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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Did Jesus die on a Cross or Stake (Stauros)

Definition: The device on which Jesus Christ was executed is referred to by most of Christendom as a cross. The expression is drawn from the Latin crux.

Why do Watch Tower publications show Jesus on a stake with hands over his head instead of on the traditional cross?

The Greek word rendered “cross” in many modern Bible versions (“torture stake” in NW) is stau‧ros′. In classical Greek, this word meant merely an upright stake, or pale. Later it also came to be used for an execution stake having a crosspiece. The Imperial Bible-Dictionary acknowledges this, saying: “The Greek word for cross, [stau‧ros′], properly signified a stake, an upright pole, or piece of paling, on which anything might be hung, or which might be used in impaling [fencing in] a piece of ground. . . . Even amongst the Romans the crux (from which our cross is derived) appears to have been originally an upright pole.”—Edited by P. Fairbairn (London, 1874), Vol. I, p. 376.

Was that the case in connection with the execution of God’s Son? It is noteworthy that the Bible also uses the word xy′lon to identify the device used. A Greek-English Lexicon, by Liddell and Scott, defines this as meaning: “Wood cut and ready for use, firewood, timber, etc. . . . piece of wood, log, beam, post . . . cudgel, club . . . stake on which criminals were impaled . . . of live wood, tree.” It also says “in NT, of the cross,” and cites Acts 5:30 and 10:39 as examples. (Oxford, 1968, pp. 1191, 1192) However, in those verses KJ, RS, JB, and Dy translate xy′lon as “tree.” (Compare this rendering with Galatians 3:13; Deuteronomy 21:22, 23.)

The book The Non-Christian Cross, by J. D. Parsons (London, 1896), says: “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.”—Pp. 23, 24; see also The Companion Bible (London, 1885), Appendix No. 162.

Thus the weight of the evidence indicates that Jesus died on an upright stake and not on the traditional cross.

What were the historical origins of Christendom’s cross?

“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 . . . 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.”—Encyclopædia Britannica (1946), Vol. 6, p. 753.

“The shape of the [two-beamed cross] had its origin in ancient Chaldea, and was used as the symbol of the god Tammuz (being in the shape of the mystic Tau, the initial of his name) in that country and in adjacent lands, including Egypt. By the middle of the 3rd cent. A.D. the churches had either departed from, or had travestied, certain doctrines of the Christian faith. In order to increase the prestige of the apostate ecclesiastical system pagans were received into the churches apart from regeneration by faith, and were permitted largely to retain their pagan signs and symbols. Hence the Tau or T, in its most frequent form, with the cross-piece lowered, was adopted to stand for the cross of Christ.”—An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (London, 1962), W. E. Vine, p. 256. Additional Reading:

“It is strange, yet unquestionably a fact, that in ages long before the birth of Christ, and since then in lands untouched by the teaching of the Church, the Cross has been used as a sacred symbol. . . . The Greek Bacchus, the Tyrian Tammuz, the Chaldean Bel, and the Norse Odin, were all symbolised to their votaries by a cruciform device.”—The Cross in Ritual, Architecture, and Art (London, 1900), G. S. Tyack, p. 1.

“The cross in the form of the ‘Crux Ansata’ . . . was carried in the hands of the Egyptian priests and Pontiff kings as the symbol of their authority as priests of the Sun god and was called ‘the Sign of Life.’”—The Worship of the Dead (London, 1904), Colonel J. Garnier, p. 226.

“Various figures of crosses are found everywhere on Egyptian monuments and tombs, and are considered by many authorities as symbolical either of the phallus [a representation of the male sex organ] or of coition. . . . In Egyptian tombs the crux ansata [cross with a circle or handle on top] is found side by side with the phallus.”—A Short History of Sex-Worship (London, 1940), H. Cutner, pp. 16, 17; see also The Non-Christian Cross, p. 183.

“These crosses were used as symbols of the Babylonian sun-god, [See book], and are first seen on a coin of Julius Cæsar, 100-44 B.C., and then on a coin struck by Cæsar’s heir (Augustus), 20 B.C. On the coins of Constantine the most frequent symbol is [See book]; but the same symbol is used without the surrounding circle, and with the four equal arms vertical and horizontal; and this was the symbol specially venerated as the ‘Solar Wheel’. It should be stated that Constantine was a sun-god worshipper, and would not enter the ‘Church’ till some quarter of a century after the legend of his having seen such a cross in the heavens.”—The Companion Bible, Appendix No. 162; see also The Non-Christian Cross, pp. 133-141. Additional Reading:

Is veneration of the cross a Scriptural practice?

1 Cor. 10:14: “My beloved ones, flee from idolatry.” (An idol is an image or symbol that is an object of intense devotion, veneration, or worship.)

Ex. 20:4, 5, JB: “You shall not make yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything in heaven or on earth beneath or in the waters under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.” (Notice that God commanded that his people not even make an image before which people would bow down.)

Of interest is this comment in the New Catholic Encyclopedia: “The representation of Christ’s redemptive death on Golgotha does not occur in the symbolic art of the first Christian centuries. The early Christians, influenced by the Old Testament prohibition of graven images, were reluctant to depict even the instrument of the Lord’s Passion.”—(1967), Vol. IV, p. 486.

Concerning first-century Christians, History of the Christian Church says: “There was no use of the crucifix and no material representation of the cross.”—(New York, 1897), J. F. Hurst, Vol. I, p. 366.

Does it really make any difference if a person cherishes a cross, as long as he does not worship it?

How would you feel if one of your dearest friends was executed on the basis of false charges? Would you make a replica of the instrument of execution? Would you cherish it, or would you rather shun it?

In ancient Israel, unfaithful Jews wept over the death of the false god Tammuz. Jehovah spoke of what they were doing as being a ‘detestable thing.’ (Ezek. 8:13, 14) According to history, Tammuz was a Babylonian god, and the cross was used as his symbol. From its beginning in the days of Nimrod, Babylon was against Jehovah and an enemy of true worship. (Gen. 10:8-10; Jer. 50:29) So by cherishing the cross, a person is honoring a symbol of worship that is opposed to the true God.

As stated at Ezekiel 8:17, apostate Jews also ‘thrust out the shoot to Jehovah’s nose.’ He viewed this as “detestable” and ‘offensive.’ Why? This “shoot,” some commentators explain, was a representation of the male sex organ, used in phallic worship. How, then, must Jehovah view the use of the cross, which, as we have seen, was anciently used as a symbol in phallic worship?

- Reasoning from the Scriptures, pages 89 - 93, WTB&TS

Another change in viewpoint involved the “cross and crown” symbol, which appeared on the Watch Tower cover beginning with the issue of January 1891. In fact, for years many Bible Students wore a pin of this kind. By way of description, C. W. Barber writes: “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 at that time 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.”

Concerning the wearing of “cross and crown pins,” Lily R. Parnell comments: “This to Brother Rutherford’s mind was Babylonish and should be discontinued. He told us that when we went to the people’s homes and began to talk, that was the witness in itself.” Accordingly, reflecting on the 1928 Bible Students convention in Detroit, Michigan, Brother Suiter writes: “At the assembly the cross and crown emblems were shown to be not only unnecessary but objectionable. So we discarded these items of jewelry.” Some three years thereafter, beginning with its issue of October 15, 1931, The Watchtower no longer bore the cross and crown symbol on its cover.

- 1975 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, WTB&TS

Is it correct to conclude from John 20:25 that Jesus was impaled with a separate nail through each hand?

The Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, by M’Clintock and Strong, comments: ‘Much time and trouble have been wasted in disputing as to whether three or four nails were used in fastening the Lord. Nonnus affirms that three only were used, in which he is followed by Gregory Nazianzen. The more general belief gives four nails, an opinion which is supported at much length and by curious arguments by Curtius. Others have carried the number of nails as high as fourteen.’—Volume II, page 580.

Matthew 27:35 merely says: “When they had impaled him they distributed his outer garments by casting lots.” Little detail is given, as in Mark, Luke and John. After Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas said: “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails and stick my finger into the print of the nails and stick my hand into his side, I will certainly not believe.” (John 20:25) So even though criminals sometimes were bound to a stake with ropes, Jesus was nailed. Some have also concluded from John 20:25 that two nails were used, one through each hand. But does Thomas’ use of the plural (nails) have to be understood as a precise description indicating that each of Jesus’ hands was pierced by a separate nail?

In Luke 24:39 the resurrected Jesus said: “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.” This suggests that Christ’s feet also were nailed. Since Thomas made no mention of nailprints in Jesus’ feet, his use of the plural “nails” could have been a general reference to multiple nails used in impaling Jesus.

Thus, it just is not possible at this point to state with certainty how many nails were used. Any drawings of Jesus on the stake should be understood as artists’ productions that offer merely a representation based on the limited facts that we have. Debate over such an insignificant detail should not be permitted to becloud the all-important truth that “we became reconciled to God through the death of his Son.”—Romans 5:10.

- April 1, 1984 Watchtower, WTB&TS

Did Jesus die on a cross?

Good Morning America reported this week on a thesis by Swedish theologian Gunnar Samuelsson in which he claims there is no historical support for the notion that Jesus died on a cross. If this is true, what effect should it have on Christians?

"There is no distinct punishment called 'crucifixion,' no distinct punishment device called a 'crucifix' anywhere mentioned in any of the ancient texts including the Gospels," he told

For his thesis, Crucifixion in Antiquity: An Inquiry into the Background of the New Testament Terminology of Crucifixion, Samuelson analyzed thousands of ancient texts to compare their wording with the wording of the gospel accounts and what he found is that there is simply no proof that Jesus was nailed to a cross.

There are two Greek words in question: stauros (stow-rose or stav-rose) and xylon (ksee-lon). Peter seems to favor xylon. For example, in his speech recorded at Acts 5:30 Peter says, "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you slew and hanged on a [xylon]." Some bibles translate that as "cross" and some as "tree." Which is correct?

Genesis 40:19 talks about the execution of an Egyptian, his body being 'hung on a tree.' When the passage was translated into the Greek Septuagint version, the translators used a form of the word xylon. Jerome's Latin Vulgate says the baker was to be hanged on a cruce, a form of the word crux. In English, some bibles say the baker was hanged on a cross, but the primary definition of crux is tree, not cross. Further, there is no historical evidence that the Egyptians crucified people, There is, however, historical evidence that they displayed the dead bodies of people with whom they were displeased by hanging them on trees or impaling them on poles.

Joshua 10:24 relates an account of Joshua winning a victory over 5 kings, and says he put their dead bodies on display. Again, the translators of the Greek Septuagint used the word xylon. Jerome translated it stipites - posts or poles - in his latin Vulgate. Are we to believe Joshua hung the bodies of the 5 kings on crosses, 1500 years before Jesus was executed? Or is it more likely he followed an Egyptian practice with which he was familiar?

Esther 5:14 refers to Haman preparing a stake 75 feet high on which to hang Mordecai. The Greek translates it xylon, the Latin trabem (beam). What purpose would have been served by a crossbeam 75 feet in the air?

What about stauros?

The gospel accounts, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, use stauros about 10 times with reference to Jesus' executional implement. The remainder of the Bible uses it another dozen times. Several reputable Greek dictionaries advise that the definition of stauros is 'a stake or pole.' For example, Vine's Expository Dictionary of Greek Words says of stauros: "Primarily, an upright pale or stake. On such malefactors were nailed for execution." Paul Schmidt's The History of Jesus says stauros "means every upright standing pale or tree trunk.” The Greek-English Lexicon of Liddell and Scott gives the first definition of stauros as "an upright stake or pole."

In spite of this, you would be hard pressed to find an English bible that doesn't translate stauros as "cross" when referring to Jesus' execution. (I looked at over a dozen online, and the only one that didn't translate stauros as "cross" was the Jehovah's Witnesses New World Translation.)

One of the most telling points in Samuelsson's research is this: he points out that in the ancient literature, the word stauros is used with reference to hanging fruit or animal carcasses up to dry. It's rather silly to think of fruit being crucified.

The fact of Jesus' execution is far more important than the implement on which he died. The fact that translators allowed their preconceptions to sway them to translate stauros as cross instead of stake or pole has to make one wonder about the accuracy of the rest of their translations.

And a serious Christian should also wonder where the "cross" idea came from. If, as Alexander Hislop suggested, it originated as the symbol for the god Tammuz, it is certainly inappropriate for Christians. Even if it didn't, isn't wearing a little gold copy of someone's murder weapon on a chain around your neck a little gruesome? -Phoenix Signs of the Times Examiner

Good Morning America: Also See:


The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop, Chapter V, Section VI, The Sign of the Cross

There is yet one more symbol of the Romish worship to be noticed, and that is the sign of the cross. In the Papal system as is well known, the sign of the cross and the image of the cross are all in all. No prayer can be said, no worship engaged in, no step almost can be taken, without the frequent use of the sign of the cross. The cross is looked upon as the grand charm, as the great refuge in every season of danger, in every hour of temptation as the infallible preservative from all the powers of darkness. The cross is adored with all the homage due only to the Most High; and for any one to call it, in the hearing of a genuine Romanist, by the Scriptural term, "the accursed tree," is a mortal offence. To say that such superstitious feeling for the sign of the cross, such worship as Rome pays to a wooden or a metal cross, ever grew out of the saying of Paul, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ"--that is, in the doctrine of Christ crucified--is a mere absurdity, a shallow subterfuge and pretence. The magic virtues attributed to the so-called sign of the cross, the worship bestowed on it, never came from such a source. The same sign of the cross that Rome now worships was used in the Babylonian Mysteries, was applied by Paganism to the same magic purposes, was honoured with the same honours. That which is now called the Christian cross was originally no Christian emblem at all, but was the mystic Tau of the Chaldeans and Egyptians--the true original form of the letter T--the initial of the name of Tammuz--which, in Hebrew, radically the same as ancient Chaldee, was found on coins. That mystic Tau was marked in baptism on the foreheads of those initiated in the Mysteries, * and was used in every variety of way as a most sacred symbol.

* TERTULLIAN, De Proescript. Hoeret. The language of Tertullian implies that those who were initiated by baptism in the Mysteries were marked on the forehead in the same way, as his Christian countrymen in Africa, who had begun by this time to be marked in baptism with the sign of the cross.

To identify Tammuz with the sun it was joined sometimes to the circle of the sun; sometimes it was inserted in the circle. Whether the Maltese cross, which the Romish bishops append to their names as a symbol of their episcopal dignity, is the letter T, may be doubtful; but there seems no reason to doubt that that Maltese cross is an express symbol of the sun; for Layard found it as a sacred symbol in Nineveh in such a connection as led him to identify it with the sun. The mystic Tau, as the symbol of the great divinity, was called "the sign of life"; it was used as an amulet over the heart; it was marked on the official garments of the priests, as on the official garments of the priests of Rome; it was borne by kings in their hand, as a token of their dignity or divinely-conferred authority. The Vestal virgins of Pagan Rome wore it suspended from their necklaces, as the nuns do now. The Egyptians did the same, and many of the barbarous nations with whom they had intercourse, as the Egyptian monuments bear witness. In reference to the adorning of some of these tribes, Wilkinson thus writes: "The girdle was sometimes highly ornamented; men as well as women wore earrings; and they frequently had a small cross suspended to a necklace, or to the collar of their dress. The adoption of this last was not peculiar to them; it was also appended to, or figured upon, the robes of the Rot-n-no; and traces of it may be seen in the fancy ornaments of the Rebo, showing that it was already in use as early as the fifteenth century before the Christian era." There is hardly a Pagan tribe where the cross has not been found. The cross was worshipped by the Pagan Celts long before the incarnation and death of Christ. "It is a fact," says Maurice, "not less remarkable than well-attested, that 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." It was worshipped in Mexico for ages before the Roman Catholic missionaries set foot there, large stone crosses being erected, probably to the "god of rain." The cross thus widely worshipped, or regarded as a sacred emblem, was the unequivocal symbol of Bacchus, the Babylonian Messiah, for he was represented with a head-band covered with crosses. This symbol of the Babylonian god is reverenced at this day in all the wide wastes of Tartary, where Buddhism prevails, and the way in which it is represented among them forms a striking commentary on the language applied by Rome to the Cross. "The cross," says Colonel Wilford, in the Asiatic Researches, "though not an object of worship among the Baud'has or Buddhists, is a favourite emblem and device among them. It is exactly the cross of the Manicheans, with leaves and flowers springing from it. This cross, putting forth leaves and flowers (and fruit also, as I am told), is called the divine tree, the tree of the gods, the tree of life and knowledge, and productive of whatever is good and desirable, and is placed in the terrestrial paradise." Compare this with the language of Rome applied to the cross, and it will be seen how exact is the coincidence. In the Office of the Cross, it is called the "Tree of life," and the worshippers are taught thus to address it: "Hail, O Cross, triumphal wood, true salvation of the world, among trees there is none like thee in leaf, flower, and bud...O Cross, our only hope, increase righteousness to the godly and pardon the offences of the guilty." *

* The above was actually versified by the Romanisers in the Church of England, and published along with much besides from the same source, some years ago, in a volume entitled Devotions on the Passion. The London Record, of April, 1842, gave the following as a specimen of the "Devotions" provided by these "wolves in sheep's clothing" for members of the Church of England:--

"O faithful cross, thou peerless tree,
No forest yields the like of thee,
Leaf, flower, and bud;
Sweet is the wood, and sweet the weight,
And sweet the nails that penetrate
Thee, thou sweet wood."

Can any one, reading the gospel narrative of the crucifixion, possibly believe that that narrative of itself could ever germinate into such extravagance of "leaf, flower, and bud," as thus appears in this Roman Office? But when it is considered that the Buddhist, like the Babylonian cross, was the recognised emblem of Tammuz, who was known as the mistletoe branch, or "All-heal," then it is easy to see how the sacred Initial should be represented as covered with leaves, and how Rome, in adopting it, should call it the "Medicine which preserves the healthful, heals the sick, and does what mere human power alone could never do."

Now, this Pagan symbol seems first to have crept into the Christian Church in Egypt, and generally into Africa. A statement of Tertullian, about the middle of the third century, shows how much, by that time, the Church of Carthage was infected with the old leaven. Egypt especially, which was never thoroughly evangelised, appears to have taken the lead in bringing in this Pagan symbol. The first form of that which is called the Christian Cross, found on Christian monuments there, is the unequivocal Pagan Tau, or Egyptian "Sign of life." Let the reader peruse the following statement of Sir G. Wilkinson: "A still more curious fact may be mentioned respecting this hieroglyphical character [the Tau], that the early Christians of Egypt adopted it in lieu of the cross, which was afterwards substituted for it, prefixing it to inscriptions in the same manner as the cross in later times. For, though Dr. Young had some scruples in believing the statement of Sir A. Edmonstone, that it holds that position in the sepulchres of the great Oasis, I can attest that such is the case, and that numerous inscriptions, headed by the Tau, are preserved to the present day on early Christian monuments." The drift of this statement is evidently this, that in Egypt the earliest form of that which has since been called the cross, was no other than the "Crux Ansata," or "Sign of life," borne by Osiris and all the Egyptian gods; that the ansa or "handle" was afterwards dispensed with, and that it became the simple Tau, or ordinary cross, as it appears at this day, and that the design of its first employment on the sepulchres, therefore, could have no reference to the crucifixion of the Nazarene, but was simply the result of the attachment to old and long-cherished Pagan symbols, which is always strong in those who, with the adoption of the Christian name and profession, are still, to a large extent, Pagan in heart and feeling. This, and this only, is the origin of the worship of the "cross."

This, no doubt, will appear all very strange and very incredible to those who have read Church history, as most have done to a large extent, even amongst Protestants, through Romish spectacles; and especially to those who call to mind the famous story told of the miraculous appearance of the cross to Constantine on the day before the decisive victory at the Milvian bridge, that decided the fortunes of avowed Paganism and nominal Christianity. That story, as commonly told, if true, would certainly give a Divine sanction to the reverence for the cross. But that story, when sifted to the bottom, according to the common version of it, will be found to be based on a delusion--a delusion, however, into which so good a man as Milner has allowed himself to fall. Milner's account is as follows: "Constantine, marching from France into Italy against Maxentius, in an expedition which was likely either to exalt or to ruin him, was oppressed with anxiety. Some god he thought needful to protect him; the God of the Christians he was most inclined to respect, but he wanted some satisfactory proof of His real existence and power, and he neither understood the means of acquiring this, nor could he be content with the atheistic indifference in which so many generals and heroes since his time have acquiesced. He prayed, he implored with such vehemence and importunity, and God left him not unanswered. While he was marching with his forces in the afternoon, the trophy of the cross appeared very luminous in the heavens, brighter than the sun, with this inscription, 'Conquer by this.' He and his soldiers were astonished at the sight; but he continued pondering on the event till night. And Christ appeared to him when asleep with the same sign of the cross, and directed him to make use of the symbol as his military ensign." Such is the statement of Milner. Now, in regard to the "trophy of the cross," a few words will suffice to show that it is utterly unfounded. I do not think it necessary to dispute the fact of some miraculous sign having been given. There may, or there may not, have been on this occasion a "dignus vindice nodus," a crisis worthy of a Divine interposition. Whether, however, there was anything out of the ordinary course, I do not inquire. But this I say, on the supposition that Constantine in this matter acted in good faith, and that there actually was a miraculous appearance in the heavens, that it as not the sign of the cross that was seen, but quite a different thing, the name of Christ. That this was the case, we have at once the testimony of Lactantius, who was the tutor of Constantine's son Crispus--the earliest author who gives any account of the matter, and the indisputable evidence of the standards of Constantine themselves, as handed down to us on medals struck at the time. The testimony of Lactantius is most decisive: "Constantine was warned in a dream to make the celestial sign of God upon his solders' shields, and so to join battle. He did as he was bid, and with the transverse letter X circumflecting the head of it, he marks Christ on their shields. Equipped with this sign, his army takes the sword." Now, the letter X was just the initial of the name of Christ, being equivalent in Greek to CH. If, therefore, Constantine did as he was bid, when he made "the celestial sign of God" in the form of "the letter X," it was that "letter X," as the symbol of "Christ" and not the sign of the cross, which he saw in the heavens. When the Labarum, or far-famed standard of Constantine itself, properly so called, was made, we have the evidence of Ambrose, the well-known Bishop of Milan, that that standard was formed on the very principle contained in the statement of Lactantius--viz., simply to display the Redeemer's name. He calls it "Labarum, hoc est Christi sacratum nomine signum."--"The Labarum, that is, the ensign consecrated by the NAME of Christ." *

* Epistle of Ambrose to the Emperor Theodosius about the proposal to restore the Pagan altar of Victory in the Roman Senate. The subject of the Labarum has been much confused through ignorance of the meaning of the word. Bryant assumes (and I was myself formerly led away by the assumption) that it was applied to the standard bearing the crescent and the cross, but he produces no evidence for the assumption; and I am now satisfied that none can be produced. The name Labarum, which is generally believed to have come from the East, treated as an Oriental word, gives forth its meaning at once. It evidently comes from Lab, "to vibrate," or "move to and fro," and ar "to be active." Interpreted thus, Labarum signifies simply a banner or flag, "waving to and fro" in the wind, and this entirely agrees with the language of Ambrose "an ensign consecrated by the name of Christ," which implies a banner.

There is not the slightest allusion to any cross--to anything but the simple name of Christ. While we have these testimonies of Lactantius and Ambrose, when we come to examine the standard of Constantine, we find the accounts of both authors fully borne out; we find that that standard, bearing on it these very words, "Hoc signo victor eris," "In this sign thou shalt be a conqueror," said to have been addressed from heaven to the emperor, has nothing at all in the shape of a cross, but "the letter X." In the Roman Catacombs, on a Christian monument to "Sinphonia and her sons," there is a distinct allusion to the story of the vision; but that allusion also shows that the X, and not the cross, was regarded as the "heavenly sign." The words at the head of the inscription are these: "In Hoc Vinces [In this thou shalt overcome] X." Nothing whatever but the X is here given as the "Victorious Sign." There are some examples, no doubt, of Constantine's standard, in which there is a cross-bar, from which the flag is suspended, that contains that "letter X"; and Eusebius, who wrote when superstition and apostacy were working, tries hard to make it appear that that cross-bar was the essential element in the ensign of Constantine. But this is obviously a mistake; that cross-bar was nothing new, nothing peculiar to Constantine's standard. Tertullian shows that that cross-bar was found long before on the vexillum, the Roman Pagan standard, that carried a flag; and it was used simply for the purpose of displaying that flag. If, therefore, that cross-bar was the "celestial sign," it needed no voice from heaven to direct Constantine to make it; nor would the making or displaying of it have excited any particular attention on the part of those who saw it. We find no evidence at all that the famous legend, "In this overcome," has any reference to this cross-bar; but we find evidence the most decisive that that legend does refer to the X. Now, that that X was not intended as the sign of the cross, but as the initial of Christ's name, is manifest from this, that the Greek P, equivalent to our R, is inserted in the middle of it, making by their union CHR. The standard of Constantine, then, was just the name of Christ. Whether the device came from earth or from heaven--whether it was suggested by human wisdom or Divine, supposing that Constantine was sincere in his Christian profession, nothing more was implied in it than a literal embodiment of the sentiment of the Psalmist, "In the name of the Lord will we display our banners." To display that name on the standards of Imperial Rome was a thing absolutely new; and the sight of that name, there can be little doubt, nerved the Christian soldiers in Constantine's army with more than usual fire to fight and conquer at the Milvian bridge.

In the above remarks I have gone on the supposition that Constantine acted in good faith as a Christian. His good faith, however, has been questioned; and I am not without my suspicions that the X may have been intended to have one meaning to the Christians and another to the Pagans. It is certain that the X was the symbol of the god Ham in Egypt, and as such was exhibited on the breast of his image. Whichever view be taken, however, of Constantine's sincerity, the supposed Divine warrant for reverencing the sign of the cross entirely falls to the ground. In regard to the X, there is no doubt that, by the Christians who knew nothing of secret plots or devices, it was generally taken, as Lactantius declares, as equivalent to the name of "Christ." In this view, therefore, it had no very great attractions for the Pagans, who, even in worshipping Horus, had always been accustomed to make use of the mystic tau or cross, as the "sign of life," or the magical charm that secured all that was good, and warded off everything that was evil. When, therefore, multitudes of the Pagans, on the conversion of Constantine, flocked into the Church, like the semi-Pagans of Egypt, they brought along with them their predilection for the old symbol. The consequence was, that in no great length of time, as apostacy proceeded, the X which in itself was not an unnatural symbol of Christ, the true Messiah, and which had once been regarded as such, was allowed to go entirely into disuse, and the Tau, the sign of the cross, the indisputable sign of Tammuz, the false Messiah, was everywhere substituted in its stead. Thus, by the "sign of the cross," Christ has been crucified anew by those who profess to be His disciples. Now, if these things be matter of historic fact, who can wonder that, in the Romish Church, "the sign of the cross" has always and everywhere been seen to be such an instrument of rank superstition and delusion?

There is more, much more, in the rites and ceremonies of Rome that might be brought to elucidate our subject. But the above may suffice. *

* If the above remarks be well founded, surely it cannot be right that this sign of the cross, or emblem of Tammuz, should be used in Christian baptism. At the period of the Revolution, a Royal Commission, appointed to inquire into the Rites and Ceremonies of the Church of England, numbering among its members eight or ten bishops, strongly recommended that the use of the cross, as tending to superstition, should be laid aside. If such a recommendation was given then, and that by such authority as members of the Church of England must respect, how much ought that recommendation to be enforced by the new light which Providence has cast on the subject!


As many have suspected, there is much more to the true, authentic history of the Christian religion than what we had originally been told. Some claims regarding the Church's history are accurate, some are not. The most extreme claims against the religion come from the atheist camp and often remain unproved. But this book is completely different. It comes from a devout Christian, Henry Dana Ward, a believer in Christ who backs himself up with scholarly research and facts. Why, then, was this book written if it goes against traditional beliefs and acceptance? It is because the traditional beliefs surrounding the cross and its worship are wrong! It took time for us to eventually accept the cross in its current form and to worship it and, according to Ward, this was a pagan symbol that should never have been adopted. Idols were not to be worshipped by the earliest of Christians, and the cross was no exception to this rule. Not worshipping the cross is consistent with early Christianity and is not heretical. Its lack of worship is part of Christianity's foundational beliefs and its exclusion should be part of the religion's current structure, according to Ward. Revering the cross is based on lies, deception, and ignorance. Ward shows how the lies began, who spread them, and how and why they did it.

You may be surprised to learn that many traditions of Roman Catholicism in fact dont come from Christs teachings but from an ancient Babylonian Mystery religion that was centered on Nimrod, his wife Semiramis, and a child Tammuz. This book shows how this ancient religion transformed itself as it incorporated Christ into its teachings. You may be surprised that certain practices like confessions, and crossing ones self, and even the position of the Pope come from traditions of this mystery cult. Originally a pamphlet published in 1853, The Two Babylons is Hislop's most famous work. In this book he argues that the Roman Catholic Church is nothing more than pagan cult, with roots in Babylonian mystery cults, which have a bank of secret knowledge only available to those who have been formally accepted into the cult. Roman Catholics, Hislop argues, are descendants from early Christians who adopted the Roman religion descended from the worship of Semiramis, the wife of the founder of Babylon. By discrediting the true Christianity of Catholics, Hislop hoped to bolster the legitimacy of the Protestant and Scottish Reformations. Students of theology and those interested in the complex history of Christianity will find Hislop's arguments provocative enough that they may be moved to further research of their own. Scottish minister ALEXANDER HISLOP (1807-1865) became an ordained clergymen in the Free Church of Scotland in 1844. As a Presbyterian minister, Hislop was famously critical of the Roman Catholic Church. He wrote a number of books including Christ's Crown and Covenant (1860) and The Moral Identity of Babylon and Rome (1855).

The history of the symbol of the cross has had an attraction for the author ever since, as an enquiring youth, he found himself unable to obtain satisfactory answers to four questions concerning the same which presented themselves to his mind. The first of those questions was why John the Baptist, who was beheaded before Jesus was executed, and so far as we are told never had anything to do with a cross, is represented in our religious pictures as holding a cross. The second question was whether this curious but perhaps in itself easily explained practice had in its inception any connection with the non-Mosaic initiatory rite of baptism; which Jesus accepted as a matter of course at the hands of his cousin John, and in which the sign of the cross has for ages been the all-important feature. And it was the wonder whether there was or was not some association between the facts that the New Testament writers give no explanation whatever of the origin of baptism as an initiatory rite, that this non-Mosaic initiatory rite was in use among Sun-God worshippers long before our era, and that the Fathers admitted that the followers of the Persian conception of the Sun-God marked their initiates upon the forehead like the followers of the Christ, which finally induced the author to start a systematic enquiry into the history of the cross as a symbol.

The third question was why, despite the fact that the instrument of execution to which Jesus was affixed can have had but one shape, almost any kind of cross is accepted as a symbol of our faith. The last of the four questions was why many varieties of the cross of four equal arms, which certainly was not a representation of an instrument of execution, were accepted by Christians as symbols of the Christ before any cross which could possibly have been a representation of an instrument of execution was given a place among the symbols of Christianity; while even nowadays one variety of the cross of four equal arms is the favourite symbol of the Greek Church, and both it and the other varieties enter into the ornamentation of our sacred properties and dispute the supremacy with the cross which has one of its arms longer than the other three. Pursuing these matters for himself, the author eventually found that even before our era the cross was venerated by many as the symbol of Life; though our works of reference seldom mention this fact, and never do it justice. He moreover discovered that no one has ever written a complete history of the symbol, showing the possibility that the stauros or post to which Jesus was affixed was not cross-shaped, and the certainty that, in any case, what eventually became the symbol of our faith owed some of its prestige as a Christian symbol of Victory and Life to the position it occupied in pre-Christian days. The author has therefore, in the hope of drawing attention to the subject, incorporated the results of his researches in the present essay.

This study investigates the philological aspects of how ancient Greek, Latin and Hebrew/Aramaic texts, including the New Testament, depict the practice of punishment by crucifixion. A survey of the ancient text material shows that there has been a too narrow view of the “crucifixion” terminology. The various terms are not simply used in the sense of “crucify” and “cross,” if by “crucifixion” one means the punishment that Jesus was subjected to according to the main Christian traditions. The terminology is used much more diversely. Almost none of it can be elucidated beyond verbs referring vaguely to some form(s) of suspension, and nouns referring to tools used in such suspension. As a result, most of the crucifixion accounts that scholars cite in the ancient literature have to be rejected, leaving only a few. The New Testament is not spared from this terminological ambiguity. The accounts of the death of Jesus are strikingly sparse. Their chief contribution is usage of the unclear terminology in question. Over-interpretation, and probably even pure imagination, have afflicted nearly every wordbook and dictionary that deals with the terms related to crucifixion as well as scholarly depictions of what happened on Calvary. The immense knowledge of the punishment of crucifixion in general, and the execution of Jesus in particular, cannot be supported by the studied texts.