Monday, May 6, 2019

Should Translators Place A Comma Before Or After The Word "Today" In Luke 23:43?

  • Discussion:
           -"And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise." (Luke 23:43)

          This passage of Scripture has played a significant role in the debate on the immortality of the soul. It has traditionally been argued that since Jesus Christ promised the repentant thief who was crucified alongside Him entrance into heaven that very day upon physical death, our souls must continue to remain conscious as they depart into the supernatural realm. That interpretation would indeed fly in the face of the aberrational view known as conditional immortality.

          Proponents of this view correctly point out that the Greek language has no commas. Punctuation marks were added to manuscripts after the New Testament was written. Based on that fact, it has been argued that the correct placement of the comma should be incorporated after the word today. In other words, it has been suggested that Luke 23:43 should read as follows: "Truly I say to you today, you shall be with Me in Paradise." That textual change would alter our understanding of the verse being discussed. It would push the timing of believers entering into paradise sometime in the future at the final resurrection.

          While both variant readings are theoretically acceptable, the objective of this paper is to argue in defense of a comma being inserted prior to the word today.

          First and foremost, the context demands that we understand the reference to today as meaning on that very same day. The dying criminal understood very well on what day that Christ spoke those comforting words. There was no need for Him to emphasize the timing of today. It would literally make no sense for a man who is suffocating and dying on a crucifix to make such a hasty waste of his words.

          In this grand episode of the incarnate Lord gently and affectionately showing forth His clemency in response to the converted convict's petition, we see Him referencing to a paradise that reflected imagery of popular Jewish thought in regards to the unseen Edenic realm. This abode for the righteous is analogous to Abraham's bosom.
           -"The time-marker in v43 (“Today”) stands in studied contrast to the time-marker in v42 (“When you come into your kingdom”). The thief petitions Jesus to remember him at the Parousia. Jesus responds by assuring him of something even better than he petitioned. Instead of having to wait until the final Judgment, the thief will enter immediately into heaven, in the company of Christ, at the moment of death."
  • Consider This Note From The NET Bible On Luke 2:11 As It Tells Us The Manner In Which The Word Today Is Used In Luke's Writing:
           -"sn The Greek word for today (σήμερον, sēmeron) occurs eleven times in the Gospel of Luke (2:11; 4:21; 5:26; 12:28; 13:32-33; 19:5, 9; 22:34, 61; 23:43) and nine times in Acts. Its use, especially in passages such as 2:11, 4:21, 5:26; 19:5, 9, signifies the dawning of the era of messianic salvation and the fulfillment of the plan of God. Not only does it underscore the idea of present fulfillment in Jesus’ ministry, but it also indicates salvific fulfillment present in the church (cf. Acts 1:6; 3:18; D. L. Bock, Luke [BECNT], 1:412; I. H. Marshall, Luke, [NIGTC], 873)."
  • Dr. Timothy E. Saleska, Professor Of Exegetical Theology At Concordia University, Gives These Pertinent Remarks:
           -"The reason that almost all translators place the comma before “today” is because of the expression by Christ: “Verily I say unto you…” That expression, used exclusively by Christ, occurs approximately 100 times in the Gospels and its intent is always to emphasize the statement that follows; in this case, “…today you shall be with me in paradise.” This is the strongest reason for placing the comma where almost all translators throughout the history of the church have placed it. It fits the meaning and intent of Christ’s promise to the thief that he would be with him that day in paradise. Christ wants him to be certain of that. If the comma is placed after “today” i.e. “verily I say unto you today, you shall be with me in paradise” the word “today” is superfluous. It is obviously “today,” there is no reason to say it; it confuses the meaning and intent. Also, why would Christ change the formula “verily I say unto you” emphasizing what follows, in just this one instance, when it is stated with the specific purpose I have indicated, everywhere else?"
  • Following Is A Relevant Excerpt From John Gill's Exposition Of The Bible:
           -"Some would remove the stop, and place it after "today", and read the words thus, "I say unto thee today"; as if Christ only signified the time when he said this, and not when the thief should be with him in paradise; which, besides it being senseless, and impertinent, and only contrived to serve an hypothesis, is not agreeably to Christ's usual way of speaking, and contrary to all copies and versions. Moreover, in one of Beza's exemplars it is read, "I say unto thee, hοτι sêmεrοn that today thou shalt be with me", &c. and so the Persic and Ethiopic versions seem to read, which destroys this silly criticism."
  • Patristic Scholar Jerome Offers The Following Remarks On Luke 23:43:
           -"I feel confident that my words are true: conversion can never be too late. The words to the dying robber are a pledge of this: Verily I say unto you, today shall you be with me in paradise." (Letter 39, To Paula)
  • What About The Inserted Comma Found In Codex Vaticanus? (excerpt taken from this excellent study):
           -"The Vaticanus manuscript was originally written in the fourth century in brown ink, with a corrector soon thereafter making some slight changes. Then, a later scribe in the tenth or eleventh century traced over the lettering in black ink, skipping those letters or marks he thought to be incorrect, and making some additional changes 13. As noted, Mr. Stafford (citing a letter from a Vatican Library scholar) says the dot is "faded brown" and concludes that it dates from the fourth century and not from the later medieval copyist. While the color may indicate an early date for the dot, this is not certain. Even if it is, it has not been established that it is from the original hand or the 4th century corrector, and the fact that it was not reinforced by the later corrector indicates that he regarded it as unintentional or in error."
  • Luke 24:37-39 Is Further Support Of Souls Remaining Conscious Apart From The Body After Physical Death (the following excerpt is taken from the apologetics commentary linked in the previous bulletin)
           -"If the rest of Scripture does not support the idea that the thief's soul could exist apart from his body, then surely the disciples would know this and so would not have thought that a living Jesus could be a spirit. Even if the disciples were confused on this point, why didn't Jesus correct them instead of encouraging them in this "unscriptural" belief? In fact, Jesus confirms the idea that He could have been a spirit, but for the fact that he possessed his body! If spirits can exist apart from their bodies, it is entirely reasonable to conclude that the spirit of the thief will be with Jesus the day he dies, and to conclude that we may be with Him, too, if we place our faith in Him, as the thief did."

1 comment:

  1. Your comment about the timing of the statement not needing the word "today" is right on target. It would be redundant. Only heretics want the comma moved.

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