Are there punctuation errors in the Bible? Should the comma be placed before or after the word "today" in Luke 23:43? My bible translation (NIV) places it before "today", is this correct? How do you reconcile this verse with John 20:17? Did Jesus go to paradise that day? or three days later?
ESV - 43 And he said to him, "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.
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"Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me." Isaiah 45.11 Unfortunately, the Bible was written originally with no punctuation marks whatsoever, soifonewasreadingtheoriginaltextitwouldlooklikethis Man put the punctuation in many years later. This verse is one of my biggest buttons because it has been abused by Prosperity teachers for years (I personally heard a sermon on this verse). Imagine the audacity of man thinking he can command God! This is why it is so important to take all texts in context, taking into account subject and object. This verse flies in the face of other Scriptures where we read that God controls man's steps. This would put the sovereignty squarely on man's shoulders rather than God's. Be careful, if the verse translated by man takes the glory away from God and gives man either a loop-hole or power not his to take, then there's something wrong.
A. Luke 23:43 KJV, 'And Jesus said unto him, "Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise." Luke 23:43 NIV, 'Jesus answered him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." (The same meaning is conveyed by all the mainstream versions.) Let's look at John 20:17. B. John 20:17 KJV, 'Jesus saith unto her, "Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." John 20:17 NIV, 'Jesus said, "Do not hold onto me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" (Again all the mainstream versions convey the same meaning.) These two pieces of Scripture, in their current punctuation, are mutually exclusive - if one holds, the other will not, and vice versa. So how do we proceed? A point to get very clear is that the New Testament was written in prose, all in capital letters and without any punctuation marks. So if we write again Luke 23:43 without punctuation marks, let's see how it looks: (NIV) JESUS ANSWERED HIM I TELL YOU THE TRUTH TODAY YOU WILL BE WITH ME IN PARADISE Now, that poses two possible meanings; either (i) Jesus is saying He will be with the thief in paradise ON THAT CRUCIFIXION DAY, or (ii) Jesus was assuring the thief ON THAT DAY, that He would be with him in paradise - time undefined. Let's look at John 20:17:; (NIV) JESUS SAID DO NOT HOLD ONTO ME FOR I HAVE NOT YET RETURNED TO THE FATHER GO INSTEAD TO MY BROTHERS AND TELL THEM I AM RETURNING TO MY FATHER AND YOUR FATHER TO MY GOD AND YOUR GOD. This one poses no interpretation dilemma. Jesus is saying that He had not yet gone to the Father, & that He was going there now. A PRINCIPLE OF SCRIPTURE IS THAT SCRIPTURE DOES NOT CONTRADICT ITSELF. So Jesus could not have been in heaven on Preparation day, and at the same time declare that He had NOT been to heaven up to that First day. It is therefore the second meaning, (ii), of Luke 23:43 that Jesus was communicating. If we read Luke 23:43 in that format, there's complete harmony, not only between Luke 23:43 & John 20:17, but between Dr Luke's account & the rest of the bible on the subject of death & what follows after death. eg, Job knew that he would die, & that he would see his Redeemer - when? When He stands on the earth! That is the end time. Job 19:25-27 KJV, "For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: 26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: 27 Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me." 1 Cor 15:22-23, 'For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ, the first-fruits; AFTERWARD they that are Christ's AT HIS COMING. See Psalms 6:5 The people who punctuated the bible were ordinary men - not inspired. So they used their sense of judgement, and unfortunately, on this occasion, their punctuation created a contradiction, or at the least, an inconsistency. It is also noteworthy that the bulk of modern translations are derived from the work of Wescott & Hort, who themselves had no access whatsoever to the original manuscripts. The first complete bible in Greek was translated by Jerome around 382 AD - 405 AD, the Latin Vulgate. It has no punctuation marks to date. It's a principle of bible study that any incident/matter must be attested to by two or three witnesses before a doctrine is founded upon that incident/matter. The bible foresaw that scribes (the term used in the bible for writers) might make transcriptional errors. Jer 8:8, 'How can you say, "We are wise for we have the law of JEHOVAH," when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?' Two or three witnesses, & we're safe. Bless.
Luke 24:43 KJV: "And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise." NKJV "And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” NLT "And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” ESV "And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” NASB "And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” I believe Christ was telling the thief that he would be with him in paradise this very, same day.
Most every English translation will contain some punctuation errors. Hebrew and Greek don't translate 'perfectly' into english, so there will always be choices on the translators part on which nuance to pull out or which direction to go in. Fortunately, other scriptures and context help a great deal to narrow the options down. In short: in general the puncuation is added to increase readability and should be close to the sense of the original - but don't build doctrine off the placement of a comma. [Also, watch out for translations that purposefully choose punctuation or alter word choice to fit their point of view, as accuracy of translation is secondary for those translators]. As to Luke 24:43 - why must it be either/or? 1) 'TODAY' was a rabbinical term, referring to the coming of the Messiah. There are various rabbinical parables that show how the messiah will come "TODAY". In essence, it was used to show a sort of eternal perspective (that whatever day He comes or that we enter God's rest, it is TODAY) vs. Man's sense of time. "(Joshua) said to him: --"When will you come, Lord [mar]?" He said to him: --"Today!"... (Elijah) said to him: --"He promised you and your father the world to come!' (Joshua) said to him: --"He told me a lie! For he said he would come today but he did not come!" (Elijah) said to him: --"He told you thus: 'Today, if you will hear his voice" (Ps 57:7)" --- Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin 98a It's referenced directly in Psalm 95:7-11, Heb 3:7-12; 4:1-11. "Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, God again set a certain day, calling it “Today....." Heb 4:6-7 2) 'Paradise' is in currently in Heaven (not a suburb of sheol, despite some jewish theories and apocryphal writings). II Cor 12:3-4, Rev 2:7. It seems to be that Paradise will come to earth and be in the new Jerusalem. (Rev 22:2, 7, 14, 18). As Nathan mentioned above, Jesus had not yet ascended to His father when he rose (though He did later) - so how could Jesus have gone up to heaven in the interim? In fact, Jesus went the other way - his spirit going to Sheol. (1 Peter 3:18-21, Acts 2:23-36). He did not ascend to His father until after he rose (John 20:17) - though it is implied He had before a week had passed (John 20:24-29). [My personal theory is that he ascended before the throne at some point on the day He rose as the true/perfect First Fruits and Atonement offering (Heb 9:16-27, Heb 12:24, 1 Cor 15:23)]. *** As such, Jesus was probably simply telling the man that due to his faith He would enter God's rest. (II Cor 5:6-8, I Thess 4:13-18) Such as "I say to you "TODAY" you shall be with me in Paradise (for you have heard my voice)." He could have also just meant "I'm telling you today/right now that you will be with me in Paradise (someday)". While it does not contradict other scripture, it is not supported by the scriptures and traditions that spoke to "TODAY" having a rich meaning in reference to the messiah. The only translation that seems to contradict other scripture is the "I say to you, today you shall be with me in Paradise". (As in, on this day specifically we'll hang out in Paradise). This interpretation is the least likely. And so, back to the deeper point - punctuation can at times affect the interpretation of a passage. This does not make the original texts wrong, but show how man can accidentally introduce errors and bias in their translations.
If Jesus was speaking about some undetermined time in the future, why does God's Word include the word 'today' at all? When I speak I don't tell someone I'm speaking with that I'm speaking to him/her today! The phrase only makes sense if you put the comma after the 'I say to you'. The inclusion of the word 'today' emphasises that the repentant thief is being given the assurance by the Lord Jesus that he would not be going to hell/hades, but to eternity with Christ. It is interesting that in Luke 22:34 Jesus used a similar phrase when telling Peter that he would deny him three times - 'today'. The emphasis was on the fact that before much time had passed something would happen. I have met Christadelphians who make much of placing the comma after the today - to support their erroneous doctrines. Punctuation does affect the meaning a lot. In some places in scripture it can mean the difference between sound doctrine and disturbing error.
The Comma I have read all of the comments above about “the comma.” It is interesting that “the comma” generated so many responses. I understand that the position of “the comma” makes a difference in the understanding/translation/interpretation of the verse under consideration as it would be important when harmonizing it with other Bible teachings. But, sincerely, I can imagine that it didn’t make a bit of difference to the thief on the cross where “the comma” was positioned, because he had the promise from the Son of God that he would be with Him in Paradise..... whenever. Let’s rejoice that we all have the same promise from the same Son of God that we will be with Him forever and ever, if we are faithful until death. Blessings and PTL
The verse gives us better understanding if we observe that that there is an error in punctuation. The way the modern translations have put it contractdict the rest of the bible in relation to the time sequence of events at Jesus' death, resurrection and acsencion to heaven. There is no dispute that Jesus died on a Friday (Passover) and resurrected on Sunday morning. We also know that he acsended to heaven 40 days later. If the modern translations are taken as they are they state that Jesus and the repentant thief went to paradise the day they died. We know that Jesus did not go to heaven on that day. We also assume of course assume that heaven is the paradise! Scholars have observed that the original versions did not have punctuation marks. It is quite possible that the authors of mordern translations simply inserted the comma this way 'And Jesus said unto him, "Verily I say unto thee today, shalt thou be with me in paradise." The message of hope is conveyed to the repentant brother who dies in perfect peace knowing that when he resurrects he will be with Jesus in paradise. However the message does not convey the time frame, only that the message is being conveyed today. I must concede that how this verse is understood by is a function of how they understand the state of the dead. If I believe that the soul of a human being goes to heaven or hell as soon as they die, then the position of the comma in most translations is not an issue. However if I believe that the dead lie in their grave until the great resurrection day when Jesus comes, then this verse poses a serious contradiction. I am not going to promote one view over the other only that the bible must speak for iself. The principle being that the bible cannot contradict itself. All apparent contradictions are a result of lack of understanding. Prayerful reading of the word of God is the key to gaining a true understanding of the message that God has given us in His Word.
Alright so I think it's important to know that in ancient Greek there was no punctuation. All of it has been added for clarity when translated into the English language and translators are wrong sometimes. However, the Greek language often uses tenses of words so that there is clarity within the writing of where punctuation should belong. That's why it's often best when studying the bible to use several translations in order to try and find the best meaning of a phrase. If they all agree on punctuation it is most likely that to the translators the Greek was very clear and the punctuation can be trusted. I'm not a Greek scholar by any means so these are some tactics I've found helpful for the rest of us. As in this case a survey of about 12 translations show that they all agree on punctuation. However the meaning of paradise does not necessarily mean with God the father. It is believed that when all people died in the very least old testament times, that the righteous and wicked would go to a place called Sheol(The place of the dead) (Ecclesiastes 9: 1-10) The wicked would be tormented and the righteous would be in paradise with a chasm separating them. As in the case of the Rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) Jesus Christ when he died clearly was in the grave for 3 days. It is likely in those three days he was in the place of paradise that the souls of the righteous went to while awaiting the resurrection of the dead. This is one possible interpretation. It would be my best guess but I'm not saying I can't be wrong either. Many interpret "Abrahams Bosom and Paradise" to always mean heaven with God. Either way I wouldn't let the issue bother you. I've come across many things in life that have caused me to doubt, but with time they always end up being debugged and God being right!
I would recommend staying away from the NIV for Bible study. It's more of a paraphrase translation (thought for thought) as opposed to a word for word translation. For instance, if you were to read the NIV, you would find that every instance of "flesh" has been removed and replaced with "sinful nature". While at times flesh is referencing our sinful nature, it isn't always. I recommend NASB or ESV for actual studying. As for the text in question, it seems to me that Jesus was saying to the thief that on that very day they would be together in Paradise.
Catholic Bibles are scrutinized for errors before printing by a person called "Censor Librorum". He checks the version of the Bible for anything that would harm correct faith and good morals. If this version passes his scrutiny, he declares it "Nihil Obstat" (Nothing hinders). A second approval is needed before printing this version. It is given by a bishop, generally, after checking the version for any doctrinal or moral error. After the examination, the bishop issues an "Imprimatur" (let it be printed).
The comma should be placed after the word today. Also Jesus was in the grave 3 days and 3 nights, which definitely is not Paradise.
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