Jesus wept

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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 versions.[1] It is not the shortest in the original languages.[2] It is found in the Gospel of John, chapter 11, verse 35.[3]

Verse breaks – or versification – were introduced into the Greek text by Robert Estienne in 1551 in order to make the texts easier to reference and compare.


This verse occurs in John's narrative of the death of Lazarus, a follower of Jesus. Lazarus' sisters Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus of their brother's illness and impending death, but Jesus arrived four days after Lazarus died. Jesus, after talking to the grieving sisters and seeing Lazarus' friends weeping, was deeply troubled and moved. After asking where Lazarus had been laid, and being invited to come see, Jesus wept. He went to the tomb and told the people to remove the stone covering it, prayed aloud to his Father, and ordered Lazarus to come out, resurrected.[3]


Resurrection of Lazarus by Juan de Flandes, around 1500
Translation Text
Original Greek ἐδάκρυσεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς.
Edákrusen ho Iēsous.
Vulgate "Et lacrimatus est Iesus"
Luther Bible Und Jesus gingen die Augen über.
ASV, Darby Bible, ERV, ESV, HCSB, KJV, NASB, NET, NIV, NJB, NKJV, NLT (pre-2005 version), WEB, YLT, Recovery Version "Jesus wept."
Bible in Basic English "And Jesus himself was weeping."
God's Word "Jesus cried."
The Message "Now Jesus wept."
New American Bible, Douay–Rheims Bible "And Jesus wept."
New Living Translation (2005 Version) "Then Jesus wept."
New Revised Standard Version "Jesus began to weep."
CJB "Yeshua cried,"
The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures "Jesus gave way to tears."


Significance has been attributed to Jesus' deep emotional response to his friends' weeping, and his own tears, including the following:

  • Weeping demonstrates that Christ was a 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, sympathy, and compassion Jesus felt for all mankind.
  • The rage he felt against the tyranny of death over mankind.[4]
  • Although the bystanders interpreted his weeping to mean that Jesus loved Lazarus (verse 36), Witness Lee considered the Jews' opinion to be unreasonable, given Jesus' intention to resurrect Lazarus. Lee argued instead that every person to whom Jesus talked in John 11 (his disciples, Martha, Mary, and the Jews) was blinded by their misconceptions. Thus he "groaned in his spirit" because even those who were closest to him failed to recognize that he was, as he declared in verse 26, "the resurrection and the life". Finally, at the graveside, he "wept in sympathy with their sorrow over Lazarus's death".[5]

In history[edit]

Jesus' tears have figured among the relics attributed to Jesus.[6]

Use as an expletive[edit]

In some places in the English-speaking world, including Great Britain, Ireland (particularly Dublin and Belfast) and Australia, the phrase "Jesus wept" is a common expletive, curse or minced oath spoken when something goes wrong or to express mild incredulity.[7]

Possibly the earliest inadvertent usage on television was by the broadcaster, Richard Dimbleby, during the 1965 state visit of HM Queen Elizabeth II to West Berlin.[citation needed]

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, David Lodge in Nice Work, Mike Carey in the Hellblazer series and The Devil You Know, Peter F. Hamilton in The Night's Dawn Trilogy, Mark Haddon in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time 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), Michael Collins (1996), Dogma (1999) Notes on a Scandal (2006), Cranford (2008),The Bank Job(2008), and Call the Midwife (TV series)(2013).

Other usage in media[edit]

"Jesus wept" features prominently in some stories, including an episode of The Waltons, the film Barbershop 2: Back in Business and the book The Color of Water, as a Bible verse that is easy for a child to memorize.

In Clive Barker's 1987 horror film Hellraiser during a torture scene toward the end, character Frank Cotton utters his final words, "Jesus wept", as the film explores the theme of pain as a source of pleasure. Cotton's use of the words is sampled in the track "Revaluation of All Values" by UK black metal band Anaal Nathrakh, "Fascist Jock Itch" by Canadian band Skinny Puppy, and "Jesus Wept" by Belgian industrial act Suicide Commando on their 2000 album Mindstrip.

The words are used as the title of other works. Jesus Wept is an album by rap group P.M. Dawn. "Jesus Wept" is the title of a song by Suffocation on the 1991 album Effigy of the Forgotten. Kanye West uses the expression in the second verse of his 2013 song "Bound 2". Jayzus Wept is a short book by Pete St. John; the title is the phonetic spelling of the phrase as spoken in Dublin, Ireland. "Jesus Chorou" (in Portuguese) is a song by Brazilian hip-hop group Racionais MC's. British experimental music group Current 93's album Dogs Blood Rising contains a song titled "Raio No Terrasu (Jesus Wept)."

The verse also forms part of the chorus for heavy metal band Machine Head's single, "Old".

See also[edit]


  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. ^ The shortest verse in the Greek New Testament is Luke 20:30 ("καὶ ὁ δεύτερος", "And the second") with twelve letters, according to the Westcott and Hort text.
  3. ^ a b John 11:1–45
  4. ^ The emotional life of Jesus, B. B. Warfield
  5. ^ Witness Lee, Life-Study of John, Chapter 23, Section 2 (retrieved by searching for "wept" in Life-Study of John)
    Lee, Witness (1985), Life-Study of John, Living Stream Ministry, p. PT272, ISBN 978-0736350402 
  6. ^ The Joe Nickell Files: The Shroud of Turin, interview with Joe Nickell, August 2000
  7. ^ E.g. dictionary of slang, Aussie slang

External links[edit]