References for "Did Jesus Really Die on a Cross?", Watchtower 2010, Mar pp.18-20

by pirata 32 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • pirata

    I thought I'd dig up some of the references made in the

    "Did Jesus Really Die on a Cross?", Watchtower 2010, Mar pp.18-20

    Interestingly 2 references are honestly quoted, but the other 2 are misquoted.

    What are your thoughts on the credibility of each reference source used and why? I noticed that the references that assert that 'stauros' was only a pole or stake in the 1st century did not include any references to back them up.

    My impression so far is that the t shape cross was likely already in use by the 1st century and Jesus may have dies on a pole, or maybe a cross (though I'm not sure how one guy could have carried that friggin long pole by themselves). Whether or not it was a stake or a cross doesn't really matter at all because their shouldn't be idols of either... anyways here's the references (the direct quote is in bold):

    "Did Jesus Really Die on a Cross?", Watchtower 2010, Mar pp.18-20

    'The Imperial Bible Dictionary' (p.18)
    "Cross", Reverend Patrick Fairburn, The Imperial Bible Dictionary, London, 1866, p.376
    The Greek word for cross, oravpos, properly signified a stake, and upright pole, or piece of paling, on which anything might be hung, or which might be used in impaling a piece of ground. But a modification was introduced as the dominion and usages of Rome extended themselves through Greek-speaking countries. Even amongst the Romans the crux (from which our cross is derived) appears to have been originally an upright pole, and this always remained the prominent part. But from the time that it began to be used as an instrument of punishment, a transverse piece of wood was commonly added; not, however, always even then. For it would seem that there were mored kinds of death than one by the cross: this being sometimes accomplished by transfixing the criminal with a pole, which was run through his back and spine, and came out at his mouth. (adactum per medium hominem, qui per os emergat, stipitem, Seneca, Ep. XIV) In another place (Consol, ad Marciam, xx.) Seneca mentions three different forms: "I see", says he, "three rent ways: one sort suspending by the head persons bent towards the earth, others transfixing them through their secret parts, others extending their arms on a paibulum." There can be no doubt, however, that the latter sort was the more common, and that abou the period of the gospel age, crucifixion was usually accomplished by suspending the criminal on a cross piece of wood.
    'A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament' (p.18)
    "TREE", E. W. Bullinger, A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, pp.818-819
    wood i.e. for fuel, timber; 'then' anything made of wood; 'here' a piece of timber, a wooden stake (a) ['used here for the oravpos' on which Jesus was crucified. Both words disagree with the modern idea of a cross, with which we have become familiarised by pictures. The oravpos was simply 'an upright pole or stake' to which the Romans nailed those who were thus said to be crucified, 'Eravpow, merely means to drive through stakes.' It never means two pieces of wood joining each other at any angle. Even the latin word 'crux' means a mere stake. The initial letter X (chi) of Xpioros (Christ) was anciently used for his name, until it was displaced by the T, the intial of the Pagan God Tammuz, about the end of cent. iv.]
    'The Catholic Encyclopedia' (p.19)
    "Cross and Crucifix in Archæology", The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1914 ed. Jan 9 2011,
    The penalty of the cross goes back probably to the arbor infelix, or unhappy tree, 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; 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".
    'Greek Scholar W.E. Vine' (p.18), 'Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words' (p.19)
    "Cross, Crucify [Noun], W.E. Vine, 'Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words', 1997, Thomas Nelson, pp.248-249
    stauros denotes, primarily, "an upright pale or stake." On such malefactors were nailed for execution. Both the noun and the verb stauroo, "to fasten to a stake or pale," are originally to be distinguished from the ecclesiastical form of a two beamed "cross." The shape of the latter 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.
    As for the Chi, or X, which Constantine declared he had seen in a vision leading him to champion the Christian faith, that letter was the initial of the word "Christ" and had nothing to do with "the Cross" (for xulon, "a timber beam, a tree," as used for the stauros, see under TREE).
  • Joliette
  • james_woods

    While this may have some kind of interest to a historian, I have never understood why the Watchtower makes such a big deal out of it.

    What possible religious difference could it make? Idolatry is sometimes brought up - but they make as big a deal over the stake as catholics make about the cross.

    Obviously, they just want to be different from conventional Christian tradition, and have no proof either way.

  • PSacramento

    I always enjoy how inexperienced JW's TRY to make this an issue, but when shown that are more than liekly wrong, they say, " It doesn't really matter".

    Well, if it doesn't really matter, why bring it up? and if it doesn't really matter why not agree that he was crucififed on a cross since evidence shows that was the most likely thing that happened at that the WT advoated that WHEN it was suposedly chosen BY CHRIST as the only one preaching the truth.

  • sd-7

    I saw this article and was wondering how honest the scholarship was. I just figured that maybe they were right about the stake thing, simply because I thought it'd be more efficient to use one beam of wood instead of two to get rid of a criminal. But it's not like the Roman Empire decided to "go green" in 33 A.D. and use less wood, I suppose...

    But the discussion is about as relevant as if, to borrow their illustration, Jesus was shot to death. Would it matter if it was a TEC-9 or a double-barreled shotgun that was used? Probably not. The important thing is that he died for people's sins. The only reason the cross/stake is meaningful was that Jesus said to pick up your torture stake/cross and follow him. I figure that could be one reason for having a cross as a symbol of that willingness, but not for the sake of worshipping it. The difference between an idol and a statue or a picture is that you're not bowing down, praying to/through, or otherwise excessively giving reverence to a particular object. I guess.

    Great thread.


  • pirata

    I think it does matter for one reason, it shows the academic integrity of the Watchtower's presentation. The argumentation is one-sided, there is not a fair comparison between opposing references, and the opposing references that are used are cherry-picked to look like they support the opposite view of what they actually do.

    Growing up, I thought that this was how you were supposed to right essays. Then in high school I learned that you are supposed to consider both sides of the issue and make up your mind from those. I got a really poor mark in one assignment because I presented both sides of the argument, then said I agree with stand A because I am a JW. The teacher gave me a zero on that section because he said I didn't even bother thinking about the two sides. That was a wake up call for me that I would continue to remember over the years.

    My focus was mainly about the integrity of the sources:

    W.E. Vine presents a 3rd C. Apostasy theory that the cross symbol was pagan and borrowed. But no evidence presented. E.W. Bullinger argues that the word never meant two pieces of wood at an angle, but provides no evidence to back up that statement. He says the T comes form the pagan God Tammuz, but with no evidence to back that up either.

    Patrick Fairburn and the Catholic Encyclopaedia cite some evidence to show that crosses were in use as execution devices in the 1st c.

  • HayDay

    Again the Society likes to build the Straw Man (ex: Cross vs Stake) and then tear it down on "Christendom". What they are really good at doing is polarizing any topic they believe to be "truth" and then create a crowd of fanatically charged up preachers build a divide between their religion and other religions. This is a clever tactic that really serves to reinforce the cult.

  • stapler99

    I looked at the article and they made it look as if the Imperial Bible Dictionary agreed with them. I would say this is a blatant misquote and it would not be inaccurate to call the writers LIARS.

  • WontLeave

    This has always struck me as something really stupid to pick a fight over. But that's cult mentality. This kind of emotional brainwashing that makes JWs hate the sight of an inanimate object, like a charm on a necklace or (Christmas) lights on a house is highly indicative of mind control. The deer-in-headlights looks from other JWs if one says "church" instead of "kingdom hall" or "congregation", "Old Testament" instead of "Hebrew Scriptures", "John the baptist" instead of "baptizer", "Last Supper" instead of "Lord's evening meal", etc. are all symptoms of the cult language used to put a chasm between JWs and the community. All of these things already had words, but they feel the need to make up JW words for them, just like they need their own "cross" word, even to the point of inserting a word not in the original Greek: "Torture". Even if a slam dunk case can be made for "stake" (which it can't) there is no excuse for adding "torture" to it.

    But long-time JWs will shove their feet into their respective mouths, up to the hip, picking this fight over and over, while preaching. They'll do the same thing over 607 BC, thinking it's backed by secular history, because they've never actually checked. I also love when they try to show a Catholic that "their Bible" has God's name in it. These "Bible scholars" have no clue that the 1611 KJV was a product of the Church of England, a protestant denomination. Years ago, when Catholics used the 1966 Jerusalem Bible, it had Yahweh in all the original places, but the Vatican no longer tolerates the use of any form of the "sacred name".

    I've come to the realization this "just believe whatever you're told" mentality is what leads to the proliferation of urban legends among them: Jeopardy saying the NWT is the most accurate, angels saving JWs while preaching, possessed garage sale items, and all the Smurf stories. They're "trained from infancy" to avoid any "worldly wisdom" (college, Internet, books not written by WTBS) and not to question the Society or verify any of its claims, as that leads to (gasp!) "independent thinking" and "apostasy". So, they're conditioned to be mentally lazy and willfully ignorant.

  • Mad Sweeney
    Mad Sweeney


Share this