Recently someone brought up an objection I had never heard before. The objection was the depiction of Christ’s death. Usually people object to that scene because we illustrate it with a stake, not a cross. We base this on how the Bible uses the Greek term “stauros,” which is a single upright pole. However, the issue the objector raised was the depiction we have of a single nail going through his hands. I love brain teasers, and I must admit that it actually took me a bit of research to find this information. But before presenting it below, I would suggest that the truly important point is that the rendering of John 20:15 in the NWT (all editions) is accurate. The 2013 edition reads: So the other disciples were telling him: “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them: “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails and stick my finger into the print of the nails and stick my hand into his side, I will never believe it.”
But that would make a person wonder, since the scripture is quite plain that more than one nail was involved, why does the illustrations of this event only show one nail in the hands? Here is a partial quote from the Watchtower 1984, April 1. Page 31
The Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, by M’Clintock and Strong, comments:
‘Much time and trouble have been wasted in disputing as to whether three or four nails were used in fastening the Lord. Nonnus affirms that three only were used, in which he is followed by Gregory Nazianzen. The more general belief gives four nails, an opinion which is supported at much length and by curious arguments by Curtius. Others have carried the number of nails as high as fourteen.’—Volume II, page 580.
Matthew 27:35 merely says: “When they had impaled him they distributed his outer garments by casting lots.” Little detail is given, as in Mark, Luke and John. After Jesus’ resurrection, Thomas said: “Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails and stick my finger into the print of the nails and stick my hand into his side, I will certainly not believe.” (John 20:25) So even though criminals sometimes were bound to a stake with ropes, Jesus was nailed. Some have also concluded from John 20:25 that two nails were used, one through each hand. But does Thomas’ use of the plural (nails) have to be understood as a precise description indicating that each of Jesus’ hands was pierced by a separate nail?
In Luke 24:39 the resurrected Jesus said: “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself.” This suggests that Christ’s feet also were nailed. Since Thomas made no mention of nailprints in Jesus’ feet, his use of the plural “nails” could have been a general reference to multiple nails used in impaling Jesus.
Thus, it just is not possible at this point to state with certainty how many nails were used. Any drawings of Jesus on the stake should be understood as artists’ productions that offer merely a representation based on the limited facts that we have. Debate over such an insignificant detail should not be permitted to becloud the all-important truth that “we became reconciled to God through the death of his Son.”—Romans 5:10.
Over the years, I heard and seen people nit-pick and charge all sorts of absurd and outlandish accusations about the artwork appearing in our literature. Yet these same ones continue to have no issue with depictions of Jesus and other “holy ones” (aka “saints”) with halos and drawings of angels with wings. Seems a bit hypocritical if they want exacting accuracy of imagery from the Bible. Even those not Jehovah’s Witnesses recognize the pagan origins of the drawing of a halo. And as far as angels with wings, while even the literature of Jehovah’s Witnesses portrays them that way, anyone with half-a-brain knows that angels are in fact spirit creatures. They do not have physical bodies that would need wings to fly. Again, this can be collaborated by outside sources. Here is one. But in this case, at least the Bible does (figuratively, in a few texts) speak of angels as having wings, so those with superficial knowledge of scripture accept it at face value.