Re: SHMERON in Luke 23:43 (a long palinode)

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Sat Jan 15 2000 - 09:19:24 EST

Perhaps it's not that big an issue, but I did want to report to the list
that I have changed my thinking 180 degrees on this issue after reading
what Greg Stafford wrote yesterday and reviewing the archived list
correspondence--and in particular two messages from August 1, 1996 that I
shall cite below. Since this is our own publicly accessible list-archives,
I haven't felt any obligation to request permission from the original
senders to cite these messages.

I should add one other note: while I still believe that it is
grammatically--syntactically--legitimate to understand SHMERON with the
clause following it and qualifying the predicate ESHi MET' EMOU EN TWi
PARADEISWi--and I would expect that many will continue to prefer to read it
that way, I have personally come around to think that associating the
SHMERON with AMHN LEGW SOI is not only likely but that Jesus-saying here
cited in Luke's narrative seems better suited to its context. I'll add too,
that while some may have theological reasons for wanting to understand
SHMERON with ESHi MET' EMOU ..., my own thinking here has more to do with a
judgment of historical probability in the context.

At 10:42 AM -0500 1/14/00, wrote:
>In a message dated 01/14/2000 6:30:34 AM Pacific Standard Time,
> writes:
><< My own sense is that the preponderance of judgment in those discussions was
> that SHMERON should be understood to construe with ESHi--but this was by no
> means a unanimous judgment, and anyone seriously interested in the question
> ought to consider the arguments on both sides. >>

Greg posted some significant alternative considerations to what I stated
yesterday on this subject. After a careful re-reading of the archives this
morning again, I discovered that I had missed three messages from the end
of July and beginning of August 1996 because they were in my August 96
archive, while most of the messages on this topic were in the July 96
archive. I should now like to say that Greg's arguments are supported and
very much enhanced by two messages from August 1, 1996, one from Joan
Oaklands and another from John Albu.

I should add also that one thing about this text that's always struck me as
fascinating is that, IF one assumes that SHMERON belongs with ESHi (as I
have until now thought preferable), this Jesus-saying is surely
inconsistent with the generally-consistent futuristic eschatology of a
delayed Parousia which we find set forth in Luke. And while one may
occasionally find items in any one NT book that are hard to square with
other data in the same NT book, yet this is jarringly inconsistent, and the
more I've thought about it, the more unlikely the meaning derived from
understanding SHMERON with ESHi seems to me.

First: from John Oaklands:

At 12:36 PM +1000 8/2/96, wrote:
>Dear friends
>On the question of whether to place the comma to the left or to the right
>of 'today' in Luke 23:43, I have a good quality French translation (TOB)
>which some of you might know, which places the comma both to the left and
>to the right: "je te le dis, aujourd'hui, (it's in the middle too!) tu
>seras avec moi dans le paradis." I really amounts to placing the comma to
>the right of or after 'today'. However, there seem to be but few trans-
>lations which favor this rendering, for whatever that implies.
>>From my point of view, as I read the Greek passage under consideration, there
>would seem to be a couple of additional questions which might need to be
>sorted through if we are to come to any sort of reliable decision on what
>Jesus might have meant by these words. One is whether Jesus would have gone
>to the park or garden that day (se Xenophon's Anabasis re Cyrus, for example,
>for the use of the term in this sense--and probably the more correct sense).
>The other question I have--and here someone might be able to help me--is
>whether the thief would have died on that day. I fully realize that the
>answers to these questions one way or another do not necessarily bring any
>conclusive evidence with regard to the problem of the placement of the comma,
>but I do think they would somewhat influence our understaning of the offerr
>by Jesus to the thief and, not the least, of the Greek text itself.
>I have followed the discussion carefully and with interest and it seems to
>me ththat there is good Greek syntactical evidence for either point of
>view. At
>the same time I would see the evidence presented--and from my own study and
>research of the same--as weighing on the side of placing the comma after
>'today' -- or on both sides of it! That's just how I--and others--see it.
>Of course, I respect the other point of view.
>I guess I also come at it somewhat from being influenced by Gerhard von Rad's
>brilliant research--and other German scholars along with him--into the Hebrew
>thinking on death and the personality. In fact, I wrote an MA paper on this
>when I was in Michigan. There can be no doubt tt von Rad influences my
>thinking with regard to this Lukan passage. At the same time it is obviously
>difficult to read Greek in a vacuum.
>I have to say that I like the French translation quoted abovefor I
>consider that it well reflects the Hebrew--or Aramaic--thinking of the
>time. I would be
>most interested in your comments and evidences--pro or contra--with respect
>to what I have but briefly portrayed and addressed.
>John Oaklands

Second: from John Albu:

At 12:13 AM -0400 8/2/96, John Albu wrote:
>For the punctuation marks in Luke 23:43, three possibilities have been
>offered: to put a comma before the word "today," to put it after "today,"
>or to put a comma both before and after "today."--See "Understanding and
>Translating 'Today' in Luke 23.43," by J. Hong, published in "The Bible
>Translator," Vol. 46, 1995, pp. 408-417.
>Early Greek manuscripts had no punctuation, but occasionally it is found
>in some MSS, and this is the case here, where B (the Vatican 1209) has a
>lower point ((hypostigme) after semeron. Regarding the punctuation used by
>this MS, it was noted that in general "B has the higher point as a period,
>the lower point for a shorter pause." (A. T. Robertson, "A Grammar of the
>Greek New Testament," Nashville, 1934, p. 242) The ink of the uncial
>letters in codex B was at one time a faded brown color, and in a later
>century a scribe traced over many of the letters and punctuation marks.
>However, in Luke 23:43 the ink of the lower point is the same as the
>letters of the text, and thus it can be traced back to the fourth century
>The Vatican 1209 uses punctuation marks also in other places. Thus, at
>Romans 8:5, ABCL and 26 cursives have a point after sarka. Does anybody
>know any MS that displays some kind of punctuation in Luke 23:43, beside
>the Vatican 1209?
>The Curetonian Syriac (fifth century C.E.) renders Luke 23:43: "Amen,
>I say to thee to-day that with me thou shalt be in the Garden of
>Eden.'"--F. C. Burkitt, "The Curetonian Version of the Four Gospels," Vol.
>I, Cambridge, 1904.
>Below I am quoting from several Greek sources, in transliteration and
>providing an English translation. I would appreciate if improvements would
>be offered for the English renderings.
>Tines men houtos anaginoskousin* _Amen lego soi semeron*_ kai
>hypostizousin* eita epipherousin, hotiet' emou ese e to paradeiso._
>("Some indeed read this way: 'Truly I tell you today,' and put a comma;
>then they add: 'You will be with me in Paradise.'"--Hesychius of
>Jerusalem, an ecclessiastical writer who died about 434 C.E. Greek text
>found in Patrologia Graeca, Vol. 93, columns 432, 1433.
>Alloi de ekbiazontai to rhema, stizontes eis to <<Semeron,>> hin' e to
>legomenon toiouton* <<Amen ego soi semeron*>> eita to, <<met' emou ese
>en to paradeiso,>> epipherontes. ("But others press upon the saying,
>putting a punctuation mark after 'today,' so that it would be said
>this way: 'Truly I tell you today'; and then they add the expression:
>'You will be with me in Paradise.'")--Theophylact, an ecclessistical
>writer who died about 1112 C.E. Edition: Patrologia Graeca, Vol. 123,
>column 1104.
>alloi -- to rheton ekbiazontai* legousin gar dein hypostizontas (254:
>hypostizantas) anaginoskein* amen lego soi semeron*>> eith' houtos
>epipherein to* met' emou ese etc. ("Others press upon what is spoken;
>for they say it must read by putting a comma thus: 'Truly I tell you
>today,' and then adding the expression this way: 'You will be with me'
>etc.")--Scholia 237, 239, 254. Text found in Novum Testamentum Graece,
>editio octava critica maior, by C. Tischendorf, Vol. I, Leipzig, 1869,
>under Luke 23:43.
>kai eutys eipen moi hoti amen amen semeron lego soi, met' emou ese en
>to parad[eiso]. ("And immediately he said to me: 'Most truly today
>I tell you, You will be with me in Paradise.'")--Descent into Hades,
>an apocryphal writing of the fourth century C.E. Text found in Novum
>Testamentum Graece, editio octava critica maior, by C. Tischendorf, Vol.
>I, Leipzig,869, under Luke 23:43.
>ho de eipen auto* semeron lego soi aletheian hina se ekho eis ton
>parad[eison] met' emou. ("And he said to him: 'Today I tell you the
>truth, that I should have you in Paradise with me.'")--Gospel of
>Nicodemus (=Acts of Pilate)b287, an apocryphal writing of the fourth
>or fifth century C.E. Text found in Novum Testamentum Graece, editio
>octava critica maior, by C. Tischendorf, Vol. I, Leipzig, 1869, under
>Luke 23:43.
>Therefore, at least from the fourth century C.E. until well into the
>twelfth century C.E. there were readers who understood the text at Luke
>23:43 as "Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise." On
>that very day, when Jesus died, he was in Sheol or Hades, and not in
>Paradise. (Psalms 16:8-11; Acts 2:22-32) He was dead and in the tomb
>until the third day and was then resurrected as "the firstfruits" of the
>resurrection. (Acts 10:40; 1 Corinthians 15:20; Colossians 1:18) Thus, the
>word "today" at Luke 23:43 does not give the time of the evildoer's being
>with Jesus in Paradise.

Which makes me think again of one of my favorite Euripidean texts: hAI

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649

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