The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is a pivotal event in Christianity. It represents the ultimate sacrifice and the moment when Jesus took upon himself the sins of humanity.
At the site of the crucifixion, there was a sign placed above Jesus’ head, which has been a subject of much curiosity and debate among scholars and believers alike.
In this blog post, we will delve into the inscription on the cross, specifically examining what was written in Hebrew, and its significance.
The New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible provides us with valuable insight into the inscription. By examining the Gospels and comparing different accounts, we can begin to piece together a clearer picture of what was written on the cross in Hebrew.
The following key takeaways summarize the main points of our discussion:
- The inscription on the cross was written in three languages: Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.
- Each Gospel writer provides a slightly different account of the inscription, but all mention that it identified Jesus as the King of the Jews.
- The Hebrew version of the inscription holds particular significance due to its prophetic and linguistic implications.
The Inscription on the Cross: A Multilingual Message
According to the Gospels, the inscription on the cross was written in three languages: Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. This was likely done to ensure that the message could be understood by as many people as possible, given the diverse population of the region at the time.
John 19:19-20 (NKJV) states,
“Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.”
This multilingual approach to the inscription underscores its importance and the gravity of the events taking place. The message was meant to be seen and understood by all who witnessed the crucifixion.
Variations in the Gospel Accounts
Each of the four Gospels provides a slightly different account of the inscription on the cross. While all mention that it identified Jesus as the King of the Jews, the exact wording varies between the Gospels.
Here are the accounts from each Gospel (NKJV):
- Matthew 27:37: “And they put up over His head the accusation written against Him: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
- Mark 15:26: “And the inscription of His accusation was written above: THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
- Luke 23:38: “And an inscription also was written over Him in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew: THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
- John 19:19: “Now Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was: JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS.”
Though the exact wording varies, the message remains consistent across all four accounts: Jesus was being crucified as the King of the Jews.
The Hebrew Inscription: Prophetic and Linguistic Significance
The Hebrew version of the inscription holds particular significance for several reasons. First, the use of Hebrew connects the events of the crucifixion to the broader narrative of the Old Testament and the Jewish people.
In this context, the inscription can be seen as a fulfillment of prophecy, specifically the prediction in Zechariah 9:9 (NKJV) that the Messiah would come as a humble king:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
Second, the Hebrew inscription may have held additional meaning due to its linguistic properties.
Some scholars suggest that the Hebrew version of the inscription, “ישוע הנצרי ומלך היהודים” (Yeshua HaNotzri V’Melech HaYehudim), forms an acrostic for the Tetragrammaton, the four-letter Hebrew name of God (יהוה).
This interpretation further emphasizes the divine nature of Jesus and his role as the promised Messiah.
The Reaction of the Jewish Leaders
The inscription on the cross was not without controversy, particularly among the Jewish leaders of the time.
John 19:21-22 (NKJV) describes their objection to the wording: “Therefore the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, ‘Do not write, “The King of the Jews,” but, “He said, ‘I am the King of the Jews.'”‘ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written, I have written.'”
The Jewish leaders’ attempt to change the inscription highlights the tension between them and Jesus, who they viewed as a threat to their authority.
However, Pilate’s refusal to alter the message shows that the inscription’s content was intentional and meant to convey a specific message to those present at the crucifixion.
The Inscription’s Role in Christian Tradition
The inscription on the cross has become an important symbol in Christian tradition, often referred to as “INRI,” an acronym derived from the Latin version of the inscription, “Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum.”
It is commonly displayed on crucifixes and other Christian artwork, serving as a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice and his role as the King of the Jews.
In addition to its visual presence in Christian art, the inscription’s message serves as a reminder of Jesus’ fulfillment of prophecy and his identity as the promised Messiah.
It also emphasizes the universality of Jesus’ message, as the multilingual inscription allowed people from diverse backgrounds to understand its meaning.
In conclusion, the inscription on the cross in Hebrew holds deep significance within the Christian faith. It connects Jesus to the Old Testament prophecies and the Jewish people, while also highlighting his role as the Messiah and the King of the Jews.
The various accounts in the Gospels, though slightly different in wording, all underscore this central message.
Furthermore, the linguistic properties of the Hebrew inscription and its presence in Christian tradition serve as a powerful reminder of Jesus’ divine nature and his sacrifice for humanity.
By understanding the inscription on the cross, we can better appreciate the depth and richness of the Christian faith and the significance of Jesus’ crucifixion.