This article is a response to a Watchtower article entitled…Did Jesus really die on a cross?
To view the full article visit..
(Throughout this article I will refer to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society as, The Watchtower, or WT.)
The Watchtower article begins with the following Quote…
Roman Catholic writer and archaeologist Adolphe-Napoleon Didron stated: “The cross has received a worship similar, if not equal, to that of Christ; this sacred wood is adored almost equally with God Himself.”
Firstly let me say this is WRONG! I’m not saying the quote is wrong, I’m sure Adolphe-Napoleon Didron, did make that statement, I’m sure there may be some, (hopefully very few) who would worship the cross in this way. What I am saying is wrong, is the very idea that a Christian should worship the cross to any degree! Let alone to revere it as highly as God himself! For the Watchtower organisation to use this quote to show the beliefs and views of conventional Christianity is misleading if not deceptive. Conventional Christendom is demonised by the Watchtower organisation in many ways from making statements about Christians Worshipping so-called pagan symbols, to calling Christians the very ‘Whore of Babylon’ herself.
It is vital then that we communicate the truth of Christianity to Jehovah’s Witnesses, who
wholeheartedly believe what the Watchtower communicates to them.
The Watchtower had the cross as one of its religious symbols for almost 40 years!
The picture shown below is taken from The Harp of God, Joseph Rutherford, p.113
Quotes from the Harp of God…
“And Pilate, more righteous than the clerics, posted
over his cross the sign: ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King
of the Jews.'” (page 136)
“When Jesus died upon the cross of Calvary…………”
“The ransom price was provided at the cross. The
cross of Christ is the great pivotal truth of the divine
arrangement, from which radiates the hopes of men.”
“The cross of Christ is the greatest pivotal truth of
the divine arrangement, from which radiate the
hopes of men.” The Harp of God (Rutherford) p.141
Most Jehovah’s Witnesses are unaware that The Cross and Crown logo (upper left hand corner of this 1931 WATCHTOWER) was the official logo for 40 years of the Watchtower magazine. Removed October 1931.
So why do Jehovah’s witnesses believe the cross of Christ to be a stake?
and what evidence is there to support the Christian view of the cross?
The word stau·ros′ does indeed refer to an upright stake or pole, the word is used in the New Testament
Greek . The word stau·ros′ is correctly interpreted be the WT as an upright stake or pole
However by New Testament times the stau·ros′ (stake,) with a patibulum or furca, (cross bar) had begun to be used.
This stake with a cross bar was still referred to simply as a stake, (as a stake made up part of the cross,)
Hence the original Greek writings using this word.
As shown below ‘stauros’ can be interpreted to mean several things including a ‘cross beam, or a cross. What is important then is that those doing the interpreting are taking into account the Historical information available, and ask questions such as, was a cross used by Romans for the purpose of execution at the time of Christ?
The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology says this about the Greek stauros:
Corresponding to the vb. (stauroo) which was more common, stauros can mean a stake which was sometimes pointed on which an executed criminal was publicly displayed in shame as a further punishment. It could be used for hanging (so probably Diod. Sic., 2, 18, 2), impaling, or strangulation. stauros could also be an instrument of torture, perhaps in the sense of the Lat. patibulum, a crossbeam laid on the shoulders. Finally it could be an instrument of execution in the form of a vertical stake and a crossbeam of the same length forming a cross in the narrower sense of the term. It took the form either of a T (Lat. crux commissa) or of a + (crux immissa). (Vol. 1, page 391)
There is some evidence that certain cities in the Roman Empire had places of execution set up outside the walls of the city. The Roman historian Tacitus records that there was such a place in Rome on the Campus Esqulinus (Annals 2:32.2; 15:60.1). Golgotha, outside the walls of Jerusalem, also appears to have been such a set place of execution. At these places of execution would have been permanently located the upright beam of the cross (stipes) onto which the crossbeam piece which the condemned man carried would be attached.
John 19:17 (NIV)
17 Carrying his own cross, he went out to the place of the Skull
Biblical Archaeological Review, January/February, 1988, pp. 48-49, as
quoted by Doug Harris in Awake to the Watchtower, pp. 309-310..
“At the end of the first century BC, 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 of 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 his arms. The slave was then required to march through the neighbourhood proclaiming his offence.
This march was intended as an exipiation and humiliation. Later, the slave was also stripped and scourged. increasing both the punishment and the humiliation. Still later, instead of walking with the arms tied to the wooden beam, the slave was tied to a vertical stake…Following the beating, the horizontal beam was placed upon the condemned man’s shoulders, and he began the long, gruelling march to the execution site, usually outside the citywalls…When the procession arrived at the execution site, a vertical stake was fixed into the ground…If the victim was attached by nails, he was laid on the ground, with his shoulders on the cross-beam. His arms were held out and nailed to the two ends of the cross-beam, 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 the ‘sedile’, was a small seat attached to the front of the cross, about half way down. This device provided some support for the victim’s body and may explain the phrase used by the Romans, ‘to sit upon the cross’. Both Erenaeus and Justin Martyr describe the cross as having five extremities rather than four; the fifth was probably the ‘sedile’.”
Mark 15:21-24 (NIV)
The Crucifixion of Jesus
21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way
in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. 22 They brought Jesus to the place called
Golgotha (which means “the place of the skull”). 23 Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but
he did not take it. 24 And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.
The accounts at , Luke 23:26-38, and John 19:1-22 all show that Jesus was forced to follow the practice of carrying the stauron to Golgotha., It was a Roman practice
Matthew 27:37 also supports the idea of a cross rather than a stake when it says;
“Above his head they had put the charge against him in writing: ‘THIS IS JESUS, KING OF THE
In the Watchtowers depiction of Jesus being hung on a stake rather than a cross, The sign above Jesus’ ‘head’ as in this verse would need to be altered to ‘above his hands’ as this pose necessitates.
Writings of antiquity
By New Testament times, the Romans were using several different forms of the cross for crucifixion. The following texts from Plautus, Seneca, and Tacitus, writers from the third century BC to the second century
AD, contain the use of the word crux used in conjunction with the words patibulum and furca, (both meaning cross beam).
(The Latin dictionary by Lewis and Short states that the meaning of crux was “a tree, frame, or other wooden instruments of execution, on which criminals were impaled or hanged.)
1) Frateor, manus vobis do. Et post dabis sub furcis. Abi intro–in crucem. ” ‘I admit it, I hold up my
hands!’ ‘And later you will hold them up on a furca. Do go along to the crux’ ” (Persa, 295).
(2) Credo ego istoc extemplo tibi esse eundum actutum extra portam, dispessis manibus, patibulum quom habebis. “I suspect you’re doomed to die outside the gate, in that position: Hands spread out and nailed to the patibulum” (Miles Gloriosus, 359-360).
(3) O carnuficium cribum, quod credo fore, ita te forabunt patibulatum per vias stimulis carnufices, sihuc reveniat senex. “Oh, I bet the hangmen will have you looking like a human sieve, the way they’ll prod you full of holes as they run you down the streets with your arms on a patibulum, once the old
man gets back” (Mostellaria, 55-57).
(4) Ego dabo ei talentum, primus qui in crucem excucurrerit; sed ea lege, ut offigantur bis pedes, bis brachia. “I’ll give two hundred pounds to the first man to charge my crux and take it — on condition his legs and arms are double-nailed, that is” (Mostellaria, 359-360).
(5) Patibulum ferat per urbem, deinde adfigatur cruci. “Let him bear the patibulum through the city; then let him be nailed to the crux” (Carbonaria, fr. 2).
It is interesting that WT should say that no biblical evidence “even intimates” Jesus’ death was on the cross. Remember Thomas’ demand for proof concerning the resurrection of Jesus, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails” (John 20:25). Thomas, one of Jesus own disciples knew that Jesus had hung on the cross. He requested to see the print of the nails (plural). The torture stake theory only has one nail (singular). Even on this small detail, the Bible is specific.
Although the symbol of the cross appears in much pagan history prior to Jesus, the crucifixion cross has historical meaning due to the fact that crucifixion was a real, historical method of execution. As an instrument of death, the cross was detested by the Jews, so it became a stumbling block for them when considering Jesus. How could the Messiah be executed on a cross? After all, the Greek and Roman Empire executed thousands of criminals and captives in just this manner (Alexander the Great executed two thousand Tyrian captives in this way, after the fall of the city).
This form of punishment was usually reserved for such crimes as treason, desertion, robbery, piracy, assassination, and other such crimes. It continued in the Roman empire until the day of Constantine, when it was abolished as an insult to Christianity.
1 Corinthians 1:23 (NIV)
23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
In Summary, the shape of instrument that was used to crucify Jesus is not what is important. What is important is the sacrifice that Jesus made, for all who would accept Him. The reason I felt compelled to respond to this article, is that this is one of many topics the WT organisation discusses, which tries to show Christians in a negative light. WT tells it’s members, Christians are wrong, they worship the cross, they believe in pagan things, Stay away from Christians! If a Jehovah’s Witness dares to ever leave the fold, a true Christian Church is the last place their ever going to want to go!
Its up to us then to show them the truth, and be a witness for the true gospel.