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Retaining the word “cross”

Author Stephen Pidgeon - Tuesday, February 24, 2015 at 6:00 AM


We have two words to deal with here, in regard to the controversial term, cross.  In the Greek these words are stauros and stauro’o.

Let’s start with the word stauro’o, which in most applications is a verb, and it is the word which is interpreted as crucify or crucified.

Mattithyahu (Matthew) 22:19-33

When he was set down on the judgment seat, his woman sent unto him, saying, Have nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. 20 But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask את eth Bar Abba, and destroy YAHUSHA. 21 The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, את eth Bar Abba. 22 Pilate said unto them, What shall I do then with YAHUSHA which is called MASHIACH? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified (stauro’o). 23 And the governor said, Why, what evil has he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified (stauro’o). 24 When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. 25 Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. 26 Then released he את eth Bar Abba unto them: and when he had scourged YAHUSHA, he delivered him to be crucified. 27 Then the soldiers of the governor took YAHUSHA into the common hall, and gathered unto him את eth the whole band of soldiers. 28 And they stripped him, and put on him a scarlet robe.  29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Yahudiym! 30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head. 31 And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify (stauro’o) him. 32 And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Shim`on by name: him they compelled to bear his cross. 33 And when they were come unto a place called Gulgoleth, that is to say, a place of a skull, 34 They gave him vinegar to drink mingled with gall: and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink. 35 And they crucified (stauro’o) him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled את eth which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots. 36 And sitting down they watched him there; 37 And set up over his head his accusation written, THIS IS YAHUSHA THE KING OF THE YAHUDIYM. 38 Then were there two thieves crucified (stauro’o) with him, one on the right hand, and another on the left.

To say crucify is to imply a crucifixion.  The question that most often arises goes to the process itself, particularly given the Greek. What exactly is meant by the crucifixion?  If stauro’o means to be impaled on a cross, then can we assume that the Greek word found in the text that is interpreted as cross is in fact the word for cross?  And the answer is: maybe.

Mattithyahu (Matthew) 27:31-33

And after that they had mocked him, they took the robe off from him, and put his own raiment on him, and led him away to crucify (stauro’o) him. 32 And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Shim`on by name: him they compelled to bear his cross (stauros). 33 And when they were come unto a place called Gulgoleth, that is to say, a place of a skull.

Mattithyahu (Matthew) 27:39-42

And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, 40 And saying, You that destroy the Temple, and build it in three days, save yourself. If you be the Son of ELOHIYM, come down from the cross (stauros). 41 Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, 42 He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Yisra’el, let him now come down from the cross (stauros), and we will believe him.

Marcus (Mark) 15:21-32

And they compel one Shim`on a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross (stauros). 22 And they bring him unto the place Gulgoleth, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull. 23 And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh: but he received it not. 24 And when they had crucified (stauro’o) him, they parted his garments, casting lots upon them, what every man should take. 25 And it was the third hour, and they crucified (stauro’o) him. 26 And the superscription of his accusation was written over, THE KING OF THE YAHUDIYM. 27 And with him they crucify (stauro’o) two thieves; the one on his right hand, and the other on his left. 28 And the Scripture was fulfilled, which said, And he was numbered with the transgressors. 29 And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, you that destroy the Temple, and build it in three days, 30 Save yourself, and come down from the cross (stauros). 31 Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save. 32 Let HAMASHIACH the King of Yisra’el descend now from the cross (stauros), that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified (stauro’o) with him reviled him.

However, the word σταυρος stauros (stow-ros'), means a stake or post. If we had elected to use the word stake for stauros, then the word crucified (stauro’o) would have been replaced with staked. While this might prove a bit awkward, we would nonetheless go ahead with it, if it maintained the structural integrity of the translation.

However, we have researched this a bit further to determine the use of this word stauros, and how it managed to become the word cross. 

Consider Kepha’s words on this subject:

Kepha Rishon (I Peter) 2:24

Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree ξυλον (xulan), that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes μωλωψ (molops) ye were healed ιαομαι (iaomai).

Consider the precedent from the Torah:

Devariym (Deuteronomy) 21:22-23

And if a man (ish) have committed a sin (chattah) worthy of death (moot), and he be to be put to death (moot), and you hang (talah) him on a tree עֵץ (etz): His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of ELOHIYM;) that thy land be not defiled, which YAHUAH ELOHAYCHA gives you for an inheritance.

Also consider, in completion of the statement given to us by Kepha (Shimon Bar Yonah) the reference to the stripes in Yesha’yahu:

Yesha’yahu (Isaiah) 53:5

But he was wounded חָלַל for our transgressions (pesha), he was bruised for our iniquities (avone): the chastisement of our peace (shalom) was upon him; and with his stripes chabburah we are healed (rapha).

So, Kepha tells us that the MASHIACH died on a tree, but the gospels tell us he died on a stake.  How then is this reconciled?  See further:

Ma’aseh (Acts) 5:30

The ELOHIYM of our fathers raised up YAHUSHA HAMASHIACH, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree ξυλον (xulon).

Ma’aseh (Acts) 10:39

And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree ξυλον (xulon):

Galatiym (Galatians) 3:13

MASHIACH has redeemed us from the curse of the Torah being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree ξυλον (xulon):

Enter the historical apparatus of Roman execution called the stauros pendiculum.  It was from our understanding of this that we retained the word cross in reference to that which MASHIACH was affixed which led to his death (on the cross).

The stauros was in fact a stake that was fixed in the ground for purposes of execution, and it had been, centuries before, the practice of the Greeks to simply fix a person to the stake by nailing the hands above the head, or just simply nailing a person to it.

However, the Romans used an additional piece – the pendiculum – to effect a different method, where they would nail the person’s hands or arms to the pendiculum, and then place the beam on top of the stauros, and fix the other portion of the body, such as the feet, to the stauros in completion of the execution. So, to be completely accurate, the text should say that MASHIACH was nailed to a stauros pendiculum, but the proper noun for the device we commonly refer to as the crucifix was simply the Stauros.  This Stauros when referenced in the common tongue, could be referred to in the vernacular as simply a tree.

Josephus described the use of this device by the Romans in multiple tortures and positions of crucifixion during the Siege of Yerushalayim when Titus crucified those who had resisted the imposition of Roman law.

Seneca the Younger also explained that there were many variants to the crucifixion method: “I see crosses there, not just of one kind but made in many different ways: some have their victims with head down to the ground; some impale their private parts; others stretch out their arms on the beam.”  Barbarity appears to be the long-accepted norm in that region of the world.

For those who say “well, the Stephanus Textus Receptus only uses the word stauros, therefore the correct translation should be stake,” compare the phrase which was used to describe on the stake in distinction from stauros pendiculum.  The stake alone was referred to as the monos stauros, i.e. isolated stake.

In Latin, the stauros pendiculum took one of two forms: either a cross-piece was attached at the top to give the shape of a T, which was called the crux commissa, or just below the top, as in the form commonly depicted in Christianity, which is called the crux immissa. Another form was to place two beams in the shape of an X.  Note, that if the form was the crux commissa, the hanging of the body would leave room for the sign overhead, which Pilate posted. In any of these cases, we believe we are justified in using the word cross as the correct interpretation.

If the stauros pendiculum was the method used at the time of HAMASHIACH, and the record reflects that is was the common practice during that period of Roman history, then MASHIACH carried the pendiculum – the cross piece – which would later be affixed to the stauros. (Lucas 23:26; Yahuchanon 19:17).



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