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The reading of Luke 23:43 differs depending on how we punctuate it:

And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.


And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee today, shalt thou be with me in paradise.

Given that the original text did not have punctuation, can we reach a conclusion about which is a better rendering of the Greek? What clues support one reading or the other?

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No punctuation in the Greek text, I infer? (That's true for the Hebrew in the Tanakh; I've got no experience with gospel sources.) –  Gone Quiet Jan 20 '12 at 19:20
Not in the ancient copies. Modern editions like Nestle-Aland have them though. –  Frank Luke Jan 20 '12 at 19:36
@FrankLuke, thanks -- yeah, I meant the oldest known versions, which are presumably closest to the author's intent. –  Gone Quiet Jan 23 '12 at 20:13
This is no small debate and the ultimate decision seems to be dependent on theological inclinations. –  swasheck Sep 26 '12 at 14:33
I'm still a bit unsure with this question. We could randomly toss commas everywhere and change meanings. Ultimately though, this question is rooted in theological implication of such behavior. It certainly toes the line of on-topicness for this site. –  swasheck Apr 22 '13 at 3:42

4 Answers 4

While punctuation did not exist in the original manuscripts, there are good reasons for preferring in our translations the rendering, "Verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in paradise."

Here are several arguments in support of this conclusion:

  1. In "I say unto thee today," the word "today" is rather superfluous. Quite clearly Jesus is talking to him "today" and not "tomorrow." The only function it could have is to give weight to the statement; but in this case, the phrase translated "Verily" already serves this function.
  2. As TRiG mentions, this is consistent with Jesus' use of "Ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν" (translated as "Truly I say to you") in the rest of Luke's gospel. In 4:24, 9:27, 12:37, 12:44, 18:17, 18:29, 21:3, and 21:43. Jesus never adds the word "today" in any of these other instances. While this does not prove the case, we might reasonably expect that 23:43 follows this pattern of speech.
  3. Similarly, this use of "today" would be consistent with its other uses in Luke's gospel. Luke's "today" has a theological meaning similar to "the hour" in John's gospel. Especially compare Luke 4:21, but also 2:11, 5:26, 13:32-33, 22:34, and 22:61. Consistently throughout the rest of Luke, "today" is used to emphasize the idea that something theologically significant is happening in the present.
  4. Lastly, and building on point three, it helps to see that Jesus makes his statement in reply to the thief's request: "Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingdom" (NET emphasis mine). The request is of an indefinite "when you come in your kingdom." It seems likely that Luke highlights this exchange not simply to stress the innocence of Jesus and show Jesus' compassion to the thief on the cross (though, he shows no less than these things); but also Luke uses Jesus' words to emphasize to his readers that the cross is the means by which Jesus comes in his kingdom. Hence, while the thief makes his request with a vague future expectation of Jesus coming in his kingdom, Jesus replies in such as way as to answer that today, via the cross, he is coming in his kingdom.
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Isn't another point that Jesus is often recorded as prefacing important remarks with Truly I tell you, but this is the only instance where he might have used Truly I tell you today? –  TRiG Jul 2 '12 at 18:40
This is an excellent answer. –  Kazark Oct 2 '13 at 1:30

I've been studying this verse of late and noticed the only other occasion Christ made a similar remark emphasizing the timing was when He informed Peter that he'd deny Him thrice by cockcrow:

"Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice." Matthew 26:34

"And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice." Mark 14:30

So I wonder if you think Luke 23:43 should have the comma after "today" emphasizing the timing of his declaration not the timing of the thief's translation into paradise then shouldn't these verses likewise be translated similarly for the sake of consistency ie "I tell you tonight, you'll deny me thrice by the time the cock crows" rather than "I tell you, tonight you'll deny me thrice by the time the cock crows."

At the same time I should say I personally don't believe that we remain conscious after death as I believe it is akin to sleep as Paul refers to it in his letters (1 Corinthians 11:30; 15:51), but this verse has made me wonder if maybe what Christ meant was that the thief would rest in Him upon his death like all who die in Christ are assured of salvation (1 Corinthians 15:22; 1 Thessalonians 4:14).

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Matt. 26:34 contains ὅτι ("that") after σοι ("to you"), while Luke 23:43 does not. So, they produce a dissimilar comparison. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Jan 14 '13 at 15:59
You're correct about the word "that" after the Lord –  John Jan 15 '13 at 3:25
You're correct re d word "that" in Mt 26:34 & Mk 14:30! I only highlight such vss coz all d times JC uses tis phrase "Verily I say unto thee..." He rarely notes d date except in these 3 vss. Lookin@ other examples (Mt 6:2, 5; Lk 4:24; 11:51; 18:17) I'd av 2agree wit d trad view ie "Verily I say unto thee, today..." since d phrase is used often 2affirm wat JC was gonna say was true. McGuiggan notes d comma's added aftr d phrase in question & before d affirmation (google Jim McGuiggan & Lk 23:43). JWs & SDAs mite worry but as I said I tink we rest in JC when we die & mayb NDE r evidence of tis? –  John Jan 15 '13 at 4:29
I believe he meant "I say to you, 'Today you shall be with me in the Paradise..." Like you. Just sayin' that your comparison was dissimilar and did not make an adequate argument. Nothing more. –  H3br3wHamm3r81 Jan 15 '13 at 4:45

Jesus didn't ascend to heaven for another 40 days. So the comma before today is not the right meaning. Also listen to the thief's question. the thief heard His preachings about coming back in His kingdom. I

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It has to be "And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee today, shalt thou be with me in paradise."

Because in John 20 Jesus says to Mary "Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father". That was said a few days after the crucifixion, to argue against this would go against the words of Christ.

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"It has to be . . ."? Not necessarily. While Jesus had predicted his ascension to the Father many times (John 7:33; 14:12,28; 16:5,10,17,28), He gave neither a detailed timetable for when His ascension would take place, nor even if there would be just one! Hebrews tells us that Jesus in His death entered "into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us" (9:24). Moreover, Jesus committed His spirit to the Father (after saying "It is finished"), and then He went straight to the Father in heaven. I suggest the repentant thief, at his death, followed Jesus into paradise. –  rhetorician Oct 5 '13 at 18:08
@rhetorician: unfortunately your statement "Moreover, Jesus committed His spirit to the Father (after saying "It is finished"), and then He went straight to the Father in heaven" completely contradicts Jesus statement in John 20 I quoted and all the verses you quote don't say anything about Jesus going to heaven immediately when He died. –  HelloWorld Oct 6 '13 at 16:38
There is no contradiction IF Jesus ascended to heaven more than once. I do not, at this point anyway, assume Jesus ascended only once into heaven. Furthermore, why could He NOT have entered heaven and then returned to earth to be seen by Mary, the other women, the eleven, and over 500 more witnesses? Jesus' offering of His blood as He entered the Holy of Holies within the tabernacle "not made with hands" began when the first drop of His blood was shed, even before His death. When He expired, His offering of Himself was then complete, once and for all. THAT is the sense of Hebrews 9:11-14. –  rhetorician Oct 6 '13 at 17:12
The final ascension (in the first century A.D., that is) occurred 40 days after Jesus' crucifixion (Acts 1:3,9-11). Jesus told Mary not to touch (or more likely "hold on" or "grasp") Him because there was no need to do so. Not many days hence He would ascend to heaven and would send on the day of Pentecost His Spirit to indwell forever all believers in Him (see John 14:16). I'm sure Mary did not understand Jesus' words at that time but came to understand them, at least eventually, after Pentecost. If Jesus had not ascended, the gift of the presence of His Spirit would not have been given. –  rhetorician Oct 6 '13 at 17:24
@rhetorician: Hi friend, when you ask why could He NOT have entered heaven and then returned? Because Jesus Himself said so in John 20:17 "Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’" –  HelloWorld Oct 6 '13 at 17:24

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