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Five Crosses of Calvary

Not only do we seriously doubt there were Five Crosses on Calvary rather than three, we also don't believe it's particularly important.

But a couple of people have raised this question so we thought we'd look into it.

We do value emails from visitors to this site; they've done a great deal to expand our knowledge. And whilst we've no desire for this site to become yet another playground for conspiracy theorists, this particular issue seemed worthy of following up.

The Five Crosses of Calvary

Latin Cross

More than one person has pointed out a glaring discrepancy in the Bible, which shatters the traditional teaching of the Church. It suggests that contrary to popular belief, there were not two rogues crucified with Jesus; there were four. Consequently there were not three crosses on Calvary, but five.

Of course, if we want to find discrepancies in the Bible, we can. We can find many references for gay-bashing, Jew-bashing, or whatever cause we may wish to support. There are even verses in the Bible to support UFO sightings and biblical smut, all frequently misquoted.

The idea that there were five crosses is in the realm of Church-bashing, since all it does is suggest that there is conspiracy within the Church (Roman Catholicism, probably) to suppress the truth about the number of crosses. However, proponents do not say how such concealment could possibly benefit the Church.

Scandalous and sensational revelations might make spicy reading, but when the charges are trumped up as badly as the Five Crosses, it is difficult to take it seriously. Anyway, here are quotes from a couple of people who believe there were four bad guys:

  1. Biblical Proof

    First we are told that four baddies are clearly implied in the Bible.

    In Matt. 27:38, we read there were two robbers crucified with Jesus. Notice the wording (from Young's Literal Translation) carefully... "crucified with him are two robbers", not "crucified with him are only two robbers", which leaves open the possibility there were others crucified with Jesus.

    Sorry, but we can't accept omission as proof.

    Now let's look at Luke 23:32, which tells us "Two others also, who were criminals, were being led away to be put to death with Him." (NASB) So there we have it: two robbers, plus two criminals.

    Well, robbers are criminals. So both Matt. 27 and Luke 23 should be saying there were four criminals crucified. But they don't, and therefore there probably weren't.

    Further, if we look at the Matthew verse in another translation (God's Word Translation 1995) we see the word "criminals" used. And if we go way back to the Vulgate translation, the verse says Ducebantur autem et alii duo nequam cum eo, ut interficerentur, which refers to "the other two". Using the definite article shows there were only two, but these facts don't fit the conspiracy theory, so we'll ignore them.

    Also remember that both Matthew and Luke were written quite a few years ago, by different people, at different times, in a language very few people are now familiar with, translated into English (one of the quirkiest languages on earth) and re-translated into countless versions, where these bad guys are specified as: "criminals", "robbers", "malefactors" (KJV and others), "thieves" (Young's), "outlaws" (NET), "evil-doers" (Young's), and so on.

    Look at modern news reporting today. One story might refer to two thugs who robbed a man and stole his car; another reporter might write the same story as two muggers who fleeced a man and hijacked his car. Those two malefactors (nice medieval word) might also have been reported as gangsters, or alternatively, members of a crime syndicate.

    Any student of Shakespeare, one of the most respected writers of the English language, will confirm that the Bard wasn't particularly consistent in his spelling or grammar. In fact nobody was, because there was very little standardisation at all in the written language. The King James Version of the Bible (KJV) was published in the same era.

    Since those days, our world has been completely transformed by science and technology, so much so that it's nigh impossible to set our minds in the same frame as people who lived two thousand years ago. The fact that the Bible makes any sense at all is remarkable, if not a miracle.

    The Bible was written to give each and every one of us a very clear message. A message of God's love. And whether there were two or four malefactors (there's that word again) makes not the slightest difference to the Sacrifice of Jesus.

  2. Sinister agenda of the Church

    The Church has concealed from the masses the fact THERE WERE FIVE crosses and revealed the truth only to the few selected ILLUMINATI.

    (Illuminati: A sinister group guaranteed to pop up in such conspiracy theories. As is SHOUTING with CAPITAL LETTERS.)

    The secret has been hidden within Christian art and heraldry inspired by Christian iconography. See for example one of the oldest Christian symbols, the Cross of Jerusalem. The reason why the Church has been deliberately misleading Christians over all these years, is to MAINTAIN CONTROL over them.

    Well, that's all very neat for keeping conspiracy theory publishers in business, but frankly we don't buy it. There is no logic in the idea that the Church can have 'control' over the faithful by hiding facts.

    The five crosses appearing in Christian artwork can represent several different thoughts, the most popular being the representation of the five wounds of Christ (see Passion Cross) or Christ and the four Evangelists. This makes much more sense than having a religious symbol that includes reference to four Bad Guys.

    St. Julian's Cross
    Four crosses of the St. Julian Cross, forming a fifth cross
    Cross Crosslet
    Four crosses of the Cross Crosslet, forming a fifth cross
    Cantonee Cross
    Five crosses seen in the Cantonee Cross
    Jerusalem Cross
    Five crosses seen in the Jerusalem Cross

But the real problem in discussing or even thinking about whether there were two Baddies or four Baddies, is that it's a diversion from thinking about the Goodie. Such debates have plagued Christianity, as they plague other religions, in diverting attention from the really important matters of faith. Whether there were robbers or malefactors, two or four, and whether or not the Church has deliberately concealed things from the faithful, for some unimaginable reason, is not as important as the fact that Jesus was crucified on the cross to atone for man's sin.

The same holds for other debates about the Crucifixion. Were nails driven through the hands of Jesus, or the wrists? Or were his arms bound to the cross with rope? (See Were nails used?) The distinction is important, but not nearly as important as the reason why Christ was crucified.

Whether there were two Baddies or four Baddies may interest historians, and one day they might even discover a parchment entitled "Today's Execution List" to settle the argument. But it will not lead them any deeper understanding of the meaning of the Crucifixion.

Whatever our field of study: history, theology, literature, let's make sure we don't allow ourselves to become diverted and lose sight of the really important matters.

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Kings 2:1 and 11, Ezek. 1:4-24, and others, which are talking about angels, not ET

Often selected to mis-use as racy and salacious prose: Song 1, Ezek. 16, Ezek. 23 and others

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