Was Christ Hung on a Cross?
TO MANY millions of people the answer to this question seems as simple as the three-letter word “Yes”. To serious students of both ancient history and the Bible the answer is even simpler, as simple as the two-letter word “No!” But two answers as far apart as these open up between them a great gulf that all truth seekers must be able to bridge in order to stand on the solid ground of truth.
It is common knowledge in this enlightened age that the Bible was not first set down in English. Consequently, to settle the question as to whether Christ was hung on a cross or not it is necessary to consult the original Hebrew and Greek languages in which the Bible was written. By God’s grace manuscript copies of the original accounts, some of which copies date back to within fifty years of the originals, are available to scholars. Besides these, the original words are defined and explained in dictionaries or lexicons written in modern English, if that is the only language you read. And, in addition, there are dependable encyclopedias, histories, etc., to which reference can be made.
The Catholic Digest magazine, May, 1948, page 108, had the following to say on the subject of the cross: “Long before the birth of Christ the cross was a religious symbol. On the site of ancient Troy discs of baked clay stamped with a cross, were recently discovered. Two similar objects were found at Herculaneum. The Aztecs of ancient Mexico carved the cross on amulets, pottery, and temple walls. Many traces of use of the cross by North American Indians have been discovered. Buddhists of Tibet see in the cross a mark of the footprint of Buddha. The Mongolians draw a cross on paper and place it on the breasts of their dead. Egyptian inscriptions often have the Tau (T) cross. They considered the scarab (beetle) sacred because markings down the back and across the thorax form a T. A cross of this form was used as a support for the arms of Hindu ascetics in India who were wont to sit for days and nights in a Buddhalike attitude. The crux ansata (handled cross) has a loop serving as a handle. For the Egyptians this cross was a symbol of life and in their sign language meant ‘to live.’” See also The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, page 517; the footnote on pages 312, 313, of Gibbon’s History of Christianity, Eckler’s edition, 1891.
But how was the cross a “symbol of life” to the pagans? Well, a father, the male, is life-giver to his children by and through the mother. Hence, those sex-worshiping pagans, under the inspiration of the Devil and his demons, constructed a phallic image of the erected male genitive organ, with a crossbar toward one end to represent the testes. Carrying the symbolism a step further in the crux ansata, the loop on the top, which pious religionists choose to describe as a “handle”, represented the female genitive organ joined to the masculine symbol. That these diabolical facts are true, see the following references: Funeral Tent of an Egyptian Queen, by Villiers Stuart; Masculine Cross and Ancient Sex Worship, by Sha Rocco; Two Babylons, by Alexander Hislop; Essays on the Worship of Priapus, by Richard Payne Knight.
Reference to the original languages in which the Bible was written will show beyond a question of doubt that Christ was never hung on any pagan cross. Hence, the use of the word “cross” in the English-language Bibles is a mistranslation. On this, the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures,a in its appendix, on pages 768-771, in commenting on Matthew 10:38, where the Greek word σταυρός (stau·rosʹ) first appears and which is translated “cross” in most Bibles, states:
“This is the expression used in connection with the execution of Jesus at Calvary. There is no evidence that the Greek word stau·rosʹ meant here a ‘cross’ such as the pagans used as a religious symbol for many centuries before Christ to denote the sun-god. On the ancient sculptures of Egypt may be seen representations of their gods bearing the so-called crux an·saʹta, a T-cross with a loop at the top, it being a phallic symbol of life. In Babylonian inscriptions Tammuz was signified by a heart from which sprang a single or a double cross.
“India, Syria, Persia, as well as Babylon and ancient Egypt, have all yielded objects marked with crosses of various designs, including the swastika among the early Aryans. This betrays the worshiping of the cross to be pagan.
“In the classical Greek the word stau·rosʹ meant merely an upright stake or pale, or a pile such as is used for a foundation. The verb stau·roʹo meant to fence with pales, to form a stockade or palisade, and this is the verb used when the mob called for Jesus to be impaled. To such a stake or pale the person to be punished was fastened, just as when the popular Greek hero Pro·meʹthe·us was represented as tied to a stake or stau·rosʹ. The Greek word which the dramatist Aesʹchy·lus used to describe this means to fasten or fix on a pole or stake, to impale, and the Greek author Lucian used a·na·stau·roʹo as a synonym for that word. In the Christian Greek Scriptures a·na·stau·roʹo occurs but once, at Hebrews 6:6. The root verb stau·roʹo occurs more than 40 times, and we have rendered it ‘impale’, with the footnote: ‘Or, “fasten on a stake or pole.’”
“The inspired writers of the Christian Greek Scriptures wrote in the common (koi·neʹ) Greek and used the word stau·rosʹ to mean the same thing as in the classical Greek, namely, a stake or pale, a simple one without a crossbeam of any kind or at any angle. There is no proof to the contrary. The apostles Peter and Paul also use the word xyʹlon to refer to the torture instrument upon which Jesus was nailed, and this argues that is was an upright stake without a crossbeam, for that is what xyʹlon in this special sense means. (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24) At Ezra 6:11 we find xyʹlon in the Greek Septuagint (1 Esdras 6:31), and there it is spoken of as a beam on which the violator of law was to be hanged, the same as at Luke 23:39; Acts 5:30; 10:39.
“The fact that stau·rosʹ is translated crux in the Latin versions furnishes no argument against this. Any authoritative Latin dictionary will inform the examiner that the basic meaning of crux is a ‘tree, frame, or other wooden instrument of execution’ on which criminals were impaled or hanged. (Lewis-Short) A cross is only a later meaning of crux. Even in the writings of Livy, a Roman historian of the first century B.C., crux means a mere stake. Such a single stake for impalement of a criminal was called crux simplex, and the method of nailing him to such an instrument of torture is illustrated by the Roman Catholic scholar, Justus Lipsius, of the 16th century. We present herewith a photographic copy of his illustration on page 647, column 2, of his book De Cruce Liber Primus. This is the manner in which Jesus was impaled.
“Religious tradition from the days of Emperor Constantine proves nothing. Says that monthly publication for the Roman Catholic clergy, The Ecclesiastical Review, of September, 1920, No. 3, of Baltimore, Maryland, page 275: ‘It may be safely asserted that only after the edict of Milan, A.D. 312, was the cross used as the permanent sign of our Redemption. De Rossi positively states that no monogram of Christ, discovered in the catacombs or other places, can be traced to a period anterior to the year 312. Even after that epoch-making year, the church, then free and triumphant, contented herself with having a simple monogram of Christ: the Greek letter chi vertically crossed by a rho, and horizontally sometimes, by an iota. [Artwork—Greek characters] The oldest crucifix mentioned as an object of public worship is the one venerated in the Church of Narbonne in southern France, as early as the 6th century.’
“After showing the pagan origin of the cross, The Encyclopædia Britannica, Vol. 7, of edition 11, page 506, says: ‘It was not till the time of Constantine that the cross was publicly used as the symbol of the Christian religion.’ That was but logical, for Emperor Constantine was a worshiper of the pagan sun-god, whose symbol was a cross. Other experts have pointed out that ‘before the fourth century the cross was not used as a Christian emblem in the East any more than in the West’.
“Rather than consider the torture stake upon which Jesus was impaled a relic to be worshiped, the Jewish Christians like Simon Peter would consider it to be an abominable thing. At Galatians 3:13 the apostle Paul quotes Deuteronomy 21:23 and says: ‘It is written: “Accursed is every man hanged upon a stake.’” Hence the Jewish Christians would hold as accursed and hateful the stake upon which Jesus had been executed. Says the celebrated Jewish authority, Moses Mai·monʹi·des, of the 12th century: ‘They never hang upon a tree which clings to the soil by roots; but upon a timber uprooted, that it might not be an annoying plague: for a timber upon which anyone has been hanged is buried; that the evil name may not remain with it and people should say, “This is the timber on which so-and-so was hanged.” So the stone with which anyone has been stoned; and the sword, with which the one killed has been killed; and the cloth or mantle with which anyone has been strangled; all these things are buried along with those who perished.’ (Apud Casaub. in Baron. Exercitat. 16, An. 34, Num. 134) Says Kalinski in Vaticinia Observationibus Illustrata, page 342: ‘Consequently since a man hanged was considered the greatest abomination—the Jews also hated more than other things the timber on which he had been hanged, so that they covered it also with earth, as being equally an abominable thing.’
“The evidence is, therefore, completely lacking that Jesus Christ was crucified on two pieces of timber placed at a right angle. We refuse to add anything to God’s written Word by inserting the pagan cross into the inspired Scriptures, but render stau·rosʹ and xyʹlon according to the simplest meanings. Since Jesus used stau·rosʹ to represent the suffering and shame or torture of his followers (Matthew 16:24), we have translated stau·rosʹ as ‘torture stake’, to distinguish it from xyʹlon, which we have translated ‘stake’, or, in the footnote, ‘tree,’ as at Acts 5:30.”
The gulf of speculation having thus been bridged, Christians today stand on the solid ground of provable facts when they emphatically declare that Christ was never hung on a pagan cross of phallic origin.
a Published 1950 and distributed by Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Brooklyn, N. Y.