Tau Rho staurogram - also not a Christogram

A Tau Rho staurogram in P75, Mater Verbi (Bodmer) Papyrus.
Dated paleographically to the third century (with most scholars tending toward the earlier half of that century). Contains major portions of Luke and John. The Greek text of this codex is a representative of the Alexandrian, closer to Codex Vaticanus than to Codex Sinaiticus.

Though we have addressed this before, the subject keeps reappearing in scholarly papers and books, all of which assume how it is Christian. However, that is not its history, as even Christian apologists admit:
...the device itself is pre-Christian, used for more mundane purposes, e.g., as an abbreviation for “three/thirty”. Early on (likely sometime in the second century), Christians appropriated the device and invested it with a new function and meaning all their own.  The earliest Christian uses extant are in NT manuscripts: P75, P66 and P45, which are typically dated to the early 3rd century CE.  As Robin Jensen has observed, in these cases the staurogram likely served as a pictographic reference to the crucified Jesus. (The “Staurogram”: Newly published article, February 15, 2013)
Two problems with that:

  1. It's early usage was unexplained at the time; later interpretations are more wishful thinking than evidence-based.
  2. The 'early' texts do not use the terms Christ/Christian/Christianity - they are pre-Christian.

The Tau-Rho certainly has a sacred meaning, only it is not Christian, but Chrestian. We know this as a certifiable, verifiable fact because Chrest is actually used in monumental inscriptions, a legal document, a church mosaic and in some of the texts. Christ is never used.

Chrestianity has much archaeological support; everything labelled as "early Christian" is stolen.

The connection between the Tau Rho and crucifixion is interesting. Visually, it looks obvious, as the loop of the Rho could also be a man's head above the cross-bar. This could therefore be regarded as a strong link between the Ptolemaic faith (Chrestian, or otherwise) and the gospel crucifixion.

Antinous the God,
Who is among the Shining Ones of Heaven,
Has been transfigured into a God of Eternal Youth,
Perfect of countenance,
Who is dazzling in beauty of the eyes,
Whose heart is full of heroic joy
Since He received the order of the Gods
At the hour of his death.

Every ritual of the Book of the Hours
Shall be repeated for him
Along with each of His Mysteries.

His Word shall be spread to the whole world.
His teaching shall be a never-ending river
Of admonition, inspiration and mystery.

Nothing comparable has been conferred
On any mortal man before now,
Just as with His altars, His temples
And His sacred images.

The link between the two is death and resurrection, which lies at the centre of the Osiris Myth, celebrated in Egypt from pharaonic into Roman times, thanks to the Ptolemaic syncretisms. We know how Hadrian used this as the basis of his sacrificing Antinous and resurrecting him as divine - it is written on the Antinous obelisk in Rome, taken there by a pope.

This is how we also know that the gospels are post-Hadrian.

The Tau Rho in a church mosaic at Moshav Aluma, Israel; dated ca. 500 CE. The addition of the alpha/omega to the Tau Rho is typical for the late-4th century and after.

The Israel Antiquities Authority claims this for the Aluma basilica church:
According to archaeologist Dr. Daniel Varga, directing the excavations on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority, "An impressive basilica building was discovered at the site, 22 meters long and 12 meters wide. The building consists of a central hall with two side aisles divided by marble pillars. At the front of the building is a wide open courtyard (atrium) paved with a white mosaic floor, and with a cistern. Leading off the courtyard is a rectangular transverse hall (narthex) with a fine mosaic floor decorated with colored geometric designs; at its center, opposite the entrance to the main hall, is a twelve-row dedicatory inscription in Greek containing the names Mary and Jesus, and the name of the person who funded the mosaic's construction." 
I thought this most unlikely and so contacted the archaeologist directly, getting this reply:
 The first row of the Nartex inscription: + xmr which almost certainly can be translated as:  (cross)   Christ born of Mary 
Very interesting, but clearly not quite matching the claim. The meaning is discussed here:
ΧΜΓ, a Symbol of Christ
Author(s): William K. Prentice
Source: Classical Philology, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Oct., 1914), pp. 410-416
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/261452
In short, there is no substantial evidence for the meaning and its interpretation is very much open to debate. Here's a complete alternative: it is Hebrew for ass, or donkey (as per Genesis) and as such, can be related to the Alexmenos graffito:
The Alexamenos graffito is an inscription carved in plaster on a wall near the Palatine Hill in Rome, now in the Palatine Antiquarium Museum.
The image depicts a human-like figure affixed to a cross and possessing the head of a donkey. In the top right of the image is what has been interpreted as either the Greek letter upsilon or a tau cross.
 Beneath the cross is a caption written in crude Greek: Αλεξαμενος ϲεβετε θεον. ϲεβετε can be understood as a variant spelling (possibly a phonetic misspelling) of Standard Greek ϲεβεται, which means "worships". The full inscription would then be translated as "Alexamenos worships [his] God". Several other sources suggest "Alexamenos worshipping God", or similar variants, as the intended translation.
You see, archaeology termed 'early Christian' is mysterious and full of contradictions. Only reading Chrest as Chrest does one begin to make sense of it all.

Papyrus 75
There are a number of variants between P75 (with the Tau Rho); here's one:
In Luke 11:4, the phrase αλλα ρυσαι ημας απο του πονηρου (but deliver us from evil) is omitted. The omission of this phrase is also supported by the following manuscripts: SinaiticusVaticanusCodex Regiusf1700vg,syrscopsa, bo, arm, geo.
The oldest texts reflect most accurately the faith at that time. The vast number of additions, omissions and alterations appearing in later texts demonstrate changes in faith/theology; they are not corrections (and could not be).

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