Monday, January 11, 2016
The Use Of The Cross Before The Time Of Christ 1886
The Use Of The Cross Before The Time Of Christ 1886
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S. Baring-Gould in his Medieval Myths cites many instances from which we condense the following:
The cross was a sacred sign among the Gauls. Their most ancient coins were circular, with a cross in the middle. A Gallo-Roman palace in the south of France, whose ruins were uncovered in 1850, had many crosses carved into the pavement. These were of six varieties, viz: the St. George's cross, plain; the same, with foliations in the angles; the same ornamented with fishes and the bust of Neptune; the Maltese cross; the St. Andrew's cross, with trefoil ends; the same with heart-shaped ends. One cross on this pavement measured over 19 feet in length. The gigantic head of Neptune, as indicated by the trident and the surrounding fishes, bore a close resemblance to the conventional pictures of Christ, so that the laborers who exhumed it exclaimed, "C'est le bon Dieu, c'est Jesus."
The cross was also symbolic among the Irish and British Kelts. The temple in the tumulus of Newgrange is in the shape of a cross with rounded arms. The shamrock of Ireland derives its sacredness from its affecting the same form. In the mysticism of the Druids the stalk or long arm of the cross represented the way of life, and the three lobes of the clover-leaf, or the short arms of the cross, symbolized the three conditions of the spirit-world, heaven, purgatory and hell.
The Hammer of the Scandinavian god Thor, the Thunderer, was in shape of a cross. Among the flint weapons discovered in Denmark are stone cruciform hammers, with a hole in at the intersection of the arms for the insertion of the haft. As the lateral limbs could have been of little or no use, it is probable that these cruciform hammers were those used in consecrating victims in Thor's worship.
Among the German peasantry the sign of the cross is used to dispel a thunder-storm. The cross is used because it resembles Thor's hammer, and Thor is the Thunderer. For the same reason bells were often marked with "filfot" or cross of Thor; and curiously enough the filfot is the sacred swastika of the Buddhist. (The swastika is a cross, the ends of which are bent at right angles to the main lines.) The same figure occurs on coins of Syracuse, Corinth and Chalcedon, and is frequently employed on Etruscan funerary urns, and was the badge of the gravediggers in the Roman catacombs.
Crosses were found, according to Sozomen, upon the stones of the Serapium in Egypt, and symbolized "the life to come." This was undoubtedly the Crux Ansata, or Hebrew Tau with a loop handle. The antiquaries of the last century supposed it to he a Nile key or the Phallus, but it is pow known to have been the symbol of life. On the Rosetta stone it is employed to translate the Greek word AIWNOSIOS. A figure of an Egyptian Shari wears a necklace which suspends a pectoral cross.
The cross was used by Assyrians; one hangs upon the breast of Tiglath Pileser in the colossal tablet from Nimrod. Another figure from the ruins of Nineveh wears a Maltese cross on his bosom. The handled cross was a sacred symbol among the Babylonians, occurring repeatedly on their cylinders, bricks and gems.
The Phoenician Astarte is represented on the coins of Byblos holding a long staff surmounted with a cross and resting her foot on the prow of a galley, and not unlike the familiar figures of Faith on the Christian Knowledge Society books. The cyclopean temple at Gozzo, supposed to be of Phoenician work, is of a cruciform shape. As in Phoenician iconography the cross generally accompanies a deity, in the same manner as the handled cross is associated with the Persepolitan, Babylonish und Egyptian gods, we may conclude that it had with the Phoenicians the same signification of life eternal. That it also symbolized regeneration through water this writer believes. On Babylonish cylinders it is generally employed in conjunction with the hawk or eagle, either seated on it or flying above it. This eagle is Nisroch, whose eyes are always flowing with tears for the death of Tammuz. Nisroch is the rain-cloud. In Greek iconography Zeus, the heaven, is accompanied by the eagle to symbolize the cloud. On certain Phoenician and other coins of Asia Minor the eagle and the cross go together. Therefore the cross may symbolize life restored by rain.
The Tau or cross without the top projection, was used on the roll of the Roman soldiery as the sign of life, while the Greek Theta designated death. The prehistoric lake-dwellers of Northern Italy stamped the bottoms of their pottery vessels with the mark of the cross. Especially was the saucer which covered the cinerary urns of this people so marked, showing that the cross was associated with their thoughts of the termination of this life, if not with the opening of a future existence.
The city of Palenque was a ruin in the depth of the forest of Central America at the time of the conquest of Mexico by the Spaniards. In the palace was an altar of gypsum, on which were sculptured two figures standing, one on each side of a cross, to which one extended his hands with an offering. Above the cross was a bird of peculiar character, perched, us we saw the eagle Nisroch, on a cross upon a Babylonish cylinder. At the end of an old pre-Mexican manuscript is a colossal cross, in the midst of which is represented a bleeding deity. The Incas of Peru honored a cross made out of a single piece of jasper as an emblem belonging to a former civilization. The Aztecs adopted the cross from the Mayas, whom they claim to have conquered as early as B. C. 800. It was the emblem of Quiateot, the god of Rainto whom they sacrificed their children. The cross is found in Brahminical iconography. It is seen in the Cave of Elephants, in India, over the head of a figure massacring infants. It is held in the hands of Seva, Brahma, Vishnu, Ivashtri, Krishna, Jama and Brawani.
The Jewish converts to Christianity detected the symbol of the cross in the blood struck on the lintel and door-posts of the houses of Israelites in Egypt. They supposed the rod of Moses to have been headed with the Egyptian Crux Ansata, in which case its employment in producing the storm of rain and hail, in dividing the Red Sea, in bringing streams of water from the rock, testify to its symbolic character with reference to water. They saw it in Moses with arms expanded on the Mount, in the pole with transverse bar upon which was wreathed the brazen serpent, and in the two sticks gathered by the widow of Sarepta. But especially was it seen in the passage of Ezekiel (ix: 4-6) "Set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh for all the abominations that be done in the midst of Jerusalem. Slay utterly old and young, but come not near any man upon whom is the mark." In the Vulgate it stands: "Et signa Thau super frontes," etc.
Baring-Gould thus concludes: "For my own part I see no difficulty in believing that it formed a portion of the primaeval religion, traces of which existed over the whole world, among every people, that trust in the cross was a part of the ancient faith which taught men to believe in a Trinity, a War in Heaven, a Paradise from which man fell, a Flood and a Babel; a faith which was deeply impressed with a conviction that a Virgin should conceive and bear a son, that the dragon's head should be bruised, and that through shedding of blood should come remission. ... It is more than a coincidence that Osiris by the cross should give life eternal to the spirits of the just; that with the cross Thor should smite the head of the great serpent and bring to life those who were slain: that beneath the cross the Muysca mothers should lay their babes, trusting by that sign to secure them from the power of evil spirits; that with that symbol to protect them, the ancient people of Northern Italy should lay them down in the dust."
There are, however, other theories explaining the use of the cross, without referring it to any primitive religion, anticipatory of Christianity. Among these theories are the following:
The Egyptian cross, or crux ansata, was a conventional representation of the phallus, or male organ of generation, and therefore the naturally suggested symbol of life. In support of this it is alleged that, as it is now the sign of the planet Venus, so anciently it represented the goddess presiding over the sexual relations. As such a symbol it it stood also for the annual overflow of the river Nile, upon which the life of the land of Egypt depended, and was placed beside the representations of the various gods upon whose creative or restorative powers the world was supposed to rest.
Some trace the symbol to the jagged lightning's flash, the most awe-inspiring display of the fire-power which early races worshiped. An ancient instrument for producing fire by means of the friction of two crossed sticks is also credited as the genesis of the sign. Others associate the cross with rudimentary art, observing that it is the simplest of all shapes in which lines can be put; next to a straight line, one line crossing another gives the first conception of form. Give a babe a slate and the cross will soon show the development of his sense-perception. Independently of any religious significance, the cross is used to-day as the basis of artistic designs; the head of a sceptre, a jeweled charm for the neck, the finial of dome and spire, the decoration of a Mohammedan's burnoos as well as that of the Catholic priest's robe, the shape of an exhibition hall or of a church. The variations in the shape of the cross as used among Christians, regardless of that of the original Roman instrument of torture, may be alleged to show that its artistic possibilities have something to do with its general use as a symbol. St. Andrew's cross is X shaped, the Greek has even arms, the Maltese has expanding branches, some are made of two transverse pieces, some with three. Some are enclosed in circles, others radiate into stars, and flower out into all the forms of imaginative art.
We venture the opinion that, while there was nothing in the pre-christian use of the cross-form to indicate that it was prophetic of the Cross of Calvary, yet the universality of such use, and the religious significance it had attained, were largely suggestive of the use of the cross as a Christian symbol. We see no trace of such a symbol in the New Testament. But it appeared very early in Church history, almost as soon as the believers in the Crucified came into contact with the Pagan world.
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