John uses the word τελέω twice at the time of Jesus’ death: [ESV throughout]
After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished (τετέλεσται), said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” (John 19:28)
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished (τετέλεσται),” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)
The word is universally translated with the sense of “finished” or “done” or “completed,” consistent with the use in the New Testament [G5055-τελέω] There are several questions on this site over the meaning and use of this word. For example: John 19:30 - What did Jesus say "was finished"? and Was "Τετέλεσται" actually stamped on paid bills and debt certificates in the first century? and Is there an allusion to Psalm 22 in John 19:30, ‘It is finished’?
However, the first time this word is used in the LXX it conveys a different sense:
So Israel yoked himself to Baal of Peor. And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel.
וַיִּצָּמֶד יִשְׂרָאֵל לְבַעַל פְּעֹור וַיִּֽחַר־אַף יְהוָה בְּיִשְׂרָאֵֽל
Και ετελεσθη ισραηλ τω βεελφεγωρ και ωργισθη θυμω κυριος τω ισραηλ [LXX_WH]
And Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you kill those of his men who have yoked themselves to Baal of Peor.”
וַיֹּאמֶר מֹשֶׁה אֶל־שֹׁפְטֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל הִרְגוּ אִישׁ אֲנָשָׁיו הַנִּצְמָדִים לְבַעַל פְּעֹֽור
και ειπεν μωυσης ταις φυλαις ισραηλ αποκτεινατε εκαστος τον οικειον αυτου τον τετελεσμενον τω βεελφεγωρ [LXX_WH]
This same sense is used in Psalm 106(105) when the incident described in Numbers is recalled:
Psalm 106:28 (105:28)
Then they yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor, and ate sacrifices offered to the dead
וַיִּצָּמְדוּ לְבַעַל פְּעֹור וַיֹּאכְלוּ זִבְחֵי מֵתִֽים
καὶ ἐτελέσθησαν τῷ Βεελφεγωρ καὶ ἔφαγον θυσίας νεκρῶν [LXX_WH]
The use in Numbers and Psalms indicates another meaning of the word. Perhaps this is similar to meanings identified as "archaic" in a modern dictionary and raises the question:
- How does τελέω describe the Israelites joining or yoking themselves to Baal of Peor as described in the Septuagint translation of Numbers and Psalm 106(105)?
There are contextual similarities between how the word is used in John and Numbers:
Used twice Used twice
First use by narrator First use by narrator
Second use spoken by Jesus Second use spoken by Moses
In Numbers, Moses is recorded as speaking to "the judges of Israel." Given statements Jesus made about judgement (12:47, 12:48, and 16:11) shortly before His crucifixion, seeing the use in John implies: He said [to the judge of the ruler of this world] "It is τετέλεσται."
- Does this indicate John has the LXX in view and so the better translation in the Gospel should be the one following the meaning used in the Greek translation of Numbers?