Luke 23:43

Iver Larsen iver_larsen at
Tue Oct 1 03:34:30 EDT 2002

Carl: Rather than repeat the arguments, I think I'll suggest that you and
> others interested in the matter consult in the archives the
> message I wrote
> after changing my mind on this issue. It's dated Jan 15, 2000 and has the
> subject-header, "Re: SHMERON in Luke 23:43 (a long palinode)"

There was also a thread beginning April 3, 2001.
It is one of those questions we may never solve. It has been debated from at
least the 4th century as one of the postings indicates. The fourth century
manuscript B apparently had a small dot after SHMERON, indicating that the
one who produced this manuscript interpreted SHMERON as going with LEGW.

Of course, it is an interesting question for Bible translators, so I re-read
the article by Dr. Joseph Hong in the Bible Translator, vol. 46,4. He
surveys the commentators and various linguistic evidence from the NT and the
LXX. He says that the majority opinion is clearly in favour of taking
SHMERON with what follows, but in order to make a translation that is
acceptable to all denominations, one can try to make the translation so
ambiguous that both readings are possible. In some languages that may be
possible, in others not. If not, the recommendation is to put one reading in
the text and another in a footnote.
That leaves the question which reading to put in the text.

For a number of years I have considered the possibility of taking SHMERON
with LEGW as the most likely option, but as I have been able to do more
consistent studies recently with the help of computerized databases, the
pendulum has swung for me, so now I am fairly confident that the majority
view is correct, in spite of the Vaticanus MS. I have reviewed the arguments
in the archives, and it appears that Carl's reasoning is mainly theological
since he connects PARADEISOS with the PAROUSIA. I don't accept that
connection, since in my understanding PARADEISOS at the time of Jesus
referred to the place where the spirits of the saved people (or righteous
people from the OT context) came to after death, wherever that place was. It
would then be equivalent to the "bosom of Abraham" from a Jewish
perspective. I won't go further into theological reasoning and I only
mention this because Carl's main argument seems to be theological.

However, let me take a look at the phrase AMHN (AMHN) LEGW hUMIN/SOI:

The double AMHN occurs only, but consistently, in John's Gospel. The
repetition is such a marked Hebrew feature that it is understandable why
John should use it, and it is likely that Jesus actually used the repetition
which was then reduced to one in the other gospels to make it more natural
Greek. This feature is not relevant for the issue.

Of the 75 times the above phrase occurs in the NT, 66 have hUMIN and 9 have
SOI. (The phrase does not occur in the LXX). The word order is always the
one given above with AMHN (AMHN) first to show the importance of the
statement, then LEGW to indicate that it is Jesus who makes this statement
and it is therefore trustworthy. (Alternatively we can say that this is the
default position of the verb and the ind. object follows because there is no
particular emphasis on it, that is no reason to front it.) Finally the
person(s) spoken to. But, there is one exception to this very standard
order, and that is Luke 23:43 - AMHN SOI LEGW. It sticks out like a sore
thumb. One out of 75.

Why the difference? I think it is simple enough. The fronted SOI here
indicates contrast. Two criminals were talking to or about Jesus. One of
them made the statement of belief that the Kingdom of Jesus was indeed a
spiritual kingdom rather than an earthly one. It is this person and not the
other one who would come with Jesus to PARADEISOS. The second one would end
in Gehenna after his death.

In all the 75 occurrences a qualifying adverb is never added, SHMERON or any
other. This, to me, is very compelling evidence. To add SHMERON to "I say to
YOU" is not only redundant, but unprecedented. On the other hand it makes
good sense to have it included with MET' EMOU ESHi EN TWi PARADEISWi. Not
only will Jesus remember the criminal some day in the distant future when he
comes in his kingdom as the criminal had asked for, but already SHMERON he
will in spirit join the spirit of Jesus after death in PARADEISOS.

So, I am not really basing my reasoning on SHMERON upon Greek word order. It
is an added argument, but not the only one.

Iver Larsen

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