The Meaning Of INRI In The Bible

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Published by Shannon Jacobs



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When we look at a crucifix or the cross, we immediately notice the INRI sign on the top of the head of Jesus. Crucifixion was an ancient form of capital punishment in which the victim was nailed or tied to a massive wooden cross or beam and left to hang until death from asphyxiation and exhaustion. It was used as a punishment by the Romans and Persians, among other cultures.

Why was Jesus crucified? What is the meaning of the INRI inscription? What is INRI meaning in Bible? The sign reveals profound significance and symbolism throughout Christendom and to the rest of humanity. The inscription written on Jesus’ head also signifies the reality of our promised salvation.

What Is The Meaning Of The Letters INRI?

In those days, it was commonplace to put the accusation on the cross above the head of the accused. While many of them were sentenced to suffer or die on the cross, only Jesus Christ was given an INRI inscription. The Latin abbreviation INRI stands for Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, which translates to Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews. The first letter is stated as a “J” instead of an “I,” but the Latin meaning is still similar.

The letters were written in Latin translation, as this was the official language at the time of the Roman Empire[1]. The three predominant languages were Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. Many of the Jews read the inscription at that time. Some people say that if you translate the abbreviation INRI into the Hebrew language, it means “YHWH,” which signifies the inexpressible name of God.

cross on wall and inri meaning in bible

What Is The Meaning Of INRI On The Cross?

The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

— Mark 10:45

The Defining Death Of Jesus Christ

To the multitude of believers in Christianity, especially in the Catholic Church, INRI goes beyond the mocking accusation of the Romans to refer to our Lord Jesus of Nazareth, “King of the Jews.” Although Jesus is indeed the King of the Jews, He is also the Lord and King of Kings who reigns over all of humanity.

Jesus Christ is our Messiah, who arrived on Earth to take away the sins of the world. He was God who became man, not to rule over all of humanity but to serve us according to the will of the Father.

In the Old Testament of the Bible, the sacrifice of animals and the shedding of their blood are an intrinsic part of the forgiveness of sins. But God has relinquished this requirement by sending His one and only begotten Son. The sacrificial death of Jesus was instigated by Julius Caesar and the chief priests. His momentous death was the complete and final form of sacrifice for all the iniquities of the world.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16

Abounding Love Of God

The New Testament says God is love, and He expresses His deepest benevolence to mankind, His most important creation. God created us in His likeness so that we might be able to worship and have fellowship with Him. The Bible says that He made the whole earth and the universe to support the existence of humanity. The whole of creation centers on us.

Despite the sins and disobedience of our first parents, He has made plans to redeem us and restore our status as children of God. His most magnificent act was to send His only begotten son, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross so that we might gain access to eternal life. The death of Christ is the ultimate proof of God’s abounding love for us.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds, we are healed.

— Isaiah 53:5

Fulfillment Of Prophecy

The birth, incarnation, and death of Jesus Christ were prophesied in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament. In fact, the essence of the Old Covenant strongly suggests that the Messiah will arrive many centuries later.

A central element of prophecy is the redemption of humanity through the atoning blood and sacrifice of our Messiah, Jesus Christ. When we see a holy cross with the inscription INRI, we are reminded and assured that Jesus Christ will again arrive on Earth to usher in a new heaven and earth and for us to gain eternal life.

Why Was INRI Used?

The letters “INRI,” which denote Jesus Christ as the “King of the Jews,” in Latin translation, means Iesus Nazarenus Rex IudaeorumThe term aptly subscribes to the command and accusation of Pontius Pilate towards the person of our Messiah.

In Hebrew, this translates as, “Jesus the Nazarite and the King of the Jews.” Despite the protests of the chief priests regarding the insignia, the orders of Julius Caesar prevailed. John 19:22 reads: “Pilate answered, What I have written, I have written.”

Secondly, Latin was the predominant language used at the time, and it was used to describe Jesus Christ as the “King of the Jews.” The Gospel of John also clearly references INRI regarding the accusation of Christ. Jesus, being born in Nazareth, also alludes to the INRI inscription on the true cross. Significantly, the Jews read this inscribed sign because the place of crucifixion was near the city.

Fascinating Facts About INRI

Pontius Pilate

With the support of the chief priests, Pontius Pilate was a central figure of the Roman Empire in the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ. He was the Roman governor of Judaea (26–36 CE) who presided at the trial of our Lord and promulgated the order for his crucifixion and eventual death. He ordered Christ to be labeled as the “King of the Jews.”

INRI And Titulus Crucis

The term is the Latin word for “Title of the Cross,” which was inscribed in wood and placed above Jesus’ head on the cross. The sign is kept in the Catholic Church of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme in Rome. A common mistake that people make is that they refer to the Titulus Crucis as the crucifix or the cross. In contrast, they are just insignia or part of the actual cross.

Bible References For INRI (New Testament)

And Pilate wrote a title and put it on the cross. And the writing was Jesus of Nazareth the king of the Jews.

John 19:19

Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose (in the East) and have come to worship him.

— Matthew 2:2

And set up over his head his accusation written, this is Jesus the king of the Jews.

Matthew 27:37

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, Greek, and Latin.

John 19:2
cross on field and inri meaning in bible


The letters “INRI” stand for the sacrifice of Christ. The inscription on the head of Jesus Christ was originally intended as mockery. The Romans and many others called Him the “King of the Jews,” dressed Him in a purple robe, and decorated Him with thorns as His crown. But Jesus transcended these insults.

Today, Christians and a multitude of people refer to Him not only as the “King of the Jews,” but also as the King of Kings, the Savior of humanity, who reigns in us forever and ever. With utmost and most eager expectation, we await the second arrival of our Lord Jesus Christ to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven, where all believers will have eternal life. 

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