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Today, we have Catholic and Orthodox churches (and a few others) using the crucifix whereas most Protestant denominations have an empty cross. Did this empty-cross split happen around when Martin Luther "created" the Protestant church, or did it happen later? Also, why did the change of symbol happen?

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The "empty" cross is easy to draw so probably it has existed as a drawn symbol for at least as long as the crucifix as a sculpture. (I'm totally guessing.) –  dancek Sep 18 '11 at 13:56

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

In history there have always been reasons to show a crucifix without a corpus.1 Especially in the first four centuries of Christianity it was – because of theological reservations – not possible to illustrate the suffering servant figure of Jesus Christ: They thought that it was not beneficial for the majesty of Christ's divinity.2

Another trail leads us to Calvinism: Also there led a sovereign, bordering to the abstract image of God to a sober view of the cross without a corpus.3

1: Burkard Porzelt, Empirische Religionspädagogik, 175
2: Baudler, 1997, 289
3: Baudler, 1997, 57

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If I'm not mistaken, for the first few centuries of the church, they didn't even use a cross at all. –  Flimzy Sep 18 '11 at 17:48

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