To a Christian the importance of the cross cannot be overstated. Without Jesus dying for our sins -and his resurrection, thus defeating death and Hell- our faith would be utterly worthless. To us, it’s the ultimate symbol of victory making it possible for one to be reconciled back to God. To the Jehovah’s Witnesses however, it’s an offensive symbol used in phallic worship . The reference from the previous sentence however is not an accurate explanation coming from the Watchtower Society . Regardless of where the cross originated from, what it was used for -whether in pagan ceremonies or worship etc- the point of today’s article is to examine what kind of cross that Jesus carried, and was subsequently crucified on.
(KJV) John 19:17 And he bearing his cross went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha:
The Watchtower claims that the idea of a two beamed cross came 300 years after the death of Jesus . Again, they are not being truthful as there were much earlier writings about a two beamed cross . The Greek word used for cross in the New Testament is stauros (σταυρός). The Watchtower maintains that a stauros only means an upright stake. Without getting into the origin and evolution of this word (perhaps in another article) I would like to focus on another word for just a moment. It’s the Latin word “patibulum”. A patibulum is a crossbeam that a condemned person would carry on his/her shoulders to the crucifixion site . This beam would then be fixed to the upright stauros, hence making the traditional cross as we know it. The Watchtower Society would have us to believe that Jesus carried an upright stake to his crucifixion site after being mercilessly beaten and scourged with a whip that was embedded with bone, metal, or pottery.
How We Can Know For Sure
Lets look at some quick numbers on how big that stake might have been. I’m five foot ten (70 inches tall) and with both hands stretched forward, I have a thirty one inch reach. With my hands extended over my head (as the Watchtower pictures Jesus on a “torture stake”) that puts the stake needing to be at least eight foot four inches. Lets add a couple of feet for the stake to be planted firmly in the ground, that puts the stake at almost ten and a half feet long. Understandably these numbers are not precise since we don’t know how tall Jesus was, but we at least get an idea here. This stake easily would have weighed over two hundred pounds, it’s doubtful that Jesus would have carried it on his shoulders after all he went through. And to drag it, I don’t see that happening either. I have read estimates from scholars that say the distance Jesus had to carry his cross was anywhere from half a mile up to five miles. Carrying the crossbeam/patibulum -rather than the upright stake part, which would have already been at the crucifixion site- is the only logical conclusion of what Jesus actually carried to Golgotha.
1. As stated at Ezekiel 8:17, apostate Jews also ‘thrust out the shoot to Jehovah’s nose.’ He viewed this as “detestable” and ‘offensive.’ Why? This “shoot,” some commentators explain, was a representation of the male sex organ, used in phallic worship. How, then, must Jehovah view the use of the cross, which, as we have seen, was anciently used as a symbol in phallic worship? -1989 Reasoning From The Scriptures pg. 93
2. The reasoning from the “Reasoning book” above provides us with no reference from those commentators that show if the “shoot” or “branch” is actually a cross as we know it. Adam Clarke’s Commentary On The Bible had this to say (emphasis mine) about Ezekiel 8:17 “They put the branch to their nose – This is supposed to mean some branch or branches, which they carried in succession in honor of the idol, and with which they covered their faces, or from which they inhaled a pleasant smell, the branches being odoriferous. That the heathens carried branches of trees in their sacred ceremonies is well known to all persons acquainted with classic antiquity; and it is probable that the heathen borrowed those from the use of such branches in the Jewish feast of tabernacles.” (eSword)
3. It was not until about 300 years after Jesus’ death that some professed Christians promoted the idea that Jesus was put to death on a two-beamed cross. -2006 Awake April pg. 13.
4. Here’s a quote from Justin Martyr (died 165 A. D.) “Moses himself prayed to God, stretching out both hands, and Hur with Aaron supported them during the whole day, so that they might not hang down when he got wearied. For if he gave up any part of this sign, which was an imitation of the cross…”
Irenaeus (died 200 A. D.) wrote: “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.”
5. The Greek and Latin words corresponding to “crucifixion” applied to many different forms of painful execution, from impaling on a stake to affixing to a tree, to an upright pole (a crux simplex) or to a combination of an upright (in Latin, stipes) and a crossbeam (in Latin, patibulum). In some cases, the condemned was forced to carry the crossbeam on his shoulders to the place of execution. A whole cross would weigh well over 300 pounds (135 kg), but the crossbeam would not be quite as burdensome, weighing around 75–125 pounds (35–60 kg). –Wikipedia