Caesar: See study note on Mt 22:17.
Are you the King of the Jews?: All four Gospel accounts record the same question by Pilate in precisely the same words. (Mt 27:11; Mr 15:2; Lu 23:3; Joh 18:33) No king in the Roman Empire could rule without Caesar’s consent. So Pilate apparently concentrated his interrogation on the issue of Jesus’ kingship.
You yourself are saying it: See study note on Mt 27:11.
a splendid garment: It is possible that Herod Antipas, a nominal Jew and the district ruler of Galilee and Perea, might have taken one of his own splendid, possibly white, royal garments to dress Jesus up as a mock King of the Jews before sending him back to Pilate. The Greek word used here for “garment” (e·sthesʹ) usually had reference to a robe or garment that was ornate. Angels appeared in such attire. (Lu 24:4; see also Jas 2:2, 3.) This Greek word is also used to describe the royal “raiment” worn by Herod Agrippa I. (Ac 12:21) The Greek word here rendered “splendid” (lam·prosʹ) comes from a word meaning “to shine.” When used of garments, it refers to a fine garment and sometimes to shining or white garments. This is apparently a different garment from the scarlet cloak, also called a purple robe, with which Pilate’s soldiers later clothed Jesus at the governor’s residence. (Mt 27:27, 28, 31; Joh 19:1, 2, 5; see study notes on Mt 27:28; Mr 15:17.) Herod, Pilate, and the Roman soldiers apparently had the same intention when clothing Jesus with these two different garments—to mock him as the so-called King of the Jews.—Joh 19:3.
Some manuscripts here read: “Now he was under necessity to release one man to them from feast to feast,” but these words do not appear in several early authoritative manuscripts and were apparently not part of the original text of Luke. A few other manuscripts add these words after verse 19. Similar verses with a slightly different wording do appear at Mt 27:15 and Mr 15:6, where there is no uncertainty regarding the text. It is thought that copyists added these words here in Luke as an explanation based on the parallel accounts in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.
release Barabbas to us: This incident described at Lu 23:16-25 is mentioned by all four Gospel writers. (Mt 27:15-23; Mr 15:6-15; Joh 18:39, 40) Matthew, Mark, and John add, however, that the governor customarily released a prisoner in connection with the festival.—See study notes on Mt 27:15; Mr 15:6; Joh 18:39.
Cyrene: A city located in North Africa near the coast, SSW of the island of Crete. (See App. B13.) It may be that Simon, though born in Cyrene, later settled in Israel.
when the tree is moist, . . . when it is withered: Jesus is apparently referring to the Jewish nation. It was like a dying tree that still had some moisture left, for Jesus was present and so were a number of Jews who believed in him. However, Jesus would soon be executed, and faithful Jews would be anointed with holy spirit and become part of spiritual Israel. (Ro 2:28, 29; Ga 6:16) At that time, the literal nation of Israel would be spiritually dead, resembling a withered tree.—Mt 21:43.
criminals: The Greek word used here (ka·kourʹgos) literally means “one who engages in doing bad or evil.” The parallel accounts at Mt 27:38, 44 and Mr 15:27 describe the men as “robbers,” using the Greek word (lei·stesʹ), which may include robbing by using violence and at times could refer to bandits or revolutionaries. That word is also used of Barabbas (Joh 18:40), who according to Lu 23:19 was in prison for “sedition” and “murder.”
Skull: The Greek expression Kra·niʹon corresponds to the Hebrew name Golgotha. (See Joh 19:17 and study note on Mt 27:33.) The term “Calvary” is used here in some English Bible translations. It comes from the Latin calvaria, the word for “skull,” used in the Vulgate.
forgive them: The context does not say for whom Jesus made this request, but he likely had in mind the crowd who called for his execution, some of whom repented a short time later. (Ac 2:36-38; 3:14, 15) Also, the Roman soldiers who nailed Jesus to the stake did not know or realize the gravity of what they were doing, being ignorant of who he really was. On the other hand, he would not have asked his Father to forgive the chief priests, who were responsible for his death. They knew exactly what they were doing when they conspired to kill Jesus. They handed him over because of envy. (Mt 27:18; Mr 15:10; Joh 11:45-53) Also, it is unlikely that he was asking his Father to forgive the criminals who were executed alongside him, since neither of them was responsible for his death.
. . . doing: The first part of this verse is not included in certain ancient manuscripts. However, because these words are found in other early authoritative manuscripts, they are included in the New World Translation and numerous other Bible translations.
sour wine: See study note on Mt 27:48.
an inscription over him: Some manuscripts make additions that could be rendered: “(written) in letters of Greek and Latin and Hebrew.” However, these words do not occur in early authoritative manuscripts, and it is thought that copyists added these words in order to agree with Joh 19:20.
hanging: The Greek verb used here is, not stauroʹo (“to execute on a stake”), but kre·manʹny·mi (“to hang”). In connection with Jesus’ execution, this verb is used with the phrase e·piʹ xyʹlou (“on a stake or tree”). (Ga 3:13; see study note on Ac 5:30.) In the Septuagint, the verb is often used to describe hanging a person on a stake or a tree.—Ge 40:19; De 21:22; Es 8:7.
Truly I tell you today,: The form of Greek script used in the earliest available manuscripts of the Christian Greek Scriptures is composed solely of capital letters. It did not contain spaces or punctuation as used in modern languages. Although some scribes did occasionally add some marks in the text that may have been for punctuation, such marks were not used often or consistently. Therefore, the punctuation in modern Bible translations is based on the grammar of the Greek text and the context of the verse. In this verse, the grammar of the Greek text allows for placing a comma (or a colon) either before or after the word “today.” However, the punctuation shown in renderings of Jesus’ statement depends on how translators understand the sense of what Jesus said and on what the Bible as a whole teaches. Scholarly editions of the Greek text like the ones prepared by Westcott and Hort, Nestle and Aland, and the United Bible Societies put a comma before the Greek word rendered “today.” However, placing the comma after “today” harmonizes with earlier statements that Jesus made and with teachings found elsewhere in the Scriptures. For example, Jesus said that he would die and be “in the heart of the earth”—the grave—until the third day. (Mt 12:40; Mr 10:34) On more than one occasion, he told his disciples that he would be killed and raised on the third day. (Lu 9:22; 18:33) Also, the Bible states that Jesus was resurrected as “the firstfruits of those who [had] fallen asleep in death” and that he ascended to heaven 40 days later. (1Co 15:20; Joh 20:17; Ac 1:1-3, 9; Col 1:18) Jesus was resurrected, not on the day that he died, but on the third day after his death, so it is evident that the criminal could not be with Jesus in Paradise on the same day that Jesus spoke to him.
In harmony with this reasoning, a fifth-century C.E. Syriac version of Luke’s account, known as the Curetonian Syriac, renders this text: “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. 1, Cambridge, 1904) It is also worth noting that both early and later Greek writers and commentators indicated that there were disagreements regarding how to render these words. For example, Hesychius of Jerusalem, who lived in the fourth and fifth centuries C.E., wrote regarding Lu 23:43: “Some indeed read in this manner: ‘Truly I tell you today,’ and put a comma; then they follow: ‘You will be with me in Paradise.’” (Greek text found in Patrologiae Graecae, Vol. 93, col. 1432-1433.) Theophylact, who lived in the 11th and 12th centuries C.E., wrote about some who argued for “putting a punctuation mark after ‘today,’ so that it would be said this way: ‘Truly I tell you today’; and then they follow with the expression: ‘You will be with me in Paradise.’” (Patrologiae Graecae, Vol. 123, col. 1104.) G. M. Lamsa, in the publication Gospel Light—Comments on the Teachings of Jesus From Aramaic and Unchanged Eastern Customs, pp. 303-304, says about the use of “today” at Lu 23:43: “The emphasis in this text is on the word ‘today’ and should read, ‘Truly I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise.’ The promise was made on that day and it was to be fulfilled later. This is a characteristic of Oriental speech implying that the promise was made on a certain day and would surely be kept.” Therefore, the Greek phrase at Lu 23:43 may reflect a Semitic way of expressing emphasis. The Hebrew Scriptures provide numerous examples of the idiomatic usage of “today” in solemn expressions, such as promises and commands. (De 4:26; 6:6; 7:11; 8:1, 19; 30:15; Zec 9:12) The evidence presented above suggests that Jesus used the word “today” to call attention, not to the time of the criminal’s being in Paradise, but to the time at which the promise was being made.
A number of translations, such as those in English by Rotherham and by Lamsa (1933 edition) and those in German by L. Reinhardt and by W. Michaelis, recognize that the emphasis is correctly placed on the time that the promise is being made rather than on the time that it is being fulfilled. Those translations render the text in a form similar to the reading of the New World Translation.
Paradise: The English word “paradise” comes from the Greek word pa·raʹdei·sos, and similar words can be found in both Hebrew (par·desʹ, at Ne 2:8; Ec 2:5; Ca 4:13) and Persian (pairidaeza). All three words convey the basic idea of a beautiful park or parklike garden. The translators of the Septuagint used the Greek term pa·raʹdei·sos to render the Hebrew word for “garden” (gan) in the expression “garden of Eden” at Ge 2:8. Some translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew (referred to as J17, 18, 22 in App. C) render Lu 23:43: “You will be with me in the garden of Eden.” This promise made to the criminal hanging next to Jesus was not the promise to be in “the paradise of God” mentioned at Re 2:7, since that promise was made to “the one who conquers,” that is, Christ’s corulers in the heavenly Kingdom. (Lu 22:28-30) This criminal was not a conqueror of the world with Jesus Christ; nor had he been “born from water and spirit.” (Joh 3:5; 16:33) He will evidently be one of “the unrighteous” who are resurrected as earthly subjects of the Kingdom when Christ rules over the Paradise earth for a thousand years.—Ac 24:15; Re 20:4, 6.
about the sixth hour: That is, about 12:00 noon.—See study note on Mt 20:3.
a darkness: This darkness was miraculous, caused by God. It could not have been caused by a solar eclipse, which occurs at the time of the new moon. This was Passover season, so the moon was full. And the darkness lasted for three hours, far longer than the longest possible total eclipse, which lasts less than eight minutes. Here in Luke’s account, the observation that “the sunlight failed” is included.—Lu 23:45.
the ninth hour: That is, about 3:00 p.m.—See study note on Mt 20:3.
curtain: See study note on Mt 27:51.
sanctuary: See study note on Mt 27:51.
I entrust my spirit: Jesus here quotes from Ps 31:5, where David is calling on God to guard, or care for, his spirit, or life force. This was a way of saying that he was putting his life in God’s hands. At his death, Jesus entrusted his life force to Jehovah; thus his future life prospects rested entirely with God.—See Glossary.
expired: The Greek verb ek·pneʹo (lit., “to breathe out”) could here also be rendered “breathed his last.” (See study note on Mt 27:50.) The Scriptures clearly show that when Jesus’ spirit went out, he was not on his way to heaven. He expired, or died. Jesus himself foretold that he would not be resurrected from the dead until “the third day.” (Mt 16:21; Lu 9:22) Then, as Ac 1:3, 9 shows, it was 40 days later that he actually ascended to heaven.
army officer: Or “centurion,” that is, one in command of about 100 soldiers in the Roman army. According to the parallel accounts in Matthew and Mark, he also acknowledged that Jesus “was God’s Son.”—Mt 27:54; Mr 15:39.
Joseph: See study note on Mr 15:43.
Arimathea: See study note on Mt 27:57.
tomb: See study note on Mt 27:60.
Preparation: See study note on Mt 27:62.
tomb: Or “memorial tomb.”—See Glossary, “Memorial tomb.”