Paradise Must Be Kentucky


Luke 23:33-43

It’s deer hunting season in Kentucky, a paradise for some people and not a paradise for others.

It’s a weird thing but I really enjoy researching words and how they are translated from one language to another. Since there are often several potential meanings for one word when translating a Greek word into English, my question is always – why did translators choose one word and not another?

I’ve decided it depends primarily on what they want the text to say so that it complies with “traditional” theology. Let me show you a couple of words in the gospel text for Nov. 24 and the questions they raise for me.

One word is “paradise.” Today you will be with me in paradise. Why didn’t Jesus say, “Today you will be with me in heaven”? Are paradise and heaven the same thing or not?

I use a Greek concordance/dictionary at They’ve combined information from several other sources (Thayer’s, Strong’s, and Bullinger’s lexicon) to give short and long definitions for Greek words.

Large white-tailed deer buck     Here’s what I found about paradise. Among the Persians paradise was understood to be a grand enclosure or preserve, hunting-ground, park, shady and well-watered, in which wild animals were kept for the hunt; it was enclosed by walls and furnished with towers for the hunters. See? It’s Kentucky or Texas or Wisconsin or Colorado, etc. A preserve for deer and duck hunting is paradise for Duck Dynasty fans.

Does male testosterone plays too great a part in the decisions of translation?

Those for whom a hunting preserve is less than appealing, the other possibilities include (2) a garden, pleasure-ground; grove, park; thus for that delightful region, “the garden of Eden,” in which our first parents dwelt before the fall.

Ah, yes. Heavenly.

Oh but wait. Here’s a third one – (3) that part of Hades which was thought by the later Jews to be the abode of the souls of the pious until the resurrection. Paradise is a temporary place in Hades? That’s a fly in the soup of Protestant theology. Does this encourage a theology of purgatory? The thought of Jesus having to spend some time there isn’t very comforting – “you will be with me in paradise.”

And a fourth, (4) an upper region in the heavens:  According to the opinion of many of the church Fathers, the paradise in which our first parents dwelt before the fall still exists, neither on earth nor in the heavens, but above and beyond the world. That’s another image of the garden of Eden.

Revelation 2:7 says the tree of life is in the paradise of God and God will let us eat of it when we are victorious. I hope you like fruit with your venison.

I’m trying to finish up a book that will be the third in my In Living Color series, a series that focuses on interpretations of words in the Bible. This one will be called In Living Color: Heaven. I believe it will help you recognize heaven is nearer than you think. I’m not sure when it will be ready, maybe early 2014 – but there’s still much to do with it.

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     There are several other words in phrases that made me ask questions.

“Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.” The Greek word for “forgive” means to let go or send away. Why didn’t the translators have Jesus saying – “Father, send them away for they don’t understand what they are doing”? I do think Jesus was setting an example – the ultimate example – of what it requires to experience the kingdom of heaven in this short phrase because to forgive is the only way to stop the cycle of evil in the world. An eye for an eye retaliation is not justification for harming another person, no matter what they’ve done to you. It only perpetuates evil.

Then I ask: how do translators know that the two men crucified with Jesus were thieves? The Greek word is “malefactor” and defined as an evil-worker, the worker or author of evil, the action being prominent, a laborer for evil. They could have been murderers, sorcerers, adulterers, terrorists, etc., or common horse thieves like they hanged in the Wild West.

The only other place this Greek word is used is in 2 Timothy where Paul says he is chained like a malefactor. This isn’t going to change anyone’s theology, but why limit the two men on the crosses beside Jesus to being punished for thievery? Wouldn’t it be more dramatic to make it a murderer that Jesus was allowing into paradise?

The last word in question is “save.” You saved others, why don’t you save yourself? Most Christians have been conditioned to understand saved as being allowed through the pearly gates in the afterlife. Here it cannot mean that. Saved is a current state of being: to save, deliver, or preserve safe from danger, loss, or destruction. “Deliver yourself from this current danger.”

Unfortunately, and far too many times in other biblical contexts, saved gets extended to the afterlife. There’s a lot of salvation going on in this life. My fourth book in the series will focus on this.

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     Those are enough questions for today. I hope you can find some of your own answers to them.

“Today you will be with me in Kentucky.” I don’t know. It just doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it?

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