This study about the Cross started simply enough, I mean it is a central object in my faith, so of course I knew all about it. Types and shadows and many illustrations from sermons should qualify me as knowledgeable. Well, I was not as good as I thought. I will focus on the wooden implement and not the religious and doctrinal aspects of the cross.
This needs to be said. Jesus was betrayed and condemned by the religious leaders of His day (the Sanhedrin). The political rulers punished Jesus with a beating and allowed Him to be mocked. He was then sentenced to death by hanging on the cross (Rome did this to non-Romains). He had to carry His cross out of the city and be nailed to it and hung on it. He did this for me.
Old Testament Examples
- Genesis 40:19 – Pharoah was going to kill his servant and hang him on a pole.
- Joshua 8:29 – The king of Ai was put on a tree and left until the end of the day. He was removed because of Deuteronomy 21:23. A person hung on a tree was under a curse and had to be buried so as not to defile the land.
- Ezra 6:11 – This is King Darius agreeing with King Cyrus about pulling a beam from the house of anyone that changes the decree to build the Temple of God and have them impaled on it.
- Esther 5:14 – A hanging tree is a good rendering of gallows. I believe the seventy-five-foot height was more about making a statement than torturing or killing the man.
I have read that these hangings and impaling were for public display of the body after they had been killed and not for the actual killing as the Romains did to Jesus.
A Lot of Words
Atzei, etz, nace, bad, xylon, and stauros are Hebrew and Greek words that deal with wooden things in the Bible.
Genesis 22:6 is the wood (atzei) for the sacrifice being carried by Isaac to Mount Moriah. This word is related to etz, #H6086 in the Strong’s. Etz is a tree or wood and is first used for the trees in the Garden and is the main word for a tree or wood in the Scriptures. The picture of Isaac is a type of Jesus carrying the Cross to the place of sacrifice.
Exodus 15:25 is Hashem showing Moses a “piece of etz” to throw into a pool to make it drinkable. Yes, there are many legends about that etz, none of which can be confirmed in Scripture. I will agree it is a picture of Jesus. I have heard good sermons describing it as a type of the Cross, so I will leave this one up to you. Be a Berean and study this one out.
Exodus 25:14 is part of the instructions for building the Ark and the Tabernacle. The two poles that were part of the Ark and used to carry it are called staves (KJV) or poles. The word here is bad #H905 and it refers to a “branch of a tree”. Since they are part of the Ark, I do not think they represent the Cross, but the Holy Spirit.
Numbers 21:9 definitely is a picture of Jesus on the Cross. This is the story of the brass serpent on a pole. The word nace #H5251 is frequently used for a military standard or banner, or a flag or sail. The idea of a standard really would be a picture of a crosspiece on the Cross.
In the New Testament, the word for cross is stauros. (Please see the websites listed below.) From historical sources, it is described as a pole with no crosspiece of any kind. Wow, that would mess up a lot of great sermons.
Yes, I started looking for early Christian art that depicted the Passion. There really is not that much early art that shows a cross (1st to 3rd century). The Restless Pilgrim post is graffiti that is mocking someone that worshipped Jesus, but it does show a human figure on a cross with a crosspiece and a footrest. The other picture was a royal seal of Emperor Constantine. He had a traditional Christian cross on it (It was in a movie about Rome) and it was made in the late 300’s before his death. I have also heard that when the early Christians “lifted holy hands” they were making themselves into the shape of the Cross.
Paul in Galatians
Galatians 3:13 restates Deuteronomy 21:23 which says if you are hung on a tree/pole (xylon) you are cursed. But in 6:14 he will only boast in the cross (stauros) of our Lord Jesus Christ. Like the Tree in the Garden, it carried a good and a bad message.
My thoughts-I believe the Romains took torture to a whole new level with their use of the cross. So, it does not really matter if Jesus’ hands were straight up or splayed out on a crosspiece, they made sure it was horrible. (I do think there was a crosspiece.)
Could a Greek word (stauros) have been “recycled” for a Romain device? Americans do it all the time. That would have allowed for the upright to stay in the ground and the condemned just to carry the crosspiece.
That Romain cross, like a tree, was planted in the ground and held Jesus between Heaven and Earth. He was nailed to that wood, and it became my Tree of Life. The Cross held the most important piece of fruit to ever hang from a tree; make sure you are found in Him.
What’s the earliest depiction of the crucifixion? – Restless Pilgrim