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The Apologists  Bible Commentary



Luke 23

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And He said to him, "Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise"












From John Gill's Commentary:

Luk 23:43 - And Jesus said unto him,.... Jesus immediately answered him, though he said not one word to the other that railed at him, or to the multitude that abused him; and promised him more than he asked for, and sooner than he expected.

Verily I say unto thee, today thou shall be with me in paradise; "in the garden of Eden"; not the earthly paradise, nor the church militant, but the future place, and state of the happiness of the saints, even heaven, and eternal glory, which the Jews frequently call by this name; See Gill on 2Co 12:4 and is so called, because, as the earthly paradise, or Eden's garden, was of God's planting, so is the heavenly glory of his providing and preparing: as that was a place of delight and pleasure, so here are pleasures for evermore; as there was a river in it, which added to the delightfulness and advantage of it, so here runs the river of God's love, the streams whereof make glad the saints now, and will be a broad river to swim in to all eternity: as there were the tree of life, with a variety of other trees, both for delight and profit, so here, besides Christ, the tree of life, which stands in the midst of it, are an innumerable company of angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect: and as the inhabitants of that garden were pure and innocent creatures, so into this paradise shall nothing enter but what is righteous, pure, and holy: and whereas the principal enjoyment of man in Eden was conversation with God, and communion with him, the glory of the heavenly paradise will lie in fellowship with God, Father, Son, and Spirit, in beholding the face of God, and seeing him as he is: and this is the happiness promised by Christ to the penitent and believing thief, that he should be here; and not only so, but with him here, which is far better than being in this world, and than which nothing can be more desirable: and which, when enjoyed, will be for ever: and this he was to enter upon that very day; which shows, that Christ's soul did not descend into hell, locally and literally considered, or into the "Limbus Patrum", the Papists talk of, to fetch the souls of the patriarchs thence, but as soon as it was separated from the body was taken up into heaven; and also, that the souls of departed saints are immediately, upon their separation from the body, there; which was the case of this wonderful instance of the grace of God; and shows the swiftness of the soul, or the velocity of angels in conveying it thither immediately: and this agrees with the sense of the Jews, who say, that:

"the souls of the fathers, or patriarchs have rest, and in a moment, immediately enter into their separate places, or apartments, and not as the rest of the souls; of whom it is said, all the twelve months the soul ascends and descends, (goes to and fro,) but the souls of the fathers, "immediately, upon their separation", return to God that gave them.''

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 sÍmεrοn that today thou shalt be with me", &c. and so the Persic and Ethiopic versions seem to read, which destroys this silly criticism. And because this was a matter of great importance, and an instance of amazing grace, that so vile a sinner, one of the chief of sinners, should immediately enter into the kingdom of God, and enjoy uninterrupted, and everlasting communion with him and that it might not be a matter of doubt with him, or others, Christ, who is the "Amen", the faithful witness, and truth itself, prefaces it after this manner: "verily I say unto thee"; it is truth, it may be depended on. This instance of grace stands on record, not to cherish sloth, indolence, security and presumption, but to encourage faith and hope in sensible sinners, in their last moments, and prevent despair.

The above is from John Gill's Commentary.





Jehovah's Witnesses

>The Watchtower's Defense

>The "Amen I Tell You" Sayings of Jesus

>Other Translations

>The Curetonian Syriac

>Codex Vaticanus

>A Hebrew Idiom?

>The Non-Use of hoti

>"Today" in the LXX

>Hesychius of Jerusalem



>The Acts of Pilate (Gospel of Nicodemus)

>The Descent into Hell (Gospel of Nicodemus)




objection: The Watchtower's New World Translation (NWT) punctuates this verse as follows:

And he said to him: "Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise."

In defense of placing the comma after "today," the Watchtower writes:

Luke's account shows that an evildoer, being executed alongside Jesus Christ, spoke words in Jesus' defense and requested that Jesus remember him when he 'got into his kingdom.' Jesus' reply was: "Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise." (Lu 23:39-43) The punctuation shown in the rendering of these words must, of course, depend on the translator's understanding of the sense of Jesus' words, since no punctuation was used in the original Greek text. Punctuation in the modern style did not become common until about the ninth century C.E. Whereas many translations place a comma before the word "today" and thereby give the impression that the evildoer entered Paradise that same day, there is nothing in the rest of the Scriptures to support this. Jesus himself was dead and in the tomb until the third day and was then resurrected as "the firstfruits" of the resurrection. (Ac 10:40; 1Co 15:20; Col 1:18) He ascended to heaven 40 days later.-Joh 20:17; Ac 1:1-3, 9.

The evidence is, therefore, that Jesus' use of the word "today" was not to give the time of the evildoer's being in Paradise but, rather, to call attention to the time in which the promise was being made and during which the evildoer had shown a measure of faith in Jesus. It was a day when Jesus had been rejected and condemned by the highest-ranking religious leaders of his own people and was thereafter sentenced to die by Roman authority. He had become an object of scorn and ridicule. So the wrongdoer alongside him had shown a notable quality and commendable heart attitude in not going along with the crowd but, rather, speaking out in Jesus' behalf and expressing belief in his coming Kingship. Recognizing that the emphasis is correctly placed on the time of the promise's being made rather than on the time of its fulfillment, other translations, such as those in English by Rotherham and Lamsa, those in German by Reinhardt and W. Michaelis, as well as the Curetonian Syriac of the fifth century C.E., rendered the text in a form similar to the reading of the New World Translation, quoted herein (Insight, vol. 2, "Paradise").

ResponseI would first stress that the punctuation of this verse is of little consequence to orthodox Christians.  Our theology is not impacted negatively if the comma occurs after "today" instead of before.  The same is not true of Watchtower theology, however.  The Watchtower's teaching that the dead cease to exist except in the mind of God and that Jesus was truly "dead" in the grave is greatly challenged if Jesus is, in fact, promising the thief that he will be with the Lord in paradise on that very day.  The Watchtower must argue for its placement of the comma to preserve its theology; orthodox Christians have no such burden.  If the evidence strongly supports the the majority of translations against the NWT, it is reasonable to conclude that the Watchtower's translation owes more to theology than to a rigorous pursuit of accuracy in translation.

The Watchtower is correct that the placement of the comma must depend on the translator's understanding of what Jesus meant.  It is also correct when it says that "many" translations place the comma before today1.  The question, then, is why so many translations place the comma before "today," if this verse is not theologically significant for most translators.  One cannot say that this is merely a matter of following convention, for all translations are not uniform in punctuating other verses, even those far more theologically significant to orthodox Christians than Luke 23:43 (e.g., compare Romans 9:5 in the NASB and RSV).  In other words, there must be sound reasons apart from theology or grammatical convention to account for the near-uniformity with which scholars render this verse.

The "Amen I tell you..." Sayings of Jesus

The answer lies in the characteristics of the formula Jesus uses in Luke 23:43: "Amen, I say to you..."  The Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels describes this formula as follows:

Amen is used one hundred times in the Gospels....It is always the first word of the formulaic expression "Amen I say to you," and it is always and only spoken by Jesus, apparently to emphasize the significance of the words he is about to speak.  No other person - apostle or prophet - of the early church felt at liberty to follow his example by making use of this very formula (Dictionary of Jesus, p. 7).

Thus, we have a formula - apparently invented by Jesus2 - used nearly 100 times in the Gospels3, which precedes a solemn expression of great significance.  The formula is never modified by an adverb of time; whatever follows is considered part of the expression Jesus emphasizes.  Understanding "today" as part of the promise Jesus makes to the thief suits the context perfectly, for as John Gill points out in his Commentary, quoted above, the thief was asking Jesus to remember him in His future kingdom.  But Jesus says to him, "Amen I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise."

It seems obvious that the vast majority of translators throughout the centuries have understood that Jesus is here using the "Amen I say to you..." formula precisely as He does in nearly 100 examples elsewhere in the Gospels.  It is unlikely in the extreme that only here - where the placement of the comma means so much to the Watchtower - does Jesus alter His formula by adding "today."  

The Watchtower claims that nothing else in Scripture to support the idea that the thief entered Paradise and was with Jesus that day.  But this argument relies on the Watchtower's interpretation of the rest of Scripture, which is itself at the very least debatable.  Further, if Jesus is indeed using the formula in Luke 23:43 exactly as He does in every other verse in which he uses it, this verse expressly denies the Watchtower's interpretation of the rest of Scripture.  In point of fact, there is substantial evidence in the New Testament that believers are taken immediately upon their deaths to a conscious existence with Jesus in Paradise.  Paul, for example, writes: 

But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake (Philippians 1:23-24; see also 2 Corinthians 6:6, 8-9).

The Watchtower, of course, has its own idiosyncratic interpretation of this verse that comports with its own theology, but it must be admitted that the simplest reading of the text is that Paul is expecting to see his Lord when he departs, and not at the future resurrection of the saints.  If we add to this the depiction of dead saints in Heaven in the book of Revelation (e.g., Revelation 6:9-10), Jesus' parable of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31), and Jesus' promise that those who believe in Him will "never die" (John 11:25-26), it is clear that the Scriptures contain ample support for the idea that the thief could, indeed, be with Jesus that very day.

If this evidence is not sufficient, consider a passage just a few chapters earlier in Luke's Gospel:

But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, "Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (Luke 24:37-39).

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.


Other Translations

The Watchtower's final defense is that a handful of other translations and the Curetonian Syriac also place "today" with "Amen I say to you" and not the following expression.  It must first be stressed this argument from authority does not prove that the comma is misplaced in the majority of translations.  The NWT may not be unique in its punctuation of this verse, but that fact does not establish its correctness.  

The two English versions mentioned by the Watchtower are Rotherham and Lamsa.  Rotherham's translation of Luke 23:43 may well be influenced by E.W. Bullinger, whom Rotherham knew and respected.4  Whether Bullinger's views were well-founded will be examined later in this essay.  In any event, Rotherham's translation has not been recognized by Bible scholars of any theological persuasion as being authoritative.  The translation of George Lamsa may have once been punctuated as the WT claims, but all editions I have seen place the comma in the traditional location.  Furthermore, if  Lamsa's Aramaic source was the Peshitta (Bruce Metzger expressed some doubt on this point5), the English translations of the Peshitta by James Murdock and J.W. Etheridge also place the comma before "Today."


The Curetonian Syriac

Regarding the Curetonian Syriac, it is true that it places "today" with "Amen I tell you," but it is problematic to use this fact in support of a correct understanding of the original Greek text.  The Old Syriac Gospels are preserved in two manuscripts:  The Sinaitic and the Curetonian.  Both contain Luke 23:43.  The Sinaitic most likely predates the Curetonian by about 100 years.  Burkitt posits that the Sinaitic represents a more accurate Syriac text, while the Curetonian was corrected from a later Greek text (one containing a number of spurious passages).6  Luke 23:43 in the Sinaitic text reads:

Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in Paradise."7

The Syriac Peshitta agrees with the Sinaitic text, against the Curetonian, as do the Syriac Diatessaron, the Sahidic Coptic, and a number of manuscripts of the Old Latin.  Ephrem, a 4th century commentator on the Syriac Gospels, quotes this verse three times, each time omitting "today."  However, he says, "Our Lord shortened His distant liberalities and gave a near promise, To-day and not at the End....Thus through a robber was Paradise opened."8 


The Curetonian manuscript is thus of no value in determining the correct punctuation of Luke 23:43.  It cannot be demonstrated that its reading was regarded as normative within the Syriac gospel tradition.  More importantly, its connection to a Greek original cannot be established.  The most that can be said is that a Syriac translator or corrector rendered the verse in a way similar to the NWT.  It has not been established that this rendering is accurate.  The evidence we have suggests that it was not.  As Syriac Gospel scholar P.J. Williams writes:


"While the Greek may have been ambiguous, overwhelmingly ancient interpreters chose the opposite interpretation to that of the Watchtower"8a.



objection: Witness apologist Greg Stafford offers a number of arguments in favor of the NWT punctuation of Luke 23:43.  


Codex Vaticanus

His first is that a major early manuscript of the New Testatment contains a punctuation mark - equivalent to a comma - after "today," just as does the NWT:


While punctuation in NT manuscripts of the first few centuries CE is not common, one of the best, if not the best witness to the text of the NT, Codex B or Vaticanus (Vatican 1209) of the fourth century CE, does have a mark of punctuation in Luke 23:43; the punctuation is not after ďI sayĒ but after the Greek word sÍmeron, ďtoday" (Stafford, pp. 546-547).

Stafford says that a Vatican Library scholar verified by letter that the mark in question does not appear to be by a later copyist, due to the color of the ink.  Mr. Stafford concludes that it dates from the 4th century and therefore offers textual support for the NWT punctuation from a reliable ancient Greek manuscript.9  


ResponseIt is not at all clear that the dot in Codex B is an intentional mark of punctuation.  It may nothing more than a dot or an accidental inkblot.  


An 'accidental' inkblot or dot in Codex Vaticanus.  The blot appears between the rho and kappa in sarkos ("flesh") in Romans 9:8.

The Watchtower's published image of the alleged low-point punctuation in Luke 23:43, Codex Vaticanus.


If the dot is, indeed, an intentional mark of punctuation10, it is almost certainly not by the original hand.  The original scribe did not use the "low-point" dot, and when using punctuation (which he did rarely), he typically added an extra space, which is not the case here.


Typical spacing added after a mark of punctuation in Codex Vaticanus (between Luke 22:30 and 22:31)


Further, if the scribe intended to place a comma after sÍmeron, he would probably have used a middle-point as he did after sarka in Romans 9:5 (and various other places), not the low-point, which was more or less equivalent to our semi-colon.11


Finally, to my knowledge, no commentators or textual critics have mentioned the alleged comma in Vaticanus.  Bruce Metzger, in his Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, says nothing of it, even though he addresses the Curetonian Syraic (see above) in relation to the correct punctuation of Luke 23:43, and discusses the punctuation mark in Vaticanus at Romans 9:5.12  


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 changes13.  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.  Dr. Peter M. Head, a specialist in NT manuscripts, writes:


I don't think it is punctuation. Certainly not in the original scribal production: there is nothing else like it on the whole opening (punctuation in Vaticanus is almost entirely only by spacing), it doesn't look like a dot, more like a blemish or as you said, a blot; and the spacing is all wrong for punctuation by the original scribe.  I suppose it could be added later by someone wanting to repunctuate the text, but even so I'm not persuaded that the colour is the same as the other material introduced by the enhancer/accenter, so you have to attribute it to an unknown reader/punctuator14.

Therefore, the most that can be said is that if the dot is intentional punctuation, it was not copied from an earlier exemplar by the original scribe, but was introduced - for an unknown reason - by an unknown hand at an uncertain time.  This would seem thin evidence, indeed, of a textual tradition in the Greek manuscripts dating from the 4th century, as Mr. Stafford proposes.


But what if it could be established that the mark is intentional and dates from the 4th century (as unlikely as that seems) - does it then provide early support for the NWT punctuation?  Yes and no.  It would provide evidence apart from the Curetonian Syriac that someone long ago, due to the ambiguity of the Greek, understood (or misunderstood) the verse as the Watchtower does.  But it would prove nothing with regard to what Luke intended15.  The textual scholars who punctuate our authoritative Greek New Testaments do not do so on the basis of punctuation in ancient manuscripts:


The presence of marks of punctuation in early manuscripts of the New Testament is so sporadic and haphazard that one cannot infer with confidence the construction given by the punctuator to the passage16.

Thus, even granting Mr. Stafford his argument, the presence of a punctuation mark (if such it is) in one early manuscript tells us nothing about how to properly punctuate Luke 23:43.  The correct punctuation is a matter of exegesis, not of textual criticism.  



objection: (A Hebrew Idiom?) Many of those who advocate placing the comma after sÍmeron, Greg Stafford included, cite E.W. Bullinger in support of the view that "today" in Luke 23:43 is a Hebraism which stresses the significance of the occasion:

The word "verily" points us to the solemnity of the occasion, and to the importance of what is about to be said. The solemn circumstance under which the words were uttered marked the wonderful faith of the dying malefactor; and the Lord referred to this by connecting the word "to-day" with "I say." "Verily, I say unto thee this day." This day, when all seems lost, and there is no hope; this day, when instead of reigning I am about to die. This day, I say to thee, "Thou shalt be with me in paradise."

"I say unto thee this dayĒ was the common Hebrew idiom for emphasizing the occasion of making a solemn statement (see Deut. iv. 26, 39, 40; v. 1; vi. 6; vii.11; viii. 1; 11, 19; ix. 3; x. 13; xi. 2, 8, 13, 26, 27, 28, 32; xiii. 18; xv. 5; xix. 9; xxvi. 3, 16, 18; xxvii. 1, 4, 10; xxviii. 1, 13, 14, 15; xxix. 12; xxx. 2, 8, 11, 15, 16, 18, 19; xxxii. 46).17

Mr. Stafford concludes:  "Of the forty examples listed by Bullinger at least 33 parallel Luke 23:43 in using a verb of speech or command with 'today'" (Stafford, p. 550).

ResponseIt would, indeed, be impressive evidence in favor of the NWT punctuation if there were 33 OT parallels of Luke 23:43.  But I believe Bullinger and those who cite him are overstating the case.  Not once in any of the texts listed by Bullinger does the speaker begin with the word AmÍn.  As noted above, this feature of Jesusí speech is unique and sets the "Amen I say to you..." sayings apart from anything else in Biblical language.  Further, in none of these OT texts does the speaker use the word legŰ.  Moses, for example, uses various verbs of speech in his ďtodayĒ sayings in Deuteronomy, but he does not use legŰ even once in these contexts.  Thus, not one of the examples listed by Bullinger (or the others listed by Stafford) that "parallel" Luke 23:43 contains the words AmÍn or legŰ.18

When we turn to the NT, it does not appear that this "common Hebrew idiom" is common at all.  There is only one verse (setting aside Luke 23:43) that might be an example of this idiom:  Acts 20:26. Here, Paul is using quasi-legal language, similar to the covenantal language of Deuteronomy.  It is significant that here, as in the OT, the verb is not legŰ.  Instead, Paul uses a verb meaning "testify": "I testify to you this day that..." (marturomai humin en tÍ sÍmeron hÍmera hoti...).  This is similar to Deuteronomy 8:19 in the LXX: "I testify against you today..." (the verb here is diamarturomai, a close cognate of marturomai).

Jesus is quoted using the word sÍmeron 12 times in the Gospels.19  In none does it occur as part of an introductory phrase.  Jesus does, however, make a number of solemn and formal statements preceded by the words "I say to you..." (some with "Amen," some without).  In fact, a Gramcord search reveals 144 such examples.  Thus, we have 144 instances of Jesus making a formal proclamation and twelve of Him using the word "today," and none of them reflects the so-called "common Hebrew idiom."

Setting aside Luke 23:43, there is only slight evidence that the Hebrew idiom, as defined by Bullinger, actually occurs in the NT (only Acts 20:26, where the verb is "testify").  There is no evidence that this idiom occurs with the verb legŰ, and no evidence that Jesus uses the idiom with any verb whatsoever.  If we set this evidence against 74 examples of Jesus saying "Amen I say to you..." (and 70 more where He simply says "I say to you"), it seems clear that Luke 23:43 "parallels" these examples, and not those listed by Bullinger and Stafford.


objection:  (The Non-Use of hoti)  Those advocating the NWT punctuation also cite Bullinger in support of their view that the non-use of hoti (a conjunction that often means "that") indicates that sÍmeron goes with Amen I tell you and not what follows:

The interpretation of this verse depends entirely on punctuation, which rests wholly on human authority, the Greek manuscripts having no punctuation of any kind till the ninth century, and then it is only a dot in the middle of the line separating each word.

The Verb "to say," when followed by hoti, introduces the ipsissima verba of what is said; and answers to our quotation marks. So here (in Luke 23:43), in the absence of hoti (="that"), there may be a doubt as to the actual words included in the dependent clause. But the doubt is resolved (1) by the common Hebrew idiom, "I say unto thee this day," which is constantly used for very solemn emphasis; as well as (2) by the usage observable in other passages where the verb is connected with the Gr. sÍmeron= to-day.

    1. With hoti:--

Mark 14:30: "Verily I say unto thee, that (hoti) 'this day ... thou shall deny me thrice.' "

Luke 4:21: "And He began to say unto them, that (hoti) 'This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.' "

Luke 5:26: "Saying (hoti=that), 'We have seen strange things to-day.' "

Luke 19:9: "Jesus said unto him that (hoti), 'This day is salvation come to this house.' "

For other examples of the verb "to say," followed by hoti, but not connected with sÍmeron (to-day), see Matt. 14:26, 16:18, 21:3, 26:34, 27:4; Mark 1:40; 6:14,15,18,35, 9:26, 14:25; Luke 4:24,41, 15:27, 17:10, 19:7.

2. Without hoti: --

On the other hand, in the absence of hoti (=that), the relation of the word "to-day" must be determined by the context.

Luke 22:34: "And He said, 'I tell thee, Peter, in no wise shall a cock crow to-day before thou shall thrice deny that thou knowest Me.' " Here the word" to-day" is connected with the verb "crow," because the context requires it. Compare Heb. 4:7.

It is the same in Luke 23:43: "And Jesus said to him, 'Verily I say unto thee to-day [or this day, when, though they were about to die, this man had expressed so great faith in Messiah's coming Kingdom, and therefore in the Lord's resurrection to be its King -- now, under such solemn circumstances] thou shall be, with Me, in Paradise.' " For, when Messiah shall reign, His Kingdom will convert the promised land into a Paradise. Read Isa. 35, and see note on Ecc. 2:520.

Mr. Stafford writes: 

"if Luke had wanted to separate "today" from "I say to you," then all Luke had to do was to place semeron ("today") after hoti, which he does not once, not twice, not three times, not four times, but five times!...In fact, Luke 23:43 is the only instance apart from Luke 22:34 where a verb of speech is used with semeron and where hoti does not separate it from that verb" (Stafford, pp. 551-552, emphasis in original).

ResponseIt should first be noted that Bullinger does not go as far as Stafford or other Witness apologists21 in claiming that had Luke wanted to separate "I say to you" from "today," he would have used hoti.  Bullinger simply demonstrates the well-known fact that hoti often is used to introduce direct speech in the GNT, being in this usage more or less equivalent to our opening quotation mark.  He correctly says that without hoti, the context must determine where the introductory clause ends and the main clause begins.  Bullinger, of course, places "today" with "I tell you" on the grounds that it reflects a "common Hebrew idiom."  As detailed, above, this view is almost certainly wrong.


The fact that Luke could have used hoti to separate "I tell you" from "today" is true, but proves nothing; Luke could also have used hoti to include "today" with "I tell you" by placing it after sÍmeron.22  The use or non-use of hoti appears to be purely a stylistic choice by the NT authors on a case-by-case basis.  Luke, for example, uses hoti in 4 Amen sayings (4:24; 12:37; 18:28; 21:32) and omits it in two (18:17 and 23:43).  Of the 74 Amen sayings recorded in the Gospels, 34 omit hoti.  There does not appear to be any semantic difference between the use of hoti or its omission in these verses.  This fact is illustrated by Mark 9:41 and 11:23, which contain hoti, and the parallel passages in Matthew 10:42 and 21:21, which do not. Interestingly, Mark 14:25 is loosely paralleled by Matthew 26:29 and Luke 22:18.  Despite many variations in these verses23, the introductory phrases in each are quite similar.24  Mark uses hoti, while Matthew does not.  Luke probably did not use hoti, either.25  But no Greek scholar has argued that the the meaning of the introductory phrase is changed substantially by the presence or absence of hoti.


Significantly, nowhere in the 144 examples of Jesus' "I tell you..." sayings  is hoti used to include an adverb in the introductory phrase.  It is clear that Jesus' regular idiom is "I tell you..." or "Amen I tell you," and not "I tell you today."


Mr. Stafford is correct that five times Luke places hoti between a verb of speech and sÍmeron, but this fact does nothing to prove that Luke would have done so in Luke 23:43, had he intended to separate "today" from "I tell you."  In four of the five, hoti is used in its regular function to mark what follows as a direct quotation (4:21; 5:26; 19:9; 22:61); none of these parallel Jesus' "I tell you" sayings26.  In the remaining example (2:11), hoti functions as a causal conjunction ("because")27 and so cannot rightly be compared to the function hoti would perform, had Luke used it in 23:43.


Mr. Stafford and other apologists who argue that the absence of hoti requires that sÍmeron modify the preceding verb are reading far too much into the evidence they present.28  The non-use of hoti is a non-issue in the correct punctuation of Luke 23:43.



objection:  ("Today" in the LXX)  Witness apologists contend that the use of sÍmeron in the LXX supports their view that in Luke 23:43 it should modify "I tell you" rather than "You shall be with me..."  Referring to the quotation from Bullinger's How to Enjoy the Bible (see above), Greg Stafford writes:


In each of the examples listed by Bullinger, whether they involve the use of a speech verb or not, "today" is always used with the verb preceding it (Stafford, p. 551, emphasis in original).

Mr. Stafford also cites Acts 20:26 in support of his view.


ResponseWhen one considers LXX examples beyond those listed by Bullinger, it is clear that sÍmeron can, and often does, modify the following verb (Leviticus 10:19; Joshua 5:9; 22:31; 1 Samuel 10:19; 11:13; 2 Samuel 14:22; 15:20; 16:3; Psalms 2:7; 95:7; Proverbs 7:14).  More importantly, when considering Luke's use of sÍmeron in Luke-Acts, out of 20 occurrences, eight modify the verb which follows (Luke 4:21; 13:33; 19:5, 9; Acts 4:9; 13:33; 26:2; 27:33).  Thus, Luke placed sÍmeron before the verb it modifies 40% of the time.  Once again, Mr. Stafford's conclusion seems overdrawn.



objection: Witness apologists and websites have often quoted evidence presented in a thread on the B-Greek discussion list in early 2000 that suggests at least some Christians as early as the 4th Century understood Luke 23:43 to be punctuated as it is in the NWT.  They cite the fact that list moderator, Carl Conrad, was persuaded to change his view as a result of this evidence. A copy of Conrad's public post detailing why he changed his mind may be found here.


ResponseIt appears by Conrad's own admission, he changed his mind after reviewing several posts (two dating back to 1996) over the course of one evening.  It does not appear that he had time to investigate the evidence presented to thoroughly evaluate its merit.  I believe such an investigation will reveal that the evidence proves somewhat less than it initially appears.


Two pieces of evidence introduced to the B-Greek list have already been discussed, above (Codex B and the Curetonian Syriac).  The remaining evidence is a series of quotations from early Christian texts, each cited in the footnote to Luke 23:43 in Tischendorf's Greek New Testament.  It should be noted that Tischendorf placed the comma before sÍmeron in his critical text, and cites a number of sources supporting this punctuation; apparently in his opinion, the evidence selectively posted to B-Greek was not significant in determining the proper punctuation of the text.


Hesychius of Jerusalem

The first citation provided to the B-Greek list was from Hesychius of Jerusalem:


>Tines men houtos anaginoskousin* _Amen lego soi semeron*_ kai 
>hypostizousin* eita epipherousin, hotiet' emou ese e to paradeiso._ 
>("Some indeed read this way: 'Truly I tell you today,' and put a comma; 
>then they add: 'You will be with me in Paradise.'"--Hesychius of 
>Jerusalem, an ecclessiastical writer who died about 434 C.E. Greek text 
>found in Patrologia Graeca, Vol. 93, columns 432, 1433. 

This quote is from Hesychius' Collection of Difficulties and Solutions (excerpted from his 'Harmony of the Gospels').  The texts associated with Hesychius in Migne's Patrologia Graeca are not all by the 5th Century Hesychius of Jerusalem, and there seems to be some question that the Collection is actually by this Hesychius and not some other.29


Assuming that the Collection is indeed a work of Hesychius of Jerusalem, it is important to place his quote in context.  The Collection consists of a series of "difficulties" from the Biblical text, followed by the author's "solutions."  In the "difficulty" section of Luke 23:43, Hesychius writes:


How can the Lord immediately fulfill His promise to the thief, "Today you shall be with me in Paradise?" (SÍmeron met emou esÍ en to puradeiso), if indeed after the crucifixion, Christ was in Hades setting free the Dead; rather, it is proper that the thief be accountable for his nature (or, in a variant reading, that the thief go to Hades) (Migne, PG, 93, 1431; my translation).

Hesychius, then, understood his exemplars to present sÍmeron as modifying "you shall be with me..." and not "Truly I tell you..."  Hesychius' opening question presupposes that this understanding of "today" is the majority view.  But how could such a "difficulty" arise in the first place?  Hesychius is not alone among post-Nicene church fathers in teaching that Jesus descended into Hades to preach to the 'spirits in prison' during the three days His body lay in the tomb (1 Peter 3:19).  To account for the "difficulty" in Hesychius, we may posit one of two possibilities:


1.  Luke intended sÍmeron to modify "Truly I tell you..." and it was so understood by the early church.  But because of the ambiguity of the Greek, the majority of Christians began to take it to modify "You will be with me..," despite the fact that this punctuation created a difficulty when compared to the teaching of Christ's descent into Hades.


2.  Luke intended sÍmeron to modify "You will be with me..." and it was so understood by the early church.  But because of the ambiguity of the Greek, some Christians began to take it to modify "Truly I tell you..." because this punctuation removed a difficulty when compared to the teaching of Christ's descent into Hades.

Since exegetes and commentators of all ages seek to resolve difficulties rather than create them (just as Hesychius does), option 2 seems by far the most likely.30


Hesychius answers the "difficulty" as follows:


Some, indeed, teach: "Truly I say to you today" - and a comma - then add: "with Me you shall be in Paradise."  As if to say: "Truly I tell you today, although you are on the cross, you shall be with me in Paradise."  But if the [difficult] reading is correct, there is no contradiction; since our Savior's Deity is unlimited, He was not only in Hades, but also in Paradise with the Thief, and in Hades, and with the Father, and in the tomb, inasmuch as He fills all things (Migne, PG, 93, 1432-1433; my translation).31

Hesychius confirms that "some" in his day placed a comma after "today."  He does not tell us who or how many they were, which makes it difficult to judge the merits of their view, but he does explain what they meant by their preferred punctuation:  It was not to emphasize when Jesus was speaking, nor to use a "common Hebrew idiom," nor to follow LXX convention, but to signify the thief's current position on the cross that day in contrast to his blessed future state in Paradise.  This fact is further evidence that the various grammatical arguments discussed above were unknown in the early church, even by those advocating placing the comma after "today."


Hesychius then goes on to say that if the reading in his "difficulty" section is correct (that is, that "today" modifies "I shall be with you.."), it is not a problem, because Christ's Deity is not limited to a single place, but allows Him to be present at once in Hades and in Paradise, and - indeed - in all places simultaneously.


Thus, Hesychius provides only marginal evidence that Luke intended a comma after "today" for the following reasons:


1.  It is not certain that Hesychius of Jerusalem is the author of the Collection.  If not, it may date from much later than the 5th Century.

2.  We do not know who the "some" were who taught that a comma should be placed after sÍmeron.

3.  We do not know how widespread their teaching was nor how old it was.

4.  We do know that the majority view was that sÍmeron modified "You shall be with me..."

5.  It is far more likely that punctuation that resolved a doctrinal difficulty came later.

6.  The placement of the comma was not due to LXX usage or a Hebrew idiom.


The next citation provided to the B-Greek list was Theophylact of Bulgaria:


>Alloi de ekbiazontai to rhema, stizontes eis to <<Semeron,>> hin' e to 
>legomenon toiouton* <<Amen ego soi semeron*>> eita to, <<met' emou ese 
>en to paradeiso,>> epipherontes. ("But others press upon the saying, 
>putting a punctuation mark after 'today,' so that it would be said 
>this way: 'Truly I tell you today'; and then they add the expression: 
>'You will be with me in Paradise.'")--Theophylact, an ecclessistical 
>writer who died about 1112 C.E. Edition: Patrologia Graeca, Vol. 123, 
>column 1104.

This quotation is from Theophylact's Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to Luke.  It was written after Theophylact became Archbishop of Ochrid, the capital of the Bulgarian Kingdom, about the year 1090 A.D..  To better understand what Theophylact is saying in this quotation, consider how Theophylact introduces his comments on Jesus' promise to the thief:


When the former blasphemer recognized by this voice that Jesus was indeed a king, he rebuked the other thief, and said to Jesus, "Remember me in Thy kingdom."  How does the Lord reply?  "Today thou shalt be with me in Paraidse" (SÍmeron met' emou esÍ en tŰ paradeisŰ).  As a man, He was on the Cross, but as God, He is everywhere, both on the Cross and in paradise, filling all things, and nowhere absent."32

Thus, as with Hesychius (above), we again find that the prevalent contemporary understanding is that "today" modifies "you will be with me..." and not "Amen I tell you."  Like Hesychius, Theophylact addresses several apparent Scriptural contradictions if "today" is so understood; and he offers interpretations that resolve them.  However, it is important to note that repunctuating the verse is not a solution he considers viable.  In the translation offered by the B-Greek poster, ekbiazontai is rendered "press upon," which has a neutral connotation - as though Theophylact is merely saying that the "others" press the point they are making by placing the comma after SÍmeron.  But ekbiazontai (an inflected form of ekbiazŰ) has a much more negative meaning.33  While "press upon" is a gloss offered by LSJ, the sense is not "press" as in placing emphasis, but "press" as in applying pressure, force, or doing violence. A more accurate rendering (which, to his credit, the B-Greek poster requested) would be:


But others have abused the saying, putting a mark after 'today' so that it says: "Amen I tell you today," and then adding: "You will be with me in Paradise.34

Theophylact's disapproval is emphasized in his next sentence, which reads "Others, who appear to have hit the mark, explain it this way...."35  These Christians, Theophylact tells us, distinguish "heaven" from "paradise," the latter being "a place of spiritual rest."  In this way, the thief may indeed be with Jesus that day in Paradise, but not yet in Heaven.


This quotation from Theophylact tells us virtually nothing about those that punctuate Luke 23:43 so that "today" modifies "Amen I tell you..."  The B-Greek poster is correct in concluding that some late 11th Century Christians understood the verse in a way similar to the Watchtower, but we do not know how many they were, nor how prevalent was their teaching.  Such late evidence would seem marginally helpful, if at all, in determining what Luke originally intended.  It is apparent, though, that like those Hesychius mentions, the reason these "others" punctuate the verse as they do is not because it follows a Hebrew idiom, but because they sought to resolve a theological difficulty.  The fact that Theophylact can speak in such negative terms about the alternate punctuation - even though it would solve the apparent contradictions he is discussing - suggests that he was unaware of any reasonable arguments in support of it.



The next citation is a summary of scholia from three Greek manuscripts:


>alloi -- to rheton ekbiazontai* legousin gar dein hypostizontas (254: 
>hypostizantas) anaginoskein* amen lego soi semeron*>> eith' houtos 
>epipherein to* met' emou ese etc. ("Others press upon what is spoken; 
>for they say it must read by putting a comma thus: 'Truly I tell you 
>today,' and then adding the expression this way: 'You will be with me' 
>etc.")--Scholia 237, 239, 254. Text found in Novum Testamentum Graece, 
>editio octava critica maior, by C. Tischendorf, Vol. I, Leipzig, 1869, 
>under Luke 23:43.

"Scholia" are marginal annotations added to a manuscript by a scribe, later reviser, or commentator.  Without a detailed description of these three annotations, it is impossible to determine whether they date from the time of the manuscript's creation or were added much later.  In any event, the three manuscripts themselves are quite late.  According to Tischendorf's critical apparatus, these are miniscules dating as follows:


237 - 10th Century (Moscow syn 42)

239 - 11th Century (Moscow syn 47)

254 - 11th Century (Dresden reg A.100)

Marginal annotations dating no earlier than the 10th Century would seem thin evidence, indeed, to draw meaningful conclusions regarding Luke's original intention.  They may reflect nothing more than "some" Christians attempting to resolve the same difficulty noted by Hesychius (above).  Regardless of who the "others" were, the author of the scholia hardly approves of their variant punctuation, for he uses the same word (ekbiazontai) as Theophylact (above) to describe the "violence" done to the context when "today" is joined with "Amen I tell you..."


Acts of Pilate (Gospel of Nicodemus)

The next citation is a quotation from the apocryphal Acts of Pilate (also known as the Gospel of Nicodemus):


>ho de eipen auto* semeron lego soi aletheian hina se ekho eis ton 
>parad[eison] met' emou. ("And he said to him: 'Today I tell you the 
>truth, that I should have you in Paradise with me.'")--Gospel of 
>Nicodemus (=Acts of Pilate)b287, an apocryphal writing of the fourth 
>or fifth century C.E. Text found in Novum Testamentum Graece, editio 
>octava critica maior, by C. Tischendorf, Vol. I, Leipzig, 1869, under 
>Luke 23:43.

The so-called Acts of Pilate, along with the Descent into Hell (see below) comprise what has come to be known as the Gospel of Nicodemus.  The two works were probably not by the same author, and the earliest manuscripts do not contain the Descent.  Tischendorf published two "forms" or recensions of the Acts in Greek (each based on different manuscripts) and one in Latin.  The Greek forms are earlier than the Latin, with recension A dating from the 5th Century and recension B from the 6th Century.36


You will notice that the citation from Tischendorf given by the B-Greek poster reads "b 287."  The "b" indicates that this quote is from recension B, which dates from the 6th Century.  James notes that recension A "must be regarded as the most original form of the Acta which we have;" while recension B "is a late and diffuse working-over of the same matter."37


Significantly, in the same section quoted by the B-Greek poster, Tischendorf lists recension A as supporting the traditional punctuation by placing hoti before sÍmeron.  The translation of recension A in the ANF reads as follows:


And Jesus said to him: Amen, amen; I say to thee, To-day shall thou be with me in Paradise.

Thus, the oldest, most original form of the Acts of Pilate has "today" modifying "I shall be with you..."  It is the later recension which changes the wording so that sÍmeron modifies "Truly I tell you..."  The later reviser does not appear to have been concerned with accurately preserving his source; indeed, Cowper notes that the later reviser did not regard his exemplar as "giving sufficient prominence to Mary" (Cowper, pp. xcii - xciii).  If he was not above making revisions based on his theological leanings, it is very possible that he sought to remove the "difficulty" noted by Hesychius (see above) by repunctuating his quotation of Luke 23:43.


The Descent into Hell (The Gospel of Nicodemus)

The final citation provided to the B-Greek list is a quotation from the aprocryphal Descent into Hell (also known as the Gospel of Nicodemus):


>kai eutys eipen moi hoti amen amen semeron lego soi, met' emou ese en 
>to parad[eiso]. ("And immediately he said to me: 'Most truly today 
>I tell you, You will be with me in Paradise.'")--Descent into Hades, 
>an apocryphal writing of the fourth century C.E. Text found in Novum 
>Testamentum Graece, editio octava critica maior, by C. Tischendorf, Vol. 
>I, Leipzig,869, under Luke 23:43.

As noted above, the Descent comprises Part 2 of the so-called Gospel of Nicodemus.  Tischendorf published a Greek form and two forms in Latin.  The oldest manuscripts of the Gospel of Nicodemus do not contain the Descent.  The Greek form is "closely connected with the second text of Nicodemus Part I; indeed the copies do not mark any division" (Cowper, p. xcii).  Cowper dates the Greek recension of the Descent "somewhat later" than Part I (p. xciii).  The punctuation in the Greek Descent, then, is certainly related to the punctuation in recension B of Part I (the Acts of Pilate).  The same comments made about the Acts (above) can be made here:  The punctuation in this text represents a more recent tradition, one which may well have been motivated by theological concerns rather than fidelity to an earlier source.


ConclusionThe Watchtower and its apologists have offered several lines of evidence to support the NWT punctuation of Luke 23:43.  In each case, the evidence has failed to stand up to rigorous examination.  On balance, the evidence strongly favors the traditional punctuation.  Luke 23:43 is one of 74 examples of a formulaic expression, spoken only by Jesus in the Gospels.  This expression is never modified by an adverb of time, unless Luke 23:43 is the lone exception.  Further, when all the "I say to you" sayings are taken into account, the number of non-temporally-modified introductory expressions grows to 144.  On the other hand, there is no evidence that Jesus ever used the "common Hebrew idiom" referred to by E.W. Bullinger and so often quoted by NWT defenders.  When one rightly sets aside the textual evidence from the Curetonian Syraic and Codex Vaticanus (not only because the evidence is marginal, at best; but also because the entire issue of correct punctuation is not properly the province of textual criticism), there is no substantial evidence in favor of the NWT punctuation.  


The Patristic and Apocryphal sources presented on the B-Greek mailing list prove that some Christians taught that Christ descended into Hades following His crucifixion, and interpreted Luke 23:43 accordingly.  But an inductive analysis of all the evidence suggests that the earlier, more prominent understanding was that sÍmeron modified "I shall be with you..," and it was later commentators who offered the alternate punctuation as a way to avoid what they saw as a "difficulty."


It may be granted that "Amen I tell you today.." is grammatically possible, but unlikely (if 144-to-1 odds can be characterized as merely "unlikely").


Soli Deo Gloria





1.  In fact, to my knowledge there are only about a dozen English Bibles that have been cited by the Watchtower or its apologists as placing the comma before "today."  Most, if not all, are the works of single translators, not committees.  While this does not prove that they are biased or inaccurate, it is easy for error or bias to occur with a single translator, working without the checks-and-balances of a committee.  They are obscure translations, rarely (if ever) being cited in scholarly works.  The punctuation apparatus in UBS4 lists none for Luke 23:43.  Instead, the cited Bibles appear most frequently in writings of apologists who find occasional support for a preferred dogma in an idiosyncratic translation.  I will specifically address the Bibles cited by the Watchtower later in this article.

2Dictionary of Jesus, p. 7-8.

3.  My own count shows 74 examples of this phrase, slightly less than the 100 mentioned in the Dictionary of Jesus and Gospels.  I include within this number the Greek phrases AmÍn soi legŰ (e.g., Luke 23:43);  AmÍn legŰ soi (e.g., Matt 5:26); AmÍn legŰ humin (e.g., Matt 5:18); and AmÍn, AmÍn legŰ soi (e.g., John 3:3).

4Reminiscenses of JB Rotherham, Chapter 10.

5.   ďGeorge Lamsa, L-A-M-S-A, who in the 1940s persuaded a reputable publisher of the Bible in Philadelphia, the Winston Publishing Company, to issue his absolute fraud, of  'the Bible translated from the original Aramaic.' Absolutely a money getter, and nothing else.  He said that 'the whole of the New Testament was written in Aramaic,' and he 'translates it from the Aramaic,' but he never would show anybody the manuscripts that he translated from. Secondly, why would Paul write in Aramaic, let us say, to the people of Galatia? They didn't know any more Aramaic than people in Charlestown or Princeton know Aramaic.Ē

6.  Burkitt, Crawford, Evangelion Da-Mepharreshe, Vol 2, Gorgias Press, 2003.

7. Lewis, Agnes Smith, The Four Gospels: Retranslated from the Sinaitic Palimpsest, with a Translation of the Whole Text, London: C.J. Clay and Sons, 1896.  See also, Wilson, E. Jan, The Old Syriac Gospels: Studies and Comparative Translations, Vol. 2, Piscataway, N.J., Georgias Press, 2002.

8.  Burkitt, op cit., p. 304.  Burkitt also quotes Barsalibi (d. 1171) who admits that "some" place "today" with "Amen I tell you," but does not approve of this reading.

8a.  P.J. Williams, PhD, private email to Robert Hommel, dated 1/6/2005.

9. Stafford, p. 547.  Mr. Stafford does not quote the letter directly.  He says simply that in response to "several questions regarding the punctuation of Luke 23:43," the Vatican scholar replied that the dot was "faded brown"  and had not been traced over by the later copyist.  Mr. Stafford does not name the author of the letter nor provide his qualifications as a textual critic, identifying him only as a "Patristics scholar."  Importantly, it is Mr. Stafford's conclusion that the dot is an intentional punctuation mark dating from the 4th century, not the anonymous scholar's (at least, Mr. Stafford does not quote him as saying so).

Mr. Stafford is here responding to Dr. Julius Mantey, who in his famous letter to the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, writes the following:


Why the attempt to deliberately deceive people by mispunctuation by placing a comma after "today" in Luke 23:43 when in the Greek, Latin, German and all English translations except yours, even in the Greek in your KIT, the comma occurs after legŰ (I say)..."

Mr. Stafford concludes: "Of course, while this [the comma in Codex B] does not prove anything regarding Luke's original text, it certainly disproves Mantey's claim that Greek manuscripts do not support the NWT's punctuation of Luke 23:43" (Stafford, p. 548).  It is debatable whether Dr. Mantey was referring to ancient Greek manuscripts (he specifically writes "translations"); but in any event, Mr. Stafford's assertion (stated negatively) is that the dot in Codex B is an intentional punctuation mark, dating from the 4th Century, and that it supports the NWT.


10.  "The point at the top of the line () (stigmh teleia, 'high point') was a full stop; that on the line (.) (upostigmh) was equal to our semicolon, while a middle point (stigmh mesh) was equivalent to our comma.  But gradually changes came over these stops till the top point was equal to our colon, the bottom point  became a full stop, and the middle point vanished, and about the ninth century A.D. the comma (,) took its place" (Robertson, Grammar, p. 242).


11.  See note 10.  However, punctuation in early manuscripts, and particularly in Codex Vaticanus, was far from consistent.  So, we must concede this it is possible that a scribe or corrector might use a low-point in a manner consistent with our modern comma; however, given the fact that the low-point does not appear to have been used at all by the 4th century scribe or his contemporary corrector, while they did (rarely) employ both the high-point and middle-point, it would seem most unlikely that one of them did so here.  Robertson says: "B has the higher point as a period, and the lower point for a shorter pause" (Ibid.).  However, Robertson does not say the "lower point" was by the original scribe or his 4th Century corrector.


12Metzger, p. 155 (c.f., pp. 459 - 462).  As I was preparing this article, I corresponded briefly with Dr.Wieland Willker about the alleged comma in Vaticanus.  Dr. Willker has a webpage dedicated to Codex Vaticanus and an online Textual Commentary on the Greek Gospels.  As a result of our correspondence, Dr. Willker added information about the dot in Vaticanus to the third edition of his Commentary.  Dr. Willker agrees that the dot is "of unknown origin," and is not by the original scribe.  He concludes:


The dot in B is not of much relevance because the punctuation question exists independent of it.  The punctuation, if there was any at all, was, like spelling, irregular in the early MSS.  Any punctuation in ancient MSS is VERY doubtful.  The punctuation in Nestle-Aland or GNT is NEVER based on a punctuation in a MS.  It is ALWAYS a decision based on grammar, syntax, linguistics, and exegesis (Willker, Textual Commentary, p. 436, emphasis in original).

Dr. Willker lists the following manuscripts which place hoti after legŰ, thus emphasizing that "today" modifies "you will be with me...":  L, 892, L1627, b, c, Co, and Sy-S.  He lists AM 118 PS8, 11(1.8), Apo, and Hil as manuscripts that do the same thing with different syntax.  He also lists several sources supporting a comma after "Today," but these all are from a posting on the B-Greek discussion list, each of which are examined later in this article.


13Finegan, pp. 127-28.


14Peter M. Head, PhD, personal email to Robert Hommel, dated 1/11/2005.  Larry W. Hurtado, PhD, also suspects that the mark is a blot or blemish and not a mark of punctuation (personal email to Robert Hommel, dated 1/5/2005).


15.  Mr. Stafford admits as much: "While this [a punctuation mark dating from the 4th century] does not prove anything regarding Luke's original text, it certainly disproves Mantey's claim that Greek manuscripts do not support the NWT's punctuation of Luke 23:43" (Stafford, p. 548, emphasis in original).  Of course, this evidence only "certainly disproves Mantey" if a) Mantey meant "manuscripts" when he wrote "translations"; b) that the dot is an intentional punctuation mark and not an accidental blot; and c) that it actually dates from the 4th century.


16Metzger, p. 460, n. 2.


17E. W. Bullinger, How to Enjoy the Bible, 5th ed. (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1921), p. 48.


18.  Mr. Stafford may be aware of this fact; he refers to "a verb of speech or command."  While the OT idiom does exhibit some variation in the verb, it is significant that legŰ is never used, but it is always used in the "Amen I say to you..." sayings in the Gospels.  This evidence supports the view that Luke 23:43 is an example of the latter idiom and not the former.


19Matt. 6:11, 30; 11:23; 21:28; Mark 14:30; Luke 4:21; 12:28; 13:32, 33; 19:5, 9; 22:34 (omitting the textually uncertain Matthew 16:3).


20.  The Companion Bible (London: Oxford University Press, 1932), Appendix 173.


21.  The following is a typical claim by an apologist posting on the CARM Jehovah's Witness Discussion Board: "Luke 23:43 does not contain a conjunction and therefore SHMERON should modify the preceding verb" (posted 8/4/2004).


22.  C.f., Bowman, Understanding Jehovahís Witnesses, p. 101.


23.  For a summary of the many differences between these verses, see Metzger, pp. 148-150.  


24The introductory phrases in the three verses read: Mark 14:25:  AmÍn legŰ humin hoti ouxeti ou me piŰ... ("Amen I tell you that never by no means will I drink..."); Matthew 26:29: legŰ de humin ou me piŰ... ("But I tell you, by no means will I drink..."); Luke 22:18: legŰ gar humin [hoti] ou me piŰ...("For I tell you [that] by no means will I drink...").


25.  Both UBS4 and NA26 place hoti in square brackets in this verse.


26.  Jesus' "I tell you" statements and other declarative statements in the NT are not quotations of others, but are used by the speaker to emphasize what he is about to say.  See BDAG, p. 469 (II.1.e).


27BDAG, p. 589.(3.a).


28.  At least one Witness apologist has attempted to defend the "non-use of hoti" argument with an entry in the BDF grammar.  Click here to see a brief public debate on this topic between the apologist and evangelical author Robert M. Bowman, Jr.  


29.  Cf., Faulhaber, Michael, The Catholic Encyclopedia, Hesychius of Jerusalem.


30.  "There is truth in the maxim: lectio difficilior lectio portior ("the more difficult reading is the more probable reading')" (Aland, p. 281).


31.  There is no punctuation in Hesychius' Greek between "I tell you" and "today."  Thus, it is possible that he intended something like: "Truly I tell you, although today you are on the cross, you shall be with me in Paradise."  However, Minge's Latin translation includes a comma after "today," and since Hesychius has just said that "some" place a comma after "today," it is almost certain that he intends one here as well.  


32.  Stade, Christopher, trans., The Explanation by Blessed Theophylact of The Holy Gospels, vol 3 (House Springs, MO: Chrysostom Press), p. 310.


33.  "To force out, dislodge, dispel, lay violent hands on, constrain, press upon, to be expressed in a forced, elaborate way [regarding literature]" LSJ.  In the PG, Minge renders Theophylact's ekbiazontai with the Latin 'torquent:' "to twist, bend, torture, torment."


34.  My own rather literal rendering.  Stade offers a far smoother translation: "Others have done violence to the context of these words, pausing after today, so that it might read, Verily I say unto thee today, Thou shalt be with Me in Paradise" (Ibid.).  Minge's Latin may be translated as follows: "But others twist the expression (torquent verbum), placing a mark after today...."




36.  Cowper, B.H., The Apocryphal Gospels, p. xxvii and p. xcii.



37.  James, M.R., The Apocryphal New Testament, "Introduction" to the Gospel of Nicodemus.

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