Christian cross

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Christian cross
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{{short description|Symbol of Christianity}}The Christian cross, seen as a representation of the instrument of the crucifixion of Jesus, is the best-known symbol of Christianity. It is related to the crucifix (a cross that includes a corpus, usually a three-dimensional representation of Jesus' body) and to the more general family of cross symbols, the term (:wikt:cross|cross) itself being detached from the original specifically Christian meaning in modern English (as in many other western languages).{{refn|group=note|Old English (10th century) cros refers to the instrument of Christ's crucifixion, specifically replacing the native Old English word rood, ultimately from the Latin (:wikt:crux|crux) (or its accusative crucem and its genitive crucis), "stake, gibbet; cross". The English verb to cross arises from the noun c. 1200, first in the sense "to make the sign of the cross"; the generic meaning "to intersect" develops in the 15th century.}}The basic forms of the cross are the Latin cross with unequal arms (✝) and the Greek cross (✚) with equal arms, besides numerous variants, partly with confessional significance, such as the tau cross, the double-barred cross, triple-barred cross, cross-and-crosslets, and many heraldic variants, such as the cross potent, cross pattée, cross moline, cross fleury, etc.

Instrument of Jesus' execution

{{further information|Instrument of Jesus' crucifixion|Early Christian descriptions of the execution cross|Crux simplex|Tau cross}}John Pearson, Bishop of Chester (c. 1660) wrote in his commentary on the Apostles' Creed that the Greek word stauros originally signified "a straight standing Stake, Pale, or Palisador", but that, "when other transverse or prominent parts were added in a perfect Cross, it retained still the Original Name", and he declared: "The Form then of the Cross on which our Saviour suffered was not a simple, but a compounded, Figure, according to the Custom of the Romans, by whose Procurator he was condemned to die. In which there was not only a straight and erected piece of Wood fixed in the Earth, but also a transverse Beam fastned unto that towards the top thereof".John Pearson, An Exposition of the Creed (London 1715, 5th edition), p. 203

Early Christian usage

{{See also|Christian symbolism#Early Christian symbols}}File:alexorig.jpg|thumb|The Alexamenos graffitoAlexamenos graffitoFile:Spas vsederzhitel sinay.jpg|thumb|upright|The Sinai icon of Christ Pantocrator (6th century), showing Christ with a cruciform halo and holding a book adorned with a crux gemmatacrux gemmataThere are few extant examples of the cross in 2nd century Christian iconography. It has been argued that Christians were reluctant to use it as it depicts a purposely painful and gruesome method of public execution.Christianity: an introduction by Alister E. McGrath 2006 {{ISBN|1-4051-0901-7}} pages 321-323 A symbol similar to the cross, the staurogram, was used to abbreviate the Greek word for cross in very early New Testament manuscripts such as P66, P45 and P75, almost like a nomen sacrum.BOOK, Kraus, Thomas, New Testament Manuscripts, Brill, Leiden, 2006, 978-90-04-14945-8, The staurogram in early Christian manuscripts: the earliest visual reference to the crucified Jesus?, Larry, Hutado, Larry W. Hurtado, 207–26,weblink The extensive adoption of the cross as Christian iconographic symbol arose from the 4th century.BOOK, Stranger, James, Skarsaune, Oskar, Jewish Believers in Jesus The Early Centuries, Baker Academic, City, 2007, 9780801047688, 715, Archeological evidence of Jewish believers?, However, the cross symbol was already associated with Christians in the 2nd century, as is indicated in the anti-Christian arguments cited in the OctaviusWEB,weblink ''Octavius'',, 2005-06-01, 2011-12-10, of Minucius Felix, chapters IX and XXIX, written at the end of that century or the beginning of the next,{{refn|group=note|Minucius Felix speaks of the cross of Jesus in its familiar form, likening it to objects with a crossbeam or to a man with arms outstretched in prayer.Octavius of Minucius Felix, chapter XXIX]}} and by the fact that by the early 3rd century the cross had become so closely associated with Christ that Clement of Alexandria, who died between 211 and 216, could without fear of ambiguity use the phrase (the Lord's sign) to mean the cross, when he repeated the idea, current as early as the apocryphal Epistle of Barnabas, that the number 318 (in Greek numerals, ΤΙΗ) in {{Bibleverse||Genesis|14:14}} was interpreted as a foreshadowing (a "type") of the cross (T, an upright with crossbar, standing for 300) and of Jesus (ΙΗ, the first two letters of his name ΙΗΣΟΥΣ, standing for 18).WEB,weblink Stromata, book VI, chapter XI,, 2006-02-02, 2011-12-10, His contemporary Tertullian rejected the accusation of Christians being "adorers of the gibbet" (crucis religiosi).{{refn|group=note|name=Tertullian|Tertullian rejects the accusation that Christians are crucis religiosi (i.e. "adorers of the gibbet"), and returns the accusation by likening the worship of pagan idols to the worship of poles or stakes.Apology., chapter xvi. "Then, if any of you think we render superstitious adoration to the cross, in that adoration he is sharer with us. If you offer homage to a piece of wood at all, it matters little what it is like when the substance is the same: it is of no consequence the form, if you have the very body of the god. And yet how far does the Athenian Pallas differ from the stock of the cross, or the Pharian Ceres as she is put up uncarved to sale, a mere rough stake and piece of shapeless wood? Every stake fixed in an upright position is a portion of the cross; we render our adoration, if you will have it so, to a god entire and complete. We have shown before that your deities are derived from shapes modelled from the cross." Sed et qui crucis nos religiosos putat, consecraneus noster erit. Cum lignum aliquod propitiatur, viderit habitus, dum materiae qualitas eadem sit; viderit forma, dum id ipsum dei corpus sit. Et tamen quanto distinguitur a crucis stipite Pallas Attica, et Ceres Pharia, quae sine effigie rudi palo et informi ligno prostat? Pars crucis est omne robur, quod erecta statione defigitur; nos, si forte, integrum et totum deum colimus. Diximus originem deorum vestrorum a plastis de cruce induci.}} In his book De Corona, written in 204, Tertullian tells how it was already a tradition for Christians to trace repeatedly on their foreheads the sign of the cross.{{refn|group=note|name=De Corona3|"At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign"BOOK,weblink De Corona, 3, Tertullian, }} The crucifix, a cross upon which an image of Christ is present, is not known to have been used until the 6th century AD.BOOK, Stott, John, 0-8308-3320-X, The Cross of Christ, 2006, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, 20th Anniversary, 27, The oldest extant depiction of the execution of Jesus in any medium seems to be the second-century or early third-century relief on a jasper gemstone meant for use as an amulet, which is now in the British Museum in London. It portrays a naked bearded man whose arms are tied at the wrists by short strips to the transom of a T-shaped cross. An inscription in Greek on the obverse contains an invocation of the redeeming crucified Christ. On the reverse a later inscription by a different hand combines magical formulae with Christian terms.The Magic Crucifixion Gem in the British Museum The catalogue of a 2007 exhibition says: "The appearance of the Crucifixion on a gem of such an early date suggests that pictures of the subject (now lost) may have been widespread even in the late second or early third century, most likely in conventional Christian contexts".Extract from The Earliest Christian Art (Yale University Press, 2007), pp. 227-232First depiction of Jesus on cross - the Bloodstone amuletBritish Museum Collection online: magical gem / intaglioThe Jewish Encyclopedia says:WEB,weblink Jewish Encyclopedia, Jewish Encyclopedia, 2011-12-10, , (see Apocalypse of Mary, viii., in James, "Texts and Studies," iii. 118).

In contemporary Christianity

{{further information|Cross necklace|Christian cross variants}}(File:Cross on Church.JPG|thumb|right|210px|A crucifix on the wall of a church)
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A man holding several Eastern Orthodox pectoral crosses
Catholics, Orthodox Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, members of the major branches of Christianity with other adherents as Lutheranism and Anglicans, and others often make the Sign of the Cross upon themselves. This was already a common Christian practice in the time of Tertullian.{{refn|group=note|name=De Corona3}}The Feast of the Cross is an important Christian feast. One of the twelve Great Feasts in Orthodox Catholic is the Exaltation of the Cross on September 14, which commemorates the consecration of the basilica on the site where the original cross of Jesus was reportedly discovered in 326 by Helena of Constantinople, mother of Constantine the Great. The Catholic Church celebrates the feast on the same day and under the same name (In Exaltatione Sanctae Crucis), though in English it has been called the feast of the Triumph of the Cross.Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Anglican bishops place a cross [+] before their name when signing a document. The dagger symbol (†) placed after the name of a dead person (often with the date of death) is sometimes taken to be a Christian cross.Keith Houston, Shady Characters (W. W. Norton & Company 2013 {{ISBN|978-0-39306442-1}}), pp. 97 and 106In many Christian traditions, such as the Methodist Churches, the altar cross sits atop or is suspended above the altar table and is a focal point of the chancel.BOOK,weblink The History of the First United Methodist Church of Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, 1830-1969, 1968, F. W. Orth Company, 134, The cross suspended over the altar is the focal point of the entire Church interior, and reminds us to center our lives in Christ., In many Baptist churches, a large cross hangs above the baptistry.BOOK, Betteridge, Alan, Deep Roots, Living Branches: A History of Baptists in the English Western Midlands, 1 August 2010, Troubador Publishing Ltd, English, 9781848762770, 446,

Rejection among various religious groups

File:Chancel of Grace Lutheran Church on Good Friday.jpg|thumb|The chancel of this Lutheran church features a very large altar crossaltar crossAlthough Christians accepted that the cross was the gallows on which Jesus died,{{refn|group=note|The perhaps 1st-century Epistle of Barnabas sees the letter T as indicating the cross of Christ(wikisource:Epistle of Barnabas (Lightfoot translation)#Chapter 9|Chapter 9, 7)}} they had already begun in the 2nd century to use it as a Christian symbol.{{refn|group=note|The Jewish Encyclopedia states: "The cross as a Christian symbol or 'seal' came into use at least as early as the 2nd century (see 'Apost. Const.' iii. 17; Epistle of Barnabas, xi.-xii.; Justin, 'Apologia,' i. 55-60; 'Dial. cum Tryph.' 85-97); and the marking of a cross upon the forehead and the chest was regarded as a talisman against the powers of demons (Tertullian, 'De Corona,' iii.; Cyprian, 'Testimonies,' xi. 21-22; Lactantius, 'Divinæ Institutiones,' iv. 27, and elsewhere). Accordingly the Christian Fathers had to defend themselves, as early as the 2nd century, against the charge of being worshipers of the cross, as may be learned from Tertullian, 'Apologia,' xii., xvii., and Minucius Felix, 'Octavius,' xxix" 9Jewish Encyclopedia, article "Cross"}} During the first three centuries of the Christian era the cross was "a symbol of minor importance" when compared to the prominence given to it later,Jan Willem Drijvers, Helena Augusta: The mother of Constantine the Great and the legend of her finding of the True Cross, Brill 1992, p. 81. but by the second century it was closely associated with Christians, to the point where Christians were mocked as "adorers of the gibbet" (crucis religiosi), an accusation countered by Tertullian.{{refn|group=note|name=Tertullian}} and it was already a tradition for Christians to trace repeatedly on their foreheads the sign of the cross.{{refn|group=note|name=De Corona3}} Martin Luther at the time of the Reformation retained the cross and crucifix in the Lutheran Church,{{refn|group=note|"The Calvinizers sought to remove the crucifix as idolatrous. There was considerable continuity, certainly, between the Lutheran use of the crucifix and the Catholic."BOOK, Obelkevich, James, Roper, Lyndal, Disciplines of Faith: Studies in Religion, Politics and Patriarchy, 5 November 2013, Routledge, 9781136820793, 548, }} which remains an important feature of Lutheran devotion and worship today.BOOK, Heal, Bridget, A Magnificent Faith: Art and Identity in Lutheran Germany, 2017, Oxford University Press, English, 9780198737575, 270, It was, however, the crucifix that became the most important and widely disseminated Lutheran devotional image., BOOK, The Lutheran Witness, Volume 81, 1962, Concordia Publishing House., English, 280, Lutherans have always used crucifixes and crosses, candles, and objects of sacred art., Luther wrote: Crux sola est nostra theologia, "The cross alone is our theology."BOOK, Kolb, Robert, Dingel, Irene, Batka, Lubomír, The Oxford Handbook of Martin Luther's Theology, 24 April 2014, Oxford University Press, English, 9780191667473, 208–, On the other hand, the Great Iconoclasm was a wave of rejecting sacred images among Calvinists of the 16th century.{{refn|group=note|"Iconoclastic incidents during the Calvinist 'Second Reformation' in Germany provoked reactive riots by Lutheran mobs, while Protestant image-breaking in the Baltic region deeply antagonized the neighbouring Eastern Orthodox, a group with whom reformers might have hoped to make common cause."BOOK, Marshall, Peter, The Reformation, 22 October 2009, Oxford University Press, 9780191578885, 114, }} Some localities (such as England) included polemics against using the cross in worship. For example, during the 16th century, a minority of theologians in the Anglican and Reformed traditions Nicholas Ridley,Nicholas Ridley, A Treatise on the Worship of Images, written before 1555. James Calfhill,James Calfhill, An aunsvvere to the Treatise of the crosse (An answer to John Martiall's Treatise of the cross) at 1565. and Theodore Beza,Theodore Beza, in his Answer to the Colloquium of Montheliard at 1588, according to Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol. 4, University of Chicago Press 1985, p. 217. rejected practices that they described as cross worship. Considering it a form of idolatry, there was a dispute in 16th century England over the baptismal use of the sign of the cross and even the public use of crosses.Peter Blickle, Macht und Ohnmacht der Bilder.: Reformatorischer Bildersturm im Kontext der europäischen Geschichte, Oldenbourg Verlag, 2002, pp. 253-272. There were more active reactions to religious items that were thought as 'relics of Papacy', as happened for example in September 1641, when Sir Robert Harley pulled down and destroyed the cross at Wigmore.Religious Politics in Post-Reformation England: Essays in Honour of Nicholas Tyacke, Boydell & Brewer, 2006, p. 26. Writers during the 19th century indicating a pagan origin of the cross included Henry Dana Ward,Henry Dana Ward, History of the cross, the pagan origin, and idolatrous adoption and worship of the image, at 1871. Mourant Brock,Mourant Brock, The cross, heathen and Christian: A fragmentary notice of its early pagan existence and subsequent Christian adoption, London 1879. and John Denham Parsons.John Denham Parsons, The non-Christian cross; an enquiry into the origin and history of the symbol eventually adopted as that of our religion, at 1896. David Williams, writing of medieval images of monsters, says: "The disembodied phallus is also formed into a cross, which, before it became for Christianity the symbol of salvation, was a pagan symbol of fertility."David Williams, Deformed Discourse: The function of the Monster in Mediaeval thought and literature, McGill-Queen's Press 1999, p. 161. The study, Gods, Heroes & Kings: The Battle for Mythic Britain states: "Before the fourth century CE, the cross was not widely embraced as a sign of Christianity, symbolizing as it did the gallows of a criminal."Christopher R. Fee & David Adams Leeming, Gods, Heroes & Kings: The battle for mythic Britain, Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 113. This reaction in the Anglican and other Reformed Churches was shortlived and the cross became ubiquitous in these Christian traditions.BOOK, New International Encyclopedia, 1914, Dodd, Mead And Company, English, 298, Jehovah's Witnesses do not use the symbol of the cross in their worship, which they believe constitutes idolatry.BOOK, What Does the Bible Really Teach?, 204–205,weblink Watch Tower Society, They believe that Jesus died on a single upright torture stake rather than a two-beam cross, arguing that the Greek term stauros indicated a single upright pole.New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, appendix 5C, page 1577 Although early Watch Tower Society publications associated with the Bible Student movement taught that Christ was executed on a cross, it no longer appeared on Watch Tower Society publications after the name Jehovah's witnesses was adopted in 1931,{{harvnb|Franz|2007|p=150}} and use of the cross was officially abandoned in 1936.Riches, by J.F. Rutherford, Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society, 1936, page 27.The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that Jesus died on a cross, however, their prophet Gordon B. Hinckley stated that "for us the cross is the symbol of the dying Christ, while our message is a declaration of the living Christ." When asked what was the symbol of his religion, Hinckley replied "the lives of our people must become the only meaningful expression of our faith and, in fact, therefore, the symbol of our worship."WEB, Hinckley, Gordon B, Gordon B. Hinckley,weblink The Symbol of Christ, Ensign (LDS magazine), Ensign, May 1975, WEB, Hinckley, Gordon B, Gordon B. Hinckley,weblink The Symbol of Our Faith, Ensign (LDS magazine), Ensign, April 2005, Prophet Howard W. Hunter encouraged Latter-day Saints "to look to the temple of the Lord as the great symbol of your membership."WEB, Hunter, Howard W., Howard W. Hunter,weblink Exceeding Great and Precious Promises, Ensign (LDS magazine), Ensign, November 1994, Images of LDS temples and the Angel Moroni (who is found in statue on most temples) are commonly used to symbolize the faith of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.WEB, McKeever, Bill, Why No Crosses?,weblink Mormonism Research Ministry, 1 April 2013,

Notable individual crosses

{{see|High cross|Monumental crosses|Memorial cross|Market cross}}Image:Ruthwell 002.jpg|The Ruthwell Cross, a stone Anglo-Saxon cross located in Ruthwell, Dumfriesshire (8th century)File:VA23Oct10 101-crop-horz.jpg|Easby Cross (9th century)File:Mainistir Bhuithe cross Muiredach.jpg|Muiredach's High Cross (10th century)File:Oviedo croix Victoire.jpg|Victory Cross, Cathedral of San Salvador of Oviedo (10th century)File:Concepción Santa Cruz 45.jpg|Holly Cross with which the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife was founded in Spain (1496).Image:A Commonwealth Cross of Sacrifice or War Cross.jpg|Cross of Sacrifice or War Cross, from a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery (1920)Image:Coventry Cathedral burnt cross.jpg|A wooden cross at Coventry Cathedral, constructed of the remnants of beams found after the Coventry BlitzImage:SPA-2014-San Lorenzo de El Escorial-Valley of the Fallen (Valle de los Caídos).jpg|Cross in Valle de los Caídos near Madrid, the highest cross in the world (Juan de Ávalos 1959)Image:Millennium Cross in Skopje (1).jpg|The Millennium Cross in Skopje, North Macedonia, one of the biggest crosses in the world (2000)Image:World Trade Center Cross.jpg|The World Trade Center Cross rises from the World Trade Center wreckage.File:Grabkreuz mit Nägeln.jpg|Grave cross with nails - Evros / GreeceFile:Anoniem, Reliekkruis van het Heilige Kruis (ca. 1228 - 1250), TO 25, KBS-FRB (2).jpgFile:Se piovesse il tuo nome, (Catedral de Almudena), Giovanni Guida.jpg|Latin cross

See also

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External links

{{Catholic Encyclopedia poster|Archæology of the Cross and Crucifix}}{{Catholic Encyclopedia poster|The Cross and Crucifix in Liturgy}} {{Christian crosses}}

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