Is The Cross A Christian Symbol?
This study is a close look at what has been presented as the instrument upon which the Lord Jesus Christ was placed. The instrument upon which He died. So we present the following for your study and consideration. It is taken in part, from a book called "Babylon Mystery Religion ‑ Ancient and Modern" by Ralph Woodrow.
The Cross is recognized as one of the most important symbols of the Roman Catholic church. It is displayed on the top of the roofs and towers of their churches. It is seen on their altars, furnishings, and ecclesiastical garments.
The floor plan of the majority of Catholic churches is laid out in the shape of the cross. All Catholic homes, hospitals, and schools have the cross adorning the walls. Everywhere the cross is outwardly honored and adored ‑ in hundreds of ways.
In like manner, the sign of the cross is often used in the Catholic rites. When an infant is sprinkled the priest makes the sign of the cross upon the infants forehead saying: "Receive the sign of the cross upon thy forehead."
During confirmation, the candidate is signed with the cross. On Ash Wednesday, ashes are used to make a cross on the foreheads of Catholic members. When they enter the church building, they dip the forefinger of the right hand in "holy water," touch the forehead, the chest, the left and the right shoulder ‑ thus tracing the figure of the cross. The same sign is made before eating meals. During Mass, the priest makes the sign of the cross 16 times and blesses the altar with the cross sign 30 times.
Most Christians will never study enough to come to realize that THE MARK OF THE BEAST IS THE CROSS! See #5516: chi xi stigma, khee xee stig'-ma; the 22d, 14h and an obsol. letter (4742 as A CROSS) of the Greek alphabet (intermediate between the 5th and 6th), used as numbers; denoting respectively 600, 60, and 6; 666 as a numeral:-six hundred threescore and six..
Protestant churches, for the most part, do not believe in making the sign of the cross with their fingers. Neither do they bow down to it or use it as an object of worship as does the Catholic church and many of its affiliates.
They have recognized that these things are unscriptural and superstitious. But they have made use of the cross on their steeples, on their church roofs, on pulpits, and in various other ways. And so, to one degree or another, Christendom ‑ both Papal and Protestant ‑ has assumed that there is virtue in the cross image; that our church buildings should be decorated with it; that it is a Christian symbol. But we ask: Is the cross which took our Savior's life a thing to be adored?
Should we parade the instrument of death before the world and be proud of it? Do the scriptures anywhere teach that we are to take the cross and place it upon our buildings or wear it around our necks?
Many have never questioned the use of the cross on churches and their furnishings. They have assumed that the cross was a Christian symbol. But a study of historical evidence plainly reveals that the cross symbol is of pagan origin!
The early Christians did not consider the cross a virtuous symbol, but rather as "the accursed tree," a device of death and "shame." (Hebrews 12:2) They did not trust in an old rugged cross. Instead, their faith was in what was accomplished on the cross; and through this faith, they knew the full and complete forgiveness of sin!
It was in this sense that the apostles preached about the cross and gloried in it. (1 Corinthians 1:17‑18) Such references to the cross in the epistles never refer to A PIECE OF WOOD one might wear around his/her neck or carry in his/her hand.
The message of the apostles was concerning the one that hung and died on the cross. When they spoke of the cross, they were speaking of the suffering of Calvary, the supreme sacrifice that was made there, and the eternal purpose of God that was accomplished. But never did those of the early church consider a piece of wood as a protector, a good luck charm, or as an object of worship. No, such use of the cross came much later.
IT WAS NOT UNTIL CHRISTIANITY BEGAN TO BE PAGANIZED THAT THE CROSS CAME TO BE THOUGHT OF AS A CHRISTIAN SYMBOL! It was in 431 A.D. that crosses in churches and chambers were introduced, while the use of the crosses on steeples did not come until about 586 A.D. (Harper's Book of Facts)
In the 6th Century, the crucifix image was introduced and its worship sanctioned by the church of Rome. (Fausett, p. 145) It was not until the second council at Ephesus that private homes were required to possess a cross. (The Cross in Tradition, History, and Art, p. 157) Such use of the cross then was obviously not a doctrine of the early true church. It was not a part of "the faith that was once delivered to the saints." From where then did it come?
In the following, we will give historical proof that the cross was an object of worship centuries before the Christian Era. We will see that the cross sign is Babylonish and that its entrance into the professing church was but a further attempt to mix paganism with Christianity.
Centuries before the Christian era, the cross was honored as a religious symbol by the people of Babylon. It is seen on their oldest monuments. (Doane, p. 342) Historians say that it was a symbol associated with Tammuz ‑ a Jewish god. (The Greatness that was Babylon, p. 496‑498)
The Cross Symbol
THE CROSS SYMBOL: In its original form ‑ came from the first letter of the name Tammuz, the "T". The same sign of the cross that Rome now worships was used in the "Babylonian Mysteries," says Hislop,
"...that which is now called the Christian cross was originally no Christian emblem at all, but was the mystic Tau of Chaldeans and Egyptians ‑ the true original form of the letter T ‑ the initial of the name of Tammuz...and was used in every variety of way as the most sacred symbol...it was used as an amulet over the heart; it was marked on the official garments of the priests, as on the official garments of Rome today." (Two Babylons, p. 197)
From Babylon, this cross symbol spread to Egypt, where monuments preserved to this day give abundant evidence of its use there.
In any book on Egypt that shows the old monuments and walls of their ancient temples, one can see the kings and gods of antiquity holding crosses in their hands. The inscription shows some of the gods of Egypt in mystery form ‑ part human and part animal ‑ each holding a cross! A building of Amenophis IV at Thebes, Egypt, has inscriptions of the king praying, with a picture of a round sun circle with a mystery form of the sun‑god beneath it. A noted historian in reference to Egypt:
"Here unchanged for thousands of years, we find among her most sacred hieroglyphics the cross in various forms...but the one known specially as the 'cross of Egypt,' or the Tau cross, is shaped like the letter T, often with a circle or ovoid above it, yet this mystical symbol was not peculiar to this country, but was reverenced...among the Chaldeans, Phoenicians, Mexicans, and EVERY ancient people in both hemispheres." (The Cross in Tradition, History, and Art, p. 2‑3)
As the cross worship spread to various nations, it took on varied forms and was used in varied ways: Among the Chinese,
"the cross is...acknowledged to be one of the most ancient devices ...it is portrayed upon the walls of their pagodas, it is painted upon the lanterns used to illuminate the most sacred recesses of their temples." (The Cross in Tradition, History, and Art, p. 13)
The cross has been a sacred symbol in India for centuries among non‑Christian people. "In Northern India, the cross is used to mark the jars of sacred water taken from the Indus and Ganges...In Southern India the cross is used as an emblem of disembodied Jaina saints...The east Indians (revered the cross symbol)...centuries before our Lord appeared upon earth." (The Cross in Tradition, History, and Art, p. 10)
In the central part of India, two rude crosses of stone have been discovered which date back to a time centuries before the Christian era. One of these crosses is over 10 feet high; the other over eight feet. (The Cross in Tradition, History, and Art, p. 12) Among the Hindoos of India, the cross was regarded as sacred to their god Agni. (Monumental Christianity, p. 14) The Buddhists, and numerous other sects of India, marked their followers on the head with the sign of the cross.
On the continent of Africa,
"at Susa, the Abyssinia...the natives plunge a cross in the River Gitche...the Kabyle women although Mohammedans, tattoo a cross between their eyes...In Wanyamwizi, or the land of the moon, the inhabitants decorate their walls with crosses...the Yaricks established a line of kingdoms from the Niger to the Nile...on their shields (was) painted the image of a cross." (The Cross in Tradition, History p. 9)
Here then is mention of the use of the cross by numerous heathen tribes in Africa who knew nothing of Christ!
When the Spaniards first landed in Mexico, "they could not suppress their wonder," says Prescott, "as they beheld the cross, the sacred emblem of their own (Catholic) faith, raised as an object of worship in the temples of Anahuac. The Spaniards were not aware that the cross was the symbol of worship of the highest antiquity...(and was used by many) pagan nations on whom the light of Christianity had never shone."
In Palenque, Mexico, founded by Votan in the 9th century before the Christian era, is a heathen temple known as "the temple of the cross." There inscribed on an altar slab is a central cross six and a half by eleven feet in size! (Encyclopedia or Religions, Vol. 3, p. 70) In olden times, the Indians of Mexico worshiped the cross as TOTA (Our Father).
This practice of addressing a piece of wood with the title "father" is also mentioned in the Bible. When God's people of the Old Testament mixed idolatry with their religion, they worshiped pagan gods and said to a stock, "Thou art my father!" (Jeremiah 2:27) But it is contrary to the Word of God to call a piece of wood (or a priest!) by the title "father."
"...call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven." (Matthew 23:9)
Ages ago in Italy, before the people knew anything of the arts of civilization, they believed in the cross as a religious symbol. Even at this early period, they believed it was a protector and it was placed upon tombs. (The Cross in Tradition, History and Art, p. 99)
Through the centuries, it was used as a religious symbol right on up to the days of the pagan Roman empire. In 46 B.C. Roman coins show Jupiter holding a long scepter terminating in a cross. (The Cross in Tradition, History and Art, p. 26) This was his symbol. (Encyclopedia of Religions, Vol. 1, p. 495)
The vestal Virgins of pagan Rome wore the cross suspended from their necklaces, as the nuns of the Roman Catholic church do now. (Two Babylons, p. 198)
The Greeks depicted crosses on the head band of their god corresponding to Tammuz of the Babylonians. In the Eleusinian Mysteries, a cross was placed on the breast of each initiate. (Bible Myths, p. 343)
Porcelli mentions how that Isis was shown with a cross on her forehead. Her priests carried processional crosses in their worship of her. The temple of Serapis in Alexandria was surmounted by a cross. The temple of the Sphinx when it was unearthed was found to be cruciform in shape.
Ensigns in the form of a cross were carried by the Persians during their battles with Alexander the Great (B.C. 335). ibid, p. 346. The cross was used as a religious symbol by the Aborigines of South America in ancient times. (Curiosities of Popular Customs, p. 297)
New born children were placed under its protection against evil spirits. The Patagonians tattooed their foreheads with crosses. (Encyclopedia of Religions, Vol. 1, p. 495) Ancient pottery in Peru has been found that is marked with the cross as a religious symbol. (Encyclopedia of Religions, Vol. 1, p. 386)
Monuments show that Assyrian kings wore a cross suspended on their necklaces, (Encyclopedia of Religions, Vol. 1, p. 494) as did some of the foreigners that battled against the Egyptians. These warriors wore a small cross suspended to a necklace or to their collar. The cross was also figured upon the robes of the Rot‑n‑no as early as the 15th century before the Christian era. (Wilkinson, Vol. 1, p. 376)
Much more could be said about the many uses of the cross as a religious symbol and object of worship among those who lived in olden times. But enough has been said to well establish the fact that the cross was in use long before the Christian era.
To sum it up, there is hardly a pagan tribe where the cross has not been found. (Two Babylons, p. 199) "In some form, all through the ages, the cross has existed and has had a vital significance and influence." (The Cross ‑ Its History and Symbolism, p. 16)
As an instrument of death, of crucifixion, the cross is also very ancient and pagan. "The cross was used in ancient times as a punishment for flagrant crimes in Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Palestine, Carthage, Greece, and Rome...Tradition ascribes the invention of the punishment of the cross to a woman, the queen Semiramis!" (The Cross in Tradition, History, and Art, p. 64)
"But since Jesus died on a cross," some ask, "does this not make it a Christian symbol?" NO! The fact that Jesus was killed on a cross shows that it was already an established form of punishment and death ‑ among pagans. However, Christ was not killed on a cross, He was crucified on a "Stake."
It was not a Christian symbol when Jesus hung on it, and nothing has ever changed to make it a Christian symbol now! As one has asked: Suppose Jesus had been killed with a shot‑gun; would this be any reason to have a shot‑gun hanging from our necks or on top of the church roof? Would this make a shot‑gun a Christian symbol of virtue? No!
It is not what killed our Lord, but what his death accomplished that is important! As the cross symbol spread to the ancient nations (as we have seen it did), it took on different forms in different countries until there were many forms of the pagan cross. Catholicism, adopting the pagan idea of cross worship, also adopted these various forms of the cross.
Thus, to this day, the Catholic church does not adore just one type of cross, but numerous types. Now we ask: If the Catholic use of the cross originated with the cross of Christ, then WHY are so many different forms of the cross used? It is evident that Christ only hung on ONE cross.
If cross worship originated with the cross of Christ, would it not seem that only one type would be used? The fact is that cross worship did not originate with Christ and all of these various forms of the cross were pagan symbols before the Christian era.
A noted writer said:
“Of the several varieties of the cross still in vogue, as national and ecclesiastical emblems, distinguished by the familiar appellations of St. George, St. Andrew, the Maltese, the Greek, the Latin, etc., there is not one amongst them the existence of which may not be traced to the remotest antiquity!" (The Pentateuch Examined, Vol. 6, p. 113)
Now let's notice a few examples of how these different crosses were actually sacred symbols long before the Christian era: That form of the cross which is known as the Tau cross was widely used in Egypt. What is known as the Greek cross may also be found on Egyptian monuments.
This form of the cross was used in Phrygia where it adorned the tomb of Midas (B.C. 718). (Doane, p. 344; The Cross in Tradition, p. 21) In the ruins of Nineveh, a king is shown wearing a MALTESE cross on his bosom. The form of the cross that is today known as the LATIN cross was used by the Etruscans. Its use on an ancient pagan tomb with winged angels to each side of it.
What has been called the St. Andrew's cross was highly venerated among the Cumas in South America. It was regarded as a protector against evil spirits. (Encyclopedia of Religions, Vol. 1, p. 494) It appeared on the coins of Alexander Bala in Syria in 146 B.C. and on those of Baktrain kings about 140 to 120 B.C. (Needless to say, this was long before "St. Andrew" was ever born!)
Most of the crosses on the Protestant Churches is called the Calvary cross, yet this cross is taken from an ancient inscription in Thessaly which dates from a period prior to the Christian era! Now the fact that these various forms of the cross have all been adopted by the Romish Church, makes it obvious that such cross‑sacredness did not originate with the cross of Christ, for he died on only ONE cross!
What type of cross was it upon which Jesus died? The word "cross" in the Bible is translated from "stauros" which comes from the root "sta," that is, "to stand." As far as the Word itself is concerned, there is no indication of any cross piece whatsoever. In his scholarly "expository Dictionary of New Testament Words," W.E. Vine states that the Greek word "stauros" means simply an upright stake and is,
"to be distinguished from the ecclesiastical form of a two beamed cross...(which) 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...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." (Encyclopedia of Religions, Vol. 1, p. 256)
As to the exact shape of the cross upon which Christ hung, we need not be too concerned, for it is not the shape of the cross that is the important thing. It is the one ‑ The Lord Jesus Christ ‑ that hung there and what He accomplished that is ALL important.
Constantine and The Cross
When considering the above information concerning the cross, someone will, almost always bring up the so‑called vision of Constantine. So we include the following with that in mind. A factor that caused the adoration of the cross image to become firmly established in the church of the falling away was the famous "vision of the cross" and the so‑called "conversion" of the Roman Emperor Constantine.
On the day before the Battle of Milvian Bridge, Constantine prayed to his sun‑god and there appeared a cross ‑ we are told ‑ over the setting sun with the inscription: "In hoc signo Vinces;" that is, "In this sign conquer."
The next day, Constantine advanced the battle behind a standard portraying a Cross. He was victorious in this battle and professed conversion. Of course such a seeming victory for Christianity, the conversion of the emperor ‑ as the result of the cross vision did much to further the use of the cross in the Roman Church.
But are we to suppose that the Lord Jesus gave such a vision to the Emperor Constantine? Actually there is little reason to consider this vision as authentic, especially since it has no real historical basis, and due to the fact that Constantine's vision was supposedly in answer to him. The only authority from whom the story has been gathered by historians is Eusebius, who confessedly was prone to edification and was accused as a "falsifier of history."
If Constantine ever did, in reality, have such a vision, we can be sure its author was not Almighty God or the Lord Jesus Christ. The very idea that our Lord would command a pagan emperor to make a military banner embodying the cross and to go forth conquering and killing in that sign, is altogether inconsistent with the general teachings of the Bible and with the Spirit of true Christianity. This Roman empire (of which Constantine was the head), had been described in the scriptures as a "Beast."
Daniel saw four great beasts which represented four world empires. These were Babylon (lion), Medio‑Persia (bear), Greece (leopard), and Rome. This fourth beast, the Roman Empire, was so horrible in the eyes of God that it could not be compared to any earthly beast. (Daniel 7:1‑8)
Considering then how wicked this beastly Roman Empire was in the eyes of God, are we to suppose that the Lord Jesus Christ became the leader of this beast system? Or would Jesus give a wicked emperor a vision and tell him to kill and fight as his representative?
Did Jesus ever tell his people to go forth to kill others under a cross‑banner supposedly representing him? Of course not! The very basis of Christianity is opposed to the unfairness of war, hate, and murder. Why then should we suppose that Christ would tell Constantine to conquer in His name and sign to further the Beast system of Rome?
Obviously, such a vision came not from our Lord Jesus Christ! But if the vision was not of God, how was it that Constantine was converted as a result? The fact is that the "conversion" of Constantine WAS A HOAX! Even though this man had much to do with the establishment of certain doctrines and customs within the fallen church, the facts plainly show that he was not truly converted, not in the Bible sense of the word. Historians admit that the conversion of Constantine was "nominal, even by contemporary standards." (Man and His Gods, p. 220)
Probably the most obvious indication that he was not truly converted may be seen from the fact that AFTER his supposed conversion, he committed several murders ‑ including the murder of his own wife and son! According to the Scriptures, no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:15)
Constantine's first marriage was to Minervina, by whom he had a son named Crispus. His second wife was named Fausta who bore him three daughters and three sons. Now Crispus, his first born son, became a great soldier and a help to his father in the battles.
Yet, in 326, very shortly after the directing the Nicaen Council! Constantine had this son put to death. The story is that Crispus had made love to Fausta, Constantine's wife. At least he was so accused by Fausta. But this may have been her way of getting Crispus out of the way, so that her sons would have claim to the throne!
However, Helena, Constantine's mother, persuaded him that his wife "had yielded to his son." And so, Constantine had Fausta murdered also. (The Story of Civilization ‑ Caesar and Christ, p. 663)
But these were not the only murders he committed. About the same time that Constantine had his son murdered, he decreed the execution of Licinianus, his sister's son. Constantine also put Licinus, his sister's husband, to death ‑ even though he had promised her that he would spare his life! (The Story of Civilization ‑ Caesar and Christ, p. 663; Medieval Italy, p. 4)
After Constantine's supposed conversion, he still remained the Pontifix Maximus or High Priest of the pagan state religion. (The Growth of the Christian Church). As Pontiff, he was required to carry out the ceremonial of the traditional cult. Likewise, when he dedicated Constantinople, he used both pagan and Christian rites in the dedication. Further evidence of how Constantine attempted to unite and mix together both paganism and Christianity, is seen on coins of the period which he had made.
On these coins he put a cross (to please the professing Christians) while on the same coins were representations of Mars or Apollo. While professing on one hand to be a Christian, yet on the other hand, he continued to believe in pagan magic formulas for the protection of crops and the healing of disease. (The Story of Civilization, p. 656) Constantine did show numerous favors toward the Christian faith however.
He abolished death by crucifixion. He stopped the persecutions of the Christians which had become so cruel at Rome. Why them, if he was not truly a Christian, did he do these things? The answer to this is also clearly written in history.
Persecutions had not destroyed the Christian faith. Constantine knew this. And since his position was being challenged by a rival emperor and because of his dire need for support from every quarter, he turned to the Christians.
Instead of the empire constantly being divided ‑ the pagans opposing the Christians ‑ why not take such steps as might be necessary to mix both paganism and Christianity together, and thus bring a united force to the empire?
This was clearly the reasoning of Constantine. By this time, most of the church leaders were thinking in terms of numbers and popularity, rather than in terms of spirituality and truth anyway, and thus were ready to make compromises with paganism.
This was especially the case at Rome. So by adopting the cross as a symbol on the banners of his army, Constantine figured he could establish a unity among his troops.
The apostate Christians would think they were fighting for the cross of Christ; the pagans could not object because the cross was also one of their sacred emblems. Says the noted historian Durant:
"To the worshiper of Mita (the pagans) in Constantine's forces, the cross could give no offense, for they had long fought under a standard bearing a Mithraic cross of light." (The Story of Civilization, p. 655)
And thus the so‑called Christians and pagan Mithraists in the army of Constantine were united and successfully fought the battle.
Another factor that contributed to cross‑worship in the church of Rome centered around Helena, Constantine's mother. In 326, when she was almost eighty ‑ according to the legend ‑ she made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and there by the help of a Jew who understood her superstitious tastes, found three crosses.
The original cross was identified, we are asked to believe, because it is said to have worked miracles at the suggestion of Macarius, bishop of Jerusalem. The other two crosses produced no miracles. And so Helena ‑ according to the story ‑ had found the original, the true cross! But that the true cross was found is no doubt false, for laws among the Jews required crosses to be burned after being used for crucifixion. (Fausett, p. 145)
That Helena did visit Jerusalem seems to be historically correct. But the story of her discovery of the original cross was evidently a later addition, for it did not appear until 440 A.D. ‑ 114 years later! (Encyclopedia of Religions, Vol. 1, p. 494)
Let us just suppose that someone did find the actual cross upon which Jesus died. Would there be any virtue in that piece of wood? No, absolutely none. The Calvary cross served its purpose even as the brazen serpent had served its purpose when the children of Israel were bitten by snakes. We will remember that Moses had made a brazen serpent and raised it up on a pole. This was a type of the way that Christ was to be lifted up. (John 3:15)
Nevertheless, after the brazen serpent had served its purpose, the Israelites kept it around and finally began to worship it. (2 Kings 18:4) They made it a relic and attempted to copy the heathenistic use of relics and mix it into their religion! And so Hezekiah "did that which was right in the sight of the Lord" by breaking the brazen serpent to pieces.
In like manner, if we actually had the original cross ‑ if it were still in existence ‑ there would be no reason to set it up as an object of worship. Why? Because its purpose has been fulfilled. If then there would be no power in the ORIGINAL cross, how much less is there in a mere piece of wood in its shape?
In view of these things, it becomes obvious that the use of the cross ‑ in sign or symbol, in any shape or form ‑ as an object of worship, is a mockery to true worship, which is the worship of Christ himself! But each century brought more superstition into the Romish church in connection with the cross image.
It came to be recognized as a protector. Had it not helped Constantine win the battle of Milvian Bridge? Had not the cross worked miracles for Helena? And so it came to be regarded as an image that could scare away evil spirits. It was worn as a charm. It was placed high up on church steeples to frighten away lightning.
But because of the high position of the cross upon the steeple, it was often the very thing that caused lightning to strike the building! The use of the cross in private homes was supposed to ward off trouble and disease. And so even as the pagan Egyptians had set up obelisks, image was believed to possess supernatural powers, even so did people come to worship the cross. Thousands of pieces of wood ‑ supposedly pieces of the "original cross" were sold as protectors and charms.