Each of the four Gospels gives a different wording of these inscriptions : -
1. Matt. 27: 37 : "This is Jesus, the
King of the Jews."
2. Mark 15:26 : "The King of the Jews"
3. Luke 23:28 : "This is the King of the Jews."
4. John 19:19 : "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews."
Here again the difficulty is created by assuming that these similar but differing records are identical, without noticing the exact words which are written. It is universally assumed that there was only one, and then follow the efforts to explain the alleged "discrepancies" between the different versions of it.
If we note carefully what is actually said all will be clear.
I. Mark 15:26 can be dismissed; for he does not say anything about
a "title" (Gr. titlos, John 19:19) being put on the cross or anywhere
else, which any one had seen. It is a question of the Lord's "accusation"
or "indictment", or the ground or cause of His condemnation as claiming
to be "the King of the Jews".
In Pilate's writing the three languages were in this order : (1) Hebrew (2) Greek and (3) Latin (cp. IV. below). And it was read after the cross had been set up.
This was one which gave rise to the argument between the Chief Priests
and Pilate (John 19:21, 22); and this argument took place before the parting
of the garments (vv 23, 24).
As there could hardly have been two titles at the same time, the former must have been then taken down and the other substituted.
We are not told how long the argument lasted or when it ceased, or what
was the final result of it.
The result is that : -
1. Mark's was only His indictment.
2. John's was the first written by Pilate himself (or by his order), in (1) Hebrew, (2) Greek, and (3) Latin, and was put on the cross before it left Pilate's presence.
3. Matthew's was the second, substituted for the first, in consequence of the arguments which took place, and was set up "over His head" after the garments had been divided, and before the revilings.
4. Luke's was the third (and last), put up "over Him", after the revilings (Luke 23:35), and was seen just before the darkness of the "sixth hour" (v. 41). This was written in three languages, but in a different order : (1) Greek, (2) Latin, and (3) Hebrew (v. 38). Not in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin as in No. II in John 19:19.
Thus, such differences as these are marks of Divine accuracy; and instead
of being sources of difficulties, become, when rightly divided, the means
of their removal.