quote-Britannica2) Quote from the Encyclopedia Britannica

(1960, February 15). The Watchtower, p. 127

The quoted text is presented in the encyclopedia under the heading of “iconoclasts,” discussing the usage, and often inappropriate usage of icons or symbols.  As an aside, note that the author mentions the “veiled usage” of the cross in the catacombs before Constantine.  This directly contradicts the Watchtower Society’s teachings that the usage of the cross started with Constantine.

Iconoclasts. (1910). In The Encyclopædia Britannica: A dictionary of arts, sciences, literature and general information
(11th ed., Vol. 13, p. 273). New York: The Encyclopaedia Brittanica Company.

 

We have previously discussed the Egyptian ankh symbol, which had nothing to do with the cross (see page 98).  When Christianity arrived in Egypt, the Christian Coptic church formed.  Initially, this church noticed that the ankh was similar in shape to a t-shaped cross, so they tried to re-appropriate it for that purpose.   The ankh was gradually adopted by the fourth century church in Egypt.  This was called the “Coptic Cross.” 

 

This led to a mixture of their pagan religion and Christianity, which was not tolerated for long.  Christians wanted to purge themselves of all false religion influences, and then adopted the traditional Roman cross instead.

Instead of supporting them, these facts actually do more to harm the position of the Watchtower Society.   They show that the early Egyptian Christians believed that Christ was crucified on a t-shaped construction, and that after a brief period, they sought to remove any influences of paganism, thus adopting the t-shaped cross, rather than the ankh.

 

 


 

(Quote-Britannica3) Quote from the Encyclopedia Brittanica shows no cross usage before 312 AD

(1951 October 8). Awake!, p. 25

 

It’s a little unclear exactly which of these claims the Encyclopedia Britannica is supposed to support, so we should probably take a look at it to see.  The article in the encyclopedia is titled “cross.”  It starts out by telling us that there are many types of crosses, but “the usual conception, however, of a cross is that of a compound figure.”

The Encyclopaedia Britannica (11th ed., Vol. VII, p. 505). (1910). New York, NY: The Encyclopaedia Britannica Company.

The article goes on to describe two forms of crucifixion.  One involved impalement or fastening to a simple stake, where the victim was left to die.  The other, “which is described in the New Testament account of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ,” involved a cross:

The Encyclopaedia Britannica (11th ed., Vol. VII, p. 506). (1910). New York, NY: The Encyclopaedia Britannica Company.

The article then covers several shapes that have some similarity to the cross, the ankh, and the swastika.  No statement is made to imply a connection between these symbols and the Christian cross.

We are then told that the cross was publically used at the time of Constantine, and before then its “employment had been restricted, and private among the Christians themselves.”

The Encyclopaedia Britannica (11th ed., Vol. VII, p. 506). (1910). New York, NY: The Encyclopaedia Britannica Company.

Next, we are informed that early, pre-Constantine writers told about the usage of the cross:

The Encyclopaedia Britannica (11th ed., Vol. VII, p. 507). (1910). New York, NY: The Encyclopaedia Britannica Company.

There is no mention made of the catacombs or their contents.

Thus, we see that this encyclopedia article quoted by the Watchtower Society directly contradicts every claim that it is alleged to support, with the exception of the topic of the catacombs, which it makes no statement at all about.  The Watchtower Society has made a blatantly false claim about this reference.

(Quote-Brittannica4) Quote from the Encyclopedia Britannica shows cross is only a tradition

(1957, March 15). The Watchtower, p. 165

This Watchtower Society quotation occurs after a statement claiming that experts do not agree that Jesus died on a cross, and it might have been a simple stake instead.  In support of this, they offer the Encyclopedia Britannica’s statement that it is “generally believed” that he died on a cross to illustrate that there may be some doubt as to if it was a cross or not.  

In reality, the Encyclopedia does not make this claim at all.  Instead, the topic being discussed is whether the crossbeam was at the top of the cross or only partway-up.  The “generally believed” statement is that it was partway-up, or a “Latin Cross.”

In fact, a few sentences earlier, it is stated that, with regard to a t-shaped “cross having a horizontal bar as well as a vertical stake,” “the terms employed in the Gospel narratives render it certain that Christ thus was crucified.”

Cross. (1907). In Encyclopaedia Britannica; a standard work of reference in art, literature, science, history, geography, commerce, biography, discovery and invention. (The new Werner twentieth century ed., Vol. VI, p. 539). Akron, Ohio: Werner.

The second part of the Watchtower Society’s claim is that it is only by “general tradition” that the matter is established.  This is a carefully-crafted and deceptive sentence, as the quoted part, “general tradition,” does not appear anywhere in the cited encyclopedia article.  Either the Watchtower Society made up this quotation, or they are using the quotation marks deceptively, following the grammar rule for quotations around a coined phrase.  In any case it is deceptive, as the reader would conclude that the quoted text is part of the encyclopedia text, which it is not.

Thus, we see that the Watchtower Society’s quote begins with a part that is deceptively taken out of context, and ends with a part that is not a found in the article at all.  As seen from the contents of the actual article, the encyclopedia directly contradicts the Watchtower Society’s claim that there is doubt about whether Jesus died on a cross or a simple pole.

 

 


 

(Quote-Budge) Quote from A W. Budge shows the cross not associated with Christianity until 4th century

(1984, June 22). AWAKE!, p. 16

This quote would lead us to believe that Wallis Budge’s book supports the Watchtower Society’s doctrine that Christ was not killed on a cross, and that the cross did not become associated with Christianity until the 4th century.  As we review the green highlighted portions below, which occur within a few pages of the quoted text, we will see that just the opposite is true, and that the Watchtower Society is misrepresenting this author.

On the same page as the quoted text, Budge clearly states why the cross is associated with Christianity:

Sir E. A. Wallis Budge (1968) Amulets and Talismans (p. 342) New York: University Books

Note that there is no doubt expressed in his description, which goes on to elaborate on various forms of the cross & the two thieves.

Also, note that the text of the Watchtower Society follows the quote from Budge with the statement “No, there is no record of the use of the cross by first-century Christians.”  This statement is cleverly inserted directly after the quotation from Budge, and some readers might even assume that it is a continuation of the quotation or Budge’s stance on the matter.

According to the Watchtower Society, the quote supposedly shows us that “there is no record of the use of the cross by first-century Christians.” We are also supposed to conclude that this is so because Jesus was actually crucified on something other than a cross.  With regard to this conclusion, we may want to see what the author had to say on the previous page:

Sir E. A. Wallis Budge (1968) Amulets and Talismans (p. 341) New York: University Books

 

With regard to the Watchtower’s statement that “there is no record of the use of the cross by first-century Christians,” we might want to see what the author stated a few pages later:

Sir E. A. Wallis Budge (1968) Amulets and Talismans (p. 350) New York: University Books


 

To add additional insult to the claims of the Watchtower Society, the author directly contradicts their claims that ancient symbols which were vaguely similar to the Christian Cross were somehow connected to each other:

Sir E. A. Wallis Budge (1968) Amulets and Talismans (p. 339-340) New York: University Books

In summary, we see that the author’s quote has been taken completely out of context and misrepresented by the Watchtower Society. Instead of stating that the cross was not used by Christians until the 4th century, the author’s ideas seem best summarized in his own words as:

“Our Lord was not crucified on a single stake (crux simplex), but on a patibulum or gibbet formed of two bars of wood, one fastened across the other” (p.341) “The cross, as we have seen, was used in private devotions by Christians during the 1st century of our era, and was cut upon the tombs of the 2nd and 3rd centuries, but it did not become a public symbol or badge of Christians until Constantine had it placed on the shields of his soldiers and removed the Roman eagle from them early in the 4th century.” (p.350)  “The Latin cross was best known and most used because the cross on which Christ was crucified is believed to have been of this form.” (p. 342)

(Quote-Bullinger-Companion) Quote from The Companion Bible shows a stake was used

Watchtower March 1, 2008, p. 22

Before we get started, we observe that the Watchtower’s quote indicates that this book is “Oxford University’s Companion Bible.”   This is very misleading, as the book is not produced by Oxford University, which might lend some credibility to the work.     It is produced by “Oxford University Press,” a printing company which just happens to be a department of the University of Oxford.  In is the largest university press in the world, and began operations around 1480.  

The department has published its own works, such as the famous Oxford English Dictionary, but remains readily available to nearly anyone as a printing company.  The modern press publishes approximately 6,000 works per year.  It has never expressed any endorsement for the content of this work.

 

 

This work was primarily edited by E. W. Bullinger, one of the originators of the anti-cross teachings in 1877 (see page 25 of this document).  It was completed after his death by his associates, and was published in six parts between 1909 and 1922.  Bullinger did not attend Oxford, and had no relationship to Oxford University Press.

This book was essentially a printing of the 1611 King James Version of the Bible with references and definitions in the large margins.  The end of the work is a set of appendixes, mostly written by Bullinger. 

In appendix 162, Bullinger lays out his ideas regarding the cross:

 


Let’s break down his statements, and we will see that his incorrect and incomplete reasoning has been adopted in its entirety by the Watchtower Society.  This shows us that their teachings did not come from some revelation of God, but we adopted from the personal ideas of a Catholic Priest, who worked at the Trinitarian Bible Society.

1.      The word stauros denotes an upright stake or pale.  It never means two pieces of wood put together at any angle.

This statement is obviously false (see the previous section on the word stauros on page 78 for many counter examples)

2.      The word xylon only denotes single pieces of wood.

This statement is also obviously false (see the previous section on the word xylon on page 84 for many counterexamples)

3.      The plus-sign with a circle around it is suggested to be somehow related to the cross.

4.      Symbols from other times, countries, and religions are suggested to be forerunners of the Christian cross. 

 

Specifically, he quotes Sir A. H. Layard’s book Nineveh and Its Remains, vol 2, page 213, which states that the author found a crux ansata (ankh) on the sculptures of Khorsabad and ivories from Nimround.

Austen Henry Layard  (1849). Ninevah and Its Remains, (Volume II, pp. 213-214)

However, Bullinger seems to have ignored that the author wrote that the arguments trying to connect the crux ansata and Assyrian divinity symbols is sarcastically “Ingenious,” but “antiquities reject the connection altogether,” and not “worthy of a serious investigation.”

Next, the book Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, vol. iii by J. Gardner Wilkinson is asserted to show that various forms of the cross are phallic symbols.  Here is one of the examples quoted by Bullinger, which is obviously a crux ansata (ankh):

The Manners and Customs of The Ancient Egyptians, Vol III, 1878, J. Gardner Wilkinson, p.45

Nowhere in his book does Wilkinson even suggest that these symbols have anything to do with the Christian cross.  However, on page 364, he does note that early Christians in Egypt “adopted it in lieu of the cross which was afterwards substituted for it.”  This seems to indicate that the crux ansata (ankh) was deemed by early Christians to be pagan and not acceptable, while the Christian cross was an altogether different symbol.

 


 

Bullinger, like the Watchtower Society, used references to lend credibility to his claims, but ignored the fact that these same references directly contradicted his claims.  He seemed to be so determined to be correct about his theory that he ignored the undeniable evidence to the contrary provided by the same authors that he quoted.

He cites Mrs. Jameson’s 1872 The History of Our Lord as Exemplified in Works of Art, Vol II, page 315, but fails to mention that the text on the previous page directly contradicts his assertions about the cross being invented as a Christian symbol by Constantine.

 

 

(Quote-Bullinger-Lexicon) Quote from A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament

(2011, March 1). The Watchtower, p. 18

This text aims to show us that the stauros of Jesus was a simple stake, and not a cross.   We have already discussed Bullinger as one of the founders of this idea and his flawed reasoning (see pages 25 and 154).  This book, a lexicon, has Bullinger’s comments added throughout.   Regarding the words stauros and xylon, Bullinger seems to contradict his own lexicon with his opinions:

Bullinger, E. (1895). A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament (Fourth ed., p. 818).
London: Longmans, Green & Co
.

First, Bullinger informs us that a xylon is “anything made of wood.”  Then, he goes on to state that with regard to Jesus, it can only mean a simple stake.

Bullinger, E. (1895). A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament (Fourth ed., p. 819).
London: Longmans, Green & Co
.

 

According to Bullinger, the word stauros can only mean an upright pole or stake, even though a large number of examples of the work meaning “cross” exist.  See the section on page 78 for a list.

Bullinger, E. (1895). A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament (Fourth ed., p. 195).
London: Longmans, Green & Co
.

Given the large number of examples where the word means “cross,” it seems likely that Bullinger was aware & simply ignored the facts.

Bullinger also states that the X-shape was used with reference to Jesus because it was His first initial.  This is true, and the usage by Constantine is a good example.  He then states that the T-shape was later instituted, as it was the initial of the god Tammuz.  This idea seems to have been first proposed by Alexander Hislop, and it is shown to be a false statement, based on a fabricated quotation.  See Quote-Hislop on page 230 for details.

 

 

 


 

(Quote-Burgon) Quote from Dean Burgon shows no cross usage until 5th century

(1957, March 15). The Watchtower, p. 166

 

This section of Burgon’s writings is titled “Ancient and Modern Epitaphs Contrasted.”  He is writing on the topic of themes on gravestones.   Based on his observations, he makes the highlighted statement, which is quoted by the Watchtower Society.

The Society fails to mention that later-discovered ossuaries eventually proved Burgon’s hunch to be inaccurate (see page 58 of this document).  We can’t fault Burgon, who states this opinion as such, based on his observations.

They further fail to mention that Burgon was not questioning the method of crucifixion by his comment, but simply stating the fact that he had not seen any crosses on early Christian burial monuments.

Archeology has proven Burgon’s hunch about the catacombs to be found incorrect.  For an example of a cross on a Christian monument, see De Rossi’s depiction of one under the topic of the catacombs on page 59.

From reading some of Burgon’s other writings, it becomes clear that he believed that Jesus was crucified on a cross.

 

Burgon, J. (1862). Letters from Rome to friends in England (p. 210).
London: J. Murray.

 

Letter from Burgon to the Reverend Alfred Hensley in 1849. 
Goulburn, E. (1892). John William Burgon, late dean of Chichester: A biography with extracts from his letters and early journals (Vol. I, p. 210). London: John Murray.

 

 

 

 

(Quote-CatholicDigest) Quote from Catholic Digest Magazine

(1954 July 8). Awake!, p. 25

This quote from the The Catholic Digest is supposed to show us that lots of bad pagans used the cross as their symbol long before the time of Jesus.  Thus, we are to conclude that Christians must have adopted this symbol, rather than it actually having anything to do with Jesus.

The article quoted appears in the May 1948 Catholic Digest, on pages 108-112.  This is a condensed article.  The original article appeared in The Grail Magazine, March, 1948, St. Meinrad, IN.

The text quoted by the Watchtower Society serves as an introduction to the article, which is titled The Sign of Victory.  Is is apparently misrepresented by the Watchtower Society, as it’s purpose it to introduce the idea that various cross-like shapes have been used throughout history, having some vague similarity to the cross of Jesus.  The forms mentioned include: x-shapes and swastikas, the “tree of life” symbol from Mexico, stars, multiple overlapping lines, and the ankh.

The person making the quote seems to have overlooked the rest of the text that follows the quoted text.  It explains that the author believes a cross shape was foretold in the Old Testment, giving an example where God protected people that were marked with a cross symbol.

The writer goes on to state that the cross of Chist was most likely a crux immissa, having the shape of a lower-case letter t.

On the following pages, the author goes on to explain that the “sign of the cross” was used by the earliest of Christians, that it became more widely used in the 4th century when Christians enjoyed less persecution, and then continues to elaborate on it’s use by the church over the next 1,800 years or so.

Clearly, the Watchtower Society has misrepresented this text by selectively quoting it.  If anything, the text shows that early Christians used the cross symbol because it was associated with Jesus from the earliest of Christians forward.

Crosses Through The Centuries: The Sign of Victory. (1948). Catholic Digest, vol 12, p. 108.

 


 

Crosses Through The Centuries: The Sign of Victory. (1948). Catholic Digest, vol 12, pp. 109-110.

 


 

(Quote-CatholicEncyclopedia) The Catholic Encyclopedia shows cross usage long before Christ

(1954 July 8). Awake!, p. 25

This reference is supposed to show us that the cross was a religious symbol long before the birth of Christ.  Thus, we are supposed to conclude, Christians adopted it, rather than it having anything to do with the instrument of Jesus’ crucifixion.

In reality, the article is discussing shapes that are technically “crosses,” but are not shaped like the Christian cross at all.  The article covers the following shapes: the plus-sign, the swastika, and the Egyptian ankh. This is discussed at length in this document under the heading “Argument-Phallic” on page 98.

The Catholic Encyclopedia (Vol. 4, p. 517). (1913). The Encyclopedia Press.

 

Two pages later, in the same work referenced, we are told that the crucifixion of Christ was on a T-shaped cross, and that several Old Testament references supposedly allude to this.

The Catholic Encyclopedia (Vol. 4, p. 519). (1913). The Encyclopedia Press.

 

On page 520, the article informs is of pre-Constantine writers that confirm the T-shaped cross of Christ and that early Christians used this symbol regularly “about the year 200.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia (Vol. 4, p. 520). (1913). The Encyclopedia Press.

 

As we have seen, the article quoted directly opposes the teachings of the Watchtower Society.  The only half-truth present is that the “cross” was used before the time of Christ, if you want to consider a plus-sign, swastika, or ankh a type of “cross.”


 

(Quote-CatholicEncyclopedia2) The Catholic Encyclopedia depicts the sign of the cross as a superstition

(2000, August 8). Awake! P. 30

This quote is supposed to show us that the “sign of the cross” is merely a thing of superstition.  When we go to the actual article, we see that it doesn’t speak of superstition at all.

The Catholic Encyclopedia: An international work of reference on the constitution, doctrine, discipline, and history of the Catholic Church
(Vol. 13, p. 785). (1912). New York: Robert Appleton.

First, we are told that the “sign of the cross” is to symbolically represent the figure of Christ’s cross.  Next, we are told that this originated with pre-Constantine Christians who were “adopting it as an emblem.”  This directly contradicts the claims of the Watchtower Society.

The Catholic Encyclopedia: An international work of reference on the constitution, doctrine, discipline, and history of the Catholic Church
(Vol. 13, pp. 785-786). (1912). New York: Robert Appleton.

The text goes on to describe similar practices up through the 13th century.  The only mystical or superstitious usage mentioned is with reference to a 1873 book titled “The Myroure of Oure Ladye,” which attributes this usage to a 14th century group of nuns, based on text from 1530 AD.

 

The Catholic Encyclopedia: An international work of reference on the constitution, doctrine, discipline, and history of the Catholic Church
(Vol. 13, p. 786). (1912). New York: Robert Appleton.

Next, we come to the Watchtower Society’s quote, which occurs immediately after an explanation that the “sign of the cross” was mostly accompanied by some words that were effectively calling upon God for assistance.  The Watchtower Society seems to have omitted the last part of the sentence, which explains that it is often used as part of the communion / Eucharist ceremony in addition to other observances.  This is apparently done as a physical and visual reminder of Christ’s sacrifice for us.

The Catholic Encyclopedia: An international work of reference on the constitution, doctrine, discipline, and history of the Catholic Church
(Vol. 13, p. 787). (1912). New York: Robert Appleton

Let us also remind ourselves that even the misuse or superstitious usage of this symbol by some would have no bearing on the historical accuracy of the shape of the cross of Jesus. 

The Watchtower Society has misrepresented the author’s intent and context, as the article was clearly stating that the usage of the “sign of the cross” was largely a reverent thing that was used in ceremony and by individuals as a reminder of the sacrifice of Christ.

(Quote-CatholicEncyclopedia3) Quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia

(2011 March 1). The Watchtower, p. 18

This quote is supposed to show us that the cross originated as a sharpened pole.  Thus, any ideas about a t-shaped cross must be wrong. 

As stated previously, the word stauros, came to mean a stake, cross, or anything made of wood for execution.  It’s original meaning, far before the time of Jesus was a stake or post.  It then referred to a post where the heads of thos executed were displayed.   As the text quoted by the Watchtower Society points out, it also represented a sharpened post, which people were impaled upon.   Usually in this case, the pole was literally run through the victim, and they perished almost immediately from massive bleeding.

The Watchtower Society seems to have missed the next sentence in the quote, which tells us that before Jesus’ time, a crossbeam was added.  They also seem to have missed the next few sentances which give examples of the usage of the crossbeam as part of the “cross.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia (Vol. 4, p. 519). (1913). The Encyclopedia Press.

The examples given are:

Writer

Work

Approximate Date Written About

Tacitus

Annals

62-65 AD

Petronius

The Satyricon

1st Century

Suetonius

Gaba

Gaba ruled 68-69 AD

Note that every example given in this article about the “cross” with a crossbeam is from the 1st century, the same century that Jesus was crucified.  This article and the text quoted are clearly not stating that in Jesus’ time, the “cross” had only a meaning of a sharpened pole, as the Watchtower Society implied.  The quote has been completely misrepresented. 

To remove any doubt as to the author’s intent, the beginning of the next page states:

The Catholic Encyclopedia (Vol. 4, p. 520). (1913). The Encyclopedia Press.

Again, we see that the Watchtower Society has completely misrepresented the meaning of this quotaton.


 

(Quote-Chambers) Quote from Chambers’ Encyclopedia

(1987, August 15). The Watchtower, p. 21

This quote is intended to convince the reader that the cross was used as a religious symbol long before Christianity.  Thus, the cross was adopted by Christians because they liked the symbol, rather than it having anything to do with Jesus’ execution.

Chambers' Encyclopaedia was founded in 1859 by W. & R. Chambers of Edinburgh and became one of the most important English language encyclopaedias of the 19th and 20th centuries.  The first edition was published in 1888-1892.  New editions were published in 1950 and 1966.  Not having a continuous revision system makes much of the material dated. The most recent edition (1973) is a reprint with corrections of the 1966 revised edition.   The text quoted by the Watchtower Society was found under “cross” as early as the 1901 printing:

Chambers, W. (1901). Chambers's Encyclopædia: A dictionary of universal knowledge. (p. 582). London: W. & R. Chambers

Note that the types of “crosses” being discussed in the Watchtower’s quote are the ankh and the plus-sign.

Chambers, W. (1901). Chambers's Encyclopædia: A dictionary of universal knowledge. (p. 582). London: W. & R. Chambers

The Watchtower Society seems to have overlooked the rest of the article, on the same page, which tells us that:

·         “generally a cross-piece (patabulum) was added”

·         Christians made “use of the sign of the cross as a holy and distinguishing sign”

·         “It was customary, probably from apostolic time, for the Christians to pray with extended arms; and Justin Martyr (100-165 AD) and Origen (184-254 AD) explain this attitude as representing Christ on the cross”

Since Justin Martyr and Origen wrote about early Christians and pre-date Constantine, this article in Chambers’ Encyclopaedia directly contradicts what the Watchtower Society states in their summarizing sentence which follows their citation of this article: “Indeed, there is no evidence that early Christians used the cross in their worship.”

Thus, we see that the source quoted by the Watchtower Society actually teaches the exact opposite of what they claim.


 

(Quote-Complete-Jewish) The Complete Jewish Bible uses the expression “execution stake”

 

The Watchtower, Public Edition, March 1, 2011, p. 19

The Complete Jewish Bible was created by David H. Stern.  He made several translation decisions to make the work more Jewish than other translations.   For example, God’s name was written in Jewish Hebrew manuscripts with only the four consonants YHVH/YHWH, and all vowels omitted.  Beneath the word were written the vowel sounds for the word Adonai, which means “Lord,” “master,” or “owner.”  This was likely done so that the person reading the text would not accidentally pronounce God’s name, but say Adonai instead, as many believed that casual reading of this name from scripture was equivalent to “taking God’s name in vain.”  The actual pronunciation of this name has been apparently lost in history.  Stern replaces many occurrences of this divine name with the word Adonai to remain true to how ancient Jewish persons would have read the scripture to the public.  The King James version/translation uses the word LORD instead, to convey the meaning of the unpronounceable name.

Of course, most Jehovah’s Witnesses would be shocked to learn that the name they use for God (Jehovah) is generally attributed to the Catholic Monk Raymundus Martini around the year 1270 AD. Martini didn’t understand what was being done by the scribes & ran the consonant and vowel sounds together from the two words, creating the new word “Jehovah.”  Whatever the pronunciation of God’s name, we can be 100% certain that it is something other than “Jehovah,” because the vowels that were used to produce this name were intentionally placed there by scribes for the sole purpose of obscuring the correct pronunciation of the name.

Stern, David H. (1998). Complete Jewish Bible: An English version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'rit Hadashah (New Testament)
(Introduction p. xxxiii). Jewish New Testament Publications.

It seems peculiar that the Watchtower Society would quote a book that explains why “Jehovah” is a “word without historical foundation.”  However, let’s take a look at the word “cross” in this translation, which is why it is cited by them.

Just as the Watchtower Society indicated, Stern translates the words stauros and xylon as follows:

Verse

Word

Translation

Matthew 10:38

stauros

execution-stake

Matthew 16:24

stauros

execution-stake

Matthew 27:32

stauros

execution-stake

Matthew 27:40

stauros

stake

Mark 8:34

stauros

execution-stake

Mark 15:21

stauros

stake

Mark 15:30

stauros

stake

Mark 15:32

stauros

stake

Luke 9:23

stauros

execution-stake

Luke 14:27

stauros

execution-stake

Luke 23:26

stauros

execution-stake

John 19:17

stauros

stake

John 19:19

stauros

stake

John 19:25

stauros

execution stake

John 19:31

stauros

stake

Acts 5:30

xulon

stake

Acts 10:39

xulon

stake

Acts 13:29

xulon

stake

1 Corinthians 1:17

stauros

execution-stake

1 Corinthians 1:18

stauros

execution-stake

Galatians 3:13

xulon

stake

Galatians 5:11

stauros

execution-stake

Galatians 6:12

stauros

execution-stake

Galatians 6:14

stauros

execution-stake

Ephesians 2:16

stauros

stake

Philippians 2:8

stauros

stake

Philippians 3:18

stauros

execution-stake

Colossians 1:20

stauros

stake

Colossians 2:14

stauros

execution-stake

Hebrews 12:2

stauros

stake

1 Peter 2:24

xulon

stake

 

One might wonder why Stern translated the words this way.  Did he believe that Jesus was executed on a simple stake?  Did he think it was more “Jewish” to use the word stake, since a cross is simply a stake with a crossbeam?  We have already discussed that the word stauros originally was associated with a simple stake, where a victim’s head was displayed after an execution (see page 2). Perhaps the Jewish people were believed to still think of any crucifixion as being “displayed on the stake.” 

Fortunately, Stern published an explanation for us.  The companion book, Jewish New Testament Commentary by David H. Stern explains in great detail why he made many of the translation decisions that he did and provides an extensive commentary for the New Testament from a Jewish perspective.  Rather than comment on his explanation, it is reproduced here to speak for itself:

Stern, D. (1992). Jewish New Testament Commentary: A companion volume to the Jewish New Testament
(pp. 40-41). Clarksville, Md.: Jewish New Testament Publications.

Since the Watchtower Society has included a reference to this author’s work, they must be implying that he is a trustworthy source of information. 

(Quote–CrucifixionInAntiquity) Quote from Gunnar Samuelsson’s Crucifixion in Antiquity

Awake!, Public Edition, No. 2, 2017, p. 14

Gunnar Samuelsson published this work in 2011 to question what details are available solely from the scriptures regarding the crucifixion. The work was as reprint of his PhD thesis.  After hundreds of pages of analysis, he concludes that the text of the scriptures alone is insufficient to determine the precise shape and style of crucifixion device.

Crucifixion in Antiquity (p. 306). (2011). Nehren, Germany: Mohr Siebeck.

The misleading quote provided by the Watchtower seems to indicate that the word in question is a simple pole.  Instead, the author tells us that the word says nothing about the actual shape.  Thus, it can be a pole, cross, or just about anything with a pole as an integral part.

Crucifixion in Antiquity (p. 303). (2011). Nehren, Germany: Mohr Siebeck.

(Quote-Cutner) Quote from H. Cutner’s Short History of Sex Worship

 

H. Cutner’s book “A Short History of Sex Worship” is deceptively quoted.  The quote indicates that “crosses” are found on Egyptian monuments, and are considered phallic.  The Watchtower Society fails to mention that the “crosses” being discussed are the ankh, which Cutner believes to be equivalent to a t-shaped cross.  In the sentences that follow in Cutner’s book, he states that even the ankh’s usage as a phallic symbol is debated. 

Reasoning from the Scriptures (p. 91). (1989). Brooklyn, N.Y., U.S.A.: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, International Bible Students Association.

Cutner, H. (1940). A Short History of Sex-Worship (pp. 16-17). London: Watts & Co.

Equating the Ankh with the T-Shaped cross

Cutner, H. (1940). A Short History of Sex-Worship
(p. 158). London: Watts & Co.

Admission that there is no evidence that even the ankh was phallic.
Cutner, H. (1940).
A Short History of Sex-Worship
(p. 190). London: Watts & Co.

 

The Society also fails to mention that Cutner finds nearly everything in the Bible to have a sexual or phallic origin and meaning.   This includes:

·         Adam, Eve, and the Serpent that Tempted them (page 22)

·         Noah’s Ark, the stone Jacob slept upon, Abraham’s covenant with a servant (Genesis 24:2), and the word “Jew” (page 23)

·         The names “Jesus,” and “Jehovah,” “Mary,” “Abraham,” “Joshua,” and “Jerusalem” (page 24)

·         The name “Elohim” (page 33)

·         The names “David” and “Nun” (page 35)

·         Fish, when used as a symbol (page 35)

·         A Jewish priest’s Mitre and the name ”Mary” (page 36)

·         The date of the resurrection (page 164)

·         The name “Sarah” (page 165)

·         The construction of church buildings (page 184)

Cutner, H. (1940). A Short History of Sex-Worship
(p. 184). London: Watts & Co.

 

His logic in connecting these things to a phallus or sex is far-fetched, ignoring huge differences and relying on tiny similarities or elements.  For example, he believes that many Biblical names are sexual in origin (hence invented), because they contain both the letters I and O, which he believes are male and female sexual symbols (page 24).

Cutner, H. (1940). A Short History of Sex-Worship
(p. 24). London: Watts & Co.

If this book, which the Watchtower Society eagerly quotes, is correct, then the name “Jehovah” that they are so proud to use is of phallic origin, and even their own Kingdom Hall construction is too.  Perhaps they should re-think the credibility of this author.

(Quote-Cyclopedia-of-Biblical-Literature) Quote from The Cyclopædia of Biblical Literature

(1984, June 22), Awake!, p. 16

This quotation supposedly supports the idea that crosses were used as a holy symbol by a great variety of nations, and thus, it is a pagan symbol that was later adopted by Christians.  Also note that the sentence after the quote begin a claim that early Christian congregations did not use the cross as a symbol.

Let’s start with the quotation itself.   Looking at the entire quotation in context, we see that it is about a wide range of shapes.

Kitto, J. (Ed.). (1880). The Cyclopædia of Biblical literature (p. 495). New York: American Book Exchange.

We also see that the phrase “devotees of the cross” comes from the writings of Tertullian.  This information is excluded from the Watchtower’s quote.  Why?  What was he writing about? Who was he?  The trimmed quotation makes it sound like Christians would be a part of this group of “devotees of the cross.”

Tertullian was a 2nd and 3rd century Christian author (before the time of Constantine).  The phrase quoted by the Watchtower Society is thus actually from an Early Christian comparing their usage of the cross with that of the pagans, In his writings, he uses “devotees of the cross” or “respecters of the Cross” as a phrase of what the idol worshippers accuse Christians of being.  In the sentences that follow the usage of this phrase, his statement is that Christians do not worship any wooden object, even though the cross of Jesus was thus shaped.  He then goes on to state that an upright pole or stock of wood is only “a part of a cross.”  He also goes on to state that the heathen actually worship wooden and other objects as their gods, whereas the Christians may be associated with crosses, but do not worship them.

Here is an English translation of the passage containing the quote of Apologeticum 16.6:

Dodgson, C. (Trans.). (1842). Library of Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church: Tertullian (Vol. 1). Oxford: J.H. Parker.

 

Returning to the Watchtower Society’s quote, we see that the shapes being discussed are a combination of the Letter T, plus signs, and various similar shapes.  The article is correct that these various objects had a wide-range of usage and meaning.  The Watchtower Society seemed to miss the rest of the cited material, as the same page that the quotation comes from tells us about t-shaped crosses, in contrast to the many other variants:

Kitto, J. (Ed.). (1880). The Cyclopædia of Biblical Literature (p. 495). New York: American Book Exchange.

Thus, we see that this quote by the Watchtower Society has been cleverly edited to hide the fact that the author states that Jesus is believed to have been crucified on a t-shaped cross, and to hide the fact that Christians were associated with the cross, but did not worship it as “devotees of the cross.”

 


 

(Quote-Dallas-Morning-News) Quote from the Dallas Morning News

(1996, April 22) Awake!, p. 29

The quoted article is titled “Symbol of Cross Too Violent, Some Theologians Say,” and it appeared in the April 1, 1995 edition of The Dallas Morning News.  It was written by Susan Hogan / Albach.  Susan is known as a feminist, and for her crusade against the Catholic Church for not worshipping “the mother goddess” or allowing the liturgy presided by lesbian priests.  She primarily wrote for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Hogan writes in this article:

As is customary, the occasion will be marked by solemn reflection on the significance of the cross, and Jesus' death and resurrection as a victory over sin. But in the face of almost universal agreement about the importance of the cross, a small group of Christian theologians is questioning whether especially in these times of increasing violence the cross is an appropriate symbol of the faith.

So we see that she doesn’t question the cross as an important part of Christianity.

The article goes on to include the quotes from Catherine Keller, who is also well-known as a feminist.

 

Hogen continues:

 

Questions about the cross are emerging from a diverse spectrum of theologians who seek to reshape some foundational doctrines of Christianity. They include feminists, African-Americans and others whose views are being put forth as an alternative to the traditional theology.  They seek to emphasize symbols of Jesus' ministry such as loaves and fishes, mustard seeds and lighted candles. And instead of a theology in which redemption is possible only because Jesus died, they argue that the redemptive value of Jesus is in the way he lived.

 

So, we see that these so-called theologians are “feminists, African-Americans, and others” who want to change “traditional theology” so that redemption is possible is some way other than “because Jesus died.”  Of course, the scriptures tell us that the substitutionary death of Jesus for our sins is our means of salvation.

 

Later in the article, we get to the main print of the article, which is based in the lies of slave owners or abusive spouses.  Hogen Writes:

 

Some African-Americans, for instance, point out that masters told slaves their suffering was good because it emulated that of Jesus on the cross. Women, too, have sacrificed themselves in violent marriages because they somehow gleaned that their faith demanded it.

"God doesn't save us because we suffer," said Ms. Keller, a feminist theologian. "The thinking that we are redeemed by blood is pervasive and hard to change. The trouble is that it numbs us to violence."

As stated by the quoted Ms. Keller, the thinking that we are redeemed by blood is pervasive and hard to change.   Maybe she hasn’t realized that that’s because it is clearly stated in the Bible:

 

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: (1 Peter 1: 18 – 19)

Thus, we see that the Watchtower Society’s quote comes from a feminist and lesbian-clergy advocate that does agree with the historical accuracy of the cross as a historical fact, but disagrees with the Bible itself, where it states that our redemption comes from the death and suffering of Christ.

 

It is peculiar that the Watchtower Society would find this author and article to be a reliable source of information.


 

(Quote-Damascus) Quote from John of Damascus

The Watchtower, August 1, 1988, p. 4

From this quote, we are lead to believe that John of Damascus wrote that pagan shrines were changed into places where various images or Saints were worshipped.

St. John of Damascus was an Arab Christian monk and priest from the 7th and 8th centuries.  He did write in defense of the creation of various paintings, carvings, and other images of biblical events, saints, Jesus, and such. During his time, some people were concerned that various artwork has become idols, and should be removed.  Known as “The Iconoclastic Controversy,” these issues were addressed by St. John in three sermons that he preached, known as the “Three Treatises on the Divine Images” or “Apologetic Treatises against those Decrying the Holy Images,” “Orationes de imaginibus tres,”  or (in the original Greek) “προς τους διαβάλλοντας τας αγίας εικόνας.”

The English translation used for this quotation only seems to exist in an 1846 book by John Henry Newman, a Cardinal in England in the 1800s.  Newman does not cite who the translator was, so it may even have been himself:

Newman, John Henry (1846). An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine (Second ed., p. 362). London: James Toovey.

The focal point in this matter is the word “worship.”  This is a poor word choice for the translation, as the text of St. John’s work elaborates in great detail how images are not worshipped like a god, but are “venerated” or “respected” as were many items in the Bible.  Closer analysis of the quote seems to reveal that the objects being “worshipped” are not the “images,” but rather the “saints” or the “shrines.”   Looking at other translations makes the meaning much more clear: saints are being honored or memorialized by the erection of churches.

Allies, Mary H.  (1898). St. John Damascene on Holy Images: Followed by Three Sermons on the Assumption. (p. 67). London: Thomas Baker.

 

 

St. John of Damascus (2003). Three treatises on the divine images (Andrew Louth, Trans.) (p. 67). New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press

St. John’s writings were intended to defend the creation of images and their respect.  He declared that he was against their worship as idols.

John taught that God alone is worthy of worship.  For the sake of God, we honor and respect his saints and servants. It is in this sense that these accounts of “worship,” or reverence were shown in the Bible:

·         Abraham bowed to show honor and respect to the Hitites. (Genesis 23:7-12)

·         God’s tabernacle was worshipped when all the people of Israel stood around the temple in Jerusalem gazing at it from all sides worshipping, as they still do.

·         Jacob bowed seven times to Esau to honor a ruler established by God. (Genesis 33:3)

·         Jacob “blessed” Pharaoh, the ruler ultimately established by God. (Genesis 47.7)

·         Joseph’s brothers bowed down to him, recognizing God’s position for him. (Genesis 50.18)

·         Joshua fell facedown to an angel (Joshua 5:14)

·         Daniel fell facedown to an angel (Daniel 8:16-17)

·         David reverenced the Lord’s holy places (Psalm 132:7)

Regardless of your opinion on St. John’s approval of the creation of images to represent or become icons for biblical persons and events, our discussion in this document is the historical instrument of Jesus’ crucifixion.  Even if St. John wanted to promote idolatry, which he didn’t, his ideas have no bearing whatsoever on what instrument was used in Jesus’ crucifixion.

(Quote–d’Aviella) Quote from Eugène Goblet d'Alviella

(1976, December 22). Awake!, p. 15

This quote is used as support of the idea that the cross was used other places in the world, and thus must have been adopted by Christians as a symbol, rather than having anything to do with the shape of the instrument of Jesus’ execution.

When we read the previous paragraph in the quoted book, we see that the author is clearly stating that there is “good reason” to believe that the equilateral cross, or plus-sign, has nothing to do with the Christian cross.

Alviella, G. (1894). The migration of symbols (p. 12). London: Chiswick Press.

Note that the Watchtower’s quote is taken from the text that immediately follows the author’s claim that there is “good reason” to protest “attributing a pagan origin to the Cross of the Christians.”  We would expect the text that follows this comment to elaborate on the author’s point.  In this case, it does.  The text quoted by the Watchtower Society to support their argument for a pagan origin of the cross is actually this author’s example of why such an argument is a bad one!


 

Alviella, G. (1894). The Migration of Symbols (pp. 12-13). London: Chiswick Press.

The author goes on to show that the symbol which might have been mistaken as either something to do with the Christian cross, or possibly a pagan symbol, was actually a “kind of compass” that was later adopted as a symbol for a pagan god.

On the next page, the author explains to us that most of the symbols that the Watchtower Society has claimed were originally pagan symbols are actually a type of compass that was adopted for usage by pagans.  Again, we are discussing the “equilateral cross” here.

Alviella, G. (1894). The Migration of Symbols (p. 14). London: Chiswick Press.

The author continues by discussing “crosses” used by the Egyptians, Greek, Germans, Asia, and others, showing that they did not have a common origin.

Thus, we see that the text cited by the Watchtower Society is actually proof against the idea that various symbols that are similar to the cross have a pagan origin.  It is also an argument that these symbols have nothing to do with the Christian cross.  The text quoted was part of an example provided by the author as a “bad conclusion” made when trying to relate a symbol to a pagan origin or the Christian cross.  The Watchtower Society has clearly misrepresented this source.

(Quote-Dictionary-of-Folklore) Quote from the Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend

(1960 February 15). The Watchtower, p. 125-126

The article on “cross” starts out with this comment for clarification:

Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend (p. 263).  New York: Funk & Wagnalls.

It then goes on to make this statement, which the Watchtower Society apparently missed:

Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend (p. 264).  New York: Funk & Wagnalls.

So, we immediately see that the author directly contradicts the Watchtower Society’s positions that these crosses were used universally in worship, or that they had anything to do with the Christian cross.

On the following page, we find the Watchtower Society’s quote:

Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend (p. 265).  New York: Funk & Wagnalls.

Note that the Watchtower Society’s quote makes it appear that the text is continuous, when it actually is not.  They seemed to skip over the part about early adventurers attributing this to St Thomas or the Spaniards. 

Why would they attribute this to St. Thomas?   These are Aztec ruins that date to many years after the time of Jesus (700 – 1600 AD).  The “large bird” mentioned here is found in Palenque, Mexico and other places.  It is a representation of the god Quetzalcoatl, which was a feathered serpent.   

The mentioned Mexican cross is shaped like an X or plus-sign, and has no established relationship with the Christian cross at all. In Palenque, the “temple of the cross” had a big plus-sign in it, which apparently was related to the previously mentioned Aztec goddess of the rains.

To illustrate how coincidences can happen, we find a structure shaped almost exactly like an Egyptian ankh in Calixtlahuaca, Mexico next to an Aztec pyramid.  This is found, even though scholars doubt any Aztec connection to the Egyptians.  Similarly, the ruins of the Mayans, forerunners of the Aztecs, contain T-shaped doors in thick stone walls. 

In conclusion, we see that the Watchtower Society’s quote refers to ruins that were originally constructed many years after the time of Jesus and even Constantine.  Additionally, the article prefaces the discussion on crosses with the comment that making any kind of connection between them and especially the Christian cross is “both obscure and misleading” and “representative of the sorts of confusion to be guarded against.”  Clearly, they have misrepresented the author’s intent.

 

 

 

 


 

(Quote-Douglas) Quote from Douglas’ New Bible Dictionary

The Watchtower Society gives a misleading summary of the “New Bible Dictionary” to lead the reader to believe that it supports their viewpoint.  The referenced text actually opens with a brief mention of the meaning of the original word as a “stake” or “beam” and then goes on to discuss the various forms of crosses, displays a picture of a cross based on archeological evidence in Jerusalem, and elaborates greatly on the exact type of cross with crossbeam used to crucify Jesus.

 

Insight on the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 1191). (1988). Brooklyn, N.Y., U.S.A.:
Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, International Bible Students Association.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Douglas, J. (1994). New Bible Dictionary (2nd ed., pp. 253-254). Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press.

 

Note how carefully worded the claim is:

 

Stauros in both the classical Greek and Koine carries no thought of a ‘cross’ made of two timbers.  It means only an upright stake, pale, pile, or pole, as might be used for a fence, stockade, or pallasade.

 

This first part has nothing to do with the quoted work.  It is merely being stated by the Watchtower Society as fact without proof.   As we have seen previously, there are plenty of examples to show that this claim is false (see page 78).  It is followed by:

Says Douglas’ ‘New Bible Dictionary of 1895 under “Cross,” page 253: “The Gk. Word for ‘cross’ (stauros; verb stauroo …) primarily means an upright stake or beam, and secondarily a stake used as an instrument for punishment and execution.”

When read as a paragraph, it sounds like Douglas supports their idea.  However, upon closer examination, we see that the only part from Douglas is in the second half of the paragraph.  When we read the actual article by Douglas, we see that he is merely showing us the etymology of the word, as he goes on to discuss the t-shaped cross of Jesus, and the cross-beam that he carried.

Even more deceptive is what is hidden by the ellipses (…) in the Watchtower Society’s Quote.  Their quote says: “cross’ (stauros; verb stauroo …) .“ Note the part that they omitted:

Douglas, J. (1994). New Bible Dictionary (2nd ed., p. 253). Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press.

On the same page, the article goes on to state the following, which includes a reference to the writings of Irenaeus (130 AD – 202 AD) :

Douglas, J. (1994). New Bible Dictionary (2nd ed., p. 253). Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press.

 

Clearly, the Watchtower Society has misrepresented the work that they quoted.

(Quote-Dual-Heritage) Quote from Dual Heritage: The Bible and the British Museum

(1989 May 1) The Watchtower, p. 24

This quote is to convince us that the word stauros means a stake, and that the cross was derived from Egypt and Constantine.   Let’s begin by looking at what the author wrote in his commentary on the relationship of artifacts in the British Museum to the contents of the Bible.  Let’s begin by reading the claims of this author.

 

Prescott, N. (1986). Dual Heritage: The Bible and the British Museum (p. 92). Luton, Beds.: Cortney Publications.

Here, we see that the author claims leather-thong fastenings were the shape that the Egyptian ankh was derived from.  He further claims that the ankh was then the shape that the Christian cross symbol was derived from.  Since this claim is not based on the actual contents of the museum exhibit, we might wonder where he got this information that he states as fact.

The first part of this claim is that the shape of sandal fasteners became the ankh, the Egyptian sign of life. This is an idea that was the speculation of some, but no certain connection was ever established.   As explained in this Egyptian reference, many disagreed with this theory:

Gardiner, A. (1957). Egyptian Grammar; Being an Introduction to the Study of Hieroglyphs. (3d ed., p. 508). London: Published on behalf of the Griffith Institute, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, by Oxford University Press.

Apparently, Mr. Prescott did not consult the British Museum on this matter, even though that was the topic of his book and he cited the British Mu