July 29, 2007
Axia College of University of Phoenix
Christianity is the largest religion in the world. With all the different types bundled into one it is possible that there are over one billion followers. Since its' beginning around two thousand years ago Christianity has underwent some major changes. In fact many of the first century followers of Jesus Christ would not even recognize what we practice and do today to be Christianity. The influence of pagan customs and symbols has shaped the way we practice many of our Christian beliefs. This started back during the late first century with the early Christian church. In order to draw more Gentiles (pagans) into Christianity the church started to use and develop customs around pagan beliefs (Hinson, 1993). In fact the very symbol that we as Christians use to represent the death of Jesus Christ is based on pre-Christian worship of a pagan god. In Exodus 20:4 of the King James Bible (1984) it is stated, "Thou shall not make for yourself a carved image." This is the fourth commandment given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai. It goes on to explain that God told Moses that He wanted no images, be it in heaven, on earth or in the sea, to represent Him. So why do Christians use the cross as a symbol of their faith? When asked this many Christians will answer, "Because it reminds me of our Savior Jesus Christ and that he died on this cross so that we may be forgiven of our sins and live in a paradise forever." Is this the way you would want your son remembered after such a tormented death? Would you want everyone wearing and honoring this device that he was killed upon? Jesus left specific instructions on how He wanted to be remembered in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25 of the King James Bible (1984): For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." The truth is when the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in The New Testament were accepted by the Christian church as valid accounts of Jesus Christ's life they were written in Greek. The Greek version of these biblical books states that Jesus died on a stauros (Youngblood, 2006). In English stauros means a stake or pole made of wood; possibly a tree. In Acts 5:30 it is wrote, "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree." Also in another account of Jesus hanging on a tree and not on a cross is recorded in a letter that the apostle Peter wrote to the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. In this letter Peter is talking about Jesus and he writes, " who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree " (I Peter 2:24). Peter is one of the men that was there at the time of Jesus' death and describes Him as hanging on a tree in this letter. Then if Jesus was hung on a tree where did the symbol of the cross come from? Various objects, dating from periods long before the Christian era, have been found, marked with crosses of different designs, in almost every part of the world. In an article written by Timothy Youngblood (2007) and made available through The Master's Table website he writes:
He goes on to describe three different types of crosses:
In Scandinavia the Tau cross symbolized the hammer of the God Thor. In Hinduism, the vertical shaft represents the higher, celestial states of being; the horizontal bar represents the lower, earthly states. In Egypt the ankh cross (a Tau cross topped by an inverted tear shape) is associated with Maat, their Goddess of...