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Article 0100 - Origin of Cross
Origin of the Word "Cross"
Many are aware there are several differing ideas regarding the origin
of the cross symbol so often seen in the world of Christendom, and that
there is no conclusive support for any of them.
With that in mind, I turned attention to the origin of the word "cross"
in the English New Testament, thinking this might give me a lead.
However, I discovered that not much specific information on this has
been published, which led me into searching through a number of sources
including contacting several Greek professors.
I had assumed that somewhere along the way the word "cross" was
introduced into one of the earlier English translations. Yet, in going
back and looking over a number of them, including the Wycliff and
Tyndale, I found that they all contained the word "cross." To my
surprise the insertion of this word did not originate with any English
translation. When, then, did this word begin to be used?
This is where it gets interesting and informative. It goes back to some
of the Greek manuscripts themselves. One professor noted: "The use of
the English word 'cross' to translate the Greek word σταύρος is older
than the English Bible itself. Not only did the Greek writers intend to
describe an implement of death rather than just an 'upright stake,' but
in the Greek manuscript tradition this word was sometimes decorated
(technically called a 'ligature') in such a way to indicate a unique
usage. The ligature made for a natural way to cause the word to not only
stand out but actually look like a cross."
The way this was done was to first omit the au from stauros. To show these letters had been omitted, a straight line was placed above the word. This brought the letters t and r together. Then, the r (looking like a p) was superimposed on the t so that there appeared to be a head on the t suggesting a body on a cross. (See example below.) The purpose may have been well intended,
but was erroneous. Eventually, the word "cross" was supplied which was
carried over into various translations, including the English.
Jon Gary Williams
It should be remembered that the Greek word translated "cross" is STAUROS, referring to an upright pale or stake. Also, note that five times Jesus is said to have been crucified on a "tree" - Acts 5:30; Acts 10:39; Acts 13:29; Gal.3:13; I Pet. 2:24.