Punctuation Is Important

Speaking of punctuation (were we?), this is part of a conversation I had with a friend some time ago:

Just when did the second thief find himself in “Paradise” with Yehoshua (“Jesus”)? Just what does Luke 23:43 actually say?

Here’s the standard Greek text:

Ἀμήν σοι λέγω, σήμερον μετ’ ἐμοῦ ἔσῃ ἐν τῷ παραδείσῳ.

Literally: Truly to you I am saying today with me you will be in the Paradise (or in the Park).

King James Version: Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.

But if there is to be a comma, does it belong before or after “today”? The KJV and other standard renderings place a comma before “today.” That seems to mean that the thief would be in Paradise with Jesus on the day the words were spoken. But the New Testament states that Jesus was in a tomb from Friday afternoon and did not rise from the dead until early Sunday morning; and the traditional view is that he ascended into Heaven 40 days after the Resurrection. For these reasons, some have argued that the comma should be placed after “today” – “I am saying to you today, you will [at some future time] be with me in Paradise.”

There has been a lot of arguing and writing about this (including the claim by the traditionalists that “Paradise” and “Heaven” are not the same place). However, I don’t want to go into any of that. I just want to comment on the “comma thing.” Why should there be controversy about where the comma should go?

The oldest New Testament manuscripts are written in Greek Uncial script. Uncials are something like upper-case letters. And in the oldest NT Uncials, in addition to the text being presented in “all caps,” there are no spaces between letters, words, or paragraphs. There are also no accent, breathing, or punctuation marks. So the Uncial presentation of Luke 23:43 looks (something) like this:

AMHNCOIΛEΓΩCHMEPONMETEMOΥECHENTΩΠAPAΔEICΩ

If this were in English, it would look like this:

TRULYTOYOUIAMSAYINGTODAYWITHMEYOUSHALLBEINTHEPARADISE

No comma. Which day? When?