Most of my wife's family are Jehovah's Witnesses.
As many people probably know about them, they assert that Jesus was hung on a simple upright pole or stake because of the term 'stauros', rather than the traditionally depicted cross.
I don't personally believe that there is compelling evidence that Jesus did ever exist, but what is the concensus (if there is one) among scholars about what Jesus was hung on?
Having never heard anything about this except from Witnesses, I assume that it is just an idiosyncrasy of their cult that scholars reject for good reason.
Still, is there any evidence of the Romans torturing people on an upright stake, or did they make up this scenario out of whole cloth?
There are conflicting accounts involved with most any story in the Bible, and the myth about how Jesus died is no exception. The New Testament word cross is a translation of the Greek word stauros, which is a pole or stake. The Greek word stauros does not mean a cross it is an ordinary pole or stake, or a single piece of timber. And this is the meaning and usage of the word throughout the Greek classics. It never means two pieces of timber placed across one another at any angle, but always of one piece alone.
The New Testament uses the word stauros (stake) and stauroo (crucify). However, in other places it uses the word xylon, meaning tree. Acts 5:30 "Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree" Acts 10:39 "whom they slew and hanged on a tree" Acts 13:29 "they took him down from the tree" 1 Peter 2:24 "who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree" Galatians 3:13 "Christ being made a curse upon us. Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree."
Jesus was supposed to be Jewish not Roman, so accordingly he would have been executed under Rabbinic Law. The Jews would have executed Jesus by stoning him and then hanging him on a tree (John 8:3-11) Jesus was stoned to death and then hung on a tree. The New Testament "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree" (Acts 5.30). Peter says that the Jesus was hung on a tree.
The cross was the Egyptian pagan symbol of life, borrowed by the Christians. The Roman crucifixion is fiction that was added to the story for political reasons. The virgin birth was also a very late addition. Only Matthew and Luke record the virgin birth and Paul and John never mention it. Mark not only never mentioned the Virgin Birth, he never mentioned the birth of Christ at all. The resurrection of Jesus was added in the four gospels some 40 to 70 years after Jesus' death, and was included in the canonized book of myths some 300 years later.
Some of the ablest scholars of the world do not believe that there was ever a miracle working Jesus that lived at all. There are no artifacts, dwelling, works, or writings. All claims about Jesus come from writings of other people. There are no contemporary Roman records that show a Pontius Pilate executing a man named Jesus. There is not a single contemporary writing that mentions Jesus - meaning the stories about Jesus were written long after his death. All documents about Jesus came long after the life of the supposed Jesus from unknown authors (the names given the Gospels are titles not the names of the authors) the authors were unknown. There are no stories about Jesus that could serve as reliable evidence for a historical Jesus, because all sources about Jesus came from hearsay accounts.
I know that there were supposed to be 500 witnesses to the resurrection according to Paul, almost 60 years after the event, and Paul was not a witness. But there was no name of any eyewitness included in the fable, although some of them were supposed to still be alive, and there has never been found any eyewitness' written account.
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