Biblical Archaeology Review 36:2, March/April 2010

Biblical Views: Jesus Has the Last Word

By Ben Witherington III

Last words are always important. There is a whole category called “famous last words,” and no one’s last words in all of human history are more famous than those of Jesus.

In the Christian tradition you will often hear the phrase “the seven last words of Christ.” This actually refers to the seven last sentences or phrases Jesus uttered from the cross. Numerous classical music compositions are based on these words, so great an influence have they had over the centuries on the celebration of Holy Week, and especially Good Friday.

So what were these famous seven last sentences of Jesus?

The first is in the earliest Gospel, Mark, as well as in Matthew. Jesus quotes the opening line of Psalm 22, spoken in Aramaic: Eloi, Eloi, Lema Sabachtani? “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34; Matthew 27:46). Jesus was not the first nor the last person to feel abandoned when being unjustly executed. According to these two gospels, these are the only words Jesus spoke from the cross.

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