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INRI: Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews

by Robert Randle  
6/17/2009 / Bible Studies

These four letters are probably the most recognizable acronym throughout the entire Western Hemisphere and many parts of the entire planet Earth, especially where Christianity has been carried into. The specialness and recognition ascribed to these four characters of the English/Latin alphabet isnt unlike that of the Tetragramatton(YHVH), the sacred and unpronounceable Name of the Lord God of Israel, revered by all the Jews.

Each of the Gospel narratives present a slightly differing account of exactly what was written and by whom on a sign placed above the head of Jesus as He lay outstretched with His hands and feet driven through with spikes, lifted up and hanging on the wooden cross at Golgotha Hill on Mount Calvary. The question is why there is such variation in an event that was observed by eyewitnesses, and to what purpose would there be to leave out certain details of the crucifixion?

Matthew 27:37
GREEK (This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.)
ουτος εστιν ιησους ο βασιλευς των ιουδαιων
houtos esti Iesous basileus Ioudaios
זה זה את ישו המלך של היהודים
Yeshūa' ūmeleḵ hayĕhūḏīm
is est Iesvs Rex Ivdaeorvm

Matthews version mentions they [presumably the Roman soldiers] wrote this inscription as charge against Jesus and placed the sign above His head, and this would most probably have been written in Latin or Greek. The word Nazareth is omitted.

Mark 15:26
GREEK (The King of the Jews)
ο βασιλευς των ιουδαιων
basileus Ioudaios
המלך של היהודים
ūmeleḵ hayĕhūḏīm
Rex Ivdaeorvm

Marks account simply says, The king of the Jews without any additional qualifiers such as Jesus name or where He was from.

Luke 23:38
GREEK (This is the King of the Jews)
ουτος εστιν ο βασιλευς των ιουδαιων
houtos esti basileus Ioudaios
also sometimes given as:
outos estin o basileus twn ioudaiwn
is est Rex Ivdaeorvm
זה זה המלך של היהודים
ūmeleḵ hayĕhūḏīm

Luke uses the same title as Mark but he adds that the inscription was in letters of Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. None of the other authors mention anything about letters of the alphabet or a particular script or type, which may possibly mean that the source possibly didnt know how to translate the lines of characters which was written on the sign.

John 19:19
GREEK (Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews)
Ιησους ουσ.ναζαρέτ ο βασιλευς των ιουδαιων
Iesous Nazoraios basileus Ioudaios
Iesvs Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm
ישו של נָצְרַת המלך של היהודים
yeshūa' Natz'rat ūmeleḵ hayĕhūḏīm

John states that Pilate wrote the inscription that was to be placed over the head of Jesus as He was to be hung on the Cross of Crucifixion, and the writing was in first, Hebrew, then Greek, and lastly, in Latin. It is interesting that the Roman Governor of Judea would give primacy to the Hebrew Language over Latin or Greek, because he certainly didnt seem to have any particular love or respect for the Jewish people.

To sum it all up then, for whatever reasons, the sources used by mark and Luke chose not to reveal Jesus identity or hometown; perhaps as a deliberate to protect His family and loved ones, or for some unknown purpose that the Scriptures do not reveal. No doubt there have been many individuals who have claimed the mantle as the promised Messiah/Delivered and King of the Jews who have met a similar fate of martyrdom; and for some, this latest person is just another unnamed one in the long line of unsuccessful revolutionaries, soon to be forgotten in the dust of the earth; or so they thought!

In Johns version, not only is Jesus name mentioned but also where He was from, and it is this bold declaration, Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews or Iesvs Nazarenvs Rex Ivdaeorvm, that we derive the letters INRI; which will be cherished from henceforth, and throughout time immemorial.

Robert Randle
776 Commerce St. #B-11
Tacoma, WA 98402
April 27, 2009

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