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Did Jesus Die on a Cross or a Torture Stake?

On Nov 5, former JWs will talk.  Part of their discussion will include the question: Did Jesus Die on a Cross or a Torture Stake?.  Find out more about this Nov 5 Webcast  and how you can participate here.

Why do Bible Students use the symbol of the cross and crown?   Would displaying a cross and crown on an elder’s podium be considered idolatry?  What about wearing a cross and crown pin?  In any case, was Jesus really crucified on a cross—or was it a stake?  Wasn’t the cross a shameful pagan Roman symbol?  Hasn’t the apostate Christian Church used the cross as in object of worship—kissing it, praying before it, etc.  All fair questions.  Read more hear in the article, Did Jesus Die on a Cross or a Torture Stake?

Cross or Torture Stake

If a Christian is “faithful till death” carrying his Cross, he will receive a “crown” of immortal life (Revelation 2:10).  This scripture is the basis of the Bible Student Logo of the Cross & Crown, also depicted on the cover of the Watchtower Magazine (upper left corner) until discontinued by J.F. Rutherford.

97 comments to Did Jesus Die on a Cross or a Torture Stake?

  • I’m a former JW, and I enjoyed reading your booklet, “Did Jesus Die on a Cross or a Torture Stake?” All of the points you make in it are quite excellent. Ironically, without knowing anything about your website or booklet, I posted a video on this very subject on YouTube last week. The video is about 30 min. long. There is very little overlap between the video and your booklet, as I mainly discuss the cross from the perspective of the early, pre-Nicene Christians. They clearly taught that Jesus died on a cross, not on an upright stake. The video is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMMJbQ9S2ck&t=1s.

    • Peter K. (admin)


      I enjoyed listening to your video presentation on the topic. Your manner of discussion is very pleasing and easy to follow. I was not aware (or do not recall) that Justin Martyr had so clearly described the shape of a cross and Tertullian described the cross beam on the cross. Thanks for your sharing.

      I noticed some of your other videos how at times you quote early church fathers. I agree that is helpful as a secondary line of evidence to the scriptures. As best as I understand, many writings of early church fathers were destroyed by officialdom (i.e. the Catholic Church). For example of Arius, we only know what was written about him primarily by his enemies as his writings were destroyed. Also, it is hard to determine if any of these early church father writings were altered. With the Bible, there are so many thousands of manuscript copies from various centuries and so many commentaries, lexicons, etc. that we have far more resources to prove out the validity of a particular verse of scripture. Nevertheless, I have at times quoted early church fathers myself and appreciate theirs writings at times can be corroborative evidence for the scriptures.

      Feel free to continue to comment. Thanks again for sharing and I think I will enjoy listening to some of your other videos.

  • ari m davies

    This is Ari Matthew Davies I would like to just add my opinion on the cross and the pool thing it seems to be such a thing of conflict with so many people in so many different religions one group of people is adamant that Jesus died with his arms above his head other people are adamant that Jesus died with his arms outstretched in the shape of a cross other people say that it’s shameful to have a cross hanging around or wearing it around their neck other people say that is a loving reminder of what Jesus did for us and here is my opinion it makes no difference whatsoever if Jesus died upon a cross or upon a pole or if he was lying. Up and shot by a firing squad the result is the same Jesus died but what we need to remember is that Jesus didn’t stay dead! He rose from the grave to show us that we can rise from the grave! And that’s about as simple as I can make it. No as to having a cross in your possession or around your neck if the cross is not an idol to you but a reminder I’ve Jesus Devotion to you and the cross is not ordinate gold with diamonds put a simple wooden cross then I would say possesses it! But if you find yourself bowing to the cross kissing it or adoring it in some way you need to get rid of it because it’s become a source of idolatry to you and if you have your cross and people are offended by it for some reason and I don’t see why anyone should be offended by a simple wooden cross then do yourself and them a favor put it beneath your shirt. That’s as simple as I can be on that matter! I further want to let you know that the cross or the pole symbolizes one single day out of Jesus Christ life don’t build your life around displaying the sign of Jesus death build your life around what Jesus Christ built his life around ministering the name of Jehovah God and his purpose to everybody that he met I hope my brief paragraph here is shut a little bit of light on the cross and the pole. Hope to see you around May Jehovah bless you

    • greg (Bible Student)

      air m davies,

      I’m pretty sure we’re in complete agreement here.

      I like to think that what one believes is of secondary importance to the reasons one has for holding those beliefs as precious, and that actions almost always arise from noble intentions.

      I wouldn’t want to be misunderstood here. I’m not saying that idol worship is a thing acceptable in the eyes of God. What I am trying to say is that wearing a cross MAY OR MAY NOT constitute idol worship. It’s the reason (or meaning) one has behind the action that is often ignored, overlooked, or misunderstood.

      And the problem usually comes in when I judge your action by my reason (or meaning). As long as I am willing to hear your reason, there’s a good chance you’ll be willing to listen to my reason for doing a different action. But when we’re both judging each others actions by our own personally ascribed meanings, well, the gunfire usually follows very quickly.

      Love of neighbor is one more factor that is worthy of consideration. If someone reacts very strongly to something I’m doing, at the very least I want to try and demonstrate caring and sensitivity to them and the kind of reaction that’s being stimulated in them.

      It’s how I stay connected to the needs of myself and of others that becomes vital. How I choose to respond to someone can either widen the gap between us, or help bridge the gap between us.

      Thank you again, ari, for sharing your wisdom and love.

      With deep gratitude,

  • Anonymous

    If Jesus died on a stake how did Pilate write king of Jews in 3 languages? If he wrote it super tiny, what was the purpose?

    • Jacqueline (Bible Student)

      Anonymous, Welcome and thanks for commenting. You got your thinking cap on, that is a giant step for our brains.
      Could we ask you to tell us about your journey. How did you find the site? Or just ask a question or comment on any article. Take Care

  • Brettstone

    I have read recently that the cross and crown symbol is and was a Masonic symbol used for centuries now. There is allot about Russell having Masonic ties even supposed quotes of him saying so. What is your take on it?

    • Peter K. (admin)


      The Cross and Crown is based on Revelation 2:10 (NASV here) “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Brother Russell had no privacy and was constantly surrounded by Bible Students, whether at Bethel, Conventions, the train, etc. He could not have gotten away with a secret association with the Mason’s without it being know. Barbara Anderson even contacted the Mason’s directly and they confirmed that Charles Taze Russell was never a Mason. Circumstantial and ridiculous evidence is taken from Brother Russell’s own words and twisted by his attackers to make it appear that he publically declared himself a Mason. If true, then why didn’t historical and present day Bible Students ever recognize him to be so. The early Bible Students heard these same supposedly damning words. It is all nonsense. Find details at the link provided.

      Find more by clicking here:

      “In Bible Student usage, a Cross and Crown symbol appeared for the first time on the cover of the Watch Tower magazine for January 1891 and continued to be displayed until 1931. At first there was no natural wreath encircling the Cross and Crown, merely an artistic geometric pattern. Later, beginning January 1, 1895, a band of greenery was added, giving the wreath the distinctive appearance it has today, as frequently used on Bible Student convention programs and letter heads. Since it never was unique to the Masons, its adoption by the Bible Students carries no significance in relating it to that group (or any other group, for that matter).

      Bible Student meaning for the Cross and Crown is taken from the Scriptures where both symbols are given a prominent place. The cross, besides being the instrument used in the death of Christ, is also a metaphor of the trials and persecutions of the believer. (See Matt. 16:24.) The crown is frequently used as a symbol of the glory, honor and immortality granted to Christ and his church for faithfulness in serving God. (See Rev. 3:21; 2:10.) The Bible also makes it clear that gaining the crown is dependent upon bearing the cross faithfully even unto death. (See James 1:12.) The poem, “No Cross, No Crown,” emphasizing this point, appeared in the July 1, 1911 issue of the Watch Tower. This again is not a concept unique to Bible Students and may be found in church hymnology dating back to at least the eighteenth century. And finally, the wreath encircling the Cross and Crown symbol is taken as a sign of victory. Its use in crowning the winners in the Greek games is directly alluded to in 1 Corinthians 9:25.”

      • Brettstone

        Thanks Peter always thorough as usual. I never really believe these accusations but like to see and hear how it is answered. It’s a shame how much he is blamed by those that leave the JW Organization, but the finger should really be pointed at Rutherford because Russell’s teachings are few among the JW’s most of what they are today reflect Rutherford not Russell.

  • arimatthewdavies

    I see many people have different veiws of if it’s was a cross or stake. And yes the cross was a pagan symbol! The romans worshiped pagan gods! So they hung jesus on their pagan torture cross! The cross is not an idol to me! I would no more wear it then I would a little electric chair if Jesus died that way! Why is it that pole believer’s are so opposed to the truth? Christians don’t worship the cross we use it like the spirit dove to symbol jesus I often see the 3 rugged crosses by the road side and right off think of how Jesus saved me! I see telephone poles everyday and they bring no thought of Jesus to me I was raised a Jehovah’s witness and the holy spirit convicts me that it was a cross jesus hung on the cross was a terrible object its not venerable! But it reminds me of the highly exalted king jesus each time I see it I’m reminded that I should have received sins payment but now I don’t have to because pagans hung my king on their cross and in doing so they hung up the penalty that says a sinner has to die! Now that sinner can quit sinning and ask god to forgive and because jesus paid that price god grants a full pardon and we go free! A new life awaits us because Jehovah god forced the pagans to forever humble themselves their own cross forever defeated them! That’s what the cross is! The lasting reminder how Jesus Christ made Satan bow down! Let us not forget that lesson!

    • Jacqueline

      Ari what a very simple example of course the Romans were Pagan and they would hang him on their cross the instrument of torture and humiliation. When I see the cross or the three as I drive it reminds me of God’s love by having Jesus die for me and everyone that have ever lived on the Cross. Ho w dare the witnesses say someone worships the cross, I have never seen nor heard that was made to believe it by what they said. It is a visual of the immense suffering of Christ by the Romans. Thanks for your comments.

  • arimatthewdavies

    OK guys I was raised as one of Jehovah’s witnesses and for years I supported the straight pole theory.. but in 2010 the theory’s were put to the test using sensor ladden crash type robots.. the findings show that a straight pole caused asphixiation in about an hour because the subgect could not use his feet to lift himself and take the weight off his diaphragm so he could breath.. the true cross position allows for the subgect to prolong his life by hours and hours… so the scientific evidence says Jesus did die on a real cross…
    but as one raised as a j.w I still want to believe what I was taught.. but sense tells me that it does not make the slightest difference. and I don’t think Jehovah will punish us if we preach the wrong shaped torture stake. the result is the same..we make far to big of an issue over the murder weapon. and far too little is said about his resurrection and him being alive today! what most of us miss about the ordeal was that Jesus was whipped by pilot first as a punishment so that just maybe they would feel that was enough..than when they still screamed for his murder and pilot gave in he was beaten with the scourge whip.in all some 450 stripes are visible on his burial cloth! the shroud of Turin was long alleged to be Jesus wrap when Joseph of arimathea took down his body… NASA finally paid a big chunk of money to examine it..the results are a full three dimensional high quality picture burned into the cloth and DNA testing of the blood proved that it was from a male that had no father DNA..pretty much the story of Jesus was confirmed by the scientific test.the digital picture reconstruction shows the real shape and face and the great patches were his skin was torn to the bones showed.what is not known is how this man managed somehow to live for hours and walk with a 85 pound crossbeam up a long steep hill.anyway I’m just glad its over.

    • Jacqueline

      Thanks Ari Matthews davies for the excellent information. Saw your comment on jwn also.

      • The “cross” are only defend by people, religions who never want to know the true. I like when a child tell me, where is the cross there is violence, lies and tears. That are the churches. Universities are paid and become money when they say “it is evolution”…..churches become money when they say ” The Cross” …..In this case the JW Organisation is the fully right NOT to accept this pagan symbol !! All other religions who accept today the “cross” are involved in other pagan celebrations, associtaed with other religions, politics etc.
        Br. Rutherford did the right things at his time, cut off symbols what is “mickey mouse” ……

        • Stanley L.

          Jan – I might agree in some cases…

          But there are some people out there who honestly want to know the answer to the question. I found myself in that position as I watched a discussion on that question between two linguists (PhD.s in Bible languages) unfold. They looked at all the passages which have come down to us from history concerning how the Romans practiced Crucifixion in Jesus’ day, along with the one archeological piece of evidence which survived, interestingly enough from Jerusalem itself.

          Now it is true both were ex-JWs and may have had an ax to grind with the Society, but, to give them credit, they literally posted in that forum every bit of evidence and left it for folks to draw their own conclusions. End the end the evidence was stronger for a cross and a simple post.

          That being said, the bottom line is that other than an interest in knowing the matter it wasn’t really all that important which method was used since both would’ve met the criteria laid down by the scriptures which had to be met for Israel to be saved by freeing them from the curse of the Law so that the initial Church members could be from Israel (Gal. 3:7-13). A stake was used to display dead bodies when the Law was given, the Cross was just the form of the punishment used in Jesus’ time with the added cruelty of the pain and humiliation involved with being stripped naked and displayed like that while suffering a lingering and horribly painful death. Indeed, it was a fitting symbol of his taking all our sins on him and suffering the penalty to the full as he redeemed Adam, and through him, us.

          To use the cross as an means of worship is wrong for Christians, I will not argue with that. I, personally, think Rutherford had an unhealthy obsession with “cleaning up” true worship even as he ignored many of its most basic requirements for moral cleanliness. His failures in that regard are well known and all over the net for anybody to see, and in that I feel he was doing exactly what the Pharisees of Jesus’ day did straining out the “gnat” while swallowing the camel” (Matt. 23:14). That is what often happens when people know they aren’t doing what God requires, they will salve whatever consciences they have with obsession over inconsequential matters. I’m not accusing the Witnesses of that because those little matters of “God’s Law” are exactly what they are taught are so important instead of the “Royal Law of Love” (James 2:8). That focus is their legacy from Rutherford, and they suffer for it to this day.

          God didn’t give his Christian heirs a law of many do’s and don’t’s, Jan, he liberated them with a law based on the reality of their sinfulness freeing them from the sad cycle of trying to meet a standard so impossible to live up to, that none of them would make it. when you realize the full meaning and import of that, you will be on your way to really pleasing him.

  • doug

    the cross was used by the Egyptians as a sign of authority praying to the sun god

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