Christian Churches of God

No. 39z




The Cross: Its Origin and Signifance

(Edition 3.0 19940625-19991203)

This paper deals with the origin of the cross in history and examines the significance of the cross in human pre-Christian worship. The relationship of the cross to the second commandment is also examined.



Christian Churches of God




(Copyright ã 1994, 1997, 1999 Wade Cox)

(Summary by Ron Proposch, Ed. by Wade Cox)

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The Cross: Its Origin and Significance

Berry (Encyclopaedia Heraldica) mentions 385 different crosses. Most are purely decorative or of heraldic significance (ERE, art. Cross, Vol. 4, pp. 324 ff). There are 9 types of crosses that have religious symbolism.

The cross has become associated with Christianity. It was not, however, an early Christian symbol and, indeed, the Sabbath-keeping Churches have traditionally been iconoclastic and have abhorred the use of the cross symbol as pagan. Indeed, some of the Sabbath-keeping Christians have been martyred for their opposition to the use of crosses in Christian symbolism. The Vandals were iconoclastic Subordinationists who destroyed the idols revered in Greece and Rome.

The Paulicians were iconoclasts as were all the Sabbatati who were associated with or descended from them.

This prohibition against crosses (as well as the practice of adult baptism) continues in Sabbath-keeping Churches of God to the present. The cross symbol is most ancient and has a number of mystical meanings.

Non-Christian Crosses

The cross has a meaning associated with sun worship. Schliemann has noted the presence of the cross on pottery and whorls of the Troad (the region about Troy) (ERE, ibid., p. 325). It is alternated with the rayed disc and at times the two emblems appear in juxtaposition (ibid.)

The Indians used the equilateral cross alternating with a rayed disc.

The cross occurred naturally at the forkings of roads and thus became an object of veneration.

During the bronze-age, especially amongst the Gauls, the cross appears frequently on pottery, jewels and coins.

The cross is found also in Mexico, Peru and significantly in Central America. There they allude to the four winds, which are the source of rain.

The Dakotas also used the cross to represent the four winds

The early symbolism of the cross was expressed in the Chinese ideogram of the word for earth, which is an equilateral cross within a square.

The enclosed sun cross appears to represent the four rivers of paradise. The Bible refers to this as the river, which went out from Eden and parted into four heads.

Thus, the concept embodied in the Genesis story (Gen. 2:10), whilst having a specific geography attributed to the four rivers, also represents a basic theme of the rivers of living water which flowed from the central source which was God through His morning star which at that time was Satan.

Thus, we are dealing with a very serious form of idolatry in the symbolism of the cross as a representation here of sun worship.

There is no doubt that the use of the cross, associated with the symbols of the resurrection and new life, are hopelessly intermingled with the theology of the ancients.

The swastika appears extensively in Buddhism in China and Japan, being pre-eminent on the pedestals of the statues of Buddha and the Bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism.


The Cross in Christianity

Mark of the Cross

The spread of the symbol of the cross into Christianity developed much as the Trinity. Tertullian asserted that at every step the Christians marked their foreheads with a little sign of the cross. The usage referred to by Tertullian drew the charge of idolatry.

Roman Catholic writers admit that the cross has become the object of a veritable cult. Didron states:

The cross has received a worship similar if not equal to that of Christ; this sacred wood is adored almost equally with God himself (ibid.).

The argument is difficult to resist that the cross was introduced to the Christian system from the Mystery cults along with the other forms of worship which gradually took over Christianity and which had no part of the early church. These forms such as Sunday worship and the festivals of Easter and Christmas, came from the Sun cults.

The fact of the matter is that the cross derived not from Christianity, being then used at the cross-roads, but rather the phallic cross was tidied up so as to conform to Christian mores and left with the mother goddess figures of Hecate etc. which was relabelled the Madonna.

The distinction made between the stake and the gibbet on the one hand and the cross on the other, is to appropriate to Christianity the symbol which was of such importance in pagan symbolism. The fact is that crucifixion, which was an ancient form of punishment, was on a tree, which was not distinguished in shape and the simple stake was called a cross or crux.

Zechariah 12:10 indicates the final cause of death was to be by piercing. It is impossible to tell with any certainty whether the cross was used to crucify Christ was a simple stake or contained a cross bar because the term was general to both.

Nor, indeed, does it matter, save that the symbolism above was transferred from the cults and had to be legitimised.

The second Council of Nicea (787), held for the purpose of reforming abuses and ending the disputes of iconoclasm,

defined that the veneration of the faithful was due ‘of the precious and vivifying cross’ as well as to images or representations of Christ, of the Blessed Virgin, and of the saints (Cath. Encyc., op. cit.).

The Council held that the cult of the Latria belongs to the divine nature alone. Thus, the objects were accorded a form of worship which is not that held to be accorded to the divine nature. But asserting that the worship of the images of mortals is acceptable is contrary to the explicit teaching of the Bible.

Thus the symbolism had turned full circle and the images of the Mysteries had taken over Christianity and become the foci of worship.

From above, the use of the cross is philosophically objectionable within Christianity – not just on those grounds, but also because the concepts above, which are logically predicated upon God and are the direct prerogative of God, are in this symbolism attributed to Christ as they were to the gods of the Mysteries. The resurrection occurs as an act of God’s authority. God alone is immortal (1Tim. 6:16). Christ exercised obedient authority, laying his life down and taking it up on that authority (Jn. 10:18). Christ, he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all of one (KJV) origin (enos pantes) (Heb. 2:11 RSV). The use of the term enos pantes means that they are of one, wholly, in all respects, in every way (Thayers). The NIV seeks to mitigate this text by translating it as of the same family.

God alone is to be worshipped and the object of prayer (Lk. 4:8; Jn. 4:23; Rev. 19:10; 22:9). The cross has become a symbol of itself in the same way that the image set up by Moses (Num. 21:8-9) became an image of itself and would be thus idolatrous.

The symbolism which surrounds the cross and the art works and forms is of itself loaded with concepts, which have been transported into Christian worship. The concepts are derived from the most ancient forms of worship, which have been transported or diffused throughout the nations and tribes. The identification of the origins and the interconnected relationships are made in the sections above. The cross as imagery is not a harmless tool or decoration.

The attribution of the cross and of Christ as an image and object of prayer is a breach of the second commandment.

The concept or doctrine imputes the ultimate sin to Christ of making himself equal with God, which the Bible holds he was not (Jn. 14:28, Phil. 2:6). Such concepts were not used in the first two centuries of the Church and indeed were viewed as idolatry. Many of our people were martyred for refusing to accept crosses as symbols of their faith.