What was Jesus really saying to the malefactor in Luke 23:43?

Luke 23:43
“I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23:42 and 43 is often used to teach that the penitent malefactor who believed in Jesus immediately went to “heaven” when he died (even though the verse in question reads “paradise”). However, the phrase in verse 43, “I tell you the truth today,” was a common Hebrew idiom used to emphasize the solemnity and importance of an occasion or moment (compare Deut. 4:26, 39, 40; 5:1; 6:6; 7:11, Josh. 23:14).

Recognizing this idiom and properly punctuating the verse with the comma after the word “today,” we see that Jesus’ meaning is clearly future, to be fulfilled when he comes again and establishes his kingdom on earth.

We must keep in mind that any punctuation in our translations were added by the translators and not in the Greek. It is up to the translator’s discretion when to add a comma or take one away.

Thus the verse should read as follows:

“Jesus answered him, ‘I tell you the truth today, you will be with me in paradise.’”

Also, the word “paradise”  refers biblically to the place of beauty on earth described in Genesis 2, lost in Genesis 3, that will be restored by the Lord Jesus Christ when he returns to earth (see Rev. 22:1-3). For more information on “paradise,” see the note on Ecclesiastes 2:5, page 908; and Appendix 173 in The Companion Bible, edited by E.W. Bullinger.

Not only did the penitent malefactor not go to “paradise” that day, neither did Jesus Christ. As stated earlier, he died and spent the next three days and three nights in the grave.

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  1. This is very good reasoning, and, explaining. Thank you for sharing.I love it when I see people going beyond what a thing would mean in present day speech and in their culture, and, they strive, instead, to understand what it would mean and how it should have been translated, based on the time and culture in which it was said.

    It’s like the whole story of “the good Samaritan”. It was always good to hear, but, it didn’t mean nearly as much to me, until I studied the Bible, on my own and with others, to the point where I understood the significance of where each man was coming from. Then, it really opened up. Most people who told me that story, probably had no idea, their own self.

  2. Where is the definite article before the word, “paradise?” Also, I might mention that Paul was caught up to paradise, the third heaven.2 Cor.14:1, 2…

    1. I think you actually mean 2 Cor 12: 1,2. Paul’s usage of the phrase “caught up” is a reference to a vision he was given, but his language also indicates that he is not sure if this actually happened with his body or in his mind. It was probably so real that he was unsure which one it was. It is true that in verse 2 the text says heaven but in verse 4 he clarifies that it was Paradise.

  3. Thanks for the valuable explanation the debate is currently on over the same issue. Lets utilize the various versions of the bible.

  4. One’s understanding of Luke 23:43 is influenced by the punctuation used by the translator. There was no punctuation in the original Greek Bible manuscripts. The Encyclopedia Americana (1956, Vol. XXIII, p. 16) states: “No attempt to punctuate is apparent in the earlier manuscripts and inscriptions of the Greeks.” Not until the 9th century C.E. did such punctuation come into use. Should Luke 23:43 read, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (RS), or should it be, ‘Truly I say to you today, You will be with me in Paradise’? The teachings of Christ and the rest of the Bible must be the basis for determination, and not a comma inserted in the text centuries after Jesus said those words.
    The Emphasised Bible translated by J. B. Rotherham agrees with the punctuation in the New World Translation. In a footnote on Luke 23:43, German Bible translator L. Reinhardt says: “The punctuation presently used [by most translators] in this verse is undoubtedly false and contradictory to the entire way of thinking of Christ and the evildoer. . . . [Christ] certainly did not understand paradise to be a subdivision of the realm of the dead, but rather the restoration of a paradise on earth.”
    When would Jesus ‘get into his kingdom’ and fulfill his Father’s purpose to make the earth a paradise? The book of Revelation, written about 63 years after the statements recorded at Luke 23:42, 43 were made, indicates that these events were still in the future. (See pages 95-98, under “Dates,” also the main heading “Last Days.”)

  5. The Bible originally had NO punctuation marks. As such the Scripture found at Luke 23:43 was punctuated by some Monk in the early 17th Century to read:

    “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”

    But what if the comma, was after the word “today?”

    “I tell you the truth today, you will be with me in paradise.”

    Gives it an entirely differennt meaning and context! Hmmm?

  6. As the AKJV renders the text, Luke 23:43 states “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise”. The original Greek had no punctuation. To read it as “…I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise”, would contradict Jesus’ clear statement in John 20:17, “…touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father…” The text should be read as “…I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with me in paradise”, consistent with Jesus’ statement to Mary.

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