BAR 39:02, Mar/Apr 2013
Earliest Depiction of Jesus’ Crucifixion
In Greek, the language of the early church, the capital tau, or T, looks pretty much like our T. The capital rho, or R, however, is written like our P.
If you superimpose the two letters, it looks something like this: . The earliest Christian uses of this tau-rho combination make it what is called a staurogram. In Greek the verb to “crucify” is stauroō; a “cross” is a stauros. In scholarly terms a combination of letters like this is called a compendium, a monogram-like device, in this case (in the earliest Christian uses) producing a pictographic representation of a crucified figure hanging on a cross—used in the Greek words for “crucify” and “cross.”