The answer to all of these questions is a resounding, “No.”
Regarding pictures, images or statues of Christ (including those which picture Him on the cross), we clearly read that we are not to have images of God (Exodus 20:4). Since Jesus is God (John 1:1; Hebrews 1:8; Titus 2:13), the creation and use of images or pictures of Christ violates this express prohibition.
Some say that this commandment does not prohibit us to portray Christ when He was a man, and not God. Even though Christ became fully man and fully flesh, He nevertheless did not cease to be the Personage that He had always been before–the Son of God, the second member in the God Family. That is why He, when here on earth, was called “Immanuel” or “God with us,” and that is why people, recognizing this fact, worshipped Him in the flesh.
In addition, Paul tells us that we are not to know Jesus Christ any longer according to the flesh (2 Corinthians 5:16), as He is now again a glorified, all-powerful and divine God being. He is depicted in Revelation 1:14, 16 with eyes as a flame of fire and as the sun shining in full strength. Pictures which show Christ today, even as a man, are totally inaccurate, even from a human standpoint. They portray Christ with long hair, although Paul said that it is a shame for a man to wear long hair (1 Corinthians 11:14). And even though Christ was a Jew, pictures today show Him with features which have no resemblance to Jewish men, but which give Him an effeminate appearance, instead.
When addressing the cross and its worship or use in religious services or at home, we should realize that the Bible does not even say that Christ was nailed to a cross, as it is pictured and portrayed today. In every case when the word “cross” is used in the Authorized Version or the New King James Bible, the Greek word is “stauros.”
According to Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible, the meaning of that word is simply, “stake.” Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible agrees, defining “stauros” as a “stake or post, as set upright,” continuing that it could refer to a pole or a cross.
Bullinger’s Companion Bible states in Appendix 162 under “The Cross and Crucifixion”:
“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 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… As this latter word ‘xulon’ is used for the former ‘stauros’, it shows us that the meaning of each is exactly the same. 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’. “
The word “xulon” is translated many times in the Authorized Version or the New King James Bible as “tree,” for instance in 1 Peter 2:24, stating that Christ bore our sins in His body on the tree (compare, too, Acts 10:39; 13:29).
The Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words by Vine adds the following, when discussing the kind of death which Christ endured:
“… 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.”
Since the Greek in the New Testament does not state that Christ died on a cross, as we know it today, how did this idea enter orthodox Christianity? Here is what happened:
Alexander Hislop writes in his book, The Two Babylons, pp. 197, 199:
“The same sign of the cross that Rome now worships was used in the Babylonian Mysteries, was applied by paganism to the same magic purposes, was honored with the same honors. That which is now called the Christian cross was originally no Christian emblem at all, but was the mystic Tau of the Chaldeans and Egyptians–the true original form of the letter T–the initial of the name of Tammuz… There is hardly a Pagan tribe where the cross has not been found. The cross was worshiped by the Pagan Celts long before the incarnation and death of Christ… It was worshiped in Mexico for ages before the Roman Catholic missionaries set foot there, large stone crosses being erected, probably to the ‘god of rain.’ The cross was widely worshiped, or regarded as a sacred emblem, was the unequivocal symbol of Bacchus, the Babylonian Messiah… “
We have found pictures, showing Assyrian, Egyptian, Hindu and Greek gods and goddesses associated with crosses. The ancient Greek goddess Diana is shown with a cross over her head–very similar to the portrayal of the “Virgin Mary” by many medieval artists.
Vine adds that the shape of a “two-beamed cross” had ” its origin in ancient Chaldea, and was used as the symbol of the god Tammuz (being in the shape of the mystic Tau, the initial of his name) in that country and in adjacent lands, including Egypt. By the middle of the 3rd century 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 by faith, and were permitted largely to retain their pagan signs and symbols. Hence the Tau or T, in its most frequent form, with the cross-piece lowered, was adopted to stand for the cross of Christ.”
In addition, it is true that the Romans used a two-beamed cross as one of their methods of crucifixion, but it is highly unlikely that that method was used in the case of Christ. The Encyclopedia Britannica writes in its 11th edition, volume 7, on page 506:
“Two methods were followed in the infliction of the punishment of crucifixion. In both of these the criminal was first of all usually stripped naked, and bound to an upright stake, where he was so cruelly scourged with an implement, formed of strips of leather having pieces of iron, or some other hard material, at their ends, that not merely was the flesh often stripped from the bones, but even the entrails partly protruded, and the anatomy of the body was disclosed. In this pitiable state he was re-clothed, and, if able to do so, was made to drag the stake to the place of execution, where he was either fastened to it, or impaled upon it, and left to die.”
Regarding another method, the encyclopedia states that:
“After the scourging, the criminal was made to carry a cross beam to the place of execution, and he was then fastened to it by iron nails driven through the outstretched arms and through the ankles. Sometimes this was done as the cross lay on the ground, and it was then lifted into position.”
As pagans already worshiped the cross as we know it today, before they entered the Catholic fold; as the Roman Church allowed them to continue to worship the cross–only now in association with Christ; and as the Romans used a two-beamed cross as one of their methods of crucifixion, it can be easily seen how the Roman Church was able to convince an unsuspecting world that THAT was the method of Christ’s crucifixion.
However, as mentioned, it is highly unlikely that Christ was killed in that way. In the New Testament, the word for “stauros” is equated with a “tree”–and never with a two-beamed “cross.” Also, Christ had to carry His “cross” (“stauros”) to Golgotha (Matthew 27:32; John 19:17). Some commentaries say that this was only the cross beam–that is, only a small part of the “cross.” However, the Bible does not seem to support this. We read that Christ carried His “cross”; that subsequently, Simon a Cyrenian was compelled to bear “His cross” (Mark 15:21); and that after His crucifixion had begun, His mother and other relatives stood “by the cross of Jesus” (John 19:25). In all these passages, the same word “stauros” is used in the original Greek for “cross”—with no indication of just different parts of the “cross” being described at different times.
In addition, Christ told us to carry our “cross” (Matthew 10:38; 16:24) as He had carried and endured His “cross” (Hebrews 12:2). If He only carried a portion of the “cross,” then that analogy would break down, as we are to carry our entire “cross”–not just portions of it.
We also read that Christ compared the manner of His death with the way in which Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness (John 3:14). Numbers 21:9 tells us how Moses did it: “So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it ON A POLE; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” The bronze serpent was placed on a solid pole, consisting of one piece–indicating the kind of pale or stake on which Christ died.
Since we don’t even know for sure the exact method of Christ’s crucifixion, but since we DO know that the “cross”–as orthodox Christianity uses it today “in memory of Christ”–was worshiped by pagans in connection with their pagan idols, we should not use it at all, nor even wear it as an amulet. The “Christian” use of the cross did not begin until the time of Constantine, and there is no evidence that God’s true Church has ever used cross symbols for any purpose.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link