Questions From Readers
● The Fourth Commandment, recorded at Exodus 20:11, states: “For in six days Jehovah made the heavens and the earth, the sea and everything that is in them and he proceeded to rest on the seventh day.” Does not the “six days” include Genesis 1:1, since the “six days” includes the time “Jehovah made the heavens and the earth”?—W. B., U.S.A.
No, we cannot so argue. The “day” of Genesis 2:4 as well as the “six days” of Exodus 20:11, comprising the whole creative period from when Jehovah God created light on the earth, does not include the period of time previous in which the earth was already existing and during which it was formless and waste, abiding in the darkness that covered the surface of its surging waters.
We may not forget that during this creative week God did create heavens. Those heavens are the ones described in the account of the second day in Genesis 1:6-8. It is in these heavens that Ge 1 verse 20 says the flying creatures wing their way. It was in these heavens that the sun, moon and stars outside became visible on the fourth day. The earth was made or created within this creative period also in that it was made to appear above the surging waters on the third day. (Gen. 1:9, 10) These, therefore, are “the heavens and the earth” that are referred to at both Genesis 2:4 and Exodus 20:11.
The record at 1 Samuel 31:4 reads: “Then Saul said to his armor-bearer: ‘Draw your sword and run me through with it, that these uncircumcised men may not come and certainly run me through and deal abusively with me.’ And his armor-bearer was unwilling, because he was very much afraid. So Saul took the sword and fell upon it.” At 2 Samuel 1:10 we have the words of an Amalekite addressed to David, claiming to have killed King Saul at his request: “So I stood over him and definitely put him to death, for I knew he could not live after he had fallen.”
A little reflection will make it all clear. On the one hand we have the inspired record, most likely by the prophets Nathan and Gad, telling just how King Saul died. They report it as a fact. On the other hand we have the claim of a pagan, an unknown youth of the Amalekites, which contradicts the divine record. Is there any reason for doubting the record of the inspired writers? No, there is not. Is there any reason for doubting the words of the pagan youth? Yes, there is, for it is reasonable to conclude that he was trying to curry the favor of David by posing as the slayer of the one who sought David’s life during his lifetime. What he said was therefore a deliberate falsehood. However, instead of getting him into the favor of David, it so aroused David’s wrath that he ordered the youth to be slain for having killed Jehovah’s anointed.—2 Sam. 1:15, 16.
● What are the “elementary things” that the apostle Paul warned against at Colossians 2:8?—B. F., U.S.A.
At Colossians 2:8 we read: “Look out: perhaps there may be some man that will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ.” The most common connotation of “elementary” is that which is primary, rudimentary, such as an “elementary” school. The term, however, also means that which pertains to or treats of the elements of anything. An element, in turn, is defined as “one of the constituent parts, principles or traits of anything.”
In keeping with this definition is the Greek word here used by the apostle Paul, stoikheiʹon, which means ‘that which is a basal, fundamental or an initial constituent.’ This word is a diminution of a Greek term meaning ‘a straight rod or rule.’ Stoikheiʹon is also defined as “an element; an element of the natural universe . . . ; an element or rudiment of any intellectual or religious system.”—Greek Lexicon, Bagster.
Stoikheiʹon occurs seven times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. The apostle Peter uses it twice in the sense of an element of the natural universe, saying: “Jehovah’s day will come as a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a hissing noise, but the elements being intensely hot will be dissolved.” (2 Pet. 3:10, 12) A footnote in the New World Translation on the word “elements” says, “the celestial bodies.” In the literal heavens the elements or constituent parts are the individual celestial bodies. However, since we know that the literal heavens and earth will remain forever, and in view of what the context shows, it is apparent that the apostle Peter was here referring to a wicked symbolic heavens, consisting of Satan and all his wicked demons. These will melt away in the day of Jehovah in that they will be put out of action at Armageddon, thrown into the abyss for a thousand years.—Rev. 20:1-3.
In his letter to the Hebrew Christians the apostle Paul uses this same term stoikheiʹon to refer to the basic elements of true Christianity. Because of their indolence these again needed someone to teach them from the beginning “the first principles [stoikheiʹon; elements] of the sacred pronouncements of God,” such as “repentance from dead works, and faith toward God, . . . the resurrection of the dead and everlasting judgment.” Such teachings, elements or “principles” are both basic and primary, for which reason Paul designated them as the “first” elements of the teachings of Christianity.—Heb. 5:12; 6:1, 2.
Coming now to the “elementary things” mentioned at Colossians 2:8, these are the basic or elementary things or principles that comprise, guide and motivate Satan’s world or system of things. The term would therefore include the philosophy or futile wisdom of this world; the empty deception of its materialism, which the Congregator in the book of Ecclesiastes repeatedly shows to be such a calamitous occupation; the traditions of false religion, and so forth. Included, therefore, are the things mentioned by the apostle John: “Because everything in the world—the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the showy display of one’s means of life—does not originate with the Father, but originates with the world.”—1 John 2:16.
If the Christian is not at all times awake and alert, men of this world will carry him off as their prey according to its elementary things by bringing him again into bondage for their own selfish purposes. Thus certain Judaizers, who were a part of the world and who were trying to bring Christians back into the bondage of the Mosaic law, caused Paul to write: “If you died together with Christ toward the elementary things of the world, why do you, as if living in the world, further subject yourselves to the decrees, ‘Do not handle, nor taste, nor touch,’ respecting things that are all destined to destruction by being used up.” (Col. 2:20-22) Two similar references to these particular “elementary things” are found at Galatians 4:3 and 9.
Since today comparatively few Christians have come out of Judaism, the danger of being taken a prey by Judaizers is not so great as it was with the Galatian Christians in Paul’s day. But there are other dangers, such as those already noted, and not overlooking higher criticism, against which Christians must be on guard, for “bad associations spoil useful habits.”—1 Cor. 15:33.