WRIGHT WAY: The power of punctuation
by WILLIAM WRIGHT, Lifestyles Editor
Aug 16, 2013 | 6623 views | 0 0 comments | 220 220 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A nearsighted minister glanced at the note that Mrs. Jones had sent to him by an attendant. The note read: “Kenmore Jones having gone to sea, his wife desires the prayers of the congregation for his safety.”

The minister failed to observe the punctuation, however, and surprised the congregation when he read: “Kenmore Jones, having gone to see his wife, desires the prayers of the congregation for his safety.” Whoops!

Never let it be said that punctuation does not matter. For that matter, so does comprehension. Even the context and intentions behind expressions matter.

This was illustrated in a story about an English professor who wrote the following words on the blackboard: “Woman without her man is nothing.” He then asked that his students punctuate the sentence correctly.

The men wrote: “Woman, without her man, is nothing.”

The women wrote: “Woman. Without her, man is nothing.”

It’s amazing the difference punctuation makes in a statement. The translation of a sentence might read entirely different. Imagine what a daunting task it must be to translate the Bible.

The Apostle Paul wrote at 2 Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God...” and that is what I personally believe.

I do not believe, however, that the translators themselves are inspired by God, thus we have many translations or versions of the Bible. Some translations adhere more closely to what is in the original languages than others.

Some translators, like those students, allow personal beliefs to influence their renderings while other translators may have made a few honest mistakes.

Consider the translation of Luke 23:43, where Jesus was comforting a criminal before both their deaths.

That Greek sentence was translated, “And Jesus said unto him verily I say unto thee today shalt thou be with me in paradise” and translators had to determine where to punctuate that sentence.

Many translations punctuated it this way: “And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” - King James Version.

But wait a second. Did Jesus himself go to paradise on that day? 1Corinthians 15:4 said of Jesus, “... that he was buried and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.”

Jesus did not go to paradise on the same day he died. In fact, after he rose on the third day, Acts 1:1-3 spoke of “... all that Jesus began both to do and teach until the day in which he was taken up ... being seen of them forty days ...”

If Jesus did not go to paradise on that day, some translators concluded he could not be telling the repentant criminal, “Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.” So another translation rendered Luke 23:43 with a different punctuation; “Truly I tell you today, you will be with me in paradise.” Is this reasonable? You decide.

Keep in mind that Jesus had said at John 3:5, "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Did this criminal meet those requirements? So where would he be with Jesus and when? How important it is to reason on the Scriptures. Do you enjoy doing so?

Many students of the Bible use several translations to get the full flavor of the inspired scriptures. Some Bible translations even explain why specific texts are translated a certain way. These different versions may help us reason on puzzling scriptures. Then too, others have accepted Bible studies to increase in accurate knowledge. Ask around. There is so much to learn.

Either way, whether we’re reading or conversing, what we say and how we say it can make the difference in clear communication or being lost in translation.