I Tell You…
One of the criminals hanging on the cross next to Jesus kept ridiculing him, saying, “What kind of Messiah are you? Save yourself and save us from this death! ”The criminal hanging on the other cross rebuked the man, saying, “Don’t you fear God? You’re about to die! We deserve to be condemned. We’re just being repaid for what we’ve done. But this man—he’s done nothing wrong!” Then he said, “I beg of you, Jesus, show me grace and take me with you into your everlasting kingdom!” Jesus responded, “I promise you—this very day you will enter paradise with me.” (Luke 23:39-43 The Passion Translation).
It is important to note that ‘the criminal’ in Luke’s account was most likely a zealot who had committed some crime against the Roman Occupation Army. Theirs was the hope that when ‘The Messiah’ came, he would lead them to victory over every oppressor. D.A, Carson notes that Jesus’ response is to this zealot’s plea for the ‘real’ presence of The Messiah—the implication being that Jesus enters his reign on that day—along with this, alleged, criminal.
Whilst considering the above passage, it got ‘me’ thinking about the significance of Personal Pronouns in the English Language, with particular reference to the man on the cross next to Christ (see above). Whatever translation one might consider, the inference is clear, i.e., Jesus is suggesting that on that very day this man/zealot shall experience a post mortem reality of a positive kind. Even though his body would have been, most likely left on the cross to rot or his corpse thrown somewhere or other; he would nevertheless find ‘himself’ in paradise. The implications are clear—this man survives death—a death of the worst possible kind, crucifixion. The text gives little information about this particular man (see above)—his family line, information regarding his DNA lineage is unavailable; he is, simply, one of the criminals; the other criminal seemed content to spend his last few hours ridiculing Christ. There’s no mention of where, if anywhere, this man might find himself on the other side of death.
Philosopher, Edward Feser notes that Materialism/Physicalism cannot possibly allow any likelihood of Post-Mortem survival of anything so unlikely as the Soul. Feser notes that the Materialist/Physicalist view of the person, de facto, rules out ideas of ‘Body/Soul Dualism’ and refers to the ideas of 17th Century Philosopher, John Locke, who came up with the idea:
Feser notes that, should this information be downloaded into more than one vessel, there would be ‘two of you’, i.e., ‘You’ would have been cloned. Feser suggests that this idea cannot be right, “For suppose one of these clones kills the other. If they were literally the same person, it would follow that one and the same person would be both dead and alive at the same time. Indeed, it would follow that one and the same person both successfully committed suicide (since the one clone killed ‘himself, i.e., the other clone) and survived his suicide attempt (since the clone who did the killing is still alive.).” This is, as Feser notes, the beginning of the paradox.
Suppose that everything about your mind (NB. the criminal in the above passage) in your brain, as many materialists assume, is somehow encoded in your brain and that by scanning your brain a sufficiently powerful computer could ‘read off’ the contents of your mind. Then we can imagine that your consciousness could be downloaded by this computer after your death, into a new brain and body cloned from yours. In such a case, Locke would say, you could continue to exist in a new form, since the person that wakes up in this new body would have all your memories, and thus would be you.
What can we make of the promises of Christ—particularly regarding the criminal on the cross? Well, there are several possibilities:
Jesus was deluded:
In their well-researched (2018) book, ‘Mad or God? Jesus: The Healthiest Mind of All’, Psychiatrists, Dr, Pablo Martinez & Professor Andrew Sims explore the notion that Jesus Christ was mad—or indeed God. The following few lines from their book offer a few clues as to their conclusions:
He’s raving mad. Why listen to him?”, his critics have been protesting for 2000 years—and still insist today. Some say that Jesus is mad because they do not understand him, some because hey reject him and some having never tried or bothered to listen. What did he really say about himself? Could it be construed as the outpouring of a madman?
In the one hundred and seventy plus pages of their book, Martinez and Sims offer significant reasons for the rebuttal of such ill-informed views.
Misunderstandings occur because Jesus is working at a different level. He remains focused (even whilst in pain and agony on the cross) on the kingdom of heaven…Jesus never says that spirit is good or eternal and flesh bad or ephemeral, nor that spirit is metaphorical, and flesh literal: both are made by God and are part of our whole and individual nature. (PP 10,11)
We believe Jesus was trustworthy: he taught with authority, and his authority came from God. Much of his teaching concerned healthy relationships between individuals and with God; Much of his teaching concerned healthy relationships between individuals and with God: God is love. Following the logic of the ‘trilemma’ (Mad, Bad,God), if we as psychiatrists, can successfully prove that Jesus was not mentally deranged then any critic has to prove that Jesus was a bad man unless he or she recognizes him as God. P18
There is a lot more that Martinez and Sims offer in their argument for Christ’s sanity and credibility.
Luke’s information is erroneous:
According to Luke’s account: in his final hours on earth, in spite of the pain and horror of his circumstances, Jesus has the most (seemingly) unlikely dialogue—though we note that in both Mark and Matthew there is no mention of any such conversation—only that there were two others receiving the same punishment.
There are several ways in which the above passage is translated—though the following is the literal rendering:
The ’I tell you (that)’ or ‘I tell you, today’ possibilities when translating this part of Luke’s Gospel do not affect the inference in the text. There are several ways in which these verses are translated from the lingua franca of the first century—between 70 & 90 CE (most likely earlier than the first possibility. The Zondervan, Parallel New Testament in Greek and English offers the following:
And he said to him [T]ruly thee I tell today with me you will be in [the] paradise.
It is interesting to note that Luke (1:4) gives his reason for compiling his gospel was, ‘so that you might recognize the reliability of the accounts you’ve been taught. John’s gospel (not one of the Synoptics) offers the same raison d’etre:
Of course, Jesus performed many other signs as well before the disciples, which have not been recorded in this book. But these ones have been recorded so that you might have faith that Jesus is the anointed, the Son of God, and that in having faith you might have life in his name.
There are more than a few, experts and critical observers, who would disbelieve just about anything written in the New Testament, and would have ‘good reasons for their strongly held views—the well-informed [P]rofessors and unlettered-laypersons. There are, of course, reasonable arguments for dismissing the likelihood of Christ’s being anything other than a corpse let alone the corpse of the criminal being found anywhere other than the same burial pile. After all, ‘when you are dead, you are done for’ says the mantra of a materialist worldview and, indeed, the view of other views of post-mortem survival of ‘the person’. Indeed, these were the very words I used when, after a game of squash, I was asked, ‘where I might be in a thousand years?’ (1975). At the time Alan was someone to whom I had only recently been introduced, though it was a meeting that my wife Jackie had been trying to encourage for a while. As it turned out I was, rather ignominiously defeated in a game, at which, I had considered myself rather proficient. We’ve been friends ever since. Alan’s response to my rather curt reply was, ‘How do you know?’. Obviously, my view of such a likelihood was tempered by my, then, materialist, worldview. If I’d been more alert, I might have included some sense of modality into my response, i.e., the word ‘probably’, e.g., ‘When you’re dead, you are probably done for’. It was though, I concluded, reasonable to deny post-mortem existence, as it is (seemingly) the case that 100% of the dead do not seem to be in any, visible state of being. It is of course reasonable to suppose there is no such thing as post-mortem survival—especially of the person known as ‘you’. So, what ought we make of Jesus’ reported conversation?
As this book isn’t an apologetic for the reliability of The New Testament accounts of the reported words of Jesus, I shall minimize my comments accordingly. It is the case that Jesus’ words throughout the New Testament coalesce, i.e., they are connected. Take for example ‘The Resurrection of Christ. In what is known as his first letter to the church in Corinth (there are two but there may have been another), the Apostle Paul makes much of the resurrection, i.e., Christ’s physical resurrection rather than some mystical, metaphor for the Crucified Christ actually being alive—as many have opined and continue to argue. Clearly, it is the case that it might be reasonable to assume that there is such a place as ‘The Spiritual World’ wherein exists those who were once alive; the assumption being that they, Kathleen, have survived the state of being dead. This is, most definitely not what Paul was insisting on in Chapter 13 of his first letter to the Corinthian Church; on the contrary, Paul is ‘speaking’ in earnest. The following verses from Paul’s letter clearly outline the importance of a physical resurrection:
Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel, you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.
Paul then refers to the information he had received concerning the resurrection accounts:
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance  : that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last, of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.
NB. It is important to note that the apostle makes known his pursuit for ‘facts’ rather than being content with the experience (‘encounter’) alone, though Paul, seemingly, had a dramatic conversion (a personal encounter of the experiential sort) on the road to Damascus (Acts 9), which would have been, one can imagine, quite convincing, he was not content with experience alone. In his letter to the Galatian Christians the apostle refers to his ‘fact finding’ visits to Jerusalem; according to the letter (written around the year 50 AD—within around twenty years of Christ’s Resurrection (from the dead).
But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile… If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied…If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.”
But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else.
What can be interpreted by the apostle’s eloquent response to his own questions is that whilst a present mystery—beyond the boundaries of current scientific theory, they are nevertheless within the capabilities of the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. Moreover, it is the case that, as the apostle writes elsewhere in the same letter:
However, as it is written: “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived—the things God has prepared for those who love him–these are the deep things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
This man’s ‘mind’ was either stored on a vast ‘cloudlike’ storage facility, downloaded elsewhere, or there is more to humanity than that allowed for by current scientific enquiry:
Saving your precious documents/data ‘up to the Cloud’ gives one the idea of such an entity somewhere in the sky; however, it turns out that, rather than existing in some imagined ethereal place rather than being stored in something more down to earth—in some cases under the sea in waterproof containers.
 How Long O Lord (Reflections on Suffering & Evil, D.A.Carson, 1990
 Edward Feser: The Last Superstition: A Refutation Of The New Atheism, 2006
 The Last Superstition (A Refutation Of The New Atheism), Edward Feser, 2008
 Mad or God? (Jesus: The Healthiest Mind of All), Pablo Martinez & Andrew Sims,2018,IVP