The STAUROS of the New Testament: Cross or Stake?
This page will address the following questions:
The word "stauros" occurs 27 times in the Christian Greek Scriptures(the 'New Testament'). This word has been consistently translated in the New World Translation as "torture stake" and never as "cross". It is the implement on which Jesus Christ was afixed and executed. Also, another Greek word was used by the Bible writers "xylon", as the same implement of execution in regard to Jesus, which denotes, "wood, a piece of wood, anything made of wood..."-Vine. At those places where "xylon" is used in connection with Jesus' execution the New World Translation has rendered it as "stake". Is there any justification for the New World Translation to do this with these Greek words?
Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words says:
"STAUROS....denotes, primarily, an upright pale or stake. On such malefactors were nailed for execution. Both the noun and the verb stauroo, to fasten to a stake or pale, are originally to be distinguished from the ecclesiastical form of a two beamed cross. The shape of the latter had it's origin in ancient Chaldea, and was used of the symbol of the god Tammaz (being in the shape of the mystic Tau, the initial of his name in that country and 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 of faith, and were permitted largely to retain their pagan signs and symbols. Hence the Tau or T, in it's most frequent form, with the cross-piece lowered, was adopted to stand for the cross of Christ"
The Classic Greek Dictionary, Greek-English and English-Greek, With an Appendix of Proper and Geographical Names prepared by George Ricker Berry reads under "stauros": "..an upright pale, stake or pole; in plu. a palisade. II. the Cross.(p.648). Although this lexicon seems to give "the Cross" as a meaning for "stauros" it seems rather as a reference than a meaning("the Cross" rather than "a cross") and to that of Jesus Christ. Hence definition II is somewhat 'suspect' and may only reflect the lexicon's belief that the stauros in the NT was cross-shaped or it may be giving it as a reference, that is, that when we read in the English Bibles "cross" this is from the Greek stauros and no indication it was actually cross-shaped. In its definition 1 though there is no doubt the meaning of stauros and anything other than that stauros meant more than one piece of wood, whether it was a "pale, stake or pole" is not mentioned and certainly none of which were 'cross-shaped.' This is its meaning in all the Greek classics such as Homer. There is no evidence that the from or shape of the stauros in Jesus Christ's case was any different.
Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words has under the word Tree:
"2.XULON.....(b) of the Cross, the tree being the stauros, the upright pale or stake to which the Romans nailed those who were to be executed, Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; Gal.3:13; 1 Pet. 2:24;"
According to a Greek-English lexicon by Liddell and Scott, this word means "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." "wood . . . " Hence in the Authorized Version/King James Version this word is rendered as "tree" at Acts 5:30. The Complete Jewish Bible by D. Stern has here "stake." See also Acts 13:29; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24.
In agreement with the above is that which Dr Jason BeDuhn has written (a private letter written to us and published with his permission) when asked what he thought of the New World Translation's rendering of the word "stauros":
"On "torture stake," again, I think that the NWT is a bit heavy handed in trying to make a point. Certainly "stake" would be sufficient, and more desirable. The JW's are trying to shock Christians away from their devotion to the cross. It is, after all, an instrument of execution. They are right that STAUROS does not necessarily mean the cross form as Christianity has thought of it. It can be just a plain stake in the ground to which someone is nailed. But I think "torture" is too much and misses the point: it is meant to be a form of execution and not torture.
Also, the Companion Bible in its Appendix 162 remarks:
"In the Greek N.T. two words are used for "the cross", on which the Lord was put to death. 1. The word stauros; which denotes an upright pale or stake, to which the criminals were nailed for execution. 2. The word xulon, which generally denotes a piece of a dead log of wood, or timber, for fuel or for any other purpose. It is not like dendron, which is used of a living, or green tree, as in Matt.21: 8; Rev.7:1, 3; 8:7; 9: 4, &c. As this latter word xulon is used for the former stauros it shows us the meaning of each is exactly the same. The verb stauroo means to drive stakes. Our English word "cross" is the translation of the Latin crux; but the Greek stauros no more means a crux than the word "stick" means a "crutch". Homer uses the word stauros of an ordinary pole or stake, or a simple piece of timber.[ftnote, Iliad xxiv.453. Odyssey xiv.11] And this is the meaning and usage of the word throughout the Greek classics.[ftnote, eg.Thucydides iv.90. Xenophon, Anabasis v.2.21] It never means two pieces of timber placed across one another at any angle, but of always one piece alone. Hence the use of the word xulon(No.2 above)in connection with the manner of our Lord's death and rendered "tree" in Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; Gal.3:13, 1 Pet.2:24. This is preserved in our old English name rood or rod. See Encycl.Brit., 11th (Camb)ed., vol.7, p.505d. There is nothing in the Greek of the N.T. even to imply two pieces of timber."
A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, p819. E.W.Bullinger states:
"Used here[cross] for the stauros on which Jesus was crucified. Both words[stauros, xylon] disagree with the modern idea of a cross, with which we have become familiarized by pictures. The stauros was simply an upright pale or stake to which the Romans nailed those who were thus said to be crucified. Stauroo[the verb], merely to drive stakes. It never means two pieces of wood joining each other at any angle. Even the Latin word crux means a mere stake."
The Concordant Literal New Testament with the Keyword Concordance states:
"stauros STANDer: cross, an upright stake or pole, without any crosspiece, now, popularly, cross..."
"stauroo cause-STAND, crucify, drive a stake into the ground, fasten on a stake, impale, now by popular usage, crucify, though there was no crosspiece."- pp. 63, 64, Greek-English Keyword Concordance, Concordant Publishing Concern, 1983, 3rd printing of 6th edition of 1976.
The Anchor Bible Dictionary says about crucifixion: "The act of nailing or binding a living victim or sometimes a dead person to a cross or stake (stauros or skolops) or a tree(xylon)...Under the Roman empire, crucifixion normally included a flogging beforehand. At times the cross was only one vertical stake. Frequently, however, there was a cross-piece attached..."- Volume 1, pp.1207, 1208
The book Dual Heritage-The Bible and the British Museum states: It may come as a shock to know that there is no word such as cross in the Greek of the New Testament. The word translated cross is always the Greek word [stauros] meaning a stake or upright pale. The cross was not originally a Christian symbol; it is derived from Egypt and Constantine.
To read what an issue of The Watchtower magazine wrote in 1950 when the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures was published see here.
Also, the following work is worth quoting from at length(and it is long), it being:
The Non-Christian Cross, An Enquiry into the Origin and History of the Symbol Eventually
Adopted as that of our Religion,
"In the thousand and one works supplied for our information upon matters connected with the history of
our race, we are told that Alexander the Great, Titus, and various Greek, Roman and Oriental rulers of ancient days, "crucified" this or that person; or that they "crucified" so many at once, or during their reign. And the instrument of execution is called a "cross."
For Chapter II of Parson's book "The evidence of Minucius Felix" see here.
Chapter III "The evidence of the Other Fathers" here
Chapter IV "Curious statements of Irenaeus" here
Chapter V "Origin of the Pre-Christian Cross" here
Chapter VI "Origin of the Christian Cross" here
Chapters VII, VIII, XV, XVI AND XVII of The Non-Christian Cross see here
You may also like to read:
'Is the Cross for Christians?' -The Watchtower, August 15th, 1987, pp21-24; 'Where Were His Legs?' - ibid, pp. 28, 29.
The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, Reference Edition, 1984, Appendix 5C, pp. 1577-78.
The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, 1985 ed.(WTB&TS), Appendix 3C, pp. 1149-1151
Insight on the Scriptures-'Impalement', Vol.1, pp.1190-1192.(WTB&TS)
"Also, they posted above his head the charge against him, in writing: "This is Jesus the King of the Jews."
The crux simplex as illustrated by the Roman Catholic scholar Justus Lipsius in his book De Cruce Libri Tres. Interestingly, The Expositor's Greek Testament remarks: "Many questions on which there has been much discussion suggest themselves e.g., as to the structure and form of the cross: did it consist of an upright beam(palus, stipes)and a cross beam(patibulum, antenna), or of the former only, the hands being nailed to the beam above the head? (so Fulda, Das Kreus und die Kreusigung, 1878). Was Christ's cross a crux commissa("T") or a crux immissa("†")? Or is this distinction a purely imaginary one, as Fulda (p. 126) maintains against Justus Lipsius, till Fulda the great authority on the subject of crucifixion? The work of the more recent writer should certainly be consulted before coming to a final decision of the form of the cross or the method of crucifixion.." -Vol.1, p.328, 329.
The black and white sketch(left) that appeared on page 114 of the book "The Harp of God" (1921) written by J.F.Rutherford then president of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society. It was only in 1936 in the book "Riches," again by J.F.Rutherford, that first made clear to Jehovah's Witnesses the fact that Jesus was not executed on a cross but on a stake. Afterwards, in the WTB&TS's literature the artists drawings of how Jesus may have died always picture him upon the stake. In the first edition of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures of 1950 an appendix clearly shows the felicitousness of translating the Greek word "stauros" as "torture stake" and not "cross." Interestingly the appendix quotes the book The Cross and Crucifixion by Herman Fulda, Breslau, Germany, 1878 which said in part: "Trees were not everywhere available at the places chosen for the public execution. So a simple beam was sunk into the ground. On this outlaws, with hands raised upwards and often also with their feet, were bound or nailed....This simple cross was the oldest instrument erected by human hand for punishment with crucifixion; and because of it's very simplicity it has maintained itself in this form alongside its somewhat more artificial double down to the end." He concludes with the case of Jesus that he "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."-pp156,339
Regarding the English word "impale"as used in the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.
It is from the French "empaler" which derives from Medieval Latin "impalere," from the Latin "in"-on + "palus"- stake, pole. Hence dictionaries define this word as "to pierce through with, or fix on, something pointed; transfix" and "to punish or torture by fixing on a stake." b's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible states: "4717. STAUROW... to impale on the cross;...."
On a web site that addresses the use of the Kingdom Interlinear Translation's appendix on the the Greek word stauros rendered as "torture stake" in the New World Translation we find these comments:
"In the 1950 and 1969 editions of the New World Translation (in their appendix), the WT reproduces one of sixteen woodcut illustrations by the 16th century writer Justus Lipsius, who authored a work called De Cruce Liber Primus, Secundus and Tres. They reproduce his picture of a man impaled on an upright stake, failing to mention that Lipsius produced fifteen other illustrations (most of which picture various crucifixions on crosses). The WT makes the statement: "This is the manner in which Jesus was impaled" and a bit further on "The most amazing thing of all is that the WT could make a statement such as "evidence is completely lacking" that Jesus was crucified on a cross, when the VERY BOOK they use as "proof" to support their claims SAYS JESUS DIED ON A CROSS! One of the woodcuts of Lipsius not mentioned by the WT, shows a crucifixion on a cross. A partial translation of the Latin text alongside this woodcut says: In the Lord's cross there were four pieces of wood, the upright beam, the crossbar, a tree trunk (piece of wood) placed below, and the title (inscription) placed above. Also they hand down (this account by) Irenaeus: "The construction of the cross has five ends, two on the vertical and two on the horizontal, and one in the middle where the person attached with nails rested." (De Cruce Liber Secundus, pg. 661) The earlier (1950 and 1969) editions of the NWT, after referring to Lipsius' picture of a man on an upright stake stated, "This is the manner in which Jesus was impaled." They thereby attempted to convey the idea that Lipsius' book was proving their point. Since then the exposure of their dishonesty induced them to leave this statement out of the 1984 and 1985 versions of the NWT; but they STILL use Lipsius' illustration to make their point, while failing to tell the real story! They are intentionally avoiding the truth."
However the above makes several simple if serious errors in their allegations of impropriety with the above named WTB&TS publications articles. The fact is that Lipsius' woodcut illustration was not used as "proof" that the stauros which Jesus Christ was executed upon was a simple up-right stake! The 1950 NWT and the 1969 KIT just used this illustration to show that the crux simplex, Latin for a simple upright stake, was one method used, other than its artificial doubles with two-pieces of wood placed at a right angle to each other and hence this illustration serves the intent of the appendix article in simply showing what the victim would have looked like on such an implement. That the above WTB&TS publications "fail to mention that Lipsius produced fifteen other illustrations (most of which picture various crucifixions on crosses)" supposes that the publications appendices had to do so, that is, inform its readers that this was so. But why would they have to do this if the publications were only using Lipsius' illustration of a victim on a simple upright stake, a "crux simplex" and to illustrate this and nothing more!!! Of course they would not have to do so. What Lipsius thought the stauros' shape was in the case of Jesus was not based on anything other than tradition and as the The Expositor's Greek Testament remarks(which we will quote once more): "Many questions on which there has been much discussion suggest themselves e.g., as to the structure and form of the cross: did it consist of an upright beam (palus, stipes)and a cross beam (patibulum, antenna), or of the former only, the hands being nailed to the beam above the head? (so Fulda, Das Kreus und die Kreusigung, 1878). Was Christ's cross a crux commissa ("T") or a crux immissa ("†")? Or is this distinction a purely imaginery one, as Fulda(p. 126) maintains against Justus Lipsius, till Fulda the great authority on the subject of crucifixion? The work of the more recent writer should certainly be consulted before coming to a final decision of the form of the cross or the method of crucifixion..." -Vol.1, p.328, 329. Fulda also in his work has plates showing the differing shapes and methods Impalement upon a stauros could take place. And Fulda, the "more recent writer" is against Lipsius on what shape it took in Christ's case and it is Fulda whom the WTB&TS publications quote in some length in support of translating the Greek word as "torture stake" rather than as "cross." The above accusations toward the WTB&TS publications appendices then are found to be wholly dishonest and deceptive."
Also one should also consider that wood at that time and place was scarce. Indeed, where the wood for execution was scarce there would be an economical reason to use only one piece of wood at times and this was so in the eastern parts of the Roman empire. That one piece of wood would have been a simple stake, a stauros, that, at times, the malefactor was made to carry to the site of his execution and hung upon with hands above his head and would have been re-used time and again not being left in the ground to be attacked by the weather and wood boring insects. The fact that in places where wood was abundant the Romans at times, but not necessarily always, used two pieces, one called in latin a patibulum, the wood that served as a cross-piece and the stipes, the wood that served us the upright that was in/sunk into the ground would not be agreeable to the fact that wood was indeed scarce in the eastern provinces of the Roman empire, such as Jerusalem was, as the stipes would have been attacked by the weather and insects such as the wasp if it was left out at all times. As the New Testament account is wholly silent on there being two pieces of wood, indeed, only ever mentioning one piece, then this, the scarcity of wood in Jerusalem actually argues against there being two pieces but for the simplest form of one piece, the single stake to be sunk into the ground after the malefactor had been affixed to it by either nails or rope. The New Testament account of Jesus' execution fits this extremely well, so well, that one wonders why any would contend otherwise lest they have a mis-directed devotion to the traditional two beamed cross for Jesus.
In 1968 there was discovered in a burial cave at Giv'at ha-Mivtar the remains of a male that had been executed during the Roman period. This has been the only anthropological evidence of the practice of "crucifixion" or "Impalement on a stake." The original report on this find aroused much scholarly interest. However, due to the pressure of certain religious authorities, the analysis of the remains, by Professor Nico Haas and his medical team, were hurried and succeeding articles were published on these. One, by a Vassilios Tzaferis, the excavator of the man, based on this team's findings, attempting to show what the position the man died on the implement of execution. A re-evaluation has since been carried out. I have often met with some that say that this find shows that Jesus met his death on a cross. The man's remains, however, do not offer any such proof of this. For two reasons.(1) This man may not have been executed upon a cross, as some suppose it definitely was the case. He may well have died on a simple stake. The reason why some suppose that this man was executed upon a cross is partly based on Professor Haas' original appraisal and articles published since then based on them. Since then, inconsistencies have been found, amounting to a re-evaluation in certain respects. (2)Even though this man may have, yet there is no proof of this, as has been said, died on a cross-shaped implement, how would this show that the shape of Jesus' "stauros" was also cross-shaped when the available evidence in his, Jesus' case, points toward a simple upright stake?
The re-evaluation was carried out by Joseph Zias of the Department of Antiquities and Museums, Israel and Eliezer Sekeles of the Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem. A good place to read their re-appraisal is the six page article in the Israel Exploration Journal, Vol.25, pp22-27, The Crucified Man from Giv'at ha-Mitvar:A Reappraisal.Dr Zias has himself stated regarding this find and what light it
sheds, or rather, does not shed, upon how Jesus was crucified: "...my research on the case from Jerusalem does not in my opinion, shed any light as to how Jesus was crucified. All the NT says is that he [Jesus]was crucified, not how..."-(private e-mail correspondence).
In essence, although this discovery is of great scholarly interest, it in no way adds anything more to the way we understand of what shape was the implement of Jesus' execution.
Also, some may point out that there is other archaeological evidence that Christians were "using" the cross in the first century and this particular evidence suggests the shape of the implement on which Jesus died. In Capernaum there is the Synagogue "The House of St Peter" built in the 1st century that has grafitti "crosses" on its walls. However, the plaster on or in which these "crosses" are found are of a much younger date than the building itself. The house being re-plastered many times since it was first built ! They are not of first century origin.
One writer has said:
"Historical findings have substantiated the traditional cross. One finding is a graffito dating to shortly after 200 A.D., taken from the walls of the Roman Palatine. It is a drawing of a crucified ass; a mockery of a Christian prisoner who worships Christ. The Romans were no doubt amused that Christians worshiped this Jesus whom they had crucified on a cross."
To this can be said: This drawing was discovered in 1856 on the walls of the above mentioned building. This "crucified ass" is a human figure but with an animals head. The arms are extended. Two lines that form a cross appear in front, not behind this graffito, traversing the arms and legs. There is an accompanying inscription which says: "Alexamenos adores his God." It has been pointed out that the lines that form this 'cross' may very well not be a part of the original graffito. Also, the head is more like a jackal than an ass and so the drawing could very well be a representation of the Egyptian god Anubis. This is certainly no evidence of a cross or a crufixion as drawn by Christians in the early 3rd century. Professor Graydon F. Snyder said about this piece of graffito: "In 1856 a drawing was found in the servants' quarters of the Imperial Palace in Rome that depicts a certain Alexamenos gesturing with his right hand toward a donkey crucified on it. A graffito below the cross reads: ... Presumably this inscription should be translated "Alexamenos, worship god." Though no fixed date can be given for this drawing, again one can easily assume such a derogatory cartoon did indeed mock the Christian kerygma. It's use by an opponent of the faith hardly proves that the cross was an early Christian symbol."
Professor Graydon also wrote: "THE sign of the cross has been a symbol of great antiquity, present in nearly every known culture. Its meaning has eluded anthropologists, though its use in funerary art could well point to a defense against evil. On the other hand, the famous crux ansata of Egypt, depicted coming from the mouth, must refer to life or breath. The universal use of the sign of the cross makes more poignant the striking lack of crosses in early Christian remains, especially any specific reference to the event on Golgotha. Most scholars now agree that the cross, as an artistic reference to the passion event, cannot be found prior to the time of Constantine.
So much for the archaeological 'evidence' that would put the Christ on an implement of execution made up of two pieces that formed a cross.
In the 1950 edition of the New World Translation there is an appendix on the word stauros. There it mentions the Greek hero Prometheus as tied to a stake. As many reference works say that Prometheus was tied to a rock the WTB&TS was 'challenged' to substantiate this claim. They did so by way a "Question from Readers" article that appeared in The Watchtower 1951, March 15th, p.190.
"Just as you have heard, the Americana Encyclopedia in its article on "Prometheus Bound', the tragedy by the Greek poet Aeschylus, also represents Prometheus clamped to a rock in the Caucasus by forging. However, we should like to refer you to the book The History of the Devil and the Idea of Evil from the Earliest Times to the Present Day, by Dr. Paul Carus, and published in Chicago by The Open Court Publishing Co. in 1900. On page 210 it gives the illustration of a man tied to a stake, under which illustration it says: 'Prometheus tied by Zeus to the stake (or cross) and exposed to the Eagle-. Rescue by Hercules (A vase found at Chiusi, now in Berlin. Baumeister, D.dcl.A., p. 1410)." On this page Dr. Carus says: "in spite of the admixture of foreign mythology, Hercules has become the national hero of Greece, and the Greek idea of salvation has found in him the most typical expression, which has been most beautifully worked out by Aeschylus in a grand tragedy which represents Prometheus (the forethinker) as struggling and suffering mankind, tied to the pole of misery by Zeus as a
punishment for the sin of having brought the bliss of light and fire down to the earth. But at last the divine saviour, Hercules, arrives, and, killing the eagle that lacerates the liver of the bold hero, sets him free. Prometheus and Hercules are combined into one person in the Christian Saviour, Jesus Christ. The similarity of the story of Golgotha with the myth of Prometheus is not purely accidental. For observe that in some of the older pictures, as, for instance, in the vase of [page 211] Chiusi (see illustration on page 210), Prometheus is not chained to a rock
but tied to a pole, that is, to a [stauros]or cross, and Greek authors frequently use expressions such as the verb
ananskolopizeothai (Aeschylus) and anastaurousthai (Lucian) which mean 'to be crucified.' " "
What about the statement made by Thomas as recorded for us at John 20:25? Thomas said: "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 not believe."
In regard to this The Watchtower, 1984, April 1st, p.31 commented:
"[Question] Is it correct to conclude from John 20:25 that Jesus was impaled with a separate nail through each hand?
"The Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, by M'Clintock and b[?], comments: "Much time and trouble have been wasted in disputing as to whether three or four nails were used
in fastening the Lord. Nonnus affirms that three only were used, in which he is followed by Gregory Nazianzen. The more general belief gives four nails, an opinion which is supported at much length and by curious arguments by Curtius. Others have carried the number of nails as high as fourteen."-Volume II, page 580.
An appeal to the words of Thomas then cannot be used either to show what kind of stauros Jesus was executed upon or that the illustrations found in the WTB&TS publications are erroneous when they depict Jesus' 'hands' being affixed by just one nail.
On the history of the use of crucifixion in pre-Christian and Christian times, as a means to inflict torture and to execute, and how it was the most terrible way for a malefactor to end his life see here
On an online discussion board one poster stated in regard to the WTB&TS's use of works that discuss the Greek word Stauros and the form of execution of the crucifixion said:
"QUOTE.......... MISQUOTE: In its "Reasoning From the Scriptures" book, the Watchtower Society quotes from several sources to support their "torture stake" theory. These publications not only seem authoritative, but also seem to support the Society's claims regarding the "torture stake" rather than the traditional cross. However, unbeknown to many, the Watchtower Society has not been honest in its quotations of its sources. For example, one publication that the Society quotes in its "Reasoning..." book on page 89 is The Imperial Bible Dictionary. Below is the Watchtower quotation, with the words that they omitted in RED: "The Imperial Bible Dictionary acknowledges this, saying: "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. 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 the word cross is derived) appears to have been originally an upright pole, and always remained the more prominent part. But from the time that it began to be used as an instrument of punishment, a traverse piece of wood was commonly added ...about the period of the Gospel Age, crucifixion was usually accomplished by suspending the criminal on a cross piece of wood." "-italics ours
But this attempt at trying to malign the WTB&TS's use of this Bible Dictionary is easily put to the lie itself. For the poster omitted to tell his readers what the publication "Reasoning from the Scriptures"(p.89) said just before quoting the above named Dictionary. We can read his own omission which I will put in green: "The Greek word rendered "cross" in many modern Bible versions ("torture stake" in NWT) is stauros. 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....."- italics ours. Rather than the WTB&TS being "dishonest" it is the case that, sadly, the above poster has been. Notice also that this dictionary also said that the stauros being "originally an upright pole," "always remained the more prominent part." What we have read on this page already shows that though the Romans did indeed use two pieces of wood placed at right angles to each other to execute criminals we are still faced with the fact that the Bible writers give no indication that in Jesus' case it was other than an upright stake.
The poster went on to state:
"On page 91 of the "Reasoning..." book the Society quotes from The Cross in Ritual, Architecture and Art by G. S. Tyack to show that the cross was originally used in pagan worship, but they do NOT go on to quote: "In all this, the Christians of the first age would have rejoiced, claiming it as a worldwide prophecy of the Cross of the Redeemer."
Of course, what the poster is not telling, again, his readers, is that this work(and three others found on p.91 of the Reasoning Book) was quoted under the heading "What were the historical origins of Christendom's cross?" (p.90) Hence, to quote Tyack here as saying "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," was quite appropriate and fitting. However, the above remarks which Tyack followed up this "strange yet unquestionable fact" was just his opinion and one which was not based on any archaeological evidence whatsoever. We have already read that which Professor Graydon has written that the Christians in the early centuries did not use a "cross" in their worship or devotions. The "Christians of the first age" certainly did not "rejoice" in any way at the pagans use of the cross as a symbol in their worship. It is as Vine correctly stated was the case that "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 of faith, and were permitted largely to retain their pagan signs and symbols. Hence the Tau or T, in it's most frequent form, with the cross-piece lowered, was adopted to stand for the cross of Christ"
What of Jesus' words recorded for us by John at John 21:18,19:
"Most truly I say to you, When you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk about where you wanted. But when you grow old you will stretch out your hands and another [man] will gird you and bear you where you do not wish." This he said to signify by what sort of death he would glorify God. So, when he had said this, he said to him: "Continue following me."-NWT.
In answer to a question as to whether this shows that Peter himself was 'crucified' on a cross or a stake a 'Question from Readers' article in The Watchtower of 1970, page 768 answered:
"John 21:18, 19 says concerning the apostle Peter: When you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk about where you wanted. But when you grow old you will stretch out your hands and another man will gird you and bear you where you do not wish. This [Jesus] said to signify by what sort of death [Peter] would glorify God. Do these words specifically refer to a death by crucifixion or Impalement?
"The ancient religious historian Eusebius reports that Peter was crucified with his head downward, having requested of himself to suffer in this way. However, Jesus prophecy regarding Peters death was not that specific. Acknowledges A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture: As the extension of hands is set before girding and being led away, it is difficult to discern how it must be conceived. If the order is part of the prophecy, we must suppose the prisoner lashed to the patibulum before being girded
and led out to execution.
In might be added that the word rendered "will gird,"in v.18, is ΖΩΣΕΙ (which is the future of ΖΩΝΝΥΜΙ) is also found at Acts 12:8 and is always used in the LXX(and in other Greek works generally) of girding on clothes or armour and there cannot be an instance cited for a use of it as to bind as a criminal. This, the former sense, might be the one it has in v.18 where Jesus says: .."When you were younger you used to gird(Gk: ΕΖΩΝΝΥΕΣ "you were girding")" It may, again , have the same sense when Jesus uses it once more as we find in this same verse, "and another [man] will gird you." We may also compare this with ΔΙΕΖΩΣΑΤΟ (aorist middle ΔΙΑΖΩΝΝΟΜΙ) "to gird one's self by pulling up the tunic and allowing a fold to fall over the belt" at 21:7. John 21:18,19 does not tell us how Peter died just that his death glorified God- and it certainly cannot be used to show that Jesus died on a two beamed cross!
In support of this is what is written in A Bible Commentary for English Readers, editored by C.J.Elliott, Vol. VI, page 549:
" "Stretch forth thy hands. "[John 21:18] The allusion to the extending of the hands on the cross, which some interpreters have found here, is fanciful.Vincents Word Studies (italics ours)
A poster on the JW board on CARM offered the following as "proof" that Jesus died upon a two-beamed cross rather than an upright stake(March 2003). He stated that where we read at Psalms 22:14 that "Verse 14 in particular is interesting in that He mentions that His bones are out of joint. On a crucifix when the wrists are nailed to the patibalum (cross-piece) and attached and raised onto the main pole, the victims arms would be extended up to six inches, causing dislocation. This is simply not possible on a 'torture stake."
Of course, v.14 reads "I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax"(New Revised Standard Version) What we have here is not a prophetic description of the literal anatomical condition of the Christ when dying on the STAUROS but is the employment by the Psalmist of "anatomical terms to indicate the nearness of death"(The New Interpreter's Bible, Volume 4, p.763). Yes, the Psalmist is using such imagery as A. A. Anderson also informs us:
"14. I am poured out like water: (cf. Jos. 7:15). This, and the following description in verses 14b-15, need not necessarily refer to the consequences of an illness, but it may denote the physical expressions of fear and anxiety. The above mentioned word-picture probably means that the Psalmist regards himself as good as dead.
The imagery expressed by the words "all my bones are out of joint" indicates the "utter helplessness" of the Psalmist and has no bearing on whether his literal bones (note "all [his] bones" not just his shoulder bones!!) were "dislocated" just as the psalmists words "my heart is like wax" was
not meant to be understood literally but is an illustration of the distressed condition of the heart.
For a very interesting and informative posting on the b-greek list see here
A very early representation of the Crucifixion in which only the two thieves are bound to the stauros. The sun and moon are placed either side of Christ who stands in an attitude of prayer. The picture was published in Mrs Jameson & Lady Eastlake The History of Our Lord as exemplified in works of art, in 2 volumes, London, 1864, pages 167-8. They make the point that this very early crucifixion scene shows the two thieves bound to the stakeand that depiction of three crosses only appears in later Christian art.-contributed
"The cross was offensive to the Jews, absurd to the Gentiles. A Roman execution is shown in this figure found at Halicarnassus".