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The Torment of Marsyas              MR 267
Sully room 17
Cross or stake?
The silenius Marsyas dared to challenge
the god Apollo to a musical contest.
Defeated, he was condemned to be skinned alive.
Suspended from the trunk of a pine, he awaits his terrible punishment.
This statue illustrates the possible and perhaps
the most correct translation of the terms used
regarding the execution of Jesus.
“If you are a son of God, come down off the torture stake.” - Matthew 27:40. (or ‘cross’, New American Standard Bible, New Living Translation).

 Cross or stake?

In Latin, a simple stake to which criminals were attached was called a crux simplex. AR28  In the writings of Livy AR29, a Roman historian of the first century, crux referred to a straight pole.

The Torment of Marsyas illustrates
a possible translation of the word cross

The learned Catholic Justus Lipsius (1547-1606) represents this instrument of torture as such in his book De Cruce Libri Tres. AR30
The Greek word stauros AR31
that we translate by ‘cross’ had the initial meaning of ‘pile’ (forming part
of a palisade), ‘stake’ (already used by the Assyrians and Persians), or even ‘post’ from which the victim was suspended. AR32
The Apostles Peter and Paul used the word xulon to designate the piece of wood onto which Jesus was nailed.
“Christ by purchase released us (…) becoming a curse instead of us, because it is written: “Accursed is every man hanged upon a stake.” (Galatians 3:13). In this quotation from the Book of Deuteronomy 21:23, the word ets originally meant a tree or wood.
The Hebrews had no word to refer to the traditional cross. The word xulon (a in Aramaic) is found in the Septuagint in Ezra 6:11 where it refers to a single piece of wood on which the transgressor was to be attached. AR33
Stauros denotes, primarily,
‘an upright pale or stake’. Both the
noun and the verb stauroo are
originally to be distinguished from
the ecclesiastical form of a
two-beamed ‘cross’”.
Vine’s Dictionary
Numerous translations of the New Testament have rendered the words of Peter (Acts 5:30) as follows:
“The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus, whom you slew, hanging him upon a stake.”
This word is translated as ‘on a tree’ in other versions (New Living Translation note c, King James Version, American Standard Version, 1901).
The Altarpiece of Saint Denis  
MI 674
Henri Bellechose
Know in Dijon from 1415 to 1444
Richelieu 2nd floor room 3
The representation of the
redemptive death of Christ does not feature in symbolic art
of the first centuries. AR36, AR37
Influenced by the prohibition
contained in the Old Testament,
the first Christians refused to show
the instrument of the Passion of the Lord AR38, AR39

The cross : symbol of Christianity since the fourth Century

The majority of scholars agree when stating that the cross did not serve as a graphical reference before the time of Constantine AR40. The most ancient crucifix mentioned as being the object of public worship was the one venerated since the sixth century in the church of Narbonne in the south of France. AR41
A strange but indisputable fact is that in the centuries that preceded the birth of Christ, and since in countries that have not been touched by the teachings of the Church, the cross is used a sacred symbol. AR42

The representation of death of the Christ
does not appear in symbolic art of original Christianity.

The cross did not become
the supreme emblem and
symbol of Christianity
until the fourth Century.
Sir Wallis Budge
There is nothing to confirm that the original terms designated the traditional cross,
all the more so as this religious symbol
was used by non-Christians long before Christ.
Throughout the centuries, approximately 400 sorts of cross have come to light.
The Ankh cross was the Egyptian symbol of life, representing eternity.

 The cross : a religious symbol long before Christ

Greek crosses have arms that are equal in length, intersecting in the middle. The Patriarchal cross has two arms, the Papal cross has three. The Chi Rho (XP) is identified with the monogram of Christ. The form of the ‘cross’, two right-angled arms in the shape of a mystic Tau, has its origins in Ancient Chaldea.
Thus there is nothing to confirm that the original terms designated the traditional cross, all the more so as this religious symbol was used by non-Christians AR34, AR35 long before Christ. That said, the death of Jesus as a ‘ransom in exchange for many’ is a fundamental teaching of the Scriptures. - John 3:16; Matthew 20:28.
See also
      Le sacrifice d'Isaac en tableaux


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