THE cross is loved and respected by millions of people. The Encyclopædia Britannica calls the cross “the principal symbol of the Christian religion.” Nevertheless, true Christians do not use the cross in worship. Why not?
An important reason is that Jesus Christ did not die on a cross. The Greek word generally translated “cross” is stau·rosʹ. It basically means “an upright pale or stake.” The Companion Bible points out: “[Stau·rosʹ] never means two pieces of timber placed across one another at any angle . . . There is nothing in the Greek of the [New Testament] even to imply two pieces of timber.”
In several texts, Bible writers use another word for the instrument of Jesus’ death. It is the Greek word xyʹlon. (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24) This word simply means “timber” or “a stick, club, or tree.”
Explaining why a simple stake was often used for executions, the book Das Kreuz und die Kreuzigung (The Cross and the Crucifixion), by Hermann Fulda, states: “Trees were not everywhere available at the places chosen for public execution. So a simple beam was sunk into the ground. On this the outlaws, with hands raised upward and often also with their feet, were bound or nailed.”
The most convincing proof of all, however, comes from God’s Word. The apostle Paul says: “Christ purchased us, releasing us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse instead of us, because it is written: ‘Accursed is every man hung upon a stake [“a tree,” King James Version].’” (Galatians 3:13) Here Paul quotes Deuteronomy 21:22, 23, which clearly refers to a stake, not a cross. Since such a means of execution made the person “a curse,” it would not be proper for Christians to decorate their homes with images of Christ on a cross.
There is no evidence that for the first 300 years after Christ’s death, those claiming to be Christians used the cross in worship. In the fourth century, however, pagan Emperor Constantine became a convert to apostate Christianity and promoted the cross as its symbol. Whatever Constantine’s motives, the cross had nothing to do with Jesus Christ. The cross is, in fact, pagan in origin. The New Catholic Encyclopedia admits: “The cross is found in both pre-Christian and non-Christian cultures.” Various other authorities have linked the cross with nature worship and pagan sex rites.
Why, then, was this pagan symbol promoted? Apparently, to make it easier for pagans to accept “Christianity.” Nevertheless, devotion to any pagan symbol is clearly condemned by the Bible. (2 Corinthians 6:14-18) The Scriptures also forbid all forms of idolatry. (Exodus 20:4, 5; 1 Corinthians 10:14) With very good reason, therefore, true Christians do not use the cross in worship.*
For a more detailed discussion of the cross, see pages 89-93 of the book Reasoning From the Scriptures, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.