Are the Jehovah’s Witnesses right about Jesus’ death?
Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that Jesus was never crucified on a cross but rather on an upright stake. They claim that this is an important issue and that the Bible supports their position. However, the Catholic apologist, Trent Horn, points out that the Bible does not support their view and that the issue is not as important as they think it is. In the following excerpts Horn first explains their view and then provides a response. (Horn’s full article is available below.)
…the Witnesses make the claim that stauros means only a stake and never means two pieces of timber joined into a cross. They also say that in other passages (e.g., Acts 5:30, Galatians 3:13, 1 Peter 2:24) the Greek word xulon that is used means simply “timber.” Finally, the Witnesses point out that in Galatians 3:13 Paul quotes Deuteronomy 21:22-23 (“Cursed be every one who hangs on a tree”) in reference to Christ’s death. They say this shows Jesus wasn’t hung on a cross, because the passage in Deuteronomy refers to hanging from trees, not crosses…
First, stauros can mean upright stake, but that is not the word’s only meaning… In regards to xulon, according to Strong’s Concordance (3586), a xulon can refer to anything made from wood, be it a stake, a tree, or a cross. So its use in Paul’s citation of Deuteronomy 21:22-23 does not rule out Jesus being executed on a cross. Paul is simply using this verse to foreshadow Christ’s death, not to explicitly describe it.
…if a stake were used instead of a cross, then only one nail would have been driven through Jesus’ overlapping wrists… But this doesn’t explain why John 20:25 refers to the nails that were used to affix Jesus to the cross. This means that Jesus’ arms were stretched out on a cross and one nail was driven through each arm, not one nail through both arms on a stake.
In addition, Matthew 27:37 says, “[O]ver his head they put the charge against him, which read, ‘This is Jesus the King of the Jews.’” But if Jesus were crucified on a stake, then the sign would be placed directly above his hands, not his head.
(Read Horn’s full article here: http://www.catholic.com/blog/trent-horn/jehovah’s-witnesses-and-the-cross)