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Crosier, Samuel B.
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(σταυρός, a pointed stake, prob. from ἵστημι, to stand upright), in the New. Test., signifies properly the instrument of crucifixion; and hence (by metonymy) crucifixion itself, namely, that of Christ (Ephesians 2:16; Hebrews 12:2; 1 Corinthians 1:17-18; Galatians 5:11; Galatians 6:12; Galatians 6:14; Philippians 3:18). It is also put figuratively (in the phrases "take up [or bear] the cross," etc.) for any severe suffering, including the idea of exposure to contumely and death (Matthew 10:38; Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Mark 10:21; Luke 9:23; Luke 14:27). (See below.)

I. Designations. Except the Latin crux there was no word definitively and invariably applied to this instrument of punishment. The Greek word σταυρός properly, like σκόλοψ, means merely a stake (Homer, Od. 14:11; II. 24:453). So Eustathius and Hesychius both define it. The Greeks use the word to translate both palus and crux; e.g. σταυρῷ προσδεῖν in Dion. Cass. (49. 22) is exactly equivalent to the Latin ad palum deligare. In Livy even crux means a mere stake (28. 29), just as vice versa the fathers use σκόλοψ, and even stipes, of a cross proper. In consequence of this vagueness of meaning, impaling (Herod. 9:76) is sometimes spoken of, loosely, as a kind of crucifixion, and ἀνασκολοπίζειν is nearly equivalent to ἀνασταυροῦν (Seneca, Consol. ad Marc. 20; and Ep. 14). Other words occasionally applied to the cross are patibulum and furca, pieces of wood in the shape of II or Y and A respectively (Dig. 48, tit. 13; Plautus Mil. Gl. 2:47; and Sallust, fr. ap. Non. 4:355, seems clearly to imply crucifixion). After the abolition of this mode of death by Constantine, Trebonianus substituted furca figendos for crucifigendos wherever the word occurred. More generally the cross is called arbor infelix (Livy, 1:26; Seneca, Ep. 101), or lignum infelix (Cicero, pro Rab. 3);and in Greek ξύλον (Sept. at Deuteronomy 21:22): comp. "the accursed tree." The fathers in controversy used to quote the words Κύριος ἐβασίλευσεν, "The Lord reigned" (ἀπὸ τοῦ ξύλου ), from Psalms 45:10, or Psalms 96, as a prophecy of the cross; but these words are a gloss (adulterina et Christiana devotione addita), though Geuebrardus thought them a prophetic addition of the Sept., and Agellius conjectures that they read עֵוֹ for אִ Š(Schleusner's Thesaur.). The Hebrews had no word for a cross more definite than עֵוֹ, "wood" (Genesis 40:19, etc.), and so they called the transverse beams שְׁתַי וְעֵרֶב, "warp and woof" (Pearson, On the Creed, art. 4), like ξύλον δίδυμον, of the Sept. Crux is the root of crucio, and is often used proverbially for what is most painful (as Colum. 1:7; Terence, Phorm. 3, 3, 11), and as a nickname for villains (Plautus, Poan. 2:5, 17). Rarer terms are ἴκριον (Eusebius, 8:8), σάνις (?), and gabalus (Varro ap. Non. 2:373; Macrinus ap. Capitol. Macr. 11). This last word is derived from גָּבִל, "to complete."

II. Forms of the Cross. In its simplest shape, consisting of two pieces of wood, one standing erect, the other crossing it at right angles, the cross was known at an early age in the history of the world. Its use as an instrument of punishment was probably suggested by the form so often taken by branches of trees, which seem to have been the first crosses that were employed. It was certainly customary to hang animals on trees. Cicero (Rabir. 3) appears to consider hanging on a tree and crucifixion as of the same import, and Seneca (Ep. 101) uses similar language. (See above.) Trees are known to have been used as crosses (Tertull. Ap. 8:16), and to every kind of hanging which bore a resemblance to crucifixion, such as that of Prometheus, Andromeda, etc., the name was commonly applied. Among the Scythians, Persians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, and the ancient Germans, traces are found of the cross as an instrument of punishment. The sign of the cross is found as a holy symbol among several ancient nations, who may accordingly be named, in the language of Tertullian, "crucis religiosos," devotees of the cross. Among the Indians and Egyptians the cross often appears in their ceremonies, sometimes in the shape of the letter T, at others in this shape +. At Susa, Ker Porter saw a stone cut with hieroglyphics and cruciform inscriptions, on which in one corner was the figure of a cross, thus, $. The cross, he says, is generally understood to be symbolical of the divinity or eternal life, and certainly a cross was to be seen in the temple of Serapis as the Egyptian emblem of the future life, as may be learned in Sozomen and Rufinus. Porter also states that the Egyptian priests urged its being found on the walls of their temple of Serapis as an argument with the victorious army of Theodosius to save it from destruction. From the numerous writings on this subject by La Croze, Jablonski, Zoega, Visconti, Pococke, Pluche, Petit Radel, and others, the symbol of the cross appears to have been most various in its significations. Sometimes it is the Phallus, sometimes the planet Venus, or the Nilometer, or an emblem of the four elements, or the seasons (Creuzer's Symbolik, p. 168-9). It is therefore not surprising that ancient and even modern Christian writers should on this subject have indulged in some degree of refinement and mysticism. Justin Martyr (Apol. 1, § 72) says, "The sign of the cross is impressed upon the whole of Nature. There is hardly a handicraftsman but uses the figure of it among the implements of his industry. It forms a part of man himself, as may be seen when he raises his hands in prayer." In like manner Minutius Felix (c. 29): "Even Nature itself seems to have formed this figure for us. We have a natural cross on every ship whose sails are spread, in every yoke that man forms, in every outspreading of his arms in prayer. Thus is the cross found both in the arrangements of Nature and among the heathen."

We may tabulate thus the various descriptions of cross. (Lipsius, De Cruce, 1; Godwyn's Moses and Aaron, lib. 5, cap. 9, and Carpzov's Annotations thereon):


1. The crux simplex, or mere stake "of one single piece without transom," was probably the original of the rest. Sometimes it was merely driven through the man's chest, but at other times it was driven longitudinally (Hesych. s.v. σκόλοψ ), coming out at the mouth (Seneca, Ep. xiv), a method of punishment called ἀνασκινδύλευσις, or infixio. The afixio consisted merely of tying the criminal to the stake (ad palum deligare, Liv. 26:13), from which he hung by his arms: the process is described in the little poem of Ausonius, "Cupido crucifixus." Trees were naturally convenient for this purpose, and we read of their being applied to such use in the Martyrologies. Tertullian, too, tells us (Apol. 8:16) that the priests of Saturn were thus punished by Tiberius (comp. Tacit. Germ. 12).

2. The crux decussata is called St.Andrew's cross, although on no good grounds, since, according to some, he was killed with the sword; and Hippolytus says that he was crucified upright on an olive-tree. It is in the shape of the Greek letter X (Jerome, in Jeremiah 31; Isidor. Orig. 1:3). Hence Justin Martyr (Dial. c. Tryph. p. 200) quotes Plato's expression (ἐχίαζν ἀυτὸν ἐν τῷ πάντι ) with reference to the cross. The fathers, with their usual luxuriant imagination, discover types of this kind of cross in Jacob's blessing of Joseph's sons (χέρσιν ἐνηλλαγμέναις; comp. Tert. de Baptismo, 8); in the anointing of priests "decussatively" (Sir T. Browne, Garden of Cyrus); for the Rabbis say that priests were distinctively thus anointed (כמין כי, i.e. adformam X Graecorum, Schottgen's Hor. Heb. et Talm. 4, ad f.); and in the crossing of the hands over the head of the goat on the day of expiation (Targum. Jonath. ad Leviticus 16:21, etc.).

3. The crux commissa, or St. Anthony's cross (so called from being embroidered on that saint's cope; Mrs. Jameson's Sacred Art, 1, 35), was in the shape of a T. Hence Lucian (in his Δίκη φωνηέντων ) jocosely derives σταυρός from the letter Ταῦ, and makes mankind accuse it bitterly for suggesting to tyrants the instrument of torture (Jud. Vocal. 12). This shape is often alluded to as "the mystical Tau" (Tertullian, adv. Marc. 3, 22; Jerome, in Ezech. 9, etc.). As that letter happens to stand for 300, opportunity was given for more elaborate trifling: thus the 300 cubits of the ark are considered typical (Clemens Alexand. Strom. 6; S. Paulin. Ephesians 2); and even Abraham's 318 servants (!); since 318 is represented by τιη (Barnabas, Ep. 9; Clemens Alex. Strom. 6; Ambrose, Prol. in l. i. de Fide.; see Pearson, On the Creed, art. 4).


A variety of this cross (the crux ansata, "crosses with circles on their heads") is found in the sculptures from Khorsabad and the ivories from Nimrud. M. Lajard (Observations sur la Croix ansee) refers it to the Assyrian symbol of divinity, the winged figure in a circle; our Egyptian antiquaries quite reject the theory (Layard's Nineveh, 2:170, note). In the Egyptian sculptures, a similar object, called a crux ansata, is constantly borne by divinities, and is variously called "the key of the Nile" (Dr. Young in Encycl. Britan.), "the character of Venus," and more correctly (as by Lacroze) "the emblem of life." Indeed this was the old explanation (Sozomen, Hist. Eccl. 6:15; so, too, Rufinus [2. 29], who says it was one of the "ἱερατικαὶ vel sacerdotales litterae"). "The Egyptians thereby expressed the powers and motion of the spirit of the world, and the diffusion thereof upon the celestial and elemental nature" (Sir T. Browne, Garden of Cyrus). This, too, was the signification given to it by the Christian converts in the army of Theodosius, when they remarked it on the temple of Serapis, according to the story mentioned in Suidas. The same symbol has been also found among the Copts, and (perhaps accidentally) among the Indians and Persians.

4. The crux immissa (or Latin cross) differed from the former by the projection of the upright post (δόρυ ὕψηλον, or stipes) above the transverse beam (κέρας ἐγκάρσιον, or patibulum, Eusebius, de V. Constant. 1:31). That this was the kind of cross on which our Lord died is obvious (among other reasons) from the mention of the "title" (q.v.), as placed above our Lord's head, and from the almost unanimous tradition; it is repeatedly found on the coins and columns of Constantine. Hence ancient and modern imagination has been chiefly tasked to find symbols for this sort of cross, and has been eminently successful. They find it typified, for instance, in the attitude of Moses during the battle of Rephidim (Exodus 17:12), saying that he was bidden to take this posture by the Spirit (Barnabas, Ep. 12; Justin Mart. Dial. c. Tryph. 89; Tertull. adv. Marc. 3, 18). Firmicius Maternus (de Errore, 21) says (from the Talmudists?) that Moses made a cross of his rod in order to secure greater success (ut facilius impetraret quod magnopere postularet, crucem sibi fecit ex virgo). He also fantastically applies to the cross expressions in Habakkuk 3:3-5; Isaiah 9:6, etc. Other supposed types are Jacob's ladder (Jerome, Com. in Psalms 91; Augustine, Serm. de Temp. 79); the paschal lamb, pierced by transverse spits (Justin Martyr, Dial. c. Tryph. 40); and "the Hebrew Tenupha, or ceremony of their oblations waved by the priest into the four quarters of the world after the form of a cross" (Vitringa, Obs. Sacr. 2:9; Schö ttgen, 1. c.). A truer type (John 3:14) is the elevation (Chald. יקיפות ) of the fiery serpent (Numbers 21:8-9). For some strange applications of texts to this figure, see Cypr. Testim. 2:20 sq. In Matthew 5:18, the phrase "a single jot or tittle" is also made to represent a cross (Theophyl. ad loc., etc.). To the four ἄκοα or extremities of the cross they also applied the four dimensions of Ephesians 3:17 (as Gregory Nyss. and Augustine, Ephesians 120); and another of their fancies was that there was a mystical significance in this four-angled piece of wood (Nonnius, in John 19:18), because it pointed to the four corners of the world (Sedul. 3). In all nature the sacred sign was found to be indispensable (Justin Mart. Apol. 1:72), especially in such things as involve dignity, energy, or deliverance; as: the actions of digging, plowing, etc., the human face, the antennce of a ship in full sail, etc. (Jerome, in Marc. 11; Minutius Fel. Oct. 29). Similar analogies are repeated elsewhere (Firm. Maten. de Errore, 21; Tertull. adv. Nat. 1:12; Apol. 16; de Coron. Mil. 3); and, in answer to the sneers of those to whom the cross was "foolishness," they were considered sufficient proof of the universality of this sign, both in nature and religion. The types adduced from Scripture were valuable to silence the difficulties of the Jews, to whom, in consequence of Deuteronomy 21:22, the cross was an especial "stumbling-block" (Tertullian, adv. Judges 1:9). Many such fancies (e.g. the harmlessness of cruciform flowers, the southern cross, etc.) are collected in Communications with the Unseen World.

Besides the four corners (ἄκρα, or apices, Tert.) of the cross was a fifth (πῆγμα ), projecting out of the central stein, on which the body of the sufferer rested (Justin Mart. Tryph. 91, who [nore suo] compares it to the horn of a rhinoceros; sedilis excessus, Tertull. adv. Nat. 1:12; Iren. adv. Haeres. 1:12). This was to prevent the weight of the body from tearing awiay the hands, since it was impossible that it "should rest upon nothing but four great wounds" (Jeremy Taylor, Life of Christ, 3, 15:2). This projection is probably alluded to in the famous lines of Maecenas (ap. Sen. Ep. 101). Lipsius, however, thinks otherwise (De Cruce, 1:6). Whether there was also a ὑποπόδιον, or support to the feet (as we see in pictures), is doubtful. Gregory of Tours mentions it; but he is the earliest authority, and has no weight (Voss, Harm. Passion. 2:7, 28). (See LABARUM).

III. Accessories of the Cross. An inscription, titulus or elogium (ἐπιγραφή, Luke 23; αἰτία, Matthew 27; t); ἐπιγραφὴ τὴς αἰτίας, Mark; τίτλος, John 19; Qui causam poenoe indicavit, Sueton. Cal. 32; πίναξ, Euseb.; γράμματα τὴν αἰτίαν τῆς θανατώσεως δηλοῦντα, Dion Cass. liv. 3; πτυχίον ἐπίγραμμα ἔχον, Hesych.; לוּח ), was generally placed above the person's head, and briefly expressed his guilt (e.g. ο῏υτός ἐστιν ῎Ατταλος Χριστίανος," Euseb. v. 1; Impie locutus parmularius," Sueton. Dom. 10), and generally was carried before the criminal (praecedente titulo, Sueton.). It was covered with white gypsum, and the letters were black; hence Sozomen calls it λεύκωμα (Hist. Ecclesiastes 2:1), and Nicephorus a λευκὴ σανίς (Hist. Eccl. 8:29). But Nicquetus (Tit. Sanct. Crucis, 1:6) says it was white, with red letters. (See below.)

It is a question whether binding or absolute pinning to the cross was the more common method. In favor of the first are the expressions ligare and deligare; the description in Ausonius (Cupido Crucif.); the Egyptian custom (Xenoph Ephesians 4:2); the mention by Pliny (28. 11) of spartum e cruce among magical implements; and the allusion to crucifixion noted by the fathers in John 19:24 (Theophyl. and Tertull.). On the other side we have the expression προσηλοῦσθαι, and numberless authorities (Senec. De Vit. Beata, 19; Artemidor. Oneirocr., in several passages; Apul. Met. 3, 60; Plautus, Mostel. 2:1, 13, et passim). That our Lord was nailed, according to prophecy, is certain John 20:25; John 20:27, etc.; Zechariah 12:10; Psalms 22:16; comp. Tertull. adv. Marc. 3, 19, etc.; Sept. ὤρυξαν; although the Jews maintain that in the latter text כארי, "like a lion," is the true reading; Sixt. Senensis, Bibl. Sact. 8:5, p. 640). It is, however, extremely probable that both methods were used at once (see Lucan, 6:547 sq.; and Hilary, De Trin. x). We may add that in the crucifixion (as it is sometimes called, Tertull. adv. Marc. 1:1; comp. Manil. de Androm. v) of Prometheus, A Eschylus, besides the nails, speaks of a girth (μασχαλιστήρ, Prom. 79). When either method was used alone, the tying was considered more painful (as we find in the Martyrologies), since it was a more tedious suffering (diutinus cruciatus).

It is doubtful whether three or four nails were employed. The passage in Plautus (Most. 2:1, 13) is, as Lipsius (De Cruce, 2:9) shows, indecisive. Nonnus speaks of the two feet (ὁμοπλοκἐες ) being fastened with one nail (ἄζυγι γόμφῳ ), and Gregory Naz. (de Christ. pat.) calls the cross "three- nailed" (ξύλον τρίσηλον ); hence on gold and silver crosses the nails were represented by one ruby or carbuncle at each extremity (Mrs. Jameson, 1. c.). In the "invention" of the cross, Socrates (Hist. Ev. 1:17) only mentions the hand-nails; and that only two were found has been argued from the τὰ μέν, τὰ δέ (instead of τοὺς μέν ) in Theodoret (Hist. Ev. 1:17). Romish writers, however, generally follow Gregory of Tours (de Glor. Mart. 6) in maintaining four, which may indeed be implied by the plural in Cyprian (de Passione), who also mentions three more, used to nail on the title. Cyprian is a very good authority, because he had often been a witness of executions. (See below.)

Besides the copious monograph of Lipsius (De Cruce, Antwerp, 1596; Amst. 1670; Brunsw. 1640), there are works by Salmasius (de Cruce, Epp. 3); Kippingius (de Cruce et Cruciariis, Brem. 1671); Bosius (de Cruce triumphante et gloriosa, Antw. 1617); Gretser (de Cruce Christi); and Bartholinus (Hypomnemata de Cruce); very much may also be gleaned from the learned notes )e bishop Pearson (On the Creed, art. 4). (See CRUCIFIXION).

IV. The Cross as a Symbol. The word cross was early used in Roman literature to represent any torture, pain, or misfortune, or anything causing pain or misfortune. Christ adopted this use of the word when he says (of course before his crucifixion had taken place, or was foreseen by his followers) that they must be willing to take up their cross and follow him (Matthew 16:24), meaning that they must be willing to endure such sufferings as the service of God may bring. After the death and resurrection of Christ, the cross is spoken of, especially in the epistles of Paul, as the representative of Christ's whole sufferings from his birth to his death (Ephesians 2:16; Hebrews 12:2), and for the whole doctrines of the Gospel (1 Corinthians 1:18; Galatians 6:14). The opposers of the Gospel are spoken of as enemies of the cross (Philippians 3:18). As a symbol of Christianity, its doctrines, and its duties, the cross has become a familiar figure of speech in the expression of experimental Christianity, in the preaching of Christian ministers, and in the hymns and songs of Christian poets. Very early in the history of the Church it became the custom for Christians to make the sign of the cross. (See CROSS, SIGN OF).

That the early Christians had a high regard for the cross is shown by the replies that Tertullian and Octavius made to the pagans who charged Christians with worshipping the cross. It is not easy, however, to fix the date at which Christians commenced to have material representations of the cross. There exist no earlier preserved examples than some rings of stone, with the cross engraved on them, the style of which seems to indicate that they were made before the time of Constantine. The martyr Procopius and a Christian soldier named Orestes are said to have had crosses attached to their necks before going to their execution. A single example of the crux commissa, T, is preserved, of the date A.D. 370. On tombs, no cross of any kind is found before the same century. No crux immissa, +, or Greek cross, +, is found earlier than the fifth century. As far as yet examined, no cross is found of very early date in the Catacombs, those existing there having been traced by pilgrims centuries later. Such signs of the cross as properly belong to the monogram of Christ (q.v.) date back for their origin to the time of Constantine. Ancient texts have often spoken of this monogram under the name of cross, giving rise to many misunderstandings. In the more distant provinces of the Roman empire, as in Carthage, marbles marked by the cross have been found of the fourth century. Zeno of Verona, made bishop in 362, states that he placed a T cross on a basilica which he built. This same cross appears on the coins and medals of the emperor Valentinian I (died 375), and on bronzes struck by Constantine at Aquileia and at Treves, although many consider that these were Egyptian in origin, though adopted by the Christians. Constantine is stated to have placed a cross of gold on the tomb of St. Peter in the Vatican. Our Lord resting on a cross is seen on the tombstone of Probus and Proba (A.D. 355). Paulinus of Nola (died 432) had in his church paintings of crosses surrounded by crowns. Other similar ones are found in old mosaics, as in those of San Vitale of Ravenna (A.D. 547). Over the summit of an arch are two angels holding a crown, in the midst of which is a cross adorned with gems. Some diptychs of the fifth century also contain such crosses. The cross on tombstones was an attribute of a martyr, and on the early sarcophagi is specially used to designate St. Peter, as he died on the cross. After his vision of the cross in the heavens, Constantine (q.v.) changed the standard of the Roman empire to a cross. (See LABARUM). From the sixth century the consuls began to have a cross on their scepters. Valentinian III and his queen Eudoxia were the first (A.D. 445) to wear a cross on their crown. About A.D. 400 the cross called crux stationalis was first borne at the head of processions. A number of Christian cities and villages in the neighborhood of Antioch, Aleppo, and Apamea, which were suddenly deserted on the invasion of Syria by the Saracens, and which remain in the form in which they were left by their inhabitants, show how extremely general had become the custom at that time in the early part of the sixth century to paint the cross and the monogram of Christ, α Xω, over the doors, windows, posts, and on the walls of the houses.

It was also used on all domestic objects, as weights, vases, chairs

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Cross'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​c/cross.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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