Luke 23:43 (meaning of PARADEISOS)

Steven Lo Vullo slovullo at
Wed Oct 9 02:35:30 EDT 2002

On Friday, October 4, 2002, at 02:40 AM, Jonathan Burke wrote:

> I see no great difficulty here.  The PARADEISOS (literallly 'garden'), 
> is a
> concept which is found consistently in both Jewish and Christian 
> thought.

I think you are confusing the term PARADEISOS with a broader view of 
eschatology, with which it is neither synonymous nor coextensive.

I offer the following comments not by way of theological argumentation, 
but in order to get a better handle on what PARADEISOS could 
legitimately have meant to Jesus and the thief to whom he was speaking.

> -  In the Old Testament Jewish eschatology, we find the
> 'reward-of-the-faithful' described as the earth as a restored Eden in 
> the
> age to come - what is called today Gan Eden (the garden of Eden), in 
> the
> Olam HaBa (the age to come).

In the LXX, PARADEISOS (which is, after all, the word with which we are 
concerned, which I fear you have lost sight of) is used 34 times, in 
most cases to translate Hebrew GAN (masculine and feminine), "garden." 
The exceptions that I know of are Neh 2.8 and Song 4.13 (where it 
translates P.ARD."S), 2 Chron 33.20 (which does not follow the Hebrew 
text), and the uses found in the Apocrypha, additions, etc. (which have 
no Hebrew original, or at least no extant Hebrew original). In Gen 2-3 
and Ezek 28.13; 31.8f. it is used for the garden of Eden. Elsewhere it 
is used to describe locations that are or will be *like* the garden of 
Eden (Gen 13.10 [hWS hO PARADEISOS TOU QEOU]; Is 51.3 [hWS PARADEISON 
KURIOU]; Joel 2.3 [hWS PARADEISOS TRUFHS]). From the OT evidence, and 
anticipating later Jewish and Christian literature, there are two 
crucial things to note:

(1) PARADEISOS (which in Luke 23.43 is clearly used as a toponym) is 
never in the LXX used as a toponym for an eschatological, renewed 
earth. The closest we come is Is 51.3 (cf. Ezek 36.35), where Zion's 
desolate places will be made hWS PARADEISON KURIOU ("like [the] Garden 
of [the] Lord"). The rejuvenated waste places are not *called* 
Paradise, they are said to be made *like* Paradise. While this may seem 
like nit-picking, it is a real and important distinction, and one that 
is crucial to keep in mind as we encounter later literature, which uses 
PARADEISOS as a toponym and in a much more restrictive sense than you 
appear to recognize.
In addition, to say, as you do above, "we find the 
'reward-of-the-faithful' described as the earth *as* a *restored* Eden 
in the age to come" is not strictly correct. It is not *as* a 
*restored* Eden, but *like* the *original* Eden.

(2) There is the unanswered question in the OT as to just what happened 
to the Garden of Eden, i.e., "Paradise." Though entrance was barred, we 
do not know the ultimate destiny of the Garden. As we shall see, this 
mystery will be exploited by later writers, who believed that it never 
ceased to exist. Though it is now hidden, it will someday be 
"revealed." And there is nothing in the OT eschatological perspective 
to necessarily contradict this. What is crucial to understand is that 
there later develops a very strong current of thought that considers 
Paradise to exist *now*, prepared already in heaven for its unveiling. 
It is not that it will be *restored* in the form of a new earth (though 
there will be a new earth that has many of its qualities), but rather 
that it will be *revealed* eschatologically. In much of extra-biblical 
Jewish and Christian thought, Paradise is distinct, though not 
separate, from the renewed earth. As will become obvious, this opens 
the door to attendant ideas that give us a more complete insight into 
what a 1st century Jew may have understood by the term PARADEISOS. Some 
of these ideas are clearly expressed in the NT, though noticeably 
stripped of the bizarre trappings of many of these extra-biblical 

> -  In the post-exilic and extra-Biblical 1st century texts, we find 
> the same
> concept

I think this continues the confusion of a broad eschatological 
perspective with the much narrower meaning of PARADEISOS.

Rather than strictly adhere to a timeline, I will follow an outline 
based on distinct categories of literature, dealing with the NT last, 
in order to tie things together and bring them to bear on the issue at 
hand. Though this is not intended to be an exhaustive or even 
comprehensive cataloguing, I think it will at least give us a good 
taste of what PARADEISOS could conjure up in the minds of a 1st century 
Jew or Christian.

First, there is the Pseudepigrapha to consider. I'll start with some of 
the most basic descriptions of Paradise and move to the more developed, 
though this does not necessarily mean that I will be moving in 
chronological order. Note that I am keying in on the terms "Paradise" 
and "Garden of Eden." We must stay focused on the term in question and 
its demonstrable synonyms if we are to gain a better understanding of 
what PARADEISOS would evoke in the mind of a contemporary of Jesus.

In 2 Baruch 4 (early 2nd century A.D.) the Paradise that God decided to 
create and was subsequently taken away from Adam is preserved with God, 
along with the heavenly Jerusalem, which itself was *prepared* 
beforehand from the time God decided to make Paradise, *preserved* with 
him along with Paradise, and removed from Adam along with Paradise.

According to 4 Ezra 4.7-8 (c. A.D. 100) Paradise exists now, and is 
either equated with heaven or is in heaven; its fruit "abides" 
unspoiled (7.123). It shall be *revealed* at the final judgment along 
with Gehenna (7.36).

1 Enoch 60.8 (1st century B.C./1st century A.D.) speaks of the garden 
of Eden, "wherein the elect and righteous ones dwell, wherein my 
grandfather was taken, the seventh from Adam."

2 Enoch 8-9 (late 1st century A.D.?) relates that Enoch was led to the 
third heaven, where he was placed in Paradise or was in a position from 
where he could see Paradise. Paradise, wherein is the tree of life, 
exists between corruptibility and incorruptibility and is kept by 300 
angels and "prepared" for the "righteous and compassionate" for 
"eternal inheritance." This is contrasted by the place of torture in ch 
10, also prepared as an "eternal inheritance" for the wicked.

According to the Life of Adam and Eve (original composition probably c. 
A.D. 100) Adam dies (his spirit leaves his body) and his spirit is 
washed in Lake Acheron and taken up into the third heaven, identified 
as "Paradise," while his body and that of Abel are prepared for burial 
in the spot where Adam's body had been formed at creation (ApMos 32-37).

The Testament of Abraham (1st/2nd century A.D.) pictures "the 
first-formed Adam" rejoicing as many souls of the dead ("destroyed" by 
righteous Abraham, ch 10) enter the strait gate, the gate of the 
righteous that leads to Paradise (chap 11). After the intercession of 
Abraham and Michael, one soul that was "in the middle" between the 
place of punishment and the place of salvation is saved and carried up 
to Paradise by a light-bearing angel (ch 14).

Based on the above (and additional materials) the NIDNTT can rightly 

"In later Judaism there were many varied speculations about the 
paradise of Gen. 2 and 3. It was assumed that it was created before 
time, or on the third day of creation, and that in consequence of 
Adam’s sin it was removed and hidden either at the extreme edges of the 
earth, on a high mountain or in heaven. It is located in the third 
heaven (Ap.Mos. 37:5 and Sl.Enoch 8:1).... paradise becomes the 
dwelling-place of the righteous during the intermediate state.... In 
the renewed creation paradise will again emerge from its concealment. 
God or the messiah will bring it, as the dwelling-place of the 
righteous and blessed, to the renewed earth, to Palestine, in the 
neighbourhood of Jerusalem. Taught by God himself, the righteous will 
study the Torah in paradise, and God will prepare for them the 
messianic meal. Above all, they may then enjoy the fruit of the tree of 

As far as the Early Church Fathers are concerned, we have in the 
Fragments of Papias (written c. A.D. 130) a pertinent assertion about a 
common understanding of PARADEISOS in the early church. Papias asks, 
"Where then was the first man placed?" The answer is obviously paradise 
(EN TWi PARADEISWi DHLONOTI), just as it is written in Gen 2.8. From 
there Adam was expelled into this world (EXEBLHQH EIS TONDE TON KOSMON; 
note the distinction between "paradise" and "this world"). From this he 
infers the following:


"Therefore the elders, the disciples of the Apostles, also say that 
those who were translated were translated there (for paradise was 
prepared for righteous and inspired men; where the apostle Paul also 
was carried in, and 'heard words unspeakable,' to us at least in this 
present life), and that those who are translated will remain there 
until the end of all things, as a prelude to immortality."

Note what this has in common with the pseudepigraphical literature we 
perused earlier: Paradise exists NOW, prepared for the righteous. Those 
who were translated are there, and will remain there until the end. 
This is the place to which the Apostle Paul was caught up and received 
revelation, just like those seers in the Pseudepigrapha.

When we come to the NT, it is not hard to identify many of the above 
ideas. For example, in the book of Revelation Paradise is closely 
associated with the heavenly New Jerusalem (Rev 22.1-3, 14f., 19), as 
in 2 Baruch 4. Neither Paradise nor the City are identified with a 
restored earth, but are rather distinguished from the new heavens and 
new earth in that the New Jerusalem (in which is Paradise) is 
*prepared* (hHTOIMASMENHN) and *comes down* (KATABAINOUSAN; cf. Rev 
3.12) from God out of heaven *to* the new earth (Rev 21.1f.). According 
to Revelation 2.7, the tree of life *is* (ESTIN, present tense) in the 
Paradise of God (EN TWi PARADEISWi TOU QEOU). So the idea of a 
preexistent Paradise being *revealed* eschatologically is clearly 
present. What is important to note is that Paradise exists NOW and that 
it is NOT synonymous with either the new earth or the kingdom of 
God/Christ (cf. Rev 1.6, 9; 5.10; 11.15; 12.10).

In 2 Cor 12.2 Paul says he was "caught up" (hARPAGENTA) as far as the 
"third heaven" (hEWS TRITOU OURANOU). As in some of the 
pseudepigraphical material above, Paul equates this with being "caught 
up" (hHRPAGH) into Paradise (EIS TON PARADEISON). Again it should be 
noted that Paradise is a place that exists NOW. Additionally, it is 
also a place that may be visited by human beings. And it is NOT 
synonymous with Christ's kingdom (cf. 1 Cor 15.24). Does anyone really 
think we could substitute EIS THN BASILEIAN TOU CRISTOU for EIS TON 
PARADEISON here, as if they are interchangeable?

This brings us to Luke 23.43. I intend to respond to one or more posts 
on this issue in the next few days, so I will only make a few 
observations at this point.

(1) As the above survey indicates, it is not possible to equate THN 
BASILEIAN SOU in Luke 23.42 with TWi PARADEISWi in v. 43. The two terms 
are simply not synonymous (cf. e.g., Luke 19.11ff.). Their meanings and 
connotations are very different. This means we must move in another 
direction from the idea that Jesus is simply giving the nod of approval 
to the criminal's request. In fact, I believe the context indicates a 
contrast rather than an identification. I'll address this later.

(2) Since paradise is a place of bliss that exists now, and since, 
according to popular thought, it was the abode of the souls or spirits 
of righteous human beings (see ApMos 32-37; TAb 10,11,14 above), we 
must take seriously the idea that what Jesus was promising the criminal 
was that he would be with Jesus in the renowned place of bliss that 
very day after death. This would be a particularly likely 
interpretation if Luke contains other indications of a belief that the 
righteous enter a place of bliss upon death, as I believe it does (cf. 
Luke 16.19ff.). More about this later.

(3) If SHMERON in Luke 23.43 is to be construed with what follows, the 
above interpretation is practically certain. I suspect this is what is 
behind much of the frenzy to construe SHMERON with what precedes. But 
even if SHMERON is to be construed with what precedes, this still does 
not rule out the above understanding of PARADEISOS and the idea that 
Jesus was promising the criminal that he would be with Jesus in 
Paradise upon death.

More about all this later.

Steven R. Lo Vullo
Madison, WI

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