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It's All in the Comma


Words can harm; words can heal. Words can bring clarification; words can bring confusion. Written words especially can be easily misunderstood.

A single word can have numerous meanings and applications.

Take the word, word. It can mean one of a number of things.

a) unit of language...that functions as a principal carrier of meaning.

b) contentious or angry speech; a quarrel: we had words and she walked out on me. c) a short talk or conversation: I'd like a word with you. d) an expression or utterance: a word of warning. e) warrant, assurance, or promise: I give you my word I'll be there. f) news; tidings; information: We received word of his death. a verbal signal, as a password, watchword, or countersign. g) an authoritative utterance, or command: His word was law. h) (initial capital letter )Also called the Word, the Word of God. the Scriptures; the Bible. the Logos. The message of the gospel of Christ. (

Words can look the same but have a different sound such as: live and live; read and read.

Words can look different but sound the same such as: I and eye, toad and towed.

Words are complex. You must know the meaning behind the word in order to truly understand what is being said.

I saw a comedian on the old Dinah Shore show. He said something like, "Take the word alter and the word change for instance. If you alter your plans or change your plans you've done the same thing, but, if you alter your pants or change your pants it's two entirely different things.

Words, language, very much matters.

I had friends over for lunch on Saturday afternoon. As I am writing, it very much matters where I put the comma as I describe how I notified them that lunch was ready. If I wrote, "Let's eat, friends" it would denote that I am telling my friends it is time to eat. If I wrote "Let's eat friends." It might appear I am suggesting we eat our friends.

What if you need to apologize? You might write: "I'm sorry; I love you." But, without the semicolon it would read I'm sorry I love you.


"A woman without her man is nothing" vs. "A woman: without her, man is nothing".

Two totally different meanings with the exact same arrangement of words, right?

I remember reading "The Dear John" letter a few years back. The letter is an example of how punctuation is vitally important to understand the true meaning of a story or situation.

In this letter the girlfriend spelled out, in no uncertain terms, how much she loved and adored John and it was clear to anyone reading her words that she couldn’t live without him. Or could she?

Dear John: I want a man who knows what love is all about. You are generous, kind, thoughtful. People who are not like you admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me for other men. I yearn for you. I have no feelings whatsoever when we’re apart. I can be forever happy–will you let me be yours? Jane What happens to the letter if there were some punctuation mistakes and it was punctuated in an entirely different fashion? Dear John, I want a man who knows what love is. All about you are generous, kind, thoughtful people, who are not like you. Admit to being useless and inferior. You have ruined me. For other men, I yearn. For you, I have no feelings whatsoever. When we’re apart, I can be forever happy. Will you let me be? Yours, Jane

Crazy, right?

I want to show you another sentence, with different meanings depending on the punctuation.

And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23:43 NKJV


And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you today, you will be with Me in Paradise.”

Jesus is talking to the thief on the cross who is hanging next to him. The thief had just said, in verse 42, "...Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”

The question is then, did Jesus take the thief to heaven with Him that day, or did he promise him on that day that he would be in heaven someday?

In John 20 we can read about the empty tomb.

Mary was standing outside the tomb crying, the Bible says she was weeping. As she was weeping, she bent over and looked into the empty tomb. That is when she saw two angels. One sitting at the head and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been.

They asked her why she was weeping and she answered “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” Just as she said that she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, he also asked her why she was crying but he also said her name. "Mary!" That is when she recognized Him. (John 20:16)

She must have grabbed him to hug him, because in verse 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father." John 20:17 NKJV

This was Sunday morning. Jesus had not yet ascended to heaven!

If this statement from Him is true, it is also true He did not ascend to heaven when He died on Friday afternoon, which means he did not tell the thief hanging next to him that he would be with Jesus in heaven that day.

The comma, in the wrong place, gives the wrong meaning or impression.

We know the Bible was not written with any punctuations. Punctuations were not added to the Bible until hundreds, in some cases, thousands, of years after it was written. Is it possible then that many have misunderstood the meaning of that text?

Jesus himself, on Sunday morning, said he had not been to heaven yet. I think that is something worth thinking about.

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