Question for Dr. Saleska:

Jesus told the dying thief: “Verily I say unto you, today you will be with me in paradise-” (Luke 23:43) or did he? Jesus descended into hell and rose the third day. Was the thief with Jesus? I don’t think so. The statement should read, “Verily I say unto you today, you will be with me in paradise (some day); comma after today, not before.

Dr. Saleska’s Response

The original Greek does not have punctuation, and the only translation I could find that places the comma after “today” is the New World Translation (Watchtower). There may be others, but I was unable to locate any. The reason that almost all translators place the comma before “today” is because of the expression by Christ: “Verily I say unto you…” That expression, used exclusively by Christ, occurs approximately 100 times in the Gospels and its intent is always to emphasize the statement that follows; in this case, “…today you shall be with me in paradise.” This is the strongest reason for placing the comma where almost all translators throughout the history of the church have placed it. It fits the meaning and intent of Christ’s promise to the thief that he would be with him that day in paradise. Christ wants him to be certain of that. If the comma is placed after “today” i.e. “verily I say unto you today, you shall be with me in paradise” the word “today” is superfluous. It is obviously “today,” there is no reason to say it; it confuses the meaning and intent. Also, why would Christ change the formula “verily I say unto you” emphasizing what follows, in just this one instance, when it is stated with the specific purpose I have indicated, everywhere else?

The New World Translation (Watchtower) which I mentioned above places the comma after “today” to accommodate a theology which teaches that the dead cease to exist except, perhaps, in the mind of God. The statement that the thief would be with Christ that very day clearly undermines that unbiblical theology. By the way, this is not the only alteration of the Scriptures that the New World Translation uses to accommodate Watchtower theological presuppositions.

Finally, Christ’s descent into hell belongs to his state of exultation not his humiliation. That is, Christ descended into hell not to suffer, but to announce his victory over the evil ones and the damned who had scorned and rejected him. He showed them that he was alive. He proved to them that he was who he claimed to be – the eternal Son of God, very God of very God, and that he had conquered death. He demonstrated that he had fulfilled Genesis 3:15 by crushing the enemy’s head. “He made a show of them openly, having triumphed over them.” (Col. 2:15, 1 Peter 3:18-20) It is evident that in defeating death he had come alive. To be with Christ is to be in Paradise. This means that the thief had the comfort, the hope, the joy of Paradise. The thief, then, could be, and was, alive with him that very day and had all that being alive in Christ entails.