Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Why it was a Cross.

My very intelligent cousin (who as you may have seen here before is a Jehovah's Witness) gave me a reply on a question I had asked about when JW's believe that the apostate church began to use the T (tau) shaped cross as the one Jesus was crucified on. So this is pretty much why the T shaped cross is the correct one.

Well, since you asked……………….

Actually, I was reading about the historical concept of crucifixion after listening to a pastor talk about how it disgusts him to see non Christians wearing crosses considering how much of a tortuous death it represented. And then I came across an item called the Alexamenos Graffito. It was discovered in Rome and dates as far back as 85 CE. Most scholars believe it shows the mocking description of a Christian. It appears to show a man on a cross with the head of a donkey and contains the caption "Alexamenos worships [his] God." Naturally, I wondered at the dating of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ apostasy and when they believe Christians changed the shape of the stake into the cross.

I understand your initial answer, but you misunderstood my question. What I was asking was when you believe people began to believe that Jesus was crucified on a cross and not a stake, not when they began using crosses as symbols and in worship. So I appreciate all your research, however, it does not answer the question. However, you did say that it was around the middle of the third century, so that answers my question.

I know why you brought up the other cultures and their cross similarities, it is because you were taught that the origin of the cross was pagan. However, you are committing what people in debate call the genetic fallacy. Basically it means you are comparing someone and something they do to someone who did the same thing who is bad and saying that the someone shouldn’t do that because the someone who did it before was bad. For instance, just because Hitler was a vegetarian doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be vegetarians. Other examples abound. JW’s policies on birthdays and holidays follow the same fallacy. Our not doing something needs to be based in whether or not it is actually sin, not whether or not a sinner has done it. What I am saying is this, just because some other pagan culture has used a cross does not mean we cannot. Pagans use Bibles for all sorts of strange rituals, it doesn’t mean we can’t use the Bible legitimately.

Another thing that does not at all surprise me from Jehovah’s Witnesses, but does surprise me coming from you was your choice of what page to send me. On the very page from which you quote and forwarded to me, the historical record shows that early Christians thought of the cross of Christ as a T (tau,) (last paragraph.) I encounter this time after time after time. This is called selective quoting or sometimes deceptive quoting. It is when a person quotes a book to support a position when the book substantially disagrees with the position. I have found that the tract “Should You Believe in the Trinity” is full of these. In fact, I believe more than one author quoted there has released a statement saying that the quote was taken out of context and in fact means the opposite of what it was purported to say.

Here’s my position, based on historicity.

By Jesus time, the words stauros and xylon could mean stake, cross, or a number of other wooden items, so we cannot deduce an exact meaning from a single one of the definitions of the word. So we must look at the historical evidence. From the time of Jesus, none of the Christian fathers or other writers espoused the idea that Jesus was crucified on anything but a cross, either a T or t. That idea has only been explored in the last 150 years or so.

Church fathers support the idea of a cross beam well before the JW’s claim the switch happened. Second century writers Justin Martyr and Irenaeus claim the cross. Also in the same century were Clement of Alexandria and whoever wrote the Epistle of Barnabas written before 135. And before the end of that century Tertullian wrote that Christians were known for marking themselves with the sign of the cross. Others before the end of the second century include Origen, Lucian, Celsus, whoever wrote the Odes of Solomon, the writer of the Acts of Peter, and Hyppolytus of Rome. Marcus Minucius Felix responded to the charge that Christians worshiped crosses and made the distinction between the cross of Christ which was not worshiped and the crosses of pagans. All this before Jehovah’s Witnesses say the change took place. I was actually surprised how much evidence there is. And the only counter argument is based on one of many definitions of two words.

Furthermore, from a perspective of the purpose of the cross, a single upright stake makes no sense. The purpose of the cross was to draw out death, to be as tortuous as possible. Roman citizens were not to be crucified. A vertical pole causes death by asphyxiation in minutes when Jesus death took hours, and the Romans were even surprised when he died so quickly.

The last thing I must challenge you to look upon with a critical eye is your opinion on the cross itself. I know Jehovah’s Witnesses are taught to look upon the cross with disgust as an instrument of torture, however, this is not exactly biblical. Galatians 6:14 says “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Paul said that he should boast in nothing except the cross. He actually said to boast in the cross, not to be disgusted by it as one might be with an electric chair or hangman’s noose. For Christians, the cross is not a symbol of death, but of life and victory. The cross is empty, because Jesus is no longer there. His death would be useless if not for his bodily resurrection which as he said would be his triumph over death.

In conclusion, “The cross was not … worshiped by the early Christians.” (Beliefs and Customs That Displease God. Quoted from the official Jehovah’s Witnesses website.) I agree with this because it agrees with history, however, the assertion that Jesus was not crucified on a T or t shaped cross simply does not follow the evidence.

Thanks for your time and I hope I have been polite.


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