Questions From Readers
● How can we harmonize Luke’s account of the Lord’s Evening Meal, in which he tells of two cups being passed, with the accounts of Matthew, Mark and Paul, who tell of only one cup of wine as being passed?—R. D., U.S.A.
In comparing various Scriptural accounts of the same incident or event it is always well to keep this in mind: Even though a particular writer mentions only one person or object, yet this does not necessarily mean that there may not have been more than one. Thus we have Matthew mentioning two blind men and two demon-possessed men being healed, whereas both Mark and Luke mention just one of each kind. (Matt. 8:28; 20:30; Mark 5:2; 10:46, 47; Luke 8:27; 18:35) Then again, both Matthew and Mark mention only one angel at the tomb of the resurrected Jesus, whereas Luke mentions two.—Matt. 28:2-4; Mark 16:5-7; Luke 24:4, 5.
So also in this matter of the number of cups involved in the account at Luke 22:17-20, which reads: “Accepting a cup, he gave thanks and said: ‘Take this and pass it from one to the other among yourselves; for I tell you, From now on I will not drink again from the product of the vine until the kingdom of God arrives.’ Also, he took a loaf, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it to them, saying: ‘This means my body which is to be given in your behalf. Keep doing this in remembrance of me.’ Also, the cup in the same way after they had the evening meal, he saying: ‘This cup means the new covenant by virtue of my blood, which is to be poured out in your behalf.’”
The first cup mentioned here (Lu 22 verse 17) refers to the celebration of the Passover, as is shown by Lu 22 verse fifteen. The Passover celebration in Jesus’ day included the use of wine cups. Actually, as noted by The Jewish Encyclopedia, Vol. 9, page 552, and M’Clintock and Strong’s Cyclopædia, Vol. 7, page 739, there were at least four cups of wine that the Jews used in the celebration of the Passover. The Mishnah very definitely states: “Even the poorest in Israel must not eat unless he sits down to table, and they must not give them less than four cups of wine to drink.” (Pesahim 10:1) Luke’s comment in verse seventeen, then, refers to one of the wine cups passed during the Passover celebration and from which cup Jesus himself drank, saying: “I will not drink again from the product of the vine until the kingdom of God arrives.”—Luke 22:18.
Starting with verse nineteen, which begins a new paragraph in the New World Translation, the reference is now, not to the Passover, but to the institution of the Lord’s Evening Meal. Jesus used some of the unleavened bread and one of the wine cups, which were already on hand. The cup mentioned in verse twenty, the one used in the Lord’s Evening Meal, is the only one mentioned by Matthew (26:27) and Mark (14:23), and by Paul at 1 Corinthians 11:25. The Lord’s Evening Meal was, however, no part of the Passover celebration itself; Jesus here instituted a new arrangement.
● Is there any Scriptural objection to the use of birth-control pills?
The use of contraceptives is a matter for the personal decision of the married couple concerned, since the Bible itself does not condemn birth control. The Society does not advise on contraceptives, as pointed out in The Watchtower of March 1, 1951, pages 159, 160. But it should be noted that the use of contraceptives, such as birth-control pills, is not the same as sterilization. Sterilization, whether temporary or permanent, for the specific purpose of birth control would Scripturally be wrong. (For details, see The Watchtower of December 1, 1961, pages 734, 735.) As to the matter of birth-control pills, if they are used by a married woman, then it should be with the consent of her husband.
It is well recognized by doctors that the use of any drug preparation is a calculated risk. Medical libraries all have publications that deal with the side effects of drugs; so this is not something that is little known. The question to be decided is if the individual is willing to take the risk that may possibly be involved in order to get the result desired. No one can say dogmatically that a certain drug is absolutely safe; individuals react differently. However, as far as the Bible is concerned, the practice of birth control by the use of pills made for that purpose is not forbidden; the decision to use or not to use such a product is left up to the individual married couple. For more details, see Awake! of April 8, 1962, pages 27, 28.
● Is there any symbolic significance to the number forty? If so, what is it?—A. L., U.S.A.
As to the number forty, it must be noted that it is used in many different connections in the Bible, as shown by an exhaustive Bible concordance. In its publications the Society has never ascribed to this number any one significance that covers every use of the number. However, in The Watchtower of May 1, 1941, on page 138, in discussing Judges 5:31, it commented on a forty-year period of peace, following the deliverance of the Israelites from Canaanite oppression; and it showed that this foreshadowed the time of the peaceful 1,000-year reign of the Lord Jesus Christ. Obviously this significance cannot be attached to all other occurrences of the number in the Bible. For instance, the number sometimes seems to be associated with a judgment period, judgment or punishment. Thus the rain of Noah’s day fell for forty days. (Gen. 7:4) The law of Moses provided that certain types of offenders were to be given forty strokes. (Deut. 25:3) Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years as a punishment for their rebellious course. (Num. 14:34) Jonah warned Nineveh that in forty days it would be destroyed. (Jonah 3:4) However, we are not to conclude that every time the number forty occurs in the Scriptures it has symbolic significance.
● Why was Simeon omitted from Moses’ valedictory blessing (Deut. 33:6-24) of the tribes of Israel?—G. S., U.S.A.
Undoubtedly this can be understood by the fact that Simeon’s lot was included with Judah. Simeon and Levi had worked together in an act of cruelty, so that Jacob prophesied: “Let me give them a portion in Jacob, but let me scatter them in Israel.” (Gen. 49:7) Thus though Simeon and Levi were given a “portion” in Israel, it was not an unbroken portion. If one turns to a map of Palestine in the days of the twelve tribes of Israel, he will notice how Simeon is enclosed within the territory of Judah, so that Simeon did not get a self-contained territory. So when Moses turned his attention to Judah, he well knew that Simeon’s portion was included with Judah. Joshua 19:9 states: “The inheritance of the sons of Simeon was out of the allotment of the sons of Judah, because the share of the sons of Judah proved to be too large for them. So the sons of Simeon got a possession in the midst of their inheritance.” Not only could Simeon be included in Judah’s portion but Moses’ blessing was upon all the tribes of Israel, and the tribe of Simeon was assembled there and came under the general blessing: “Happy are you, O Israel! Who is there like you, a people enjoying salvation in Jehovah?”—Deut. 33:29.