Jesus’s Last Words


What follows is a addition to The Gospel of John, my restoration of that original text, free from the later interpolations and excisions of the organized Christian religion, and translated afresh from the Greek. You will find ordering information here. But note that the book will not be available again until around mid-August, when a revised version comes off the presses with about 100 pages of new material.

Jesus’s final words in the Gospel of John 19:30 echo Genesis 2:1 and Revelation 21:6. And they form an inclusio with 4:34 and a parallel with 17:4. The same Greek verb, τελειοω, appears in all three verses.

After he says these words he breathes out the wind/breath/spirit within him for the last time as he dies; this forms an inclusio with 1:32, where John the Baptist baptizes Jesus and the πνευμα, the Wind/Breath/Spirit of God, descends from Heaven like a whirlwind, and a parallel with 20:22, where Jesus exhales on the disciples and says “Receive the πνεθμα άγιον” (the sacred breath/spirit/wind – equivalent in Greek to חוּר [Ruach], the Breath/Soul of Life that God breathed into Adam’s nostrils); by exhaling he proves he is alive, but also with that breath he heals them, he blesses them, and he fills them with the Name and Spirit of God.

This verse is unfortunately missing from such very early Aramaic codices as the Syriac Sinaiticus. But the slightly later Aramaic version called the Peshitta reveals some interesting features. Jesus’s last words in this verse are ܗܳܐ ܡܫܰܠܰܡ. The first word (ܗܳܐ) means “Lo!” or “Behold!”, basically a word to secure attention on what is to follow. The second word (ܡܫܠܡ) needs to be preceded by “It is” to make for a comprehensible English rendering; in Aramaic this kind of phrasing is not said but understood. The word ܡܫܠܡ itself means “fulfilled”, “finished”, “completed” (in the sense of time completed, like the end of a day or a lifetime or an epoch of time), “obeyed”, “agreed”, “followed”, “delivered up”, “gave up”, or “perfected”.

The word ܡܫܠܡ can also mean “to say shalom”; that is, to refer to saying a greeting or a farewell. And the word can mean “to exhale” and “to die”. In fact, the very same word, if conjugated a bit differently, appears in the last two-word phrase in the verse – ܘܰܐܫܠܶܡ ܪܽܘܚܶܗ – to mean “(he) delivered up / exhaled his spirit/breath”.

What is more, the word is very closely akin to several other Aramaic words, including a: ܡܣܘܪ, the word for “someone who arranges to hand over another person” (as mentioned several times herein, “betrayer” is not the correct English word); b: ܡܫܝܢܘ, the word for “peacemaking”; and c: ܡܣܘܪܝ, the word for “tradition”.

Thus, in the Gospel of John in Aramaic (Jesus’s own language), his last words could be: “It is finished!”, “This makes for peace!”, “It is perfected!”, “My life is completed!”, “This epoch is completed!”, “ I am saying Shalom! [Farewell!]”, “I am dying!”, and several others besides.

Modern Christians like to think that every word Jesus ever said was directed to the ages, and especially those living now (whichever “now” over two thousand years is reading the text). But no, Jesus was speaking to his most beloved ones in this moment of his death: his mother, his wife, and his son, formally adopted just moments before. So, of the alternate interpretations of this last sentence, I lean toward “I am saying farewell!” or “I am dying!”.

Notwithstanding the considerable array of possible meanings in Jesus’s last words as given in the version in his own Aramaic language, I translate it in this work with the familiar, traditional “It is finished”, which covers both the Greek and Aramaic, but I urge the reader to remember that this rendering is very limited, and the ambiguity, the range of meanings, in the Aramaic is almost certainly intended – to make us ponder Jesus’s death with our thought and spirit.