Many have tackled the subject of whether Christ died on the cross or stake, yet as far as I can tell, there is still no conclusive answer among debaters. To say that it is assumed that the instrument of torture was a cross is a gross understatement. The vast majority believe this fact, but we have to remember that the majority is not always right.
When Christ came to earth as a human being, it was NOT the majority which believed what He said, but the minority. Remember, there were only 120 disciples at the time of Pentecost (Acts 1:15), even after Jesus Christ preached to multiple thousands and had the disciples teach far and wide. Then, as now, the vast majority is WRONG . The teaching about Jesus Christ as the central figure of the gospel is incorrect and glosses over the fact that Christ said he came to tell the world about the gospel, or message, from the Father. He, unlike Christian religions today, did not glorify himself.
The doctrine of the cross has been carefully cultivated from that ancient Babylonian Mystery religion furthered by a particular church at Rome. Anything coming from this paganised denomination masquerading as a religion is not something God would ever associate with his Son, or His true Church. This is the subject we will discuss now.
Different views on form of wood
The New Testament does not specifically describe the instrument upon which Christ died. Writers hold various views on the form of the device used in the public execution of Jesus, and differ about the meaning of the Greek word “stauros” (σταυρός) and xylon (ξύλον). Though these words do not indicate the precise shape of the instrument, they give us vital clues.
The following accounts use the Greek word xulon which, when translated “tree,” can also mean “a stick, club…or other wooden articles” (Strong’s).
“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree” (Acts 5:30).
“And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree” (Acts 10:39).
“And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre” (Acts 13:28-29).
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Gal. 3:13).
“Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed” (I Pet. 2:24).
The word Xulon is unlike dendron which is used of a living, or green tree, as in Matthew 21:8; Revelation 7:1, 3; 8:7; 9:4 etc. Stauros (an upright stake) can also be used in place of the word Xulon, the instrument to which criminals were nailed for execution.
A lot of the confusion arises from the English word cross, which believers try to forcefully insert into scripture.This word is “the translation of the Latin crux; but the Greek stauros no more means a crux than the word ‘stick’ means a ‘crutch’…. It never means two pieces of timber placed across one another at any angle, but always of one piece alone…. There is nothing in the Greek of the N.T. even to imply two pieces of timber.” (The Companion Bible)
The Imperial Bible Dictionary also denies the connection to the cross: “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…. Even amongst the Romans the crux (from which our cross is derived) appears to have been originally an upright pole, and this always remained the more prominent part.”
In his book, “The Non-Christian Cross,” John Denham Parsons wrote: “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 consisted, not of one piece of timber, but of two pieces nailed together in the form of a cross.”
Hermann Fulda, another author, agrees in his own writings, “The Cross and Crucifixion”: “Jesus 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.” Fulda also points out that some of the oldest illustrations of Jesus impaled depict him on a simple pole.
It is the Catholic church which later capitalized on the imagery of the cross, and blatantly used it as a symbol of their faith contrary to the Ten Commandments they profess to keep. To the Catholic church, the sign and image of the cross are all in all. No prayer can be said, no worship engaged in, no step can be taken without the frequent use of the sign of the cross. It is looked upon as a refuge from all dangers and the infallible protection from all powers of darkness. It is adored with all the homage due only to the Most High, which makes it such an abomination to God.
“To say that such superstitious feelings and worship for the cross ever grew out of the saying of Paul, ‘God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ’ is absolute absurdity, a shallow subterfuge and a foolish pretence.” Those fully indoctrinated by that Romish Pagan (Catholic) mother church now support the use of the cross with relatively recent (though debatable in their connection) archeological findings and historical accounts, while wholly ignoring “the ancient Babylonian Mysteries which were applied by paganism to the same magic purposes, honoured with the same honours as the Catholic church gives it today. That which is now called the Christian cross was originally no Christian emblem at all, but was the mystic Tau of the Chaldeans and Egyptians – the true original form of the letter T – the initial of the name of Tammuz.” (The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop)
The cross had further uses especially in Egypt. It represents the Tree of Life, the age-old fertility symbol, combining the vertical male and horizontal female principles, either as an ordinary cross, or better known in the form of the crus ansata, the Egyptian ankh (sometimes called: the Tau cross), which had been carried over into our modern-day symbol of the female, well known in biology.
Questions and Answers
There are some incidental arguements (parodied the same way) all over the internet which some state as proof of a cross over a stake, yet they can easily be explained.
1. Question: If Jesus was crucified on an upright stake, then why does John 20:25 say that “nails” were used as opposed to a single “nail”? And why did both hands of Christ show holes?
Answer: One nail through both hands leaves a hole in both the left and right hand. Though the word “nails” is used, [ἧλος or hēlos] implies the singular — “of uncertain affinity; a stud, that is, spike: – nail.”
John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible states: “That nails were used in the crucifixion of Christ, is certain …How many were used, whether three, as some, or four, as others, or more, as were sometimes used, is not certain, nor material to know. The Alexandrian copy, and some others, and the Vulgate Latin, Syriac, and Persic versions read, “the place of the nails”; that is, the place where the nails were drove.”
2. Question: In view of John 21:18-19, how can a crucifixion be on an upright stake if the hands are outstretched?
Answer: Outstretched simply means fully extended especially in length. Hands can be outstretched up or sideways.
3. Question: If Jesus was crucified on an upright stake, then why does Matthew 27:37 say a sign was put above Jesus’ head instead of above His hands?
Answer: Whether a sign is put above his head or above his hands, it would still constitute being above His head. This arguement is an agonizing way of splitting hairs.
4. Question: The sign should have fitted three rows of properly readable letters from a distance. Could such a sign have fit in between the head and the points where the hands where pierced by either a ‘nail’ or ‘nails’.
Answer: The answer to this requires a small degree of common sense. Please reread the answer to the previous question.
5. Question: The thieves that died with Him were described as being on the right hand and the left, as opposed to “at the side of” or “at His left and right”
Answer: This is merely colourful use of verbiage. “Right hand” is Strong’s # 1188 (δεξιός or dexios); meaning the right side or (feminine) hand (as that which usually takes): – right (hand, side). For example, Jesus who sits on the right hand (side) of God – I Pet. 3:22.
Some state that only Christ’s sacrifice for us — not the exact shape of the wood on which He died — is important. But I am not persuaded that the relative lack of detail on the subject in the Bible is proof that we should take this approach. I Thess. 5:21 admonishes us to prove all things.
Others say that the cross was used as a means to an end — the punishment or death of a criminal — therefore Jesus Christ did not choose his instrument of death. But didn’t He? Only people thinking carnally (without the Holy Spirit), would utter such a statement. Do not various prophecies of old (such as Psalm 22) point to the instrument of death before the event happened? Or do we simply ignore Old Testament prophecies because some erroneously believe they are no longer in effect?
We must remember that God is a God of miracles. He foretold the method of His death and would certainly know in advance that the symbolism of this pagan sign would be (and was) appropriated for the use by religion today. This does not however in any way mean that God would allow the physical use of the pagan cross in the death of His Son. Any student of the Bible who has even a rudimentary understanding of the loathing God has for anything pagan, will know this is a ludicrous assertion.
So the mere fact that the traditional cross figures so prominently in pagan religious custom today (which includes mainstream religion), ought to give serious pause for thought. The symbol, and the supposed means, were later substituted by a church which impersonated the “little flock” of Jesus Christ. The Cross was adopted in an attempt to make Christianity more familiar and “friendly” to the pagan converts.
I believe that God purposely left out the information on the shape of the “stake” because He knew pagan counterfeit religions would indeed appropriate the symbol of the cross. Yet lack of Biblical information on this subject is actually a strong indicator of faith needed, as well as vigorous study required, to understand that this symbol is NOT associated in any way with the true Church of God, including its very Head and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Therefore, true Christians do not wear crosses, as a mere physical object does not assist in worshipping God. Their use is needed to keep the mind of adherents physically focused on objects, rather than understand that their faith is dead and empty. True Christians deeply appreciate Christ’s sacrifice and God the Father’s eternal love for them in giving up His only Son. They walk by the faith of Christ, not by sight of eyes (II Cor. 5:7). The Bible plainly states that God is Spirit and we are to worship Him in both spirit and in truth (John 4:24).