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The Chi-Rho Symbol, Chrestos and the Cross

by D.M. Murdock/Acharya S

Chi Rho symbol used for both 'christ' and 'chrest.'The ancient monogram combination of the Greek letters χρ or "chi-rho" denoted a variety of terms, including "gold" (χρυσός), "anointed" (χριστός) and "good" (χρηστός). Thus, in determining the usage of the word χρηστός chrestos we need to factor in studies of the chi-rho, an abbreviation employed on coins, shields and elsewhere for centuries prior to the common era.

Observe of coin of Ptolemy III, with chi-rho symbol between the eagle's legsOne of these pre-Christian coins is that of Ptolemy III (fl. 246-220 BCE), in which the chi-rho symbol appears between the eagle's legs on the reverse side, as shown on the right here.

Furthermore, the chi-rho symbol was "also used by pagan Greek scribes to mark, in the margin, a particularly valuable or relevant passage; the combined letters Chi and Rho standing for chreston."

The chi-rho or labarum is the "chrestomathic mark of the ancients," the sign allegedly under which the Roman emperor Constantine said he would conquer, influenced by an Egyptian (Zosimus, Hist. Nov., lib. ii, c. 29). The term "chrestomathy" is used to this day as meaning, "useful learning" and referring to literary study aids.

It should be noted that this chi-rho symbol bears a striking resemblance also to a pre-Christian European pictograph, as discussed by Dr. Walter O. Moeller, in an article in Hommages à Maarten J. Vermaseren (v. 2; Leiden, E.J. Brill, 1978) entitled, "Marks, Names and Numbers."

ImageIn his discussion about the solar chi-rho symbol that eventually came to represent Jesus Christ, resembling a man on a cross, Moeller (817) includes an image from a "neolithic passage-grave in Denmark" (right). The neolithic period in Scandinavia extends from around 7,000 to 2600 BCE. Moeller (817-818) describes the image thus:

To the right of the stick-man is the four-spoked solar wheel and the six-pointed asterisk. The stick-man, which is also a Chi-Rho of sorts...has fingers at the ends of both arms, a line slanting down through the upright and a leg extending down from the upright to the right. The slanting line has been correctly identified as a spear and the whole figure, therefore, as a representation of a savior-god. But in this case the deity cannot be the Christ but must be instead Odin-Wotan who hanged himself on a tree for nine days and nine nights with a spear in his side as a sacrifice to himself. The slanting line makes the stickman also a prototypal St Stephan's Cross. Somewhat similar to this neolithic symbol from Northern Europe is a stick-man figure from predynastic Egypt.

To the trained eye, this image and description represent quite the admission, as well as commentary upon the fact that what is known in the hallowed halls of academia rarely makes it to the masses. This book was published in 1978, so why hasn't this information concerning a pre-Christian savior-god on a cross with a spear through his side widely known?

The image of Odin-Wotan that Moeller discusses eventually became depicted as in later imagery and poetry:

"I know that I hung,
on a windy tree,
for all of nine nights,
wounded with a spear
,
and given to Óðinn,
myself to myself,
on that tree,
which no man knows,
from what roots it runs." 

Based on the neolithic symbol discussed here, there is little reason to believe that the Norse motif was taken from the gospel story, rather than the other way around.

Further Reading

The Sacred Spear and the Side-Wounding
Is Suetonius's Chresto a Reference to Jesus? 
The Chi-Rho Symbol and Chrestos
Chrestos Magical Cup? 
Chrestes as Oracle and Chrematizo in the New Testament
Isis the Chrest and the Egyptian Houses of Goodness
Apollo, Son of God and the Chrest?
Pliny, Tacitus and Suetonius: No Proof of Jesus
Christos or Chrestos?
Does Josephus prove a historical Jesus?
The Jesus Forgery: Josephus Untangled
Franck Goddio Society Chrestos Bowl Report
Earliest Reference Describes Christ as 'Magician'
Catalogue of Chrest
The First 'New Testament': Marcion of Pontus and the Gospel of the Lord

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