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Master Jesus was crucified on a tree, according to Apostle Peter.

Acts 5:30
30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.

Acts 10:39
39 And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:

Acts 13:29
29 And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.

1 Peter 2:24
24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.

On some accounts, He was crucified on the cross.

Matthew 27:40
40 And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.

Matthew 27:42
42 He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him.

Mark 15:30
30 Save thyself, and come down from the cross.

Mark 15:32
32 Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.

Luke 23:26
26 And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.

John 19:19
19 And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.

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Not a bad question! +1. In my answer I make reference to the fact that this site isn't about finding Truth. For more, I'd recommend checking out the FAQ as well as these questions on the Meta site, which give some history and additional reasons for the reason this site's purpose is limited as it is: meta.christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/faq –  David Stratton Jan 18 '13 at 13:21
    
not duplicate question but duplicate answers - to bad the original is in the context of Jehova Witness, we need an mainstream based question, maybe this can be it.--- christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/2109/… –  Mike Jan 18 '13 at 15:22
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Isn't it more of a translation problem? I know of at least one language where the same word is used for "tree" and for "wood". It that language, it does not raise such problems. Maybe we should ask someone who knows Hebrew and ancient Greek. –  vsz Jan 20 '13 at 17:02
    
given that wood comes from a tree, and a cross is wooden, I'm not seeing the issue –  warren Jan 5 at 19:03

4 Answers 4

up vote 12 down vote accepted

First, understanding that this is not a site to learn about Truth, but rather to learn about Christianity - what the various teachings are from an academic perspective, the question "Which is true" is off-topic. However, we could take a couple of approaches that would be within the bounds of the site:

  • Answering what various denominations believe about the subject
  • From an apologetics approach, how do we resolve the apparent conflict?

I'm going to take the latter, and provide the answer the is probably the most commonly accepted.

Before we can address the potential discrepancy, it's important to clarify a couple of key concepts: Mainly what "Biblical inerrancy" means, and what guidelines are used for resolving alleged discrepancies.

First, the basic rules for resolving Biblical discrepancies are documented here: Rules behind resolving alleged Biblical discrepancies

Next, the doctrine of Plenary Inspiration of Scripture allows for authors to use their own literary style, including using allegory, and figures of speech while still allowing for Biblical inerrancy. This means that there can be verses within the Bible that are true on a general common-sense, easy to understand level, yet not technically true. Example: "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse" is a phrase that anyone can easily see is a figure of speech. Anyone can see that it simply means "I am very hungry", but realizes that the "I could eat a horse" is an exaggeration for effect.

The point of the above is that it's sometimes a mistake to be hyper-literal when interpreting individual passages of Scripture. Further, from the perspecrtive of inerrancy, the doctrine is not meant to defend the idea that everything in the Bible is to be taken literally, it teaches that the Bible is a reliable source of truth and doctrine. That said, doctrinally, whether Christ was hung on a tree or a cross isn't doctrinally significant.

One method for resolving this apparent conflict is based on the basic principle outlined above.

It's quite possible that the word "Cross" and "Tree" were used interchangeably, like "Cool", "Neat", and "Awesome" are used in modern slang. In our modern slang, those words have completely different meanings, techically, but in the way we use them, they can mean the exact same thing. Since a cross is made of wood, taken from a tree, it is not unreasonable to assume that either people called crosses "trees". It also be that they called anything that someone was crucified upon a cross, just because the Romans generally did use a cross of one sort or another.

However, all of that said, the historical evidence suggests that Jesus was probably hung on a cross as we'd normally think of it, since it was the normal method of execution at the time, and also based on internal Scriptural evidence. More here: http://www.gods-word-first.org/jesus-christ/jesus-crucifixion-stauros.html

A small snippet of the article, which shows a small bit of possible internal evidence:

The beam that Jesus was made to carry (John 19:17), and that Simon from Cyrene carried for him after Jesus collapsed in exhaustion (Luke 23:26), was most likely the crosspiece that was later affixed to an upright pole that was already in place.

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+1 Very good answer. Someone did well in writing class. :) –  Josiah Jan 18 '13 at 15:05

Some believe that Jesus was crucified on a single, upright stake (i.e., no crossbeam).

In John 20:25, it is written,

Therefore, the other disciples said to him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I shall see the print of the nails in his hands, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe."

The word "nails" is plural. Jesus had the print of nails in his hands. If Jesus were crucified on an upright stake in which both hands were affixed to the stake (see image below) with a singular nail, then we wouldn't see the word "nails" --- but "nail" --- to describe the print in Jesus' hands.

Depiction of Jesus Crucified on a Stake

As for the word "tree" --- which is equivalent to the Hebrew word עֵץ (etz), this Hebrew word was used for the "gallow" that Haman and his sons were hanged on in the Book of Esther (Est. 9:25), so it has a wide semantic range.

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Doesn't etz simply mean "wood"? I remember the word from an article that discusses many different ways that "an etz" could be written on. –  Mason Wheeler Jan 18 '13 at 18:21
    
@Mason Wheeler: I'd say so. It is so translated 107 of 328 occurrences in the A.V. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Jan 18 '13 at 18:29
    
+1. "wide semantic domain" is what I was trying to get at in my answer, but I'd have never thought of phrasing it like that. –  David Stratton Jan 18 '13 at 19:55
    
Actually, "semantic range" is probably a more accurate term. "Semantic domain" seems to have its own particular meaning in linguistics. Admittedly, I used the wrong term. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Jan 18 '13 at 20:53

If you look up the Greek, you will see the word for nail is singular. Also cross is never used in the original language, only stake. The cross concept arose from Catholic/Anglican tradition.

Strong's Concordance online is most helpful.

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Weclome to C.SE. When you get the chance, please check out our tour and specifically How we are different than other sites. –  Affable Geek Feb 18 at 20:00
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Strong's is a concordance, not a lexicon. There are two separate words used for cross/beam/tree/wood, σταυρός and ξύλον. And in John 20:25, ἧλος (nail) is in the genitive plural: ἥλων (i.e. nails). –  Dan Feb 19 at 0:28
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Welcome to the site Val. We cleaned up your duplicate account issue for you. In the mean time this answer could use some serious supporting. As it is it looks like it has some factual errors. Would you be willing to examine those and edit in whatever references and support you have on this subject? –  Caleb Feb 19 at 7:51

John 20: 25 How many nails where used in Jesus execution?

John 20:25 which speaks of Thomas words "...'Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails and stick my finger into the print of the nails [...] I will certainly not believe.'" Critiques of the suggetion that Jesus was impaled point to Thomas indication that nailS [plural] were used and say this implys that a total of TWO nails were used for Jesus' hands (thus indicating he was executed on a cross not an upright stake).

Firstly, Jehovah's Witnesses have never said that two nails (plural) could NOT have been used for each hand. In fact, possibly two were necessary to support the weight of a fully grown man. Nothing in scripture excludes the possibility of two nails in each hand on an upright stake**. So...

Two nails could have been used - hands side by side rather than on top of each other.

Two nails could have been used - hands on top of each other

Two nails could have been used - one at wrist and the other into the palm of the hands

... or any other combination of two nails for each hand still allowing for the method of execution to be an upright stake.

Secondly, the pluralization of "nails" could also be referring to the total used (not necessarily the total used in each seperate hand). Thomas actually asked to see "the print of the nails" or the wounds inflicted by the nails, since the absolute minimum number of nails used had to be two (one in the hands and one for the feet) , that would be plural.

To illustrate: If someone told their doctor "I have tender spotS in my knees and back" The patient could well have single ONE spot of pain in one knee and and another in his back? If so the pluralization of SPOTS would be referring to the total number of spots in his body. Luke reports that Jesus showed Thomas "... his hands and his feet.]." (Luke 24:39), so the "nails" [plural] could be referring to those that went through his hands AND his feet.

TO IMPALE: The fastening of a victim either dead or alive to a stake, or pole.

MERRIAMS dictionary defines it as: a : to torture or kill by fixing ON a sharp stake http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/impale

GREEK

The Greek word translated by most bibles as "crucify" is in fact "stauroo" from the root "stauros" which means (torture) stake; xylon: stake/log; Latin crux: upright stake

"stauroo cause-STAND ...drive a stake into the ground, fasten ON a stake, IMPALE, now by popular usage, crucify, though there was no crosspiece."- - pp. 63, 64, Greek-English Keyword Concordance, Concordant Publishing Concern, 1983, 3rd printing of 6th edition of 1976. [CAPs mine]

CRUCIFY

In contrast Merriam's define "crucify" as: : to put to death by nailing or binding the wrists or hands and feet to A CROSS http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/crucify

Given the meaning of the Greek word used in scripture obviously IMPALE is a more accurate and appropriate choice.

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