Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Power of the Cross

One of the distinctive differences between Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christians is visible in their illustrations of Christ. Traditionally the Church has shown pictures of Jesus on a cross, but Watchtower publications show Jesus hanging on a single, upright pole which they call the torture stake.

To back up their claim that Jesus did not die on a cross, they’ve altered verses which mention “cross” and changed them to “torture stake” in their own version of the Bible called the New World Translation.

For example, notice how the New American Standard Bible compares with the New World Translation at 1 Corinthians 1:17

For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void.1 Corinthians 1:17 NASB

For Christ sent me, not to baptize, but to declare the good news; and not with wisdom of speech, so that the torture stake of the Christ should not be made useless.1 Corinthians 1:17-18 NWT

Jehovah’s Witnesses official website offers an explanation for the switch with this study note:

the torture stake of the Christ: Here the term “torture stake” (Greek, stau·rosʹ) is used to represent Jesus’ death on the stake. Jesus died in this way so that mankind would no longer be enslaved to sin but could have a good relationship with God.

Some members of the Watchtower Society take this issue very seriously. Others like myself, went door-to-door seldom desiring to argue over the cross/stake distinctive. I wanted to focus on what Jesus did on the torture stake rather than debate Christians at the door about whether there was a cross beam or not. After all, both Christians and Jehovah’s Witnesses could agree on that statement from their website “Jesus died in this way so that mankind would no longer be enslaved to sin but could have a good relationship with God.” 

Before the Cross – by Rob Pike –

Recently I posted this 3 minute video poem on our Facebook page written and read by a former Jehovah’s Witness who knows the POWER OF THE CROSS. He wrote this on January 15, 2001 while crying tears of gratitude to His Redeemer.

One of Jehovah’s Witnesses commented on the video saying:

Jesus didn’t die on a cross. He was put to death on a torture stake which was a straight single pole with no cross beam . We must always be sure that we share the true facts. I’m sure what you posted was an innocent mistake. Agape

My guess is she didn’t realize she was looking at a video created by a FORMER Jehovah’s Witness displayed on a page of interest to those who LEFT THE WATCHTOWER. So I took the opportunity to reach out and hopefully plant a seed to investigate her claims further.

My Comment:
Thanks for sharing that. I’ve heard this before from Jehovah’s Witnesses and seen the pictures in their publications of Jesus on a stake with one nail through His hands above His head. Of course, artists’ renderings of what Jesus looked like are subjective but we do have some clues within the Scriptures that help us to determine what His sacrifice looked like. What do you think about the clue given us in John 20:25? Was one nail used in His hands or two?  Also, does the Bible record the sign posted above Jesus’ head or hands? – Matthew 27:37

I’m sure you’d agree that what is most important is His sacrifice and the forgiveness poured out in His blood and not a debate over wood and nails, however, when we find our traditions or beliefs at odds with Scripture, I think it best to take the side of Scripture don’t you?

Her Response:
yes I agree on the forgiveness because Jesus said it himself when he said Forgive them Father, they know not what they do. At the same time I stand behind my statement on being accurate about the torture stake. If you have 2 glasses of water and they both represent the truth but one glass is 1/4 polluted and the other glass is pure clean water. What glass of water would you rather drink from?

It’s the same with the the truth do we want to take in the pure truth or something that is polluted with falsehood?

My Comment:
I would choose the pure truth and not the polluted water. You used a good example to complement what I had posted. When it comes to a religious tradition that can be proved inaccurate by Scripture, I would leave behind the tradition and follow the pure word of God. As I shared, Scripture leads me to believe two nails were used to secure the hands of Jesus. I’m sure we can come up with many more illustrations about truth and falsehood but in the final analysis we each must humble ourselves before God and agree with what details He chose to leave in His word to help us discern truth. In this case, the matter of whether there was a cross beam and one nail or two. But of course there are more weightier matters than this in the Bible. For example, what happened on that piece of wood? Why did Jesus die? How does that affect us today?

Her Response:
Jesus paid a debt he did not owe for people who cannot pay so we could be saved and have a relationship with Jehovah. Adam lost the chance for us to live forever as God had intended and to live in a perfect world. Jesus never sinned and gave his perfect life in order that we have that chance to live and have a relationship with Jehovah. Today we have that chance to follow as closely as we can in his footsteps. Preaching the good news of the Kingdom to all the nations. Acts 20:20. It affects us today that we not only save ourselves, but also those who receive, accept that message being baptized and become followers of Jesus Christ and preach the Kingdom message. Matthew 24:14. You are right about two nails being used. One nail was used to nail his hands to the top of the pole, and one nail was used to nail his feet to the bottom of the pole.

My comment:
I really appreciate that you took the time to watch this inspiring video. And I’m glad we agree on the faith Jehovah has given us to believe in Jesus Christ who paid a debt none of us could pay. No amount of money nor good deeds could pay for our sins. Only Jesus could do that. As the Bible clearly says “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. (1 Peter 2:24) Now, you may substitute “cross” with “torture stake” but the fact remains that Jesus took our sins upon His body there, amen? What a wonderful Savior! As Paul wrote to the Ephesians “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) I think you’d agree this is what’s at the heart of this video and the expression of faith and gratitude we both have for what Jehovah has done for us through Jesus and why we’ve been preaching the good news of His kingdom to the nations for two thousand years. But this point you raise about one nail through both hands does not even match your own New World Translation. Notice in John 20:25 that the “nails” do not refer to one nail in His hands and then one nail in His feet as you proposed. Rather, the New World Translation shows Thomas wanting to see “IN HIS HANDS” the print of one nail? No, “THE PRINT OF THE NAILS.” I don’t know how to read that any other way than how it is printed. Two hands and two nails.

I haven’t heard back from her yet, but I pray we can continue the conversation. It was a simple reminder to me how Jehovah’s Witnesses will major in the minors when they come across one of their “distinctive doctrines.” I have to wonder if she even took the time to watch the video or if the picture of the cross just motivated her to note our “innocent mistake.”

For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, – Philippians 3:18 

What do you think? Did Jesus die on a cross or a stake?

And do Jehovah’s Witnesses have any case in avoiding the cross because it’s a “pagan symbol?”

Here’s a Quick Question from Keith Walker –

I remember when I was a JW and studying with someone who had gone to see the musician Prince in concert, she told me he gave an explanation for the Greek word “stauros” as a pole by raising his hands together as if nailed on a torture stake and announced to the audience “someone lied to you.” At the time, I was impressed that even Prince was joining my religion! Years later, I understood who had really lied to me.
I never did get to see Prince in concert, but Charles Smith, a former Jehovah’s Witness, used a video of Prince to open up his discussion titled “What About the Cross?” at the 2018 Witnesses Now for Jesus conference. –

The facts point to the cross and not a torture stake

Even the Watchtower published a picture of Jesus on a CROSS in The Harp of God, 1921, page 113. Apparently they received “new light” yet forgot to change what their New World Translation says at John 20:25 concerning the nails in Jesus’ hands. 

But is this just a debate over wood and nails? No, but the debate is a distraction from the real meaning of Jesus’ sacrifice. That’s why Jehovah’s Witnesses are trained to make it a distinctive doctrine as you can see from the little conversation I had with one of them who needed to tell us we made an “innocent mistake” after seeing those crosses in the video.

The mistake is on the part of the Watchtower.
The mistake is not over a piece of wood,
but that they have missed the wisdom, grace and power
of God’s means to save us through that piece of wood
and the blood shed for our sins. 

Calvary’s Cross: Foolishness or God’s Wisdom and Grace –

Gus Astacio shared this message of the cross at the 2014 Witnesses Now for Jesus. Martha, a first time attendee from our Meetup group for ex Jehovah’s Witnesses, turned to me with tear rimmed eyes and said she was convicted during this talk and realized why she packed a swimsuit for a conference that didn’t advertise a pool or hot tub. Later that day, Martha was baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and not “God’s spirit-directed organization.” She came to understand the POWER OF THE CROSS.

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. – 1 Corinthians 1:18 NASB

May we all be “Sweetly Broken” at the Cross of Christ –

Keep yourself in God’s love,

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Author: Julie

As a convert to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Julie believed she had found “the Truth,” but when she was “disfellowshipped” for “apostasy” when she questioned the organization's policies and refused to trust the organization over Jesus as her ONLY mediator, Julie left to find true freedom serving the REAL Jehovah God in joy and truth! Call Julie at 719-355-7164 ext 113