The Meaning of “INRI” and the origins of the letter “J”

jesus-inri If you have been to a Church building of a main Christian denomination such as “Catholicism”, you would have inevitably seen a sign reading “INRI” probably placed above on a sculpture of a cross, like the image on the left. If you come from such a Christian background, been brought up in such a denomination, it would be unlikely that you would not have seen and wondered what this inscription meant. While most people know that it has something to do with the inscription which was placed above Christ when He was crucified, not many people know what it actually reads.

The Gospels give clear reference to this inscription in Mt 27:37, Mk 15:26, Lk 23:38 & Jn 19:19,20. Even though there are slight variations in the gospel accounts, according to John’s Gospel, it read “JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS”. John further explains that the inscription was written in Latin & Greek as well as Hebrew.

I-N-R-I is the short form of what appeared on top of Christ, in the Latin language. The inscription itself would have read “IESVS NAZARENVS REX IVDÆORVM” which when translated reads Jesus(IESVS) Nazareth(NAZARENVS) King(REX) Jews(IVDÆORVM).

Now if you are as inquisitive as I am, you would wonder why it does not read J-N-R-J in the place of I-N-R-I, as “Jesus” and “Jews” just like “Nazareth” are proper names. In other words, why did this abbreviation read “IESVS NAZARENVS REX IVDÆORVM” instead of “JESVS NAZARENVS REX JVDÆORVM”? Why were the letter “J” in “Jesus” and “Jews” changed into “I”?

Letter JThe simple answer is, it wasn’t changed. The Letter “J” (with a “ja” sound as in “justice”) wasn’t even invented at the time. The letter “I” which had a “ia” or “ya” sound, was what Pilate used on the inscription.

The Encyclopedia Britannica explains that the Letter J “is only a modification of the Latin I and dates back with a separate value only to the 15th Century”. Looking at the pages of the King James bible printed in 1611, this becomes apparent as it is used exclusively as a Capitalised version of the letter I, never being pronounced as “ja”.1 In the below thumbnail to our right, taken from Exodus 6 in the 1611 print of the KJV bible, words such as Isaac, Jacob, I and Israel all start with a “J”, which was used only as decorative element. Jacob would have been ideally pronounced as “Iacob” or “Yacob” at this time. Even the pronunciation of the name of our Heavenly Father “Yehovah” is preserved showing us that it does not start with a J (“ja” sound as in “justice”).

So what does any of this got to do with I-N-R-I? The mere fact that I-N-R-I has remained untouched throughout the ages show us that Christ’s name could not have been “Jesus”, but that it had to start with a “ia” or “ya” sound. The next time you walk into a Church building with the inscription “INRI”, remember that it is an eye opener to many changes that have happened in the past 2000 years with language and translation, as well as a testimony which points us towards Christ’s true name “Yeshua”.

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