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Jesus wept (Greek: ἐδάκρυσεν ὁ ἰησοῦς) is a phrase famous for being the shortest verse in the King James Version of the Bible, as well as many other popular versions (though not the shortest in the original languages).[1] It is found in the Gospel of John, chapter 11, verse 35.[2]



This verse occurs in John's narrative of the death of Lazarus, a friend of Jesus. Lazarus' sisters Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus of their brother's illness. Jesus arrived four days after Lazarus' death. Jesus, after talking to the grieving sisters and seeing Lazarus' friends weeping, was deeply troubled. After being shown where Lazarus was laid, Jesus wept in front of Lazarus' tomb. He then ordered the people to remove the stone covering the tomb, prayed aloud to his Father, and ordered Lazarus to come out.[2]


Resurrection of Lazarus by Juan de Flandes, around 1500
Translation Text
Original Greek ἐδάκρυσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς. Edakrysen ho Iēsous.
Vulgate "Et lacrimatus est Iesus"
Luther Bible "Und Jesus gingen die Augen über". This is poetically spoken and means, "And Jesus' eyes overflowed".
ASV, Darby Bible, ESV, HCSB, KJV, NIV, NJB, NKJV, New Living Translation (original version) WEB, YLT "Jesus wept."
Bible in Basic English "And Jesus himself was weeping."
God's Word "Jesus cried."
The Message "Now Jesus wept."
New American Bible "And Jesus wept."
New Living Translation (2005 version) "Then Jesus wept."
New Revised Standard Version "Jesus began to weep."
New World Translation "Jesus gave way to tears."
CJB "Yeshua cried,"


Significance has been attributed to this phrase for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • Weeping demonstrates that Christ was indeed true man, with real bodily functions (such as tears, sweat, blood, eating and drinking—note, for comparison, the emphasis laid on Jesus' eating during the post-resurrection appearances). His emotions and reactions were real; Christ was not an illusion or spirit (see Docetism). Pope Leo I referred to this passage when he discussed the two natures of Jesus: "In his humanity Jesus wept for Lazarus; in his divinity he raised him from the dead."
  • The sorrow felt by Jesus presages the suffering of his own crucifixion.[citation needed]
  • The sorrow, sympathy, and compassion Jesus felt for all mankind.
  • The rage he felt against the tyranny of death over mankind.[3]
  • Jesus's weeping demonstrates that Lazarus had genuinely died. The raising of Lazarus was therefore not a fraud or a case of misdiagnosis.
  • The views above interpret his weeping to mean that Jesus was sorrowful for the fact that Lazarus had died (which was the interpretation of the bystanders in verse 36). However, an alternate explanation[citation needed] considers this to be unreasonable, given his full knowledge that he was about to resurrect Lazarus. This view instead argues that every single person whom Jesus talked to in the eleventh chapter of John (his disciples, Martha, Mary, and the Jews) was blinded by their misconceptions of Jesus and by their failure to recognize that, as he declared in verse 26, he himself was "the resurrection and the life". Thus, "he groaned in the spirit and was troubled" (New King James, verse 33). This view holds that he wept because even those who were closest to him were still blinded by their concepts to the fact that he really was "the resurrection and the life"—beyond mere doctrine (verses 25-27)—in spite of all his plain words to them. A striking point in this view is that the only person in the chapter who had no misconceptions was the dead man Lazarus, who promptly obeyed and received life when commanded to come forth. Finally, this view holds that the bystanders in verses 36-37, just like most readers today, were blinded by their own misconceptions and so did not understand that Jesus was actually weeping for them, not for Lazarus.
  • The sadness shown by Jesus may not be for the death of Lazarus, but rather his resurrection. Considering Christ's knowledge of the afterlife and personal (as well as divine) knowledge of Lazarus' character, he may instead have been filled with grief knowing that Lazarus would be taken from the promise of paradise (cf Limbo) and returned to an imperfect world. His Knowledge that Lazarus would soon be raised would not seem to warrant this sorrow.
  • Jesus wept, not for Lazarus as some suppose, but rather, he wept because Mary, Martha and the others wept. Jesus wept, because he felt the pain and sorrow of those whom he loved.

In history

Jesus's tears have figured among the relics attributed to Jesus.[4]

Use as an expletive

In some places in the western English-speaking world, including the UK, Ireland (particularly Dublin) and Australia, the phrase "Jesus wept" is a common expletive, curse or minced oath spoken when something goes wrong or to express mild incredulity. [5]

It is commonly used as an expletive in novels by author Stephen King. In his book On Writing, he explained that in grade school he was forced to memorize a verse from the Bible, so he picked "Jesus wept" due to its short length. Other authors using it as an expletive include Neil Gaiman in the Sandman series, Mike Carey in the Hellblazer series and The Devil You Know, Peter F. Hamilton in The Night's Dawn Trilogy and Dan Simmons in Hyperion Cantos.

This usage is also evidenced in films and television programmes including Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Get Carter (1971), Razorback (1984), Hellraiser (1987), The Stand (1994), Dogma (1999) Notes on a Scandal (2006), Cranford (2008), and The Bank Job (2008).

Other usage in media

  • In Clive Barker's 1987 horror film Hellraiser during a torture scene towards the end of the film, character Frank Cotton utters his final words: "Jesus wept", as the film explores the theme of pain as a source of pleasure. UK black metal band Anaal Nathrakh sampled Frank Cotton's final words and used in the track "Revaluation of All Values". Canadian band Skinny Puppy also sampled "Jesus wept" in the track "Fascist Jock Itch", as did Belgian industrial act Suicide Commando for the track "Jesus Wept" on their 2000 album Mindstrip.
  • Jayzus Wept is a short book by Pete St. John (who wrote the song "The Fields of Athenry"), about a daytime lock-in in a Dublin pub. The title is the phonetic spelling of the phrase's usage in Ireland.
  • In the song "Old" by American heavy metal band Machine Head, singer/guitarist Robb Flynn yells "Jesus wept" at the end of each chorus. The music video also makes reference to the crucifixion of Jesus.
  • Jesus Wept is an album by rap group P.M. Dawn.
  • "Jesus Wept" is also the name of a song by Suffocation from the 1991 album Effigy of the Forgotten, and "Jesus Chorou" (in Portuguese) is a song by Brazilian hip-hop group Racionais MC's.

See also


  1. ^ In the NIV, Job 3:2 is the shortest biblical verse. Whereas the KJV reads "And Job spake, and said," the NIV simply has "He said".
  2. ^ a b John 11:1-45
  3. ^ The emotional life of Jesus, B. B. Warfield
  4. ^ The Joe Nickell Files: The Shroud of Turin, interview with Joe Nickell, August 2000
  5. ^ E.g. dictionary of slang, Aussie slang

External links



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