Question 251:

What are the last words of Jesus in the cross? I ask this because the Gospels disagree on Jesus’s last words. If one is true, then the Bible is not a word of God. If all are true then there is contradiction in the Bible and the Bible has been corrupted. And if you try to make one statement with all of these, then the Bible is incomplete. Matthew 27:46,50 (also Mark 15:34) “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice , saying, ‘Eli, eli, lama sabachtani?’ that is to say, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?...Jesus, when he cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.”Luke 23:46 “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice he said, ‘Father, unto thy hands I commend my spirit:’ and having said this, he gave up the ghost.”John 19:30: ”When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, ‘It is finished:’ and he bowed his head and gave up the ghost.”What is your view on this contradiction? 


There are only three last words of Jesus on the cross. Christian tradition knows of 7 words compiled from the four gospels:

  1. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34)
  2. “Woman, here is your son,” - “Here is your mother.” (John 19:26f)
  3. “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
  4. „Eloí, Eloí, lema sabachtani?“, which means “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me”? (Mark 15:35; also Matthew 26:46, but Matthew has Elí not Eloí. Both are different forms of the same Jewish word for “God”). This payer of Jesus during his dying is the beginning of psalm 22. It is possible that Jesus prayed the whole psalm but that the authors of the gospels only cited the beginning. A later alternative tradition is found in the gospel of Peter: “My strength, oh strength, thou has left me!” (Gospel of Peter 19).
  5. “I thirst” (John 19:28; cf. Psalm 22:16; Psalm 69:22).
  6. “It is done” (John 19:30).
  7. “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46; cf. Psalm 31:6)


There is no direct contradiction among those seven words. They all show that Jesus trustingly gives his life on the cross and so completes his sacrifice. But Jesus does not do this without being challenged. For Jesus, too, death is a moment of genuine abandonment by God, yet even in this darkness of death he finally succeeds in trusting the Father.  Psalm 22, from which words (4) and (5) are taken, shows that the transformation of cries of sorrow to trust in God can be traced back to the Old Testament.  As a prayer from the Psalms it was dear to the heart of Jesus on the cross and easily found its way to his lips as his dying prayer. 

In these words we already find an interpretation of Jesus’s death that is handed down by the gospel writers in many forms. According to Christian understanding the pluralistic character of the accounts is no contradiction to the one truth that is Jesus himself.

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