Luke 23:43

nick lunn nick_lunn at
Tue Oct 1 08:22:32 EDT 2002

(1) 'I say to you, today you shall be with me in paradise'
(2) 'I say to you today, you shall be with me in paradise'

As the early Greek MSS had no punctuation either of these is permissible. 
The question is: Does 'today' (SHMERON) begin the second clause or end the 
first? Most English versions opt for the first of these two alternatives. 
Here are a few considerations which make the second a viable option:

1. 'I X to you today' is a recognised Hebrew/Aramaic idiom, where X is a 
verb of speech or declaration. The function of the idiom is to stress the 
truth or the certainty of the affirmation that follows these words. The 
word 'today' in this case is simply part of the formula and there is no 
focus upon the particular day when it was spoken. This idiom is common in 
Deuteronomy (e.g. 4:26; 8:19; 30:18), but also appears in other Old 
Testament books (1 Sam 12:5; 1 Kgs 1:51). That this idiom was still in use 
in New Testament times is shown by the fact that it is attested in certain 
Palestinian Aramaic legal documents dating from the 1st century.

2. It is evident that Luke, though a Gentile, knew this idiom, as it occurs 
in the book of Acts. In 20:26 the apostle Paul says, 'I testify to you this 
day'. In this case the ambiguity of whether 'this day' belongs with what 
precedes or follows is removed by the use of the complementizer HOTI, which 
Luke places AFTER 'this day' in keeping with the Semitic idiom.

3. In the translation of Luke 23:43 in the Curetonian MS of the Old Syriac 
Gospels the Syriac equivalent of HOTI is used - the particle /d/ 'that'. 
And the translators, no doubt familiar with a Semitic idiom, placed this 
particle AFTER 'today'.

4. The writings of Luke show a preference for adverbial SHMERON in the 
final position. Altogether, according to my reckoning, there are 25 
occurrences of adverbial SHMERON in the New Testament, in 14 it is initial, 
in 11 it is final. And, significantly, of these 11, no less than 9 are in 
Luke-Acts. Interestingly, in one synoptic parallel, where Matthew (6:30) 
has 'today' + Participle, Luke's version (12:28) has Participle + 'today'. 
There is a clear tendency on Luke's part to place this word at the end.

5. According to the teaching of the early church (based on 1 Pet 3:19), 
after Christ died on the cross 'he descended into hell'. Equally, a case 
could be made that it was to 'hades' that he in fact went (cf. Acts 2:27). 
In either case it is not 'paradise'.

If 'today' is taken as clause-final, then the following clause begins with 
MET'EMOU, 'with me'. This occupies the prominent preverbal position - 'WITH 
ME you shall be in paradise'. This is appropriate as a response to the 
request of the thief that Jesus remember him. (Then 'in paradise' would 
correspond to 'when you come into your kingdom').

I am not here arguing for the second alternative above. I just present 
certain facts for discussion.

Nick Lunn
Wycliffe Bible Translators
Nairobi, Kenya

______________________________ Reply Separator _________________________________
Subject: [b-greek] Re: Luke 23:43
Author:  <kopio at> at Internet
Date:    9/30/02 1:15 PM

Hello All,
Carl Conrad wrote;
I'd also note that there are some, perhaps many (myself included), who think 
that SHMERON in Lk 23:43 belongs with AMHN SOI LEGW. Of course, this does 
indeed run counter to Iver's assertion that there is no final-position 
emphasis in Greek word-order, but that's one of the points on which we 
continue to disagree.
I'm curious why you preffer SHMERON belonging with AMHN SOI LEGW instead of 
met emou esh en tw paradeisw.
I can see that the syntax could really read either way.  Can you explain to 
me your grammatical/syntactical reasons for preffering the first reading?
Matthew T. Williams
kopio at
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