Jehovah`s Witness/The cross

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Question
Hello Brenton it is always interesting coming to this forum and reading some of the various idea that people have.  I have been reading some of the discussions about the cross from Mr Holland and and Mr G. You seem to approach subjects differently from others here,so I was wondering if you had read any of what MR Holland had to say and how would you respond.  What is your personal opinion of the cross.

Thank you

Answer
Greetings Henry,

Nice to hear from and thank you for your question.

For me, what Jesus died on is of no relevance. I do not care if it was a plain upright pole or a two beamed cross of some description.  Even the Watchtower is NOT DOGMATIC about this.  Note this quote from a 1987 Watchtower  August 15 page 29   “Jesus most likely was executed on an upright stake without any crossbeam. No man today can know with certainty even how many nails were used in Jesus’ case.”

OK I think that quote is going to raise a lot of questions as to what all the fuss is about, if the "most likely" explanation is a stake -  Does  that not show that it really does not matter? Why then, do some  JWs seem to get so uptight over it?  I will answer that at the end.

First, personally, I directly take the Greek word “stauros” to mean upright pole.  Reading various accounts it seems to me that there was a lot of controversy over this from the second century to the fourth century when Constantine made the cross a Christian symbol.  After that it seems to have become an object of veneration.

Here is a cut and past from my electronic copy of Smiths Bible Dictionary. This is the opening paragraph under the heading cross.   This dictionary is very “PRO” the tradition cross but has some interesting observations.(the Greek and Hebrew fonts did not copy well – Bold  and underline mine)

quote

Except the Latin crux there was no word definitively and invariably applied to this instrument of punishment. The Greek word σταυρος is derived from ιστημι, and properly , like σκολοψ, means merely a stake (Hom. Od. xiv. 11; Il. xxiv. 453). Hence Eustathius defines σταυροι to be ορθα και απωζυμμενα ζυλα, and Hesych. οι καταπεπηγοτες σκολοπες, χαρακες. The Greeks use the word to translate both palus and crux; e. g. σταυρω προσδειν in Dion Cass.(xlix. 22) is exactly equivalent to the Latin ad palum deligare. In Livy even crux means a mere stake ("in tres sustolli cruces," xxviii. 29, just as, vice versa, the Fathers use σκολοψ and even stipes ("de stipite pendens")of a cross proper. In consequence of this vagueness of meaning , impaling(Herod. ix.76)is sometimes spoken of, loosely, as a kind of crucifixion, and ανασκολοπιζειν is nearly equivalent to ανασταυρουν; "alii per obscoena stipitem egerunt, alii brachia patibulo explicuerunt," Sen. Consol. ad Marc. xx.; and Ep. xiv.. Other words occasionally applied to the cross are patibulum and furca, pieces of wood in the shape of Π (or Y) Λ respectively (Dig. 48,tit 13; Plaut. Mil. Gl. ii. 47; and in Sall. fr. ap. Non. iv. 355, "patibulo eminens affligebatur" seems clearly to imply crucifixion. After the abolition of this mode of death by Constantine, Trebonianus substituted furca figendos, for crucifigendos, wherever the word occurred. More generally the cross is called arbor infelix (Liv. i. 26; Sen. Ep. 101), or lignum infelix (Cic. per Rab. 3); and in Greek υλον. {#De 21:22 } The Fathers, in controversy , used to quote the words ο Κυριος εβασιλευσεν (απο του ξυλου), from, {#Ps 45:10 } or, {Ps 96 } as a prophecy of the cross; but these words are "adulterina et Christiana devotione addita"; though Genebrardus thought them a prophetic addition of the LXX, and Agellius conjectures that they read ץע for ץא (Schleusner’s Thes.). The Hebrews had no word for a cross more definite than ץע "wood," {#Ge 40:19 } &c., and so they called the transverse beams ברעו יתשׁ, "warp and woof" (Pearson, On the Creed, art. iv.), like ξυλον διδυαον, LXX Crux is the root of crucio, and is often used proverbially for what is most painful (as "summum jus, summa crux," Colum i. 7; "quaeren in malo crucem," Ter. Phorm. iii. 3, 11), and as a nickname for villains ("Quid ais, crux?" Plaut Pen. ii. 5, 17). Rarer terms are ακριον (Euseb. viii. 8), σανις, and Gabalus Varro ap. Non. ii. 373; Macrinus ap. Capitol. Macr. 11. This last word is derived from לבג, "to complete."

end quote

The Catholic Encyclopaedia  also mentions the original meaning use of the “stauros” (Bold  and underline mine)


quote

The penalty of the cross goes back probably to the arbor infelix, or unhappy tree<u>, spoken of by Cicero (Pro, Rabir., iii sqq.) and by Livy, apropos of the condemnation of Horatius after the murder of his sister. According to Hüschke (Die Multa, 190)the magistrates known as duoviri perduellionis pronounced this penalty (cf. Liv., I, 266), styled also infelix lignem (Senec., Ep. ci;Plin., XVI, xxvi; XXIV, ix; Macrob., II, xvi). This primitive form of crucifixion on trees was long in use, as Justus Lipsius  notes ("De cruce", I, ii, 5; Tert., "Apol.", VIII, xvi; and "Martyrol. Paphnut." 25 Sept.). Such a tree was known as a cross (crux). On an ancient vase we see Prometheus bound to a beam which serves the purpose of a cross. A somewhat different form is seen on an ancient cist at Præneste (Palestrina), upon which Andromeda is represented nude, and bound by the feet to an instrument of punishment like a military yoke — i.e. two parallel, perpendicular stakes, surmounted by a transverse bar. Certain it is, at any rate, that the cross originally consisted of a simple vertical pole, sharpened at its upper end . Mæcenas (Seneca, Epist. xvii, 1, 10) calls it acuta crux; <u>it could also be called crux simplex . To this upright pole a transverse bar was afterwards added to which the sufferer was fastened with nails or cords, and thus remained until he died, whence the expression cruci figere or affigere(Tac., "Ann.", XV, xliv; Potron., "Satyr.", iii) The cross, especially in the earlier times, was generally low. it was elevated only in exceptional cases, particularly whom it was desired to make the punishment more exemplary or when the crime was exceptionally serious. Suetonius (Galba, ix) tells us that Galba did this in the case of a certain criminal for whom he caused to be made a very high cross painted white — "multo præter cætteras altiorem et dealbatam statui crucem jussit".

End quote  taken from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04517a.htm

Going back to Smiths Dictionary, a few paragraphs down we find this

quote

The crux simplex, or mere stake "of one single piece without transom," was probably the original of the rest  . Sometimes it was merely driven through the man’s chest, but at other times it was driven longitudinally, δια ραχεως και νωτου (Hesych. s. v. σκολοψ), coming out at the mouth (Sen. Ep. xiv.), a method of punishment called ανασκινδυλευσις, or infixio. The affixio consisted merely of tying the criminal to the stake (ad palum deligare, Liv. xxvi. 13), from which he hung by his arms: the process is described in the little poem of Ausonius, Cupido crucifixus. Trees were naturally convenient for this purpose , and we read of their being applied to such use in the Martyrologies. Tertullian too tells us (A pol. viii. 16) that to punish the priests of Saturn, Tiberius "in eisdem arboribus, obumbratricibus scelerum, votivis crucibus explicuit" (cf. Tac. Germ. xii., "Proditores et transfugas arboribus suspendunt").

End quote


That dictionary suggests that trees were used for the purpose of a “crux simplex, or mere stake "of one single piece without transom,"

Also I found interesting is that in my  copy of  Jerome's  405 AD Latin Vulgate Bible, the word used for cross is crusem.  Now, my Latin Bible dictionary gives the following meaning for crucem “cross; hanging tree; impaling stake ; crucifixion; torture or torment or trouble or misery”

Keep  in mind the above information about the use of a “tree” in execution and note that the Bible uses the word xylon   (tree) in  reference to the implement Jesus died on.   The Greek word xylon basically means wood and can, in context ,refer to trees, sticks, staff, club or other wooden article.   Now the KJV uses it at as tree when referring to implement that Jesus died on.

Ac 5:30  The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and  hanged on a tree

Ac 10:39  And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree

Ac 13:29  And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree , and laid him in a sepulchre.

Ga 3:13  Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree

1Pe 2:24  Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree , that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

My   Interlinear Greek NT  that uses the Textus Receptus as the base Greek text with the interlinear prepared by  Greek Scholar Maurice A. Robinson,  renders “xylon” as tree  in those verses
      
What I find interesting about those texts is that there are individuals that say that the KJV is the only correct Bible that we should use.  They have been known to go as far as to say that the KJV IS the inspired word of God.  If they stay by that reasoning,  should they not accept what the KJV says and that Jesus was hung on a tree - implying that of a tree trunk, a pole.

When one looks at the available evidence, it all seems to point to a single pole that Jesus was nailed to. However there also seems to be  no real definitive answer as to exactly what what used.  What is important is that Jesus died.

What about what some say is one of the most problematic Scriptures on this topic, for the JW to explain.    That is does not John 20:25 show conclusively that there was more than one nail used in his hands.  Yes the Watchtower 'art work”  has depicted Jesus with both hands crossed above his head with one nail. They are for illustration purposes only .  Jesus “could” have had one hand placed directly under the other with a nail in each hand. .

Quoting from that watchtower I mentioned at the beginning in regard to the nails we are told this (Bold and underline mine)

quote
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1979, Volume 1, page 826) comments: “The exact number of nails used . . . has been the subject of considerable speculation. In the earliest depictions of the crucifixion Jesus’ feet are shown separately nailed, but in later ones they are crossed and affixed to the upright with one nail.”

We do know that his hands or arms were not simply bound, for Thomas later said: “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails.” (John 20:25) That could have meant a nail through each hand, or the plural “nails” might have reference to nail prints in ‘his hands and his feet .’ (See Luke 24:39.) We cannot know precisely where the nails pierced him, though it obviously was in the area of his hands. The Scriptural account simply does not provide exact details, nor does it need to. And if scholars who have directly examined the bones found near Jerusalem in 1968 cannot even be sure how that corpse was positioned, it certainly does not prove how Jesus was positioned.

End quote

So if the Watchtowers position is that Jesus was most likely killed on a pole why all the fuss?

I will answer that by how  I personally view the cross? (I assume that JWs would take a similar view.)  Basically, I detest it.  Why?   For two reasons 1) Because it  is supposed  to be a “Christian” symbol, but, I see it as a representation of a a false Christ.  I think I would be brave  enough to say, that all so called Christian churches that display the cross, worship Jesus, either as God, or, as part of the a triune God.  Something I personally find abhorrent as it dishonors the Almighty, the God that Jesus worships and serves.

2) Also,  the vast majority of people that call themselves “Christian” do use the cross, as part of, or,  in worship.  It has become a sacred object to more people that claim to be Christian than not.  There are a minority of so called “Christian” groups who do not use the cross  as part of their worship, but, they still associate it with the God, and Jesus, dishonoring idea that Jesus is equal to the almighty.  So, for me, the cross has become  a symbol of false Christianity and it is as repulsive as any Satanic symbols.

The Catholic Encyclopedia has an interesting articles on the the origins of the cross as well as its use in worship.  http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04533a.htm   The Catholic and Orthodox churches make up the vast majority of people that call themselves Christian.

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Brenton Hepburn

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I AM one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I am always learning. I am NOT an expert in the full sense of the word but I can answer questions on the reliability of the NWT - the so called mind control problems-so called prophecies - how being a JW affects the individual and relatives and general practices and history of Jehovah’s Witnesses. >>WARNING<< Please be aware that there are people here who ARE NOT practicing JWs. By all means ask these ones questions. Depending on the question you will get an honest answer, but, generally the answer you get, will mislead you as to what we believe, often because, they do not give ALL the relevant details. These ones will, have an agenda against JWs., and will at times give answers that are not correct in regard to JW teachings and practices. If you are after a answer from one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, please read some of the answers that the various experts have published before choosing someone. If you want to ask one of the NON JWs a question, that is fine, BUT if you want a balancing view after asking one of the NON JWs, ask a JW the same question. PLEASE ALSO NOTE: There(have been)and are, some "experts" here who are NOT always the most courteous and polite, at times are actually quite rude, that applies to both JW's and non JW's and their answers may offend, especially when they get personal and attack the character of the person and not the message. Unfortunately some here that have done that. So it IS IMPORTANT to chose an "expert" that YOU feel will best suit YOU by reading some of their past answers . . . . .

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I have been a publisher since 1964. When I first went on the internet I found a lot of negative information dealing with Jehovah’s Witnesses covering prophecy, mind control and what many said was a very bad translation of the Bible known as the NWT. It shook my faith. After may hours researching these topics I could see why some felt that way, but, I was also able to explain why there were these misleading views. I can now set matters straight for anyone that has negative information about Jehovah’s Witness to show them that such information is at best misleading and at worst dangerous lies.

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I have been a student of the Bible for many years, am trying to teach myself Biblical Greek. Was a public tax accountant for many years untill SEP 2009 when I gave it up due to health problems.

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