What does John 19:20 mean?
ESV: Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek.
NIV: Many of the Jews read this sign, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Aramaic, Latin and Greek.
NASB: Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin, and in Greek.
CSB: Many of the Jews read this sign, because the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek.
NLT: The place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, so that many people could read it.
KJV: This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.
NKJV: Then many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.
Verse Commentary:
There's irony in Pilate's written description of Jesus (John 19:19). The inscription is intended as both a condemnation and thinly veiled insult to Israel. It is arguably the first written declaration of who Jesus truly was: the King. Aramaic was the typical spoken language of the Jewish people of that era. Greek was the collective language, used by those who naturally spoke other tongues, much as English is used in the modern word. Latin was the official language of the Roman Empire. That the words are written in three languages speaks to the diversity and worldwide reach of this part of the ancient world. In a symbolic sense, Jesus' crucifixion and Kingship are already being proclaimed to the entire earth.

Crucifixion was meant to be vile, painful, shameful, and extremely public. Victims were usually crucified where they could be easily seen, labeled with their crimes for others to see. In Jesus' case, the charge of being "King of the Jews" (John 19:19) implies rebellion against the Roman Empire. Jesus' religious enemies (John 11:48–53) are offended by this wording. That's probably something Pilate intended; he knows these men didn't recognize Jesus as King and that Jesus didn't seek political power (John 18:36–38; Matthew 27:18). The religious leaders of Jerusalem want Pilate to clarify that Jesus is being killed for falsely claiming to be King (John 19:21). The governor won't back down (John 19:22).
Verse Context:
John 19:17–30 describes Jesus' unjust execution by crucifixion. The Roman governor, Pilate, ironically puts a sign on Jesus' cross proclaiming Him "King of the Jews." This angers Jewish religious leaders, but the governor refuses to take the sign down or change the wording. As Jesus calls out to John to care for His mother, Mary, soldiers gamble for what's left of His clothes. Jesus pronounces the completion of His atoning sacrifice and dies. Matthew 27:31–56, Mark 15:22–41, and Luke 23:32–49 cover this same series of events.
Chapter Summary:
Pilate recognizes Jesus' innocence, but fears the mob assembled by Jewish religious leaders. He attempts to satisfy them by having Jesus viciously whipped and mocked. This only results in more cries for Jesus' death. The governor then shifts to protect his own reputation, ordering Jesus to be crucified on a charge of being "King of the Jews." John is directly present as Jesus is executed. He notes the fulfillment of several prophecies as Jesus dies. Once He is confirmed to be dead, Jesus' body is taken by two friendly members of the ruling council. They hastily bury Him in the borrowed crypt of a rich man.
Chapter Context:
When Jesus was first brought to Pilate, His innocence was obvious (John 18:36–38). However, the mob refuses to be satisfied with anything less than crucifixion. Pilate gives in to these demands. John, who is present for the entire gory spectacle, notes several instances of fulfilled prophecy (Psalm 22:18; Psalm 69:21; Exodus 12:46; Zechariah 12:10). Jesus is then buried in the borrowed tomb of a rich man (Isaiah 53:9) to complete yet another Old Testament prediction. A guard will be posted to ensure no one steals the body (Matthew 27:62–68), which will only serve to confirm that Jesus' eventual resurrection was a true miracle (John 20:1–8).
Book Summary:
The gospel of John was written by the disciple John, decades later than the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls “signs”—in order to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in all of the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
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