Friday, May 27, 2011

Question #42

Jesus uses the phrase "Truly I say to you,..." over 50 times in the Bible. In the NWT, the comma is placed after the word "you" every time except in Lk 23:43, where the comma is placed after the word "today". Why is the comma placed after "today" instead of after "you" in this verse? If the translation of this phrase in Lk 23:43 was consistent with the translation of this phrase in all the other verses in which it appears (see concordance), and the comma was placed after the word "you", how would it read?

The questioner surely knows that the original Greek did not have punctuation such as commas. The modern language translators must insert commas and other punctuation marks according to the context and known rules of grammar.

The translators of the New World Translation were consistent in their use of commas as regards punctuating the phrase in question. For a certainty, the phrase “truly I say to you today” only occurs once in the Gospels. The questioner seems to imply that the phrase is more common than that and that the NWT inconsistently inserts a comma in one place. This is misleading. Typically, Jesus’ phrase is rendered simply: “truly I say to you.” However, on a few occasions Jesus said “truly I say to you men,” or “truly I say to you people,” - in those instances the comma appears after “men” and “people,” which is consistent with the way it is rendered at Luke 23:43.

Besides merely the mechanical process of inserting punctuation according to rules of grammar, honest translators should also be aware of the intent and meaning on the passage. In the instance of Luke 23:43 most translations render that verse in a way that might give an uneducated person the impression that Jesus was telling the thief that he would be with Christ in paradise that very day. Of course, that is not what Jesus intended to say at all. Jesus did not go to paradise that day. Everyone who has read the account of Jesus’ death surely knows that Jesus died that very day. Instead of paradise Jesus went to Hell, at least according to the King James Bible.

Jehovah’s Witnesses, of course, understand that Jesus was simply in the grave for parts of three days. On the third day Jehovah resurrected Jesus from death. This is the basic, essential truth of the Scriptures. To imply that Jesus and the thief were any place other than in the grave betrays a massive ignorance of a very simple truth. And those who know otherwise but who insist on propping up a fiction by inserting a comma where it does not belong are dishonest and deceptive and have no credibility.

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