Monthly Archives: April 2011

Seven Last Words of Christ: Order, Placement, Significance

This is the traditional order of the Seven Last Words of Christ:

The First Words

“Then said Jesus, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’ And they parted his raiment, and cast lots” (Luke 23:34).

The Second Words

“And Jesus said unto him, ‘I say unto thee, Today thou shalt be with me in paradise’” (Luke 23:43).

The Third Words

“When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, ‘Woman, behold thy son!’” (John 19:26).

The Fourth Words

“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which is, being interpreted, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’” (Mark 15:34).

The Fifth Words

‘After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, ‘I thirst’” (John 19:28).

The Sixth Words

“When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, ‘It is finished’”: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost” (John 19:30).

The Seventh Words

“And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit’” (Luke 23:46).

Clearly the Lukan order is correct, following the Lukan narrative (Lk. 23:34, 43, 46). Similarly, the Johannine order is correct, following the Johannine order (Jn. 19:26, 28, 30).

The Markan insertion of the Fourth Words is correct in the order of placement based on the temporal marker, “at the ninth hour.” This makes Lk. 23:34, 43 and Jn. 19:26 correct in their placement prior to the Fourth Words. This also makes Jn. 19:28, 30, and Lk. 23:46 correct in their placement after the Fourth Words. It is after being forsaken legally in Divine judgment – cf. Ps. 22:1 –that Christ finds all things accomplished and then dies. (Note the temporal marker in Jn. 19:28, “after this.”)

However, a question arises concerning the order of the last two words: Did Jesus give up his spirit first (Jn. 19:30), and then cry with a loud voice (Lk. 23:46), or vice-versa? It is difficult to imagine that he had given up his spirit (i.e., death) and then commended the spirit into the hands of God. It is equally difficult to imagine that he “breathed his last” (Lk. 23:46) and the said, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30).

I suggest the solution is that Jesus received the vinegar in response to his thirst (Jn. 19:28 and 30). Then Jesus said, “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30). Following this he cried with a loud voice, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Lk. 23:46). Jesus then breathed his last (Lk. 23:46c = Mk. 15:37b), bowed his head (Jn. 19:30), and gave up his spirit (Jn. 19:30d = Mt. 27:30b). In this order, one does not have the dead Christ speaking after his death until the resurrection. In Lk. 23:46, “and having said this” (de eipon touto, in which the Second Aorist participle eipon, “having said,” indicates time antecedent to the main verb) means that “Father into your hands I commit my spirit” (ESV) are his last spoken words before taking his last breath in death. In contrast, Jn. 19:30 has a simple conjunction, “and” (kai), following “It is finished.”

In the larger narrative, the order of the final words of the passion indicates that Jesus took on our due suffering and died as our substitute. Divinely judged, he served as our propitiation to satisfy God’s due wrath against us. His work is complete, never needing our works to help bring about salvation, and never needing him to suffer again. His resurrection three days later shows his absolute power over death and thus his ability to offer life to anyone who trusts in him alone. Believe on him today.

Recommended for further study on the Gospels and the Seven Last Words

T. D. Alexander, Discovering Jesus (Crossway).

Craig L. Blomberg, Jesus and the Gospels (Broadman).

Peter Leithart, The Four (Canon).

Robert Stein, Jesus the Messiah (IVP).

Marable on Malcolm X, Released Just After Marable’s Passing

Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention

Years in the making-the definitive biography of the legendary black activist.

Of the great figure in twentieth-century American history perhaps none is more complex and controversial than Malcolm X. Constantly rewriting his own story, he became a criminal, a minister, a leader, and an icon, all before being felled by assassins’ bullets at age thirty-nine. Through his tireless work and countless speeches he empowered hundreds of thousands of black Americans to create better lives and stronger communities while establishing the template for the self-actualized, independent African American man. In death he became a broad symbol of both resistance and reconciliation for millions around the world.

Manning Marable’s new biography of Malcolm is a stunning achievement. Filled with new information and shocking revelations that go beyond the Autobiography, Malcolm X unfolds a sweeping story of race and class in America, from the rise of Marcus Garvey and the Ku Klux Klan to the struggles of the civil rights movement in the fifties and sixties. Reaching into Malcolm’s troubled youth, it traces a path from his parents’ activism through his own engagement with the Nation of Islam, charting his astronomical rise in the world of Black Nationalism and culminating in the never-before-told true story of his assassination. Malcolm X will stand as the definitive work on one of the most singular forces for social change, capturing with revelatory clarity a man who constantly strove, in the great American tradition, to remake himself anew.

More Reviews and Recommendations

Biography

Manning Marable was M. Moran Weston and Black Alumni Professor of African-American Studies and Director of the Center for Contemporary Black History at Columbia University. Leith Mullings is Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York.