For my blog post today about Bart Ehrman’s The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, I have two items, both of which feature in Ehrman’s discussion about Luke 23:42-43. The setting for Luke 23:42-43 is Jesus’ crucifixion. It reads (in the KJV): “And [the thief on the cross] said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
1. When I look at two Greek texts on my BibleWorks, I see two readings of Luke 23:42. In the BGT, the thief asks Jesus to remember him when Jesus comes into his kingdom. In the Byzantine text, however, the thief asks Jesus to remember him when Jesus comes in his kingdom. According to Ehrman, the former reading is earlier, whereas the latter reading reflects an alteration that was made for a theological purpose, namely, to emphasize (against so-called heretics) that Jesus will come back bodily in the future. The former reading has more of a feel of a realized eschatology: Jesus will come into his kingdom after he dies, meaning the kingdom already exists. The latter reading, however, has more of a futuristic eschatology: Jesus will one day come in his kingdom. Ehrman states that there is one codex Bezae that takes this futuristic eschatology even further, as it presents the thief saying, “Remember me in the day of your coming.”
Ehrman believes that the reading in which Jesus comes into his kingdom is earlier. It’s attested in “the best of our Alexandrian witnesses”, and it is consistent with Luke’s overall eschatology, in which the kingdom is already present. Ehrman also points out that the reading in which Jesus comes in his kingdom does not exactly mesh well with its immediate context, for Jesus tells the thief that “Today you will be with me in paradise”, showing that the context was about something more immediate, not something in the future. (That verse is interpreted differently within Armstrongite and Seventh-Day Adventist circles, which believe that the dead are unconscious between the time of death and the resurrection of the last day. Essentially, they believe the comma should be in a different place so that the verse would read: “Verily I say to you today, you shall be with me in paradise.)
2. On page 234, Ehrman describes Luke’s eschatology, as he understands it:
“”Indeed, for Luke the disciples do see the Kingdom of God, but not its having come in power. In the mission of the seventy, the kingdom of God has ‘come near’ (10:9, 11); in Jesus’ own mission, it is said to have ‘arrived’ (11:20) and thus already to be ‘in your midst’ (17:21). Even in Luke, though, these experiences of the kingdom are proleptic of the final denouement in which the kingdom is to come in a decisive act of history at the end of the age (Luke 21:7-32). The tragic experiences of the world prior to that coming of the kingdom are mirrored in the experiences of Luke’s Jesus, whose own tragedy comes in his martyrdom. Moreover, just as the world experiences a proleptic vision of God’s kingdom (in Jesus’ ministry) prior to the eschatological woes that will finally usher it in, so too Jesus experiences and manifests this kingdom before suffering and ‘entering into his glory’ (24:26).”
The Kingdom of God may have come at Jesus’ first advent in the sense that Jesus was the king of the kingdom, and that Jesus was giving people a foretaste of what the kingdom at his second coming would be like: a time when demons are subordinated and people are healed. I wonder, though, why Jesus would come and give people a foretaste of a future kingdom that would come millennia in the future (maybe even beyond that). What would be the point? Maybe Jesus in Luke thought that the future kingdom was imminent. That has been debated. See here.