What Is the Meaning of the Greek Word Tetelestai in the Bible?

The Greek word telestai, from the word telos, means “to end, i.e. complete, execute, conclude, discharge (a debt) — accomplish, make an end, expire, fill up, finish, go over, pay, perform.” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance)

Telestai in John 19:28 in English Bible Translations

TranslationJohn 19:28
NIVLater, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.”
NLTJesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.”
ESVAfter this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.”
KJVAfter this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.
NASBAfter this, Jesus, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I am thirsty.”
HCSBAfter this, when Jesus knew that everything was now accomplished that the Scripture might be fulfilled, He said, “I’m thirsty!”

Also see the meaning of I am the resurrection and the life

Tetelestai: “It Is Finished” (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)

  1. to bring to a close, to finish, to end
  2. to perform, execute, complete, fulfill
  3. to pay

Paid in full?

Bible.org offers this explanation, though some have called into question the accuracy of the resource:

“The word tetelestai was also written on business documents or receipts in New Testament times to show indicating [sic] that a bill had been paid in full. The Greek-English lexicon by Moulton and Milligan says this: ‘Receipts are often introduced by the phrase [sic] tetelestai, usually written in an abbreviated manner…’ (p. 630). The connection between receipts and what Christ accomplished would have been quite clear to John’s Greek-speaking readership; it would be unmistakable that Jesus Christ had died to pay for their sins.”

Also see the meaning of I am the light of the world

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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