Pilate placed a plaque at the top of the cross that said: “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews.” The place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the tablet was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, so that many Jews could read the inscription. The chief priests said to Pilate, “Change the inscription from ‘The King of the Jews’ to ‘He said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate replied:

John 19:19-22 NLT

“No, what I have written, I have written.”

Pontius Pilate wrote the phrase "The King of the Jews" over Jesus' head during the crucifixion. However, the religious leaders wanted it to be written: "I am the king of the Jews." This would allow them, through the exercise of power, to contradict Jesus' statement and use this as justification for the crucifixion, accusing him of proud blasphemy before the people.

When confronted by religious leaders regarding the choice of the originally written phrase, which contained the masculine form "The king of the Jews", Pilate adopted a neutral Greek pronoun ( Ὃ - What) when referring to the phrase about Jesus.

The question arises: why didn't he use a masculine pronoun?

  • Learn Greek using duolingo and John Dobson book on NT Greek
    – Michael16
    Dec 24, 2023 at 3:50
  • In Greek the relative pronoun (meaning "that/who/which") comes in as many guises as the definite article (meaning "the") because it follows the gender, case and number of the clause it marks ("write down the things that are", REVELATION 1:19). Four of these forms of the relative pronoun are identical to four forms of the definite article (when we disregard the accents of later Greek notations), namely ο, η, οι and αι. The form ου also serves as particle of negation.
    – Betho's
    Dec 24, 2023 at 4:15
  • 1
    I get your point. What I have written has the pronoun. So neuter pronoun is needed for neuter things. The written thing is neuter.
    – Michael16
    Dec 24, 2023 at 4:29
  • I'm not referring to "Baselius". Ἀπεκρίθη ὁ Πιλᾶτος Ὃ γέγραφα γέγραφα x Ἀπεκρίθη ὁ Πιλᾶτος Ὅς γέγραφα γέγραφα. John 19:22
    – Betho's
    Dec 24, 2023 at 4:30
  • Yes, it refers to what I have written.
    – Michael16
    Dec 24, 2023 at 4:59

1 Answer 1


Pilate wrote an inscription (τίτλον); the inscription (writing) contained the following words: «Ἰησοῦς ὁ Ναζωραῖος ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων».

In the phrase «ὃ γέγραφα γέγραφα» — “I have written what I have written”, the antecedent of the relative pronoun ὃ is the phrase (the “what”) written on the inscription: «Ἰησοῦς ὁ Ναζωραῖος ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων».

Greek grammar dictates that the neuter pronoun is used when the antecedent of a relative pronoun is an entire clause or phrase.

Herbert Weir Smith wrote,1

If a clause or phrase is regarded as the antecedent, the relative stands in the neuter singular.

1 p. 203, § 732, a.
Smyth, Herbert Weir. A Greek Grammar for Schools and Colleges. New York: American Book, 1916.

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