I’m one of those Bible-believing Baptists who holds to the inerrancy of Scripture. But when I say I believe the Bible is without error I mean that inerrancy applies to the original autographs. In other words, while I believe wholeheartedly that you can absolutely trust the Bible you hold in your hand, there might be a few places where the translation misses the mark. This is what we mean when we speak of inerrancy.
There are consequences to this belief. One consequence is that if we believe that the only original manuscripts are fully inspired, authoritative and without error, it means we do not believe the verse divisions or punctuation in your Bible falls under that category. Those were not present in either the original Hebrew or the Greek. Those were added much later.
Don’t panic, though. It isn’t as if the places to put commas and punctuation isn’t incredibly obvious. We also have the work of copyists who lived much closer to the time of the original manuscripts and who would have been familiar with oral traditions. There really aren’t many significant questions about where to place punctuation. I’ll share with you today one particular verse where we might have the comma wrong.
In Luke 23, when Jesus was crucified, one of the criminals next to Jesus mocked him, but the other criminal defended Our Lord and asked Jesus to remember Him when he came into His kingdom. And Jesus responded to the criminal who had defended him with these words, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”
As it reads, Jesus would die that day and the two would be reunited that very same day in Paradise. Paradise is another name for the dwelling place of God. Personally, I believe it is synonymous with the New Jerusalem—the eternal home of the righteous. But even if you believe it’s some sort of holding tank before our ultimate place of glory, some still have a bit of an issue with reading the text with the comma where it is. Jesus wasn’t ascended to the Father until after His resurrection. So some have noted that the comma needs to move to read, “Truly, I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise.”
Grammatically it could be either. And truthfully I believe even theologically it could be either if we believe Jesus’ reference to Paradise is synonymous with something akin to Abraham’s bosom where all the righteous would go upon death. All of humanity would descend to “the grave” (Sheol) but the righteous would be with Abraham while the wicked were not (see Luke 16:19-31). My point, though, is that we really do not know for certain where the comma belongs. Therefore, it’s a good idea not to develop a whole theology centered around something a bit uncertain.
And that’s my major point, today. I’ve read sermons and articles and such where self-proclaimed Bible prophecy experts or theological teachers will put a massive amount of weight on the placement of a comma. One guy I read had his entire end times chart centered around the placement of commas and periods in the prophecy of Isaiah. That’s unwise. Those things aren’t inspired. They’re really about as inspired as commentaries. So keep that in mind when you are doing your Bible study.
This article originally appeared here.