The JWs have made such a big issue out of the cross versus the stake argument that all sense of proportion has been well and truly lost. Then, when beleagered by continued queries from others, JWs exclaim, "Stop fault-finding!".
References for "Did Jesus Really Die on a Cross?", Watchtower 2010, Mar pp.18-20
I have posted info on some of these sources in my thread on the subject. Here is some info on E. W. Bullinger and W. E. Vine, the two writers who come closest to the Society's claims. These two writers are closely associated with the Plymouth Brethren movement in Britain (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plymouth_Brethren). The Brethren sought to do away with ordained clergy and avoided traditional symbols of Christianity, and the Wikipedia page about them states: "Traditionally, meetings would not have a cross displayed inside or outside their place of worship as the focus is on Christ and the Word of God. The Plymouth Brethren view an unembellished room as more effective. Crosses are not typically placed inside homes or worn around the neck of these believers. Other symbols such as stained glass windows for their normal meeting hall have been traditionally discouraged". Nelson Darby, who innovated the concept of ultradispensationalism, was also of the Plymouth Brethren and so the movement came include an emphasis on dispensationalism and millenariansm.
In 1853 Alexander Hislop published The Two Babylons, subsequently revised and expanded, which claimed that almost everything having to do with Catholicism originated in pagan Babylon, including the cross. Hislop originated the claim that the T (or Tau) was the symbol of the god Tammuz. Hislop was not one of the Plymouth Brethren afaik, he attended the Free Church of Scotland, but his views were very much in tune with theirs and his book was subsequently reprinted by the Brethren. When I was a JW, I purchased my own copy of the Two Bablyons in the kingdom hall, and the publisher was Loizeaux Brothers, a Plymouth Brethren press.
E. W. Bullinger was an Anglican clergyman influenced by Darby's dispensationalism and he was also a close associate of Charles W. Welch, another ultradispensationalist with similar views (including annihilationism). In fact, his work for the Companion Bible was completed posthumously by Welch. Bullinger adopted the view that the cross was pagan and was influenced especially by J. D. Parsons who published in 1896 the book The Non-Christian Cross. Parsons was not a Christian and was influenced by theosophical ideas as a member of the Society for Psychical Research. In 1906 he published The Nature and the Purpose of the Universe in which he speculated, among other things, the temperature in the spirit world. The Society quotes from Parsons frequently in their literature without acknowledging his spiritualist leanings. Parsons came to his ideas about the cross not through a religious motive of removing paganism from Christianity but through a conviction that Christianity is paganism through-and-through. Parsons was a Jesus myther who believed that Jesus did not exist but was copied from other pagan Savior deities, as he expounded in his 1895 book Our Sun-God: Or Christianity Before Christ. In recent times, Parsons' book has become an "authoritative" source in current Jesus myther speculation (such as the kind popularized in the web movie Zeitgeist). Anyway, Bullinger's piece about the cross in the Companion Bible is almost word-for-word plagiarized from Denham's book. It is possible that Bullinger did not author this but it was Welch who copied Parsons in order to complete Bullinger's work posthumously. The similar views in Bullinger's Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament however show that Bullinger indeed had such views himself. The Society of course quotes Bullinger as an independent scholar in support of their view, even though Bullinger was clearly influenced by Parsons and Parsons was not a biblical scholar.
W. E. Vine was baptized in the Plymouth Brethren and his views were very similar to Bullinger, including annihilationism, the idea that hell is "the common grave", dispensationalism, etc. Vine, in repeating the view that the cross was the symbol of Tammuz, was clearly influenced by Alexander Hislop. He is one of the other scholars authoritatively quoted by the Society on the subject of the cross. Thus Vine, Bullinger, and Welch were either Brethren or closely associated with Brethren, and Hislop and Parsons were directly influential to Vine, Bullinger, and Welch.
@Leolaia, thanks so much! I am going to take a close look at your original thread.
Leolaia, I enjoyed your comments. For years I read constant references in WT publications to the views of individuals such as WE Vine, without knowing anything of the origin of their views. Putting it in context, as you have done, goes a long way to explain why their viewpoints converge with the Witnesses, and why they therefore prefer quoting such writers.
I could not care less whether Jesus died on a cross or stake. The important matters are the nature of Christ, was he fully human, fully God or some hybird. Was he resurrected from the dead is the one essential for me. Paul speaks of the folly of the cross. Fools for Christ for believing a condemned criminal was God and resurrected. I have doubts. The apostles'' behavior leads me to have some belief. They are clueless and thick. No one can even wait in the Garden of Gethsame with him. They show repeated lack of understanding of his teachings which can be confusing. Something happened to these men to become powerful advocates of Christ.
I don't care about a cross or stake. It doesn't matter what color his garb was, nor whether his hair was short nor whether he was clean-shaven. His resurrection matters. Without the resurrection, He is only another in long lines of do gooders and prophets. All this discussion takes away from the central point of the Gospels. People back then were not idiots. If it were important, many chapters would be devoted to cross vs. staken, even in rudimentary Mark. Does it matter what he had for breakfast?
The Witnesses use such discussions to bestow faux legitimacy on their teachings. People without savvy may be impressed. Paul never engages in a theology of cross vs. stake. The Gnostics could not care whether it was a stake or cross. The physicality of his act was denied. He only appeared to be crucified and resurrected. They can't seem to stick to their central thesis. Frankly, I don't know who the heck Jesus actually is in Witness teachings. A casual reader should know the status of Jesus. Why don't we ask whether Jesus drank Pepsi or Coke? Did his mother only wear blue?
Thanks for your helpful sleuthing Leolaia. You have certainly done your homework.
What this illustrates is the way in which the Watchtower searhces far and wide to gain support for its uncommon views - and then proudly trumpets itself as a paragon of scholarly integrity and accuracy in its biased dissertations on such topics as the form of the instrument of Christ's death.
To me, one of the most telling of the "Scriptures" which seem to support a cross beam is the verse that refers to the nails (plural) in Christ's hands. If it were a stake, there'd only be one nail because the hands would be over his head (as actually shown in Watchtower illustrations - oops). I can't remember where that verse is, though.
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?
I just posted something about this the other day on JWR:
It's important to them because it's an easy way to call all other Christians "pagan." It's a quick, all-encompassing way to immediately eliminate the possibility of going to any other branch of Christianity.
It's not 2010
Try March 1, 2011
Page 18 image from De Cruce Libre: A 17TH-CENTURY DRAWING OF AN EXECUTION ON A STAUROS, FROM LIPSIUS’ “DE CRUCE”, is cherry picked and there is nothing in the text to suggest it is a pic of how Christ died. See pages 18 & 99 for other pics that they didn't bother to print.
De Cruce Libre at Google Books
"Thus, it is not surprising that The Catholic Encyclopedia
states: “Certain it is, at any rate, that the cross originally
consisted of a simple vertical pole, sharpened at its
"originally"? When was 'originally'? About 500 years earlier? 600? Whenever it was, it wasn't 33 AD and the CE is not suggesting it is.
The excerpt from the Catholic Encyclopedia is not even about Christ's crucifixion. That is in the following article. The WT is hoping the potential victim won't Google the quote.
Thank you Leolaia for making your research available! It is the best resource that I have seen on the Internet about this subject.
It's good to ask the question, what are the credentials of those who the Watchtower quotes? W.E. Vine may have believed that Jesus died on a straight plank, but who was W.E. Vine, and what was his evidence? Why must they quote 19th century authors in support of their views?
Regarding the picture in "De Cruce Libre", I agree that this is misleading. It gives the impression that this picture was a relic of an original tradition that understood Jesus (or other crucifixion victims) to have died in that way.
Black Sheep, Thanks for pointing out the date. That's an embarassing mistake...