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Luke 23:43 (YLT):

43 and Jesus said to him, `Verily I say to thee, To-day with me thou shalt be in the paradise.'

2 Corinthians 12:1-4 (YLT):

To boast, really, is not profitable for me, for I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I have known a man in Christ, fourteen years ago -- whether in the body I have not known, whether out of the body I have not known, God hath known -- such an one being caught away unto the third heaven; 3 and I have known such a man -- whether in the body, whether out of the body, I have not known, God hath known, -- 4 that he was caught away to the paradise, and heard unutterable sayings, that it is not possible for man to speak.

Were Paul & Jesus referring to the same place?


Appendix - On Jesus' ascension to Heaven

Some believe that Luke 23:43 indicates that Jesus and the repentant criminal went to paradise on that same day ("today you will be with me in the paradise"). Of course, this is contested.

But if we grant, for the sake of argument, that Jesus and the criminal truly went to paradise on that day, this would inevitably raise questions about how this could be reconciled with what Jesus plainly said in John 20:17:

17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

If Jesus and the criminal went to paradise, but Jesus didn't ascend to the Father (presumably in Heaven) until after his resurrection, then what paradise did they go to?

This conundrum inspired me to ask this question: How do proponents of an intermediate state reconcile 1 Peter 3:18-20 ("spirits in prison") and Luke 23:43 ("today in paradise")?

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  • It seems very much (to me) that Paul is telling us what 'the paradise' means : that is to say 'the third heaven'. Why would it not be the same ? Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 10 at 16:51
  • @NigelJ - it could be the same, but some believe that Jesus descended to the 'Bosom of Abraham' between his crucifixion and resurrection, meaning that he went to a different 'paradise' than the one Paul is referring to. See this answer. (Thanks for the upvote.) Feb 10 at 16:55
  • Thank you. But that does not agree with Ephesians 4:10 (lower parts of the earth) nor with 1 Peter 3:19 (preached to the spirits in prison). So I regard it as superstition, myself. 'The Son of man which is in heaven' speaks of the presence of the Son always with the Father, so the other texts refer to the matter of humanity (albeit also in conjunction with deity). The whole issue requires faith in the unique Person of Christ : else it descends into chaos and, as I say, superstition. 'Descend' to the 'bosom of Abraham' not 'ascend' ? ? ?
    – Nigel J
    Feb 10 at 17:02
  • 1
    @NigelJ - I added an appendix with my thoughts on the conundrum Feb 10 at 17:52
  • 2
    I respect the systematic way in which you are examining the various texts, in order. I do hope you reach a place of full understanding which relies on faith and neither false tradition nor superstition. Regards.
    – Nigel J
    Feb 10 at 18:49

2 Answers 2

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Unless one wishes to make Paul discuss more than one incident, then the Hebrew parallelism demands that "third heaven" is the same as "paradise" in 2 Cor 12:1-4. Both BDAG and Thayer link the meaning in 2 Cor 12:1-4 with the third heaven.

Further, since Luke was a close associate of Paul, I see no reason to suggest that the paradise in Luke 23:43 is anything but exactly the same!

[Note: I have discussed the punctuation "problem" in Luke 23:43 here >>
https://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/72985/is-there-another-explanation-for-the-contradiction-on-luke-2343-john-2017-i/72988#72988 ]

Note that Thayer says that one of the various meanings of "paradise" was:

  1. that part of Hades which was thought by the later Jews to be the abode of the souls of the pious until the resurrection: Luke 23:43, cf. 16:23f. But some (e. g. Dillmann (as below, p. 379)) understand that passage of the heavenly paradise.

However, this was another of the pious myths that (according to above) changed over time. There is nothing in the Scripture to support this idea.

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Etymology

The word "Paradise" has an intriguing etymology. It is generally thought to have a Persian origin--it is used by various authors to refer to an enclosed garden. This origin can be seen in words like the Latin paries, the Spanish pared, and the Portuguese parede, all referring to walls.

This word entered the Biblical vocabulary through the Septuagint, where it refers to a garden/enclosed area (e.g. Nehemiah 2:8) and, most importantly, the Garden of Eden. The association of this word with the Garden of Eden gave us the modern sense of paradise or paradisiacal being a wonderful or unspoiled place.

See discussion by Thayer here. There's also an extensive discussion of the word in the History of English podcast.

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Relationship of Paul & Luke

I did a deeper dive on the relationship of Luke & Paul is this post; by way of quick summary I'll quote Irenaeus of Lyons:

Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him (Against Heresies 3.1.1)

This bit of history is multiply attested and uncontested in the early Christian historians--Luke wrote under the apostolic authority of Paul. In fact, the only mentions of Luke by name in the New Testament come from Paul's letters. Without getting too far into the weeds of how the Gospel of Luke relates to the preaching of Paul, suffice it to say that these men were well-acquainted and worked closely together in the ministry.

As such, it should be unsurprising when we find both of them using similar themes, vocabulary, or style (e.g. compare Paul's description of the Lord's supper in 1 Cor. 11 with Luke's description in Luke 22--there is clearly a strong overlap in ideas, one may well be paraphrasing the other).

On this basis, I suggest that when Paul & Luke both use an uncommon word, there is likely to be a correspondence in meaning.

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Paul is redundant?

Do verse 2 and verses 3-4 in the OP describe the same realm? I recognize that some believe they do, but in opposition to that view I suggest that if so, verse 3 is quite redundant. What purpose does the repetition in verse 3 serve if verses 2 & 4 are the same story?

The "kai" (and) in verse 3 further reinforces the view that Paul is describing two distinct events/visions/places. Paul's quite capable of using οὐρανός ("ouranos") to refer to heaven, and indeed this is how Luke uses the term--οὐρανός is the place where the Father dwells (see Luke 11:2). The introduction of the distinct word παράδεισος ("paradeisos"/"paradise") in verse 4 suggests he's talking about another place--these are two different visions.

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Does Luke contradict John?

As noted in the OP, Luke 23:43 & John 20:17 appear at first glance to conflict with one another. Luke says Jesus will be in paradise today (it's Friday); John says Jesus hasn't yet ascended to His Father (in heaven) the following Sunday.

The etymology of "paradise" makes sense of this conundrum. "Paradise" can very well be used to describe where God is (this appears to be how it is used in Rev. 2:7), but it need not necessarily mean that at all. Paradise is a far more generic term--it refers to an enclosed or exclusive place. This can be a fair description of Eden, or the Bosom of Abraham, or the presence of God, and more.

In this case, there need be no conflict between Luke & John: Luke describes the intermediate state (as outlined in Luke 16), and John describes returning to the presence of the Father after the intermediate state.

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Conclusion

Were Paul & Jesus referring to the same place?

Probably.

I suggest both are referring to the dwelling of the righteous in Sheol/Hades (aka the Bosom of Abraham), not the presence of the Father. This interpretation is supported by the following:

  • There would be no contradiction between Luke & John
  • Paul is not wasting space repeating himself (in verse 3) on an expensive scroll--the third heaven & paradise are different realms
  • There is no conflict with Luke 16 & 1 Peter 3:18-20,4:6 which (to many) describe an intermediate state prior to the resurrection
  • The close associates Paul & Luke would be understanding/using the same word the same way

Other interpretations of these passages exist--I find this interpretation to be the one that requires the fewest assumptions.

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  • There is no conflict with Luke 16 & 1 Peter 3,4 which (to many) describe an intermediate state prior to the resurrection - would you say that the 'spirits in prison' were the O.T. saints in the Bosom of Abraham? If so, how can a paradise be a prison at the same time? Feb 10 at 21:48
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator I understand "Abraham's Bosom" & "Prison" to be distinct compartments in Sheol/Hades - so no, the spirits in prison & OT saints would be non-overlapping groups residing in different places/states. I brought up 1 Peter 3,4 only to acknowledge that if Luke 23:43 meant heaven, it would create a (potential) conflict with 1 Peter Feb 10 at 22:27
  • I struggle to see what connection 1 Peter 3:4 has with this discussion.
    – Dottard
    Feb 11 at 6:56
  • @Dottard I had meant to say 1 Peter chapters 3&4; I added the verse numbers to clarify this. I struggle to see what connection 1 Peter chapter 3 verse 4 has with this discussion too =) Feb 11 at 15:19

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