"a commonplace belief among historians of the early church that early Christianity did not emphasize Jesus’ crucifixion"

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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MrMacSon
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Re: Stauros 2

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In, A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, p.819. E.W. Bullinger stated:
" [cross] [u]sed here for the stauros on which Jesus was crucified ... [stauros, xylon] disagree with the modern idea of a cross, with which we have become familiarized by pictures. The stauros was simply an upright pale or stake to which the Romans nailed those who were thus said to be crucified. Stauroo [the verb], merely to drive stakes. It never means two pieces of wood joining each other at any angle. Even the Latin word crux means a mere stake."
The Concordant Literal New Testament with the Keyword Concordance stated:
"stauros STANDer: an upright stake or pole, without any crosspiece, now, popularly, cross..."

The book, Dual Heritage-The Bible and the British Museum, states:
“It may come as a shock to know that there is no word such as ‘cross’ in the Greek of the New Testament. The word translated ‘cross’ is always the Greek word [stauros] meaning a ‘stake’ or ‘upright pale.’ The cross was not originally a Christian symbol; it is derived from Egypt and Constantine.”
  • [it's likely derived before Constantine, as Justin Martyr shows]

The Non-Christian Cross, An Enquiry into the Origin and History of the Symbol Eventually Adopted as that of our Religion, by John Denham Parsons, pub. 1896, https://archive.org/details/nonchristiancros00pars // https://onlytruegod.org/defense/stauros.htm // http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/9071
Moses was sent with a rod to effect the redemption of the people ; and with this in his hands at the head of the people he divided the sea. By this he saw the water gushing out of the rock ; and when be cast a tree into the waters of Marah, which were bitter, he made them sweet. Jacob by putting rods into the water troughs caused the sheep his uncle to conceive . . . . Aaron's rod which blossomed declared him to be the High Priest. Isaiah prophesied that a rod would come forth from the root of Jesse, and this was the Christ."

Further on in the same work, Justin Martyr, alluding to the statement in the Israelitish Law "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree," states that
  • "It was not without design that the prophet Moses when Hur and Aaron upheld his bands, remained in this form until evening, For indeed the Lord remained upon the tree almost until evening."

There is also in existence a long essay by Tertullian which starts by discussing 'the efficacy' of " the sign " as an antidote. The sign of the cross as traced upon the forehead in the non-Mosaic initiatory rite of baptism seems to be what is referred to; and no representation of an instrument of execution, or cross-shaped symbol of wood or any material, is once mentioned. https://onlytruegod.org/defense/parsons3.htm

... Tertullian says: "Frontem crucis signaculo terimus" (De Cor. mil. iii), i.e. "We Christians wear out our foreheads with the sign of the cross." The practice [is said to have been] so general about the year 200, according to the same writer, that the Christians of his time were wont to sign themselves with the cross before undertaking any action ... A certain Scriptural authority for the sign of the cross has been sought by some in a few texts rather freely interpreted, especially in the above-mentioned words of Ezechiel (ix, 4), "Mark Thau upon the foreheads of the men that sigh, and mourn for all the abominations that are committed in the midst thereof", also in several expressions of the Apocalypse (vii, 3; ix, 4; xiv, 1). It would seem that in very early Christian times the sign of the cross was made with the thumb of the right hand (St. John Chrys., Hom. ad pop. Antioch. xi; St. Jerome, Ep. ad Eustochium ...

It is probable, though we have no historical evidence for it, that the primitive Christians used the cross to distinguish one another from the pagans in ordinary social intercourse. The latter called the Christians "cross-worshippers", and ironically added, "id colunt quod merentur", i.e. they worship that which they deserve. The Christian apologists, such as Tertullian (Apol., xvi; Ad. Nationes, xii) and Minucius Felix (Octavius, lx, xii, xxviii), felicitously replied to the pagan taunt by showing that their persecutors themselves adored cruciform objects. Such observations throw light on a peculiar fact of primitive Christian life, i.e. the almost total absence from Christian monuments of the period of persecutions of the plain, unadorned cross (E. Reusens, "Eléments d'archéologie chrétienne" 1st ed., 110).

https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04517a.htm

[eta] [a] the cross (crux commissa) is probably represented by the Greek letter tau ( Τ ), and is identical with the "sign" mentioned in the text of Ezechiel (ix, 4) already quoted. Tertullian comments (Contra Marc., III, xxii) as follows on this text: "The Greek letter and our Latin letter T are the true form of the cross, which, according to the Prophet, will be imprinted on our foreheads in the true Jerusalem."
.


excerpts from The Non-Christian Cross, Parsons, 1896, continued -

In another of Tertullian's works we come across the passage " In all the actions of daily life we trace upon the forehead the sign."

His famous reference to the Sun-God Mithras reads as follows
  • "The devil in the mystic rites of his idols competes even with the essential portions of the sacraments of God. He, like God, baptizes some, that is, his own believing and faithful followers, and promises the putting away of sins by baptism; and if I remember rightly Mithras there signs his soldiers upon their foreheads, celebrates the oblation of bread, introduces a representation of the resurrection, and places the crown beyond the sword."
Elsewhere Tertullian writes [Apology 16]:-
  • "If any of you think we render superstitious adoration to the cross, in that adoration he is sharer with us .... You worship victories, for in your trophies the cross is the heart of the trophy. The camp religion of the Romans is all through a worship of the standards . . . I praise your zeal: you would not worship crosses unclothed and unadorned."
  • "As for him who affirms that we are the priesthood of a cross, we shall claim him as a co-religionist . . . Every piece of timber which is fixed in the ground in an erect position is part of a cross, and indeed the greater part of its mass. But an entire cross is attributed to us . . . . The truth however is that our religion is all cross..... You are ashamed, I suppose, to worship unadorned and simple crosses."

In the Instructions of Commodianus we read "The first law was in the tree, and so, too, was the second."


Cyprian contends that "By the sign of the cross, also, Amalek was conquered by Moses."
Elsewhere Cyprian tells us that "In this sign of the cross is salvation for all people who are marked on their foreheads quoting as proof of this, from the Apocalypse, "They had his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads"," and "Blessed are they that do his commandments that they may have Power over the Tree of Life."
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Ben C. Smith
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Re: "a commonplace belief among historians of the early church that early Christianity did not emphasize Jesus’ crucifix

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I feel like I am missing an entire swath of context for the discussions about crucifixion on this forum of late. What exactly is at stake (pun intended) if Jesus was originally thought to have been suspended from, nailed to, or in any other way affixed upon a simple vertical pale, whereas by some point in century II his execution was thought to have involved the patibulum, or crossbar? The words did not change (σταυρός, crux), and the ancient authors ascribe a certain degree of variability to this form of execution, the main purposes of which (humiliation and death) remain the same whether or not the patibulum came into play.

Is this merely some form of "gotcha" against organized Christianity? If so, it has to rank as one of the worst "gotchas" available, since nothing crucial (pun again intended) seems to depend upon it. Or what is going on?
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Re: "a commonplace belief among historians of the early church that early Christianity did not emphasize Jesus’ crucifix

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... On a beam in the Pædagogioum on the Palatine there was discovered a graffito on the plaster, showing a man with an ass's head, and clad in a perizoma (or short loin-cloth) and fastened to a crux immissa (regular Latin cross). Near by there is another man in an attitude of prayer with the legend Alexamenos sebetai theon, i.e., "Alexamenos adores God." This graffito is now to be seen in the Kircherian Museum in Rome, and is but an impious caricature in mockery of the Christian Alexamenos, drawn by one of his pagan comrades of the Pædagogioum. (See the article entitled Ass.) In fact Tertullian tells us that in his day, i.e. precisely at the time when this caricature was made, Christians were accused of adoring an ass's head, "Somniatis caput asininum esse Deum nostrum" (Apol., xvi; Ad Nat., I, ii). And Minucius Felix confirms this (Octav., ix). The Palatine graffito is also important as showing that the Christians used the crucifix in their private devotions at least as early as the third century. It would not have been possible for Alexamenos' companion to trace the graffito of a crucified person clad in the perizoma (which was contrary to Roman usage) if he had not seen some such figure made use of by the Christians.

https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04517a.htm
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Re: "a commonplace belief among historians of the early church that early Christianity did not emphasize Jesus’ crucifix

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Ben C. Smith wrote: Sun Feb 21, 2021 6:34 pm Is this merely some form of "gotcha" against organized Christianity?
  • No.
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Re: "a commonplace belief among historians of the early church that early Christianity did not emphasize Jesus’ crucifix

Post by Ben C. Smith »

MrMacSon wrote: Sun Feb 21, 2021 6:41 pm
Ben C. Smith wrote: Sun Feb 21, 2021 6:34 pm Is this merely some form of "gotcha" against organized Christianity?
  • No.
Okay, good. So what is it? What is on the table?
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MrMacSon
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Re: "a commonplace belief among historians of the early church that early Christianity did not emphasize Jesus’ crucifix

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Ben C. Smith wrote: Sun Feb 21, 2021 6:34 pm I feel like I am missing an entire swath of context for the discussions about crucifixion on this forum of late.
Yes, there have been a few which have ended up overlapping a little.

The Opening Post of this thread asked
MrMacSon wrote: Tue Feb 16, 2021 9:26 pm Do any of the Church Fathers talk about Jesus crucified?
[eta] but it has somewhat gone off on a tangent
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Re: "a commonplace belief among historians of the early church that early Christianity did not emphasize Jesus’ crucifix

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MrMacSon wrote: Sun Feb 21, 2021 6:44 pmThe Opening Post of this thread asked
MrMacSon wrote: Tue Feb 16, 2021 9:26 pm Do any of the Church Fathers talk about Jesus crucified?
Okay, and what is your own answer to this question?
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Re: "a commonplace belief among historians of the early church that early Christianity did not emphasize Jesus’ crucifix

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Ben C. Smith wrote: Sun Feb 21, 2021 6:46 pm Okay, and what is your own answer to this question?
  • It was a genuine, open question. I don't yet have an answer. Do you have any answers Ben?

I will address this -
Ben C. Smith wrote: Sun Feb 21, 2021 6:34 pm What exactly is at stake (pun intended) if Jesus was originally thought to have been suspended from, nailed to, or in any other way affixed upon a simple vertical pale, whereas by some point in century II his execution was thought to have involved the patibulum, or crossbar? The words did not change (σταυρός, crux), and the ancient authors ascribe a certain degree of variability to this form of execution, the main purposes of which (humiliation and death) remain the same whether or not the patibulum came into play.
Last first. My focus is not the purpose of the execution.

Secondly, re "the ancient authors ascribe a certain degree of variability to this form of execution". While, as I just said, 'my focus is not the purpose of the execution,' and while there was likely variability in the forms of execution in those days, one would think there would be reasonable consistency [edited for sp.] in what was and is ascribed to one certain individual of interest.

Thirdly, while the words, σταυρός, crux, did not change, there is an indication the meaning of one of them, i.e. σταυρός, did in fact change.

I'm interested in if [the meaning of σταυρός did change], and, if so, how? and when?

I am intrigued that Justin Martyr repeatedly made so much of an issue about " the form of 'the cross'. "

(I do need to sit back and review all that I have posted in the last week or so).

But this thread was not intended to be about that (ie. not about if the meaning of σταυρός changed and, if so, when? and how?).

This thread was largely about this 2013 statement of Larry Hurtado -
It is a commonplace belief among historians of the early church that early Christianity did not emphasize Jesus’ crucifixion and that this did not change until the late fourth or fifth century. Crucifixion was shameful, and so (so the theory goes) Christians would have been hesitant to draw attention to the crucified Jesus. Indeed, some scholars have inferred from this the notion that pre-Constantinian Christianity avoided depictions of Jesus’ crucifixion. https://www.baslibrary.org/biblical-arc ... iew/39/2/5

I don't mind that this tread has changed direction,and I am still interested in the varied question,
  • What do the Church Fathers say about *Jesus crucified* ??
Last edited by MrMacSon on Mon Feb 22, 2021 12:44 pm, edited 12 times in total.
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Re: "a commonplace belief among historians of the early church that early Christianity did not emphasize Jesus’ crucifix

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Ben C. Smith wrote: Sun Feb 21, 2021 6:34 pm The words did not change (σταυρός, crux)
MrMacSon wrote: Sun Feb 21, 2021 7:16 pm Thirdly, while the words, σταυρός, crux, did not change, there is an indication the meaning one of them, σταυρός, did in fact change.
Moreover, crux was a late addition to the terminology. And there is a lot of uncertainty around the application of crux, cross, etc. to the execution of Jesus of Nazareth, particularly when it began to be applied. As preliminary research by mlinssen indicates suggests, the change may be a function of the change from Greek to Latin or perhaps the advent of the use of Latin(?). I think those propositions warrant and require further investigation ...
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Re: "a commonplace belief among historians of the early church that early Christianity did not emphasize Jesus’ crucifix

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MrMacSon wrote: Sun Feb 21, 2021 7:16 pm
Ben C. Smith wrote: Sun Feb 21, 2021 6:46 pm Okay, and what is your own answer to this question?
  • It was a genuine, open question. I don't yet have an answer. Do you have any answers Ben?
I think the obvious. I think that both stauros and crux, from an early date in Classical history, could indicate a variety of punishments all characterized (A) by affixing the victim to a stake of some kind and (B) thus both killing and humiliating him/her. Jesus was, from an early date in Christian history, thought to have suffered this kind of punishment (Paul, the gospels, Hebrews, Ignatius, Barnabas, Polycarp, and so on), though it is unclear exactly how early the patibulum was firmly thought to have been a part of it. By some point in century II, however, punishment on a stauros or crux was stereotyped as involving the patibulum to the point where the letter tau (T) could be viewed, both by Christians and by others (Lucian, for example), as the standard representation of the punishment ("arms outstretched" and all of that); this stereotyping likely stemmed from the Romans employing the patibulum on a very regular basis by that point, if not sooner.

Also, to be clear as to your "genuine, open question," I believe you fully, and I know that you often undertake highly open-ended investigations on this forum.
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