I'm looking at John 19:28 where Jesus, on the cross, knew that "ηδη παντα τετελεσται" = "All things are complete/finished/perfect." But then it immediately says, "so that to complete the scriptures he says..." Which also contains the same verb: "ινα τελειωθη η γραφη..." In the former case, tetelestai is in the perfect indicative passive. In the later case, teliothe is aorist subjunctive passive.

The passive voice have me intrigued and also the sequencing. What are the referents of these verbs? It just says "now/already all was/is finished." All what? Like ALL all? Everything? All that he came to do? Was παντα his work? He wasn't dead yet, nor had he resurrected, nor had he returned. That seems like future work that delayed eschatologies envision. Like, "Jesus' work is not yet complete until he returns."

If it is the case that "all means ALL is complete," then what does it mean that he went on to "complete" the scripture? If all was complete, then how could he subsequently complete scripture? Was scripture incomplete, but "all" was complete?

Does the passive voice imply that it happened passively? As in Jesus just had it happen to him or he let "it" complete on its own? This was not active indicative in either case. Also, there is a really hebraic quality to the use of the perfect tense.

Is he seeing the entire world as whole? complete? ended? perfect? Hebrew parallels to this τετελεσται might be שלם or תממ. If it's the former, did he see the "city of shalem?" That's one potential etymology for Jerusalem from "יר שלום," "city of peace/wholeness." Was he seeing the "perfect" Edenic state of the world somehow? This would match the realized eschatology and protology that many scholars detect in John and some of the more "kingdom is here already" verses such as Luke 17:20-21.

What is παντα and how did this not contain scriptures? Also it seems like there was still work to be done before he said τετελεσται again on the cross in John 19:30.

  • All things needed, or prerequisites, necessary for His mission of ushering in the resurrection unto eternal life and the coming of the kingdom, were finally fulfilled or accomplished.
    – Lucian
    Jul 8, 2021 at 20:50
  • So drawing his beloved disciple near with his “thirst” was not needed to accomplish what he came for? Do you have any evidence to support your additions to “panta”?
    – Gus L.
    Jul 8, 2021 at 23:49
  • You are not making any sense.
    – Lucian
    Jul 9, 2021 at 0:11
  • It means his mission was complete; there is nothing left for him to do; his struggle was over, he is about to die now. All comes to an end.
    – Michael16
    Jul 9, 2021 at 17:00

3 Answers 3


The two verbs are slightly different in meaning:

  • τελειόω (John 19:28b) to complete an activity, complete, bring to an end, finish, accomplish, eg, John 4:34, 17:4, 5:36, Acts 20:24, Luke 2:43, 13:32, John 19:28, Heb 7:19, 11:40. [BDAG's second and third meaning are not germane here.] Thus, Jesus was suggesting that another prophecy of Scripture need to be fulfilled - drinking the vinegar. See Ps 22:15, 69:21.
  • τελέω (John 19:28a, 30) to complete an activity or process, bring to an end, finish complete, eg, 2 Tim 4:7, Matt 7:28, 19:1, 26:1, Rev 11:7, Luke 2:39, Matt 10:23, 11:1, Luke 2:6, Rev 20:3, 5, 7, John 19:28 (everything accomplished according to divine will and fortune), 30.

Thus, the two words have very similar meanings but different referents. The first refers to the accomplishing/fulfilling of Bible prophecies and the second refers to the completing of the divine atonement. 1 John 2:2, Rom 5:15-19, etc.

There is nothing in these verse about Scripture canon being finished - the subject of another question.

  • Good, note question for 19:30: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/47848/…
    – Perry Webb
    Jul 9, 2021 at 0:32
  • @PerryWebb - many thanks - useful material.
    – Dottard
    Jul 9, 2021 at 6:25
  • In a deterministic cosmos, “all is compete” is a profound and simple fact about reality. If all is determined then “should and could” have no meaning. John is perceived as having a deterministic cosmology by many biblical scholars including the giant Wayne Meeks of Yale. That would fly in the face of all the moralizing pharisees (and moralizers today). All this nitpicking to avoid this and shoe horn in some second temple period hellenistic prophesies is fascinating. The level of confidence displayed doesn’t match what I hoped to see from this site.
    – Gus L.
    Jul 9, 2021 at 21:29
  • @GusL. - fascinating - none of that entered my head - why accuse me of determinism (which I do not believe) - I see John in the opposite light from your good self. Are you disappointed that this site is not more closely aligned with your presuppositions?
    – Dottard
    Jul 9, 2021 at 21:33
  • No, disappointed that occam’s razor isn’t applying more broadly. Determinism is consistent with the text as it is, and consistent with other contemporary theologies like those at Qumran (those Essene’s were determinists and likely influenced John the Baptist).. the hoops others seem to jump through to add parenthetical modifications to “panta” (which are not present) is sad to me. Its all good. Tetelestai.
    – Gus L.
    Jul 10, 2021 at 8:16

You asked ...”Was scripture incomplete, but "all" was complete?”. Fortunately the Bible gives a full list of what needs to happen in order for ‘all’ to be completed/finished.....

DANIEL 9:24 Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the Most Holy Place.

There are 6 ‘things’ ... 1 ) “to finish transgression,” 2) “to put an end to sin,” 3) “to atone for wickedness,” 4) “to bring in everlasting righteousness,” 5) “to seal up vision and prophecy,” and 6) “to anoint the most holy.”

The account on the cross certainly fulfilled some of this list - the specific ones being dependent on your interpretation or personal theology. But what is clear is that not all of them have - therefore the answer to your query is No, ‘all’ has not yet been completed. Jesus was declaring that part of this list was finished.

The 5th point, “to seal up vision and prophecy,”, is understood in ‘Hebraic’ understanding to mean that the Bible can be closed, that is, all within it would have been fully fulfilled.

  • Yet sin is not ended today. Seems to be all I hear about from the pulpit. Are they wrong?
    – Gus L.
    Jul 9, 2021 at 21:15
  • 1
    @Gus L ‘Sin’ has been fully dealt with. (From Gods perspective.) Finished! When Jesus comes again, he is not coming to either deal with, or ‘finish’ anything to do with man’s ‘sin’. But instead with the evil behind ‘sin’. Nevertheless, ‘we’ (man) still needs to deal with ‘sin’ - but through the finished work on the cross, man is now able to deal with ‘sin’.
    – Dave
    Jul 9, 2021 at 22:58

I can't address the technicalities of the Greek verb conjugations, but I doubt Jesus spoke Greek on the Cross, whatever John subsequently wrote -- rather Aramaic, or possibly Hebrew.

However, the "all" or "everything" was certainly Jesus' personal life-purpose, to wit his setting aside pre-existing divinity to become born naturally as an unknowing human creature baby (so as to fully qualify for universal kingship), his obeying the Father's will exclusively (not his own), his re-realizing of his total divine nature whilst enmeshed in flesh, and his continued following of the Father's will whilst yet a mortal man without recourse to the divine powers now available to him (and which flowed through him at times, but from the Father's hand, as the miracles show), even when that obedience led to cruel, painful crucifixion and apparent defeat.

The list in Dan. 9:24 was (and remains) not Jesus' own life-purpose, but rather a list laid on the holy people & city generally.

  • Fully approved +1 Jul 9, 2021 at 10:28
  • So your saying that completing the scripture by saying “I thirst” is not part of Jesus’s mission? The text says an unqualified “all,” not “all he was sent to accomplish.” Or “the work of the father.”
    – Gus L.
    Jul 9, 2021 at 21:17

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