In our last discussion on the Cross, we examined some of the claims of the Reasoning book to see if the Cross was referred to in scripture. We saw through the reading of John 20:25, John 21:18-19, and Matthew 27:37 that it seems reasonable to conclude, at least due to these scripture, that Jesus was hung on a stake with a crossbeam.
So let us assume, even if we are not thoroughly convinced, that Jesus was hung on a Cross. Is not the Reasoning books claim that the Cross is pagan enough to cause us to want to avoid it? After all, was not its origins connected with early Babylonish thought? Was not some form of it used in the worship of Tammuz? Is it true that Christians worship this object, when the Bible specifically states that we are not to worship any carved image? These are very serious questions since our very salvation is involved.
First of all, DID the cross have some sort of pagan origins? To be "fair" and "honest" as the blog is intended, yes the cross did have pagan origins. It was used by a variety of cultures in different settings to represent false Gods. The Egyptian anch symbol is an obvious example. Tracking the symbol back to Babylon, it was in fact used in ancient worship to false Gods.
However, the origin of the cross should not be relevant to this discussion. Why? One reason is that much of what we use or practice today has pagan origins. For example, the wedding ring has pagan origins. There is absolutely no indication that the Jews of the Old Testament nor the Christians in the New Testament ever wore wedding rings. It was not until 860AD that Pope Gregory issued the declaration that the groom must give an engagement ring as sign that he had the intent to marry the bride. Prior to even this we know that the wedding ring originated in Babylon. The most ancient ring discovered there is in the shape of the eternal serpent. The image of the serpent biting its tail to form the circle of the ring is an ancient symbol of marriage among the pagans. There are many things that claim to have pagan origins. Did you know that the sacrifice of Jesus, the emblems of the bread and wine, as well as his resurrection have counterparts in paganism? Therefore, we can't reject everything that has a pagan background.
Also, would we not expect the pagan nation of Rome to execute people on a pagan symbol? Would this not have been the most extreme form of punishment to a non-pagan?
But is it not true that we are not to "worship" any carved image? This is very true. 1John 5:21 says,"Little children, keep yourselves from Idols!" Is the cross an Idol? Does the respect of it and its message constitute worship? Do Christians worship the cross?
I must say that I have never encountered a person that has "worshiped" the cross. If I was to come across that sort of person, I would tell them that worship of anything besides God was strictly forbidden by him. So the question is, if Jesus died on an actual cross, then is it wrong to view it as a symbol for Christianity.
As far as the Jehovah's Witness perspective goes, I ask them this: What is the symbol for the Watchtower? Does it have one? Yes, see below:
So how about the cross? Does the Bible say to reject it? Does it say that it was just an instrument of torture and should be rejected as if it was a murder weapon? Hardly.
Please notice the importance that the Bible gives on the cross and its message. Paul said there was only one reason for him to boast. Galations 6:14 says, "But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." So did Paul view the cross as something detestable? Never! He regarded it as something to boast in.
1 Cor 1:17 states, "For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the gospel — not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power." Lest WHAT be emptied of ITS power? The cross. It is a symbol of all the Christ did for us.
In fact, the fact that Jesus was killed on the cross was of such utmost importance that Paul said in 1Cor 2:2 that he decided to know NOTHING but Christ and him crucified. Do any of these scriptures give any evidence to the viewpoint of the Reasoning book when it says, "How would you feel if one of your dearest friends was executed on the basis of false charges? Would you make a replica of the instrument of execution? Would you cherish it, or would you rather shun it?" Did Paul SHUN the cross? Never!
The message of the cross was cherished by Paul. Jesus took something pagan and dishonorable and turned it into something that made people glorify God. He took the most disgraceful way to die, and turned it into the exact opposite of tragedy. He turned it to hope. All that was wrong was set right. All that should've been was corrected. To be hung upon a tree was one of the worst disgraces that could be made upon a person. However, Jesus took it and turned it into something that will never be forgotten.
That being said, we respect the message of the cross. We are not to "pray" TO the cross, nor are we to focus our attention on it alone. But we realize that while it was something that was used by pagan men it now symbolizes everything that imperfect men lost and now have.
One last point to think about. The stake also has nefarious roots as well. It is in the shape of a phallic symbol which goes back to ancient Babylonian religion as well.
So the choice is yours. Will you empty the cross of Christ of its power? (1Cor 1:17)
Part 3 will focus on the proofs given in history and archeology. Do they prove that Jesus died on a stake or a cross? Stay tuned...