We see at John 19: 31-36, how the early death of Jesus on the Cross staved off the prospects of his legs being broken to fasten death :

".... Because the Jewish leaders did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. .... But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs... These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,”

The cross reference of OT that one gets to the said Verse 36 are the following:

Psalms 34:19-20:

The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.

Exodus 12:43-46

"The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “These are the regulations for the Passover meal:... It must be eaten inside the house; take none of the meat outside the house. Do not break any of the bones. "

Numbers 9: 10-12:

"" Tell the Israelites: .... to celebrate the Lord’s Passover, ..... on the fourteenth day of the second month at twilight. They are to eat the lamb, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They must not leave any of it till morning or break any of its bones. "

While the references of Exodus and Numbers refer to the bones of the sacrificial lamb, that of Psalms refer to the righteous person. I wish to know as to which of the above is the OT reference that the Evangelist had in mind at John 19:36 . Does the Catholic Church offer any definitive clue in this regard ?

  • A 'bone of him shall not be broken' has a spiritual meaning as well as the physical. It is a matter of integrity. He was tempted in his flesh but his structural integrity was not broken ... and compromised. The righteous has troubles but is preserved, as the Psalmist says. Down-vote cancelled +1.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 17, 2020 at 9:41
  • But, John is referring to the literal breaking of legs to fasten death by inducing a state of breathlessness for the convict. Agreed that Psalms may be referring to spiritual integrity. But I doubt if the Evangelist had the figurative usage in mind. Commented Jul 17, 2020 at 10:07
  • Jesus voluntarily gave up the spirit. He expired, voluntarily. No man taketh it from me [John 10:18]. So, yes, it was pointless to break the bones. Rather a spear was thrust to ensure that death had, indeed, occurred.. And thenceforth flowed blood and water.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 17, 2020 at 10:56
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    Just a reminder, please be more careful with tags.
    – Ken Graham
    Commented Jul 17, 2020 at 11:51
  • I suggest all of the options are thematically referred to. As the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ the righteous (the only Righteous One) fulfills all prophetic typology. Commented Jul 17, 2020 at 21:39

3 Answers 3


According to Catholicism, what Old Testament text is referred to in John 19: 36?

The Original and True Rheims New Testament of Anno Domini 1582 (page 227) states very clearly in the margin for reference on the bold text of John 19:36 that it refers to Ex 12:46.

  1. For these things were done that the scripture might be fulfilled, You shall not break a bone of him.

Exodus 12:46 reads as follows:

46 In one house shall it be eaten, neither shall you carry forth of the flesh thereof out of the house, neither shall you break a bone thereof.

Jesus is the true Lamb of God

  • Huh, interesting. I think most times I've heard this passage preached they'd say the primary reference would be Psalm 34:20 because it matches the grammatical mood (indicative rather than imperative) more than Exodus. But the Exodus reference is from the Passover, so it makes lots of sense too.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 12:02

The relationship between the Passover lamb and Christ is an example of a “type” or picture in the Old Testament. There are a number of examples of this kind of thing, such as Jonah, who was “buried” in a fish for three days and three nights, and emerged, as Jesus was buried three days and nights and was resurrected. The Passover lamb is as a sacrifice and a type of CHrist is mentioned in John the Baptist’s introduction of Jesus to his followers in John 1.


The Original Rheims translation cites Ex. 12:46 in the margin of Jn. 19:36.

  • John or Matthew?
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Jul 18, 2020 at 0:32

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