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Stake or Cross? How did Jesus die? What proof do we have?


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There is an interesting linguistic phenomenon where the s sound is not perfectly mimicked when words transfer from one language to another. The shibboleth in Hebrew was an example, with sibboleth as the alternative. French is famous for this where Latin words like studium became words like étude, dropping the initial s. And French rarely pronounces a final s of a word, except through elision. In Spain many words spelled with an s are pronounced with a soft "th" which often disappears altogether. Here is a question about it with a couple examples, I saw here, http://www.spanishdict.com/answers/209708/dropping-the-s-do-people-talk-like-this

  • Listening to a few of my songs sung by native Spanish speakers I noticed that they seem to leave the letter s out when saying some words - sounding like 'etán' instead of están or leaving i[t] off if the word ends in s - eg. Dio mío.  [instead of Dios mio].

Even between Greek and Latin, there was an evolution with the letter "s" so that for example, the numbers 6 (hex) and 7 (hepta) became 6 (sex) and 7 (septa). [heptagon, September, etc.]

There are hundreds more such examples. So speakers familiar with Mediterranean dialects probably could easily understand words that left off an initial "s" and a final "s." 

So what happens when one leaves off the initial "s" and final "s" of the word STAUROS?

You get Tau-Ro and can spell it with two Greek letters: Tau-Rho.

If there had been any tendency to want to highlight the letter T in any of the "nomina sacra" adjustments to special terms referring to either Jesus or God in the early Christian texts, then this would have been the best opportunity, because all the other major words started with Th/Theta (Theos), X (Christ), I/Iota (Jesus) K (Kurios/Lord). 

But the Tau-Rho was combined in such a way that it apparently produces a simple image of Jesus Christ on the Stauros. It's called a "Staurogram" and is the earliest known of the two best-known "Christograms." Rememer that Tau looks like a T and Rho looks like our letter P. If you put the Tau down first and then the Rho on top of it, you'd get:

Staurogram

This was a kind of stick figure drawing, and is found in very early manuscripts where either the noun stauros is intended, or the verb for "crucify" is intended. The image is taken from the Bodmer Papyrus P.75, and therefore, according to https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/crucifixion/the-staurogram/:

  • Staurograms serve as the earliest images of Jesus on the cross, predating other Christian crucifixion imagery by 200 years. Photo: Foundation Martin Bodmer.

Image result for staurogram

If one had wanted to spell out the initial and final S of the word (which looks like a C in Greek Uncial (or Coptic) it would be done like this:

11495

The intention of these symbols becomes clear when pictorial imagery became more widely accepted in the Christian-associated churches. Note that an "Alpha" and "Omega" are also added to the imagery in this instance. Also note that the head is always above the crossbeam of the Tau, implying that the shape used a lowered crossbeam. (Or that it was important to lift Jesus head above the cross for symbolic purposes.)

Image result for staurogram
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I've used this argument at the door and with Bible studies, too: that supposedly Christians, even if they claim they are not worshiping the item, should still find it wrong to carry around a model of

Interesting stuff, especially the difference between Chi Rho and Tau Rho. Howeve,r he states: "2)............the earliest uses of the tau-rho are not as such free-standing symbols, but form

The PDF linked earlier, "Jehovah's Witnesses and the Cross" Leolaia, 1990, speaks of semantic restriction by which some Watchtower doctrines have developed by focusing on only the simplest etymologica

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Having read through all the comments and had a good laugh, i am now more convinced than ever of the GB not being the FDS.

It seems some people need to hang on desperately to the 'cliff edge', being frightened of losing their 'faith' in thier GB. 

The points are quite simple. The NWT is a 'readable' bible. It uses 'readable words'. The translators have a very great responsibility to God and to 'men'. Yet at John 20 v 25, it chooses to use the words HANDS and NAILS, both in the plural. I am sure it the translators felt it would be right, they would have used the word 'wrists' if that word was also a meaning of the original 'cheir' 

Another point I have just noticed and this may be important. in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greeks Scriptures.

In the GREEK writing, the word for hands at John 20 v 25 is different to the word for hands at Acts 12 v 7. 

I looked and looked at this to be sure I was right, and it is different. I do so wish I could read Greek and Hebrew. 

So back to the picture and the John 20 v 25 scripture..... And another question/s. Is the GB trying to persuade / convince people of things that they themselves do not even know for sure ?  if so is that even a spiritual thing to do ? 

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@JW Insider your information is fantastic but you are way above me on all of this. I'm such a simple man, BUT so are so many people.

My point being made is, so many people are 'simple' 'down to earth' 'not highly educated' 'not having all these Bible aids' and in honesty not capable of being able to do such research. Will none of you people understand ? Will none of you realise how much responsibility your GB has ? 

You GB sends you out to preach to people that have no knowledge or understanding of God's word. In fact as time goes on many people now have no knowledge of anything and some can barely read or write properly. Yes even here in the UK. 

You may say, it isn't the GB that sends you out, it is God through Jesus Christ. Yes of course it is, but the GB are the ones that 'feed' you the information that you should 'feed' to others. Hence the GB have people's lives in their hands. Your lives and the ones you preach to. 

If, as can be seen on the topics here, it is proved the GB tell lies, make mistakes, get things wrong. How is this being guided by God?  You  are going out with lies, false information, false hopes in some cases. Is this really how God and Jesus wants the work done ?

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Wikipedia shows a simple staurogram on an oil lamp from Caesarea, now at a museum in Israel, that could have come from the 300's CE.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staurogram#/media/File:Nahsholim-Tel-Dor-3187.jpg

This was one of the pieces of evidence that made me think that some Christians, especially those with Jewish family backgrounds, might have found staurogram designs to be preferable to the type of graven imagery apparently forbidden in the Mosaic Law.

There is also early imagery like this:

Image result for donkey on a cross Roman graffiti

The graffiti is dated to the late second century, likely within 100 years of the book of Revelation. It shows a man looking up to a donkey on a cross and says in Greek: “Alexamenos worships god.”

It's polemic, of course, depicting Jesus as a donkey. The book that @indagator recommended by Frank Shaw, discussed elsewhere, helps explain why Jesus was depicted as a donkey. The word for donkey seems to be a bit like onomatopoeia, like calling a donkey a "hee-haw" or "Eeyore". In Coptic the word for "donkey/ass" was EIO and the divine name known to have been used by Jews and evidently Christians and even pagans for the Jewish God was IAO [Ya'o/Yaho], the equivalent of "Yah" or "Yaho" [cf. Jah, Jaho, Jahowa].

Jewish and perhaps even Christian writers changed the names of pagan gods slightly so that they would sound insulting. (Compare Beelzebul, "Lord of the High Place," to Beelzebub, "Lord of the Flies."). The similarity between a word for "donkey" and the Jewish God's divine name made it a prime candidate for the same type of derision. And the Jewish name for Jesus contained both the divine name "Yaho" and the connected word for "Savior" or "Salvation." (Yaho-shuah/Joshua/Jesus means "Jehovah [Yaho] is Salvation.")

It was not because of the legend that "Your Savior will come riding on the back of a donkey" is the reason for the cross on the back of so many breeds of donkeys:

image.jpeg

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43 minutes ago, JOHN BUTLER said:

In the GREEK writing, the word for hands at John 20 v 25 is different to the word for hands at Acts 12 v 7. 

I looked and looked at this to be sure I was right, and it is different. I do so wish I could read Greek and Hebrew.  

Not really. You don't have to be able to read Greek. It's the same word just inflected differently because of the way it's used in a sentence. Kind of like "He seeks" and "He sought" or "they own it" and "it is theirs" or "one child" and "two children."  A quick way to see this is to go to:

https://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/jhn/20/25/t_concf_1017025

and

https://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/act/12/7/t_concf_1030007

You should be looking at the "Interlinear" Greek of each verse. Just roll your cursor slowly over the Greek words in the Textus Receptus (the NWT will be closer to the GNT Morphological at the bottom of the verse, but they are usually the same). If you are looking at the Greek Interlinear tab (or the Reverse Interlinear tab) you can see that in John 20:25  χερσὶν is the same noun for "hand" but that it is in "Dative Feminine Plural" (dative is the possessive/ownership case, as in they vs. theirs). This will usually provide the answer for variations of the same word. In this particular case it doesn't help so much because the same basic reasons are true of both, and the difference is due to a writer's choice based on a prepositional inflection in this case. Biblehub provides all the variations of cheir χεὶρ:

Strong's Greek 5495
179 Occurrences


χεὶρ — 13 Occ.
χεῖρα — 30 Occ.
χεῖρας — 60 Occ.
χεῖρες — 2 Occ.
χειρὶ — 20 Occ.
χειρῶν — 18 Occ.
χειρὸς — 26 Occ.
χερσὶν — 10 Occ.

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3 hours ago, Outta Here said:

Well then, why not stsrt a thread on that topic and see if  you can there achieve your objective?. 

Because I'm showing each point on each topic individually. You actually proved that be saying i do it on every topic. But the idea is to stay on topic and prove my point at the same time. Thereby showing in each case how bad the GB is. 

 

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4 hours ago, JW Insider said:

Not really. You don't have to be able to read Greek. It's the same word just inflected differently because of the way it's used in a sentence. Kind of like "He seeks" and "He sought" or "they own it" and "it is theirs" or "one child" and "two children."  A quick way to see this is to go to:

https://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/jhn/20/25/t_concf_1017025

and

https://www.blueletterbible.org/kjv/act/12/7/t_concf_1030007

You should be looking at the "Interlinear" Greek of each verse. Just roll your cursor slowly over the Greek words in the Textus Receptus (the NWT will be closer to the GNT Morphological at the bottom of the verse, but they are usually the same). If you are looking at the Greek Interlinear tab (or the Reverse Interlinear tab) you can see that in John 20:25  χερσὶν is the same noun for "hand" but that it is in "Dative Feminine Plural" (dative is the possessive/ownership case, as in they vs. theirs). This will usually provide the answer for variations of the same word. In this particular case it doesn't help so much because the same basic reasons are true of both, and the difference is due to a writer's choice based on a prepositional inflection in this case. Biblehub provides all the variations of cheir χεὶρ:

Strong's Greek 5495
179 Occurrences


χεὶρ — 13 Occ.
χεῖρα — 30 Occ.
χεῖρας — 60 Occ.
χεῖρες — 2 Occ.
χειρὶ — 20 Occ.
χειρῶν — 18 Occ.
χειρὸς — 26 Occ.
χερσὶν — 10 Occ.

Wow, just wow. Great stuff but all beyond me. 

So to think that every JW does all this to prove to themselves that what they believe is true. That's amazing.  That is what you call studying God's word. 

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7 hours ago, JW Insider said:

Wikipedia shows a simple staurogram on an oil lamp from Caesarea, now at a museum in Israel, that could have come from the 300's CE.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Staurogram#/media/File:Nahsholim-Tel-Dor-3187.jpg

This was one of the pieces of evidence that made me think that some Christians, especially those with Jewish family backgrounds, might have found staurogram designs to be preferable to the type of graven imagery apparently forbidden in the Mosaic Law.

There is also early imagery like this:

Image result for donkey on a cross Roman graffiti

The graffiti is dated to the late second century, likely within 100 years of the book of Revelation. It shows a man looking up to a donkey on a cross and says in Greek: “Alexamenos worships god.”

It's polemic, of course, depicting Jesus as a donkey. The book that @indagator recommended by Frank Shaw, discussed elsewhere, helps explain why Jesus was depicted as a donkey. The word for donkey seems to be a bit like onomatopoeia, like calling a donkey a "hee-haw" or "Eeyore". In Coptic the word for "donkey/ass" was EIO and the divine name known to have been used by Jews and evidently Christians and even pagans for the Jewish God was IAO [Ya'o/Yaho], the equivalent of "Yah" or "Yaho" [cf. Jah, Jaho, Jahowa].

Jewish and perhaps even Christian writers changed the names of pagan gods slightly so that they would sound insulting. (Compare Beelzebul, "Lord of the High Place," to Beelzebub, "Lord of the Flies."). The similarity between a word for "donkey" and the Jewish God's divine name made it a prime candidate for the same type of derision. And the Jewish name for Jesus contained both the divine name "Yaho" and the connected word for "Savior" or "Salvation." (Yaho-shuah/Joshua/Jesus means "Jehovah [Yaho] is Salvation.")

It was not because of the legend that "Your Savior will come riding on the back of a donkey" is the reason for the cross on the back of so many breeds of donkeys:

image.jpeg

Thank you. 

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13 hours ago, JW Insider said:

Larry W Hurtado

Interesting stuff, especially the difference between Chi Rho and Tau Rho.

Howeve,r he states:

"2)............the earliest uses of the tau-rho are not as such free-standing symbols, but form part of a special way of writing the Greek words for “cross” (stauros) and “crucify” (stauro-o), in NT texts which refer to the crucifixion of Jesus.

3) The tau-rho is not an allusion to the word “christos“.  Indeed, the letters have no relation to any terms in early Christian vocabulary.  Instead, the device (adapted from pre-Christian usage) seems to have served originally as a kind of pictographic representation of the crucified Jesus, the loop of the rho superimposed on the tau serving to depict the head of a figure on a cross.

4) So, contra the common assumption taught in art history courses, the earliest visual reference to the crucified Jesus isn’t 5th century intaglia, but this scribal device employed by ca. 200 CE. 

There's no denying that this scribal device is employed in some early Greek Scripture manuscripts. How early? With occurences, for example,  at Luke 9:23; 14:27,  P75 of the Bodmer Papyrii (imaged earlier) was originally dated as 175-200CE,. This early assignment has been recently challenged, where some favour a later date closer to the 4th Century. Other evidences, such as Chester Beatty's P45 manuscript is dated about 250CE, and contains this device at Matt.26:2 and also Luke 14:27. A further papyrus in the Bodmer colllection, P66, contains the staurogram in at least ten places in the papyrus (corresponding to chapter 19 of John's Gospel. Like P75, this papyrus is subject to similar discussion on it's antiquity, being more recently proposed as originating "in the early or middle part of the fourth century."

So, basically, we have a scribal insertion of a contemporary "Christian " symbol some 135-300 years after the establishing of the Christian congregation at Pentecost 33CE .

However, a disturbing comment is made regarding the staurogram on the Bible History Today page cited in the earlier post by @JWInsider at

https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/crucifixion/the-staurogram/:

"The tau-rho staurogram, like other christograms, was originally a pre-Christian symbol. A Herodian coin featuring the Staurogram predates the crucifixion. Soon after, Christian adoption of staurogram symbols served as the first visual images of Jesus on the cross."

Larry Hurtado confirms this when discussing the Tau-Rho among other "Christian" symbols as he states: "these are all pre-Christian devices and were appropriated by early Christians." He also says "P45, P66 and P75 offer us evidence of a Christian appropriation of the tau-rho device that (whatever and whenever its origin) was already becoming familiar in Christian circles at the time that these copyists worked."  (Quotes from The Staurogram in Early Christian Manuscripts: The Earliest Visual Reference to the Crucified Jesus?)

Reference is made to Herodian coins issued about 37 BCE where the Tau Rho appears (apparently as some sort of date code?)

,image.jpeg

Jack Finegan, (The Archaeology of the New Testament. 1969) is referenced by Hurtado. In his book section The Cross. Abbreviations and Monograms, among other things, he cited Egyptian influences on the development and use of the Staurogram, likening it to the Egyptian ankh, a symbol of life. He presents an memorial inscription from a 4th Century tomb at Armant near Luxor on the NIle. Here the staurogram symbol is presented on the bottom 3rd right in line with the ankh and the Chi Rho symbol, (another "christogram). 

coptic.jpg

An additional aspect is the proposed influence of the use of isosephy in formulating the staurogram. This practice,  known also as gematria, seeks to find numeric relationships in words and concepts by assigning numeric values to letters and thus to words, then looking for parrallel meanings. An attempt is made to equate this to the reckoning of the wild beast's number of 666 in Rev.13:18. "Christian" Isosephists equate this number to the value determined for the name "Nero", their interpretation then misinterpreting the scripture. The staurogram is thus said by some to have a mystical significance in this regard. The whole practice has a ring of divination about it. Although Hurtado does not promote this view, it is not rejected as a contributory factor.

Whilst interesting and formidably detailed, these speculations on the early uses of staurogram symbols are not very convincing as to their relevance to genuine Christianity. It just cannot be that difficult to find the truth, if it is actually there. 

  • It seems that an early date for the use of these symbols as some propose is not clear at all, as the relevant papyrii whilst significantly old, are of disputed antiquity.
  • There appears to be a pagan and superstitious influence at work in the appropriation of these symbols, for obscure reasons.
  • It is clear from scripture that definite attempts to distort and corrupt the true Christian faith were well under way from earliest times, prior to the adoption of the "staurogram". Paul warns that "the mystery of this lawlessness is already at work", Peter warns that "the ignorant and unstable are twisting the...Scriptures", and John warns that "even now, many antichrists have appeared".  (Before we even get to Rev. Ch.2-3).
  • The scriptures have no word for cross as such. Both stauros and xylon are simple words to understand, as is the background for the necessity of the use of this method for Christ's execution. There is no definitive way to conclude the exact nature of the instrument of Christ's death.
  • The existence of the dispute complicates and obscures the very reason for Christ's sacrifice, a paucity of understanding on this matter being a prominent feature of many two-beamed cross promoters.

On that basis, I remain satisfied  with the scriptural description as far as it goes, and the conclusion we draw on the likelihood of a single stake being the instrument of Christ's death. I will not be adding an extra beam to the account at this stage. ?

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On 11/11/2018 at 4:35 PM, Outta Here said:

Interesting stuff, especially the difference between Chi Rho and Tau Rho.

You beat me to it. I had to be out for most of today, but hoped to come back to @JOHN BUTLER to remind him that this is just my opinion based on the evidence. I lean one way because the evidence I've seen is slightly more convincing to me in that direction. But this does not mean that someone else (GB?) can't see the same evidence, and the majority of them lean the other way, per our own traditional stance on it since Rutherford's time.

To John, I would say that this Staurogram, and graffiti evidence too, cannot take us back much before 200 CE even if the evidence is exactly as old as some scholars still claim. As you point out from the words of Paul, even if evidence showed that this was as early as 50 CE, it still wouldn't be "proof." It could very well have been one of the ways in which "lawlessness" was already at work. After all, there is no doubt that the veneration of a cross symbol crosses the line into idolatry. And through syncretism with older traditions, the cross would have been a much more recognizable symbol with a richer history for veneration than a plain "I" symbol. And warnings about idolatry run from Paul's letters right up through (and througout) Revelation. 

You hit upon most (perhaps all) of the weaknesses of the Staurogram evidence, and these might have already been taken into consideration by those who have researched the current position as outlined in the WT publications.

The actual earliest evidence appears to be the argumentation in the Letter of Barnabas which scholars have not tried to date much later than 120 or 130. And there is no solid evidence to claim it was later than 75 or 80 either. "Barnabas" is big on gematria, of course, and this could even be one of the areas that letters to Titus and Timothy reference when they speak of things like being "obsessed with arguments and debates about words." (1 Tim 6:4). There's even a slim chance that it was this very book (and books like it) that were being challenged here and in Titus 3:9, etc.

Even so, it would not change the fact that a T shaped stauros is built into the argument as an aside, along with this early discussion of how T and then IH would create the number 318  (T=the stauros and the IH symbol which was already in use as a reference to IHSOUS -Jesus.)  Many years later in Christian copy of Genesis, the numer 318 comes up as the number of Abram's slaves:

  • (Genesis 14:14) 14 Thus Aʹbram heard that his relative had been taken captive. With that he mobilized his trained men, 318 servants born in his household, and went in pursuit up to Dan.

The much later Genesis manuscript treats the number 318 here as a "nomina sacra" just as Barnabas had discussed upwards of 300 years earlier. BTW, I also wanted to mention that Hurtado deals with the fact that just because a scholar gave these terms the name "nomina sacra" it doesn't mean that they were all considered to be the equivalent of a Divine Name. Obviously, this is true of Stauros, which is nothing like a "divine name," but we also know that this was a development over many years, and there is no evidence that "Spirit" (pneuma) was added to the list until 400 or so. Also, there were many other names that only reminded them of Jesus or God, such as "Joshua the son of Nun" or even Moses, Abraham and David. So this wasn't intended as a complete discussion of "nomina sacra" by any means.

Although there are some weaknesses and flexibility as to the exact dates scholars try to pin on things, it doesn't (for me) change the balance of the evidence favoring one meaning over the other. And as we've already covered, there is no reason for anyone to claim proof or insist on any particular shape based on any of the evidence so far.

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