By Walid Shoebat
Jesus taught that cults and heresy starts by adding just a “little leaven” and sooner or later “the whole batch is destroyed” (Galatians 5:9). Therefore, it is that little leaven that Jesus wants us to beware of. Certain cults including even Messianic Jews are falling into an Antichrist spirit. They take just one Greek word stauros (σταυρός), the device on which Jesus was executed, to mean a pole and not a cross.
Stauros is correctly translated cross. The leaven is planted by isolating the use of this word since in the Homeric and classical periods of ancient Greece, stauros denoted an upright pale, pole, or stake.
But what is intentionally ignored in these arguments is that by the time that Christianity appeared, it came to include a crossbeam and therefore Christ was crucified on a cross and not a stake. The cultist would use the pre-Roman literature to prove his fabricated case and is how the wolf devours the sheep.
Note that the phony depiction of Jesus’ arms above his head transfixed by a single nail and the titilus (inscription) is placed above Jesus’ hands. Yet good forensic can easily be found in Matthew 27:37. If Jesus was impaled on a stake, the titilus inscription, which is a piece of wood nailed to the stauros stating the victim’s crime, would have been placed above his hands as the image shows. Yet nothing in the text even suggests this, instead, it becomes clear that Christ’s hands where extended on a cross beam since:
“Above his head they had put the charge against him in writing: ‘THIS IS JESUS, KING OF THE JEWS’ ” (Matthew 27:37)
Had Jesus been nailed to a pole, Matthew 27:37 would have the titilus placed above His hands and not His head. This should end all arguments. While erroneous claims are easily made it always takes quite the detail to expose them. As we say in Bethlehem, it takes one fool to throw a rock in a well, but it also takes ten wise men to pull it out. Such teaching is not only done by the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Hebrew Roots Movement (which favors the old Jewish symbols over the Cross) but today we have all sorts of Messianic claiming Rabbis like Jonathan Cahn who also says (as do Jehovah’s Witnesses) that Jesus died on a stake and not a cross:
“Messiah, dying on an execution stake in our place …” (Jonathan Cahn, The Mystery of the Shemitah, pg 251).
Their evil argument goes like this:
There is considerable dispute on this issue, and the archeological and historical evidence is not decisive either way. However, the linguistic evidence, by itself, favors that Christ died on a Stake [Pole]. The main weight favoring a single pole being Jesus’ instrument for crucifixion comes from the basic meaning for the Greek word stauros (Strong’s Concordance #4716), which is translated as “cross” in most Bibles. This word, such as used by the epic poet Homer, means a stake without any crossbeam attached. Another word, translated “tree,” from the Greek word xulon (Strong’s Concordance #3586) …
To undermine the shape of the death instrument is done in order to denounce the Mark of God: the Holy Cross and is why you see their disdain for the symbol. And so from here, they play on the Greek language including twisting the context by neglecting history that Jesus was crucified during Roman and not Greek times.
It is by such little leaven that many begin to undermine Paul and they end up even denying the Trinity and it all starts from attacking the very symbol of the cross. Today there are countless denominations that sprouted that completely reject both Cross or Trinity and they mostly stem from Pentecostals migrating towards the Messianic Hebrew Roots Movement. Today we have so many ill-educated Pentecostal preachers like John Hagee whom it took just a little leaven to destroy where now believes in a dual covenant theology that Jesus never claimed to be Messiah of the Jews. It would not take long to also deny the Trinity by using similar flimsy arguments.
While the New Testament was not written in classical Greek, but Koine Greek, the more common version of Greek at the time, the trick is done by looking up any dictionary to find more than one meaning for stauros which could be “stake or cross”. And so the leaven enters by insisting to use the other meaning instead of what was commonly known from the time which the context is referring to. While it is certainly true that stauros in pre-Roman times was used for pole or stake, the latter use of the word stauros during Roman times was strictly used for a cross as we shall see.
The meaning of words evolve. Take the word car which comes from the Latin carrus which meant chariot. While it was a chariot in older times, but chariots were developed later to run by the use of an engine, the meaning for carrus (car) became different. The evolution of words by no means conclude that Americans are driving chariots in the 21st century. Similarly, in the ancient Greek stauros referred to execution on a pole or a stake during the Phoenicians, Persians and Greeks as in the epic poet Homer. But this was no longer the case during the Roman era where stauros became commonly used to refer to the crux compacta, the two-beamed crosses by the second century BC.
And it is not only Matthew who exposes this fact, John 20:25 ends all arguments since it states:
“unless I see in his hands (en tais khersin) the print of the nails (hélón), and place my finger in the mark of the nails (hélón), and place my hand in his side, I will not believe”.
A stake or a pole would only have one nail in the hands, not two, and unless the hands were extended and stretched.
A child can add 1+1=2, yet when it comes to such a crucial issue as the Crucifixion, to fail in adding 1 nail+1 nail=2 nails, would be the math of a devil with an agenda.
Therefore, the Hebrew Roots are either “stupid” or plain evil. Galatians 3:1 can help shatter the idea that name-calling these is sinful:
‘O stupid Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?’
Therefore, name-calling is proper when it is biblically proper. And so we can say today that:
“O stupid Hebrew Roots! Who bewitched you, the Jehovah’s Witnesses? You are supposed to be Gentiles acting as if you were Jews to whom Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified” (The Epistle of Shoebat to The Hebrew Roots Movement).
Galatians 3:1 says to the “stupid,” that Christ was “Crucified”. He was not “impaled on a torture stake”. And if God calls such folks “stupid” why is it that so many are concerned about “name calling”? Are we to be silenced when stupidity spews out from the hirelings who kill the flock?
The symbol of the Cross has been holy to Christians from the inception of the faith. Anyone who says “it matters nothing if Jesus was crucified, on a cross or a pole,” would have to answer: would it then not matter if your flag had sickles instead of stars? These would object if someone desecrated the flag yet they could care less if the very symbol of Christianity is desecrated?
The Cross is the image by which we identify who we are. Even God chose “an image” as a religious or national symbol as far back a Temple times:
“For the Israelites will live many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred stones, without ephod or an image” (Hosea 3:4).
God did away with Israel’s ancient “image” with the destruction of the Temple (sacrifice, ephod), the Ark of the Covenant and the rest of the Temple articles which were a shadow of greater things to come—the Messiah. Yet the Cross is the symbol by which Christians identify with Christ’s passion and attacking that very symbol while reviving Israel’s Temple is how cults will always undermine our unifying banner to sway the sheep to other doctrines.
Evil will always try to slowly remove all essence of Christianity piece by piece. And so by adding a little leaven the whole batch is quickly destroyed. Everyone who believes in Christ should consider that by removing the symbol of the cross, what comes next? Removing the writings of Paul? Denying the Trinity by attributing the theology to ancient pagan practices enforced by Constantine? Yet even such assumptions today plague these movements which makes them ready for the spirit of Antichrist.
THE STRETCHED OUT HANDS
Crucifixion demands that the victim is executed by nailing the victim with stretched out hands which draws the symbol of the cross. It is crucial to know that the hatred of the symbol does not stem only from the Jehovah’s Witnesses, many Pentecostals including the Hebrew Roots Movement, but way before them, even as far back as some of the so-called reformers were unconvinced by the observation of doing the sign of the Cross (see Calvin, Ezekiel I, 218, Institutes 4.17.28). And even their Puritan followers way after them, argued strenuously against the “noxious ceremony” of signing the Cross seeing it as a “superstitious,” “man-made ritual”.
This is where the heritage of rejecting the sign of the cross comes from the very people who supposedly rejected the traditions of men. And today, nothing changed, and so many of the “stupid” argue and post the most common line and with a quick strike of a keyboard they say: “the symbol of the cross is all manmade tradition”.
As we shall see, this is all false. Was Moses creating manmade tradition when he “stretched out hands” in several cases in the Old Testament by drawing the shape of the cross? While the pattern of the cross was made by Moses, it truly represented the crucifixion, the very instrument of death for the Romans which was the T shaped cross and not the stake as confirmed by John 20:25. So if Jesus was crucified on a pole, why would the sacred symbol of the Cross went as far back as the times of Moses and Ezekiel, men of God whom the Hebrew Roots Movement say they honor? This is quite the contradiction. The issue then is not to track and observe Hebrew Roots but to completely denounce them.
What Moses did was confirmed in the Epistle of Barnabas (Hebrew: איגרת בארנבס) traditionally ascribed to Barnabas who is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. Barnabas sets the record straight, not only in that the traditional Cross is the true image, but that even in the Old Testament (which the Jews should know well) draws the very symbol of the Cross for Israel’s redemption from the curse in Egypt:
the Spirit speaks to the heart of Moses to make a representation of the cross, and of him who should suffer, because, he says, unless they put their trust in him, they shall suffer war for ever. Moses therefore placed one shield upon another in the midst of the fight, and standing there raised above them all kept stretching out his hands, and so Israel again began to be victorious: then, whenever he let them drop they began to perish. Why? That they may know that they cannot be saved if they do not hope on him. And again he says in another Prophet, “I stretched out my hands the whole day to a disobedient people and one that refuses my righteous way.“-Epistle of Barnabas, 12:1-4
In Exodus it is clearly explained:
But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat upon it, and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. (Exodus 17:12)
Besides the Exodus when the Hebrews marked the doorposts and lintels, when the Israelites fought in a battle in the Seventeenth chapter of Exodus Moses prayed for God’s help. However, Moses prayers were only heard when he prayed with his hands extended making a cross or a “T” shape similar to the form of Christ when He was crucified. (Exodus 17, 9-14, see Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 90.)
This is no figure of the pole. Moses who was an Old Testament prefigurement, or type of Christ demonstrated the symbol by which we would be saved and by that demolishing all these heresies.
Then they are to take some of the blood and put it on the sides and tops of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the lambs. (Exodus 12:7)
And it is not only in Scripture that we conclude the issue. Literary sources from the Roman period, in fact, do show that stauros and the verb anastauroó did indeed refer to crucifixion involving a crux compacta. It was quite explicit about the stauros being double-beamed. Epictetus (first-century philosopher) described the process as “stretched out (ekteinas) like men who have been crucified” (Dissertationes, 3.26.22).
How dare they then extend Christ’s arms upwards to be nailed with one nail when the whole story of Exodus cries out the cross? The conclusion is therefore simple and since they all know how to add 1+1, this is the very symbol they subconsciously hate. Names are not what they seem. Hebrew Roots are no Hebrew roots just as the Plain Truth Magazine by Herbert W. Armstrong was no plain truth either.
And besides Moses, how could anyone who claims Hebrew Roots be more Hebrew than Ezekiel who like Moses also introduced the cross? In the early church, baptism often involved the actual marking of the child with the sign of the cross on the forehead, which was seen as an exact parallel to the marking with a taw (T) that Ezekiel envisaged in 9:4, since taw in the ancient script took the shape of a cross (see Origen, Selecta in Ezechielem, 13.800d; Tertullian, Against Marcion, 3.22; Jerome, Commentary on Ezekiel, 9:4–6). In Ezekiel 9, God paralleled what would be the Mark of God during the wrath to come:
Then the Lord called to the man clothed in linen who had the writing kit at his side and said to him, “Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it.” As I listened, he said to the others, “Follow him through the city and kill, without showing pity or compassion.
It is here where all of the pole-crucifixion will end up empty handed, is that they would never find any sources to show that a prisoner during Roman times is ever described as dragging a pole without a crosspiece. This is impossible to do from well-attested ancient Roman practice. For example, Artemidorus Daldianus (second century AD) concludes that the word stauros meant a T shaped cross:
“Being crucified (staurous-thai) is auspicious for all seafarers. For the cross (ho stauros), like a ship, is made of wood and nails, and the ship’s mast resembles a cross (hé katartios autou homoia esti stauró)” (Artemidorus Daldianus, Oneirocritica 2.53).
A ship’s mast as they were then always consisted of a tall pole intersected at right angles by the yard-arm. (cf. the relief of a Roman ship from Sidon in Philip Carrington’s The Early Christian Church, 1957, Vol. 1, p. 129). Also Artemidorus (Oneirocritica, 1.76) mentioned that those who are “crucified” (stauro-thesetai) “stretch out their hands” (tón cheirón ektasin).
Lucian of Samosata who was a contemporary of Artemidorus makes it even clearer:
“Let him be crucified (anestaurosthai) half way up this precipice … with his hands outstretched (ekpetastheis tó kheire) from crag to crag.” (Prometheus, 1.12).
Lest there be any doubt about the matter, Lucian next describes the hands as being nailed separately with separate nails:
“Come, your right hand! Clamp it down, Hephaestus, and in with the nails; bring down the hammer with a will. Now the left; make sure work of that too” (2.3-8).
Lucian describes the crucifixion as stretching out the hands horizontally, as if on a patibulum, with each hand nailed separately, and he uses the word stauros to refer to this configuration. This disproves the claim that stauros meant “stake” in the Roman times.
Lucian even described the stauros as T shaped like the letter T (Tau):
“Men weep and bewail their lot, and curse Cadmus with many curses for putting Tau into the alphabet; for they say that their tyrants, taking his body as a model and imitating his shape, have fashioned similar-looking timbers to crucify men upon them, and the vile device is even named after him. Now, with all these crimes upon him, does not Tau deserve to die many times over? As for me, I think the only just thing to do would be to punish Tau on what has been made in his own shape, for the cross (ho stauros) owes its existence to Tau, but its name to man” (Lis Consonantium,12).
When one examines history of Roman crucifixion, it leaves no room for any of these arguments. Dionysius of Halicarnassus (c. 60 BC–after 7 BC) says:
Roman citizen of no obscure station, having ordered one of his slaves to be put to death, delivered him to his fellow-slaves to be led away, and in order that his punishment might be witnessed by all, directed them to drag him through the Forum and every other conspicuous part of the city as they whipped him, and that he should go ahead of the procession which the Romans were at that time conducting in honour of the god. The men ordered to lead the slave to his punishment, having stretched out both his arms and fastened them to a piece of wood which extended across his breast and shoulders as far as his wrists, followed him, tearing his naked body with whips. (Roman Antiquities, VII, 69:1-2A)
Doesn’t this resemble the passion of Christ?
Even after Christ’s crucifixion, Tacitus explained how numerous Christians were executed at that time:
“They were fastened on crosses (crucibus adfixi), and, when daylight failed were burned to serve as lamps by night”.
John 12:32-33 referred to crucifixion while John 21:18-19 uses “stretch out the hands” to refer to crucifixion.
WHAT ABOUT ALL THESE VERSES?
The heretics will always provide a multitude of verses as to sound legit. So they argue that Acts 5:30, 10:39, 13:29; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24 saying that the Greek word xulon “wood, tree” that Jesus must have died on a mere stake. However, this is ridiculous, since the word xulon most definitely referred to anything made of wood, be it one piece or multiple pieces as in a ladder or a table. Would anyone with the right mind argue that the plates were not set on the table which is made of xulon (wood)?
The ancient writers simply destroy the silly argument that the Greek word stauros meant a single piece as in a stake:
Such are his verbal offences against man; his offences in deed remain. Men weep, and bewail their lot, and curse Cadmus with many curses for introducing Tau (Τ) into the family of letters; they say it was his body that tyrants took for a model, his shape that they imitated, when they set up the erections on which men are crucified. Σταυρός (stauros) the vile engine is called, and it derives its vile name from him. Now, with all these crimes upon him, does he not deserve death, nay, many deaths? For my part I know none bad enough but that supplied by his own shape–that shape which he gave to the gibbet named σταυρός after him by men.-Pseudo-Lucian, Trial in the Court of Vowels
Therefore, the use of the Greek word strauros in Roman times can only mean the T shaped cross. No one, be it Hebrew Roots or others who insist on a stake can any longer refute this.