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What the Bible says about Cross, Symbol of
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Over the years, the church of God has often written about "the Cross," many times to debate whether Jesus died on a traditional cross or on an upright stake or pole in the ground. A few in God's church would not even utter the word "cross," replacing it with the word "stake" or "tree" instead. Perhaps we focused on the technical data too much, as we tried to distance our Savior from any pagan symbol or shape. Maybe we began to lose sight of the larger picture: that our Savior had to die for us.

Our English Bible translations say He died on a "cross." The original Greek word used is stauros. In researching the topic, we find some experts report that a stauros was simply a stake, pole, or post upon which the victim was either nailed, strapped, or impaled. Strong's Concordance (#4716) defines it as "a stake or post . . . a pole or cross." Vine's Expository Dictionary takes the much stronger opinion that the "cross" the Romans crucified Jesus on was nothing like today's crucifix, but just an upright beam. Several Bible dictionaries take both sides—that the "cross" was originally an upright beam with cross beams added later, and they give supporting evidence. The exact shape is unimportant. A stake both with and without a cross bar is used in pagan symbolism. Is a church steeple any less pagan because it has no cross bar? It is still a phallic symbol.

Without a doubt, the "cross" we know today looks very much like the symbol used by worshippers of Tammuz. It is equally certain that we should not be using a "cross" as a part of worship. However, we must not forget the greater issue: Our Savior died a most horrible death on a stauros or "cross." For me. For you.

Why Did Jesus Have to Die by Crucifixion?

Related Topics: Cross, Symbol of


Onward, Christian soldiers!
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before.

So reads the chorus to a very popular Christian hymn that churches have sung for many years. The song portrays the cross as the identifying sign of everything for which Christianity stands and around which Christians should rally in their fight against the forces of evil.

Throughout the world, people universally regard the cross as THE symbol of Christianity. Churches have crosses atop their steeples, on their walls, windows, and doors. Catholics and Protestants wear crosses on necklaces, bracelets, rings, pendants, keychains, and items of clothing. People in some churches "cross" themselves by touching the forehead, breast, and then each shoulder to form a symbolic cross in carrying out certain religious rituals or in blessing themselves or others. Some think the sign of the cross to be effective in warding off evil spirits and for generally protecting believers from harm.

All this seems perfectly natural to most people. After all, Jesus was crucified on a cross, was He not? Have not Christians used the sign of the cross throughout all ages to show to the world their belief in the Savior of mankind? The Bible mentions the cross many times, in both literal and figurative terms, as symbolizing the meaning of true Christianity as well as the sacrifices and trials that a true Christian must endure in this life to be true to the faith. What then could anyone possibly find wrong with the sign of the cross?

What most people do not fully realize is that Satan has deceived this whole world (Revelation 12:9). Many of the comfortable, familiar customs and traditions of this world have, indeed, been borrowed from rank paganism and have nothing at all to do with true Christianity. God tells us to prove all things (I Thessalonians 5:21). Before we accept any practice, we should always inquire into its origins. We must assure ourselves that it does not transgress any of God's laws and that it follows the traditions and practices of the early New Testament church.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
The Cross: Christian Banner or Pagan Relic?

Related Topics: Cross, Symbol of


Did the use of the cross as a religious symbol begin with Christianity? Notice this paragraph from The Encyclopedia Britannica:

From its simplicity of form, the cross has been used both as a religious symbol and as an ornament, from the dawn of man's civilization. Various objects, dating from periods long anterior to the Christian era, have been found, marked with crosses of different designs, in almost every part of the old world. India, Syria, Persia and Egypt have all yielded numberless examples, while numerous instances, dating from the later Stone Age to Christian times, have been found in nearly every part of Europe. The use of thecross as a religious symbol in pre-Christian times, and among non-Christian peoples, may probably be regarded as almost universal, and in very many cases it was connected with some form of nature worship. (The Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., 1910, Vol. 7, pg. 506. Emphasis ours.)

Clearly, long before the coming of Christ, pagans used the cross as a religious symbol. The ancient world used many variations of the form of the cross. Did the ancients use the type of cross that is generally used as a symbol of Christianity?

Two of the forms of the pre-Christian cross which are perhaps most frequently met with are the tau cross, so named from its resemblance to the Greek capital letter T, and the svastika or fylfot, also called "Gammadion" owing to its form being that of four Greek capital letters gamma G placed together. The tau cross is a common Egyptian device, and is indeed often called the Egyptian cross. (ibid.)

Variations of the tau cross were used extensively by nominal Christians in Egypt. "The ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic symbol of life—the ankh, a tau cross surmounted by a loop and known as crux ansata—was adopted and extensively used on Coptic Christian monuments" (The New Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th ed., 1995, Vol. 3, p. 753). The tau form of the cross had been used as a pagan Egyptian symbol and then adopted by "Christians," called Copts, in Egypt. (A Copt is a member of the traditional Monophysite Christian Church originating and centering in Egypt. A Monophysite is one who adheres to a variation of Gnosticism that teaches that Christ is altogether divine and not human, even though He took on an earthly body.)

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
The Cross: Christian Banner or Pagan Relic?

Related Topics: Cross, Symbol of


One can easily corroborate from history that nominal Christians adopted this pagan symbol as a sign of their religion, even though it had nothing to do with true Christianity.

The death of Christ on a cross necessarily conferred a new significance on the figure [of the cross], which had hitherto been associated with a conception of religion not merely non-Christian, but in its essence often directly opposed to it. The Christians of early times were wont to trace, in things around them, hidden prophetical allusions to the truth of their faith, and such a testimony they seem to have readily recognized in the use of the cross as a religious emblem by those whose employment of it betokened a belief most repugnant to their own. The adoption by them of such forms, for example, as the tau cross and the svastika or fylfot was no doubt influenced by the idea of the occult Christian significance which they thought they recognized in those forms and which they could use with a special meaning among themselves, without at the same time arousing the ill-feeling or shocking the sentiment of those among whom they lived. (The Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., 1910, Vol. 7, p. 506. Emphasis ours.)

When did "Christians" first begin using the cross as a sign of their religion? Did the apostles use it?

It was not till the time of Constantine that the cross was publicly used as the symbol of the Christian religion. Till then its employment had been restricted, and private among the Christians themselves. Under Constantine it became the acknowledged symbol of Christianity. . . . Constantine's action was no doubt influenced by the vision which he believed he saw of the cross in the sky with the accompanying words en toutw nika [by this conquer], as well as by the story of the discovery of the true cross by his mother St. Helena in the year 326. (ibid. Emphasis ours.)

As we have seen, an enormous body of evidence proves that the cross is not a Christian symbol but has its roots in rank paganism. Some will argue, however, that we may use the sign of the cross because 1) it represents the manner in which Jesus Christ died, and 2) we are not using it today to worship a pagan deity. However, its use as a Christian symbol is a product of syncretism, that is, the blending of pagan traditions and methods of worship with the true worship of God, something God strongly condemns.

Before entering the land of Canaan, God told the Israelites,

. . . take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, "How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise." You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. (Deuteronomy 12:30-31)

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
The Cross: Christian Banner or Pagan Relic?

Related Topics: Cross, Symbol of | Paganism | Syncretism


Commonly, crucifixion was carried out in one of two ways:

Two methods were followed in the infliction of the punishment of crucifixion. In both of these the criminal was first of all usually stripped naked, and bound to an upright stake, where he was so cruelly scourged with an implement, formed of strips of leather having pieces of iron, or some other hard material, at their ends, that not merely was the flesh often stripped from the bones, but even the entrails partly protruded, and the anatomy of the body was disclosed. In this pitiable state he was reclothed, and, if able to do so, was made to drag the stake to the place of execution, where he was either fastened to it, or impaled upon it, and left to die. (The Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed., 1910, Vol. 7, p. 506)

The second method of crucifixion involved a stake with a crossbar to which the condemned individual's hands were tied or nailed.

In such a case, after the scourging at the stake, the criminal was made to carry a gibbet, formed of two transverse bars of wood, to the place of execution, and he was then fastened to it by iron nails driven through the outstretched arms and through the ankles. Sometimes this was done as the cross lay on the ground, and it was then lifted into position. In other cases the criminal was made to ascend by a ladder, and was then fastened to the cross. (ibid.)

The Bible does not specifically state which method the Romans used in the crucifixion of Christ. Most other sources suppose that they used a crossbar because they nailed an inscription above Jesus' head and that both His hands had been pierced by nails (John 20:25-27). However, this is far from conclusive proof; it cannot be proven how Christ was crucified because the biblical account gives insufficient evidence. Thus, we do not know how to represent properly the stake upon which Jesus died.

Does it matter? We must also consider if it is even appropriate to use the very tool that was used to kill our Savior as an emblem of our faith. If Jesus Christ had been killed by hanging, would we use a gallows or a noose as a symbol of our faith? If He had been beheaded, would we use a guillotine? Why should we parade the instrument of shame and death before the world and be proud of it? The New Testament shows that the fact that Christ was killed by crucifixion was an offense to some. "But we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness" (I Corinthians 1:23).

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
The Cross: Christian Banner or Pagan Relic?

Ezekiel 8:14

Here, God supernaturally reveals to the prophet some of the secret sins of the nation of Israel. One of these sins is lamenting for a pagan god named Tammuz. Who was Tammuz and why would women be weeping for him? The New Encyclopedia Britannica writes in the article "Tammuz": ". . . in Mesopotamian religion, god of fertility embodying the powers for new life in nature in the spring" (Vol. 11, p. 532).

This "nature god" was associated with two yearly festivals, one held in late winter and the other in early spring.

The cult of Tammuz centred around two yearly festivals, one celebrating his marriage to the goddess Inanna, the other lamenting his death at the hands of demons from the netherworld. During the 3rd dynasty of Ur (c. 2112—c. 2004 BC) in the city of Umma (modern Tell Jokha), the marriage of the god was dramatically celebrated in February—March, Umma's Month of the Festival of Tammuz. . . . The celebrations in March—April that marked the death of the god also seem to have been dramatically performed. Many of the laments for the occasion have as a setting a procession out into the desert to the fold of the slain god. (ibid. Emphasis ours.)

What does the worship of Tammuz have to do with the sign of the cross? According to historian Alexander Hislop, Tammuz was intimately associated with the Babylonian mystery religions begun by the worship of Nimrod, Semiramis, and her illegitimate son, Horus. The original form of the Babylonian letter T was † (tau), identical to the crosses used today in this world's Christianity. This was the initial of Tammuz. Referring to this sign of Tammuz, Hislop writes:

That mystic Tau was marked in baptism on the foreheads of those initiated into the Mysteries. . . . The Vestal virgins of Pagan Rome wore it suspended from their necklaces, as the nuns do now. . . . There is hardly a Pagan tribe where the cross has not been found. . . . [T]he X which in itself was not an unnatural symbol of Christ, the true Messiah, and which had once been regarded as such, was allowed to go entirely into disuse, and the Tau, "†", the sign of the cross, the indisputable sign of Tammuz, the false Messiah, was everywhere substituted in its stead. (The Two Babylons, 1959, p. 198-199, 204-205)

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
The Cross: Christian Banner or Pagan Relic?

Matthew 10:38

Christ calls us to take up our cross and follow His example. This call is not so much a call to martyrdom as a command to deny self or, crucify the flesh, even to the point of death. We must be prepared to die, if that is where the course of events leads, but in most cases it is not so much literal martyrdom as it is to have the attitude of self-denial that is willing to give up all. Christ's disciples live to serve God, not self. Paul admonishes us to put off our former conduct and put to death our sinful actions.

Martin G. Collins
Overcoming (Part 5): Self-Denial


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