What Is the Origin of the Sign of the Cross? Should Christians Make the Sign of the Cross? (Part 1)


We see it on television all the time—Catholic soccer players make the sign of the cross when they score or even when they enter the field. Other athletes may make the sign of the cross on various occasions as well. In many cases, it has become a matter of routine. For example, the sign of the cross is made before meals, in church services, and at other times by many people. But what do we know about its origin?The Roman Catholic Church and many other religious organizations claim that the sign of the cross has its origin in early Christianity. The website of catholicstraightanswers.com/what-is-the-origin-of-the-sign-of-the-cross/ states the following perspective of the Catholic Church:

“The sign of the cross is a beautiful gesture which reminds the faithful of both the cross of salvation while invoking the Holy Trinity… The early Church Fathers attested to the use of the sign of the cross.  Tertullian (d.c. 250) described the commonness of the sign of the cross:  ‘In all our travels and movements, in all our coming in and going out, in putting on our shoes, at the bath, at the table, in lighting our candles, in lying down, in sitting down, whatever employment occupies us, we mark our foreheads with the sign of the cross’ (De corona, 30). St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386) in his Catechetical Lectures stated, ‘Let us then not be ashamed to confess the Crucified.  Be the cross our seal, made with boldness by our fingers on our brow and in everything; over the bread we eat and the cups we drink, in our comings and in our goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we awake; when we are traveling, and when we are at rest’ (Catecheses, 13).

“Gradually, about the ninth century, the sign of the cross was incorporated in different acts of the Mass, such as the three-fold signing of the forehead, lips, and heart at the reading of the gospel or the blessing and signing of the bread and wine to be offered. The earliest formalized way of making the sign of the cross appeared about the 400s, during the Monophysite heresy which denied… the unity of the Holy Trinity.  The sign of the cross was made from forehead to chest, and then from right shoulder to left shoulder with the right hand.  The thumb, forefinger, and middle fingers were held together to symbolize the Holy Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

We see, then, that the “sign of the cross” is inseparably connected with the belief in the “Holy Trinity.”

The problems with this entire concept are many.

First, the Bible does not teach at all that God is a Trinity. It does teach that the Father and the Son (Jesus Christ) are God and that they are two Beings or Persons within the God Family, but it does NOT teach that the Holy Spirit is God or a Person. For proof, please read our free booklets, “Is God a Trinity?” and “God Is a Family.”

Secondly, to have or use a cross in any way in the connection with worship; to wear it as an amulet; or to have a crucifix in our home; is not biblical. It totally misunderstands the saving work of Jesus Christ. From this it follows that the making of the cross is equally unbiblical.

In this Q&A, we will explore the true history of the “Christian” cross. In the next installment, we will discuss the origin of “making the sign of the cross.”

It is well-known that the Tau Cross (commonly pictured as the type of cross on which Jesus was crucified) has been used as an object of worship long before Christ was born. The website of reginamgeither.com explains in its article, “Legends of the Tau Cross”:

“The cross is a familiar symbol to both religious and secular groups. But few people are familiar with the many myths and legends behind one of the earliest forms of this Christian symbol. The Cross of Tau or Tau Cross, named for the Greek letter T, is thought to have been the first cross used in Christianity, but its origins are believed to date back to the Egyptians. The Egyptian cross called an Ankh is a simple T-Cross mounted with an oval called the Ru.

“In its long history, the Tau cross was also the symbol of the Roman God Mithras and the Greek God Attis. In Norse mythology, the hammer of Thor is seen as a Tau Cross. The Bull as the Astrological sign of Taurus gets its name from the Tau and Ru. Even the Druids used the Tau when venerating trees by scrawling the symbol into the bark of their sacred oaks…

“As Christianity gained followers, the pagan symbols were converted into Christian ones. The Tau was used as the first cross of the followers of Christ and many believe that the cross of the Crucifixion was actually T-shaped, and many early Christians adopted the Tau as the symbol of their religious belief. St. Anthony Abbott (251-356), an Egyptian monk and one of the first Christian monastics used a crutch in the shape of a Tau. When he visited another monk, he would place the crutch outside of the cave, making it a symbol of communion with God. In 1095 the Antonines were founded by a French nobleman after his son was cured of a disease following a vision of St. Anthony instructing him to plant a Tau as an instrument of healing. As a result, Tau Crosses were used in amulets as a protection against disease in the Middle Ages. The most common reference of the Tau in Christianity is with the Franciscan Order of Saint Francis of Assisi who adopted it as his personal symbol of faith and used it as his signature.”

An article by the Examiner, titled “The Cross Was a Pagan Symbol Before It became a Christian Symbol,” explains even further:

“Most Christians don’t give the following a second thought: A crucifix on the wall of the church reminds Christians of God’s act of love and atonement in Christ’s sacrifice at Calvary, ‘the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’. The sacred crucifix also reminds Christians of Jesus’ victory over sin and death, since it is believed that through His death and resurrection He conquered death itself. Here’s more to consider: The cross was not a Christian symbol before Yeshua the Messiah was born! The cross was not a Christian symbol for hundreds of years after Yeshua. A crucifix is a cross with the Lord still nailed to it.

“Do you think He is honored if you have one of these hanging from your neck? With all the fancy talk about what the crucifix means on the walls of our churches; there is a total avoidance of the fact it is still a pagan idol!…

“If the cross is a Christian symbol, then why does the occult use it so much? If the cross is a Christian symbol, then why is it traceable way back to Babylon and Egypt, as far back as 2,000 B.C.? Many ancient cultures used crosses or the mystic Tau. Babylon seems to be the originator from ancient Chaldea, but you can find crosses in Egypt, India, China, Africa, Mexico, Greece, Italy, and South American histories. All before Yeshua was ever born! If pagans had never used crosses as idols, then developed them into instruments of torture and death; you never would have thought to wear a cross with diamonds on a necklace!

“The cross is a most sacred idol to the Roman Catholic Church. This point in itself should raise suspicion. The cross was incorporated into Roman worship after 430 A.D., but it was another 150 years until the cross made it all the way up to the steeples. In the 6th century, the Church of Rome sanctioned the cross. Believe it or not, at the council of Ephesus, it was decreed that a cross was a ‘requirement’ in every home!”

We discussed the history of the cross and the manner of Christ’s crucifixion in our Q&A in Update 347, titled, “Should we have and use crosses or pictures or statues, depicting Jesus Christ?” We are setting forth below some of the excerpts pertaining to the cross:

“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’…  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.’…

“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…”

Since neither the Trinity nor the worship of the cross are biblical, what then is the real origin of making the sign of the cross? Did Catholics just adopt the cross from pagans and then invented the procedure of making the sign of the cross? Or is there more to that part of the story? We will give answers to this question in the next installment.

(To Be Continued)

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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