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Cross or Stake?

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The Non-Christian Cross, Parsons


AS has already been to some extent pointed out, it is evident that our beloved Christendom more or less owes its existence to the fact that Constantine the Great when only ruler of Gaul, himself a Sun-God worshipper at the head of an army of Sun-God worshippers, seeing how greatly the small but enthusiastic bodies of Christians everywhere to be met with could aid him in . his designs upon the attainment of supreme power, bid for their support. For to this politic move, its success, and Constantine's perception that only a non-national religion whose followers sought to convert the whole world and make their faith a catholic one, could really weld together different of men, we owe the fact that when he became Sole Emperor he made Christianity the State Religion of the world-wide Roman Empire.
This act and its far-reaching effects, are not all we owe to Constantine, however. It should be remembered that even our crecd was to some extent decided by him. For it was this Sun-God worsbipper-who, though he advised others to enter what he wished should become a catholic and all-embracing religion, refused to do so himself till he was dying-who called together our bishops, and, presiding over them in council at Nicea, demanded that they should determine the controversy in the ranks of the Christians as to whether the Christ was or was not God, by subscribing to a declaration of his Deity. It is even recorded that he forced the unwilling ones to sign under penalty of deprivation and banish
From these and other incidents in his career it would appear that, either from policy or conviction, Constantine acted as if he thought the Sun-God and the Christ were one and the same deity.
The probability of this is more or less apparent from what we are told concerning the part he played in connection with what, thanks, as we are about to see, to him, became our rccognised symbol.
Our knowledge of the part played by Constantine in connection with the symbol of the cross, except so far as we can gather it from a study of ancient coins and other relics, unfortunately comes to us solely through Christian sources. And the first that famous bishop and ecclesiastical historian Euscbius of Cesarea, to whom we owe so large a proportion of our real or supposed knowledge of the early days of Christianity, tells us about Constantine and the cross, is that in the year A.C.312-a quarter of a century before his admission into the Christian Church-Constantine and the Gaulish soldiers he was leading saw at noon over the Sun a cross of Light in the heavens, bearing upon it or having attached to it the inscription EN TOYTO NIKA, By this conquer.
The words of the Bishop, who is reporting what he states the Emperor in question to have told him personally, are:
"He said that at mid-day when the sun was beginning to decline he saw with his own eyes the trophy of a cross of light in the heavens, above the Sun, bearing the inscription EN TOYTO NIKA he himself, and his whole armv also, being struck with amazement at this sight"
Though this marvellous cross, declared by Christian writers of that century to have been the so-called Monogram of Christ ....appeared to an army of Sun-God worshippers, Constantine himself-as can be seen from his coins-remaining one for many years afterwards if not till his death, it is put before us as a Christian cross.
It is also noteworthy that no material representation of a cross of any description was ever held aloft by adherents of the Christian Church, until after Constantine is said to have had this more or less solar cross so represented as the standard of his Gaulish army.
Mention should therefore be made of the fact that, upon the coins he struck, the symbol is perhaps the one which occurs the most frequently upon representations of the famous Labarum or Military Standard of Constantine; but that the symbol ...the and..... without the circle, and the ... and are also to be seen.
Now the Gauls led by Constantine specially venerated the Solar Wheel. This had sometimes six and sometimes four spokes, or and the warriors of their native land had long been in the habit of wearing a representation of the same upon their helmets. It is therefore not improbable that even before the date of the alleged vision when marching upon Rome, some such symbol formed the standard of Constantine's army.
Anyhow, that the worthy Bishop Eusebius was, like other enthusiasts, liable to be at times carried by his enthusiasm beyond the limits of veracity, or else wvas the victim of imperial mendacity, is evident. For Eusebius tells us in the Life of Constantine he wrote after the death of his patron, that the night after this miraculous "cross" and motto were seen in the sky above the Sun, the Christ appeared to Constantine, and, showing the Gaulish general the same sign that had been seen in the sky, directed him to have a similar symbol made, under which his army-an army, be it remembered, of Sun-God worshippers- should march conquering and to conquer!
All that is really lilkely to have happened is that Constantine, wishing to encourage his troops, bade them rally round a standard on which was represented the sacred Solar Wheel venerated by the Gauls ; and that as with this as a rallying point Constantine and his Gauls became masters of Rome, the symbol we are discussing became a Roman-and therefore, later on, upon the establishment of our faith as the State Religion of the Roman Empire, also a Christian -symbol. And a loop seems to have been sooner or later added to the top of the vertical spoke of the Gaulish symbol, so that Christians could accept it as a Monogram of Christ ; as has already been hinted, and as will be demonstrated further on.
A noteworthy point is that we have two accounts of Constantine's alleged vision of the Christ, and that they do not quite agree.
The Bishop of Caesarea's account is, that the night after the Emperor-then only ruler of Gaul-and all his soldiers saw the " cross " and motto above the meridian sun, the Christ appeared to Constantine

"With the same sign which he had seen in the havens and commanded him to make a likeness of that sign which he had seen in the heavens, and to use it as a safeguard in all engagements with his enemies."

But the author of D e Mortibus Persecutorem, a work said to have been written during the reign of Constantine, and attributed to Lactantius, refers to the alleged vision as follows:
"Constantine was admonished in his sleep to mark the celestial sign of God on the shields, and thus engage in battle. He did as he was commanded, and marked the name of the Christ on the shields by the letter X drawn across them with the top circumflexed. Armed with this sign his troops-

and the differences between these two accounts are greater than would at first sight appear.
Let us however return to the story of the Bishop of Caesarea, who tells us that the morning after the Christ appeared to Constantine, the Emperor told this second marvel to his friends, and, sending for the workers in gold and precious stones who are assumed to have accompanied the Gaulish army directed them to overlay with gold a long spear

"On the top of the whole of which was fixed a wreath of gold and precious stones, and within this the symbol of the Saviour's name, two letters indicating the name of the Christ by means of its initial characters, the letter P being intersected with the letter X in its centre."

Several questions naturally arise at this point of our enquiry, and it is not easy-nay, it is impossible-for us Christians to honestly dispose of all of them and yet retain our cherished opinions upon this matter. Only one such question need be stated, and it is this : Is it likely that the Infinite Ruler of the universe, either at mid-day or at mid-night, went out of his way to induce a Sun-God worshipper who would not enter the Christian Church till a quarter of a century later and ere then was to become a murderer of innocent persons like the boy CAesar Licinius, to adopt a symbol which he warranted would enable Constantine to lead on the Gauls to victory ?
Pursuing the narrative of Eusebius we find that he, alluding to the symbol which he describes as a monogram but calls a cross, states that, setting this " victorious trophy and salutary symbol in front of his soldiers, Constantine continued his march against Maxentius ; and, with his forces thus " divinely aided," overthrew the Emperor just outside the Imperial City, entered Rome in triumph, and thanked God that He had enabled him to defeat and slay its ruler and assume the purple in that ruler's stead.
Eusebius then tells us that Constantine, who did not dispose of all his rivals and become sole emperor till some twelve years later, as victor in the fight with Maxentius and master of Rome though not as yet of the whole empire, at once

"By loud proclamation and monumental inscriptions made known to all men the salutary symbol, setting up this great trophy of victory over his enemies, and expressly causing it to be engraven in indelible characters that the salutary symbol was the safeguard of the Roman Government and entire people. Accordingly he immediately ordered a lofty spear in the figure of a cross to be placed beneath the hand of a statue representing himself in the most frequented part of Rome, and the following inscription engraven on it in the Latin tongue: 'By virtue of this salutary sign which is the true test of valour, I have preserved and liberated your city from the yoke of tyranny, and I have also set at liberty the Roman Senate and People, and have restored to them their ancient distinction and splendour."

Now, as we have already seen, what Eusebius referred to as the "cross" observed above the mid-day sun (and accompanied by a miraculous inscription in, presumably, to agree with the monogram, the Greek languange which was, well, " Greek " to the Gaulish soldiers) was the so-called Monogram of Christ or ...or... or.... That, too, was what Eusebius tells us the Christ afterwards told the Gaulish leader Constantine to model his military standard after. That, therefore, was the " salutary symbol " and trophy of victory" referred to in the above passage from the same authority.
It is therefore clear that this "lofty spear in the figure of a cross " which Eusebius tells us was placed under the hand of the statue of Constantine in the central place of honour in Rome, was referred to by Eusebius as a " cross " because it was shaped like or in some way connected with some form or other of the so-called Monogram of Christ. And such a conclusion is borne out by the fact that spears with cross-bars had been in use among both Gauls and Romans for centuries, whereas this one is referred to as something out of the common.
It should also be noted that it was as a victorious military standard, and not as either a monogram of the Christ or a representation of the stauros upon which Jesus was executed, that Constantine caused this or... or.... or.... or (all which variations occur upon the coins of Constantine and his successors), to become a symbol of the Roman Empire.
Further on in his history of the Emperor, Eusebius tells us that whenever Constantine saw his troops hard pressed, he gave orders that the "salutary trophy" should be moved in that direction, and that victory always resulted.
The Bishop of Caesarea then goes on to relate that Constantine selected fifty men of his body-guard, the most distinguished for piety, valour, and strength, whose sole duty it was to defend this famous standard ; and that, of the elect fifty, those who fled were always slain, and those who stood their ground were always miraculously preserved.
One would imagine from all this that there was only one labarum. Many different kinds are, however, represented upon the coins of Constantine as also almost every variety of ordinary cross, except, perhaps, such as might conceivably have been a representation of an instrument of execution, like that which has since come into vogue among us.
Eusebius also tells us that Constantine caused to be erected in front of his palace a lofty tablet, on which was painted a representation of him-self with the " salutary sign " over his head and a dragon or serpent under his feet. He also informs us that inside the palace and in the principal apartment, on a vast tablet in the ceiling, Constantine caused " the symbol of our Saviour's passion to be fixed, composed of a variety of precious stones inwrought with gold."
Which of all the " salutary " signs that appear upon the coins of Constantine these particular crosses were, we do not know ; but it is, at any rate obviously unlikely that a worshipper of Apollo who refused to enter the Christian Church till he was dying, and on his coins always attributed his victories to the Sun-God, elevated either as a representation of an instrument of execution.
As to the alleged finding at Jerusalem, by Helena the mother of Constantine, of three stakes with transverse bars attached, all of which were ancient instruments of execution and one of which was shown by the occurrence of a miracle to have been a cross to which Jesus was affixed three centuries before, it is clear that this is a fairy tale. The story cannot be traced further back than to St. Cyril of Jerusalem about A.C. 350; and Euscbius, who gives an account of Helena's visit to Jerusalem, does not mention any such occurrence as that in question; a sure sign that it was an invention of later date.
The Christian Church, however, in a weak moment vouched for the truth of this ridiculous story; and while what was suffered to remain in Jerusalem of the true cross became the treasure of that city and a trophy captured by its foes but afterwards secured from them and once more placed in its holiest shrine, what was broken up into relics for the faithful throughout Christendom multiplied into a thousand fragments ; one of which forms the centre of the Vatican Cross, and such few others of which as survive would not if examined, 'tis said, even prove to be all of the same kind of wood, or even limited to the two kinds for the presence of which a supposed cross-bar of another kind of timber might be held accountable.
The same Christian Bishop to whom this fairy tale can be traced, in a letter to one of the Emperors that succeeded Constantine declared that on the seventh of May A.C. 351 he and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem saw a brilliant cross in the heavens, stretching from Mount Golgotha to the Mount of Olives, and shining like the Sun for several hours. And this marvellous vision is vouched for by St. Jerome, Socrates, Idatius, and the Alexandrine Chronicle, as well as by St. Cyril; and is still kept in memory by the Greek Church, a solemn festival being held upon anniversaries of the day in question. But which particular " salutary sign" thus shone in the sky like the Sun for hours, is uncertain.
These painfully obvious inventions cannot but incline broad-minded Christians to the belief that our Church went to great lengths in order to induce people to believe that the cross was essentially a Christian symbol; which tends to show that there was a danger of their thinking otherwise.
It is also clear from the evidence already quoted concerning the adoption by Christians in the fourth century of a symbol they denounced in the third, that whether Jesus was executed upon a cross-shaped instrument or not, that was not the chief reason why the phallic symbol of Life became rccognised as the symbol of the Christ.
The striking fact that though, as will be shown, the cross of four equal arms (a cross which, as we have seen, preceded the Latin cross as a Christian symbol, and one form of which still the favourite symbol of the Greek Church; while even in the other two great divisions of Christendom its numerous variations, wbeel-like and otherwise, as a whole dispute the supremacy with the Latin cross) occurs many times upon the coins of Constantine, yet it was the so-called Monogram of Christ or adapted solar wheel of the Gauls which the Christians of the fourth century were most careful to claim as a Christian symbol, should also be noted. For though the cross of four equal arms was also put by Constantine upon his coins as a solar symbol, yet that, being then, as for ages previously, a symbol of the Sun-God of world-wide acceptation, and one which as we shall see had already appeared as such upon Roman coins, it was not so much a Gaulish symbol as the other; and it was evidently because that other was the symbol followed by the triumphant leader of the Gauls and his victorious army, that the Christians wished to specially identify it with the Christ.
In any case, whether the so-called Monogram of Christ was more or less forced upon Christianity when Constantine made our faith the State Religion of his empire, or whether it was adopted by Christians of their own volition, it was a politic move (than which few possible moves could have done more to secure the triumph of our faith) to accept as the symbol of the Christian Church what was at one and the same time the symbol of Constantine, of the Roman State, and of the universally adored Sun-God.
That the more generally accepted symbol of the Sun-God, the cross of four equal arms, should in time supplant the more local one, was of course only to be expected as was the adoption of a cross with one arm longer than the others, as being the only kind which could possibly be connected with the story of Jesus as the Christ incarnate.
As to the possible objection that what has been dealt with in this chapter has been rather the origin of the Christian custom of manufacturing and venerating material representations of the sign or figure of the cross than the origin of the Christian cross itself, the answer is obvious. And the answer is that the first cross which can justly be called "Christian," was the one which was the first to be considered, to use Dean Farrar's expressions, "mainly," if not "only," a representation of an instrument of execution which cross was undoubtedly not a transient sign or gesture but a material representation of the cross with one arm longer than the others and was introduced after such representations of the cross of four equal arms and of the so-called Monogram of Christ had come into 'vogue among Christians as a consequence of the influence of Constantine.

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NWT Online Home Main Index Most Recent Additions/Updates  NWT Biased? Dangerous Book? Objections Recommended Books Benjamin Kedar and the NWT "Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament"  John 1 "Does the N.T. call Jesus "God"" "Jesus as "theos."" John 8.58 Cross or Stake? Luke 23:43 Hebrews 1:8 Buchanan and Hebrews 1 Romans 9:5 Colossians 1:15 "all other things"? Coming or Presence? New World Translation Renderings. On the form of the Divine Name 'Jehovah'. Philippians 2:6 Acts 20:28 "...the blood of his own [Son]" Revelation 3:14 "...the beginning of the creation by God." Proskyneo: Always "worship"? Hebrew 1:6 "proskyneo"- 'worship or obeisance' and does it matter? Zechariah 12:10 John 17:3 "This means everlasting life...." Pages of interest Matthew 27:50-"pneuma," "yielded up his spirit."  Colossians 2:9 "divine nature." Revelation 5:10 Minor Criticisms Answered. 1 John 5:20. Who is the "only true God."?' The 'Johannine Comma'.-1 John 5:7 The Trinity Doctrine- Biblically Founded? An Example of one Web critic of the NWT ! Trinity 'Proof Texts' refuted. 'Babylon' rebutted Stafford's "'ANI HU and the LXX of Isaiah" John L. McKenzie and the 'Trinity Brochure' J.H.Thayer and the 'Trinity Brochure' H. Chadwick and the 'Trinity Brochure' Translation Comparisons. Items for sale