HISTORY OF THE CROSS:
THE PAGAN ORIGIN
IDOLATROUS ADOPTION AND WORSHIP,
OF THE IMAGE.
HENRY DANA WARD, M.A.,
THE CROSS OF CHRIST NO IMAGE.
STAUROS and ZULON, are the only words in the
Greek Testament descriptive of the wooden cross of Christ.
Neither of them admit of the radical idea of a cross in
English, or in any other modern language. In all the languages of
Christendom, a cross consists of one line drawn through
another. Two sticks, one crossing the other, are essential to
constitute, and to present the universal idea of, a material,
No such idea is conveyed by the Scripture words stauros and zulon. Stauros means "an upright pale," a strong stake, such as farmers drive into the ground to make their fences or palisades- no more, no less. To the stauros the Roman soldiers nailed the hands and the feet of the King of glory, and lifted Him up to the mockery of the chief priests and elders of the people. Over Him, on the stauros, Pilate put His title: "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." And no mortal is at liberty to affirm any other form of stauros on which our Saviour was lifted up than is implied in the meaning of that word, which alone the four Evangelists in the four Gospels use to describe the wood on which Jesus was lifted up.
ZULON, which I write for the easier pronounciation zulon, means "wood cut ready for use, a stick, cudgel, or beam; any timber; a live tree." This is, as I have said, the only word besides stauros employed in the New Testament to signify the cross of Christ. The Evangelists use this word to signify the clubs or staves with which the company were armed when they arrested Jesus by night in Gethsemane. In the Acts, and rarely in the Epistles, it signifies the wood or timber on which Jesus was impaled alive.
Zulon, then, no more than stauros, conveys the English sense of a cross. Zulon and stauros are alike the single stick, the pale, or the stake, neither more nor less, on which Jesus was impaled, or crucified. Stauros, however, is the exclusive name given by all the Evangelists to the wood of Christ's cross. The stauros Jesus bore, on it He was hanged, from it He was taken down dead. The Evangelists use this word also in the figurative sense: "Come, take up thy stauros, and follow me" (Matt. xvi. 24, Mark viii. 34, Luke ix. 23). "He that taketh not his stauros and followeth after me, is not worthy of me" (Matt. x. 38). Neither stauros nor zulon ever means sticks joining each other at an angle, either in the New Testament or in any other book.
THE BRAZEN SERPENT.
When Israel in the wilderness
murmured against God, the Lord sent fiery serpents among them,
and much people of Israel died. The penitent people besought
Moses to pray the Lord to take away the serpents. Moses's prayer
was answered, not by removing the serpents, but by providing a
remedy against their bite. By command of the Lord, "Moses
made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole. And it came to
pass that if the serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the
serpent of brass he lived"(Numb.xx. 9). The healing power
was not in the "pole," neither was it in the brazen
serpent, but in the word of the living God. The healing virtue
resided not in these lifeless forms singly or jointly, but in the
faith of the word which turned the eyes of the wounded to look
that they might live. After the lapse of eight centuries, Judah
came to believe there was miraculous power in that image, and
they worshipped it. They did not make an image; they
worshipped with incense, the same which Moses, by divine
command, had made, and had elevated in the healing sight of
the congregation. They worshipped it, not as the work of their
hands, but as an instrument of salvation, set up by their great
lawgiver. Notwithstanding, that good King Hezekiah, such as
" after him was none like him , nor any that were before
him," when he removed the high places and brake the images,
and cut down the groves, brake in pieces also "the brazen
serpent that Moses had made ; and he called it Nehushtan," i.e.,
brass(2 Kings xviii. 4). So, were the veritable wood of Christ's
cross now before our eyes, it should sooner be cut -in pieces,
and burned for wood, than be adored with incense, and reverence,
and love. Is it any holier and better to reverence and love an
image of that wood, to kiss it, to wreathe it with laurel, to bow
down and worship before the image, which, whether of wood or
stone, is man's device, wrought into shape by the hands of man ?
Not an instance of exalting or honouring the visible form of the cross occurs in the New Testament. On the contrary, it is the emblem of our humiliation and sorrow, which being endured in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, through Jesus and the resurrection, "when our captivity will be turned again, as the streams in the south, our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing;" for we shall not only see Him as He is, but be like Him, having our vile body changed into the likeness of His glorious body, and our joint inheritance of all things with Christ Jesus in eternal life.
THE PUNISHMENT OF THE CROSS.
This was Inflicted on hardened criminals, and on resolute enemies, and on vile murderers and slaves, among all the renowned nations of antiquity. The manner and circumstances of the execution do not concern us now, so much as the instrument, respecting which Smith's "Dictionary of the Bible " gives large information. "In Livy," says Smith, even crux means a mere stake. More generally, the cross is called arbor infelix -Livy, Seneca ; or lignum infelix-Cicero. The very name of the cross was abhorrent not only to the flesh, but even to the eyes, ears, and thoughts of Roman citizens-Cicero proRab.5." Yet the learned Dr Smith himself follows the learned of every name in Christendom, whether scoffer or believer, in confounding the cross monogram in various forms and fashions, calling and considering them as one and the same thing. .......Crosses must have been commonly of the simplest form, "because they were used in such marvellous numbers. Of Jews alone, Alexander Jannaeus crucified 800, Varus, 2000, Hadrian, 500 a day; and the gentle Titus so many that there was no room for the crosses, nor crosses for the bodies."-Smith's Dict. of the Bible. Alexander the Great crucified 2000 Tyrians, and both the Sogdian king and people, for their brave defence of their several countries. And Augustus crucified 600 Sicilians. Under such circumstances, men could not be particular about the form of the stauros, or the manner of applying it. Some were nailed, others were tied hand and foot and lifted up on the stauros; others on the tree. Others, also , were spiked to the earth with the stauros driven through their body, and others were spitted on it. Thus the crucifying or impaling was executed in the cruelest manner, and the sufferers were left to rot unburied, or to be devoured by the birds and beasts. In deference to the Mosaic law, the bodies were in Judea removed and buried, and the crosses were burned, to avoid legal defilement by the accursed thing, as it is written: "His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but in any wise thou shalt bury him that day (for he that is hanged is accursed of God); that the land be not defiled " (Dent. xxi. 23).
With these facts before us, showing the many and divers forms which the most learned and accurate are wont to call by one common name, " the cross," which name contradicts the form of the wood on which Christ suffered according to the Scriptures; and further, showing the corrupt use of this symbol in orgies of the ancient heathen, we are better prepared to take up the thread of the story from its beginning in the counterfeit Barnabas, and to follow it down through the labyrinth of error, until the initial of Tammuz has come to supplant the monogram of Christ on the standard of Rome, and to be exalted as the banner of Christendom. These are no dreams, but realities set forth not in opposition to the Church of our crucified Lord but in fidelity to the glorified Lord of the Church. For though Aaron and all Israel made of their ornaments the golden calf, and danced, feasted, and shouted before it, "Behold , these be thy gods, 0 Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt;" and though the chief Pontiff and all Christendom make an ornament of the image of the cross, and lift it in reverence and worship, on their person, on the church spire, and on the communion-table in the house of God and say, " Behold the cross of thy Lord and Saviour! behold, these be thy Saviour, O Israel, which redeemed thee from the bondage of corruption! " the images alike are idols-the image of the calf and the image of the cross, both are a pretence and an abomination, supplanting, with a dumb show, the presence of the living God, and closing the heart against Jesus Christ crucified Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God" (I Cor. i. 24).
A GRAND MISTAKE.
Many Romans and some others think that by exalting an image of the cross, they honour the Lord Jesus Christ, in the spirit of the Apostle, who exclaims : " God forbid that I should glory, save in the stauros of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Gal. vi. 14). They little consider that the stauros is death to this world with shame and reproach on the sufferer. They little consider whether it is indeed honouring an upright man, our Friend, to set up in His name an image invented to commemorate Him through the ignominious weapon with which His relentless enemies put Him to death. Such honour more befits His enemies than His friends. Yet the very murderers themselves would be understood to glory in their deed, should they make such image their personal badge,-the recognised banner of their polity and the test of their brotherhood, and a charm of their person. It is time to shout aloud with Imbert: "Worship Christ, not the wood!" And, though rejected of men, we may hope with Him to be accepted of the Lord.
The Scripture sense of the word stauros,
for the cross of Christ, is in the concrete a pale, a strong
stake, a wooden post; and in the abstract, it is a voluntary and
patient suffering of shame, reproach, and torment unto death, in
whatever form it may please God to lay it on us, whether by the
rack, the wild beasts, the fire, or the hatred and persecution of
godless men, for the sake of truth and righteousness, and in the
hope of everlasting life. The Scriptures never speak of
the stauros as an image or a sign, but always as a reality,
cognisable to the senses, in every case known, by the sorrows and
anguish of the sufferer. "Pilate wrote a title and put it on
the stauros," i.e., the wood. "Jesus said, He
that taketh not his stauros, and followeth me, is not
worthy of me ;" i.e., the stauros of personal shame
and suffering for the truth and righteousness of God. "The
preaching of the stauros is to them that perish,
foolishness;" i.e., they see no sense in suffering wrong and
injury patiently-"Lest they should suffer persecution for
the stauros of Christ ;" ie., contumely and
reproach for believing in the suffering and crucified Saviour.
"Far be it that I should glory save in the stauros
of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me,
and I unto the world; " i.e., not the stauros of
wood, but the self-sacrifice and offering of the body of our Lord
Jesus Christ on the wood. In every sense, the Scripture stauros,
first, is a pale or wooden and, secondly, the
shame, the reproach, and the patient
suffering of innocence before the world for righteousness' sake.
Joseph bore this form of the stauros while imprisoned by
the captain of Pharaoh's guard, till the Lord delivered him; and
so Ignatius, being condemned in Antioch to be torn and devoured
by the wild beasts for the faith of Christ, bore his stauros from
} Antioch to Rome, where, in the amphitheatre, he suffered it,
despising the agony and the shame. In every Scripture sense, the stauros
of Christ is a living reality, and never that lying vanity, a
senseless image and sign of the wood.
Inquiring about this image, three things surprise us:
I. The fact that a great variety of wholly unlike forms are, by the common and universal consent of the learned, called by the same name, "the cross," and are understood to mean the cross or stauros of our Lord Jesus Christ.
II.That the figure of the cross, used among the primitive Christians, was X(hi), the Greek initial of Christ, for a sign of Christ, as authors to this day make in their manuscripts X for Christ, and Xmas for Christmas, and Xian for Christian.
III. The third thing that exceedingly surprises us is, to find that this sign and image commonly called the cross, was a profane symbol in heathen mysteries, exalted and honoured from Babylon to Jerusalem ' from the Nile to the Ganges, and from Syria to Britain many centuries before our era. These are facts fully established, but not generally known.
Following up our inquiry, we learn how, when, and by whom this pagan symbol found entrance among Christians, and we shall soon learn how it came at length to supplant the sign of Christ in the churches and on the banners of Christendom. For no writer of the age and the school of the apostles ever mentions, or alludes to any sign, image, or form of the stauros, other than its name implies, one pale or stake; except a certain man under the assumed name of " Barnabas, the companion in labour of Paul, the apostle." The counterfeit Nicodemus follows in the same path, setting forth the power of the sign of the wood in Hades. Minutius Felix and Tertullian, in the beginning of the third century, follow, coyly teaching that it is no worse for Christians to worship the wooden cross, than for the pagans to worship their wooden gods and trophies and eagles Cyprian,A.D.-950-8, acknowledges the sign in the form of the initial of Christ-not the pagan image, but "Christi signum, signum Dei-the symbol of Christ and of God." And, finally, we learn that Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem, A.D. 350, comes boldly forth for the sign of the wood, and for the wood of the stauros,} without saying ever a word about the form of the image of the stauros, or about worshipping it. He neither made nor vended images; but he pretended to have the original wood, with portions of which he parted, as a special favour to them that were worthy; and the wood grew in his keeping, so as, in his own words, " to fill the whole world," which many believed, if he did not.
It is time to awake to the fact that the Tammuz or old heathen cross, led the whole column of images, such as of the virgin, of the apostles, of the saints and martyrs, and of our blessed Lord himself, with their several altars, into the Catholic Church, by degrees, from the latter half of the fourth to the latter half of the eighth century; when image-worship was firmly and for ever established in the Roman Catholic Church by the seventh Ecumenical Council, which was the second Council of Nice, held A.D. 787. It is time to awake, for the same strong tide of formalism, which then overflowed Christendom, is now coming under the form and fashion of the same image of the Tammuz cross, to overwhelm the Protestant world. The self-styled Infallible in the flesh, whose mark is the cross, is no less confident of possessing the kingdom o the whole earth now, than the Jews were in the expectancy of that kingdom, when they crucified the Lord of glory.
The Greek initial of Christ is a sign bringing to the memory of Christians, in the midst of the torments of heathen persecution, both the name and the sufferings of Christ, with His victory over death, and His soon coming again to judge the quick and the dead, and to give His faithful followers inheritance in His everlasting kingdom. Hence they learned to recognise their fraternal fellowship in Christ by the sign of His monogram. Gibbon says, "In all occasions of danger and distress, it was the practice of primitive Christians to fortify their minds and bodies by the sign of the cross, which they used in all their ecclesiastical rites, in all the daily occurrences of life, as an infallible preservative against every species of spiritual and temporal evil."-Gibbon, chap.xx
That the persecuted and suffering believers should " fortify their minds and bodies by the sign of the stauros "of wood is inconceivable; but it is natural that, in their circumstances, they should fortify their faith by the sign of the initial of our Lord's name, X for Christ. That this custom came at last to be superstitious is evident. After the boasted vision of Constantine, and the invention and the multiplication of the wood, in the name of the cross, had supplied the whole world, many superstitious practices of the heathen were adopted, perverting the faith, and changing the significant sign of Christ's name into the present sign of the murderous tree.
IS THIS GLORYING IN THE IMAGE OF THE WOOD PLEASING TO GOD?
Could our blessed Lord himself be pleased with the evil tree? Could He make an idol of the wood on which He was nailed, then lifted up, and left to drink the vinegar and the gall in death? Can it be pleasing in His sight for His citizens to make an ornament of the image of that wood on which He was lifted up, amid the scoffs and jeers of the chief priests and rulers of His chosen people ? Can it be pleasing to the blessed Jesus to behold His disciples glorying in the image of that instrument of capital punishment on which He patiently and innocently suffered, despising the shame? It was a shame, else how did the innocent Sufferer despise the shame ? It was an infamous shame. Why should a rational man make an image of the instrument of it? Reverence and love the image! Lift it up and make an ornament of it! Bow down before it, and kiss the thing with his lips! It is monstrous. Were the crown of thorns taken from the Saviour's wounded head, or the rod with which they smote the Judge of Israel on the cheek, or the nails which fastened His bands and His feet to the tree, really brought to our view, they would, with the spear which pierced His side, be objects of abhorrence to every loving heart. We hear of " Israel's judicial blindness." What else is this which leads Christendom to boast of the instrument on which "Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many ?" (Heb.3 ix. 28). That it is most unnatural will plainly appear when we bring the case home to our own heart. Suppose we take up reverently in honour, and glory in, and even kiss a weapon which, in cruel hands had, without the slightest provocation, slain our best friend and benefactor-our elder brother-and brought him to an untimely, shameful, and agonising death ! No mortal in his senses is capable of such perverseness, while yet many, under the delusion of the cross, are daily guilty of it. Neither can it be conceived that such honour to the evil instrument would be agreeable to our departed brother, could his immortal spirit look on it. Would he not rather, in a burst of indignation, exclaim, ill the language of Christ, " Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, " If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets " (Matt. xxiii. 29).
THE BEARER OF THIS CROSS DOES
NOT PRAY IT MAY
PASS FROM HIM.
No language is too strong to express the indignation of our loving Brother at conduct so shameful, so unnatural. Nor does it improve the matter to pay this homage to an image of the murderous weapon, to lift it up, to gild, and wear it for a charm of the person, for an ornament of the house, and of the house of God. It does not lessen the offence to make this idol minister to the pomp of public worship, to the pride of life, the vanity of fashion, or sale of an article stamped with the image. No; this pagan image is a false cross, from which the holy apostles would shrink in horror, however the multitude of their successors honour it. This is a make-believe cross of pearl, gold, and precious stones, which the wearer cannot pray that it may be taken away from him, and which the multitude naturally covet, should it please God to give it them! How impious and blind to call this image the cross of Him who said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee. Take away this cup from me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what thou wilt " (Mark xiv. 36). All the images of the heathen are an abomination in His sight. How much more those of Christendom, and, most of all, "the glory cross," borne in solemn procession, adorned and set up in the house of the living God, to honour the most cruel death of His be loved Son at the hand of envious murderers! How much better such manners are in this age than those of the thirteenth century, when the visible head of the churches ordained festivals sacred to the memory of the various instruments of torture which afflicted our Lord unto death, the reader will judge."
Of interest are these comments from Jesus: God, Man, or Myth (The Truth Seeker, 1950), which states:
"A stauros was a mere stake, and horrible to contemplate, it was used in the cruelest fashion to execute criminals and other persons..... It was sometimes pointed and thrust through the victim's body to pin him to earth; or he was placed on top of the stake with it's point upwards so that it gradually pierced his body; or he was tied upon it and left exposed till death intervened; and there were other methods too. There is not a scrape of evidence that a stauros was ever in the form of a cross or even of a "T" shape............
"If Jesus had been executed, mythically or historically, it would not have been with outstretched arms on a cruciform structure.Cutner reports that scholars have been aware of the error but have been unable to resist the TRADITIONAL MISTRANSLATION. In the 18th century some Anglican bishops recommended eliminating the cross symbol altogether, but they were ignored.There is no cross in early Christian art before the middle of the 5th century, where it (probably) appears on a coin in a painting. The first clear crucifix appears in the late 7th century. Before then Jesus was almost always depicted as a fish or a shepherd, never on a cross. Constantine's supposed 4th century vision of a cross in the sky was not of the instrument of execution: it was the Greek letter "X" (chi) with a "P" (rho) through it, the well-known monogram of Christ, from the first two letters of XPISTOS. Any Bible that contains the word "cross" or "crucify" is dishonest. Christians who flaunt the cross are unwittingly advertising a pagan religion."
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