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Carry one's cross

Posted by Victoria S Dennis on July 30, 2009 at 06:41

In Reply to: Carry one's cross posted by RRC on July 29, 2009 at 15:17:

: : : : : : What is the origin of the phrase "carry one's cross"? Seems to have been a pre-Christ phrase, since Jesus himself used it while talking to the disciples (Please refer extract below)

: : : : : : Luke 14:26-28 (New International Version) "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters-yes, even his own life-he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

: : : : : : "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?

: : : : :
: : : : : Well, crucifixion was a well-established method of execution before Jesus, so that might have something to do with it.

: : : : : DFG

: : : : I don't think the fact that Luke (also Matthew) put that phrase into Jesus' mouth imply that at all. Even if you take the view that the gospel of Luke is an accurate report of what Jesus said, it is not hard to envisage Jesus using this phrase in foreknowledge of, and in reference to, the manner of his death. If on the other hand you believe that it is an account, written at least 30 years and possibly 70 years after the event, of what late 1st-century Christians remembered Jesus saying / imagined he might have said / thought he ought to have said, it's just as easy to imagine the writer ascribing a phrase that by that time was commonplace in Christian preaching to Jesus himself. (VSD)

: : : Crucifixion pre-dates Christ."...the Persian emperor Darius crucified 3,000 political prisoners five hundred years before the time of Jesus." "Usually the condemned man was whipped, then made to carry the crossbean (the patibulum) to the crucifixion site, where the upright post was already fixed. In other words the many pictures and movies that show Jesus carrying a 'full cross' are probably not correct." From "Everyday Bible Literacy" by J. Stephen Lang, 2007, Writer's Digest Books, Page 79.

: : And remember that what Luke 14:27 actually says is:
: : êáὶ ὅóôéò ïὐ âáóôάæåé ôὸí óôáõñὸí ἑáõôïῦ êáὶ ἔñ÷åôáé ὀðίóù ìïõ, ïὐ äύíáôáé åἶíáί ìïõ ìáèçôήò.

: Darn. That Greek looked okay in the edit box but it didn't post right, but you get the idea. The Bible wasn't written in English.

Crucifixion had indeed a very long history in the Middle East - the original punishment of Haman in the Book of Esther was crucifixion, not "hanging from a gallows" as usually translated, and celebrations of the Feast of Purim in ancient times included representations of Haman on the cross. Only after the Diaspora did Jewish communities, finding that happy festivals centring on crucifixion did not, to put it mildly, promote a safe and peaceful life in medieval Europe, change to showing him on an ordinary gallows. (Michelangelo correctly showed Haman as crucified in the Sistine Chapel, however.)

That's another reason why I don't believe "carry one's cross" can possibly have been a phrase before Christianity. Crucifixion was not merely agonising but, very importantly, seen as shameful and humiliating, a fit end for villains like Haman, so the fact of Christ's crucifixion was a major stumbling-block to the acceptance of Christianity. The ancient world was familiar with the concept of a god who had been killed and resurrected; there were dozens of them - Attis, Adonis, Osiris, Tammuz, and many more - but the idea of one who had died a *humiliating* death was new and shocking. (VSD)