The shortest bible verse in the English bible

The shortest verse in the bible

You might be aware that the original Greek manuscripts of the New Testament had no punctuation or verse structure. It was only in 1551 that the Parisian printer Robert Estienne (aka Stephanus) revolutionized how we read the Bible. His fourth edition of the Greek New Testament introduced the very system of numbered verses that prevails to this day.


To complicate the response to what is the shortest verse in the bible further, one has to be aware that the answer varies. The original manuscripts were in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek so the true “shortest verse” in words and letters depends on the language and translation.

While John 11:35 (“Jesus wept”) is often cited as the shortest verse in English translations, it has two words and nine letters. However, in the original Greek it has three words and sixteen letters. The true contender for the shortest verse in the original Greek is 1 Thessalonians 5:16 (“Rejoice always”) with only two words and fourteen letters. With these disclosures and caveats, we will focus on the English version of the New Testament the importance and meaning of John 11:35 in this article.

The act of Jesus weeping holds multiple layers of interpretation and significance. On one hand, it’s a demonstration of His compassion and empathy for the suffering of others, reflecting the depth of feeling Jesus had for Lazarus and his grieving sisters, Mary and Martha. On the other hand, these tears are often pondered by theologians and scholars, suggesting various reasons for His weeping, from mourning the loss of a loved one to contemplating the weight of human mortality.

This verse also serves as a pivotal moment in the Gospel, as it precedes the miraculous raising of Lazarus from the dead. The miracle is significant for Christian believers as it prefigures the resurrection of Jesus Himself and offers a glimpse into the power and authority He possesses. In this light, the emotional response of Jesus adds a layer of complexity to His character, as it juxtaposes His human vulnerability with His divine power.

The Context of John 11:35

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As mentioned John 11:35 captures a profound moment where Jesus expresses his humanity through emotion. This verse is nestled within a narrative of loss, compassion, and the power of Jesus over death.

The Death of Lazarus

Lazarus, a resident of Bethany, falls ill and passes away. His sisters, Martha and Mary, send word to Jesus, hoping for intervention. By the time Jesus arrives, Lazarus has been in the tomb for four days. The delay in Jesus’ arrival is significant, as it sets the stage for a greater miracle and underscores a belief at the time that the soul remained near the body for three days after death.

Jesus’ Relationship with Lazarus

Jesus held a deep affection for Lazarus and his sisters. The Gospel of John makes it clear that Lazarus was someone Jesus loved. This personal connection heightens the emotional intensity of the narrative.

Mourning and Jewish Burial Customs

In Jewish tradition, mourning was a communal event. Mourners would gather, often for seven days, to weep and lament. The text indicates that many Jews came to Martha and Mary to comfort them, reflecting the burial customs and the collective nature of grief in their culture. Jesus’ arrival and reaction to this mourning provides a poignant backdrop for the words, “Jesus wept.”

Interpretations of Jesus’ Weeping

The shortest verse in the bible John 11:35

John 11:35 is a profound display of Jesus’ humanity and its theological implications. This verse evokes discussions on the depth of Jesus’ empathy and broader religious symbolism.

Human Empathy and Emotion

Jesus’ external expression of grief at Lazarus’ tomb showcases his deep empathy and the full range of human emotions he experienced. Scholars infer from his weeping that, though divine, he shared in the human condition, including its sorrows and its joys. This interpretation suggests that Jesus is a human with the capability to feel and express emotions deeply.

Theological Implications

The act of weeping has significant theological implications, offering insight into the nature of Jesus as both man and God. It reaffirms the Christian belief in his dual nature—fully human and fully divine. His tears have been interpreted as a symbol not only of his compassion but also of his understanding of the pain that death brings, anticipating his victory over it.

The Significance in Christian Theology

Shortest Bible verse John 11:35

The brief verse “Jesus wept” from John 11:35 carries profound theological implications, demonstrating Jesus’ true nature and his response to human suffering.

Revelation of Jesus’ Humanity

Understanding that Jesus experienced genuine human emotions is pivotal in Christian belief, directly speaking to his dual nature as both fully God and fully man. This display of emotion in the New Testament underscores the theological cornerstone that, although divine, Jesus lived as a human being with the full range of human experiences, including grief.

Anticipation of the Resurrection

John 11:35 not only reflects Jesus’ humanity but also serves as a precursor to the resurrection narrative. His weeping occurs in a context charged with hope—a foreshadowing of the resurrection of Lazarus, which prefigures Jesus’ own resurrection and the defeat of death promised in Christian soteriology.

Moreover, Jesus’s statement “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25) comes right before his weeping, further connecting the themes of overcoming death and the emotional turmoil leading to it.

Jesus’ Compassionate Character

His tears shed light on the depth of Jesus’ compassion for humanity. Even before he performs the miracle of raising Lazarus, Jesus shows solidarity with the mourners, embodying the Christian understanding of a God who is intimately involved with human sorrow and is moved by the pain that death inflicts upon his creation. But Jesus also wept in other occasions thus evidencing his compassionate nature.

For instance in Luke 19:41-44, when Jesus was approaching Jerusalem, he looked upon the city and wept with deep sorrow. His tears weren’t just over the physical city, but for the fate of its people and the impending tragedy they were about to face. This incident offers a powerful glimpse into Jesus’s profound compassion and empathy. He understood the weight of their actions and the consequences they’d soon bear. Even as he knew his own time was nearing, his heart ached for the suffering yet to unfold.

Cultural Impact and Legacy

The shortest bible verse in English

The verse John 11:35, “Jesus wept,” has resonated deeply across centuries, influencing art, literature, and common references, marking it as a significant cultural and spiritual touchstone.

Artistic Representations

Paintings and Sculptures: Generations of artists have been moved to capture the poignant moment of Jesus’ tears. Renaissance works often depict the scene with Jesus at Lazarus’ tomb, showcasing varied interpretations of his humanity and divinity. Notable is the work by Giotto in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, where the emotion is palpable through Jesus’ expressive posture.

Stained Glass and Iconography: Churches around the globe feature stained glass windows that illustrate “Jesus wept,” allowing the light to tell the biblical story. This visual representation serves as a constant reminder of the verse’s significance for congregations.

Modern References and Use

Memorials and Services: “Jesus wept” is frequently cited at funerals and memorial services, providing comfort in the acknowledgment that Jesus shared in human grief. The verse offers solace, illustrating that mourning is a natural and shared experience.

Popular Culture: The phrase “Jesus wept” appears in various forms of modern media, from literature to movies, often to express profound sadness or despair. Its use is sometimes extended to convey exasperation or incredulity, showcasing the flexibility of its impact in contemporary language.

Influence on Western Literature

Literary Allusions: Many authors have drawn upon the emotional depth of John 11:35 to explore themes of grief and compassion. The verse is alluded to in a range of works from classic literature to modern fiction, serving as a point of reflection on human suffering and consolation.

Thematic Inspirations: The verse’s theme of empathetic weeping has influenced narratives exploring the human condition, from Shakespeare’s plays to 20th-century novels. It also prompts discussion about the divine mingling with the human, a topic that has intrigued scholars and readers alike.

Through its compelling simplicity, the verse John 11:35 has left an indelible mark across different facets of culture and continues to be a source of inspiration and comfort.

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