I’m looking for a historical source on any Jewish sacrificial ritual (e.g., Passover, Day of Atonement) in which the high priest would cry something like, “It is finished.” I’ve seen a number of blogs saying that such a thing happened, but I cannot find anything like it on Sefaria.org or in more reliable Bible commentaries. I also have seen a few online discussions on what the Hebrew equivalent of τετελεσται would be, and all the answers seems somewhat speculative. With that in mind, I’m beginning to believe that there is no well known tradition of a priest saying “it is finished” at the end of a ceremony.

Part of the reason why I am asking is because I am wondering if Jesus said “I thirst” (John 19:28) because His tongue was cleaving to the top of his mouth (Psalm 22:15), and Jesus needed some water to better enunciate “it is finished.” When He said “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabbachthani” those standing at the base of the cross could not understand what He was saying (Matthew 27:46).

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    I've read stories that are trying to correlate the timing of Christ's death on the cross with the Priest saying "It is Finished" but I could find no credible source for such Jewish ritual. In fact one source admitted he had related that when younger but later learned that he had only been repeating what someone else told him, and that he could not justify that from any real source. He concluded it was a myth.
    – Gina
    Mar 16 at 1:03
  • The entire assembly worshiped, as the singers sang and the trumpeters played. They continued until the burnt sacrifice was completed. 2 Chronicles 29:28 NET
    – Betho's
    Mar 16 at 2:01
  • @Roberto וּכְכַלֹּ֖ות is a different word with different meaning in 2 Chr. 29:28.
    – Perry Webb
    Mar 17 at 1:16
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    – Steve can help
    Mar 17 at 21:57

2 Answers 2


I am still looking for an actual for the Passover Priest making the statement. This is not in the Old Testament. Thus, we would need other sources. I don't know that it is a valid statement. Here is related background. By the way, the family's father would be the priest for the Passover lamb.

Because sacrifices ceased with the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., this is unlikely to be found in a Jewish source. Maybe the only reliable possibility of a source is the early church fathers, unless a source is before the 1st century.

I searched through the Works of Josephus and Philo of Alexandria. I searched through Edersheim, A. (1896). The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Longmans, Green, and Co. and found no reference to this. It is unlikely considering the verse.

 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect [τετελειωμένον NA28, הֻשְׁלַם BSI, הַמֻּשְׁלָם Delitzsch ] forever. (Heb. 7:27–28, ESV)

In the Mosaic Law passages in the Pentateuch, the verb שָׁלֵם in the piel has the meaning of make restitution. It means to be complete, finished, ended and is the verb Jesus most likely used when he said "it is finished."

See Tetelestai - What did Jesus really say in John 19:30 assuming he spoke Aramaic or Hebrew?

[שָׁלֵם ... vb. be complete, sound ... Pi. complete, requite, ... 1. be complete, finished, ended: temple ... 2. make safe, c. acc. Jb 8:6. 3. make whole or good, restore thing lost... 4. make good, i.e. pay, vows, c. acc.... 5. requite, recompense, reward, good -- Brown, F., Driver, S. R., & Briggs, C. A. (1977). In Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (p. 1022). Clarendon Press.

See also Word Study: It is Finished


The scriptures teach that a major event happened when Christ died--which was just after his declaration that "It is finished" (that was his last breath). So roughly simultaneous to this declaration, was what occurred in the temple in that moment.

45 And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. 46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. (Luke 23:45-46, KJV)

Other versions of the story give similar evidence, along with additional detail.

37 And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. 38 And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. (Mark 15:37-38, KJV)

50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. 51 And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; 52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, 53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many. (Matthew 27:50-53, KJV)

So the priest who was officiating in the temple at that hour might have been horrified to see the veil between the holy place and the most holy place torn apart, such that he, and all others peering through the opening, could look into the most holy place--the place that traditionally the high priest had entered only once a year, on the day of atonement, with great soul-searching and reverence lest he be struck down by a holy God for having profaned His sanctuary. No common citizen, or even most of the priests, had ever before been permitted to look into the most holy place, and now, not only can the priest see inside, but anyone can.

The most holy place did not at this time house the ark of the covenant. To preserve it in a time of peril, centuries earlier, the priests had hidden it away in a secluded location--where it presumably remains to this day, not yet having been discovered (though many have tried to claim they've found it). So the Shekinah glory had long since been absent from the sanctuary, and there was no danger of a recurrence of the slaughter of Bethshemesh (see 1 Samuel 6:19).

Still, the ritual of entering the most holy place but once a year, and only by the high priest, had been preserved until the time of Jesus' death. And when the priest witnessed the veil being torn, from top to bottom--obviously not by human hands, he would have been astonished. The shock would have been too much for words. In place of saying "it is finished," the priest would have stood dumbfounded, unable to continue his normal service. The lamb he is about to slay, escapes from his hand, and he has no strength, nor mind, to prevent it.

There is no record of the priest saying anything at this moment. The horrific desecration of the sanctuary by the supernatural rending of the veil would have caused all who stood by to tremble--as also the earth did, the earthquake being recorded in Matthew's account of these scenes. In times of such astonishment and shock, people's voices fall silent.


There is no record of the officiating priest uttering anything at the time of Jesus' death; nor should such an utterance be expected. The major event which occurred at the temple, witnessed by all present, was the rending of the veil, permitting all to see into the most holy place. This was accompanied by an earthquake. No words are on record as being spoken by anyone there present at the temple at that moment.

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