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Stake or Cross? How did Jesus die? What proof do we have?
Guest posted a topic in Jehovah’s Witnesses's TopicsWas Jesus Crucified on a Cross NO..mp4
Christ was nailed through his "hands" or his "wrist"?Maybe this is not completely relevant to the discussion, but has anyone noticed in today's WT study (WT January2017 ) the illustration of Jesus on the stake, with the nails going through his wrists rather than through the palm of his hands? I haven't noticed this before, perhaps we have always drawn it this way and I just didn't pay enough attention. I remember reading somewhere some technicalities about the actual physical possibilities or impossibilities, and one argument was that the victim could not be nailed to a stake through the hands as the weight of the body would rip through the palms (sorry, this is so morbid) and the only way it could be through the palms is if the downward weight was distributed with the arms tied to a cross beam and the then the palms nailed (I guess for added anguish). In any case, when Thomas needed confirmation of Jesus' resurrection he said at John 20:25 .....“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 never believe it.” Is this a case of a broad usage for "hand"? And could it mean anything from the fingers to the wrists, including the wrists? In some languages the translation of hand can be a little confusing because it can also mean the whole arm in another language. Only the context can give a clue as to what is meant, whether it is a hand, and arm, the forearm or the whole arm including the hand...This also got me to thinking about the translation of stauros, could that also encompass not just a vertical beam but some horizontal beams?
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. 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. "(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. 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. "(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. "(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). 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. 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. "(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. 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? "(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. 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. Again, what does this have to do with how Christians view the cross Jesus is believed to have died on? This is a quote from the same Bullinger work discussed above. 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. Here we go again. An allusion to Hislopian baloney. And an upright stake is NOT phallic? 'Some commentators' - who? The Reasoning book doesn't enlighten us. 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.