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John 19:33

But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs:

What is the significance that Jesus' bones are not broken on the cross?

7 Answers 7

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Jesus was delivered to be crucified during Passover (Matthew 26:2, Mark 14:1, Luke 22:7, and John 19:13-15).

John the Baptist called Jesus "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.".

Paul wrote and said Jesus was "our [P]assover", who was "sacrificed for us".

As such, it is important to remember YHVH's command regarding the lamb slain and eaten for the Passover in Exodus:

Exodus 12:46 (KJV),

46 In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof.

Then, too, one must consider the Messianic prophecy from Psalm 34:20:

20 He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.

This prophecy was quoted as the final reason why, which, then, answers your question:

John 19:30-36 (KJV),

30 When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost. 31 The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: 34 But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. 35 And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. 36 For these things were done, that the scripture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken.

The significance, then, is that having His bones not broken, indicates Jesus truly was the Messiah of Israel, and the Lamb of God, whose blood, like the passover lamb of Exodus, would allow the people of God to be freed, not just from bondage in Egypt, but from the bondage of their sins.

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  • +1 Good job. Thanks for your insights :)
    – user35953
    Oct 17, 2021 at 14:34
  • Thanks, Tony Chan. Oct 18, 2021 at 6:49
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The main significance for John to include this in his gospel is to show a prophecy fulfilled from Psalm 34:20:

For the Lord protects the bones of the righteous; not one of them is broken!

For more detail, please read the Christianity.com article What's Important about Jesus Not Breaking Any Bones?.

In the Roman period, being crucified brought tremendous stigma as a condemned criminal, making it a stumbling block for both the Jews and the Gentiles to make Jesus their Lord and Savior (cf. 1 Cor 1:18-25). Believers were regularly mocked by non-believers for this (example: the now famous ancient graffiti depicting Jesus crucified). I believe John's mentioning this has an apologetic purpose to show that from God's point of view Jesus wasn't condemned or cursed.

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With respect to an answer that was careful to show its work, I think the accepted answer - that Jesus' bones weren't broken because the passover lamb wasn't -- has it backwards. If we are interpreting the new testament, then Jesus isn't a type for the passover lamb, the passover lamb is a type for Jesus. Thus the reason why the passover lamb's bones weren't broken was because Jesus' weren't, but then we still have the original question.

And here, a good understand of the hebrew etsem - bone - should make it clear, because the word also means "self". It is the essence, the eternal self. The flesh falls off, but the bone remains, so the bone is a type of the eternal self that is underneath the flesh, and this wasn't broken, only Jesus' flesh was hurt on the cross. I think this should be the answer for Jesus, and then the rules for the lamb would be as a prophecy of Jesus' provision on the cross.

Since bones are “man’s most durable part—his core, so to speak,” ʿeṣem takes on the meaning “self,” as in the formula beʿeṣem hayyôm hazzeh, “on the very day” (Gen. 7:13; etc.).9


K. -M. Beyse, “עֶצֶם,” ed. G. Johannes Botterweck, Helmer Ringgren, and Heinz-Josef Fabry, trans. David E. Green, Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2001), 305.

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mmm, not very good with english language, but as "Coup de grace" for the condemned to the crucification, Romans will broken the legs of the condemned, thus removing legs support and cause the lungs to collapse, for the position.

This was an act of "mercy", otherwise the sufferings could last for a couple of days.

Please have a look to wiki page about Crucification

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  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics SE, thanks for contributing! Be sure to take our site tour to learn more about us. We're a little different from other SEs. Your answer doesn't seem to address the question about John 19:33. Oct 17, 2021 at 22:46
  • Thanks. But I think I did address the question: They didn't break the legs (to speed up the death) because He was already dead. Oct 19, 2021 at 9:42
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Bones are hard, strong, and durable. There are many symbolic references to bones throughout the Bible: Ezekiel's dry bones (see Ezekiel 37), the Pharisees being compared to sepulchres filled with dead men's bones (see Matthew 23:37), etc.

Because they are unbending and enduring, bones symbolize the principles of God's law. Jesus' bones were not to be broken because he had been perfect, having kept God's law completely.

The text in Psalm 34:20 is not merely a prophecy: it is also a promise that God will help the righteous to keep His laws.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken. (Psalm 34:19-20, KJV)

An interesting analogy with bones can be seen in the ribs. Our ribs protect our heart (compare with the heart of the Gospel). We have ten true ribs, just as there are Ten Commandments; and we have two floating ribs just below the ten, just as there are two commandments that summarize the ten--love to God and love to one's neighbor. While the Bible does not say, it stands to reason in my mind that God would have removed that lowest floating rib from Adam, the one representing love to his neighbor, to give to Eve.

Conclusion

Because the bones represent the principles of God's law which Christ had perfectly kept, none of his bones were to be broken, for he was a perfect offering and sacrifice.

For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. (Ephesians 5:30, KJV)

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One of the reasons why Jesus' bones were not broken was to represent the strength he gives us in our Christian walk. Psalm 34:19-22:"Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the LORD delivereth him out of them all. 20He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken. Therefore whatever afflictions arise in this life, we can be assured that hope still remains in that we are always complete(not broken) in the one who called us out of darkness into his heavenly light.

11Corinthians 4:7-9 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.8We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed. In other words, while afflictions abound, grace does much more abound. "He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken.

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There is great significance to John 19:33 – this relates to the prophecies of Psalms and proves that Jesus would not be forsaken by God.

I will break this down in parts;

  1. Psalms & NT – bones will not be broken
  2. Psalms & NT – Jesus was saved
  3. Reliability of Johns gospel
  4. Last words contradiction
  5. Other points

1 Psalms & NT – bones will not be broken

John 19:36 36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.

Luke 24:44 “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.”

Psalms 34:20 & 22 – 20 He protects all his bones; not one of them will be broken 22 - The LORD will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

  1. Psalms & NT – Jesus was saved

Luke 22:44 And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Hebrews 5:7 " Who in the days of his flesh, having offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and having been heard for his godly fear."

Psalm 20:6 6Now I know that the LORD saves His anointed; He answers him from His holy heaven with the saving power of His right hand.

Psalms 9:13 “O you who lift me up from the gates of death”

Psalms 27:2-5 "When evil-doers came upon me to eat up my flesh, Even mine adversaries and my foes, they stumbled and fell… For in the day of trouble he will keep me secretly in his pavilion: In the covert of his tabernacle will he hide me."

Psalm 21:2 - You have given him his heart’s desire, And have not withheld the request of his lips. Selah

PSALM 91:10-15 16 no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; 12 they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 13 You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent. 14 “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 15 He will call on me, and I will answer him;* I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him. 16With long life I will satisfy him and show him My salvation.”

Psalm 91:7-9 7 Though a thousand fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, near you it shall not come. 8 You need simply watch; the punishment of the wicked you will see. 9 Because you have the LORD for your refuge and have made the Most High your stronghold,

Psalm 41:9-13 9 Even my close friend, someone I trusted, one who shared my bread, has turned against me. 10 But may you have mercy on me, LORD; raise me up, that I may repay them. 11 I know that you are pleased with me, for my enemy does not triumph over me. 12 Because of my integrity you uphold me and set me in your presence forever. 13 Praise be to the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Amen and Amen.

Psalm 20:6 - Now I know that the LORD saves his anointed; he will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of his right hand.

Psalm 9:13 - 13 Have mercy on me, O LORD! Consider my trouble from those who hate me,You who lift me up from the gates of death,

Psalm 21:13 Be exalted in your strength, Lord; we will sing and praise your might.

Psalm 21:4 - He asked life from You, and You gave it to him, Length of days forever and ever. His (not talking about David) glory is great in Your salvation; Honor and majesty You have placed upon him.

John 11:41-42 - 41) Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42) And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.”

  1. Reliability of Johns gospel

More detail on John’s Gospel see - https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/63568/33268

It is strange to think that the authors of the Synoptic would not have been aware of incidents such as the spear piercing the side of Jesus and the soldiers prostrating to him in the Garden of Gethsemane, had they really taken place. It is even more inconceivable that they would have intentionally omitted such remarkable accounts from the Synoptic.

John gospel Third person (one of many examples) - “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.”

Last words

“Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? That is, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” then he died. Matthew 27:46-50 & Mark 15:34-37).

OR

"And Jesus gave a loud cry and said, Father, into your hands I give my spirit: and when he had said this, he gave up his spirit." (Luke 23:46).

OR

"When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up his spirit." John 19:30.

clearly the NT versions of events are unreliable

Other points;

The guards prostrating to Jesus John 18:3-6 – not mentioned by the others

“Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.” [John 19:34] – again never mentioned by others.

Also flawed as a dead persons body would not flow with blood & water. In fact, piercing would stop the blood from clotting.

Breaking legs – was to have a quicker death as the body would collapse.

The below is why the Jews believe that they killed a false prophet.

Deuteronomy 21:22-23 22 If someone guilty of a capital offense is put to death and their body is exposed on a pole, 23 you must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God’s curse. You must not desecrate the land the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance.

Mistranslation

Some rely on Ps 22:16 – which contradicts most of the Psalms and breaking the bones.

PS 22:16 For dogs surround me; a band of evil men encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet.

Pierce has been translated from the Hebrew word *** Ka-a-ri*** - which actually means like a lion

See: https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/77814/33268

sign of Jonah (fainting away NOT dead)

Jonah (prayed and was alive) - 7 When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.

Luke 24:39 - "Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a ***spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have".

Was Jesus forsaken - See: https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/a/62632/33268

Conclusion

The importance of this passage is that it refers to Psalms prophecies that contrary to the majority opinion, proves that Jesus was not forsaken by God.

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    -1 because arguing against the text being true is not engaging in hermeneutics. On this site, we engage with a set body of texts, trying to interpret what they say. It does not matter if you believe they are true or not, to argue against them being true is to leave the realm of hermeneutics. If you were given an assignment to interpret Homer's Iliad, but said "Well, none of this happened", then you should be marked down for that assignment. But unlike school, no one forces you to engage in texts you don't want to, therefore these comments are gratuitous, offtopic for the question, and trollish
    – Robert
    Aug 24, 2022 at 2:46
  • Does this mean that if a question implies the truth of text we are not free here to contradict that interpretation as long was we refrain from insults and trollishness? The guidelines say that Christian, Jewish and even Atheist views are equally welcome. Aug 24, 2022 at 3:36
  • "We welcome Jewish, Christian, Atheist and other viewpoints as long as they take seriously the process of understanding the Biblical texts." It seems to me that answer by @another theory meets this criteria. I gave it an up vote. Aug 24, 2022 at 3:43
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    @DanFefferman no, it means you are not supposed to be engaging in truth questions at all, but in text questions. Does the text say X or does it say Y? If you think the text says X and another text says Y, you are free to conclude there is a contradiction. But the moment you venture into "Well, I doubt this really happened", then you are leaving hermeneutics -- what does the text say -- and entering the realm of arguing about religion, and this site is not for that purpose. Yet that's basically all the OP has done in his many rants here about Christianity - it's debate about truth values
    – Robert
    Aug 24, 2022 at 7:42
  • @Robert the Q was the significance of 'bones not be broken’ which refers to the Psalms. To understand the true meaning, all this needs to be explored for the various possibilities and if they are plausible. The significance is that the passages (not me) indicate that it was prophesised that Jesus would not be forsaken. Aug 24, 2022 at 10:21

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