This question may seem very simple to the average person but to a Jehovah’s Witness this is huge. You are taught that the cross is a pagan symbol, that you shouldn’t wear it, have it in your home or otherwise even respect it. What bothered me when I was waking up was that I truly had bought into the idea that Jesus died on a stake. There is an explanation in their Greek Interlinear Translation that explains very wordily that it was a stake (crux simplex).
Once I had to admit that I had been deceived about a number of things, this teaching had to be examined as well. I spent a great deal of time reading this page on the website http://www.jwfacts.com http://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/cross-or-stake.php. I strongly urge you to go through this information, I don’t simply want to regurgitate it here, but I wanted to share how I finally reached the answer to my question.
I was still a bit in a quandary all because my brain was not cooperating, what I really wanted was for someone just to tell me directly that it was a cross or not. That kind of thinking is definitely from being brought up a Witness. You are always told what to believe, what to think, your free will is circumvented. It was HARD having to think about this myself. I had to sleep on it and then come back and read the information again and pretty much cajole my brain cells into really putting some effort into this!
I decided that a good way to understand was to find out how the Romans really went about killing off criminals. This page was helpful to me http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-topics/crucifixion/roman-crucifixion-methods-reveal-the-history-of-crucifixion/
This is a paragraph taken from the page: —According to the literary sources, those condemned to crucifixion never carried the complete cross, despite the common belief to the contrary and despite the many modern re-enactments of Jesus’ walk to Golgotha. Instead, only the crossbar was carried, while the upright was set in a permanent place where it was used for subsequent executions. As the first-century Jewish historian Josephus noted, wood was so scarce in Jerusalem during the first century A.D. that the Romans were forced to travel ten miles from Jerusalem to secure timber for their siege machinery. —
It made perfect sense to me that the stakes would be already be at the place of execution. I had always wondered how one man could carry a tree trunk all by himself anyway, so the stake being positioned next to the hole in ground and then hoisted up once the man was fixed in place followed my new train of thought very well, but then came the question, Jesus was carrying something, what was it? The scripture reads in the New World Translation: Matthew 27:32 As they were going out they found a native of Cyrene named Simon. This man they impressed in to service to lift up his torture stake,
A quote from jwfacts.com:
Scriptural references to Jesus death indicate that he died on a cross, not a stake.
The accounts at Matthew 27:26, 31-37, Mark 15:14-26, Luke 23:26-38, and John 19:1-22 all show that Jesus was forced to follow the practice of carrying the stauron to Golgotha. As seen from Dionysius quoted later, it was a Roman practice for the victim to carry the crossbeam, or patibulum to site of execution. There the patibulum was affixed to an upright stake.
John 19:17 “And, bearing the torture stake for himself, (bastazón hautó ton stauron), he went out to the so-called Skull Place, which is called Gol´go·tha in Hebrew.”
So I accepted now that the stake was already at the place waiting for Jesus, so what was being carried had to be cross beam. It would be smaller, thinner and relatively lighter and it would be possible for a man to carry it.
So if there is no real evidence to support that Jesus died on a stake why insist on it? If it was about historical evidence, truthfulness, integrity, it could be understood – but it isn’t. It’s just about being different. Judge Rutherford back in the day wanted the Jehovah’s Witnesses to be different from mainstream Christianity and so the cross had to be removed and proven to be ‘pagan’ by any way necessary – which included misquoting, lying and mistranslation.