I've been comparing the same events written across different gospels recently, and although I was aware of the differences between the gospel accounts of Jesus's very last moments before death I really was stuck when I started to look at them in depth.

Mark and Mathew are very similar, though once you get to Luke, then John seem to diverge.

Mark 15:33-37

At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

Matthew 27:45-50

From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,[c] lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.” Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.” And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

Luke 23:44-46

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” When he had said this, he breathed his last.

John 19:28:-29

Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Its easy to reconcile many events in the gospels using telescoping (they just skipped over large sections of time, without mention) but here they are talking about such discrete moment in time that its hard to use that explanation. Also, there is a clear cause and effect sequence, especial with Luke ("When he had said this...") and John ("With that..."), its hard to reconcile.

Is there an answer other than at least two gospel writers just got it wrong? Or they weren't reporting on Jesus's actually words but only making theological points?

And a secondary question is, if presumably Luke had a copy of Mark when he was writing and perhaps a copy of Matthew as well, then why would he deviate when it was right in front of him? And of course John may or may not have had a copy of any of the others in front of him.

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    Tradition holds that he began praying through Psalm 22 and continued reciting the Psalms in order until he stopped at Psalm 31:5. Obviously much of this recitation was silent (in his head) since He could hardly breathe, but it is an interesting tradition nonetheless....
    – Dan
    Commented Jan 8, 2013 at 4:10
  • Very good research and question. All the mentioned accounts can be easily compared side-by-side and analysed here: son-of-god.info/good-news-150719.html#205 BTW, The mentioned quote from John 19 contains in fact verses 28-30 - it could be adjusted in the question text. Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 22:28

2 Answers 2


I don't see how to answer this without copying and pasting the entire resolution from the other site, but in summary, each person documented what they heard, and in total we can deduce what he actually said, which is, all in a loud voice, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?", then "Father, unto thy hands I commend my spirit:"and finally, "It is finished:"

From an apologetics site dedicated to showing possible resolutions to Bible discrepancies: http://contenderministries.org/discrepancies/contradictions.php#17

First, John was nearer to the cross and probably heard things the others didn't. John is referred to in scripture as the disciple that Jesus loved (John 13:23). Notice he is mentioned as being near the cross of Jesus.

John 19:25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." From that time on, this disciple took her into his home."

Notice, in the verse above, Jesus is speaking only to Mary and John who are directly below the cross.

When John recounts the events at the cross, he's focusing on what was said privately to him at the foot of the cross and what's said to those standing close by - the plea of thirst, the statement of completion, and the turning over of responsibility for Jesus' mother to John.

Matthew focused on the words Jesus said "in a loud voice" to all that were there (the crowd).

The Last thing Matthew heard was "My god, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Then a loud cry before giving up the ghost.

Luke hears the same loud cry that Matthew mentions, but also hears after that, probably because he's closer, "Father, unto thy hands I commend my spirit". It makes sense that he would say "My God, My God..." in a louder voice than he would say his last words commending his spirit into the father's hands.

When Jesus asked for something to drink, he was speaking to those below the cross where John was standing. John heard what the others farther back heard, but also heard the dialogue about asking the people near the cross for water and his quieter statement, "It is finished".

Here are the three accounts put together:

"And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?' that is to say, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'....Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice said , 'Father, unto thy hands I commend my spirit:' (notice the cry with a loud voice is separated from Jesus commending His spirit, probably quieter), then he said softly, 'It is finished:' and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost."

Note that this is from one apologetics website, and is an interpretation rather than something we know as absolute fact, but it is answered using the basic principles of resolving Biblical discrepancies.

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    Not only does this provide a scenareo that would result in all four testimonies, but it is the logical theological order of what he would say when you consider the events. It is finished certainly sounds as last words.
    – Mike
    Commented Jan 8, 2013 at 4:39

I must disagree with all of these possible sayings. Ultimate death from crucifixion is caused by suffocation which would have made any coherent speech impossible. At best there might have been some gasping or wheezing sounds but that wouldn't have made a good story.

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    This answer would be a lot better if you could add references showing that this is a common understanding, and who teaches/believes it. Remember that "I think..." isn't an acceptable answer, since this site isn't about personal interpretation. See How we are different than other sites? and What makes a good supported answer? Commented Nov 10, 2013 at 22:37
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    Also, just kind of wrong. Especially early in his time on a cross, a person can lift themselves up - and breathe, just with pain. As such, it is possible to talk for a time. Commented Nov 11, 2013 at 13:23
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    Crucified people could "stand" since their feet were also nailed to the cross. When they wanted to fasten it up they would break their knees so they couldn't push up anymore. So this is absolutely not true.
    – user4136
    Commented Oct 18, 2014 at 14:41
  • The Roman guard broke the legs of the thieves to hasten their deaths. He expected to have to do the same for Jesus, but found him dead already, hours before most men died of crucifixion with out leg breaking. His death was not just due to the grueling pain of the procedure and previous beatings, but the spiritual weight of bearing the sins of all mankind. Thus it is likely that Jesus died early enough in the crucifixion to still be capable of speech. Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 1:00
  • The eyewitnesses who were actually there who observed and heard all these things disagree with you. Commented Oct 1, 2023 at 4:09

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