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In Christ’s day, crucifixion was a common Roman way to execute hardened, or enemies of the state, criminals.  Two methods were used.  One was by tying the hands and feet to the cross.  This gave support and made them live longer than method number two.  The other (method two), was by nailing them to the cross.  This is the method in which our Lord was crucified, as is clearly taught by seeing John 20:25 and Luke 24:39.  Still, one could push up upon one’s feet to relieve pressure on the lungs, in order to breath; which ultimately killed them, if not the loss of blood.


The controversy comes in as to where exactly the nails were placed in regards to our Lords hands or wrists.  Most artistic renditions of the crucifixion show the nails driven through the palms of His hands.  However, the Greek word “cheir,” which is usually translated “hand,” included both the hand and the wrist.  Medical authorities believe that the nails were driven through the “radius and ulna” bones.  The main reason for this conclusion is that these wrist-bones would more easily have supported the weight of our Lord’s body; rather than the bones located in His palms.


In conclusion, the Bible doesn’t provide enough information either way.  Nor should we make this a Doctrinal issue.






Was Jesus nailed on a stake or a cross?  In all of the following passages the Greek word used for “cross” is “stauros.”  Matthew 27:32 & 40 & 42; Mark 15:21 & 30 & 32; Luke 23:26; John 19:17 & 19 & 25 & 31; First Corinthians 1:17 & 18; Galatians 6:12 & 14; Ephesians 2:16; Philippians 2:8; Colossians 1:20; 2:14; Hebrews 12:2.


There are other passages that are translated with this same Greek word, but they refer to “bearing ones cross,” etcetera, and are not specific to Christ being nailed physically to a “cross.”  Therefore, only the verses above will be considered.


Maybe the definition of this Greek word can help to solve this question.  “Strong’s Concordance” definition of “stauros” means and comes, “From the base of G2476, which literally means, ‘stand,’ whether to ‘stand upright,’ or to ‘take a stand.’ ”  With that, “stauros,” G4716, means, “a stake or post (as set upright), that is, (specifically) a pole or cross (as an instrument of capital punishment); figuratively exposure to death, that is, self-denial; by implication the atonement of Christ.”


“Thayer’s” definition is:  “(1) an upright stake, especially a pointed one.  (2) a cross (2a) a well-known instrument of most cruel and ignominious punishment, borrowed by the Greeks and Romans from the Phoenicians; to it were affixed among the Romans, down to the time of Constantine the Great, the guiltiest criminals, particularly the basest slaves, robbers, the authors and abetters of insurrections, and occasionally in the provinces, at the arbitrary pleasure of the governors, upright and peaceable men also, and even Roman citizens themselves (2b) the crucifixion which Christ underwent.”






If we go to Esther 5:14, we learn that Haman made a “gallows be made of fifty cubits.”  The Hebrew for “gallows” simply means “wood.”  Therefore, this would be a wooden structure approximately 75 feet high; obviously for all to see the perpetrator (Haman’s enemy Mordecai).  If we then go to Genesis 40:22, we learn that “hang” means “to be hung up.”  It is the same as in Joshua 10:26.


What is surprising to learn from these passages, is that they go against our normal understanding of what we think of as a “cross.”  What they were was a sharpened piece of wood, or better, a stake.  People were impaled upon these “timbers,” and “hanged thereon,” Ezra 6:11.  In fact, this “stake” was to be placed into the middle of what was left of this person’s “house” and it would become the cities “dunghill” thereafter.  This is the ultimate disgrace for one’s family.  This is how it was done in those ancient days, and therefore may not have changed at the time of Messiah and how our Lord may have been “crucified.”  Our Lord endured for you and for me the ultimate disgrace.


Also, according to Acts 10:39, “they slew and hanged” our Lord “on a tree,” the Greek word for “tree” being, “xulon,” which literally means and is translated as:


“tree,” 10 times:  Luke 23:31; Acts 5:30; 10:39 13:29; Galatians 3:13; First Peter 2:24; Revelation 2:7; 22:2 (twice); 22:14;


“staves,” 5 times:  Matthew 26:47 & 55; Mark 14:43 & 48; Luke 22:52;


“wood,” 3 times:  First Corinthians 3:12; Revelation 18:12 (twice);


And “stocks,” 1 time:  Acts 16:24.


Did you notice the translation of “xulon” as “staves?”  Then let’s go to John 19:31, where we have Christ on the “cross” in which the Greek word for “cross” is “stauros,” literally meaning, “stake, or post,” “as being set upright” that is specifically, “a pole, or cross of impalement.”


Also, according to historical accounts, it wasn’t until the 4th Century A.D., under the rulership of Constantine, that the word “cross” was introduced into the latter Manuscripts (the originals believed to be stated as, “stake”) (Note:  We don’t have the originals; but only copies of).  In fact, the symbol of the “cross” came from the worship of the goddess Mithra, the pagan “cross” being a symbol of one who worshiped Mithra (NOW put that neckless with your cross around your neck), from which we also get Easter, a Mithraic worship day.






According to “Thayer’s” definition of this word, it means, “an upright stake, especially a pointed one.”  In fact, the true definition of our understanding of the old west way of “hanging” someone on the “gallows” could be found in Matthew 27:5, where Judas “strangled” himself to death by “hanging,” the Greek word here being, “apagehomai.” However, according to Acts 1:18, that is not what happened.  Judas literally took a sword or stake, “and falling headlong,” he impaled himself.  Therefore, the traditional teaching of a western style lynching (hanging) needs to be taken out of our normal thinking when it comes to deciphering the Bibles true meaning of “hung himself.”


By these breakdowns, they would favor the “stake,” or single pole, as opposed to the traditionally assumed two pieced “cross.”  Therefore, let’s take a look into history and see if we can discover any helpful information there.


Centuries before Vine (1873-1949 A.D.) and Bullinger’s (1837-1913 A.D.) Bible Commentary, scholars knew that the Greek word “stauros,” and the Latin word “crux,” did not uniquely mean a two pieced cross.  John Peason, Bishop of Chester (1660 A.D.), wrote in his Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed, that the Greek word “stauros” originally signified “a straight standing Stake.”  He then argued for the two pieced cross, he being a biased Roman Catholic.  Earlier still, Justus Lipsius, in his work, “De Cruce” (1594 A.D.), and Jacob Gretser, in his work, “De Cruce Christi” (1598 A.D.), and Thomas Godwyn, in his work, “Moses and Aaron” (1662 A.D.), distinguished a “crux simplex” as a “simple stake” (or “crux acuta,” a “sharp stake” used for impaling), and from the “X-T” varieties of “crux composita,” or “crux compacta,” equals a “compound stake.”


Bullinger wrote, that in the catacombs of Rome, Christ was never represented there as “hanging on a cross;” and that the cross was a pagan symbol of life.  The “ankh” in Egyptian churches was borrowed by Christians (date unknown).  He cited a letter from English Dean John William Burgon, who questioned whether a cross occurred on any Christian monument of the first four centuries and wrote: “The ‘invention’ of it in pre-Christian times, and the ‘invention’ of its use in later times, are truths of which we need to be reminded in the present day.  The evidence is thus complete, that the Lord was put to death upon an upright stake, and not on two pieces of timber placed in any manner.”  E. W. Bullinger, “The Companion Bible,” Appendix 162.


Vine stated that, “the shape of the ecclesiastical form of two-beamed cross had its origin in ancient Chaldea, and was used as the symbol of the god Tammuz.”  He also stated that the “third century churches, which by then had departed from certain doctrines of the Christian faith, accepted pagans into the faith in order to increase their prestige and allowed them to retain their pagan signs and symbols.  Hence the Tau or T, in its most frequent form, with the cross-piece lowered, was adopted to stand for the ‘cross’ of Christ.”  “Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words,” under, “Cross, Crucify.”  See also, Abram Herbert Lewis, “Paganism Surviving In Christianity, G.P. Putnam’s sons,” 1892, pages 237 & 238.


It was after the celebrated vision of Constantine, in which he reportedly saw Christ on a two beamed cross, that he ordered his friends to make a cross of gold and gems, such as he had seen, and “the towering eagles resigned the flags unto the cross,” and “the tree of cursing and shame” “sat upon the sceptres and was engraved and signed on the foreheads of kings.”  Jer. Taylor, “Life of Christ,” iii., xv. 1.  Therefore, it was not until around 320 A.D., that the accepted figure of the two beamed cross came into existence, and Roman coins began to show up with its emblem.  In fact, the new standards were called by the name “Labarum,” and may be seen on the coins of Constantine the Great and his nearer successors in museums today.


B.C. writers Herodotus and Thucydides and the early-4th century B.C. Xenophon, stated that the cross was “an upright pale or stake” used to build a palisade or “a pile driven in to serve as a foundation.”  “Herodotus,” 5:16.


I tend to agree with Joel B. Green, who reported in his work, “The Cambridge Companion to Jesus,” that the “evidence of the manner of Jesus’ death is far more ambiguous than is generally realized.  Literary sensibilities in Roman antiquity did not promote graphic descriptions of the act of crucifixion, and even the Gospels report simply, ‘They crucified Him,’ adding no further detail. . . the Romans were slaves to no standard technique of crucifixion.  In describing the siege of Jerusalem by the Roman army, for example, Josephus reports that ‘the soldiers out of rage and hatred amused themselves by nailing their prisoners in different positions’ (J.W. 5.449–51).  Elsewhere we learn that victims of crucifixion might be fixed to the stake in order to die, or impaled after death as a public display.  They might be fixed to the cross with nails or with ropes.  That Jesus was nailed to the cross is intimated in several texts (John 20.25; Acts 2.23; Col. 2.14).  Nor can we turn to archaeological evidence for assistance.”


The last statement still holds, as “archaeological evidence” supports both impaling’s.  How our Lord was nailed may remain a mystery that plays no part in our Salvation, but only inquiry.

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