Why a crucifix?

It was asked in the thread “you’re not an atheist if”, and I’ve sometimes wondered, why do christians wear a crucifix around their necks? If jesus had been be-headed, would they all wear little guillotines on a chain? What would they wear, if anything, if he had been burned at the stake? Or drawn and quartered, or hanged, would they all walk around with a miniature gallows around their necks? I’ve never really understood why they adapted a roman torture device as their universal symbol. It’s no wonder why they all go ape-shit if they see someone(me) walking around with an inverted crucifix on a shirt or on the back window of my truck. Makes me smile every time.

Or perhaps a little electric chair?

The official explanation is that the cross (protestant) and the image of christ crucified (catholic) are meant to be aids to contemplation and prayer.

There is claim with centuries of tradition that some religious nutjobs became so obsessed that they experienced the “stigmata” . Lots of claims but I’ve never seen any empirical evidence that such a thing exists. In modern times it’s linked to disorders in which self harm is a feature. In short, whenever I come across such claims, my bullshit detector comes over all unnecessary. .

There are actually nutbags in the philippines that crucify themselves every easter. They even supply their own nails.


My ex wife spent a year in the Philippines as an exchange student and actually saw it on the local TV news. Just as well, the reality would probably have made her vomit.

An ex Spanish possession, the Philippines remains chronically catholic, in the very worst sense of term . It also retained arguably one of the worst aspects of Spanish colonialism, the hacienda system, until the second half of the twentieth century. Not so much on Luzon, but certainly on some of the larger islands. I saw it on Negros. At that time the place was still damn near feudal, with half a dozen families owning almost all of the land…

Because a long American presence and US cultural imperialism***, many Filipinos thought/think it’s sophisticated to sound American. When we visited in 1979, I was amused to find all of the Filipino/Filipina news readers spoke with a broad US accent.

The practice of imitative crucifixions was condemned by the church but it did bugger all to stop it. (such as ex communicating anyone who did it and defrocking any priests who condoned it) .)

Ironically, the big cheese Filipino catholic at the time was cardinal Jaime Sin.

***The Philippines be came a de facto US colony after the Spanish American War in 1898.
Why? Because of the first truly international commodity; sugar. Many of the Philippine Islands still had a sugar mono culture when I visited. That had a catastrophic effect when the price of sugar plummeted in 1978.

Who bangs in the last nail?

It is crazy of course, but no less crazy than believing a superstitious ceremony, causes a thin wafer and a slurp of wine to be transformed, literally into the flesh and blood of someone who allegedly died 2 millennia ago.

My understanding is that the original Christian symbol was the Chi-Rho, formed by fusing the capital letters of the Greek word Christos. this was what Constantine supposedly saw across the sun and what he got his soldiers to paint on the shields.
The cross has been in use as a symbol for thousands of years and well before Christianity. It seems likely that once the religion was accepted by the Roman state and at the same time crucifixion ceased to be used, the Chi-Rho was gradually replaced by the crucifix. It was worn not as a celebration but as a symbol to remind all Christians of Jesus’ torment and death for their sins.

I’d still be willing to bet that if he had been killed in a different manner, they would not use a gallows or a guillotine as their symbol. A crucifix in and of itself is a really simple symbol, and easy to make 100’s of years ago. My wife has told me in the past that before the crucifixion the symbol used by christians was the “fish” symbol that people put on their cars nowadays to show how morally superior they are than the rest of us heathens.

Yeah, like the swastika. Because it’s such a simple symbol, the cross may be one of the earliest symbols made by human beings

Now I forget where I read this so it may be taken as anecdotal:

Keeping in mind the religion we call Christianity was only one of many sects claiming Jesus as their founder. As far as I can discover, Jesus ’ teachings were originally called ‘the way’ by the homicidal sect which became christianity, at least***. The name christianity was not widely used until the fourth century when it was used by emperor Theodosius 1. From him it became universal.

The fish symbol was used from the second century.:

ICTUS/ICHTHUS; Greek for fish . It’s an acronym: From memory it means Jesus christ son of god saviour.

Constantine abolished Crucifixion as a punishment in the fourth century. It was only after that the cross gradually became the main christian symbol.


I seem to remember reading that the Essenes used the term “The Way” to describe their beliefs I don’t think it’s a stretch to call them proto-christians.

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One of my favourite Cartoonists


You’re probably right about the gallows and other methods of death. :grin:

Your wife is a little bit out in her timeline. The fish symbol first became used by Christians in the second century. It is based on the Greek letters for Iēsous Christos, Theou Yios, Sōtēr Jesus Christ, Son of God, Saviour. This means that the very earliest Christians would not have used it because they were Jews in Judea, not Greek or Greek literate Romans, who were only preached to by Paul, the true inventor of Christianity and his followers.

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Correct on all accounts. At least as fat as we know.

I think you are right about the Essenes. There seems to have been a change in Jewish theological thinking around 100 years before Jesus, probably due to influence from Greek philosophy. Many sects grew up who interpreted the holy books differently, arrived at new theories regarding morals, death, the afterlife, and how to live. We also know that Jesus was one of many itinerant preachers/prophets in the Jewish tradition. The Bible itself tells us that Jesus saw his ministry as being solely for the Jews and that his role was to fulfil the scriptures, not to invent a whole new religion.


Matthew 5:17-18 “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or
the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.”

“For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.”

Biblical hermeneutics aside, I think that’s pretty clear.

Saul from Tarsus, was a devout Jew who had been rightly persecuting Jesus’ followers . ( for blasphemy at least) . So Saul has these hallucinations.

As a direct result of his hallucinations (epilepsy?) Saul bungs his oar in. Instead of allowing a minor Jewish sect fade away, as it almost certainly would have. He invents a new religion. He abolished Jewish ritual law and practice, such as circumcision, dietary law and blood sacrifice. He ignored Jesus’ stated purpose.
Saul allowed gentiles to join, and the rest is as they say, history. The result was arguably the most corrupt organisation since the Priests of Amun, who at one point were richer than Pharaoh.

Off topic slightly. The worship of Amum lasted over 3000 years.


OFF TOPIC, a niggle on the Gospels (I have many): I have long suspected that the gospels were not written by anyone who understood Jewish law and custom:

EG The woman taken in adultery was about to be executed by stoning as the law required. Had Jesus interfered, he could have been stoned. Had he arrogantly forgiven the woman, he would have been stoned for blasphemy.

Pretty good chance Jesus would have been stoned for blasphemy by his disciples had he declared himself the son of god.

The episode of the money changers in the temple would have seen Jesus chucked out by the temple guards. A look at the plans of the Jerusalem temple shows the money changes were in the outer courtyard which was also a market.

The money changers were crucial to temple worship. Worshippers would often need to buy the animal(s) they would sacrifice. They could only be purchased with money without a living thing on it, such as the head of the emperor. Instead, they had to use Jewish shekels which the money changers provided.

We do? Has new evidence come to light for his existence?

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No, ‘we’ do not.

There is no consensus among scholars.

As far as I can tell, most scholars tend to agree that at best, there may have be a first century Rabbi with name something like Yeshua/ Yoshua bart Yusuf . He **may ** have founded a small Jewish sect —etc etc etc

That has been my position until last year. In 2020 I discovered Dr Richard Carrier. He’s a mythicist . In his lecture on "The historicity Of Jesus’, her argues that Jesus was not an historical person, but rather, a mythical figure. That Christianity is synthesis of Judaism and Greek mystery religions. I find him compelling, but am not yet fully convinced. Right now all I am willing to say is that Carrier may be right.

Below is short lecture, there are a lot more on YouTube.

No new evidence.

It is possible that the Jesus figure was an complete invention but I am convinced the Bible stories contain a nugget of truth. Not the son of God and the miracles stuff obviously, only that a preacher called Yeshua probably existed at that time and did and said some of things reported. He probably accrued a few followers in just another Jewish sect and it was Paul that took what he had heard and preached it to the gentiles, forming a new religion.

Within the gospels there are certain sections that have Jesus doing or saying things that don’t fit with the divine image. I think these betray real events and that they were probably known and so had to be included.

My reading and research clearly matches yours and my assessment is also in line with what you say. I have spent years reading the bible and noting the inconsistencies and contradictions. It always amuses me that the vast majority of Christians know next to nothing of their holy book. I call them Sunday School Christians.

I have two favourite parts of the gospels that may shed light on the real Jesus.

  1. When he refuses to heal a Canaanite woman and asks if it is right to give the child’s food to the dog. Not what we would expect the loving saviour of mankind.
  2. His words on the cross, Eli Eli Lama Sabachthani quoting Psalm 22, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? A strange thing for the son of God to say if he knew his purpose in coming to earth.

An even stranger thing for god to say. Jesus is said to be one of the trinity, eternally existing.

One definition, which fits with what I was taught at my catholic school. I have never managed to get my head around it. The very definition is a paradox imo.

"We believe in one living and true God who is the Creator of heaven and earth; who is eternal, almighty, unchangeable, infinitely powerful, wise, just and holy.

We believe that the one God eternally exists in three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and that these three are one God, co-equal and co-eternal, having precisely the same nature and attributes, and worthy of precisely the same worship, confidence, and obedience"

Two things, among many, that the Catholic church teaches that makes no sense. The Trinity and the Eucharist. Transubstantiation is just nuts. The wafer and the wine actually become the body and blood. Don’t get me started on the whole eating your God, human sacrifice thing but they clearly do not change.

Nuts? I thought it was wine and a wafer? What king of nuts? I may pop along for a sampler…

Just kidding, it’s madder than mad doctor McMad.

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