The history of the cross symbol in Christianity
Early depictions on Jesus usually showed him as a shepherd carrying a lamb. Tertullian (140-230 CE), a Montanist heretic, commented in his essay De Corona: At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign. This might be an early reference to individuals tracing the sign of the cross on their body. The use of the cross as a symbol was condemned by at least one church father of the 3rd century CE because of its Pagan origins. The first appearance of a cross in Christian art is on a Vatican sarcophagus from the mid-5th Century. 11 It was a Greek cross with equal-length arms. Jesus' body was not shown. The first crucifixion scenes didn't appear in Christian art until the 7th century CE. The original cross symbol was in the form of a Tau Cross. It was so named because it looked like the letter tau, or our letter T. One author speculates that the Church may have copied the symbol from the Pagan Druids who made crosses in this form to represent the Thau (god). 7 They joined two limbs from oak trees. The Tau cross became associated with St. Philip who was allegedly crucified on such a cross in Phrygia. May Day, a major Druidic seasonal day of celebration, became St. Philip's Day. Later in Christian history, the Tau Cross became the Roman Cross that we are familiar with today. The shape of the original crucifixion device is a matter for speculation. Sometimes, the Romans executed people on a Tau cross, sometimes on a Roman cross and sometimes on a simple stake. The gospels were originally written in Greek. They state that Jesus was crucified on a stauros (Mark 18:21, Matthew 27:32, Luke 23:26, John 19:17). This appears as the word cross in all but one of the English versions that we have examined. But in reality, the Greek word usually means a vertical pole without a crossbar. The New World Translation, sponsored by the translates the word as torture stake. 8 Hermann Fulda, author of The Cross and Crucifixion is commented that: the description of Jesus' suffering during the last hours of life indicates that he was crucified on a stake rather than a cross. that some of the writings of the early church fathers confirms the use of a pole.
The very earliest depictions of Jesus' crucifixion in Christian art show him on a stake. Acts 5:30 refers to hanging him on a tree. 1 Peter 2:24 says He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree. Deuteronomy 21:23 stated that a person hung on a tree was be cursed by God. This verse was a major stumbling block that prevented many Jews from accepting Jesus as Messiah.
The pre-Christian history of the cross symbol From its simplicity of form, the cross has been used both as a religious symbol and as an ornament, from the dawn of man's civilization. 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. 9 The cross symbol was found in: 10
Scandanavia: The Tau cross symbolized the hammer of the God Thor.
Babylon: the cross with a crescent moon was the symbol of their moon deity.
Assyria: the corners of the cross represented the four directions in which the sun shines.
India: In Hinduism, the vertical shaft represents the higher, celestial states of being; the horizontal bar represents the lower, earthly states.
Egypt: The ankh cross (a Tau cross topped by an inverted tear shape) is associated with Maat, their Goddess of Truth. It also represents the sexual union of Isis and Osiris.
Europe: The use of a human effigy on a cross in the form of a scarecrow has been used from ancient times. In prehistoric times, a human would be sacrificed and hung on a cross. The sacrifice would later be chopped to pieces; his blood and pieces of flesh were widely distributed and buried to encourage the crop fertility.
1 Corinthians 1:23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Gentiles foolishness;
Galatians 5:11 And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.
Check out your history books and encyclopedias
The Cross stands
alone as the most controversial symbol in world history! Without
question it has also been---and IS ABUSED, MISUSED AND WORSHIPED. To
some it is a symbol of terror as used by the KKK and also by Christian
crusaders against the Moslems in war. It has also been used in the
Christian killing of Jews in the inquisition. It was carried by many
slave traders and in the slaughter of Indians in the Americas. It was
and is used even today in the religious wars in Europe between
Protestants and Catholics. Some of the world's greatest abuse has been
done in front of the Cross.
YET the Cross today graces the top of church steeples, hangs in churches and is on the front of most Bibles. Let's look further-- The Cross is popular among believers and non-believers as an ornament--cross rings, cross earrings, cross necklaces, cross tattoos, cross bookmarks, cross grave markers, etc. It is worn by priests, prostitutes, soldiers, Christians and even terrorists.
The sign of the cross is made by some before ball games or sports, by some before battle, by some at meals and by many in church. For many Christians the sign of the cross is at birth, baptism, communion, marriage, and death.Cross carrying has never been viewed in a true historical sense 'a pleasure' or in early years 'a work of art' or an 'object of beauty.'
People died horrible bloody agonizing, tortured death on crosses. It was the symbol of the worst in man. Even most ancient Christian art is full of blood in its scene of the crucifixion. The art shows suffering and agony a very ugly picture. Yet the modern cross is cleaned up, gone is the blood, gone are the swarming flies that would be crawling about on the face of the crucified, gone is the smell of death and the ring of hammer against nail as it tears through the skin. NOW the cross is gold or silver and perhaps studded with diamonds or emeralds.
In the days of the cross people would see one and vomit, look away in disgust or ridicule it. TODAY we say:'Oh how lovely''How beautiful''It looks so nice'Where did you buy yours?' What did it cost?' All things no first century follower of Jesus would ever utter. Do you see how shallow we've become? How lost? You don't buy a Cross you carry a Cross Jesus said.
What did it cost? It cost the Father His Son---and the Son---His life. What does the Cross cost you? EVERYTHING
Jesus said 'Should anyone come after me let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.' The true follower of Jesus has forsaken self, has taken up his cross (instrument of death) and is following Jesus. We can wear a cross and look good but in the heart have you crucified self, taken up your cross and are you following Jesus? Its the heart God sees and knows.
Many Protestants in smug superiority condemn the Catholics for having the image of Jesus on the cross. Oh we don't like that 'it's a empty cross, Jesus arose and lives.' BE careful--- perhaps you made a grave error in cleaning up the cross. A BLOODY MUTILATED SAVIOR did hang on the cross. In some of these churches you get the view of Jesus really suffering and dying for us, we see the crown of thorns and a glimpse of His agony. We must be careful not to CREATE a Jesus like a successful business man that won 'salesperson of the year'. Or a Jesus like a super sports hero who always wins! NO, The real Man Jesus carried a REAL Cross, shed REAL blood, suffered in a REAL body, and his REAL dead body was taken down and buried in a tomb.
Jesus sweat Real drops of blood in the garden the night before He was crucified. He prayed to the Father if it is possible let this cup pass from me, nevertheless, not my will but Thy will be done! Within hours a scourged, bloody and tortured Jesus is carrying a Cross toward Calvary. No beautiful cross there, No-one saying 'this cross would look good on you!' Horror of horrors----how could we, even worse how do we? At that Cross no cheering crowds, no wild adulation, no long ovation of applause ONLY jeers, mockery, curses, nails, blood and a cross as the Son of God bought our souls with his life!
THE CROSS WAS INSTITUTED BY THE CATHOLIC CHURCH!!!
Easton's Bible dictionairy.
In the New Testament the instrument of crucifixion, and hence used for the crucifixion of Christ itself (Eph. 2:16; Heb. 12:2; 1 Cor. 1:17, 18; Gal. 5:11; 6:12, 14; Phil. 3:18). The word is also used to denote any severe affliction or trial (Matt. 10:38; 16:24; Mark 8:34; 10:21).
The forms in which the cross is represented are these:
1. The crux simplex (I), a single piece without transom.
2. The crux decussata (X), or St. Andrew's cross.
3. The crux commissa (T), or St. Anthony's cross.
4. The crux immissa (t), or Latin cross, which was the kind of cross on which our Saviour died. Above our Lord's head, on the projecting beam, was placed the title. (See CRUCIFIXION.)
After the conversion, so-called, of Constantine the Great (B.C. 313), the cross first came into use as an emblem of Christianity. He pretended at a critical moment that he saw a flaming cross in the heavens bearing the inscription, In hoc signo vinces, i.e., By this sign thou shalt conquer, and that on the following night Christ himself appeared and ordered him to take for his standard the sign of this cross. In this form a new standard, called the Labarum, was accordingly made, and borne by the Roman armies. It remained the standard of the Roman army till the downfall of the Western empire. It bore the embroidered monogram of Christ, i.e., the first two Greek letters of his name, X and P (chi and rho), with the Alpha and Omega. (See A.)
Hastings Dictionary of the Bible
The cross is a symbol of self sacrifice and shame. Both to the Roman and to the Jew the death of the cross was the most shameful death a man could dieTo the Romans the cross was used for slaves, foreiners, or desperate criminals. To the Jews because it came under the curse denounced by the Jewish law upon any whose dead body hung upon a tree. Dt 21:23 Gal 3:13 To the Jew and Gentile alike this was the great stumbling-block of the cross.
Mark 8:34 And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Hebrews 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Matthew 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Luke 9:23 And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Mark 10:21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
Luke 14:27 And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
A prophecy for the end-time is given to us in Jer. 16:19. Jeremiah addresses Yah˙weh and says, The Gentiles shall come to You from the ends of the earth and say, 'Surely your fathers have inherited lies, worthlessness and unprofitable things.' The Revised Standard Version reads, To Thee shall the nations come from the ends of the earth and say: 'Our fathers have inherited naught but lies, worthless things in which there is no profit.' But these very lies could keep us from entering the New Jerusalem, as we read in Rev. 21:27, and again in Rev. 22:15 which reads, But outside are ... whoever loves and practises a lie. The common claim that Sabbath-keeping has been annulled in the New Testament, has been shown to be untrue. this claim is refuted on Scriptural grounds. Likewise, the claim of many sincere believers, who have erroneosly been taught that the Moral Ten Commandment Law has been nailed to the cross, is also not substantiated by Scripture. These claims have since been made by many in an attempt to justify the adoption of, or the fusion of, Sun-worship with the pure Messianic Faith. Similarly, the keeping of Easter Sunday and Christmas are also not found in Scripture.
Another later rendering, a tradition of the Church which our fathers have inherited, was the adoption of the words cross and crucify. These words are nowhere to be found in the Greek of the New Testament. These words are mistranslations, a later rendering, of the Greek words stauros and stauroo. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says, STAUROS denotes, primarily, an upright pole or stake ... Both the noun and the verb stauroo, to fasten to a stake or pole, are originally to be distinguished from the ecclesiastical form of a tow-beamed cross. The shape of the latter had its origin in ancient Chaldea (Babylon), and was used as the symbol of the god Tammuz (being in the shape of the mystic Tau, the initial of his name) ... By the middle of the 3rd century A.D. the churches had either departed from, or had travestied, certain doctrines of the Christian faith.
Amos 3:7 Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.