An instrument such as that on which Jesus Christ met death by impalement. (Mt 27:32-40; Mr 15:21-30; Lu 23:26; Joh 19:17-19, 25) In classical Greek the word (stau·ros′) rendered “torture stake” in the New World Translation primarily denotes an upright stake, or pole, and there is no evidence that the writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures used it to designate a stake with a crossbeam.—See IMPALEMENT; Int, pp. 1149-1151.
The book The Non-Christian Cross, by John Denham Parsons, states: “There is not a single sentence in any of the numerous writings forming the New Testament, which, in the original Greek, bears even indirect evidence to the effect that the stauros used in the case of Jesus was other than an ordinary stauros; much less to the effect that it consisted, not of one piece of timber, but of two pieces nailed together in the form of a cross. . . . it is not a little misleading upon the part of our teachers to translate the word stauros as ‘cross’ when rendering the Greek documents of the Church into our native tongue, and to support that action by putting ‘cross’ in our lexicons as the meaning of stauros without carefully explaining that that was at any rate not the primary meaning of the word in the days of the Apostles, did not become its primary signification till long afterwards, and became so then, if at all, only because, despite the absence of corroborative evidence, it was for some reason or other assumed that the particular stauros upon which Jesus was executed had that particular shape.”—London, 1896, pp. 23, 24.
Why Jesus Had to Die on a Stake. At the time Jehovah God gave his law to the Israelites, they obligated themselves to abide by its terms. (Ex 24:3) However, as descendants of sinner Adam, they were unable to do so perfectly. For this reason they came under the curse of the Law. To remove this special curse from them, Jesus had to be hanged on a stake like an accursed criminal. Concerning this the apostle Paul wrote: “All those who depend upon works of law are under a curse; for it is written: ‘Cursed is every one that does not continue in all the things written in the scroll of the Law in order to do them.’ . . . Christ by purchase released us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse instead of us, because it is written: ‘Accursed is every man hanged upon a stake.’”—Ga 3:10-13.
Figurative Use. “Torture stake” sometimes stands for the sufferings, shame, or torture experienced because of being a follower of Jesus Christ. As Jesus said: “Whoever does not accept his torture stake and follow after me is not worthy of me.” (Mt 10:38; 16:24; Mr 8:34; Lu 9:23; 14:27) The expression “torture stake” is also used in such a way as to represent Jesus’ death upon the stake, which made possible redemption from sin and reconciliation with God.—1Co 1:17, 18.
Jesus’ death on the torture stake was the basis for removing the Law, which had separated the Jews from the non-Jews. Therefore, by accepting the reconciliation made possible by Jesus’ death, both Jews and non-Jews could become “one body to God through the torture stake.” (Eph 2:11-16; Col 1:20; 2:13, 14) This proved to be a stumbling block for many Jews, since they insisted that circumcision and adherence to the Mosaic Law were essential for gaining God’s approval. That is why the apostle Paul wrote: “Brothers, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? Then, indeed, the stumbling block of the torture stake has been abolished.” (Ga 5:11) “All those who want to make a pleasing appearance in the flesh are the ones that try to compel you to get circumcised, only that they may not be persecuted for the torture stake of the Christ, Jesus. Never may it occur that I should boast, except in the torture stake of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom the world has been impaled to me and I to the world.” (Ga 6:12, 14) For confessing Jesus’ death on the torture stake as the sole basis for gaining salvation, Paul was persecuted by the Jews. As a consequence of this confession, to the apostle the world was as something impaled, condemned, or dead, whereas the world viewed him with hatred, as a criminal impaled on a stake.
Persons who embraced Christianity but who afterward turned to an immoral way of life proved themselves to be “enemies of the torture stake of the Christ.” (Php 3:18, 19) Their actions demonstrated that they had no appreciation for the benefits resulting from Jesus’ death on the torture stake. They “trampled upon the Son of God” and ‘esteemed as of ordinary value the blood of the covenant by which they were sanctified.’—Heb 10:29.