Primary source is a term used in a number of disciplines to describe source material that is closest to the person, information, period, or idea being studied.
In the study of history as an academic discipline, a primary source (also called original source or evidence) it is an artifact, a document, a recording, or other source of information that was created at the time under study. It serves as an original source of information about the topic. Similar definitions are used in library science, and other areas of scholarship. In journalism, a primary source can be a person with direct knowledge of a situation, or a document created by such a person.
Primary sources are distinguished from secondary sources, which cite, comment on, or build upon primary sources, though the distinction is not a sharp one. A secondary source may also be a primary source and may depend on how it is used. “Primary" and "secondary" are relative terms, with sources judged primary or secondary according to specific historical contexts and what is being studied.
One of the concerns about "citizen journalism", aka blogging, is about the lack of the rigors of formal journalism. A lot of what passes as “news” in the blogosphere is nothing more than gossip really. Of course, the declining standards in what constitutes “news” with the media these days does nothing to help the situation, but rather serves to blur the lines between good journalism and bad journalism even further.
The rigors are there for a reason. Whether or not “journalism” overall is really a field of study is beside the point. At very least, it is a discipline. The rules of the discipline are there for a reason.
Primary sources in an organization are those of the organization, its members and its representatives. Primary sources outside the organization would be those who have or have had direct observation of the organization.
Recently, it seems there is some confusion about what United Church of God, an International Association (UCGia, or UCG or short) teaches as far as crosses go. Is the cross an acceptable symbol for Christianity? Should one venerate the cross? Should one wear the cross as an outward sign of one’s belief?
Well, let’s go to the primary source and find out, shall we? Why not go to www.ucg.org and use their handy search tool and see what it is that they say about the cross?
Will you find a “Thou shalt not wear a cross”? Probably not. That begs the whole question of whether or not a church can really forbid anything. If you step over certain lines, you might be asked not to come to services for a while, but it is unlikely that their website will have a direct “command”, if you will, not to wear the cross. However, I did find several entries that make a pretty clear picture of what the guidelines are:
Shape of the cross not spelled out
The word translated "cross" in the New Testament is the Greek word stauros, which "denotes, primarily, ‘an upright pale or stake’" (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, "Cross, Crucify").
"Both the noun and the verb stauroo, ‘to fasten to a stake or pale,’ are originally to be distinguished from the ecclesiastical form of a two beamed ‘cross’" (ibid.).
If we don’t know whether Jesus was executed on a stake or a cross, or what shape of cross, how did the t-shaped cross come to be the most popular symbol of Christianity?
Vine’s explains: "The shape of the [two-beamed cross] had its origin in ancient Chaldea, and was used as the symbol of the god Tammuz (being in the shape of the mystic Tau, the initial of his name) in that country and in adjacent lands, including Egypt. By the middle of the 3rd cent. A.D. the churches had either departed from, or had travestied, certain doctrines of the Christian faith.”
Thus we see that the most common symbol of Christ and Christianity was a symbol that long predated Jesus and biblical Christianity.
In The Good News magazine, Nov/Dec 1997, we read in “Modern Christianity’s Forgotten Roots” by Scott Ashely, a member of the COE:
Transformed by paganism
While the practices of the apostles were being banned, traditions from other religions were being incorporated and relabeled as Christian. "Subtly, so subtly that the bishops themselves had not seen them, the old gods had entered their churches like the air of the Mediterranean. And they live still in Christian ritual, in the iconography and the festivals of Christianity . . . The ancient sign of life, the ankh, which the gods had carried in their sculptures for thousands of years, was easily transformed into the Christian cross; the figure of Isis nursing her child Horus, Isis Lactans, became the figure of the Virgin with Jesus at her breast . . .
Then, there is this:
Sunrise Services at the Temple (Ezekiel 8)
Ezekiel 8-11 records the details of another powerful vision the prophet received from God. The date is a year and two months after the first vision (compare 1:1-2; 3:15-16; 8:1). This would seem to place it within the 40-day period during which Ezekiel lay on his right side to represent the punishment for Judah’s sins—following the 390 days on his left side for Israel (compare 4:4-8). (However, it should be noted that, as sometimes happens with the Hebrew calendar, it is possible that a 13th month had been added to the year, which would mean that the vision of chapters 8-11 occurred just after the 40-day period.)
The image is referred to as the "image of jealousy…which provokes to jealousy" (verse 3). This probably hearkens back to God’s commands against idolatry: "You shall not make yourself a carved image…[to] bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God… You shall destroy their [the Canaanites’] altars, break their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God)" (Exodus 20:4-5; 34:13-14). Israel is God’s wife by covenant, and He is rightly jealous over her loyalty and affections—demanding that she not enter into adulterous relations with other gods, adopting their worship customs. Of course, being provoked to jealousy essentially means being provoked to justified anger, which may be why the Jewish Tanakh translation renders verse 3 as saying, "that was the site of the infuriating image that provokes fury." The Revised English Bible has "where stands the idolatrous image which arouses God’s indignation."
There are different ideas as to what this image was. Some propose an image of Tammuz, the counterfeit savior of the Chaldean religion, since his worship is specifically mentioned in the chapter as occurring in the same place (Ezekiel 8:14). Surprisingly, the image could have been that of a large cross. As Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words explains, the modern cross "had its origin in ancient Chaldea, and was used as the symbol of the god Tammuz (being in the shape of the mystic Tau, the initial of his name) in that country and in adjacent lands, including Egypt. By the middle of the 3rd cent. A.D. the churches had either departed from, or had travestied, certain doctrines of the Christian faith. In order to increase the prestige of the apostate ecclesiastical system pagans were received into the churches apart from regeneration by faith, and were permitted to retain their pagan signs and symbols. Hence the Tau or T, in its most frequent form, with the cross-piece lowered, was adopted to stand for the ‘cross’ of Christ" ("Cross, Crucify," New Testament Section, 1985).
The United News:
Anointing in the Church Today
How do we use the tool of anointing today? The Bible doesn’t specify details about a right versus a wrong way to anoint. Some religions anoint the head with their finger in the shape of the cross, which we readily understand is wrong. The question has been asked by some members in the past, "Do you anoint the part of the body that is ill?" We do not, for we follow the example given to us of anointing the head with oil (Exodus 29:7; Luke 7:46).
In addressing the youth, Vertical Thought had this to say:
Question: Why shouldn’t we wear a cross as a sign of being a Christian?
Answer: Having a desire to let our light shine and to share our faith are positive goals! In order to answer this specific question, though, we must also consider the background of the cross, the New Testament record and Jesus’ teaching about how to display our Christianity.
One of the first questions we might ask is, Who decided that the cross was to be the sign of Christianity? This tradition of wearing a cross does not come from the Bible or the practices of the New Testament Church. Though there are at least seven different types of crosses, we are not even certain that Jesus was crucified on a cross-like apparatus. Though crucifixion on a cross was common at the time, the Bible allows that Jesus may have been put to death on an upright pole (rendered "tree" in 1 Peter 2:24 from the Greek word stauros, which primarily means an upright stake).
A study of history shows that the cross symbol predates Christianity. According to author Ralph Woodrow, "Centuries before the Christian era, the cross was honored as a religious symbol by the people of Babylon. It is seen on their oldest monuments. Historians say that it was a symbol associated with Tammuz" (Babylonian Mystery Religion, p. 51). From Babylon, the cross spread to other nations and was associated with paganism long before Jesus’ crucifixion in A.D. 31.
Woodrow further explains, "It was not until Christianity began to be paganized that the cross came to be thought of as a Christian symbol. It was in 431 A.D. that crosses in churches and chambers were introduced, while the use of crosses on steeples did not come until about 586 A.D." (p. 50).
While most people today connect the cross with Christianity rather than paganism, we must also ask if the cross is something to be worshipped or honored. While the apostles preached "the cross [stauros]" as part of the history of Christ’s ministry for our sakes (1 Corinthians 1:17-18), it was not something they idolized. It was a shameful instrument of death (Hebrews 12:2). In His crucifixion, Jesus took on Himself our shameful sins. Having our sins forgiven is a wonderful blessing, but there is no need to glorify the instrument used.
Finally, consider what the Bible teaches about wearing any religious symbol. Under the Old Covenant that God made with ancient Israel, God instructed them to wear reminders of their faith upon their hands (Deuteronomy 6:8; 11:18). In fulfillment of this command, phylacteries, small leather boxes containing scriptural passages, were traditionally worn by Jewish men during their morning weekday prayers. Many did this to appear righteous to others (Matthew 23:5).
During His New Testament ministry, Jesus taught His followers to display their spirituality through their actions and deeds (Matthew 5:16). Under the New Covenant, ushered in by Christ, God’s laws are to be written on our hearts—that is, in our minds (Hebrews 8:10; 10:16). People who truly practice the Christianity of the Bible stand out as beacons of light in a spiritually darkened society because of the way they live. They have no need to wear external signs like a cross to identify themselves as Christian.
If you would like to learn more about the history of the cross and how this pagan symbol entered Christianity, read chapters 6 and 7 of Ralph Woodrow’s book, Babylon Mystery Religion. These two chapters are respectively titled "Is the Cross a Christian Symbol?" and "Constantine and the Cross."
One of the strongest statements is in:
Question and Answer: Why Doesn’t Your Church Use the Symbol of the Cross?
Thank you for your interest. The Greek word translated as "cross" is stauros. It means the upright or stake portion of an instrument of execution that has been used in several cultures down through history. Sometimes executioners used a crosspiece at the top of or in different places on the stake; at other times, there was no crosspiece. It’s impossible to know exactly what type the Romans used in the crucifixion of Christ. It is clear, however, that the Romans attached a sign over His head (Matthew 27:37), which could have been upon a stake or a crosspiece.
Because Christ’s death is of such monumental significance to the Christian, some have mistakenly thought that the cross should be a part of Christian worship. But we should remember that it was an instrument of torture. When we stop to realize that fact, it should be clear that it’s grossly inappropriate to wear it as religious jewelry or an object of worship. Some would argue that using a cross in this manner symbolizes the value of Christ’s death. We disagree.
It’s true that the apostle Paul referred to the cross in a symbolic way (1 Corinthians 1:17, 23). Paul also used the cup of wine from the Passover as a symbol (1 Corinthians 10:21). And John the Baptist referred to Christ as the "Lamb of God" (John 1:36). But this doesn’t mean that we should begin to use cups or figures of lambs as religious ornaments or as objects of worship.
Furthermore, the second of God’s Ten Commandments strictly prohibits the use of objects in worship. "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them" (Exodus 20:4-5). (For more information about how the Ten Commandments apply in everyday Christian life, please see our booklet The Ten Commandments. If you do not have a copy, we would be happy to send you one. Or you can find it online at the literature library of our Web site at www.ucg.org.)
God wants us to direct our worship and prayers to Him, not to any physical object. Christ explained this principle in John 4:24: "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth." Following the biblical instruction, the United Church of God does not use the figure or image of a cross in its worship services. Neither do UCG IA members wear crosses as symbols of devotion. We refer to the cross in the way that the Scripture refers to it—that is, as a figure of speech to explain Christ’s atoning death for us.
I cannot come to any other conclusion than that of UCG does not endorse the wearing of crosses.
A primary source is also eye witness, of course, and I can relate a story about when I hadn’t been attending UCG very long. A woman came to church wearing a somewhat prominent cross. It wasn’t so large as to attract immediate attention, but if you were close enough to speak to her, then you could easily notice it. I can tell you that after the second week of wearing it, she no longer came to church services wearing it.
As most of you know, I am no longer affiliated with UCG, so I don’t have anything personal to gain by pointing all this out, but if we cannot deal honestly with each other, then what does that say about us?