cross Summary and Overview
Bible Dictionaries at a Glance
cross in Easton's Bible Dictionary
in the New Testament the instrument of crucifixion, and hence
used for the crucifixion of Christ itself (Eph. 2:16; Heb. 12:2;
1 Cor. 1:17, 18; Gal. 5:11; 6:12, 14; Phil. 3:18). The word is
also used to denote any severe affliction or trial (Matt. 10:38;
16:24; Mark 8:34; 10:21).
The forms in which the cross is represented are these:
1. The crux simplex (I), a "single piece without transom."
2. The crux decussata (X), or St. Andrew's cross.
3. The crux commissa (T), or St. Anthony's cross.
4. The crux immissa (t), or Latin cross, which was the kind of
cross on which our Saviour died. Above our Lord's head, on the
projecting beam, was placed the "title." (See CRUCIFIXION
After the conversion, so-called, of Constantine the Great
(B.C. 313), the cross first came into use as an emblem of
Christianity. He pretended at a critical moment that he saw a
flaming cross in the heavens bearing the inscription, "In hoc
signo vinces", i.e., By this sign thou shalt conquer, and that
on the following night Christ himself appeared and ordered him
to take for his standard the sign of this cross. In this form a
new standard, called the Labarum, was accordingly made, and
borne by the Roman armies. It remained the standard of the Roman
army till the downfall of the Western empire. It bore the
embroidered monogram of Christ, i.e., the first two Greek
letters of his name, X and P (chi and rho), with the Alpha and
Omega. (See A T0000001.)
cross in Smith's Bible Dictionary
As the emblem of a slave's death and a murderer's punishment, the cross was naturally looked upon with the profoundest horror. But after the celebrated vision of Constantine, 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.) The new standards were called by the name Labarum, and may be seen on the coins of Constantine the Great and his nearer successors. The Latin cross on which our Lord suffered, was int he form of the letter T, and had an upright above the cross-bar, on which the "title" was placed. There was a projection from the central stem, on which the body of the sufferer rested. This was to prevent the weight of the body from tearing away the hands. Whether there was also a support to the feet (as we see in pictures) is doubtful. An inscription was generally placed above the criminal's head, briefly expressing his guilt, and generally was carried before him. It was covered with white gypsum, and the letter were black.
cross in Schaff's Bible Dictionary
CROSS, CRUCIFY Matt 23:34; Matt 27:32. Crucifixion is a mode of execution of great antiquity, and still prevails among the Hindoos and Chinese. It was regarded by the Romans as the basest and most ignominious death, deserved only by traitors and slaves. Luke 23:32. It was an accursed death. Deut 21:23; Gal 3:13. Hence the force of the expressions 1 Cor 1:23; Phil 2:8; Heb 12:2. As soon as the sentence was pronounced, "Thou shalt be crucified," the person was stripped and fastened to a post about as high as the waist, and was then scourged with rods or whips made of leather strips armed with small bits of lead or bone, and often so severely as to occasion death. After the scourging the person was compelled to bear his own cross to the place of execution. This was usually an elevated place without the city, and near the highway. There are three forms of the cross-one in which the two pieces of wood cross below the top, one in which they are placed one on the top of the other, and one in which they are placed diagonally: Three Forms of the Cross. The first is the usual form; the second' is probably the oldest. The monogram of Christ used by the early Christians and by Constantine represents the cross with the initials of the name of Christ (the X and the P), thus: The cross was so fixed into the earth that the feet of the sulferer were usually about 2 feet from the ground. In or near the middle of the upright post there was a projection, to which he was raised by cords; and being previously divested of his clothing, he was first bound to the cross-beam, and then nailed by his hands, with strong iron spikes, to its extremities. There is conclusive evidence from profane history that the hands were pierced in this way, and that it was peculiar to the punishment of crucifixion, but whether the feet were nailed separately, or whether a single nail transfixed them both, or whether they were merely tied to the beam by a cord, is doubtful. In order to lessen the pain, it was customary to give the sufferer wine medicated with myrrh, etc. Our Redeemer rejected this draught, Mark 15:23, choosing to suffer to the full extent the pains of death. Vinegar, too, was a refreshing and sustaining drink, and was offered to him. Matt 27:48. The criminal was fastened to the cross by four soldiers appointed for the purpose, who were allowed the apparel of the sufferer as the perquisite of their office. Matt 27:35. Over the cross was commonly placed a writing or superscription, indicating the offence for which the individual was put to death. It was called by the Romans titulus, or the title. John 19:19-22. Among the Romans the prisoner often remained upon the cross till his body fell to the earth by its own weight, but the Jews were permitted, in obedience to the precept of their law, Deut 21:22-23, to terminate the sufferings of the malefactor before sundown. This was effected in various ways-sometimes by setting fire to the foot of the cross, and at others by breaking the limbs with a hammer or piercing the body with a lance. John 19:31-37. The agonies of this death were extreme. Cicero says: "The executioner, the covering of the head, the very name of the cross, should be removed afar, not only from the body, but from the thoughts, the eyes, the ears, of Roman citizens; for of all these things, not only the actual occurrence and endurance, but the very contingency and expectation-nay, the mention itself-is unworthy of a Roman citizen and a freeman." The judges denominated it "the utmost torment, the extremest punishment." The extension of the limbs just after so severe a scourging, and the impossibility of making the slightest motion without occasioning suffering, the piercing of the hands and feet in the parts most susceptible of acute and agonizing pain, the exposure of the wounded and lacerated flesh to the action of the sun and air hour after hour, the loss of blood, and the sense of the indignity and contempt, which, as shown to our Saviour, was the most bitter, malicious, and unsparing that can be conceived,-all conspired to make it, to the very last degree, a death of pain. Often the strength of the malefactor lingered for three days, and even longer. Hence the surprise of Pilate. Mark 15:44. The figure of a cross has often been represented on the banners of contending armies, thus: With the conversion of the Roman empire, the cross, from a sign of shame, became a sign of honor. It reminds us of the great price of our salvation, and points the true way to immortality and glory: "No cross, no crown." The cross is often used figuratively for those reproaches, self-denials, and sacrifices which the true followers of Christ must be expected to endure if they faithfully maintain their profession. Matt 16:24. The classic work upon the cross and the crucifixion of Jesus is Justus Lipsius's (d. 1606) De Cruce, 1595. But in 1878, Herman Fulda, pastor near Halle, Germany, issued a work entitled Das Kreuz und die Kreuzigung, which maintains that Lipsius and all his followers are wrong. This statement he fortifies by a fresh examination of the sources. According to Fulda, the cross of Jesus was a post. His hands were nailed on either side of it; his feet, the knees being much bent, were fastened by a stout cord to this post, but not nailed, and they, together with the nailed hands, supported the body. Owing to haste, he deems it probable that the customary "seat" fastened to the cross as a partial support was wanting. Fulda finds in this extremely painful position one reason for the speedy death of Jesus, which occasioned Pilate's incredulity.
cross in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
The instrument of a slave's death, associated with the ideas of pain, guilt, and ignominy. "The very name," writes Cicero (Pro Rab., 5), "ought to be excluded not merely from the body, but from the thought, eyes, and ears of Roman citizens." The Hebrew, having no term for it as not being a punishment in their nation, called it "warp and woof." Scourging generally preceded crucifixion: so Jesus (Matthew 27:26; Mark 15:15; foretold in Isaiah 50:6; Isaiah 53:5). Pilate had probably hoped the Jews would be content with this scourging, and still let Him escape crucifixion (Luke 23:22; John 19:1). Jesus bore His own cross toward Golgotha outside the city (Hebrews 13:12; so Stephen, Acts 7:58), but sinking exhausted probably He was relieved, and it was transferred to Simon of Cyrene; prefigured in Isaac carrying the wood (Genesis 22:6; contrast Isaiah 9:6, "the government shall be upon His shoulder".)
Jesus' sacred and lacerated body was raised aloft, the hands nailed to the transverse beam, the feet separately nailed to the lower part of the upright beam so as to be a foot or two above the ground (others think the two feet were pierced by one and the same nail). Stupefying drink, vinegar mixed with gall and myrrh, was first offered to Him and refused (Matthew 27:34), for He would meet suffering consciously. Near death, to fulfill Psalm 69:21, He drank of the sour wine or vinegar kindly offered Him on a sponge. His death was hastened by rupture of the heart (See BLOOD; also Mark 15:23; compare John 19:28; Matthew 27:48.)
The sour wine called posca was the common drink of the Roman soldiers. Pilate marveled at His speedy death, crucifixion often not terminating in death for days. The approach of the Passover sabbath, one of peculiar solemnity, led to his permitting the Jewish law to be carried out which forbids bodies to hang after sunset (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). His legs could not be broken, because the Passover type must be fulfilled (Exodus 12:46). Constantine when converted abolished crucifixion. The agony consisted in:
(1) the unnatural position of the body, causing pain at the least motion;
(2) the nails being driven through the hands and feet, which are full of nerves and tendons, yet without a vital part being directly injured;
(3) the wounds so long exposed bringing on acute inflammation and gangrene;
(4) the distended parts causing more blood to flow through the arteries than can be carried back through the veins;
(5) the lingering anguish and burning thirst.
After Constantine's vision of the cross in the air and the inscription, "Under this standard thou shalt conquer," a new standard was adopted, the Labarum, with a pendent cross and embroidered monogram of Christ, the first two Greek letters of His name, and Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8). The Andrew's cross is shaped like an X, through Hippolytus says he was crucified upright. The Anthony cross (embroidered on his cope) was shaped as a T. The pagan Egyptians, Copts, Indians, and Persians, all have the same sacred emblem. Tradition, and the inscription over our Lord's head, make it likely that the form of His cross was +. The pole on which the brazen serpent was lifted by Moses was the type (John 3:14; Numbers 21:8-9).
The fathers regarded its four limbs pointing above, below, and to both sides, as typifying" the height, depth, length, and breadth" of the love of Christ, extending salvation to all (Ephesians 3:18). The harmlessness of cruciform flowers is another suggested type in nature. Christ's cross transforms the curse into a blessing (Galatians 3:13-14); the inscription was written with letters of black on a white gypsum ground. By a striking retribution in kind, the Jewish people, whose cry was "crucify Him," were crucified in such numbers by Titus "that there was not room enough for the crosses, nor crosses enough for their bodies" (Joseptius, B. J., 6:28). The piercing of Jesus' hands was foretold in Psalm 22:16; Zechariah 12:10.
The story of "the invention of the cross," A.D. 326, is: Helena the empress, mother of Constantine, then nearly 80 years old, made a pilgrimage to the holy places, and there, by help of a Jew who understood her superstitious tastes, found three crosses, among which Christ's cross was recognized by its power of working miracles, at the suggestion of Macarius, bishop of Jerusalem. Bits of this real cross were distributed as relics throughout Christendom. To supply the enormous demand, they were alleged to have been miraculously multiplied! In the church of the Holy Jerusalem Cross at Rome, relics of the top of the cross with the inscription are annually exhibited to the people for veneration. The falsity of the whole story appears from the fact that the Jews' law required the cross to be burnt; Eusebius is silent as to the alleged discovery of it.
A symbol or emblem merely at first, it soon began to have the notion of spiritual and supernatural efficacy attached to it. In the 6th century the crucifix image was introduced, and worship (latria) to it was sanctioned by the Church of Rome. Figuratively, the cross and crucifixion are used for spiritually mortifying the flesh, in union spiritually by faith with Christ crucified, not self-imposed austerities (Matthew 16:24; Philemon 3:18; Galatians 6:14; Colossians 2:20-23). Our will and God's will are as two separate pieces of wood; so long as both lie side by side there is no cross; but put them across one another, then there is a cross. We must take up the cross Christ lays on us if we would be His disciples.