The Cross in Worship
THERE is no other symbol among the many churches of Christendom that is considered to be more Christian than that of the cross. It has been the popular symbol for Christianity for many centuries. Untold multitudes have prayed before it in their churches and reverenced it in their homes. It appears inside and outside of church buildings, on clerical vestments, on covers of Bibles, on coffins and gravestones, on necklaces and earrings, on Christmas cards and Christmas decorations and on a great number of other things. It is without doubt the predominating religious symbol in countries that claim to be Christian.
Generally, the people of Christendom assume that the cross is uniquely Christian, that it had its beginning as a religious symbol with Christ, whom they believe was executed upon one. But what they assume is not according to fact. If they would go to a good museum that has Egyptian antiquities they would most likely see on some of the exhibits religious crosses that were put on these artifacts by people that lived many hundreds of years before Christ.
The ancient Egyptian cross was in the form of a “T” and frequently had a circle added to the top as a handle. In modern dictionaries it is called an ankh or a crux ansata. It was often associated with the Egyptian god Osiris, whose scepter ended in one. The Egyptian god Kneph was represented with a cross inside a circle.
The ancient Egyptians were not the only ones that used the cross as a sacred religious symbol. It has been popular in pagan religions all over the world. Regarding this The Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th Edition, Volume 7, says: “Various objects, dating from periods long anterior to the Christian era, have been found, marked with crosses of different designs, in almost every part of the old world. India, Syria, Persia and Egypt have all yielded numberless examples, while numerous instances, dating from the later Stone Age to Christian times, have been found in nearly every part of Europe. The use of the cross as a religious symbol in pre-Christian times, and among non-Christian peoples, may probably be regarded as almost universal, and in very many cases it was connected with some form of nature worship.”
It was used as a religious symbol in the form of a swastika in India and China some ten centuries before the Christian era. In the South Pacific the cross appears on the ancient statues of Easter Island and on the sacred stones of eastern New Guinea. In New Zealand greenstone crosses were worn by the pagan Maoris. Crosses were also used by the early inhabitants of New Mexico, for they have been found in the shell mounds there. They are also present among the pictographs of the Dakotas.
Regarding the use of the cross among the early people of Mexico The Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend says: “Early explorers of Mexico were astonished to find that there the cross had an unquestionable religious significance. The Mexican cross carried by the Aztec goddess of the rains is now thought to have been associated with the sun or wind.”
This linking of the cross with sun worship is not surprising, as that was what the Chaldeans of Mesopotamia did, and it was from there that mankind was dispersed to all parts of the earth after the great Flood. Their god Tammuz was associated with the sun, and, according to Alexander Hislop, “the mystic Tau of the Chaldeans and Egyptians” was “the initial of the name of Tammuz.” Although Tammuz was given different names by other peoples his symbol, the tau cross, continued in general use. Since Constantine was a pagan Roman, among whom the cross was a religious symbol, it is significant that he had a vision of this symbol in the sky beneath the sun.
The cross was often associated in ancient times with phallicism, or sex worship. This was inevitable since it was considered to be a symbol of life. The crux ansata, a cross with a circle on top, represented the active power of generation and the passive power of production. This may be the reason that a female figure excavated from the ruins of Troy had a cross on its pubic region. Inverted tau crosses have been used as phallic symbols in Greece, Rome and Japan.
In pagan Rome the cross was marked on the official garments of the priests and was worn suspended from a necklace by its vestal virgins. In Assyria it was worn as a pendant by Assyrian kings. Archaeologist A. H. Layard said it was found on Assyrian sculptures in Khorsabad, on Assyrian cylinders and on ivories from Nimrud. All were in use long before the coming of Christ.
The caduceus, a winged staff entwined with serpents, was actually a cross whose crossbar had been replaced with wings. It was carried by the god Mercury as well as several other gods. This associating of a serpent with the cross was also done by the Egyptians.
The famous Druids of Britain looked upon the cross as a sacred religious symbol. Regarding their use of it the book Indian Antiquities says: “The Druids in their groves were accustomed to select the most stately and beautiful tree as an emblem of the Deity they adored, and having cut the side branches, they affixed two of the largest of them to the highest part of the trunk, in such a manner that those branches extended on each side like the arms of a man, and, together with the body, presented the appearance of a huge cross, and on the bark, in several places, was also inscribed the letter Thau.”
Druidic reverence for the cross is also shown by the fact that they laid out some of their temples in the form of a cross. The Druid temple at Classerniss on the Island of Lewis in Scotland was built in this form as well as the Druidical grotto at New Grange in Ireland. In India there are some ancient Hindu temples built in the same form. An outstanding example is the very old cave temple of Elephanta near Bombay. It was excavated from solid rock and shaped like a cross.
All this evidence proves that the cross is not peculiar to Christianity but belongs in actual fact to paganism. Of course, some will argue that the symbol can properly be used by Christians because Christ died on a cross, but this is not so. Christ did not die on a cross.
STAKE WAS DEATH INSTRUMENT
Jesus Christ was killed on an upright stake that had no crosspiece. The misunderstanding has been due largely to some Bible translators who translated the Greek words staurós and xylon as cross. They may have been influenced to do this by Christendom’s traditional belief that Christ died on a cross. The word staurós means an upright stake or pale, whereas xylon merely means wood. Even the basic meaning of crux, the Latin equivalent for staurós, is merely a wooden instrument of execution on which a criminal is impaled or hanged. Because the original meanings of these words were later expanded to include the cross, that does not argue that the Bible writers meant cross when they spoke about Jesus’ death instrument. The Encyclopædia Britannica, 11th Edition, says: “Lipsius and other writers speak of the single upright stake to which criminals were bound as a cross, and to such a stake the name of crux simplex has been applied.” It was this simple stake that Jesus was hanged on with his hands nailed above his head.
The early Christians did not consider the torture stake of Christ as a sacred symbol of Christianity. They would not violate Scriptural commands by revering it. As far as they were concerned it was a hated thing that should, according to Jewish custom, be buried and put out of sight. Not until the professed Christian organization began to corrupt itself by adopting pagan beliefs, symbols and customs was the cross associated with Christianity. Not until then did professed Christians follow the pagan practice of venerating symbols.
Apostate Christians adopted the popular pagan symbol of life and gave it the appearance of being Christian by claiming that Christ died on a cross. “In the Egyptian churches,” says The Encyclopœdia Britannica, “the cross was a pagan symbol of life borrowed by the Christians and interpreted in the pagan manner.” The unchristian cross has no place in Christian worship. To consider it as sacred is to violate the Scriptural command: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership do righteousness and lawlessness have? . . . quit touching the unclean thing.”—2 Cor. 6:14, 17.