What does “INRI” mean?
At the time of Jesus, when a criminal was crucified the charge was placed on the cross. The Gospel of Matthew 27:37 tells us in the case of Jesus, “Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, ‘This is Jesus, the King of the Jews”.’ Mark 15:26 reads, “The inscription of the charge against him read, ‘The King of the Jews’.”
Pilate also had an inscription written and put on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews”. Many of the Jews read this inscription, because the place where Jesus was cruciﬁed was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin and in Greek. (John 19:19-20)
In Latin the inscription would read, “Jesus Nazarenus, Rex Judaeorum”. In Latin the letter J can always be represented by the letter I, so the letters INRI are ﬁrst letters of those words -a kind of abbreviation that is meant to remind us of the inscription and can ﬁt the narrow confines of the crucifix. John goes on to say that the Jews wanted Pilate to change the inscription to read, “This man said ‘I am King of the Jews.’ Pilate answered, ‘What I have written I have written”’ (John 19:21-22).