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Seven Words from the Cross

These seven words may be designated as follows: (1) propitiatory—“Father, forgive”; (2) promissory—“Today you will be with me in paradise”; (3) provisionary—“Dear woman, here is your son”; (4) protestatory—“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”; (5) preemptory—“I am thirsty”; (6) proclamatory—“It is finished”; (7) pacificatory—“Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Theologically, these words, in the order given above, illustrate (1) divine forgiveness, (2) assurance of immortality, (3) good works, (4) the awfulness of Christ’s death, (5) the true humanity of Christ, (6) the perfection of Christ’s atonement, and (7) the divine complacency.

Textual problems emerge in two cases. Luke 23:34, supported by most Gr. MSS, is omitted by MSS B, D, and some other authorities. However, Harnack, Zahn, and Streeter defend the authenticity of the passage. Certain scribes may have omitted it on the ground that the destruction of Jerusalem implied that Jesus’ prayer had not been answered. The second dispute concerns Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34. Both gospels give the Aram. with the LXX tr. of Psalm 22:1, slightly altered in Matthew. But if, in fact, Jesus quoted the Heb. it would account better for the misunderstanding which followed.


W. H. Griffith Thomas, “The Words from the Cross,” ExpT XXVII (1915-1916), 46; T. E. Young, “A Fresh Exposition of the Cries from the Cross,” ExpT XXXIX (1927-1928), 93; R. G. Turnbull, The Seven Words From the Cross (1956); J. M. Spurrell, “An Interpretation of ‘I Thirst,’” Church Quarterly Review, 167 (1966), 12-18.