Questions From Readers
● What did Elijah mean when, in reply to Elisha’s request that he be permitted to say farewell to his parents, he said to Elisha: “Go, return; for what have I done to you?”—1 Ki. 19:20.—A. J., United States.
What Elijah here meant was that the matter was not so pressing that Elisha could not first go home and bid his parents farewell. Go, return, for I have no objections. I have done nothing to you to forbid this, his words might be paraphrased. So Elisha proceeded to prepare a feast for his family. This must have taken several hours at least, as it involved killing the bulls, preparing them and then boiling their flesh.
In fact, it is reasonable to conclude that Elijah stayed and shared in this feast, for we do not read of Elisha as hurrying to catch up with Elijah, as though Elijah had kept on going and Elisha stayed behind. So we read that after the feast Elisha “rose up and went following Elijah and began to minister to him.”—1 Ki. 19:21.
This was an entirely different situation from that recorded at Matthew 8:21, 22, where a disciple asked to be first permitted to bury his father, and Jesus replied: “Keep following me, and let the dead bury their dead.” In this case we are not to understand that the father was already dead; otherwise, the son would have been about burying his father, as in Oriental lands people bury their dead soon after they die.
Concerning this expression George M. Lamsa, an authority on Syrian (Aramaic) customs and languages, states: “This phrase is an Orientalism, especially among Aramaic-speaking people. It means ‘my father is an old man and I must take care of him until death.’ Or, ‘My father is on the side of the grave,’ which means, my father may die any day. A man seventy years old is considered ‘dead’ in the Orient because he is non-productive. As they have no insurance companies or banks for protection in old age, an aged man naturally became dependent upon his son for a living. The highest desire of a father, moreover, is to have his son at his death bed to close his eyes at the last hour, when he also pronounces his benediction upon his family. . . . Eastern people are noted for their generosity and hospitality. They not only share food but also bury the dead of the community, and look after the aged.”—Gospel Light, page 62.
So we see that there is no conflict between the call Elijah issued to Elisha and that which Jesus gave to a certain disciple.
● Why does the New World Translation at Philippians 3:11 have the word “earlier”? I do not find it in any other translation.—M. C., United States.
Philippians 3:11, according to the New World Translation, reads: “To see if I may by any means attain to the earlier resurrection from the dead.” The Diaglott, in its interlinear, reads: “If possibly I may attain to the resurrection out of the dead ones.” Marshall’s Interlinear Greek-English New Testament, which is based on Nestle’s text, renders the expression in question in its interlinear, “the out-resurrection.” And the Emphasized Bible by J. Rotherham reads: “If by any means I may advance to the earlier resurrection, which is from among the dead.” The footnote thereon reads, “More literally: ‘the out-resurrection.’”
The Greek word here used is not anástasis, the word almost invariably appearing in the Greek when an English translation reads “resurrection,” and which appears upward of forty times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Rather, it is the word exanástasis a word, incidentally, that appears only in this text. Basically, in Greek exanástasis means a getting up early in the morning, so it suggests earliness and therefore an earlier rising from the dead. With out doubt Paul had in mind here the “first resurrection,” years later mentioned by John at Revelation 20:6: “Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection.”
By making a distinction between anástasis and exanástasis the New World Translation again gives proof of its exactness and accuracy. Of course, to those that do not appreciate that there is not only a first and heavenly resurrection but also a later and earthly resurrection this distinction would not seem to be important, but it is for those who do appreciate it, even though this is the only instance in the writings of Paul where he uses this word.