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I have been researching for a long time John 19:30, more specifically the word Tetelestai (τετελεσται) in the Greek. But recently came across the topic of the Hebrew Gospels (possible late translations) and is fascinating.

  1. What did Jesus really say in John 19:30, assuming he spoke Aramaic or Hebrew?
  2. Or what will be the best translation to Hebrew, or the best Hebrew equivalent words for Tetelestai coming from the Jewish mindset?
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Note: I am not disputing how the English translations translate Τετέλεσται, but pointing out the secondary meaning of the word Jesus probably used.

The Hebrew word that Τετέλεσται (it is finished) best translates is שָׁלֵם, which is how the Syriac Peshitta* and modern Hebrew** translations translate Τετέλεσται in John 19:30.

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While שָׁלֵם in the context of translating Τετέλεσται in John 19:30 has the meaning, “It is finished,” שָׁלֵם in the Torah has the meaning to make restitution. Thus, in the Jewish mind this word also brings up the thought of to pay or make restitution, to restore or make peace, to make whole.

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The fact is Jesus’ words having a secondary meaning often more important than the primary is not foreign in the Gospel of John. Here Jesus’ own words seem to point his disciples to Jesus’ sacrificial death and atonement. Thus, this method of looking for the historic Jesus using Jesus’ words points to the same Jesus portrayed in the New Testament.

[Charts made with Logos Bible Software 8.]

See also In John 20:17 does Jesus intent ἀναβέβηκα to have a secondary meaning related to sacrifice?

  • ܡܫܰܠܱܡ (shlm) in Kiraz, G. A. (Ed.). (2002). The Peshitta (Jn 19:30). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. [5th century]

** נִשְׁלַם in ha-Berit ha-ḥadashah. (2000). (Jn 19:30). Israel: The Bible Society in Israel.

** נִשְׁלָם in Franz Julius Delitzsch [1813-1890]. (n.d.). Delitzsch Hebrew New Testament (Jn 19:30).

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Another word often used in place of shalem is "tam/tammim" Both mean a sense of peace and completeness and perfection. A lack of wanting.

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Another thought to express the infinitive is in this article: https://www.chaimbentorah.com/2017/08/word-study-it-is-finished/

Using an initial 'mem' as משׁלמ it is stated that it renders 'mashelem' the Pael infinitive in Aramaic.

Other authors propose that the statement was a formalism used by the priest after finishing the sacrifice of the pesach lamb. In that case, it would almost certainly have been uttered in Hebrew.

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  • Thanks, I didn't take it that far, to go from the root to the grammatic structure.
    – Perry Webb
    Jan 14 '21 at 10:13
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The meaning "it is paid" is what Jesus meant. His sacrifice paid the debt for sin "in full" meaning we are free from this debt by His Blood! It is often misunderstood to mean "it is finished" as in His time here is done, it is over, etc. Truth is Jesus is far more spiritual than this. His concerns were not for His very short and severe suffering but for something far greater, our SOUL!The debt has been paid. The debt of sin is death, not death of the body but death OF THE SOUL! Thus Jesus gave us everlasting life with His final blood sacrifice. He IS The Lamb of God after all!

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