As many of you know, the original Greek and Hebrew of the Bible did not contain punctuation marks. More often than not, this isn’t too big of an issue, as the context allows scribes the ability to discern where sentences end, which one’s are questions, and if something is said an an exclamation. In Sunday’s Gospel lesson, however, we have one of those places where a lack of punctuation in the original text leaves some question about the author’s intent.
We are all very familiar with the story of “doubting” Thomas. For whatever reason, he was not a part of the gathering in the upper room the night of Jesus’ resurrection. He didn’t have the opportunity to see Jesus appear out of thin air, to hear his word of peace, to examine the wounds, or feel his breath waft across the hair on his neck as it stood on end. The disciples shared with him what they had experienced, but Thomas needed to experience it for himself. A week later, he gets the chance to see Jesus appear out of thin air, to hear his word of peace, and to examine the wounds. His response is recorded verbatim by John:
“My lord and my God”
Older translations tend to end this famous phrase with a period, while newer ones are more apt to use an exclamation point. I’m not sure it makes an earth-shattering difference which one you choose, but I don’t think it is meaningless. To choose an exclamation point makes these words from Thomas a word of overwhelming excitement and joy; while a period makes them words of reverence and awe. Robertson’s Word Pictures say that the case of this phrase indicates the latter, that “Thomas was wholly convinced and did not hesitate to address the Risen Christ as Lord and God.”
For me, this encounter with the risen Jesus seems to have more power if it ends in a period. It is a moment of deep realization for Thomas as doubt, worry, frustration, and stress melt away in a moment of deep knowing between Jesus and Thomas. Jesus gave Thomas precisely what he needed to believe in the resurrection, and in so doing, offered Thomas the chance to fully see and know that his friend, rabbi, and savior had risen from the grave. Thomas’ response, then, was one of hushed restraint, as he realized that in that moment everything had changed.
“My lord and my God.”