Famous Last Words: Religious Figures

A select collection of dying words spoken by famous religious figures in history

Photo © Terry Vine/J. Patrick Lane/Getty Images

Whether realized at the time they are said or only in hindsight, nearly everyone will express a word, phrase or sentence that proves the last thing he or she ever says while alive. Sometimes profound, sometimes everyday, here you will find a select collection of the last words spoken by various famous religious figures throughout history.

Note: The following quotations are organized alphabetically by the individual's last name followed by the year in which he or she died.

Henry Ward Beecher (1887)
Now comes the mystery.

Buddha (483 B.C.)
It may be that after I am gone that some of you will think, "Now we have no teacher." But that is not how you should see it. Let the Dharma and the discipline that I have taught you be your teacher. All individual things pass away. Strive on, untiringly.

John Calvin (1564)
How long, O Lord?

Confucius (479 B.C.)
No intelligent monarch arises; there is not one in the kingdom that will make me his master. My time has come to die.

Jesus (A.D. 30)
Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.

The four Gospels of the New Testament offer differing accounts of what Jesus last said during his crucifixion. The line above appears in Luke. According to Mark and Matthew, however, Jesus cried out: "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And John writes that, after receiving some vinegar to soothe his parched throat, Jesus died after saying, "It is finished."

Joan of Arc (1431)
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!

Martin Luther King Jr. (1968)
Ben, make sure you play "Take My Hand, Precious Lord" in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty.

According to At Canaan's Edge by Taylor Branch, musician and saxophonist Ben Branch was scheduled to perform at the meeting where Dr. King was to speak later that evening. Shortly after Ben Branch replied, "Okay, Doc, I will" up to King, who stood on the second-floor balcony outside his hotel room in Memphis, Tennessee, King was assassinated.

John Knox (1572)
Now, it is come.

Saint Lawrence (A.D. 258)
It is well done. Turn it over and eat it!

Though these words are likely apocryphal, the legend of Saint Lawrence's final words persist to this day. Lawrence served as a deacon under Pope Sixtus II. Sentenced to die after angering the prefect of Rome, Lawrence was placed on a gridiron and suspended above red-hot coals so he would "die by inches." After enduring the painful, torturous heat for quite some time, Lawrence supposedly uttered these words. Perhaps not surprisingly, Saint Lawrence is considered the patron saint of chefs/cooks.

Martin Luther (1546)

Luther, who challenged the authority of the Catholic Church and led the Protestant Reformation, uttered this in response to a question from his friend, Dr. Justus Jonas, who asked: "Do you want to die standing firm on Christ and the doctrine you have taught?"

Cotton Mather (1728)
Is this dying? Is this all? Is this what I feared when I prayed against a hard death? Oh, I can bear this! I can bear this!

Muhammad (A.D. 632)
With the supreme communion in Paradise, with those upon whom God has showered his favor, the prophets and the saints and the martyrs and the righteous, most excellent for communion are they.

O Allah, with the supreme communion.

Pope John Paul II (2005)
Let me go to the house of the Father.