Duncan Peters, Adjunct Faculty, Edinburgh Theological Seminary UK
Luke’s Gospel records the words of Jesus while dying on the cross, to the crucified criminal next to him, ‘Today you will be with me in paradise’.
‘Paradise’ is a Persian loan word that has travelled far and wide and which referred originally to a walled garden. In this instance, Jesus’ assurance is given to a man who is dying a brutal and horrific death, so clearly refers to something beyond death. The promise that the criminal would be in paradise ‘today’ seems to indicate that the paradise Jesus is speaking of is not something that will only be a reality after the resurrection in the age to come, but a destination between the criminal’s death later that day and his future resurrection – in other words, an intermediate state.
Islamic thought shares a comparable eschatological framework with Biblical thought in that there is a belief in an eschaton which features a resurrection and final judgement and final destinies of both the righteous and the wicked. The Qur’an and other Islamic literature make frequent reference to paradise or the garden. There is also belief in an intermediate state, between a person’s death and resurrection.
This paper will ask the question, what might Jesus, the criminal, and Luke’s readers have understood by ‘paradise’? It will seek answers from the Old Testament, other Jewish sources, and the New Testament. The paper will also attempt to ascertain, how ‘paradise’ is used in Islamic literature and by Muslims colloquially, and how Muslim readers might understand Luke 23:43. Finally, the paper will assess what the implications from the above are for translation, interpretation and commentary of Luke 23:43 in Muslim contexts.