King of the Jews (INRI) was Written in Three Languages on the Sign Nailed to the Cross Above Jesus Head
“And Pilate wrote a title, and put [it] on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. 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, [and] Greek, [and] Latin. Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.” John 19:19-22 (KJV)
In the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as the King of the Jews (or of the Judeans), both at the beginning of his life and at the end. In the Koine Greek of the New Testament, e.g., in John 19:3, this is written Basileus ton Ioudaion (βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων).
Both uses of the title lead to dramatic results in the New Testament accounts. In the account of the Nativity of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, the wise men (i.e., Magi) who come from the east call Jesus the “King of the Judeans”, causing King Herod to order the Massacre of the Innocents. Towards the end of the accounts of all four Canonical Gospels, in the narrative of the Passion of Jesus, the title “King of the Judeans” leads to charges against Jesus that result in his crucifixion. The name Judea is a Greek and Roman adaptation of the name “Judah”, which originally encompassed the territory of the Israelite tribe of that name and later of the ancient Kingdom of Judah.
The initialism INRI (Latin: Iēsūs/Iēsus Nazarēnus, Rex Iūdaeōrum) represents the Latin inscription (in John 19:19) which in English reads as “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews” and John 19:20 states that this was written in three languages — Aramaic, Latin, and Greek — during the crucifixion of Jesus. The Greek version of the initialism reads ΙΝBΙ, representing Ἰησοῦς ὁ Ναζωραῖος ὁ Bασιλεὺς τῶν Ἰουδαίων.
The title “King of the Jews” is only used in the New Testament by gentiles, namely by the Magi, Pontius Pilate, and the Roman soldiers. In contrast, the Jewish leaders use the designation “King of Israel”. Although the phrase “King of the Jews” is used in most English translations
Although John’s gospel refers to the writing as a “title,” Mark and Matthew both refer to it as an “accusation.” It was customary to set up over the heads of persons crucified the crime for which they suffered, and the name of the sufferer. The accusation on which Jesus had been condemned by Pilate was his claiming to be the King of the Jews. Ironically, the “crime” for which Jesus was crucified is not a crime at all, but an absolutely true statement. Not only is Jesus King of the Jews, He is the King of all ” the King of kings and the Lord of lords (Revelation 17:14 and 19:16). He is King over all the universe and all its inhabitants. And it was not any crime of His own that was nailed to the cross; it was the crimes (sins) of everyone who would ever put his or her faith in Him for salvation. He has “blotted out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and has taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14).
Just as the title King of the Jews was written in three languages, so do those of all nations and languages recognize Him as Savior, as indeed He is of all the elect of God whom He saves from all their sins, by bearing them in His own body on the cross, and of whom He is the able and willing, the perfect and complete, the only and everlasting Savior. Halleluiah!