Questions From Readers
● Why does the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures use the larger expression “memorial tombs” instead of the one word “tomb,” as the American Standard Version does at Matthew 8:28; 23:29; 27:52, 53, 60; 28:8; John 5:28 and at other verses?
In the Scripture verses cited the New World Translation reads “memorial tomb” or “memorial tombs” because the original Greek word is mnēmeiʹon, the original Christian Scriptures being written in the common Greek language of nineteen hundred years ago. This Greek word mnēmeiʹon is derived from the verb meaning “to remember” or “to memorialize.” Other Bible translations may render this Greek word by the one word “tomb” in English, but the word “tomb” does not fully express the meaning of the original Greek word. Why not? Because “tomb” in the Greek is derived from the verb that means “to cut, to hew, or to dig.” But the Greek word mnēmeiʹon includes the thought of being remembered or of remembrance.
Bereaved persons lay a dead relative in a tomb because they want to remember the deceased one, and they like to think that that individual will live again and they will have the joy of meeting that one again in another life. But the principal thing is to be remembered not by humans but by Almighty God, to be retained in his memory as deserving of another life by the resurrection from the dead.
Evidently when the Lord Jesus said: “The hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment,” he was referring to God’s memory, to the dead being retained in God’s mind. Our being retained in his memory is most important, because he is the only one who has power to raise the dead by means of Jesus Christ during his thousand-year reign over mankind. Because the Greek word used here by Jesus, mnēmeiʹon, includes the thought of memory, we may have hope for those who are dead in the memorial tombs that they will be remembered by God with a resurrection.
Those who, after death, were cast by the Jews into the valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem, or into Gehenna (as the Greeks called it), were destroyed there and thus were not given a burial in a mnēmeiʹon or memorial tomb. This was because they were not considered worthy of being remembered by God’s people, and hence were considered undeserving of being raised from the dead in God’s due time. Hence Gehenna, the valley outside the walls of Jerusalem where the garbage and refuse of the city were destroyed by fire mingled with sulphur, came to symbolize second death or everlasting destruction at God’s hand, annihilation.
Therefore Judas Iscariot, who betrayed the Lord Jesus Christ to his enemies, was called by Him the “son of perdition,” or “son of destruction”; meaning that Judas Iscariot was deserving of everlasting destruction and will not be favored with a resurrection. Judas betrayed Jesus to the scribes and Pharisees; and to these religious leaders Jesus said: “Serpents, offspring of vipers, how are you to flee from the judgment of Gehenna?” (John 17:12; 6:70, 71; Matt. 23:33; 10:28) Thus when vile, ungodly men, like those religious leaders, died they were destroyed both body and soul, because they would have no resurrection and would never live again as souls anywhere in God’s universe.
Therefore Jesus, when speaking of the resurrection of the dead, referred to the place where they were sleeping in death as memorial tombs, so indicating that those lying therein were remembered by Jehovah God, who, in his due time, would favor them with a resurrection to life with all the opportunities that this offered in God’s new world.