See also Cross
CROSS (CROSS-BEARING) (σταυρός, G5089, pale, stake, cross).
The word stauros comes from the Gr. verb histēmi (root sta), “to stand,” and originally meant an “upright pointed stake” or “pale.” Criminals were either tied to or impaled upon it. Stauros in the NT, however, apparently was a pole sunk into the ground with a cross-bar fastened to it giving it a “T” shape. Often the word “cross” referred only to the cross-bar.
Death by crucifixion originated somewhere in the E.seems to have learned of it from the Persians. Rome borrowed the idea from the Phoenicians through Carthage, and perfected it as a means of capital punishment.
The Romans reserved crucifixion, however, for slaves, robbers, assassins, and the like, or for rebellious provincials. Only rarely were Rom. citizens subjected to this kind of treatment (Cicero, In Ver. 1. 5. 66). The tradition, therefore, which relates the beheading of Paul, and Peter’s crucifixion accords well with this distinction between peoples.
Upon receiving the sentence of death the condemned person was flogged with a leather whip loaded with metal or bone so cruelly that it became known as the intermediate death. He was then required to shoulder the crossbar upon which he was to be extended and carry it to the place of his crucifixion (Plutarch, De Ser. Num. Vind. 9.554A). He wore about his neck a placard naming his crime. At the execution site he was stripped and tied or nailed to the crossbar, which then was fastened to an upright post. A projecting peg gave the condemned a place to sit to relieve the strain on his arms. Death, therefore, was slow in coming, except when it was hurried by soldiers breaking the crucified man’s legs (
According to Josephus crucifixion in Pal. was a most common sight (Antiq. 17. 10. 10; 20. 5. 2; Wars, 2. 12. 6, 13. 2, 14. 9; 5. 11. 1). The fact that two robbers were crucified with Jesus in Jerusalem tends to confirm this claim.
The Jewish nation, unlike the Rom., did not crucify living persons. Frequently, however, they did suspend the bodies of the executed upon a tree to intensify their punishment and to expose them to public shame (
Crucifixion, therefore, was abhorrent to the Jew (
Figuratively Jesus’ cross became the mark of God’s redemptive action in history. It was symbolic of the means God employed for releasing into this world a power for good sufficiently strong to save men (
Since the cross was reserved for criminals and those accursed by God (see above), it symbolized, too, the suffering, shame and humiliation Jesus endured (
Jesus’ cross also stood as the symbol of God’s unique purpose for Him. That is to say, since dying was planned by God as Jesus’ supreme mission (
The Christian’s cross: crossbearing.
The cross was used also of the followers of Jesus, both literally and metaphorically. Because crucifixion was a frequent occurrence, and because the spectacle of condemned men carrying their crosses to the place of execution was common, Jesus’ words about taking up the cross and following Him (
Jesus also interpreted metaphorically the cross His followers must bear. It was for Him the symbol of their self-sacrifice: “If any man wills to come after me,” He said, “let him deny (perhaps, ‘lose sight of’) himself, and take up his cross (Luke adds, ‘daily’), and [continually] follow me” (
If in the experience of Jesus the cross was a metonym for His mission, there is a sense then in which the cross also stands for that mission in life to which the Christian has been called. “To bear the cross,” therefore, means further that the Christian is called upon to imitate Jesus’ commitment to doing that particular task assigned him by God and doing it completely (
The cross is also a symbol of the shame and humiliation which the Christian must be prepared to endure for the sake of Christ (
The Christian’s cross is always a voluntary thing. Unlike the convict he never is compelled to carry it: “If any man wills to do so,” Jesus said (
H. Cremer, Biblico-Theological Lexicon of NT Greek (1892); F. W. Dillistone, σταυρός, G5089, in G. Kittel, ed., Theologisches Wörterbuch zum NT (1962); Theological Dictionary of the NT, tr. and ed. by G. W. Bromiley (1971).and His Cross (1953); L. Morris, The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross (1955); J. Schneider,