Jehovah`s Witness/Cross or Stake...The Archaelogical/Historical Evidence
The JW religion alleges that archaeology is on their side, in this discussion. This portion of the discussion, will deal with the bogus claims of the WT and its representatives that:
1. The cross was not commonly used in crucifixions in Jesus’ time
2. That the “stauros” was nothing MORE than an upright pole, during the time of Christ.
I noticed that Eddie quoted from Encyclopedia Britannica, and I found this quote from that very source, quite interesting….
ARCHAEOLOGICAL/HISTORICAL EVIDENCE FOR THE CROSS:
ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA (article entitled “Crucifixion“) STATES- “crucifixion, an important method of capital punishment, particularly among the Persians, Seleucids, Carthaginians, and Romans from about the 6th century bce to the 4th century ce. Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor, abolished it in the Roman Empire in 337 ce out of veneration for Jesus Christ, the most famous victim of crucifixion.”
“There were various methods of performing the execution. Usually, the condemned man, after being whipped, or “scourged,” dragged the crossbeam of his cross to the place of punishment, where the upright shaft was already fixed in the ground. Stripped of his clothing either then or earlier at his scourging, he was bound fast with outstretched arms to the crossbeam or nailed firmly to it through the wrists. The crossbeam was then raised high against the upright shaft and made fast to it about 9 to 12 feet (approximately 3 metres) from the ground. Next, the feet were tightly bound or nailed to the upright shaft. A ledge inserted about halfway up the upright shaft gave some support to the body; evidence for a similar ledge for the feet is rare and late. Over the criminal’s head was placed a notice stating his name and his crime. Death, apparently caused by exhaustion or by heart failure, could be hastened by shattering the legs (crurifragium) with an iron club, so that shock and asphyxiation soon ended his life.
Crucifixion was most frequently used to punish political or religious agitators, pirates, slaves, or those who had no civil rights. In 519 bce Darius I, king of Persia, crucified 3,000 political opponents in Babylon; in 88 bce Alexander Jannaeus, the Judaean king and high priest, crucified 800 Pharisaic opponents; and about 32 ce Pontius Pilate had Jesus of Nazareth put to death by crucifixion.”
The article goes on to state, under the heading of “Crucifixion of Jesus”…
“Crucifixion of Jesus
The account of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion in the Gospels begins with his scourging. The Roman soldiers then mocked him as the “King of the Jews” by clothing him in a purple robe and a crown of thorns and led him slowly to Mount Calvary, or Golgotha; one Simon of Cyrene was allowed to aid him in carrying the cross. At the place of execution he was stripped and then nailed to the cross, at least nailed by his hands, and above him at the top of the cross was placed the condemnatory inscription stating his crime of professing to be King of the Jews. (The Gospels differ slightly in the wording but agree that the inscription was in “Hebrew,” or Aramaic, as well as Latin and Greek.) On the cross Jesus hung for three hours of agony. The soldiers divided his garments and cast lots for his seamless robe. Various onlookers taunted him. Crucified on either side of Jesus were two convicted thieves, whom the soldiers dispatched at eventide by breaking their legs. The soldiers found Jesus already dead; but, to be certain, one of them drove a spear into his side, from which poured blood and water. He was taken down before sunset (in deference to Jewish custom) and buried in a rock-hewn tomb.”
Some more evidence of the inaccuracy of the claim that the cross was not something that was believed, until hundreds of years after Christ’s death….
Before reading the next quotes, please remember that both Eddie and Sister T, have informed us that the cross was NOT believed by those around the time of Christ.
Sister T: “Noteworthy it is that the crossbeam and rendering of the word Stauros as Cross came into use later! But Originally it meant upright stake, or pale.”
Eddie G challenges us to prove: “That is was not introduced / adopted later on by the apostate "Christian Church".
To prove the above statements wrong, is actually quite easy to do, just by reading what people living prior to the 4th century actually SAID about the cross, which they SUPPOSEDLY had no concept of….
Episite of Barnabas (100 C.E.):
“…the cross was to express the grace [of our redemption] by the letter Ô….”
“Here again you have an intimation concerning the cross, and Him who should be crucified….in Moses, when Israel was attacked by strangers….the Spirit speaks to the heart of Moses, that he should make a figure of the cross, and of Him about to suffer thereon….Moses therefore placed one weapon above another in the midst of the hill, and standing upon it, so as to be higher than all the people, he stretched forth his hands….”
Justin Martyr (died 165 C.E.):
“[The cross], as the prophet foretold, is the greatest symbol of His power and role; as is also proved by the things which fall under our observation. For consider all the things in the world, whether without this form they could be administered or have any community. For the sea is not traversed except that trophy which is called a sail abide safe in the ship; and the earth is not ploughed without it: diggers and mechanics do not their work, except with tools which have this shape. And the human form differs from that of the irrational animals in nothing else than in its being erect and having the hands extended, and having on the face extending from the forehead what is called the nose, through which there is respiration for the living creature; and this shows no other form than that of the cross. And so it was said by the prophet, `The breath before our face is the Lord Christ.' And the power of this form is shown by your own symbols on what are called `vexilla' [banners] and trophies, with which all your state possessions are made, using these as the insignia of your power and government, even though you do so unwittingly. And with this form you consecrate the images of your emperors when they die, and you name them gods by inscriptions.”
“…that lamb which was commanded to be wholly roasted was a symbol of the suffering of the cross which Christ would undergo. For the lamb, which is roasted, is roasted and dressed up in the form of the cross. For one spit is transfixed right through from the lower parts up to the head, and one across the back, to which are attached the legs of the lamb.”
“Moses himself prayed to God, stretching out both hands…. if he gave up any part of this sign, which was an imitation of the cross, the people were beaten, as is recorded in the writings of Moses; but if he remained in this form, Amalek was proportionally defeated, and he who prevailed prevailed by the cross. For it was not because Moses so prayed that the people were stronger, but because, while one who bore the name of Jesus (Joshua) was in the forefront of the battle, he himself made the sign of the cross.”
“And God by Moses shows in another way the force of the mystery of the cross, when He said in the blessing wherewith Joseph was blessed, `…Let him be glorified among his brethren; his beauty is [like] the firstling of a bullock; his horns the horns of an unicorn: with these shall he push the nations from one end of the earth to another.' Now, no one could say or prove that the horns of an unicorn represent any other fact or figure than the type which portrays the cross. For the one beam is placed upright, from which the highest extremity is raised up into a horn, when the other beam is fitted on to it, and the ends appear on both sides as horns joined on to the one horn. And the part which is fixed in the centre, on which are suspended those who are crucified, also stands out like a horn; and it also looks like a horn conjoined and fixed with the other horns.”
Irenaeus of Lyons (died 200 C.E.):
“The very form of the cross, too, has five extremities, two in length, two in breadth, and one in the middle, on which [last] the person rests who is fixed by the nails.”
“And since He is the Word of God Almighty, who invisibly pervades the whole creation, and encompasses its length, breadth, height, and depth - for by the Word of God everything is administered - so too was the Son of God crucified in these fourfold dimensions…that He might demonstrate, by His visible form on the cross, His activity which is on the invisible level, for it is He who illumines the `heights', that is, the things in heaven, and holds the `deeps', which is beneath the earth, and stretches the `length' from the East to the West, and who navigates the `breadth' of the northern and southern regions, inviting the dispersed from all sides to the knowledge of the Father.”
“And again, concerning His cross, Isaiah says, `I stretched out my hands all the day to a disbelieving and contrary people,' for this is a sign of the cross.”
Octavius of Minucius Felix (210 C.E.):
“Crosses, moreover, we neither worship nor wish for. You, indeed, who consecrate gods of wood, adore wooden crosses perhaps as parts of your gods. For your very standards, as well as your banners; and flags of your camp, what else are they but crosses glided and adorned? Your victorious trophies not only imitate the appearance of a simple cross, but also that of a man affixed to it. We assuredly see the sign of a cross, naturally, in the ship when it is carried along with swelling sails, when it glides forward with expanded oars; and when the military yoke is lifted up, it is the sign of a cross; and when a man adores God with a pure mind, with hands outstretched. Thus the sign of the cross either is sustained by a natural reason, or your own religion is formed with respect to it.” (Octavius, Chapter 29)
SIDE NOTE: Guys, did you catch that? “Crosses, moreover, we neither worship nor wish for?”
Tertullian (died 230 C.E.):
…it might be no slight solace to us in all our punishments, suffering as we do because of these same gods, that in their making they suffer as we do themselves. You put Christians on crosses and stakes: what image is not formed from the clay in the first instance, set on cross and stake? The body of your god is first consecrated on the gibbet.” (Apology, Chapter 12)
“Every stake fixed in an upright position is a portion of the cross; we render our adoration, if you will have it so, to a god entire and complete. We have shown before that your deities are derived from shapes modelled from the cross. But you also worship victories, for in your trophies the cross is the heart of the trophy. The camp religion of the Romans is all through a worship of the standards, a setting the standards above all gods. Well, as those images decking out the standards are ornaments of crosses. All those hangings of your standards and banners are robes of crosses. I praise your zeal: you would not consecrate crosses unclothed and unadorned.” (Apology, Chapter 16)
“Every piece of timber which is fixed in the ground in an erect position is a part of a cross, and indeed the greater portion of its mass. But an entire cross is attributed to us, with its transverse beam, of course, and its projecting seat. Now you have the less to excuse you, for you dedicate to religion only a mutilated imperfect piece of wood, while others consecrate to the sacred purpose a complete structure. The truth, however, after all is, that your religion is all cross, as I shall show. You are indeed unaware that your gods in their origin have proceeded from this hated cross. Now, every image, whether carved out of wood or stone, or molten in metal, or produced out of any other richer material, must needs have had plastic hands engaged in its formation. Well, then, this modeller, before he did anything else, hit upon the form of a wooden cross, because even our own body assumes as its natural position the latent and concealed outline of a cross. Since the head rises upwards, and the back takes a straight direction, and the shoulders project laterally, if you simply place a man with his arms and hands outstretched, you will make the general outline of a cross. Starting, then, from this rudimental form and prop, as it were, he applies a covering of clay, and so gradually completes the limbs, and forms the body, and covers the cross within with the shape which he meant to impress upon the clay; then from this design, with the help of compasses and leaden moulds, he has got all ready for his image which is to be brought out into marble, or clay, or whatever the material be of which he has determined to make his god. (This, then, is the process: ) after the cross-shaped frame, the clay; after the clay, the god. In a well-understood routine, the cross passes into a god through the clayey medium. The cross then you consecrate, and from it the consecrated (deity) begins to derive his origin….Since, then, in the production of your gods, you worship the cross which originates them, here will be the original kernel and grain, from which are propagated the wooden materials of your idolatrous images. Examples are not far to seek. Your victories you celebrate with religious ceremony as deities; and they are the more august in proportion to the joy they bring you. The frames on which you hang up your trophies must be crosses: these are, as it were, the very core of your pageants. Thus, in your victories, the religion of your camp makes even crosses objects of worship; your standards it adores, your standards are the sanction of its oaths; your standards it prefers before Jupiter himself, but all that parade of images, and that display of pure gold, are (as so many) necklaces of the crosses. in like manner also, in the banners and ensigns, which your soldiers guard with no less sacred care, you have the streamers (and) vestments of your crosses. You are ashamed, I suppose, to worship unadorned and simple crosses.” (Ad Nationes, Book 1, Chapter 12)
“Joseph, again, himself was made a figure of Christ….For Joseph is withal blest by his father after this form: `His glory (is that) of a bull; his horns, the horns of an unicorn; on them shall he toss nations alike unto the very extremity of the earth.' Of course no one-horned rhinoceros was there pointed to, nor any two-horned minotaur. But Christ was therein signified: `bull,' by reason of each of His two characters - to some fierce, as Judge; to others gentle, as Saviour; whose `horns' were to be the extremities of the cross. For even in a ship's yard - which is part of a cross - this is the name by which the extremities are called; while the central pole of the mast is a `unicorn.'” (An Answer to the Jews, Chapter 10; repeated in Against Marcion, Book 3, Chapter 18)
“But, to come now to Moses, why, I wonder, did he merely at the time when Joshua was battling against Amalek, pray sitting with hands expanded, when, in circumstances so critical, he ought rather, surely, to have commended his prayer by knees bended, and hands beating his breast, and a face prostrate on the ground; except it was that there, where the name of the Lord Jesus was the theme of speech - destined as He was to enter the lists one day singly against the devil - the figure of the cross was also necessary, (that figure) through which Jesus was to win the victory?” (An Answer to the Jews, Chapter 10; repeated in Against Marcion, Book 3, Chapter 18)
“Premising, therefore, and likewise subjoining the fact that Christ suffered, He foretold that His just ones should suffer equally with Him - both the apostles and all the faithful in succession; and He signed them with that very seal of which Ezekiel spake: `The Lord said unto me, Go through the gate, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set the mark tau upon the foreheads of the men.' Now the Greek letter tau and our own letter T is the very form of the cross, which He predicted would be the sign on our foreheads in the true Catholic Jerusalem, in which, according to the twenty-first Psalm, the brethren of Christ or children of God would ascribe glory to God the Father….” (Against Marcion, Book 3, Chapter 22)
Also, check out the following link, for irrefutable evidence of inscriptions of crosses, from the FIRST century followers of Christ….
Consider the finding of several burial sites, dating from the FIRST century, and found with inscriptions of crosses and references to Jesus….
During the fall of 1945, Dr. Eleazar Sukenik of Hebrew University investigated another first century Jewish catacomb at the southem end of the Kidron Valley on the road to Bethlehem. He found several ossuaries with the sign of the cross, Greek inscriptions, a coin minted in A.D. 41 for King Herod Agrippa 1, proving the tomb was sealed by A.D. 42. Professor Sukenik concluded that the ossuaries "contain almost the whole dictionary of names in the New Testament.
One coffin had a surprising dedication in Greek to "Jesus" followed by the exclamation "Y'ho," meaning "Jehovah" or "the Lord." The inscription reads: "[To] Jesus, the Lord." In light of the A.D. 42 date for the sealing of this tomb, the presence of this dedication to "Jesus, the Lord" attests to the acceptance by Christians of Jesus Christ as God within ten years of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Christian theologian Professor Alexander Hopkins commented on this significant inscription as follows: "The inscription which was hidden for almost 2,000 years and inscribed at least two decades before any part of the New Testament was written. . . bears a personal testimony of faith ... a message from the past with a very modem meaning for the present."
The Eerdman's Bible Dictionary", Rev. Ed., 1975- “CROSS ... Crucifixion is first attested among the Persians (cf. Herodotus, Hist. i.128.2; iii.132.2, 159.1), perhaps derived from the Assyrian impalement. It was later employed by the Greeks, especially Alexander the Great, and by the Carthaginians, from whom the Romans adapted the practice as a punishment for slaves and non-citizens, and occasionaly for citizens guilty of treason. Although in the Old Testament the corpses of blasphemers or idolaters punished by stoning might be handged "on a tree" as further humiliation (Deut. 21:23), actual crucifixion was not introduced in Palestine until Hellenistic times. The Seleucid Antiochus IV Epiphanes crucified those Jews who would not accept hellenization (Josephus Ant. xii.240-41; cf 1 Macc. 1:44-50).”
Historical findings have substantiated the traditional cross. One finding is a graffito1 dating to shortly after 200 A.D., taken from the walls of the Roman Palatine. It is a drawing of a crucified ass; a mockery of a Christian prisoner who worships Christ. The Romans were no doubt amused that Christians worshiped this Jesus whom they had crucified on a cross.
In June of 1968, bulldozers working north of Jerusalem accidentally laid bare tombs dating from the first century B.C. and the first century A.D. Greek archeologist Vasilius Tzaferis was instructed by the Israeli Department of Antiquities to carefully excavate these tombs. Subsequently one of the most exciting finds of recent times was unearthed - the first skeletal remains of a crucified man. The most significant factor is its dating to around the time of Christ. The skeleton was of a man named Yehohanan son of Chaggol, who had been crucified between the age of 24 and 28.
Mr. Tzaferis wrote an article in the Jan/Feb. 1985 issue of the secular magazine Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR), and here are some of his comments regarding crucifixion in Jesus' time:
“At the end of the first century B.C., the Romans adopted crucifixion as an official punishment for non-Romans for certain limited transgressions. Initially, it was employed not as a method of execution, but only as a punishment. Moreover, only slaves convicted of certain crimes were punished by crucifixion. During this early period, a wooden beam, known as a furca or patibulum was placed on the slave's neck and bound to his arms.”
We also have archaeological evidence that crucifixions were carried out in the following manner….
“When the procession arrived at the execution site, a vertical stake was fixed into the ground. Sometimes the victim was attached to the cross only with ropes. In such a case, the patibulum or crossbeam, to which the victim's arms were already bound, was simply affixed to the vertical beam; the victim's feet were then bound to the stake with a few turns of the rope.
If the victim was attached by nails, he was laid on the ground, with his shoulders on the crossbeam. His arms were held out and nailed to the two ends of the crossbeam, which was then raised and fixed on top of the vertical beam. The victim's feet were then nailed down against this vertical stake.
In order to prolong the agony, Roman executioners devised two instruments that would keep the victim alive on the cross for extended periods of time. One, known as a sedile, was a small seat attached to the front of the cross, about halfway down. This device provided some support for the victim's body and may explain the phrase used by the Romans, "to sit on the cross." Both Eraneus and Justin Martyr describe the cross of Jesus as having five extremities rather than four; the fifth was probably the sedile. (p. 48,49)”
In a followup article on this archeological find in the Nov/Dec. issue of BAR, the statement is made:
According to the (Roman) literary sources, those condemned to crucifixion never carried the complete cross, despite the common belief to the contrary and despite the many modern re-enactments of Jesus' walk to Golgotha. Instead, only the crossbar was carried, while the upright was set in a permanent place where it was used for subsequent executions. As the first-century Jewish historian Josephus noted, wood was so scarce in Jerusalem during the first century A.D. that the Romans were forced to travel ten miles from Jerusalem to secure timber for their siege machinery. (p. 21)
Similar are the details mentioned under "Cross" in the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology:
“It is certain only that the Romans practised this form of execution. But is is most likely that the stauros had a transverse in the form of a crossbeam. Secular sources do not permit any conclusion to be drawn as to the precise form of the cross, as to whether it was the crux immissa (+) or crux commissa (T). As it was not very common to affix a titlos (superscription, loanword from the Lat. titulus), it does not necessarily follow that the cross had the form of a crux immissa.
There were two possible ways of erecting the stauros. The condemned man could be fastened to the cross lying on the ground at the place of execution, and so lifted up on the cross. Alternatively, it was probably usual to have the stake implanted in the ground before the execution. The victim was tied to the crosspiece, and was hoisted up with the horizontal beam and made fast to the vertical stake. As this was the simpler form of erection, and the carrying of the crossbeam (patibulum) was probably connected with the punishment for slaves, the crux commissa may be taken as the normal practice. The cross would probably have been not much higher than the height of a man. (Vol. 1, p. 392)”
Regarding the earlier mentioned finding of the ossuaries, it is stated…
“It would be unlikely that Christian Jews would have been buried in that area after 135 A.D. since the Romans forbade Jews to enter Aelia Capitolina . . . after the second Jewish revolt. (from Ancient Times, Vol. 3, No. 1, July 1958, p. 3.)”
In 1945 a family tomb was discovered in Jerusalem by Prof. E.L. Sukenik of the Museum of Jewish Antiquities of the Hebrew University. Prof. Sukenik is the world's leading authority on Jewish ossuaries. Note his findings:
“Two of the ossuaries bear the name "Jesus" in Greek. . . . The second of these also has four large crosses drawn. . . . (Prof. Sukenik) concluded that the full inscriptions and the crosses were related, being expressions of grief at the crucifixion of Jesus, being written about that time. . . . Professor Sukenik points out . . . (that) the cross may represent a "pictorial expression of the crucifixion, tantamount to exclaiming `He was crucified!'" As the tomb is dated by pottery, lamps and the character of the letters used in the inscriptions--from the first century B.C. to not later than the middle of the first century A.D. this means that the inscriptions fall within two decades of the Crucifixion at the latest. (Ancient Times, Vol. 3, No. 1, July 1958, p. 35. See also Vol. 5, No. 3, March 1961, p. 13.)”
Now, there is also some MEDICAL evidence for the death of Jesus having occurred on a cross, rather than merely an upright stake.
QUOTE: “The Romans choice of using a cross over a stake was apparently due to the cross being able to extend the time it takes a person to die. By staying alive for hours or days the crucified person served as a warning example to others. The site centuryone.org/crucifixion2.html (February 15 2006) looks at some of these issues. Quoting research contained at F.T. Zugibe, 1984 Death by Crucifixion, Canadian Society of Forensic Science 17(1):1-13.6 it shows that on a cross, rather than a rapid death from asphyxiation death it can take hours or days to die from hypovolemic shock. On the other hand, death on a stake is rapid. Summarising research by P. Barbet 1953 Les Cinq Plaies du Christ 2nd ed. Paris: Procure du Carmel de l' Action de Graces;
"Eye Witness accounts by prisoners of war in Dacchu during WWII reported that victims suspended from beams by their wrist, which were tied, expired within ten minutes if their feet were weighted or tied down and within one hour if their feet were unweighted and the victim was able to raise and lower himself to permit respiration. Death in this manner, which is one form of crucifixion, was the result of suffocation."
The length of time Jesus and the other two survived after impalement shows they were likely supported on a cross by a sedile.”
And expounding on this further, the JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION says….”"...Crucifixion probably first began among the Persians. Alexander the Great introduced the practice to Egypt and Carthage, and the Romans appear to have learned of it from the Carthaginans. Although the Romans did not invent crucifixion, they perfected it as a form of torture and capital punishment that was designed to produce a slow death with maximum pain and suffering. It was one of the most disgraceful and cruel methods of execution and usually was reserved only for slaves, foreigners, revolutionaries, and the vilest of criminals.
... Only later was a true cross used; it was characterized by an upright post (stipes) and a horizontal crossbar (patibulum), and it had several variations. Although archaeological and historical evidence strongly indicates that the low Tau cross was preferred by the Romans in Palestine at the time of Christ, crucifixion practices often varied in a given geographic region and in accordance with the imagination of the executioners, and the Latin cross and other forms also may have been used.”
The primary argument the Watchtower Society uses to disprove a cross is a linguistic one. They claim that the Greek terms stauros and xulon and the Latin term crux did not mean "cross" in the first century, but came to mean cross in later centuries. This comment is regularly just thrown out there, hoping it will stick. However, they have made almost no effort to back up this claim, and the overwhelming majority of the evidence is against them.
The main “evidence” the WT uses to support the false claim that “stauros” came to mean a cross much later than Jesus' time, is VINE’S EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, comments from back in 1948. The Watchtower concentrates on Vine's linguistic argument, but does not mention to its readers the body of evidence that Vine‘s commentary has been refuted on this point. To examine the full body of historical evidence, we see that the cross certainly WAS in common use, in Jesus’ day.
And this knocks the legs right out from under the Watchtower’s entire argument.
The above facts and quotes were largely left out by Eddie and Sister T, and instead, we were given partial quotes, and quotes taken out of context, with important portions removed. Not to mention quotes from sources that have been thoroughly debunked.
And then we are told what a VITAL issue this is for our standing with God. If that is the case, it would just stand to reason that we should expect ALL the fact, and have them quoted in an accurate way.