Most leading historians, archaeologists and linguists don’t believe that the four official Christian Gospels can be relied upon as accurate records of historical fact. For instance, the Easter stories are highly dubious as factual accounts.
On Easter Day Christians believe their saviour came back to life and was seen in corporeal form for several weeks before ascending on a cloud to ‘heaven’. This is the very basis of their religion.
They believe it because the gospels say it happened, or so they think. But most Christians aren’t aware that the gospels are riddled with factual errors, contradictions and unsupported statements that challenge the very basis of the religion.
This series presents ten myths about the Easter stories drawing on Gospel sources and historical records from the period.
Myth #9: Early Christians quickly adopted the sign of the cross as their symbol
The cross (or crucifix) is the main symbol of Christianity. In churches it is often shown on a portrait or statue showing a contorted male in agony, festooned with thorns and dripping with blood. At Easter time, wooden crosses are carried through the streets in many countries.
However, the earliest Christian art (dating from the 1st Century) doesn’t show the sign of the cross but the fish (signifying Yeshua’s connection with the fishing trade). The cross was considered shameful since crucifixion was reserved for the lowest criminals. The first reference to Christians using the cross as a symbol date from around 200 CE in North Africa. Christians there traced the sign of the cross across their foreheads. This has remained part of the baptism ceremony although nowadays it is usually made across the abdomen as a form of blessing or protection.
The use of the crucifix as a symbol owes much to Paul of Tarsus. He wrote, ‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of G_d;’ and, ‘May I never boast of anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.’
Personally I would prefer to see the benign image of the statue of Christ the Redeemer which looks on the world from the top of Corcovado Mountain in Rio de Janeiro as the universal symbol of love and compassion. I think Yeshua would probably agree.
©David Lawrence Preston, 11.2.2017
Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @David_L_Preston
Balboa Press 2015
1 Corinthians, 1:18 and Galatians 6:14