Updated: Feb 3
Did you know that two Greek words, xulon and stauros, have been translated as “cross”? The word xulon is only found five times in the New Testament (comment and I’ll send the list), with stauros getting the most use, appearing 74 times. That means everything we hold near and dear about the cross of Jesus stems from those 79 references.
Did you know that neither of those words solely means “cross”? There are times it is obviously better to translate stauros as “tree,” which is how some verses have Paul saying, “They hung Jesus from a tree.” It is more commonly used to be a statement about “an upright stake.” Both xulon and stauros can simply mean, “something made out of wood.”
Did you know there are absolutely no references to a “cross,” as a noun, in the Old Testament? There are 329 uses of the Hebrew word ets (or etz), which means “tree.” There are references to “hanging from a tree” in the books of Joshua and Judges. Judges 9:7:15 goes into a anthropomorphic story of trees asking a vine to reign over them, before they ask a bramble to do so. The Book of Daniel used the word ilan, which also means “tree,” six times. As for something like a “cross,” there are multiple uses of ets in the Book of Ester, all of which have been translated to say “gallows.” That is the only times a “tree” was converted into an instrument of death made out of wood, in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word tslav is the verb that means “to cross,” and that is the only pure use of “cross” in the Old Testament.
These elements have an impact on the way a crucifix should be seen. It is important to understand the symbolism involved and how cross-icons have morphed into idol-like reverence. That is against the Law of God and not what the Apostles expected Jews and Gentiles to cling to. Seeing a cross as a potential surrogate for the Holy Spirit is not a unique view, since the Eastern Orthodox Church took measures against iconoclastic reverence in medieval times (and later the movements of Martin Luther did similarly).