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"Positively I say to you, today ..."
Luke 23:43 - And Jesus said to him, "Positively I say to you, today you will be with Me in paradise."
The above is taken from my translation, the Analytical-Literal Translation (ALT). The "him" in the verse is, of course, the repentant thief on the cross. Someone asked me why it is the ALT puts the comma before "today" rather than after.
The person further pointed out that he had checked over 70 Bible versions and they all used the same punctuation. He wanted to know why. Below was my response:
The answer as to why the comma is directly after the first "you" is simple: The phrase "Positively, I say to you" or "Most positively, I say to you" (as it is translated in the ALT) occurs 76 times in the Gospels, always spoken by Jesus. In the other 75 occurrences, the comma is ALWAYS placed directly after the "you." Moreover, in none of these occurrences would it make any sense to include the next word before the comma.
So after punctuating the identical phrase in the identical manner 75 times, for consistency sake, it would only make sense to punctuate it the same way the 76th time.
Added to this simple grammatical explanation is the fact that it would make no sense whatsoever to include "today" in the introductory phrase. The word is completely redundant and unnecessary if punctuated that way. "Positively I say to you today, " When else is Jesus speaking, tomorrow?
Furthermore, remember the situation: Jesus is hanging on the cross. He is struggling for every breath. Every word He speaks would be difficult. So, after a lifetime of saying "Positively, I say to you" (pause), it would make no sense for Him to now, as He is struggling for every breath, to change His lifetime pattern and add the completely unnecessary word "today" before the pause. But after the pause, it makes perfect sense. There, the word does have meaning.
Specifically, in the Greek text, the word "today" is the first word in the second phrase of Jesus words in the Greek text. In Greek usage, placing a word first in a clause is done to emphasize the word. Here, Jesus is emphasizing that immediately upon his death, the thief would be with Him in paradise.
And finally, the colloquial equivalent to "Positively, I say to you" would be something like, "Let me tell you the truth." And I don't ever see myself saying "Let me tell you the truth today (pause) ...." In other words, no one today would include the word "today" in an introductory phrase. Again, it is simply redundant and unnecessary. And I doubt very much anyone in Jesus' time did either.
Of course, there is ONE English version which does put the comma after the "today" in Luke 22:43 - the New World Translation, the "Bible" of Jehovah's Witnesses. But their reason for doing so is their preconceived theology, not grammar. JWs do not believe the righteous go directly to "paradise" after death. They believe people enter a state of non-existence at death, only to be "re-created" at the resurrection.
However, even in the NWT, every place else the phrase occurs, the comma is placed directly after "you." So the burden of proof would be on them to prove why the phrase should be punctuated differently this one time and to explain why Jesus would have changed His lifetime practice while at the point of death.
So the reason the ALT and most every other version places the comma before "today" is consistency and simple logic. There really is no reason to place the comma after "today" - unless someone is trying to uphold their pre-conceived theology.
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