WHY DOES THE BIBLE SAY JESUS WAS HANGED ON A “TREE?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
“Jesus was ‘hanged on a tree?’ What exactly does that mean? Why does the Bible say ‘tree’ instead of ‘cross?’” Thank you for that question. You are evidently misunderstanding the verse because of its usage of “tree.” When the King James Bible says Jesus was hanged on a “tree,” the Greek word thus translated is xulon (“wood”). Note those five occurrences:
- Acts 5:30: “The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.”
- Acts 10:39: “And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree:”
- Acts 13:29: “And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre.”
- Galatians 3:13: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:”
- 1 Peter 2:24: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”
It would be profitable to see how our 1611 translators handled that Greek word xulon elsewhere in the New Testament.
- When the multitude came with Judas to arrest Jesus, the Bible says they came with “swords and staves” (Matthew 26:47). “Staves,” wooden clubs, in Greek, is xulon (also translated “tree”). This word appears again in verse 55.
- In discussing the quality of the Christian’s doctrine evaluated at the Judgment Seat of Christ, Paul talked about “gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble” (1 Corinthians 3:12). “Wood” is xulon.
- Jesus Christ, dictating to the Apostle John what he is to write to the Jewish assembly at Ephesus, said: “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God” (Revelation 2:7). In the New Heaven and New Earth, we read about the “tree of life” bearing twelve manner of fruits, yielding fruit every month, and the “leaves of the tree” were “for the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2). Xulon is translated three times in these three verses, “tree.” The “tree of life” is again mentioned in Revelation 22:14.
- While describing the wealth of the Antichrist’s government, and its economic collapse, we read of gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, fine linen, purple, silk, scarlet, thyine wood, ivory vessels, precious wood vessels, brass, iron, and marble (Revelation 18:22). Xulon is twice translated “wood” in this verse.
When the Bible says Jesus was hung on a “tree,” tree is being used in the general sense of “a structure made of wood” (The Oxford American Dictionary says this is the archaic and poetic/literary definition of “tree”). It was not a tree in the sense of Jesus being nailed to something growing in the ground with branches and leaves. It was some type of wooden structure, a tree that had already been cut down, stripped of leaves and branches, and trimmed into beams that could be carried by men (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21; Luke 23:26; John 19:17).
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