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Cross or Stake?

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The STAUROS of the New Testament: Cross or Stake?

This page will address the following questions:

What was its form in the case of Jesus Christ? Was it a two-beamed cross or a simple upright stake?

Was wood scarce in and around Jerusalem at the time and does this have any bearing on what method the Romans used in Jesus' case?

What does the Greek word mean?

Are there scriptures that 'point' to its form?

What weight should be given to post-N.T christian writers?

Can archaeological findings, such as supposed 1st century christian inscriptions, be of help?

Has the New World Translation's choice been critiqued fairly?

Is the New World Translation alone in its preferred rendering?

Whatever form it was should we have it as a symbol in our places of worship or cherish, hold as dear, the implement of Christ's death?

The word "stauros" occurs 27 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures(the 'New Testament'). This word has been consistently translated in the New World Translation as "torture stake" and never as "cross". It is the implement on which Jesus Christ was afixed and executed. Also, another Greek word was used by the Bible writers "xylon", as the same implement of execution in regard to Jesus, which denotes, "wood, a piece of wood, anything made of wood..."-Vine. At those places where "xylon" is used in connection with Jesus' execution the New World Translation has rendered it as "stake". Is there any justification for the New World Translation to do this with these Greek words?

Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words says:

"STAUROS....denotes, primarily, an upright pale or stake. On such malefactors ware nailed for execution. Both the noun and the verb stauroo, to fasten to a stake or pale, are originally to be distinguished from the ecclesiastical form of a two beamed cross. The shape of the latter had it's origin in ancient Chaldea, and was used of the symbol of of the god Tammaz(being in the shape of the mystic Tau, the initial of his name in that country and adjacent lands, including Egypt. By the middle of the 3rd cent. A.D. the churches had either departed from, or had travestied, certain doctrines of the Christian faith. In order to increase the prestige of the apostate ecclesiastical system pagans were received into the churches apart from regeneration of faith, and were permitted largely to retain their pagan signs and symbols. Hence the Tau or T, in it's most frequent form, with the cross-piece lowered, was adopted to stand for the cross of Christ"

The Classic Greek Dictionary, Greek-English and English-Greek, With an Appendix of Proper and Geographical Names prepared by George Ricker Berry reads under "stauros": "..an upright pale, stake or pole; in plu. a palisade. II. the Cross.(p.648). Although this lexicon seems to give "the Cross" as a meaning for "stauros" it seems rather as a reference than a meaning("the Cross" rather than "a cross")and to that of Jesus Christ. Hence definition II is somewhat 'suspect' and may only reflect the lexicons belief that the stauros in the NT was cross-shaped or it may be giving it as a reference, that is, that when we read in the English Bibles "cross" this is from the Greek stauros and no indication it was actually cross-shaped. In its definition 1 though there is no doubt the meaning of stauros and anything other than that stauros meant more than one piece of wood, whether it was a "pale, stake or pole" is not mentioned and certainly none of which were 'cross-shaped.' This is its meaning in all the Greek classics such as Homer. There is no evidence that the from or shape of the stauros in Jesus Christ's case was any different.

Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words has under the word Tree:

"2.XULON.....(b) of the Cross, the tree being the stauros, the upright pale or stake to which the Romans nailed those who were to be executed, Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; Gal.3:13; 1 Pet.2:24;"

According to a Greek-English lexicon by Liddell and Scott, this word means "Wood cut and ready for use, firewood, timber, etc. . . . piece of wood, log, beam, post . . . cudgel, club . . . stake on which criminals were impaled . . . of live wood, tree." "wood . . . " Hence in the Authorized Version/King James Version this word is rendered as "tree" at Acts 5:30. The Complete Jewish Bible by D. Stern has here "stake." See also Acts 13:29; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24.

In agreement with the above is that which Dr Jason BeDuhn has written(a private letter written to us and published with his permission) when asked what he thought of the New World Translation's rendering of the word "stauros":

"On "torture stake," again, I think that the NWT is a bit heavy handed in trying to make a point. Certainly "stake" would be sufficient, and more desirable. The JW's are trying to shock Christians away from their devotion to the cross. It is, after all, an instrument of execution. They are right that STAUROS does not necessarily mean the cross form as Christianity has thought of it. It can be just a plain stake in the ground to which someone is nailed. But I think "torture" is too much and misses the point: it is meant to be a form of execution and not torture.

Also, the Companion Bible in it's Appendix 162 remarks:

"In the Greek N.T. two words are used for "the cross", on which the Lord was put to death.1. The word stauros; which denotes an upright pale or stake, to which the criminals were nailed for execution. 2. The word xulon, which generally denotes a piece of a dead log of wood, or timber, for fuel or for any other purpose. It is not like dendron, which is used of a living, or green tree, as in Matt.21: 8; Rev.7: 1, 3; 8:7; 9: 4, &c. As this latter word xulon is used for the former stauros it shows us the meaning of each is exactly the same. The verb stauroo means to drive stakes. Our English word "cross" is the translation of the Latin crux; but the Greek stauros no more means a crux than the word "stick" means a "crutch". Homer uses the word stauros of an ordinary pole or stake, or a simple piece of timber.[ftnote, Iliad xxiv.453. Odyssey xiv.11] And this is the meaning and usage of the word throughout the Greek classics.[ftnote, eg.Thucydides iv.90. Xenophon, Anabasis v.2.21] It never means two pieces of timber placed across one another at any angle, but of always one piece alone. Hence the use of the word xulon(No.2 above)in connection with the manner of our Lord's death and rendered "tree" in Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; Gal.3:13, 1 Pet.2:24. This is preserved in our old English name rood or rod. See Encycl.Brit., 11th (Camb)ed., vol.7, p.505d. There is nothing in the Greek of the N.T. even to imply two pieces of timber."

A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, p819. E.W.Bullinger states:

"Used here[cross] for the stauros on which Jesus was crucified. Both words[stauros, xylon]disagree with the modern idea of a cross, with which we have become familiarized by pictures. The stauros was simply an upright pale or stake to which the Romans nailed those who were thus said to be crucified. Stauroo[the verb], merely to drive stakes. It never means two pieces of wood joining each other at any angle. Even the Latin word crux means a mere stake."

The Concordant Literal New Testament with the Keyword Concordance states:

"stauros STANDer: cross, an upright stake or pole, without any crosspiece, now, popularly, cross..."


"stauroo cause-STAND, crucify, drive a stake into the ground, fasten on a stake, impale, now by popular usage, crucify, though there was no crosspiece."- pp. 63, 64, Greek-English Keyword Concordance, Concordant Publishing Concern, 1983, 3rd printing of 6th edition of 1976.

The Anchor Bible Dictionary says about crucifixion: "The act of nailing or binding a living victim or sometimes a dead person to a cross or stake(stauros or skolops) or a tree(xylon)...Under the Roman Empire, crucifixion normally included a flogging beforehand. At times the cross was only one vertical stake. Frequently, however, there was a cross-piece attached..."- Volume 1, pp.1207, 1208

The book Dual Heritage-The Bible and the British Museum states: “It may come as a shock to know that there is no word such as ‘cross’ in the Greek of the New Testament. The word translated ‘cross’ is always the Greek word [stauros] meaning a ‘stake’ or ‘upright pale.’ The cross was not originally a Christian symbol; it is derived from Egypt and Constantine.”

To read what an issue of The Watchtower magazine wrote in 1950 when the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures was published see here.

Also, the following work is worth quoting from at length(and it is long), it being:

The Non-Christian Cross, An Enquiry into the Origin and History of the Symbol Eventually Adopted as that of our Religion,
by John Denham Parsons:

"In the thousand and one works supplied for our information upon matters connected with the history of our race, we are told that Alexander the Great, Titus, and various Greek, Roman and Oriental rulers of ancient days, "crucified" this or that person; or that they "crucified" so many at once, or during their reign. And the instrument of execution is called a "cross."
The natural result is that we imagine that all the people said to have been "crucified" were executed by being nailed or otherwise affixed to a cross-shaped instrument set in the ground, like that to be seen in our fanciful illustrations of the execution of Jesus.
This was, however, by no means necessarily the case.
For instance, the death spoken of, death by the stauros, included transfixion by a pointed stauros or stake, as well as affixion to an unpointed stauros or stake; and the latter punishment was not always that referred to.
It is also probable that in most of the many cases where we have no clue as to which kind of stauros was used, the cause of the condemned one's death was transfixion by a pointed stauros. Moreover, even if we could prove that this very common mode of capital punishment was in no case that referred to by the historians who lived in bygone ages, and that death was in each instance caused by affixion to, instead of transfixion by, a stauros, we would still have to prove that each stauros had a cross-bar before we could correctly describe the death caused by it as death by crucifixion.
It is also, upon the face of it, somewhat unlikely that the ancients would in every instance in which they despatched a man by affixing him to a post sat in the ground, have gone out of their way to provide the artistic but quite un-necessary cross-bar of our imagination.
As it is, in any case, well known that the Romans very often despatched those condemned to death by affixing them to a stake or post which had no cross-bar, the question arises as to what proof we have that a cross-bar was used in the case of Jesus...
What the ancients used to signify when they used the word stauros , can easily be seen by referring to either the Iliad or the Odyssey...
The stauros used as an instrument of execution was (1)a small pointed pole or stake used for thrusting through the body, so as to pin the latter to the earth, or otherwise render death inevitable; (2)a similar pole or stake fixed in the ground point upwards, upon which the condemned one was forced down till incapable of escaping; (3)a much longer and stouter pole or stake fixed point upwards, upon which the victim, with his hands tied behind him, was lodged in such a way that the point should enter his breast and the weight of the body cause every movement to hasten the end; and (4)a stout un-pointed pole or stake set upright in the earth, from which the victim was suspended by a rope round his wrists, which were first tied behind him so that the position might become an agonising one; or to which the doomed one was bound, or ,in the case of Jesus, nailed.
That this last named kind of stauros, which was admittedly that to which Jesus was affixed, had in every case a cross-bar attached is untrue; that it had in most cases is unlikely; that it had in the case of Jesus, is unproven.
Even as late as the Middle Ages, the word stauros seems to have primarily signified a straight piece of wood without a cross-bar. For the famous Greek lexicographer, Suidas, expressly states, "Stauroi; ortha xula peregota," and both Eustathius and Hesychius affirm that it meant a straight stake or pole.
The side light thrown upon the question by Lucian is also worth noting. The writer, referring to Jesus, alludes to "That sophist of theirs who was fastened to a skolops;" which word signified a single piece of wood, and not two pieces joined together.
Only a passing notice need be given to the fact that in some of the Epistles of the New Testament, which seem to have been written before the Gospels, though, like the other Epistles, misleadingly placed after the gospels, Jesus is said to have been hanged upon a tree.....the word translated "tree," though that always used in referring to what is translated as the "Tree of Life," signified not only "tree" but also "wood."
It should be noted, however, that these five references of the Bible to the execution of Jesus as having been carried out by his suspension upon a tree or a piece of timber set in the ground, in no wise convey the impression that two pieces of wood nailed together in the form of a cross is what is referred to.
Moreover, there is not, even in the Greek text of the Gospels, a single intimation in the Bible to the effect that the instrument actually used in the case of Jesus was cross-shaped
Had there been any such intimation in the twenty-seven Greek works referring to Jesus, which our Church selected out of a very large number and called the "New Testament," the Greek letter chi, which was cross-shaped, would in the ordinary course have been referred to; and some such term as Kata chiasmon, "like a chi," made use of.
It should also be borne in mind that though the Christians of the first three centuries certainly made use of a transient sign of the cross in the non-Mosaic initiatory rite of baptism and at other times, it is, as will be shown in the next two chapters, admitted that they did not use or venerate it as a representation of the instrument of execution upon which Jesus died. Moreover, if in reply to the foregoing it should be argued that as it is well known that cross-shaped figures of wood, and other representations of the sign or figure of the cross, were not venerated by Christians until after the fateful day when Constantine set out at the head of the soldiers of Gaul in his famous march against Rome ; and that the Christian crosses
of the remainder of the fourth century were representations of the instrument of execution upon which Jesus died; a dozen other objections present themselves if we are honest enough to face the fact that we have to show that they were so from the first. For the Gauls, and therefore the soldiers of Gaul, venerated as symbols of the Sun-God and Giver of Life and Victory the cross of four equal arms, + or X , and the solar wheel, while the so-called cross which Constantine and his troops are said to have seen above the midday sun was admittedly the monogram of Christ, , which was admittedly an adaptation of the solar wheel, as will be shown further on ; and it was as tokens of the conquest of Rome by his Gaulish troops, that Constantine, as their leader, erected one of these symbols in the centre of the Eternal City, and afterwards placed upon his coins the crosses.......the cross of four equal arms X, and several variations of that other cross of four equal arms, the right-angled +. And it was not till long after these crosses were accepted as Christian, and Constantine was dead and buried, that the cross with one of its arms longer than the other three (or two), which alone could be a representation of an instrument of execution, was made use of by Christians.
Another point to be remembered is that when Constantine, apparently conceiving ours, as the only non-national religion with ramifications throughout his world-wide dominions, to be the only one that could weld together the many nations which acknowledged his sway, established Christianity as the State Religion of the Roman Empire, the Church to which we belong would naturally have had to accept as its own the symbols which Constantine had caused to be those of the State in question. And it should be added that the cross of later days with one of its arms longer than the others, if not also the assumption that the stauros to which Jesus was affixed had a cross-bar, may have been merely the outcome of a wish to associate with the story of Jesus these Gaulish symbols of victory which had become symbols of the Roman State, and therefore of its State Church.
Anyway, the first kind of cross venerated by
Christians was not a representation of an instrument of execution ; and the fact that we hold sacred many different kinds of crosses, although even if we could prove that the stauros to which Jesus was affixed had a cross-bar but one kind could be a representation of that instrument of execution, has to be accounted for.
Our only plausible explanation of the fact that we hold sacred almost any species of cross is that, as we do not know what kind of cross Jesus died upon, opinions have always differed as to which was the real cross.
This difference of opinion among Christians as to the shape of the instrument upon which Jesus was executed, has certainly existed for many centuries. But as an explanation of the many different kinds of crosses accepted by us as symbols of Christ, it only lands us in a greater difficulty. For if we did not know what kind of cross Jesus died upon when we accepted the cross as our symbol, the chances obviously are that we accepted the cross as our symbol for some other reason than that we assert. As a matter of fact our position regarding the whole matter is illogical and unsatisfactory, and we ought to alter it by honestly facing the facts that we cannot satisfactorily prove that our symbol was adopted as a representation of the instrument of execution to which Jesus, was affixed, and that we do not even know for certain that the instrument in question was cross-shaped.
It need only be added that there is not a single sentence in any of the numerous writings forming the New Testament, which, in the original Greek, bears even indirect evidence to the effect that the stauros used in the case of Jesus was other than an ordinary stauros; much less to the effect that it of one piece of timber, but of two pieces nailed together in the form of a cross.
Taking the whole of the foregoing facts into consideration, it will be seen that it is not a little misleading upon the part of our teachers to translate the word stauros as "cross" when rendering the Greek documents of the Church into our native tongue, and to support that action by putting "cross" in our lexicons as the meaning of stauros without carefully explaining that that was at any rate not the primary meaning of the word in the days of the Apostles, did not become its primary signification till long afterwards, and became so then, if at all, only because, despite the absence of corroborative evidence, it was assumed that the particular stauros upon which Jesus was executed had that particular shape.
But-the reader may object-how about the Greek word which in our Bibles is translated as "crucify" or "crucified?" Does not that mean "fix to a cross" or "fixed to a cross?" And what is this but the strongest possible corroboration of our assertion as Christians that Jesus was executed upon a cross-shaped instrument?
The answer is that no less than four different Greek words are translated in our Bibles as meaning "crucify" or "crucified," and that not one of the four meant "crucify" or "crucified."
The four words in question are the words prospegnumi, anastauroo, sustauroo, and stauroo.
"The word prospegnumi, though translated in our Bibles as "crucify" or "crucified," meant to "fix" to or upon, and meant that only. It had no special reference to the affixing of condemned persons either to a stake, pale, or post, or to a tree, or to a cross; and had no more reference to a cross than the English word "fix" has.
The word anastauroo was never used by the old Greek writers as meaning other than to impale upon or with a single piece of timber.
The word sustauroo does not occur in pre-Christian writings, and only five times in the Bible against the forty-four times of the next word to be dealt with. Being obviously derived in part from the word stauros, which primarily signified a stake or pale which was a single piece of wood and had no cross-bar, sustauroo evidently meant affixion to such a stake or pale. Anyhow there is nothing whatever either in the derivation of the word, or in the context in either of the five instances in which it occurs, to show that what is referred to is affixion to something that was cross-shaped.
The word stauroo occurs, as has been said, forty four times; and of the four word in question by far the most frequently. The meaning of this word is therefore of special importance. It is consequently most significant to find, as we do upon investigation, that wherever it occurs in the pre-Christian classics it is used as meaning to impalisade, or stake, or affix to a pale or stake; and has reference, not to crosses, but to single pieces of wood.
It seems therefore tolerably clear (1) that the sacred writngs forming the New testament, to the statements of which-as translated for us-we bow down in reverence, do not tell us that Jesus was affixed to a cross-shaped instrument of execution; (2) that the balance of evidence is against the truth of our statements to the effect that the instrument in question was cross-shaped, and our sacred symbol originally a representation of the same; and (3) that we Christians have in bygone days acted, alas! still act, anything but ingenuously in regard to the symbol of the cross.
This is not all, however. For if the unfortunate fact that we have in our zeal almost manufactured evidence in favour of the theory that our cross or crosses had it's or their origin in the shape of the instrument of execution to which Jesus was affixed proves anything at all, it proves the need for a work which, like the present one, sets in array the evidence available regarding both the pre-Christian cross and the adoption in later times of a similar symbol as that of the catholic faith."
Nor should it be forgotten that the triumph of Christianity was due to the fact that it was a " catholic " faith, and not, like the other faiths followed by the subjects of Rome, and like what Jesus seems to have intended the results of His mission to have been inasmuch as He solemnly declared that he was sent to the lost sheep of the House of Israel and to them alone, the monopoly of a single nation or race. For if Paul, taking his and other visions of Jesus as the long-needed proofs of a future life, had not disregarded the very plain intimations of Jesus to the effect that His mission was to the descendants of Jacob or Israel, and to them alone; if Paul had not withstood Christ's representative, Peter, to the face, and, with unsurpassed zeal, carried out his grand project of proclaiming a non-national and universal religion founded upon appearances of
the spirit-form of Jesus, what we call Christianity would not have come into existence.
The fact that but for Paul there would have been no catholic faith with followers in every land ruled by Constantine when sole emperor, for that astute monarch to establish as the State Religion of his loosely knit empire, because, on account of its catholicity, that best fitted to hold power as the official faith of a government with world-wide do minions , is worthy of a lasting place in our memory.
Nor is the noteworthy fact last mentioned unconnected with the symbol of the cross. For, as will be shown, it is clear that it was because Constantine caused the figure of the cross to become a recognized symbol of his catholic empire, that it became recognised as a symbol of the Catholic faith
Not till after Constantine and his Gaulish warriors planted what Eusebius the Bishop of Caesarea and other Christians of the century in question describe as a cross, within the walls of the Eternal City as the symbol of their victory, did Christians ever set on high a cross-shaped trophy of any description.
Moreover, but for the fact that, as it happened
the triumph of Constantine resulted in that of the Christian Church, we should probably have deemed the cross, if to our minds a representation of the instrument of execution to which Jesus was affixed, as anything but the symbol of Victory we now deem it.
This is evident from the fact that the so-called cross of Jesus admittedly fulfilled the purpose for which it was erected at the request of those who sought the death of Jesus. And even according to our Gospels the darkness of defeat over shadowed the scene at Calvary.
To put the matter plainly, the victory of Jesus was not a victory over the cross ; for He did not come down from the cross. Nor was it a victory over His enemies ; for what they sought was to get rid of a man whom they deemed an agitator, and their wish was gratified, inasmuch as, thanks to the cross, He troubled them no more.
In other words the victory which we ascribe to Jesus did not occur during the gloom which hung like a pall over his native land at the time of His execution, but upon the then approaching Sun-day of the Vernal Equinox, at the coming of the glory of the dawn. For the victory in question, from whatever
point of view we may look at it, was not the avoidance of defeat, but its retrieval. And its story is an illustration of the old-world promise, hoary with antiquity and founded upon the coming, ushered in every year by the Pass-over or cross-over of the equator by the sun at the Vernal Equinox, of the bounteous harvests of summer after the dearth of devastating winter ; bidding us ever hope, not indeed for the avoidance of death and therefore of defeat, but for such victory as may happen to lay in survival or resurrection.
It is therefore clear that even if we could prove that the instrument of execution to which Jesus was affixed was cross-shaped, it would not necessarily follow that it was as the representation of the cause of His death which we now deem it, that the figure of the cross became our symbol of Life and Victory.

In any case honesty demands that we should no longer translate as "cross" a word which at the time our Gospels were written did not necessarily signify something cross-shaped. And it is equally incumbant upon us, from a moral point of view, that we should cease to render as "crucify" or "crucified" words which never bore any such meaning."

For Chapter II of Parson's book "The evidence of Minucius Felix" see here.

Chapter III "The evidence of the Other Fathers" here

Chapter IV "Curious statements of Irenaeus" here

Chapter V "Origin of the Pre-Christian Cross" here

Chapter VI "Origin of the Christian Cross" here

Chapters VII, VIII, XV, XVI AND XVII of The Non-Christian Cross see here

You may also like to read:

'Is the Cross for Christians?' -The Watchtower, August 15th, 1987, pp21-24; 'Where Were His Legs?' - ibid, pp. 28, 29.

The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, Reference Edition, 1984, Appendix 5C, pp. 1577-78.

The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, 1985 ed.(WTB&TS), Appendix 3C, pp. 1149-1151

Insight on the Scriptures-'Impalement', Vol.1, pp.1190-1192.(WTB&TS)

"Also, they posted above his head the charge against him, in writing: "This is Jesus the King of the Jews.""(Matt.27:37)

-How Jesus may have been impaled* upon the stauros as pictured in an issue of The Watchtower August 15th 1987 p.24 (WatchTower Bible &Tract Society) Please note the above account of where the titulus(John 19:19 TITLON) was said to be placed was "above his head." As we can see, from the artist's drawing of Jesus' possible position on the stake on the left, anyone trying to employ this account against Jesus being executed upon an upright stake is employing a very weak argument indeed!
Also, the WTS artist's depiction shows only one nail that fastens both arms of Jesus to the stake. But the WTS are not being dogmatic about how many nails were used in regard to the arms.Two could have been used. Please see further down regarding this.

The crux simplex as illustrated by the Roman Catholic scholar Justus Lipsius in his book De Cruce Libri Tres. Interestingly, The Expositor's Greek Testament remarks: "Many questions on which there has been much discussion suggest themselves e.g., as to the structure and form of the cross: did it consist of an upright beam(palus, stipes)and a cross beam(patibulum, antenna), or of the former only, the hands being nailed to the beam above the head?(so Fulda, Das Kreus und die Kreusigung, 1878). Was Christ's cross a crux commissa(T) or a crux immissa(t)? Or is this distinction a purely imaginery one, as Fulda(p. 126) maintains against Justus Lipsius, till Fulda the great authority on the subject of crucifixion? The work of the more recent writer should certainly be consulted before coming to a final decision of the form of the cross or the method of crucifixion.."-Vol.1, p.328, 329.

The black and white sketch(left) that appeared on page 114 of the book "The Harp of God" (1921) written by J.F.Rutherford then president of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society. It was only in 1936 in the book "Riches," again by J.F.Rutherford, that first made clear to Jehovah's Witnesses the fact that Jesus was not executed on a cross but on a stake. Afterwards, in the WTB&TS's literature the artists drawings of how Jesus may have died always picture him upon the stake. In the first edition of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures of 1950 an appendix clearly shows the felicitousness of translating the Greek word "stauros" as "torture stake" and not "cross." Interestingly the appendix quotes the book The Cross and Crucifixion by Herman Fulda, Breslau, Germany, 1878 which said in part: "Trees were not everywhere available at the places chosen for the public execution. So a simple beam was sunk into the ground. On this outlaws, with hands raised upwards and often also with their feet, were bound or nailed....This simple cross was the oldest instrument erected by human hand for punishment with crucifixion; and because of it's very simplicity it has maintained itself in this form alongside its somewhat more artificial double down to the end." He concludes with the case of Jesus that he "died on a simple death-stake: In support of this there speak (a)the then customary usage of this means of execution in the Orient, (b) indirectly the history itself of Jesus' sufferings and (c) many expressions of the early church fathers."-pp 156,339

Regarding the English word "impale"as used in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures. It is from the French "empaler" which derives from Medieval Latin "impalere," from the Latin "in"-on + "palus"- stake, pole. Hence dictionaries define this word as "to pierce through with, or fix on, something pointed; transfix" and "to punish or torture by fixing on a stake." Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible states: "4717. STAUROW... to impale on the cross;...."
Hence, to use the word "impale" in the N.T. to describe how Jesus was fixed upon the stake is quite proper.

On a web site that addresses the use of the Kingdom Interlinear Translation's appendix on the the Greek word stauros rendered as "torture stake" in the New World Translation we find these comments:

"In the 1950 and 1969 editions of the New World Translation (in their appendix), the WT reproduces one of sixteen woodcut illustrations by the 16th century writer Justus Lipsius, who authored a work called De Cruce Liber Primus, Secundus and Tres. They reproduce his picture of a man impaled on an upright stake, failing to mention that Lipsius produced fifteen other illustrations (most of which picture various crucifixions on crosses). The WT makes the statement: "This is the manner in which Jesus was impaled" and a bit further on "The most amazing thing of all is that the WT could make a statement such as "evidence is completely lacking" that Jesus was crucified on a cross, when the VERY BOOK they use as "proof" to support their claims SAYS JESUS DIED ON A CROSS! One of the woodcuts of Lipsius not mentioned by the WT, shows a crucifixion on a cross. A partial translation of the Latin text alongside this woodcut says: In the Lord's cross there were four pieces of wood, the upright beam, the crossbar, a tree trunk (piece of wood) placed below, and the title (inscription) placed above. Also they hand down (this account by) Irenaeus: "The construction of the cross has five ends, two on the vertical and two on the horizontal, and one in the middle where the person attached with nails rested." (De Cruce Liber Secundus, pg. 661) The earlier (1950 and 1969) editions of the NWT, after referring to Lipsius' picture of a man on an upright stake stated, "This is the manner in which Jesus was impaled." They thereby attempted to convey the idea that Lipsius' book was proving their point. Since then the exposure of their dishonesty induced them to leave this statement out of the 1984 and 1985 versions of the NWT; but they STILL use Lipsius' illustration to make their point, while failing to tell the real story! They are intentionally avoiding the truth."

However the above makes several simple if serious errors in their allegations of impropriety with the above named WTB&TS publications articles. The fact is that Lipsius' woodcut illustration was not used as "proof" that the stauros which Jesus Christ was executed upon was a simple up-right stake! The 1950 NWT and the 1969 KIT just used this illustration to show that the crux simplex, Latin for a simple upright stake, was one method used, other than its artificial doubles with two-pieces of wood placed at a right angle to each other and hence this illustration serves the intent of the appendix article in simply showing what the victim would have looked like on such an implement. That the above WTB&TS publications "fail to mention that Lipsius produced fifteen other illustrations (most of which picture various crucifixions on crosses)" supposes that the publications appendices had to do so, that is, inform its readers that this was so. But why would they have to do this if the publications were only using Lipsius' illustration of a victim on a simple upright stake, a "crux simplex" and to illustrate this and nothing more!!! Of course they would not have to do so. What Lipsius thought the stauros' shape was in the case of Jesus was not based on anything other than tradition and as the The Expositor's Greek Testament remarks(which we will quote once more): "Many questions on which there has been much discussion suggest themselves e.g., as to the structure and form of the cross: did it consist of an upright beam(palus, stipes)and a cross beam(patibulum, antenna), or of the former only, the hands being nailed to the beam above the head?(so Fulda, Das Kreus und die Kreusigung, 1878). Was Christ's cross a crux commissa(T) or a crux immissa(t)? Or is this distinction a purely imaginery one, as Fulda(p. 126) maintains against Justus Lipsius, till Fulda the great authority on the subject of crucifixion? The work of the more recent writer should certainly be consulted before coming to a final decision of the form of the cross or the method of crucifixion.."-Vol.1, p.328, 329. Fulda also in his work has plates showing the differing shapes and methods impalement upon a stauros could take place. And Fulda, the "more recent writer" is against Lipsius on what shape it took in Christ's case and it is Fulda whom the WTB&TS publications quote in some length in support of translating the Greek word as "torture stake" rather than as "cross." The above accusations toward the WTB&TS publications appendices then are found to be wholly dishonest and deceptive"

Also one should also consider that wood at that time and place was scarce. Indeed, where the wood for execution was scarce there would be an economical reason to use only one piece of wood at times and this was so in the eastern parts of the Roman Empire. That one piece of wood would have been a simple stake, a stauros, that, at times, the malefactor was made to carry to the site of his execution and hung upon with hands above his head and would have been re-used time and again not being left in the ground to be attacked by the weather and wood boring insects. The fact that in places where wood was abundant the Romans at times, but not necessarily always, used two pieces, one called in latin a patibulum, the wood that served as a cross-piece and the stipes, the wood that served us the upright that was in/sunk into the ground would not be agreeable to the fact that wood was indeed scarce in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire, such as Jerusalem was, as the stipes would have been attacked by the weather and insects such as the wasp if it was left out at all times. As the New Testament account is wholly silent on there being two pieces of wood, indeed, only ever mentioning one piece, then this, the scarcity of wood in Jerusalem actually argues against there being two pieces but for the simplest form of one piece, the single stake to be sunk into the ground after the malefactor had been affixed to it by either nails or rope. The New Testament account of Jesus' execution fits this extremely well, so well, that one wonders why any would contend otherwise lest they have a mis-directed devotion to the traditional two beamed cross for Jesus.

In 1968 there was discovered in a burial cave at Giv'at ha-Mivtar the remains of a male that had been executed during the Roman period. This has been the only anthropological evidence of the practice of "cricifixion" or "impalement on a stake." The original report on this find aroused much scholarly interest. However, due to the pressure of certain religious authorities, the analysis of the remains, by Professor Nico Haas and his medical team, were hurried and succeeding articles were published on these. One, by a Vassilios Tzaferis, the excavator of the man, based on this teams findings, attempting to show what the position the man died on the implement of execution. A re-evaluation has since been carried out. I have often met with some that say that this find shows that Jesus met his death on a cross. The man's remains, however, do not offer any such proof of this. For two reasons.(1) This man may not have been executed upon a cross, as some suppose it definitely was the case. He may well have died on a simple stake. The reason why some suppose that this man was executed upon a cross is partly based on Professor Haas' original appraisal and articles published since then based on them. Since then, inconsistencies have been found, amounting to a re-evaluation in certain respects. (2)Even though this man may have, yet there is no proof of this, as has been said, died on a cross-shaped implement, how would this show that the shape of Jesus' "stauros" was also cross-shaped when the available evidence in his, Jesus' case, points toward a simple upright stake?

The re-evaluation was carried out by Joseph Zias of the Department of Antiquities and Museums, Israel and Eliezer Sekeles of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem. A good place to read their re-appraisal is the six page article in the Israel Exploration Journal, Vol.25, pp22-27, The Crucified Man from Giv'at ha-Mitvar:A Reappraisal.Dr Zias has himself stated regarding this find and what light it sheds, or rather, does not shed, upon how Jesus was crucified: "...my research on the case from Jerusalem does not in my opinion, shed any light as to how Jesus was crucified. All the NT says is that he [Jesus]was crucified, not how..."-(private e-mail correspondence).
This reappraisal affected many of the conclusions that had been made about the man's position during "crucifixion." On p.27 there is a diagram: "Proposed new reconstruction of the position of crucifixion," where you can see a man whose feet are each affixed to the upright with nails. The diagram also show the arms tied to another piece of wood forming a cross beam. (This diagram was re-produced in the article, "Where Were His Legs," in the Watchtower cited above) But it is not to be supposed from this that there was any evidence from the remains of the man discovered that he died in this manner. This diagram is how the appraisers imagined how the man was positioned for execution. As has been said, he could have died on an upright stake. Dr Zias himself has stated to an enquirer about how the article depicted the malefactor's position on the "cross," "Our reconstruction for the arms being tied in the manner in the article was purely hypothetical. The arms could have been tied to the cross in any number of ways[including above his head on an upright pole]." (see also New Analysis of the Crucified Man, Biblical Archaeology Review.)See
Crucifixion in Antiquity by J.Zias.
To put in the title of these articles, the word "Crucified," could, in my opinion, be somewhat misleading. To the casual reader it might leave the impression that there is definite evidence/proof that this man was "crucified" on a "cross." But the writer by using this word does not mean to intimate that this man died on a cross shaped implement. See the quote from the Anchor Bible Dictionary above where the word "crucifixion" could mean an execution on a simple stake. The new investigators Zias and Sekeles stated about how the "crucified " man was attached to the cross: "The literary sources for the Roman period contain numerous descriptions of crucifixion but few exact details as to how the condemned were affixed to the cross. Unfortunately, the direct physical evidence here is also limited to one right heel calcaneum(heel bone)pierced by an 11.5 cm iron nail with traces of wood at both ends."

In essence, although this discovery is of great scholarly interest, it in no way adds anything more to the way we understand of what shape was the implement of Jesus' execution.

Also, some may point out that there is other archaeological evidence that Christians were "using" the cross in the first century and this particular evidence suggests the shape of the implement on which Jesus died. In Capernaum there is the Synagogue "The House of St Peter" built in the 1st century that has grafitti "crosses" on it's walls. However, the plaster on or in which these "crosses" are found are of a much younger date than the building itself. The house being re-plastered many times since it was first built ! They are not of first century origin.

One writer has said:

"Historical findings have substantiated the traditional cross. One finding is a graffito dating to shortly after 200 A.D., taken from the walls of the Roman Palatine. It is a drawing of a crucified ass; a mockery of a Christian prisoner who worships Christ. The Romans were no doubt amused that Christians worshiped this Jesus whom they had crucified on a cross."

A graffito found on the Palatine in Rome

To this can be said: This drawing was discovered in 1856 on the walls of the above mentioned building. This "crucified ass" is a human figure but with an animals head. The arms are extended. Two lines that form a cross appear in front, not behind this graffito, traversing the arms and legs. There is an accompanying inscription which says: "Alexamenos adores his God." It has been pointed out that the lines that form this 'cross' may very well not be a part of the original graffito. Also, the head is more like a jackal than an ass and so the drawing could very well be a representation of the Egyptian god Anubis. This is certainly no evidence of a cross or a crufixion as drawn by Christians in the early 3rd century. Professor Graydon F. Snyder said about this piece of graffito: "In 1856 a drawing was found in the servants' quarters of the Imperial Palace in Rome that depicts a certain Alexamenos gesturing with his right hand toward a donkey crucified on it. A graffito below the cross reads: ... Presumably this inscription should be translated

"Alexamenos, worship god." Though no fixed date can be given for this drawing, again one can easily assume such a derogatory cartoon did indeed mock the Christian kerygma. It's use by an opponent of the faith hardly proves that the cross was an early Christian symbol."

Professor Graydon also wrote: "THE sign of the cross has been a symbol of great antiquity, present in nearly every known culture. Its meaning has eluded anthropologists, though its use in funerary art could well point to a defense against evil. On the other hand, the famous crux ansata of Egypt, depicted coming from the mouth, must refer to life or breath. The universal use of the sign of the cross makes more poignant the striking lack of crosses in early Christian remains, especially any specific reference to the event on Golgotha. Most scholars now agree that the cross, as an artistic reference to the passion event, cannot be found prior to the time of Constantine.
"...In 1938, in connection with the two hundred year celebration of excavations at Herculaneum, a house, appropriately called Casa del Bicentenario, was unearthed and made available to the public. In a second story room the excavators found a bare spot in the form of a cross. Obviously some cross-shaped object, previously attached to the wall, had been knocked off or taken off prior to the eruption of A.D. 79
"There were likely Christians in Herculaneum. Abundant evidence for a Jewish presence has been found. No reason would exist to doubt a Christian presence, nor any reason to doubt that those Christians would have met in houses like Casa del Bicentenario. But this so-called cross could have been anything attached to the wall by two cross pieces. And if it were a cross, it would simply appear to us as a surd in the development of early Christian art: it came three hundred years too soon."
"A second approach to the problem of the late appearance of the cross in early Christianity has been to appropriate crosses found in the social matrix. ...Most examples of crosses with possible early Christian implications have been found in Palestine. ..One ought not to deny the existence of these common cross sign in the Mediterranean area, nor reference to them by early Christian writers, but they have no connection with the crucifixion of Jesus. In Roman style Christian art that implication first appears at the earliest in the fourth century and certainly by the fifth. Tzaferis finds no Christian crosses in Palestine before mid-fourth century.
"A third method has been to uncover cryptocrosses. Testa especially sees a cross in many decorations. Even more popular is the assignment of the cross symbol to anchors, ships' masts, and the like... Others, such as Guarducci, believe early Christians signalled their faith by writing the Greek tau - T - larger than the other letters, or by using common abbreviations like XP to express their hidden allegiance to Christ. It would be difficult to disprove the meanings of a cryptosymbol as to prove it. The burden of proof lies with those who find private meanings.
"While there may very well be a place in early Christian art for the protective cross of the social matrix, there is no place for the kerymatic cross. .. There is no place in the third century for a crucified Christ, or a symbol of divine death..."—Ante Pacem—Archaeological Evidence of Church Life Before Constantine (1985) pages 26-29. Italics ours.

So much for the archaeological 'evidence' that would put the Christ on an implement of execution made up of two pieces that formed a cross.

In the 1950 edition of the New World Translation there is an appendix on the word stauros. There it mentions the Greek hero Prometheus as tied to a stake. As many reference works say that Prometheus was tied to a rock the WTB&TS was 'challenged' to substantiate this claim. They did so by way a "Question from Readers" article that appeared in The Watchtower 1951, March 15th, p.190.

"Just as you have heard, the Americana Encyclopedia in its article on "Prometheus Bound', the tragedy by the Greek poet Aeschylus, also represents Prometheus clamped to a rock in the Caucasus by forging. However, we should like to refer you to the book The History of the Devil and the Idea of Evil from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, by Dr. Paul Carus, and published in Chicago by The Open Court Publishing Co. in 1900. On page 210 it gives the illustration of a man tied to a stake, under which illustration it says: 'Prometheus tied by Zeus to the stake (or cross) and exposed to the Eagle-. Rescue by Hercules (A vase found at Chiusi, now in Berlin. Baumeister, D.dcl.A., p. 1410)." On this page Dr. Carus says: "in spite of the strong admixture of foreign mythology, Hercules has become the national hero of Greece, and the Greek idea of salvation has found in him the most typical expression, which has been most beautifully worked out by Aeschylus in a grand tragedy which represents Prometheus (the forethinker) as struggling and suffering mankind, tied to the pole of misery by Zeus as a punishment for the sin of having brought the bliss of light and fire down to the earth. But at last the divine saviour, Hercules, arrives, and, killing the eagle that lacerates the liver of the bold hero, sets him free.Prometheus and Hercules are combined into one person in the Christian Saviour, Jesus Christ. The similarity of the story of Golgotha with the myth of Prometheus is not purely accidental. For observe that in some of the older pictures, as, for instance, in the vase of [page 211] Chiusi (see illustration on page 210), Prometheus is not chained to a rock but tied to a pole, that is, to a [stauros]or cross, and Greek authors frequently use expressions such as the verb ananskolopizeothai (Aeschylus) and anastaurousthai (Lucian) which mean 'to be crucified.' " "
"On pages 217, 218 Dr. Carus says: "Plato, who, perhaps under the impression of Aeschylus's conception of the tragic fate of Prometheus, says of the perfect man who would rather be than appear just: 'They will tell you that the just man who is thought unjust will be scourged, racked, bound; will have his eyes burnt out; and, at last, after suffering every kind of evil, he will be hung up at the pale.' The strangest thing about this passage is that the word which means 'he will be hung up at the stake', or 'fixed on a pale', is an older synonym of the New Testament term commonly translated 'to crucify."'
"The above agrees with the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures in its Appendix, page 769, in saying that the instrument upon which Jesus was nailed was a stake without a crossbeam, and not the religiously represented 'cross"; and that the Greek word used for that instrument in ancient time meant a "stake" and not the conventional religious cross."

What about the statement made by Thomas as recorded for us at John 20:25? Thomas said: "Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails and stick my finger into the print of the nails and stick my hand into his side, I will not believe."

In regard to this The Watchtower, 1984, April 1st, p.31 commented:

"[Question] Is it correct to conclude from John 20:25 that Jesus was impaled with a separate nail through each hand?

"The Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, by M'Clintock and Strong, comments: "Much time and trouble have been wasted in disputing as to whether three or four nails were used in fastening the Lord. Nonnus affirms that three only were used, in which he is followed by Gregory Nazianzen. The more general belief gives four nails, an opinion which is supported at much length and by curious arguments by Curtius. Others have carried the number of nails as high as fourteen."-Volume II, page 580.
Matthew 27:35 merely says: "When they had impaled him they distributed his outer garments by casting lots." Little detail is given, as in Mark, Luke and John. After Jesus' resurrection, Thomas said: " Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails and stick my finger into the print of the nails and stick my hand into his side, I will certainly not believe" (John 20:25) So even though criminals sometimes were bound to a stake with ropes, Jesus was nailed. Some have also concluded from John 20:25 that two nails were used, one through each hand. But does Thomas' use of the plural (nail's) have to be understood as a precise description indicating that each of Jesus' hands was pierced by a separate nail?
In Luke 24:39 the resurrected Jesus said: "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself." This suggests that Christ's feet also were nailed. Since Thomas made no mention of nail prints in Jesus' feet, his use of the plural "nail's" could have been a general reference to multiple nails used in impaling Jesus.
Thus, it just is not possible at this point to state with certainty how many nails were used. Any drawings of Jesus on the stake should be understood as artists' productions that offer merely a representation based on the limited facts that we have. Debate over such an insignificant detail should not be permitted to becloud the all-important truth that "we became reconciled to God through the death of his Son."- Romans 5:10."(italics ours)

An appeal to the words of Thomas then cannot be used either to show what kind of stauros Jesus was executed upon or that the illustrations found in the WTB&TS publications are erroneous when they depict Jesus' 'hands' being affixed by just one nail.

On the history of the use of crucifixion in pre-Christian and Christian times, as a means to inflict torture and to execute, and how it was the most terrible way for a malefactor to end his life see here

On an online discussion board one poster stated in regard to the WTB&TS's use of works that discuss the Greek word Stauros and the form of execution of the crucifixion said:

"QUOTE.......... MISQUOTE: In its "Reasoning From the Scriptures" book, the Watchtower Society quotes from several sources to support their "torture stake" theory. These publications not only seem authoritative, but also seem to support the Society's claims regarding the "torture stake" rather than the traditional cross. However, unbeknown to many, the Watchtower Society has not been honest in its quotations of its sources. For example, one publication that the Society quotes in its "Reasoning..." book on page 89 is The Imperial Bible Dictionary. Below is the Watchtower quotation, with the words that they omitted in RED: "The Imperial Bible Dictionary acknowledges this, saying: "The Greek word for cross, (stauros), properly signified a stake, an upright pole, or piece of paling, on which anything might be hung, or which might be used in impaling (fencing in) a piece of ground. But a modification was introduced as the dominion and usages of Rome extended themselves through Greek-speaking countries. Even amongst the Romans, the crux (from which the word cross is derived) appears to have been originally an upright pole, and always remained the more prominent part. But from the time that it began to be used as an instrument of punishment, a traverse piece of wood was commonly added ... about the period of the Gospel Age, crucifixion was usually accomplished by suspending the criminal on a cross piece of wood." "-italics ours

But this attempt at trying to malign the WTB&TS's use of this Bible Dictionary is easily put to the lie itself. For the poster omitted to tell his readers what the publication "Reasoning from the Scriptures"(p.89) said just before quoting the above named Dictionary. We can read his own omission which I will put in green: "The Greek word rendered "cross" in many modern Bible versions ("torture stake" in NWT) is stauros. In classical Greek, this word meant merely an upright stake, or pale. Later it also came to be used for an execution stake having a crosspiece. The Imperial Bible-Dictionary acknowledges....."- blue italics ours. Rather then the WTB&TS being "dishonest" it is the case that, sadly, the above poster has been. Notice also that this dictionary also said that the stauros being "originally an upright pole," "always remained the more prominent part." What we have read on this page already shows that though the Romans did indeed use two pieces of wood placed at right angles to each other to execute criminals we are still faced with the fact that the Bible writers give no indication that in Jesus' case it was other than an upright stake.

The poster went on to state:

"On page 91 of the "Reasoning..." book the Society quotes from The Cross in Ritual, Architecture and Art by G. S. Tyack to show that the cross was originally used in pagan worship, but they do NOT go on to quote: "In all this, the Christians of the first age would have rejoiced, claiming it as a worldwide prophecy of the Cross of the Redeemer."

Of course, what the poster is not telling, again, his readers, is that this work(and three others found on p.91 of the Reasoning Book)was quoted under the heading "What were the historical origins of Christendom's cross?"(p.90) Hence, to quote Tyack here as saying "It is strange, yet unquestionably a fact, that in ages long before the birth of Christ, and since then in lands untouched by the teaching of the Church, the Cross has been used as a sacred symbol...The Greek Bacchus, the Tyrian Tammuz, the Chaldean Bel, and the Norse Odin, were all symbolised to their votaries by a cruciform device," was quite appropriate and fitting. However, the above remarks which Tyack followed up this "strange yet unquestionable fact" was just his opinion and one which was not based on any archaeological evidence whatsoever. We have already read that which Professor Graydon has written that the Christians in the early centuries did not use a "cross" in their worship or devotions. The "Christians of the first age" certainly did not "rejoice" in any way at the pagans use of the cross as a symbol in their worship. It is as Vine correctly stated was the case that "By the middle of the 3rd cent. A.D. the churches had either departed from, or had travestied, certain doctrines of the Christian faith. In order to increase the prestige of the apostate ecclesiastical system pagans were received into the churches apart from regeneration of faith, and were permitted largely to retain their pagan signs and symbols. Hence the Tau or T, in it's most frequent form, with the cross-piece lowered, was adopted to stand for the cross of Christ"
It is very easy for a distractor of the NWT/WTB&TS to carp at a translation that he disagrees with. But it is sad when he does that which he falsely accuses the said Bible Society of doing. Being dishonest.

What of Jesus' words recorded for us by John at John 21:18,19:

"Most truly I say to you, When you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk about where you wanted. But when you grow old you will stretch out your hands and another [man] will gird you and bear you where you do not wish." This he said to signify by what sort of death he would glorify God. So, when he had said this, he said to him: "Continue following me."-NWT.

In answer to a question as to whether this shows that Peter himself was 'crucified' on a cross or a stake a 'Question from Readers' article in The Watchtower of 1970, page 768 answered:

"John 21:18, 19 says concerning the apostle Peter: “‘When you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk about where you wanted. But when you grow old you will stretch out your hands and another man will gird you and bear you where you do not wish.’ This [Jesus] said to signify by what sort of death [Peter] would glorify God.” Do these words specifically refer to a death by crucifixion or impalement?

"The ancient religious historian Eusebius reports that Peter “was crucified with his head downward, having requested of himself to suffer in this way.” However, Jesus’ prophecy regarding Peter’s death was not that specific. Acknowledges A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture: “As the extension of hands is set before girding and being led away, it is difficult to discern how it must be conceived. If the order is part of the prophecy, we must suppose the prisoner lashed to the patibulum before being girded and led out to execution.”
So, were it not for the tradition recorded by Eusebius, Jesus’ statement in itself would not point to a death by crucifixion or impalement. Viewing the words of John 21:18, 19 apart from tradition, we would come to the following conclusion: In his younger years Peter was able to gird himself at will for whatever duty he wanted to perform. He had the liberty to go where he wanted to go. But in later life this would change. He would have to stretch out his hands, perhaps in submission to someone else. Another man would take control of him, girding Peter (either binding him or preparing him for what was to come) and bearing him to a place where he did not want to go, evidently the place of execution. Thus Jesus’ prophecy regarding Peter indeed indicated that the apostle would die a martyr’s death; but the manner of this death is not necessarily implied."

In might be added that the word rendered "will gird,"in v.18, is ZWSEI (which is the future of ZWNNUMI) is also found at Acts 12:8 and is always used in the LXX(and in other Greek works generally) of girding on clothes or armour and there cannot be an instance cited for a use of it as to bind as a criminal. This, the former sense, might be the one it has in v.18 where Jesus says: .."When you were younger you used to gird(Gk: EZWNNUES "you were girding")" It may, again , have the same sense when Jesus uses it once more as we find in this same verse, "and another [man] will gird you." We may also compare this with DIEZWSATO(aorist middle DIAZWNNOMI) "to gird one's self by pulling up the tunic and allowing a fold to fall over the belt" at 21:7. John 21:18,19 does not tell us how Peter died just that his death glorified God- and it certainly cannot be used to show that Jesus died on a two beamed cross!

In support of this is what is written in A Bible Commentary for English Readers, editored by C.J.Elliott, Vol. VI, page 549:
"Thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee.-Do these words refer to the crucifixion of Peter? Tradition, from Tertullian downwards(Scorp. 15; De Praescr. 35), states that he was crucified, and, interpretating this prophecy by the evnt, asserts that they do. Tertullian himself so understood them, for he says, "Then is Peter girded by another when he is bound to the cross."
But on the other hand, (1) the girding(with chains) would precede, not follow, the crucifixion; (2) it would be more natural to speak of another stretching forth his hands if the nailing to them to the cross was intended; (3) the last clause, "carry thee whither thou wouldst not," could not follow the stretching of the hands on the transverse beam of the cross.
It seems impossible therefore to adopt the traditional reference to crucifixion, and we must take the words, "stretch forth your hands," as expressing symbolically the personal surrender previous to being girded by another. To what exact form of death the context does not specify. We have thus in the second pair of sentences, as in the first and third, a complete parallelism, the stretching forth of the hands being part of the girding by another, and the whole being in contrast to "Thou girdest thyself.""


" "Stretch forth thy hands. "[John 21:18] The allusion to the extending of the hands on the cross, which some interpreters have found here, is fanciful.”–Vincent’s Word Studies (italics ours)

Psalms 22:14:

A poster on the JW board on CARM offered the following as "proof" that Jesus died upon a two-beamed cross rather than an upright stake(March 2003). He stated that where we read at Psalms 22:14 that "Verse 14 in particular is interesting in that He mentions that His bones are out of joint. On a crucifix when the wrists are nailed to the patibalum (cross-piece) and attached and raised onto the main pole, the victims arms would be extended up to six inches, causing dislocation. This is simply not possible on a 'torture stake."

Of course, v.14 reads "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax"(New Revised Standard Version) What we have here is not a prophetic description of the literal anatomical condition of the Christ when dying on the STAUROS but is the employment by the Psalmist of "anatomical terms to indicate the nearness of death"(The New Interpreter's Bible, Volume 4, p.763). Yes, the Psalmist is using such imagery as A. A. Anderson also informs us:

"14. I am poured out like water: (cf. Jos. 7:15). This, and the following description in verses 14b-15, need not necessarily refer to the consequences of an illness, but it may denote the physical expressions of fear and anxiety. The above mentioned word-picture probably means that the Psalmist regards himself as good as dead.
all my bones are out of joint: this is a graphic description of utter helplessness, and is equivalent to 'paralysed with fear'.
my heart is like wax: the Psalmist has become greatly afraid and fainthearted(as in Dt. 20:8; Jos. 2:11)."-The New Century Bible Commentary, Psalms, Volume 1(1-72), Marshall, Morgan & Scott Publ. Ltd, London, Reprint of March 1992, pp.189, 190.-italics ours.

The imagery expressed by the words "all my bones are out of joint" indicates the "utter helplessness" of the Psalmist and has no bearing on whether his literal bones(note "all [his] bones" not just his shoulder bones!!) were "dislocated" just as the psalmists words "my heart is like wax" was not meant to be understood literally but is an illustration of the distressed condition of the heart.
Hence, the poster who has attempted to employ the figurative words of the Psalmist(regarding the Hebrew word here: "be divided, separated, from each other,...of bones= be loosened at the joint, [
Ps]22:15(fig[urative] of helplessness);..."-The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon) at Psalms 22:14 as he has done has actually misunderstood the intended meaning of them! This scripture does not in any way offer 'evidence,' and certainly not 'proof,' that the STAUROS that Jesus died upon was either a two-beamed one or an up-right stake.

For a very interesting and informative posting on the b-greek list see here

A very early representation of the Crucifixion in which only the two thieves are bound to the stauros. The sun and moon are placed either side of Christ who stands in an attitude of prayer.

The picture was published in Mrs Jameson & Lady Eastlake The History of Our Lord as exemplified in works of art, in 2 volumes, London, 1864, pages 167-8. They make the point that this very early crucifixion scene shows the two thieves bound to the stake and that depiction of three crosses only appears in later Christian art.-contributed

"The cross was offensive to the Jews, absurd to the Gentiles. A Roman execution is shown in this figure found at Halicarnassus".

The Lion Handbook to the Bible, Lion Publishing, 1992, p. 591.

Would a 1st century Christian revere the implement that was used to execute their Lord Jesus? Should Christians today?

"Rather than consider the torture stake upon which Jesus was impaled a relic to be worshiped, the Jewish Christians like Simon Peter would consider it to be an abominable thing. At Galatians 3:13 the apostle Paul quotes Deuteronomy 21:23 and says: "It is written: "Accursed is every man hanged upon a stake."" Hence the Jewish Christians would hold as accursed and hateful the stake upon which Jesus had been executed. Says the celebrated Jewish authority, Moses Maimon'ides, of the 12th century: "They never hang upon a tree which clings to the soil by roots; but upon a timber uprooted, that it might not be an annoying plague: for a timber upon which anyone has been hanged is buried; that the evil name may not remain with it and people should say, "This is the timber on which so-and-so was hanged." So the stone with which anyone has been stoned; and the sword, with which the one killed has been killed; and the cloth or mantle with which anyone has been strangled; all these things are buried along with those who perished. Apud Casaub.in Baron. Exercitat. 16, An. 34, Num. 134) Says Kalinski in Vaticinia Observationibus Illustrata, page 342: "Consequently since a man hanged was considered the greatest abomination- the Jews also hated more than other things the timber on which he had been hanged, so that they covered it also with earth, as being equally an abominable thing."
If any would answer that they may hold the cross as dear but do not worship it, then we would answer: How is it that this pagan symbol, used in pagan religions before and after the 1st century can find any place in a Christians' life in the light of what Paul wrote at 2 Cor.6:14-18. Can a Christian 'employ' a pagan symbol when pagans revered it as an idol while still claiming his worship is pure of idolatry just because his religion does not use the cross as an 'idol'?


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