AN ENQUIRY INTO THE ORIGIN AND HISTORY OF
THE SYMBOL EVENTUALLY ADOPTED AS
THAT OF OUR RELIGION
\u201cO CRUX, SPLENDIDIOR CUNCTIS ASTRIS, MUNDO
CELEBRIS, HOMINIBUS MULTUM AMABILIS, SANCTIOR
The history of the symbol of the cross has had an attraction for the author ever since, as an enquiring youth, he
found himself unable to obtain satisfactory answers to four questions concerning the same which presented
themselves to his mind.
The first of those questions was why John the Baptist, who was beheaded before Jesus was executed, and so far as we are told never had anything to do with a cross, is represented in our religious pictures as holding a cross.
The second question was whether this curious but perhaps in itself easily explained practice had in its
inception any connection with the non-Mosaic initiatory rite of baptism; which Jesus accepted as a matter of
course at the hands of his cousin John, and in which the sign of the cross has for ages been the all-important
feature. And it was the wonder whether there was or was not some association between the facts that the New
Testament writers give no explanation whatever of the origin of baptism as an initiatory rite, that this
non-Mosaic initiatory rite was in use among Sun-God worshippers long before our era, and that the Fathers
admitted that the followers of the Persian conception of the Sun-God marked their initiates upon the forehead
The last of the four questions was why many varieties of the cross of four equal arms, which certainly was not
a representation of an instrument of execution, were accepted by Christians as symbols of the Christ before
any cross which could possibly have been a representation of an instrument of execution was given a place
among the symbols of Christianity; while even nowadays one variety of the cross of four equal arms is the
favourite symbol of the Greek Church, and both it and the other varieties enter into the ornamentation of our
sacred properties and dispute the supremacy with the cross which has one of its arms longer than the other
Pursuing these matters for himself, the author eventually found that even before our era the cross was
venerated by many as the symbol of Life; though our works of reference seldom mention this fact, and never
do it justice.
He moreover discovered that no one has ever written a complete history of the symbol, showing the
possibility that thestauros or post to which Jesus was affixed was not cross-shaped, and the certainty that, in
any case, what eventually became the symbol of our faith owed some of its prestige as a Christian symbol of
Victory and Life to the position it occupied in pre-Christian days.
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