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The 'Reasoning' book's discussion of the 'Cross'

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The following post quotes originally came from this thread: 

Rather than take the thread totally off topic, I thought I would make some comments in a new one.

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Dear Sisters,

At the risk of starting another firestorm, (which is not my intention), I would like to include some information about the crux ansata in this discussion. 

I'm commenting on this post, likewise not to create a firestorm, but to flag up how we ought to check sources of information rather than automatically taking on trust that what is written is sound.

Regarding information on the internet, the August 15, 2011 Watchtower put forward some criteria by which we can critically assess its factuality:

"Before trusting it, ask: (1) Who published this material? What are the author’s credentials? (2) Why was this published? What motivated the writer? Is there any bias? (3) Where did the author get the information? Does he supply sources that can be checked? (4) Is the information current?" - p. 4 

It's good practice to apply these basic principles to anything we read - even material produced by the Organization. 

It's also worth remembering Christians do not claim Jesus was executed on a crux ansata or ankh-shaped cross (think of the practical problems for a start). But let's look at how the Reasoning book approaches the wider question of whether Jesus was executed on a cross at all.

 

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rs p. 89- p.93

Cross

Definition: The device on which Jesus Christ was executed is referred to by most of Christendom as a cross. The expression is drawn from the Latin crux.

Why do Watch Tower publications show Jesus on a stake with hands over his head instead of on the traditional cross?

The Greek word rendered “cross” in many modern Bible versions (“torture stake” in NW) is stau·rosʹ. 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 this, saying: “The Greek word for cross, [stau·rosʹ], 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.”—Edited by P. Fairbairn (London, 1874), Vol. I, p. 376.

"(2) ... Is there any bias?"

Absolutely. The Reasoning book's quote from the Imperial Bible Dictionary is chopped up, and omits key information that would allow the reader to understand that, while stauros originally had one meaning, by the time of Jesus the word had evolved and was understood differently. The omitted parts from the quote are in red.

"The Greek word for cross, [stau·ros′], 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 our cross is derived) appears to have been originally an upright pole, and this always remained the more prominent part."

The quote continues to cite Seneca's (4 BC-65 AD) eye-witness testimony about 3 different kinds of crucifixion regularly employed, the last of which was where the victim's arms were extended on a patibulum. The dictionary then adds:

"There can be no doubt, however, that the latter sort was was the more common, and that about the period of the gospel age crucifixion was usually accomplished by suspending the criminal on a cross piece of wood." - p. 376

You can read the Imperial Bible Dictionary article for yourself here:
https://archive.org/stream/imperialbibledi00fairgoog#page/n402/mode/2up

So why do Watch Tower publications show Jesus on a stake with hands over his head instead of on the traditional cross? Reading an extended quote from the Imperial Bible Dictionary makes the reason for Watchtower's divergence on this matter unclear.

Quote

Was that the case in connection with the execution of God’s Son? It is noteworthy that the Bible also uses the word xyʹlon to identify the device used. A Greek-English Lexicon, by Liddell and Scott, defines this as meaning: “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.” It also says “in NT, of the cross,” and cites Acts 5:30 and 10:39 as examples. (Oxford, 1968, pp. 1191, 1192) However, in those verses KJ, RS, JB, and Dy translate xyʹlon as “tree.” (Compare this rendering with Galatians 3:13;Deuteronomy 21:22, 23.)

There's no problem with this section as crosses were made of wood from trees. Not only that, but trees had branches upon which arms could be outstretched either side of the body, above it, upside-down or however the executioner wanted to position the poor victim. 

Of course, the Org. no longer translates Jesus' mode of execution as 'impaling' because, well, he wasn't impaled; he was suspended from a stauros by being nailed to it. Impaling is an entirely different kind of torturous end. 

This reference, then, doesn't help explain why Watch Tower publications depict Jesus on an upright stake either.

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The book The Non-Christian Cross, by J. D. Parsons (London, 1896), says: “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. . . . 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 for some reason or other assumed that the particular stauros upon which Jesus was executed had that particular shape.”—Pp. 23, 24; ...

"(1) ... What are the author’s credentials? ... (3) Where did the author get the information? Does he supply sources that can be checked? (4) Is the information current?" 

Not only is this another outdated source, but psychical research enthusiast J.D. Parsons does not provide references for his comments here (publication viewable online). Historical, linguistic and gospel evidence contradicts him. It's a pity he didn't consult works like the Imperial Bible Dictionary before he wrote his book.

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...  see also The Companion Bible (London, 1885), Appendix No. 162.

"(3) Where did the author get the information? Does he supply sources that can be checked? (4) Is the information current?" 

This is another old work, this time one edited by E.W. Bullinger. Appendix No. 162 does supply some sources, but it also repeats some of Alexander Hislop's and others' mistaken ideas, e.g. the Babylonian sun-god cross. Not only that, but Bullinger (or whoever the author of Appendix No. 162 was) was evidently unaware of the Oxyrhyncus discoveries which showed that the understanding of stauros as being a two-pieced cross shape occurred in 2nd (and possibly 1st) century Christian writings.

See the Companion Bible entry here: https://archive.org/stream/CompanionBible.Bullinger.1901-Haywood.2005/CompBib.Bull.Hay.NT.Append.24.#page/n797/mode/2up

In fact, many of these old publications the Org. uses as support, and that are contemporaneous with one another, seem to feed off each other's sources, regurgitating them in their own works. The Two Babylons was published in book form in 1858. It's always good to keep this in mind when reading older references after that time because it often influenced other theologians' work - especially if their theology was less mainstream. Vine's Expository Dictionary's entry on 'Cross' is another notable example (see below).

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Thus the weight of the evidence indicates that Jesus died on an upright stake and not on the traditional cross.

That's assuming that all the available evidence has been presented to the Reasoning book reader. As we've seen, it hasn't but has been cherry-picked from flawed, out-of-date works, which often recycle the same sources, in order to force a predetermined conclusion. When we dig into those sources a little deeper, we find that Watchtower's rejection of the cross and adoption of an upright stake to depict Jesus' execution is based on insubstantial grounds. If we research the subject more thoroughly, although we will never be certain what shape stauros Jesus died on, we will find that the weight of evidence indicates the opposite view to that of the Organization. 

 

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What were the historical origins of Christendom’s cross?

“Various objects, dating from periods long anterior to the Christian era, have been found, marked with crosses of different designs, in almost every part of the old world. India, Syria, Persia and Egypt have all yielded numberless examples . . . The use of the cross as a religious symbol in pre-Christian times and among non-Christian peoples may probably be regarded as almost universal, and in very many cases it was connected with some form of nature worship.”—Encyclopædia Britannica (1946), Vol. 6, p. 753.

What does this have to do with how Christians regard the cross? Cross shapes occur in different cultures, times and contexts. Whatever significance non-Christians placed on cross shapes (4 cardinal points, 4 year markers, 4 key stages in the Sun's apparent seasonal or daily paths around the Earth, circle of life, etc.) has nothing to do with any symbolism Christians attach to the cross Jesus was believed to have been executed on.

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“The shape of the [two-beamed cross] had its origin in ancient Chaldea, and was used as the symbol of the god Tammuz (being in the shape of the mystic Tau, the initial of his name) in that country and in 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 by faith, and were permitted largely to retain their pagan signs and symbols. Hence the Tau or T, in its most frequent form, with the cross-piece lowered, was adopted to stand for the cross of Christ.”—An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (London, 1962), W. E. Vine, p. 256.

"(2) ... Is there any bias? (3) Where did the author get the information? Does he supply sources that can be checked? (4) Is the information current?"

Vine's comment about the two-beamed cross's Chaldean origin actually came from Hislop (Two Babylons, p. 197-8). It is false

Hislop was rabidly anti-Catholic and grasping at anything to discredit it, no matter how outlandish. However, in doing so, he was undermining aspects of biblical Christianity too. So, yes, one could say he was biased - so much so that he imagined ancient pagan-Catholic connections everywhere. He provides no historical evidence that the Babylonian god Tammuz was represented by a Tau and besides, the Babylonians didn't write in Greek! Their writing was logographic and the signs for Tammuz (Dumuzi) don't look anything like crosses. 

03eec4c2f3500341b2c65cc3d18b9bb4.jpg
 
On the other hand, the Paleo-Hebrew script has a letter tav. Guess what it looks like:
http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Grammar/Unit_One/Pictograms/pictograms.html#

Shocking, hey?

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“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.”—The Cross in Ritual, Architecture, and Art (London, 1900), G. S. Tyack, p. 1.

"(3) Where did the author get the information? Does he supply sources that can be checked? (4) Is the information current?"

Again, a 19th/early 20th century work. Tyack doesn't provide any sources for his statements. However the concepts seem to be from the Two Babylons book. These connections between the cross and Tammuz plus other ancient near eastern deities don't go back beyond the 1850s and Hislop's book - not that I've been able to trace, anyway.

Quote

“The cross in the form of the ‘Crux Ansata’ . . . was carried in the hands of the Egyptian priests and Pontiff kings as the symbol of their authority as priests of the Sun god and was called ‘the Sign of Life.’”—The Worship of the Dead (London, 1904), Colonel J. Garnier, p. 226.

Around and around we go. This information is straight out of Two Babylons! Look:

https://archive.org/stream/worshipdeadoror00garngoog#page/n268/mode/2up

Please pay particular notice to the references in the footnotes on that page.

I'll post separately about all those cross symbols and the conclusions Hislop jumps to.

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“Various figures of crosses are found everywhere on Egyptian monuments and tombs, and are considered by many authorities as symbolical either of the phallus [a representation of the male sex organ] or of coition. . . . In Egyptian tombs the cruxansata [cross with a circle or handle on top] is found side by side with the phallus.”—A Short History of Sex-Worship (London, 1940), H. Cutner, pp. 16, 17; see also The Non-Christian Cross, p. 183.

Again, what does this have to do with how Christians view the cross Jesus is believed to have died on? 

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“These crosses were used as symbols of the Babylonian sun-god, [See book], and are first seen on a coin of Julius Cæsar, 100-44 B.C., and then on a coin struck by Cæsar’s heir (Augustus), 20 B.C. On the coins of Constantine the most frequent symbol is [See book]; but the same symbol is used without the surrounding circle, and with the four equal arms vertical and horizontal; and this was the symbol specially venerated as the ‘Solar Wheel’. It should be stated that Constantine was a sun-god worshipper, and would not enter the ‘Church’ till some quarter of a century after the legend of his having seen such a cross in the heavens.”—The Companion Bible, Appendix No. 162; see also The Non-Christian Cross, pp. 133-141.

This is a quote from the same Bullinger work discussed above.

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Is veneration of the cross a Scriptural practice?

Now, this is a whole different issue.

And is it a matter of degree? Remember how obsessed many JWs are nowadays with the JW.org logo, maybe because of its associations in the JW's mind with true worship, brotherhood, divine blessings, etc. They put it on anything from tiepins to cake. Likewise, many Christians associate the cross with Jesus' love for humankind, victory over death/Satan, hope, etc., and so they like to have a symbolic reminder of that or use it as a visible expression of their faith. I guess it depends on whether one considers a line has been stepped over between expression of faith and worshipful veneration, and there is a certain level of subjectivity in that assessment.

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In ancient Israel, unfaithful Jews wept over the death of the false god Tammuz. Jehovah spoke of what they were doing as being a ‘detestable thing.’ (Ezek. 8:13, 14) According to history, Tammuz was a Babylonian god, and the cross was used as his symbol. From its beginning in the days of Nimrod, Babylon was against Jehovah and an enemy of true worship. (Gen. 10:8-10; Jer. 50:29) So by cherishing the cross, a person is honoring a symbol of worship that is opposed to the true God.

Here we go again. An allusion to Hislopian baloney.

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As stated at Ezekiel 8:17, apostate Jews also ‘thrust out the shoot to Jehovah’s nose.’ He viewed this as “detestable” and ‘offensive.’ Why? This “shoot,” some commentators explain, was a representation of the male sex organ, used in phallic worship. How, then, must Jehovah view the use of the cross, which, as we have seen, was anciently used as a symbol in phallic worship?" End of quotation.

And an upright stake is NOT phallic?

'Some commentators' - who? The Reasoning book doesn't enlighten us.

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So dear sisters, let's be careful to keep our worship to Jehovah clean and free from any influence of pagan worship that is detestable to him. I hope you all agree. :)

While I agree that idolatry is against biblical principles, the Org's reluctance to entertain at least the possibility that Jesus historically died on a cross is based on deeply flawed, outdated, and circular reasoning.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Regarding Hislop's discussion of various cross shapes on p. 197 of the Two Babylons book:

Fig. 43 shows 5 different cross shapes.

No. 1 is the familiar crucifix shape and comes from Kitto's Biblical Cyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 495 (viewable online - as with all of these references, just Google). This reference is just a discussion of 'Cross' and Lipsius' various pictures/descriptions of this means of execution.

No. 2 is similar to No. 1 but slanted. The pic comes from Sir W. Betham's Etruria, Vol. 1, p. 54 (viewable online). This references the Etruscan alphabet. Hislop's picture is just one of the letters he's picked out.

No. 3 is like No. 1 except with a slightly curved crosspiece. This is from Bunsen's Egypt's Place in Universal History, Vol. 1, p. 450 (viewable online). Hislop's picture is one of the Coptic letters of the alphabet - a tei. He doesn't bother with the other cross-shaped letters in the Coptic alphabet on pp. 448-450 - not even the tau on p. 449!

No. 4 is similar to an ankh. Hislop thinks it's a cross (the sign of Tammuz) attached to the circle of the sun (p. 198). He provides no reference for this one.

No. 5 is a cross within a circle. This is used as another example of Tammuz being associated with the sun and the picture comes from Stephen's Incidents of Travel in Central America, Vol. 2, p. 344, Plate 2 (viewable online) where an indigenous person's belt is decorated with the symbol.

Hislop uses these sources and cobbles together isolated cross symbols - an instrument of execution, letters of the Etruscan and Coptic alphabets, an ankh and the belt decoration of a Central American Indian. These all form the basis of his argument that,

a) The Christian cross is not a Christian emblem.

(He only establishes that cross shapes occur in all sorts of places and contexts.)

b) The cross originates from the mystic Tau of the Chaldeans and Egyptians.

(An unsupported assertion pulled out of the air - none of his examples are linked to Chaldea.)

c) The letter T is "the initial letter of Tammuz - which, in Hebrew, [is] radically the same as ancient Chaldee" (p. 197).

(It's already been discussed on this thread that, while Paleo-Hebrew indeed has a cross-shaped Tav, the Babylonians wrote in cuneiform and their logographic signs making up the word Dumuzi/Tammuz do not resemble a cross.)

d) Tammuz was identified with the sun.

(Anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of Babylonian deities knows that Shamash was the god identified with the sun and Marduk may also have had solar connections - not Tammuz. Tammuz was a shepherd-god of agriculture, fertile lands, food and vegetation.)

Hislop's conclusions about how the Christian cross originates in Babylonian worship are therefore founded on ... nothing.

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Thanks for the interesting research which is very relevant, particularly on cherry picking of quotes., However, there's nothing here to say that Jesus was not nailed to an upright stake, or that the symbol does not have pre-christian, pagan association.

Although the Society's illustrations still depict Jesus death on an upright stake, our current view is this:

"However, the Bible does not describe the instrument of Jesus’ death, so no one can know its shape with absolute certainty."

9 hours ago, Ann O'Maly said:

Remember how obsessed many JWs are nowadays with the JW.org logo, maybe because of its associations in the JW's mind with true worship, brotherhood, divine blessings

I'm not sure how this correlates to Christendoms veneration of the cross no matter how tacky the uses of what is simply part of a url. 

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8 hours ago, Eoin Joyce said:

However, there's nothing here to say that Jesus was not nailed to an upright stake, ...

The evidence suggests that an upright stake is the least likely option. But as was said, we cannot be certain what shape stauros Jesus died on. The problem is how the Org. has made it look as if the upright stake was the most likely (or only) option and ignored the rest of scholarship on the matter that demonstrates the opposite likelihood.

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... or that the symbol does not have pre-christian, pagan association.

Various depictions of cross shapes exist in all sorts of cultures, past and present, Christian and non-Christian. So? 

Quote

 

Although the Society's illustrations still depict Jesus death on an upright stake, our current view is this:

"However, the Bible does not describe the instrument of Jesus’ death, so no one can know its shape with absolute certainty."

 

 

The Bible doesn't describe it directly, but there are hints. Unfortunately, the rest of the Society's article stumbles into the same pitfalls as the Reasoning book does. 

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I'm not sure how this correlates to Christendoms veneration of the cross no matter how tacky the uses of what is simply part of a url. 

I thought I explained. What is it you are unclear on?

 

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2 hours ago, Ann O'Maly said:

I thought I explained. What is it you are unclear on?

I can see similarities in the use of jw.org logos as trinkets or ornaments or badges in the way that others might use crosses without religious significance.

However, I can't really see a similarity between the way many witnesses view trinkets and cakes etc. bearing the jw.org symbol and the way in which the cross is treated religiously by diverse members of Christendom.

The links below might illustrate my point:

http://www.latitudenews.com/story/faithful-in-philippines-embrace-christ-and-his-crucifixion/

http://blogs.ft.com/photo-diary/2016/01/kissing-the-cross/

http://catholicphilly.com/2016/03/think-tank/catholic-spirituality/salvation-comes-through-the-cross-not-a-magic-wand-pope-says/

Anyway, I apologise for deviating a bit from your topic which I note is about the quality of research in the 1985 Reasoning Book article on the Cross. I am sure this line of discussion will come up more appropriately somewhere else so will leave it until then.

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On 2/9/2017 at 11:16 PM, Eoin Joyce said:

I can see similarities in the use of jw.org logos as trinkets or ornaments or badges in the way that others might use crosses without religious significance.

Or even with religious significance ... as the Organization has religious significance to the JW, does it not?

On 2/9/2017 at 11:16 PM, Eoin Joyce said:

However, I can't really see a similarity between the way many witnesses view trinkets and cakes etc. bearing the jw.org symbol and the way in which the cross is treated religiously by diverse members of Christendom. ...

[links to pics of people kissing crosses, etc.]

Give it time. ;)

Anyway, I was suggesting, in response to 'Is veneration of the cross a scriptural practice?', that veneration (or great respect, reverence) for an object of religious significance can occur in many forms. So I posed the question of whether it was a matter of degree to which one venerates a religious artifact and where the line might be drawn before scriptural principles are seen to be violated. Yes, maybe another thread.

On 2/9/2017 at 11:16 PM, Eoin Joyce said:

Anyway, I apologise for deviating a bit from your topic ...

It's OK. I'm not cross (geddit?). :) 

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You say either and I say either
You say neither and I say neither
Either, either neither, neither
Let's call the whole thing off
You like potato and I like potahto
You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto
Let's call the whole thing off
You say laughter and I say larfter
You say after and I say arfter
Laughter, larfter after arfter
Let's call the whole thing off
You like vanilla and I like vanella
You saspiralla, and I saspirella
Vanilla vanella chocolate strawberry
Let's call the whole thing off
I say father, and you say pater
I saw mother and you say mater
Pater, mater uncle, auntie let's call the whole thing off
I like bananas and you like banahnahs
I say havana and I get havahnah
Bananas, banahnahs havana, havahnah
Go your way, I'll go mine
So if I go for scallops and you go for lobsters
So all right no contest we'll order lobseter
For we know we need each other so we
Better call the calling off off
Let's call the whole thing off

 

Cross or Stake .....................................So what ! Did Jesus die ? Surely that's the important question !

So Lets call the whole thing .......Orff !

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On 2/25/2017 at 5:57 AM, INTREPID TRAVELLER said:

Cross or Stake .....................................So what ! Did Jesus die ? Surely that's the important question !

Indeed. But the focus of this thread is on how historical and linguistic scholarship can be misused or ignored to influence readers to a preordained conclusion (namely, that Jesus didn't die on a cross). The shape of the stauros Jesus died on shouldn't be an issue, but the Org has stuck its neck out and made it one.

 

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The Org. did not make it an issue, we are doing that by all this fluffing arguing. Why? The REAL issue, is of JESUS death, is dying shedding his blood, correct? How, is not a priority. That he died, he fulfilled his purpose for,his Father. We are fussing over .gnats in the wine and missing out on the dinner prepared for us! Don't think the host has more wine!?! 

Remember Peter's words..."Only you have words of everlasting life."

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We cannot be dogmatic about the shape, size or other physical characteristics of the instrument on which our Lord was hung but the linguistic, biblical and historical evidence favours the stake as the most likely form. This is what the eyewitnesses saw on that occasion and it was a stauros  which simply means a stake even though at that time the word evolved into a different shape, a cross. WT writers have certainly used older sources to support our argument but this is simply due to the fact that scholarship has not had much to say on this subject with the exception of Gunnar Samuelson's thesis that Jesus was hung on a suspension device which differed to the traditional 'cross'.

scholar JW

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