Well, for whatever reason, the Watchtower Society stresses the idea of Jesus hanged on a stake instead of a cross and they have actually gone back to some very old writings to find support for their claim. One that is of great importance is the reference given in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation (KIT) to the book, De Cruce Liber Primus, which was written by the Catholic scholar Justus Lipsius of the 16th Century. As proof they offer a photograph of an illustration that depicts an upright stake with a man hanging on it in the 2nd column of page 647 of Lipsius’ book. They go on to say that this is the manner in which Jesus was impaled. This leads anyone reading this statement to believe that the Catholic scholar Justus Lipsius supported the Watchtower’s belief that Jesus died on an upright stake. If this is true, then all of the evidence should bear this out.
It’s important to ask if this one image is the only one in Lipsius’ book. If we look beyond the single image the Watchtower included in the KIT, we will see that according to his research there were many different types of torture employed by the Romans. He includes several different illustrations showing different methods of torturing people. We see a tree being used to hang up someone, an X cross with a man hung on it, a man impaled through his rectum with the stake protruding from his mouth, and a couple of versions of the crux duplex or the cross with a crossbeam such as used by Christendom to illustrate Jesus’ death. Now, to be fair, just because there are other illustrations in De Cruce Liber Primus, that is not proof that the Watchtower Society has lied or been deceptive in stating that the cross is not what Jesus died on. Even though it is troubling to me that they didn’t permit the other types of crosses to be shown in the KIT.
Where do we need to go to get proof that Jesus died on a cross and not on a torture stake?
Lipsius stated in a caption next to an illustration of a cross (Crux Duplex) in his book that, “In the Lord’s cross there were four pieces of wood, the upright beam, the crossbar, a tree trunk (a piece of wood) placed below, and the title (inscription) placed above.” So, instead of supporting the Watchtower’s false teaching that Jesus died on a torture stake, Lipsius actually supported the idea of a Christian cross with a crossbeam. Did the translating committee get away with this outright lie? No it did not. The Watchtower Society was confronted by Christian groups and was pressured to change it in the 1985 edition of the KIT. Now, they still quote Justus Lipsius and give their followers the impression that he supported the torture stake teaching held by the Watchtower which their adherents just blindly follow without question. I think it is funny that the book that they cite to support their teaching actually proves it to be a false teaching.
Something else to consider is what the Bible says about the wounds in Christ’s hands. If we read John 20:24-25 we see that it supports the teaching of the cross.
“But Thomas, one of the twelve, who was called The Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. Consequently the other disciples would say to him: “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them: “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails and stick my finger into the print of the nails and stick my hand into his side, I will certainly not believe.” ”
It clearly says the print of the NAILS, plural or more than one nail. If Jesus was hung like the Watchtower says, there would be a hole in each hand from ONE nail passing through them. But since it says NAILS it is obvious that Jesus hands must have been apart as they would be on a cross when he was nailed to it.
It is very important that we each do our own research and really study God’s Word. For one to blindly accept the doctrines of a group is lazy Christianity and it will get a person killed for following a false prophet.
A slideshow of the Lipsius illustrations is here:
Special thanks to MCO4Help for research and clarification.