What does the Greek word tetelestai mean?
Literally translated the word tetelestai means, “It is finished.” The word occurs in John 19:28 and 19:30 and these are the only two places in the New Testament where it occurs. In 19:28 it is translated,
“After this, when Yahusha/Jesus knew that all things were now completed, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, he said, ‘I thirst.’”
Two verses later, he utters the word himself:
“Then when he received the sour wine Yahusha/Jesus said, ‘It is finished,’ and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.”
The word tetelestai was also written on business documents or receipts in New Testament times to show indicating that a bill had been paid in full.
The Greek-English lexicon by Moulton and Milligan says this:
I've often heard some really cool explanations around the meaning for the Greek word Τετέλεσται in the New Testament where Yahusha (Jesus) said, It is Finished.
I love what I've heard, and have even preached it myself, but at times I've also wondered whether it is accurate, since I have no scholarly reference for the illustration, and I know how preachers sometimes use things in sermons that sound good without checking out whether they are legit.
The particular illustration I'm talking about I've heard pulled from Colossians 2:13-14, where Paul talks about the "handwriting of debts against us." What I've heard is that Paul is actually referring to a common practice at the time where criminals serving time in jail would have their crimes listed on a note that was posted at the prison where they were kept, and it correlated the crimes to the amount of punishment they were to serve.
Then, at the end of their sentence, the jail keeper would stamp the paper with Τετέλεσται, meaning PAID IN FULL.
So the apparent correlation with Mashyach's (Christ's) redemptive work of atonement is that He served our prison sentence for us, and when He cried out, IT IS FINISHED, this is exactly what he was alluding to.
While it makes plenty of theological sense to me, can anyone say whether that "practice" of posting prisoners sentences on their cell, and then stamping it with Τετέλεσται is a historically accurate portrayal? And are there any references that you can point me toward to learn more of this supposed practice?
Another assertion about the supposed background of the word can be found here, where the writers claim Τετέλεσται was used on business documents and receipts as a bookkeeping term to show a bill was PAID IN FULL. There does seem to be a source listed in this example.