Jesus did not die on a cross. According to Matt. 10:38 (καὶ ὃς οὐ λαμβάνει τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκολουθεῖ ὀπίσω μου, οὐκ ἔστιν μου ἄξιος.), 16:24 (Τότε ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ, Εἴ τις θέλει ὀπίσω μου ἐλθεῖν, ἀπαρνησάσθω ἑαυτὸν καὶ ἀράτω τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκολουθείτω μοι), 27:32 (Ἐξερχόμενοι δὲ εὗρον ἄνθρωπον Κυρηναῖον ὀνόματι Σίμωνα: τοῦτον ἠγγάρευσαν ἵνα ἄρῃ τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ), cp. 40:42; Mark 8:34 (Καὶ προσκαλεσάμενος τὸν ὄχλον σὺν τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς, Εἴ τις θέλει ὀπίσω μου ἀκολουθεῖν, ἀπαρνησάσθω ἑαυτὸν καὶ ἀράτω τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκολουθείτω μοι), 10:21 uses “treasures in heaven” as an illusion toward his ultimate death (ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἐμβλέψας αὐτῷ ἠγάπησεν αὐτὸν καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Εν σε ὑστερεῖ: ὕπαγε ὅσα ἔχεις πώλησον καὶ δὸς [τοῖς] πτωχοῖς, καὶ ἕξεις θησαυρὸν ἐν οὐρανῷ, καὶ δεῦρο ἀκολούθει μοι), cf. 15:21 for the prophecy betrayal, and 30 crystalising the stake’s role (σῶσον σεαυτὸν καταβὰς ἀπὸ τοῦ σταυροῦ), and verse 32 which most likely is a later addition since it gives the Roman rule (ὁ Χριστὸς ὁ βασιλεὺς Ἰσραὴλ καταβάτω νῦν ἀπὸ τοῦ σταυροῦ, ἵνα ἴδωμεν καὶ πιστεύσωμεν. καὶ οἱ συνεσταυρωμένοι σὺν αὐτῷ ὠνείδιζον αὐτόν); Luke 9:3, 14:27, 23:26; and, John 19:17, 19, 25, 31, Jesus died on a stake (σταυροῦ), which even “St. Paul” agrees with (1 Cor. 1:17 (οὐ γὰρ ἀπέστειλέν με Χριστὸς βαπτίζειν ἀλλὰ εὐαγγελίζεσθαι, οὐκ ἐν σοφίᾳ λόγου, ἵνα μὴ κενωθῇ ὁ σταυρὸς τοῦ Χριστοῦ), 18 (Ὁ λόγος γὰρ ὁ τοῦ σταυροῦ τοῖς μὲν ἀπολλυμένοις μωρία ἐστίν, τοῖς δὲ σῳζομένοις ἡμῖν δύναμις θεοῦ ἐστιν); cp. Gal. 5:11, 6:12 and 14; Eph. 2:16; Phil. 2:8 and 3:18; Col. 1:20 and 2:14; and Heb 12:2).
While the Jehovah Witnesses are correct that the bible tract details a stake (for the word origin, see: Woodhouse, S. C (1910). English-Greek Dictionary; a vocabulary of the Attic language. London: Routledge, p. 185; reprinted 2001; the contemporary Greek word is διακυβεύονται), they are wrong in arguing that it was only a pagan symbol. Various early Christian groups (that antedate Christianity by as much as 3300 years) used the symbol as a way to mix water with wine.
The myth of the cross does not appear in Christian lore until the fourth century CE (while contemporary translations of Apology by Justin Martyr abound on the internet, and it is true that Justin does use the word “cross” it is in the Latin (which is an instrument of torture) not the Greek (a means for death); see my comments on Justin and the development of his theology which was later denounced by the Church at https://arthuride.wordpress.com/2010/08/29/jesus-crucifixion-and-justin-martyr/), although a case may be made for it to have the appearance of the letter T, as Tertullian argued: “For this same letter TAU of the Greeks, which is our T, has the appearance of the cross (crucis)” [“huic same tabellae TAU of Cupiditas , quod est nostrum T has vultus of crux crucis crucis]” See: Apologeticus, 3.23.6]. But this was already an ancient symbol dealing with economic changes, and began in ancient Egypt–before migrating to Greece–as a symbol of life, it being known as the “Key of the Nile” as well as the “Tau Cross.” It was later incorporated into the Greek alphabet.
We get most of our Christian biblical stories from Egypt (see my Moses: Making of Myth and Law) but not the crucifixion. That comes from India, Asia, Rome and Greece, and to a small extent from Egypt and its tribute states, even thought it has antecedents in northern Europe.
The cross is the most ancient of symbols. It was a common symbol among people in the stone age where it was known as the god Woden’s cross (set in a circle), especially in Germany. There are traces of such symbology found in even in Ireland. It was replaced in the Neolithic age with the swastika (卐) cross and remains a symbol today in India, and the religions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
Variations of the cross was used by ancient Egyptians to represent the intersection of the human and the celestial (not the divine). In each instance it represents four cardinal points of the universe [See: Chevalier, Jean (1997). The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols. New York: Penguin].
When the cross made its way to Dalmatia (Yugoslavia) it was known as a symbol for King of Kings (βασιλεύς βασιλέων) and takes the place of the far more ancient Slavic “Hands of God” cross (ręce boga). It takes its “Christian” shape from the open box (a mistranslation of “jar” [πιθος pithos] of Pandora [Πανδώρα: literally “gift giver” which led to the expression–before Troy–of “beware of Greeks bearing gifts”]: where the lid and one side make the base, the three remaining sides make the rest of the symbol–showing that evil has been released) and to die on the cross was tantamount to being the herald of evil released into this world. It was for this reason that criminals, thieves and reprobates were crucified. Men who were considered just or without grievous faults were stoned, hanged or decapitated. Interestingly, the only other men who were executed were those claiming to be gods either as sun gods or sons of gods. [cp. Religious Rivalries in the Early Roman Empire and the Rise of Christianity / Leif E. Vaage, editor. Waterloo, Ont. : Published for the Canadian Corporation for Studies in Religion/Corporation canadienne des sciences religieuses by Wilfrid Laurier University Press, c2006. Ref. Payam Nabarz (2005). The Mysteries of Mithras : the Pagan Belief that Shaped the Christian World. Rochester, Vt. : Inner Traditions].
The crucifixion of Jesus, while there are no historical records of this act ever taking place, nor are there records of such a man ever-living or dying in Israel during the epoch 30-60 CE, has symbolic interest. In most ways it matches the Abrahamic sacrifice, as “the Father gave his only begotten son” [John 3:16; cp. The Sacrifice of Isaac : the Aqedah (Genesis 22) and its interpretations / edited by Ed Noort and Eibert Tigchelaar. Leiden ; Boston : Brill, 2002; Aharon (Ronald E.) Agus (1988). The Binding of Isaac and Messiah : law, martyrdom, and deliverance in early rabbinic religiosity. Albany : State University of New York Press]. In the same manner that Abraham willingly would offer up his own son as an appeasement offering (Genesis 22:1-24). It is a part of a larger narration in the Hebrew Akedat Yitzchak (עקידת יצחק) as it is in Arabic the Dhabih (ذبح) although the Qur’an does not name the son ( 37:99–113), both being copied from far older Egyptian sources ultimately culminating in the execution of the first-born (מַכַּת בְּכוֹרוֹת) in Egyptian households (Exodus 11:1-12:26) as the last of the Ten Plagues (Hebrew: עשר המכות, Eser Ha-Makot) which becomes the foundation, later, for the Ten Commandments (taken from Egyptian and ancient Babylonian codes) and shows that the “Israelites” were most likely Hyksos (Egyptian heqa khasewet, “foreign rulers”; Greek Ὑκσώς, Ὑξώς, Arabic: الملوك الرعاة, shepherd kings who were from Asia and were the prototype for what later became the Habiru who developed or evolved into later Israelites–destroyers of culture and cities, enslaver of women and children, and barbaric in dress and manner).
Similar accounts are found in the Qur’an, cf. VII.133, 136 and XXIX, 39–40–and with as little historical validity, being more of a plagiarism of a common story current at the time the book was written down from the dictation of Remembrancers. It must be remembered that the legendary Muhammad spoke with Christians and Jews “and Greeks” in his quest for the Truth–before beginning his Jesus-like odyssey in the desert where he would be greeted by the Jewish angel Gabri-el.
One thing that is in common with all of these accounts is the unique number 33. Jesus (whose physical father Joseph married his mother Mary when he was 33), by legend, performed 33 miracles, was crucified at the age of 33 on a stake surrounded by 33 stones, and according to legend was born up into the heavens by 33 angels–where Islam tells us all “dwellers in heaven” remain 33 years of age. This is not startling, since both Christianity and Judaism have as their roots Hindu ontology, and Islam borrowed from both. It is the number 33 that is the sacred number of gods in the Hindu heaven (the eight Vasus, the eleven Rudras, the twelve Adityas, Indra and Prajapati. [Chapter I, hymn 9, verse 2]) according to the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad (Chapter I, hymn 9, verse 1) although Yajnavalkya originally says there are 330 million gods, but reduces that figure when asked as second time about Brahman (the prototype for Abraham; change the order of the last two letters and delete the initial letter which is the preposition “to”), whose son, Krishna [Christ] will later be sacrificed. [See: Murthy, SSN, “Number Symbolism in the Vedas” at http://www.ejvs.laurasianacademy.com/ejvs1203/ejvs1203article.pdf, pp. 4-5 sq. However, Hindu scholars of Krishna state that Krishna, being a god, could never be crucified nor die, as those are mortal actions and not the act of a god or son of god; the only temporal act was to be born of a virgin and appear as a great light to the world: http://vedabase.net/sb/11/6/35/en2; Kersey Graves, 16 Crucified Saviours has had numerous supporters and detractors, both by Christians, Jews, Muslims and atheists; for a balanced account of the debate and a critical look at the similarities and differences between Jesus and Krishna, see: http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_jckr1.htm).
While there is neither historical nor scientific evidence for any god (or goddess), there are numerous similarities, especially in their sayings, which, for the most part are borrowed [plagiarised] freely. Jesus, it is alleged, said “the kingdom of god is within you” (Luke 17:21), and the geographer Pausanias (10.24.1). declared “Know thyself”, Greek: γνῶθι σεαυτόν (wrongly attributed to Pythagoras); “Know ye not that ye are gods” comes from Thoth Hermes Trismegistus the Egyptian god of wisdom, The Virgin of the World, whom even the great plagiarist Augustin of Hippo acknowledged Hermes Trismegistus in his revision of an older De Civitate Dei (The City of God): Book VII, Chaps. 23-26; Book XVII, Chap. 39 (translated by Rev. G. Wilson & Rev. J.J. Smith). The bishop of Hippo’s misquoting of his sources is exposed with a reading of the actual tablets:
Aye, man, after ye have gone,
others shall move in the places ye lived.
Knowledge and wisdom shall all be forgotten,
and only a memory of Gods shall survive.
As I to thee am a God by my knowledge,
so ye, too shall be Gods of the future
because of your knowledge far above theirs.
Yet know ye that all through the ages,
man shall have access to Law when he will.
http://www.scribd.com/doc/17467392/The-Emerald-Tablets-of-Thoth-Hermes-Trimesgistus-translated-by-Doreal; cf. The Emerald Tablets of Thoth at http://www.spiritual.com.au/articles/theosophy/emerald14.htm.
Godhood, or being like gods, was temporary, as Jesus noted (John 10:34), taken from Psalms 82 (v. 6-7). This is matched by other world religions and their sacred writings, for gods were the invention of men and continue to be. When one deity passes away into oblivion, his or her place is taken by another pretender who feeds on mortal gullibility–extracting tithes, offerings, even sacrifices (a practiced continued by the Roman Catholic church in its Mass where the faithful eat the physical [sic] body and drink the blood [sic] of Jesus.
Is there but one god in the “heavens.” Exodus 20:3 reads “You shall not have any other gods BEFORE me.” It does not deny the existence of other gods, nor does it prohibit the faithful to recognize these other gods–but only after the god of Moses is recognised. The Hebrew word is Elohim (אֱלהִים): a plural noun; it does not become multilateral until the 7th-6th centuries BCE (at the time of the Babylonian Captivity) and not in terms of monotheism until Rabbinical Judaism in the 2nd century CE [Mark S. Smith, God in translation: deities in cross-cultural discourse in the biblical world, vol. 57 of Forschungen zum Alten Testament, Mohr Siebeck, 2008, p. 19. Apologists for particular sectarian studies argue that Elohim is singular, but this does not appear until the Septuagint].
Even the bible notes the “sons of god”: John 1:12; Rom. 8:14-23; Gal. 4:5-7; 1 John 3:1-2; etc. Each of these “sons of god” (בני האלהים) was but an attempt to answer the question of the nature of the mortal and mortality, and were the result of superstition and desire to be eternal–first appearing as Levantine Bronze and Iron Age texts (cp. Genesis 6:2 [בְנֵי־הָֽאֱלֹהִים], Job 1:6 [בְּנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים] and 38:7 [בְּנֵי אֱלֹהִֽים without the definite article]; Psalm 29:1 [בְּנֵי אֵלִים] without the definite article: sons of elim) found only in Ugaritic texts where it is bn ilm with the exception of the phrase phr bn ilm (“assembly of the sons of god”) [See: Aicha Rahmouni (2008), Divine epithets in the Ugaritic alphabetic texts; translated by J.N. Ford, Leiden ; Boston : Brill, p. 91; Theological dictionary of the Old Testament / edited by G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren ; translated by John T. Willis, p. 130]. It is revisited only recently in the writings of Joseph Smith (LDS: Mormons): Doctrine and Covenants 132:19-22; Joseph Fielding Smith Jr., Doctrines of Salvation, Vol.1, p.69 – p.70.
Rather than focusing on mortal needs and the world of today, people are taught to look to the sky for answers and not to think for themselves. The existence of gods disallows free will as the cryptically bigoted bishop of Hippo declared in his argument joining free will with the necessity of achieving or receiving divine grace–a contradiction of terms as we cannot sin except of our own fault, yet we cannot be righteous without the intervention of god [De Civitate Dei 22.30.3 in Migne, J-P. Patrologia … Latina 41.802] while fostering anti-Semitism. St. Augustine wrote, “The true image of the Hebrew is Judas Iscariot, who sells the Lord for silver. The Jew can never understand the Scriptures and forever will bear the guilt for the death of Jesus.” Augustine’s Christianity was in keeping with his age and the emergence of a church built on hate; compare his statement (above) with Romans 1:16, 2:8-10, and 10:1-4; with the image of god no longer recognizable in mortals.