Trees, crosses, and outstretched hands.

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Ben C. Smith
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Trees, crosses, and outstretched hands.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun May 14, 2017 3:22 pm

We know that early Christians could describe the cross as a tree or as wood:

Galatians 3.13: 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us -- for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree [ξύλου]."

1 Peter 2.24: 24 He Himself bore our sins in His body on the tree [ξύλον], that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

Acts 5.30: 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a tree [ξύλου].

Acts 10.39: 39 And we are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. And they also put Him to death by hanging Him on a tree [ξύλου].

Acts 13.29: 29 And when they had carried out all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree [ξύλου] and laid Him in a tomb.

Barnabas 8.5: 5 Then there is the placing the wool on the tree [ξύλον]. This means that the kingdom of Jesus is on the tree [ξύλου], and that they who set their hope on Him shall live for ever.

We also know that the shape of the cross is thought to be something like a tau:

Barnabas 9.8: 8 For the scripture saith; And Abraham circumcised of his household eighteen males and three hundred. What then was the knowledge given unto him? Understand ye that He saith the eighteen first, and then after an interval three hundred. In the eighteen 'I' stands for ten, 'H' for eight. Here thou hast JESUS (IHSOYS). And because the cross [σταυρὸς] in the 'T' was to have grace, He saith also three hundred. So He revealeth Jesus in the two letters, and in the remaining one the cross [σταυρόν].

This shape lends itself to the image of outstretched arms or hands:

Barnabas 12.1-4: 1 In like manner again He defineth concerning the cross in another prophet, who saith; And when shall these things be accomplished? saith the Lord. Whenever a tree shall be bended and stand upright, and whensoever blood shall drop from a tree. Again thou art taught concerning the cross, and Him that was to be crucified. 2 And He saith again in Moses, when war was waged against Israel by men of another nation, and that He might remind them when the war was waged against them that for their sins they were delivered unto death; the Spirit saith to the heart of Moses, that he should make a type of the cross and of Him that was to suffer, that unless, saith He, they shall set their hope on Him, war shall be waged against them for ever. Moses therefore pileth arms one upon another in the midst of the encounter, and standing on higher ground than any he stretched out his hands, and so Israel was again victorious. Then, whenever he lowered them, they were slain with the sword. 3 Wherefore was this? That they might learn that they cannot be saved, unless they should set their hope on Him. 4 And again in another prophet He saith; The whole day long have I stretched out My hands to a disobedient people that did gainsay My righteous way.

There are passages which specifically align the image of a tree with outstretched arms:

Sibylline Oracles 5.255-258: Then there shall come from the sky a certain / Exalted man whose hands he spread out upon the fruitful tree [ξύλου], / The noblest of the Hebrews who caused the sun to stand still / When he cries with fair speech and pure lips.

So let us imagine for a moment that the following poems are actual songs to be sung in worship:

Odes of Solomon 27.1-3: 1 I stretched out my hands and sanctified my Lord, 2 for the extension of my hands is His sign, 3 and my expansion is the upright tree.

Odes of Solomon 42.1-6: 1 I stretched out my hands and approached my Lord, 2 for the stretching of my hands is His sign. 2 My expansion is the outspread tree which was set up on the way of the Righteous One. 4 And I became of no account to those who did not take hold of me and I shall be with those who love me. 5 All my persecutors are dead; and they sought after me who hoped in me, because I was alive. 6 And I rose up and am with them; and I will speak by their mouths.

Could Odes such as these be what lies behind this verse in Galatians?

Galatians 3.1: You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified [προεγράφη ἐσταυρωμένος]?

Could it be that this "public portrayal" of Jesus Christ as crucified is actually a posture adopted during worship meetings? (Modern charismatic or Pentecostal Christians adopt all sorts of symbolic postures during their worship, and I have seen my fair share of outstretched hands during such meetings.) Could it be that Paul taught them songs and worship postures, which were the public display he refers to here?

Ben.

ETA:

1 Timothy 2.8: 8 Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.

Tertullian, On Prayer 14: 14 Though Israel wash every day, in all his members, yet is he never clean. His hands at all events are always unclean, crusted over for ever with the blood of the prophets and of the Lord himself: and therefore being, through consciousness of their fathers' guilt, criminals by inheritance, they dare not lift them up to the Lord, lest some Isaiah cry out, lest Christ be horrified. We however not only lift them up, but also spread them out, and, modulating them by the Lord's passion, in our prayers also express our faith in Christ.

Minucius Felix, Octavius 29: Crosses, moreover, we neither worship nor wish for. You, indeed, who consecrate gods of wood, adore wooden crosses perhaps as parts of your gods. For your very standards, as well as your banners; and flags of your camp, what else are they but crosses glided and adorned? Your victorious trophies not only imitate the appearance of a simple cross, but also that of a man affixed to it. We assuredly see the sign of a cross, naturally, in the ship when it is carried along with swelling sails, when it glides forward with expanded oars; and when the military yoke is lifted up, it is the sign of a cross; and when a man adores God with a pure mind, with hands outstretched. Thus the sign of the cross either is sustained by a natural reason, or your own religion is formed with respect to it.

Last edited by Ben C. Smith on Mon Aug 05, 2019 7:59 am, edited 7 times in total.
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Re: Trees, crosses, and outstretched hands.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun May 14, 2017 3:48 pm

Possibly relevant:

Epistle of Pliny to Trajan 10.96: [The Christians] affirmed, however, that the whole of their guilt or error was that they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a song to Christ as to a god [carmenque Christo quasi deo] and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food, but food of an ordinary and innocent kind. Even this practice, however, they had abandoned after the publication of my edict, by which, according to your orders, I had forbidden political associations.

Ephesians 5.18-21: 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual odes [ψαλμοῖς καὶ ὕμνοις καὶ ᾠδαῖς πνευματικαῖς], singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21 and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.

Colossians 3.16: 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms, hymns, spiritual odes [ψαλμοῖς, ὕμνοις, ᾠδαῖς πνευματικαῖς], singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

Both the Odes of Solomon and Pliny refer only to Christ, not to Jesus. May just be a coincidence, though (Latin authors seem to refer to Christ because that is the name that goes with the term Christians).
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Re: Trees, crosses, and outstretched hands.

Post by Peter Kirby » Sun May 14, 2017 3:52 pm

Physical evidence is on your side.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orans

The depiction of Noah with outstretched hands, in the ark, with a dove on the way, brings to mind both 'being baptized in his death' (with outstretched hands) and the baptism story in Mark (ark being associated with baptism, along with this dove).
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Re: Trees, crosses, and outstretched hands.

Post by Secret Alias » Sun May 14, 2017 4:16 pm

What's the difference between an ode and a psalm?
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
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Re: Trees, crosses, and outstretched hands.

Post by Secret Alias » Sun May 14, 2017 4:17 pm

Here, this might answer my question. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14137a.htm
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
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Re: Trees, crosses, and outstretched hands.

Post by iskander » Sun May 14, 2017 4:23 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:...Could it be that this "public portrayal" of Jesus Christ as crucified is actually a posture adopted during worship meetings? (Modern charismatic or Pentecostal Christian adopt all sorts of symbolic postures during their worship, and I have seen my fair share of outstretched hands during such meetings.) Could it be that Paul taught them songs and worship postures, which were the public display he refers to here?

Ben.
A devastating blow to ' crucifixion in heaven' !!! :lol:

Some months ago, Peter Kirby asked me to write a review of Earl's book (subtitled 'Did Christianity begin with a mythical Christ?').
http://historical-jesus.info/djp1.html

Idle demons
Jesus crucified by demons (not on earth): The Ascension of Isaiah in brief
http://vridar.org/2011/02/02/jesus-cruc ... -in-brief/

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Re: Trees, crosses, and outstretched hands.

Post by Peter Kirby » Sun May 14, 2017 4:25 pm

You know, the posture looks more like a tree than it looks like the "traditional" T-shaped cross.

A source for the "tree" imagery regarding the crucifixion?

(As you quote, this is explicit in Odes of Solomon -- connecting the posture with a "tree.")
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Re: Trees, crosses, and outstretched hands.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun May 14, 2017 4:30 pm

Peter Kirby wrote:
You know, the posture looks more like a tree than it looks like the "traditional" T-shaped cross.

A source for the "tree" imagery regarding the crucifixion?
Well, I always supposed the source for the tree imagery was Deuteronomy 21.23, but you are right: the posture is more treelike than crosslike.
(As you quote, this is explicit in Odes of Solomon -- connecting the posture with a "tree.")
Yes, exactly.
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Re: Trees, crosses, and outstretched hands.

Post by Peter Kirby » Sun May 14, 2017 4:37 pm

This article may be relevant (to the art):

https://depts.drew.edu/jhc/AbrahamsenOrante.pdf
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Re: Trees, crosses, and outstretched hands.

Post by JoeWallack » Sun May 14, 2017 4:48 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:We know that early Christians could describe the cross as a tree or as wood:
Galatians 3.13: 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us -- for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree [ξύλου]."
JW:
I have faith that it is the other way around Ben. Paul is describing a hanging as a crucifixion. Note the progression:
  • 1) No evidence that anyone asserted Jesus was crucified before Paul.

    2) No mention of crucifixion in Paul's first letter.

    3) Paul's second letter clearly starts with themes of revelation and faith in revelation.

    4) The only use of "crucifixion" before the offending verse is figurative "I have been crucified with Christ".

    5) The offending verse is explicitly long after Jesus' death, "O foolish Galatians, who did bewitch you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth crucified?"
All evidence that Paul was the first to assert that Jesus was crucified. This has a lot of explanatory power.

When you were Christian would it have made any difference to you whether or not Jesus was crucified?


Joseph

The Development of Crucifixion in the Pauline Epistles

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