ArticlesFrom Genesis to Golgotha: Understanding “Τετέλεσται” and “מְאֹ֑ד ט֖וֹב”

From Genesis to Golgotha: Understanding “Τετέλεσται” and “מְאֹ֑ד ט֖וֹב”

By Jordan Villanueva, Professor at Howard Payne University and Pastor of FBC Blanket

As we are in the midst of Passion Week which will culminate with hundreds of thousands gathering around the world to celebrate the Risen Savior, I thought it might be helpful to connect the dots with Jesus’s famous final words on the cross. It is often overlooked how Τετέλεσται from John 19:30, meaning “It is finished” or “It is complete,” draws from Old Testament theology. The connection can be tied to the Hebrew phrase מְאֹ֑ד ט֖וֹב from Genesis 1:31, translated as “very good.” While these passages come from different contexts and languages, they share a deep theological relation, hinting at the restoration of creation back to its original state.

In John 19:30, as Jesus hangs on the cross, he utters the words Τετέλεσται, signifying the completion of his earthly mission. This declaration holds immense significance as it relates to not only Christology but also Soteriology, as it is in reference to the culmination of Christ’s sacrificial atonement for humanity’s sins. However, delving deeper into the phrase unveils a connection with the creation narrative found in Genesis. Genesis 1:31 concludes the account of the creation week, where after each day’s work, God evaluates His creation, pronouncing it “good.” Yet, on the sixth day, following the creation of humanity, God declares the entirety of His creation as “very good”. Now, this adjective that signifies degree can easily be interpreted with an anthropological focus that results in believing that since now man has been created, now things are “very good”. Yet, this superlative affirmation more likely encapsulates the perfection and harmony of the world as it was initially intended by the Divine Creator. In other words, the “very” that distinguishes day six from the other days has more to do with the completed or finished product of the Creator than it does with the particularity of man.

The connection between these passages becomes evident when considering the theological implications of Christ’s redemptive work. The fall of humanity in Genesis 3 marred the perfection of creation, introducing sin, suffering, and death into the world. However, through His death on the cross, Jesus accomplished the reconciliation of humanity with God and initiated the restoration of creation. By proclaiming Τετέλεσται with one of His final breaths, Jesus not only signifies the fulfillment of His mission but also hints at the restoration of creation to its original state of perfection. Through His sacrificial act, Christ has overcome the effects of sin and initiated the process of redemption for all creation. This connection to Genesis makes sense when one considers the fact that what distinguishes John from the synoptic gospels is the fact that John is more interested in giving a theological interpretation of why the gospel narrative happened than in describing once again exactly what happened. This restoration that is explained in John extends beyond the salvation of humanity to encompass the renewal of the entire cosmos. This restoration will ultimately be fulfilled in the eschaton.

Furthermore, the parallel between “Τετέλεσται” and “מְאֹ֑ד ט֖וֹב” suggests a deliberate theological link between Christ’s work on the cross and the goodness of the original creation. It implies that in Christ, the brokenness caused by the fall is being rectified, and creation is being returned to its former state of perfection. Moreover, the resurrection of Jesus further solidifies this connection, as it symbolizes the victory over sin and death, inaugurating the new creation. Just as God’s evaluation of His creation culminated in declaring it “very good,” so too does Christ’s victory over sin and death pave the way for the ultimate restoration of creation.  Through his death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has initiated the restoration of creation, fulfilling the divine plan for redemption and bringing about the renewal of all things. As believers, we await the consummation of this restoration when Christ returns to establish His Kingdom, ushering in an era where God’s declaration of creation as “very good” will once again resound throughout the cosmos.

 

 

*The views expressed are those solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Pastor’s Common

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