“Ba Ba Ba Ba?” (Luke 23:43)

A Filipino friend of mine knows of my love for puns and clever turns of language. He was eager to share one from his native language, Tagalog.


“How can you ask a question and answer it using only one syllable?”


Grinning, I bit. “Okay, how?”


“Ba ba ba ba? Ba ba ba!”




He repeated it again. What did it mean? We were both laughing as he explained. “Loosely translated it means, ‘Is it going down?’ It can be used in the context of an elevator. The answer means, ‘It’s going down.’”


I had to learn this! “What is this, do you say ‘ba’ seven times?”


“Yes! But you have to place the emphasis in the correct sequence. Say the first four ba’s with an emphasis on the last one, as if you are asking a question. The last three ba’s are the reply, so place the emphasis on the first ba.”


I stumbled through my first effort.


“Say it like this…Ba…ba…ba…ba? Ba…ba…ba!” He slowed the recitation and emphasized the critical syllables in the sequence.


Got it!


There are many things we read or hear that sound very similar. It is the placement of punctuation and/or verbal emphasis placed upon different words or syllables, that sometimes leads to an unrealized or different interpretations. The original Scriptures that comprise the Old and New Testaments of our Bible were originally written in Hebrew and Greek, at a time when no punctuation existed.


And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23:43 (ESV)


Jesus spoke these words to the thief on the cross next to Him. This verse has been interpreted to mean that at the moment that both the thief and Jesus died on the Cross, they would be together in Heaven (paradise). Everyone, regardless of the life they have lived, can still be saved if they are truly repentant of their sins and confess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Salvation is instantaneous with a true confession.


But what if the placement of punctuation were changed and the quotation read:


Truly, I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise.


Placing the comma after today, subtly changes the meaning. Was Jesus simply emphasizing to the thief that, as he was speaking to him on that day (today), they would someday be together in Heaven? Those who claim this latter interpretation state that salvation may not be immediate but eventual.


When there is an apparent discrepancy or disagreement in the interpretation of a verse from the Bible, one must always interpret the verse in the context of the totality of Scripture. In numerous passages in the Bible, it is clear that the moment one confesses and repents of their sins and accepts Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, their salvation is immediate and eternal. The beginning of the Church was on the day of Pentecost. About three thousand souls heard the Gospel preached to them by Peter and the Holy Spirit came upon them and they were saved Instantaneous! (Acts 2:1-41). Look at the conversion of Saul as Jesus struck him blind on the road to Damascus. When the Holy Spirit came upon and his eyesight was restored, it was as if scales fell from his eyes. Instantaneous! (Acts 9:1-19). The Philippian jailer held Paul and Silas in chains until an earthquake broke them free. Assuming his prisoners had escaped, the jailer was about to kill himself but was stopped by the reassuring voice of Paul. The jailer had listened to Paul and Silas singing hymns about Jesus. He experienced the earthquake. And now, he asked Paul and Silas. “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Paul and Silas gave the answer for all seekers and believers. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” Acts 16:30-33 (ESV). Instantaneous!


And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Luke 23:43 (ESV)


Punctuations are only helpful when used and interpreted in consistency with the Truth of the Bible. God’s Word is infallible and internally consistent, for God does not contradict Himself. Our salvation is instantaneous if we truly confess and repent of our sins and accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.


Praise God!


Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.


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