The cross...it is one of the most readily recognized symbols all over the world. It is emblematic of Christianity and understood by most anyone who sees it as a sign of Messianic sacrifice on behalf of a sinful world. Believers wear it and display it in solidarity with their Savior and His people, but are believers making a serious mistake in their understanding of what this symbol really means?
At a time when many Christians are coming to understand that much of what they have been taught by their leaders throughout the years has been misleading and even deceptive, the symbol of the cross itself is brought into question. Anyone sincerely determined to have the whole truth can not allow themselves to be in denial when it comes to the appearance of this symbol and where it is found in history. It is without reasonable doubt that the symbol we know as being related to our Savior did not have its first appearance in religion at the advent of Christianity.
The symbol we are familiar with, having two lines bisecting one another in some form, roughly like a lowercase "t", is an ancient one, the depictions of which make an appearance in a wide variety of pagan traditions. That being the case, we have a duty to know all the facts and find out: just how Christian is the cross?
The Cross in Pagan Cultures
What can be revealed with fairly little effort is that the symbol of crossing lines goes back thousands of years. One of the most well known of these symbols comes from Egypt. The ankh stood for fertility, eternal life and the act of Heaven intervening on Earth to the effect of producing "life".
Whether these things can be simplified in an agricultural sense or not (the passing of seasons bringing seed-time and harvest, the flooding of the Nile, etc) it is hard to miss the definitive similarity the ideas connected with the ankh bear to those connected with the Christian cross.
A similar figure, known as the Tau (after the Greek letter it resembles: appearing like a Capital T) has been associated with like connotations. Being related to a number of deities such as the Sumerian Tammuz, the Roman Mithras and his Persian counterpart Mithra.
The symbol of the "sunwheel" or solar cross is yet another example, a derivation of which can be seen in what is known as a Celtic cross. This symbol also correlates to cycles of rejuvenation....a returning "sun god" who resurrects life each spring, as well as celestial cycles of the "spheres" which return back to their beginning (bringing a "new age") with each full turn, much like annual seasonal cycles.
The "Saviors" of Pagan Cultures
The similarity of the ideas embedded in the pagan cross symbols to what is understood as Christian exclusive beliefs does not end at the symbols themselves. The "gods" which were often connected to these cross-like themes also bore a disconcerting resemblance to ideas we associate with Messiah.
Mithras, sometimes surnamed "Sol Invictus" is considered a confusing personality in the Roman pantheon, as there is very little extant information about the cult of Mithraism and the deity seems remarkably out of place amongst the much more antiquated figures of the Roman-Olympian pantheon. The Roman worship of this "Mithras" came about very late in game...well after the crucifixion of Messiah.
The puzzle is resolved in understanding that Mithras was not a Roman deity at all, but a borrowed Zoroastrian deity, originally named Mithra or Mithra-yazata. The name Mithra means "binding oath". He is also titled thus by his followers: the lofty, and the everlasting, the Yazad (divinity) of the spoken name, and "the holy,".
With a little background information regarding the rebel angels, known in scripture as the Watchers, we can identify who Mithra actually is. The 200 rebellious Watchers are recorded in 1 Enoch to have made a "binding oath" upon MT Hermon to seal their mutual culpability for their planned crimes against humanity. It was also a widely held tradition in Hebrew lore than the leader of this faction, Shemyhaza, taught his own wife how to pronounce the "spoken Name" of YHWH. The title which is attributed to such beings "Yazad", can be seen to be mirrored in the strange cult known as the Yazidi, who worship a pantheon of angels. The top ranking among the Yazidi pantheon is Melek Taus (the peacock angel), who can also be identified with the same leader of the rebel Watchers.
Both Yazidi tradition and some Hebrew folklore claim this being regretted his errors and the Hebrew legends claim he voluntarily hung himself "between Heaven and Earth"..or is some state of limbo between the physical and spiritual realms. There are no scriptural indications of his state of punishment being voluntary, but the same theme of this fallen angel being "hung" up on a tree or "cosmic pillar" in some manner of self sacrifice can be traced throughout multiple cultures and even in a modern deck of tarot cards.
The Manichaean equivalent - Mihr yazd, was regarded as a savior figure who was hung on a tree. Likewise the Norse Odin, who hung himself on the world tree. In Babylonian legend, Tammuz was killed by crucifixion at the hand of his own consort (and/ or mother), buried and resurrected. The act was memorialized in Phrygian culture by crucifying an effigy of a man on a "sacred" pine tree each year. The annual mourning for Tammuz was rampant among Semitic cultures. Krishna, Prometheus and multiple other instances also mirror the same idea...self sacrifice and hanging. The theme can be seen reflected in the "hanged man" of the tarot deck as well...a card of the major arcana which is nicknamed, interestingly enough, both "the traitor" and 'the martyr".
The authentic background of this being would suggest that he was indeed hung (head down..not in a traditional cruciform pose) in a subterranean prison, but there is nothing to suggest that his sentence was voluntary or an act of self sacrifice. 1 Enoch is clear in saying that he and his subordinates were all imprisoned quite against their will by YHWH's faithful angels, whether they had regrets or not. All the same...there is a familiar theme here which often becomes an excuse for non believers to dismiss the validity of what Yahushua did, claiming these legends as proof positive that neither the cross nor the act done on it was original to Christianity.
Chronology is the issue...that these tales and symbols precede the crucifixion of Messsiah seems to validate such claims of origin for them. What non believers (and many Christians) fail to understand is that 1..the promise of a Savior was made to mankind immediately after their fall in Eden and before any written record or division of religious beliefs existed anywhere on Earth. 2...the angels, including the rebel angels were also privy to the knowledge of the expectation of a Messiah and the element of self sacrifice which would be involved. 3....rebel angels and their offspring actively sought to counterfeit the position and the promises of the Almighty and 4....the rebel Watchers have always held the position of representing the "right hand", as Satan's faction has always taken the position of the "left hand"...creating the illusion of rivalry, which in actuality, both oppose YHWH.
The Real Savior
Yahushua does not leave us in hopeless confusion over His uniqueness next to the look-a-like legends before Him. He did not conveniently fail to address the fact that there were pagan traditions of "saviors" who had gone before. Yahushua clearly states the truth regarding the distinction between Himself and these heathen beliefs.
"Most assuredly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.
All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.
I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he shall be saved and shall go in and out and find pasture.
The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. - John 10:7-11
Though we may be used to thinking of Antichrist as the last, great, diabolical world leader...the term has a broader meaning as well. The term anti-christ is more properly translated "pseudo-christ"...not an opposite...a counterfeit, and the spirit of pseudo-christ, we are told in scripture, has been here and will continue to be here until Messiah returns.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits whether they are of Yahuwah, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of Yahuwah. Every spirit that confesses that Yahushua the Anointed has come in the flesh is of Yahuwah, and every spirit that does not confess that Yahushua the Anointed has come in the flesh is not of Yahuwah. And this is the spirit of the anti-Anointed One that you have heard was coming and is now already in the world. You are of Yahuwah, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:1-4
Was He Really Killed on a "Cross"?
An integral part of the debate about the "Christianness" of the cross symbol is whether or not the actual structure on which Yahushua was killed was, in fact, shaped like what we recognize as a cross. After coming by information on the pagan usage of the symbol, it is often natural to then have doubts about whether our Savior would have been found hanging on something which resembled these symbols.
Roman crucifixion, contrary to popular assumption, was not always carried out on one type of structure. The "crucifix" went through phases of transition, and different forms of the structure were utilized for the various ways in which they would cause specific types of pain and death. Crucifixion itself did not originate with the Romans, but reaches far back in antiquity and originates as literal hanging upon a live tree. The mention of this type of crucifixion is mentioned in Deuteronomy:
If a man has committed a sin deserving of death and he is put to death and you hang him on a tree,
his body shall not remain overnight on the tree but you shall surely bury him that day. Whoever is hanged is cursed by 'Elohiym, so do not defile the land that Yahuwah your 'Eloah gives you as an inheritance. Deut 21:22,23
and revisited in Galatians...
The Anointed has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"), Galatians 3:13
Referred to in historical records as "arbor infelix" or the unfortunate tree...the custom was in heathen cultures, to hang a convicted person upon a tree which had been dedicated to a "god". This manner of execution, no doubt, has a similar origin as the legends of the "hanging god-savior"...the difference in how this idea is treated between the Hebrew and pagan nations is illustrated in that the pagan cultures were reverencing this false messianic being, whereas YHWH reminds His people that to be hanged on a tree in this way is to be cursed as the rebel angel was who defied Him.
Then why would Yahushua in this way be cursed and hung in like manner on any type of "tree"? Because He came as the true Messiah to literally bear the curse of YHWH for all the world's sins. He bore a curse for our sakes.
The Roman manner of crucifixion in its various forms also had various names for the structures used to crucify victims. The "Crux Immissa" was in the form of what most recognize as a "cross"...the lowercase "t". The "Crux Decussata" was in the form of an X. The "Crux Commissa" was in the form of the "Tau" cross...a Capital "T" form and the "Crux Simplex" was simply one pole in the ground.
It is debated in favor of the idea that Yahushua was crucified on a crux simplex, a single pole in the ground, on the basis of the word used for cross in the New Testament..which is "stauros", literally meaning "a stake". It should be noted, though, that the Greek terminology which referred to a crux simplex was usually "mono stauros" (single stake), rather than stauros.
Evidence of Crucifix Form Used
Whereas the symbol normally used in Christianity is a crux immissa and those opposing this form often favor the crux simplex, evidence has it that neither are right. Historically and archeologically speaking...the form of the crucifix structure most often used at the time and place of Yahushua's death was the crux commissa, the tau form crucifix.
Depending upon the type of structure it might take anywhere from a few hours to a few days for a person who was crucified to die. Scourging prior to crucifixion (which was normal procedure) would impact that length of time as well due to shock and great amounts of blood being lost.
The hands by themselves would not support the weight of the victim, but a nail through the wrists would in any position. On a crux simplex, the hands would be brought together above he head, while on a form with a cross beam, the victim would be hung loosely by a wrist from each side, not so the arms would project straight out from the body but would be raised in a Y formation above the head.
Though it is often claimed that inhaling would be difficult crucified on a structure with a horizontal beam, this is actually not the case. Instead, the diaphragm is forced down and exhaling is what requires an active effort...making the victim unable to do so without pushing themselves up with their feet. Death was often hastened by breaking the legs of the victims which could cause death by shock or embolism and not by asphyxiation alone, regardless of the cruciform structure.
The Roman soldiers overseeing the crucifixion of Yahushua and other victims on the same day sought to hasten their deaths by breaking their legs, which might have come (for the other victims at least) hours or days later. The surprise with which they discovered Yahushua to already be dead implies a structure being used which should have taken more time than it had to kill Him. It is reasonable that this was not a crux simplex form since this form, putting greater pressure on the diaphragm than the types with cross beams, would take less time to cause death. The real cause of His death is perhaps more accurately understood as one brought on by the severity of spiritual trauma which affected Him physically rather than purely physical in nature.
An entire crux simplex post would have been incredibly difficult if not impossible for a man to haul up a hill by himself after first being beaten, weighing anywhere from 200 to 300 lbs. A cross beam or "patibulum" was often carried by the victim, however..this weighing between 70 and 100 lbs.
Although the depictions of crux commissa and crux immissa forms are sometimes attributed to the highly paganized influence of Catholicism, the first specific descriptions recorded of the structure on which Yahushua was crucified were written down 200 years prior to Constantine's rule. Those descriptions describe it as a crux commissa, a tau cross.
Should believers regard the cross as Christian or pagan?
The controversy surrounding what type of crucifix structure Yahushua was killed on is strongly influenced by the idea that Messiah could not be associated with any symbol which had been used in heathen cultures. What we tend to forget in that line of thinking is that the Romans were, of course, pagan people. The practice of crucifixion was a pagan oriented form of execution, reminiscent of an event which was synonymous with the wrath of YHWH but which pagan cultures spun their own messianic stories from.
The question of Christian or pagan becomes an issue of what came first. What came first was the plan of YHWH of course...that predating anything which heathen people did, recorded or depicted in reverence to false messiahs. If we must equate the cross form with heathen ideals, then what do we make of false elohim who have been called shepherds, fishers and crucified saviors? What form of crucifix would have been less pagan and a more comfortable fit with Christianity when nearly every imaginable shape and form (including every shape a crucifix could be) has been implemented at some point in ideographic reference to a pagan "god"?
The decision to wear, display or otherwise use the cross as identifying with Christianity might not be rightly decided based on whether or not one can find any non Christian usage of it, but rather a conclusion based on what the structure on which Yahushua was crucified really means. Does it stand for the wrath of YHWH poured out on sin...or does it stand for the redemption from that sin which Yahushua provided? Obviously, that can be a very complex question worth its own discussion...but we might think twice about displaying a cross if its true connotation is wrath rather than mercy. As for how i might answer this, at least in my current understanding (which might always change and hopefully for the better) ...i understand mercy as having the last word. The instrument of the cross has been the mode of YHWH's wrath, and yet that wrath poured out upon the One True Savior has resulted in mercy...the result which no false shepherd has ever achieved.