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Jehovah’s Witnesses

New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)

According to Luke 23:1-56

23  So the multitude got up, one and all, and led him to Pilate.+  Then they began to accuse him,+ saying: “We found this man subverting our nation, forbidding the paying of taxes to Caesar,+ and saying he himself is Christ a king.”+  Now Pilate asked him the question: “Are you the King of the Jews?” In answer he said: “You yourself are saying it.”+  Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds: “I find no crime in this man.”+  But they insisted, saying: “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Ju·deʹa, starting from Galʹi·lee even to here.”  On hearing that, Pilate asked whether the man was a Gal·i·leʹan.  After ascertaining that he was under the jurisdiction of Herod,+ he sent him on to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem in those days.  When Herod saw Jesus, he rejoiced greatly. For a considerable time he had been wanting to see Jesus because he had heard much about him,+ and he was hoping to see some sign performed by him.  So he began to question him at length, but he gave him no answer.+ 10  However, the chief priests and the scribes kept standing up and vehemently accusing him. 11  Then Herod together with his soldiers treated him with contempt,+ and he mocked him+ by clothing him with a splendid* garment and then sent him back to Pilate.+ 12  Herod and Pilate became friends with each other on that very day, for before that they had been at enmity with each other. 13  Pilate then called together the chief priests, the rulers, and the people 14  and said to them: “You brought this man to me as one inciting the people to revolt. Now look! I examined him in front of you but found in this man no grounds for the charges you are bringing against him.+ 15  In fact, neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us, and look! he has done nothing deserving of death. 16  I will therefore punish him+ and release him.” 17  —— 18  But the whole crowd shouted out: “Do away with this man,* and release Bar·abʹbas to us!”+ 19  (This man had been thrown into prison for sedition that had occurred in the city and for murder.) 20  Again Pilate called out to them, because he wanted to release Jesus.+ 21  Then they began to yell, saying: “To the stake with him! To the stake with him!”*+ 22  The third time he said to them: “Why? What bad thing did this man do? I found in him nothing deserving of death;+ I will therefore punish him and release him.” 23  At this they became insistent, demanding with loud voices that he be executed,* and their voices prevailed.+ 24  So Pilate made the decision that their demand be met. 25  He released the man whom they were demanding, who had been thrown into prison for sedition and murder, but he surrendered Jesus to their will. 26  Now as they led him away, they seized a certain Simon of Cy·reʹne, who was coming from the countryside, and they placed the torture stake on him to carry it behind Jesus.+ 27  A large number of people were following him, including women who kept beating themselves in grief and wailing for him. 28  Jesus turned to the women and said: “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for me. Weep instead for yourselves and for your children;+ 29  for look! days are coming when people will say, ‘Happy are the barren women, the wombs that did not give birth and the breasts that did not nurse!’+ 30  Then they will start saying to the mountains, ‘Fall over us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us over!’+ 31  If they do these things when the tree is moist, what will occur when it is withered?” 32  Two other men, criminals, were also being led off to be executed with him.+ 33  And when they got to the place called Skull,+ they nailed him to the stake there alongside the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.+ 34  But Jesus was saying: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”+ Furthermore, they cast lots to distribute his garments.+ 35  And the people stood looking on. But the rulers were sneering and saying: “Others he saved; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.”+ 36  Even the soldiers mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine+ 37  and saying: “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself.” 38  There was also an inscription over him: “This is the King of the Jews.”+ 39  Then one of the criminals hanging there began to speak abusively to him,+ saying: “You are the Christ, are you not? Save yourself and us too!” 40  In response the other rebuked him, saying: “Do you not fear God at all, now that you have received the same judgment? 41  And we rightly so, for we are getting back what we deserve for the things we did; but this man did nothing wrong.” 42  Then he said: “Jesus, remember me when you get into your Kingdom.”+ 43  And he said to him: “Truly I tell you today, you will be with me in Paradise.”+ 44  Well, by now it was about the sixth hour, and yet a darkness fell over all the land* until the ninth hour,+ 45  because the sunlight failed; then the curtain of the sanctuary+ was torn down the middle.+ 46  And Jesus called out with a loud voice and said: “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.”+ After he said this, he expired.+ 47  Because of seeing what occurred, the army officer began to glorify God, saying: “Truly, this man was righteous.”+ 48  And when all the crowds that were gathered together there for this spectacle saw the things that occurred, they returned home, beating their chests. 49  And all those acquainted with him were standing at a distance. Also, women who had accompanied him from Galʹi·lee were there and saw these things.+ 50  And look! there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, who was a good and righteous man.+ 51  (This man had not voted in support of their scheme and action.) He was from Ar·i·ma·theʹa, a city of the Ju·deʹans, and was waiting for the Kingdom of God. 52  This man went in before Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 53  And he took it down+ and wrapped it up in fine linen, and he laid it in a tomb carved in the rock,+ where no man had yet lain. 54  Now it was the day of Preparation,+ and the Sabbath+ was about to begin. 55  But the women who had come with him from Galʹi·lee followed along and took a look at the tomb and saw how his body was laid,+ 56  and they went back to prepare spices and perfumed oils. But, of course, they rested on the Sabbath+ according to the commandment.


Or “bright; shining.”
Lit., “Take this one away.”
Or “Execute him on the stake! Execute him on the stake!”
Or “executed on the stake.”
Lit., “earth.”

Study Notes

Caesar: Or “the Emperor.” The Roman emperor during Jesus’ earthly ministry was Tiberius, but the term was not restricted to the ruling emperor. “Caesar” could refer to the Roman civil authority, or the State, and its duly appointed representatives, who are called “the superior authorities” by Paul, and “the king” and his “governors” by Peter.Ro 13:1-7; 1Pe 2:13-17; Tit 3:1; see Glossary.

Are you the King of the Jews?: All four Gospel accounts record the same question by Pilate in precisely the same words. (Mt 27:11; Mr 15:2; Lu 23:3; Joh 18:33) No king in the Roman Empire could rule without Caesar’s consent. So Pilate apparently concentrated his interrogation on the issue of Jesus’ kingship.

Herod: That is, Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great. Antipas was the district ruler (tetrarch) of Galilee and Perea. Only Luke reports that Jesus was brought before Herod.—Lu 3:1; see Glossary.

Some manuscripts here read: “Now he was under necessity to release one man to them from feast to feast,” but these words do not appear in several early authoritative manuscripts and were apparently not part of the original text of Luke. A few other manuscripts add these words after verse 19. Similar verses with a slightly different wording do appear at Mt 27:15 and Mr 15:6, where there is no uncertainty regarding the text. It is thought that copyists added these words here in Luke as an explanation based on the parallel accounts in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark.

Cyrene: A city located in North Africa near the coast, SSW of the island of Crete. (See App. B13.) It may be that Simon, though born in Cyrene, later settled in Israel.

torture stake: Or “execution stake.”—See Glossary, “Stake”; “Torture stake”; see also Lu 9:23; 14:27, where the term is used in a figurative sense.

when the tree is moist, . . . when it is withered: Jesus is apparently referring to the Jewish nation. It was like a dying tree that still had some moisture left, for Jesus was present and so were a number of Jews who believed in him. However, Jesus would soon be executed, and faithful Jews would be anointed with holy spirit and become part of spiritual Israel. (Ro 2:28, 29; Ga 6:16) At that time, the literal nation of Israel would be spiritually dead, resembling a withered tree.—Mt 21:43.

Golgotha: From a Hebrew word meaning “skull.” (See Joh 19:17; compare Jg 9:53, where the Hebrew word gul·goʹleth is rendered “skull.”) In Jesus’ day, the site was outside the city walls of Jerusalem. However, the location remains uncertain. (See App. B12.) The Bible record does not state that Golgotha was on a hill, though it does mention that some observed the execution from a distance.Mr 15:40; Lu 23:49.

Skull: The Greek expression Kra·niʹon corresponds to the Hebrew word Golgotha. (See Joh 19:17 and study note on Mt 27:33.) The term “Calvary” is used here in some English Bible translations. It comes from the Latin calvaria, the word for “skull,” used in the Vulgate.

. . . doing: The first part of this verse is not included in certain ancient manuscripts. However, because these words are found in other early authoritative manuscripts, they are included in the New World Translation and numerous other Bible translations.

sour wine: Or “wine vinegar.” Likely referring to a thin, tart, or sour wine known in Latin as acetum (vinegar) or as posca when diluted with water. This was a cheap drink that poor people, including Roman soldiers, commonly drank to quench their thirst. The Greek word oʹxos is also used at Ps 69:21 in the Septuagint, where it was prophesied that Messiah would be given “vinegar” to drink.

an inscription over him: Some manuscripts make additions that could be rendered: “(written) in letters of Greek and Latin and Hebrew.” However, these words do not occur in early authoritative manuscripts, and it is thought that copyists added these words in order to agree with Joh 19:20.

hanging: The Greek verb used here is, not stauroʹo (“to execute on a stake”), but kre·manʹny·mi (“to hang”). In connection with Jesus’ execution, this verb is used with the phrase e·piʹ xyʹlou (“on a stake or tree”). (Ac 5:30, ftn.; 10:39, ftn.; Ga 3:13) In the Septuagint, the verb is often used to describe hanging a person on a stake or a tree.—Ge 40:19; De 21:22; Es 8:7.

Truly I tell you today,: The form of Greek script used in the earliest available manuscripts of the Christian Greek Scriptures is composed solely of capital letters. Ancient scribes did occasionally—but not consistently—use some forms of punctuation. Therefore, the punctuation in modern Bible translations is based on the grammar of the Greek text and the context of the verse. In this verse, the grammar of the Greek text allows for placing a comma (or a colon) either before or after the word “today.” However, the punctuation shown in renderings of Jesus’ statement depends on how translators understand the sense of what Jesus said and on what the Bible as a whole teaches. Greek texts like the ones prepared by Westcott and Hort, Nestle and Aland, and the United Bible Societies put a comma before the Greek word rendered “today.” However, placing the comma after “today” harmonizes with earlier statements that Jesus made and with teachings found elsewhere in the Scriptures. For example, Jesus said that he would die and be “in the heart of the earth”—the grave—until the third day. (Mt 12:40; Mr 10:34) On more than one occasion, he told his disciples that he would be killed and raised on the third day. (Lu 9:22; 18:33) Also, the Bible states that Jesus was resurrected as “the firstfruits of those who [had] fallen asleep in death” and that he ascended to heaven 40 days later. (1Co 15:20; Joh 20:17; Ac 1:1-3, 9; Col 1:18) Jesus was resurrected, not on the day that he died, but on the third day after his death, so it is evident that the criminal could not be with Jesus in Paradise on the same day that Jesus spoke to him.

In harmony with this reasoning, a fifth-century Syriac version of Luke’s account, known as the Curetonian Syriac, renders this text: “Amen, I say to thee to-day that with me thou shalt be in the Garden of Eden.” (F. C. Burkitt, The Curetonian Version of the Four Gospels, Vol. 1, Cambridge, 1904) It is also worth noting that both early and later Greek writers and commentators indicated that there were disagreements regarding how to render these words. For example, Hesychius of Jerusalem, who lived in the fourth and fifth centuries C.E., wrote regarding Lu 23:43: “Some indeed read in this manner: ‘Truly I tell you today,’ and put a comma; then they follow: ‘You will be with me in Paradise.’” (Greek text found in Patrologiae Graecae, Vol. 93, col. 1432-1433.) Theophylact, who lived in the 11th and 12th centuries C.E., wrote about some who argued for “putting a punctuation mark after ‘today,’ so that it would be said this way: ‘Truly I tell you today’; and then they follow with the expression: ‘You will be with me in Paradise.’” (Patrologiae Graecae, Vol. 123, col. 1104.) G. M. Lamsa, in the publication Gospel Light—Comments on the Teachings of Jesus From Aramaic and Unchanged Eastern Customs, pp. 303-304, says about the use of “today” at Lu 23:43: “The emphasis in this text is on the word ‘today’ and should read, ‘Truly I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise.’ The promise was made on that day and it was to be fulfilled later. This is a characteristic of Oriental speech implying that the promise was made on a certain day and would surely be kept.” Therefore, the Greek phrase at Lu 23:43 may reflect a Semitic way of expressing emphasis. The Hebrew Scriptures provide numerous examples of the idiomatic usage of “today” in solemn expressions, such as promises and commands. (De 4:26; 6:6; 7:11; 8:1, 19; 30:15; Zec 9:12) The evidence presented above suggests that Jesus used the word “today” to call attention, not to the time of the criminal’s being in Paradise, but to the time at which the promise was being made.

A number of translations, such as those in English by Rotherham and by Lamsa (1933 edition) and those in German by L. Reinhardt and by W. Michaelis, recognize that the emphasis is correctly placed on the time that the promise is being made rather than on the time that it is being fulfilled. Those translations render the text in a form similar to the reading of the New World Translation.

Paradise: The English word “paradise” comes from the Greek word pa·raʹdei·sos, and similar words can be found in both Hebrew (par·desʹ, at Ne 2:8; Ec 2:5; Ca 4:13) and Persian (pairidaeza). All three words convey the basic idea of a beautiful park or parklike garden. The translators of the Septuagint used the Greek term pa·raʹdei·sos to render the Hebrew word for “garden” (gan) in the expression “garden of Eden” at Ge 2:8. Some translations of the Christian Greek Scriptures into Hebrew (referred to as J17, 18, 22 in App. C) render Lu 23:43: “You will be with me in the garden of Eden.” This promise made to the criminal hanging next to Jesus was not the promise to be in “the paradise of God” mentioned at Re 2:7, since that promise was made to “the one who conquers,” that is, Christ’s corulers in the heavenly Kingdom. (Lu 22:28-30) This criminal was not a conqueror of the world with Jesus Christ; nor had he been “born from water and spirit.” (Joh 3:5; 16:33) He will evidently be one of “the unrighteous” who are resurrected as earthly subjects of the Kingdom when Christ rules over the Paradise earth for a thousand years.—Ac 24:15; Re 20:4, 6.

about the third hour: That is, about 9:00 a.m. In the first century C.E., the Jews used the count of 12 hours to the day, starting with sunrise at about 6:00 a.m. (Joh 11:9) Therefore, the third hour would be about 9:00 a.m., the sixth hour about noon, and the ninth hour about 3:00 p.m. Since people did not have precise timepieces, only the approximate time of an event was usually given.Joh 1:39; 4:6; 19:14; Ac 10:3, 9.

about the third hour: That is, about 9:00 a.m. In the first century C.E., the Jews used the count of 12 hours to the day, starting with sunrise at about 6:00 a.m. (Joh 11:9) Therefore, the third hour would be about 9:00 a.m., the sixth hour about noon, and the ninth hour about 3:00 p.m. Since people did not have precise timepieces, only the approximate time of an event was usually given.Joh 1:39; 4:6; 19:14; Ac 10:3, 9.

about the sixth hour: That is, about 12:00 noon.—See study note on Mt 20:3.

the ninth hour: That is, about 3:00 p.m.—See study note on Mt 20:3.

curtain: This beautifully ornamented drape separated the Most Holy from the Holy in the temple. Jewish tradition indicates that this heavy curtain was some 18 m (60 ft) long, 9 m (30 ft) wide, and 7.4 cm (2.9 in.) thick. By tearing the curtain in two, Jehovah not only manifests his wrath against his Son’s killers but also signifies that entry into heaven itself is now possible.Heb 10:19, 20; see Glossary.

sanctuary: The Greek word na·osʹ here refers to the central edifice with its Holy and Most Holy compartments.

yielded up his spirit: Or “expired; ceased to breathe.” The term “spirit” (Greek, pneuʹma) may here be understood to refer to “breath” or “life force,” which is supported by the use of the Greek verb ek·pneʹo (lit., “to breathe out”) in the parallel account at Mr 15:37 (where it is rendered “expired” or, as in the footnote, “breathed his last”). Some suggest that the use of the Greek term rendered “yielded up” means that Jesus voluntarily stopped struggling to stay alive, since all things had been accomplished. (Joh 19:30) He willingly “poured out his life even to death.”Isa 53:12; Joh 10:11.

spirit: Jesus here quotes from Ps 31:5, where David is calling on God to guard, or care for, his spirit, or life force. This was a way of saying that he was putting his life in God’s hands. At his death, Jesus entrusted his life force to Jehovah; thus his future life prospects rested entirely with God.—See Glossary.

expired: The Greek verb ek·pneʹo (lit., “to breathe out”) could here also be rendered “breathed his last.” (See study note on Mt 27:50.) The Scriptures clearly show that when Jesus’ spirit went out, he was not on his way to heaven. He expired, or died. Jesus himself foretold that he would not be resurrected from the dead until “the third day.” (Mt 16:21; Lu 9:22) Then, as Ac 1:3, 9 shows, it was 40 days later that he actually ascended to heaven.

army officer: Or “centurion,” that is, one in command of about 100 soldiers in the Roman army. According to the parallel accounts in Matthew and Mark, he also acknowledged that Jesus “was God’s Son.”—Mt 27:54; Mr 15:39.

Sanhedrin: That is, the Jewish high court in Jerusalem. The Greek word rendered “Sanhedrin” (sy·neʹdri·on) literally means a “sitting down with.” Although it was a general term for an assembly or a meeting, in Israel it could refer to a religious judicial body or court.—See study note on Mt 5:22 and Glossary; see also App. B12 for the possible location of the Sanhedrin Hall.

Joseph: The individuality of the Gospel writers is evident in the varying details they provide about Joseph. Tax collector Matthew notes that he was “a rich man”; Mark, writing primarily for the Romans, says that he was “a reputable member of the Council” who was waiting for God’s Kingdom; Luke, the sympathetic physician, says that he “was a good and righteous man” who did not vote in support of the Council’s action against Jesus; John alone reports that he was “a secret [disciple] because of his fear of the Jews.”Mt 27:57-60; Mr 15:43-46; Lu 23:50-53; Joh 19:38-42.

member of the Council: Or “councilor,” that is, a member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court in Jerusalem.—See study note on Mt 26:59 and Glossary, “Sanhedrin.”

Arimathea: The name of this city comes from a Hebrew word meaning “height.” At Lu 23:51, it is called “a city of the Judeans.”—See App. B10.

tomb: Or “memorial tomb.” A vault, or chamber, cut into the soft limestone rock, rather than a natural cave. Such tombs often contained benchlike shelves or niches where bodies could be laid.—See Glossary, “Memorial tomb.”

Preparation: A name applied to the day preceding the weekly Sabbath. During this day, the Jews got ready for the Sabbath by preparing extra meals and finishing any work that could not wait until after the Sabbath. In this case, the day of Preparation fell on Nisan 14.Mr 15:42; see Glossary.

tomb: Or “memorial tomb.”—See Glossary, “Memorial tomb.”


Nail in a Heel Bone
Nail in a Heel Bone

This is a photograph of a replica of a human heel bone pierced by an iron nail that was 11.5 cm (4.5 in.) long. The original artifact was found in 1968, during excavations in northern Jerusalem, and dates to Roman times. It provides archaeological evidence that nails were likely used in executions to fasten the person to a wooden stake. This nail may be similar to the nails employed by the Roman soldiers to fasten Jesus Christ to the stake. The artifact was found in a stone box, called an ossuary, into which the dried bones of a deceased person were placed after the flesh had decomposed. This indicates that someone executed on a stake could be given a burial.