If you’ve ever had the chance to speak with a Jehovah’s Witness your conversation may have touched upon if Jesus Christ was crucified on a stake or cross? Jehovah Witnesses claim that Christians who “worship” the cross are not “true Christians”. Jehovah Witnesses are taught by the Watchtower that the cross is a pagan symbol. Is this true?
Here’s a quote from the JW.org notice the double talk. The Jehovah Witnesses claim “no one can know its shape with absolute certainty”.
Many view the cross as the most common symbol of Christianity. However, the Bible does not describe the instrument of Jesus’ death, so no one can know its shape with absolute certainty. Still, the Bible provides evidence that Jesus died, not on a cross, but on an upright stake. – Watchtower
Then they say “the Bible provides evidence that Jesus died, not on a cross, but on an upright stake”. Which is it can no one know or can they, and how did the Watchtower come to this conclusion?
Jehovah Witnesses will typically point you to the Greek word “stauros” as there proof. Here’s what the Greek definition is concerning the word stauros.
σταυρός staurós, stow-ros’; a stake or post (as set upright), i.e. (specially), a pole or cross (as an instrument of capital punishment); figuratively, exposure to death, i.e. self-denial; by implication, the atonement of Christ:—cross.
At this point you may have the Jehovah Witness point you to this verse in their manipulated Bible the New World Translation which reads.
Matthew 27:40 NWT and saying: “You who would throw down the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are a son of God, come down off the torture stake!”
Notice the Watchtower inserted the word “torture stake” in order for the text to align with their biased teachings. Here’s what the Bible actually says when speaking about the cross, all translations render it as a cross not a stake. The New World Translation is the only Bible to insert the word “stake” in their own Bible.
Matthew 27:40 And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest [it] in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.
Jehovah Witness must ask themselves because their translation renders the word stake in their Bible does that mean every other Bible is wrong?
On their website, they have an article titled “Did Jesus Die on a Cross?”. In this article, there’s another statement I’d like to draw to your attention.
According to A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, stau·rosʹ “never means two pieces of wood joining each other at any angle.” – Watchtower
Ethelbert w. Bullinger
The quote contained above was from Mr Bullinger and was noted as being contemporary thinking on his part. He is the only “scholar” that directly opposes the cross with every other scholar who agrees that Jesus Christ did die on a cross.
The Jehovah Witnesses include this statement on their website quoting Mr Bullinger (bolded).
The Bible also uses the Greek word xyʹlon as a synonym for stau·rosʹ. (Acts 5:30; 1 Peter 2:24) This word means “wood,” “timber,” “stake,” or “tree.”* The Companion Bible thus concludes: “There is nothing in the Greek of the N[ew] T[estament] even to imply two pieces of timber.” – Watchtower
The “Companion Bible“ and the lexicon the Watchtower is referencing are both written by Mr Bullinger the same scholar. Therefore the Watchtower is only referencing this one scholar who is against the cross, as opposed to looking at other scholars who disagree with Mr Bullinger and collectively say that Jesus indeed was crucified on a cross.
In addition to this Mr Bullinger was the president of the Trinitarian Bible Society which is odd because the Jehovah Witnesses deny the Trinity and call it satanic; but if someone agrees with their position on something they will quote it. They pick and choose what words to reference when it agrees with their doctrine they’ll display it on their website, but when this same scholar who believed in the Trinity they choose to neglect that teaching.
The Cross Predates Christianity?
Another argument Jehovah Witnesses try to use is that the cross was used before the crucifixion of Christ. Is that a valid reason not to believe in the cross? Just because something was used beforehand doesn’t mean Jesus was not crucified on a cross? That would be a silly argument to hold.
The Watchtower would say that “pagan religions” used the cross for worship. Does that negate the fact that the Romans crucified the Lord Jesus on a cross? If He was that wouldn’t change the fact that He died on a cross and therefore that doesn’t make the cross “pagan” because others somehow used it.
The Watchtower claims they don’t know if Jesus died on a cross or not and turn around saying the cross shouldn’t be worshipped is double talk. Here’s another quote from their site which states.
THE cross is loved and respected by millions of people. The Encyclopædia Britannica calls the cross “the principal symbol of the Christian religion.” Nevertheless, true Christians do not use the cross in worship. – Watchtower
This is a strong statement to make without knowing for certain if Jesus died on a cross or not according to Watchtower while at the same time saying “true Christians do not use the cross in worship”. Since the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus all Christians recognised the cross for thousands of years yet the Jehovah Witnesses are claiming to be the only “true Christians” when they are anything but a cult masquerading to be Christian.
The Bible uses the word “cross” 28 times in 28 verses in the King James Bible, occurs 86 times in the NKJV and occurs 50 times in the ESV. Only the New World Translation changes it to “stake”, the Watchtower is basically saying every scribe and scholar has it wrong except them.
If they hold to this position then the burden of proof would lie with the Watchtower, since they so strongly feel the cross is “pagan” and “true Christians do not use the cross in worship” one might think they have solid proof of this but they don’t.
The Watchtower solely references only the works of Ethelbert w. Bullinger when it suits them, and he is discredited by all of his peers as his teachings are not aligned with archaeological findings. The Bible is very clear that Jesus Christ died on a cross.
Matthew 27:31-32 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify [him]. And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name: him they compelled to bear his cross.
The One Who Died
Christians are not worshipping the cross itself we’re worshipping the One who died on that cross giving Himself for our sins. Just because the cross is referenced has nothing to do with idolatry, is the Watchtower willing to say the bronze serpent which Moses told the children of Israel to look at (Numbers 21:6-8); would they consider that idolatry as well? When we ask these simple questions the answer becomes clear, of course not.
Numbers 21:6-8 And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.
God would never lead anyone to commit idolatry
John 3:14-15 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
No matter how hard the cults try to get rid of the cross, or deny Jesus as God, or deny the Godhead/Trinity. They will never succeed because the truth of God’s word will endure forever!
Psalm 119:89 LAMED. For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven.
Psalm 102:12 But thou, O LORD, shalt endure for ever; and thy remembrance unto all generations.
Psalm 104:31 The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever: the LORD shall rejoice in his works.