Answers to Go with Susan Smith

Q. In Chapter 9 of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus has climbed a mountain with Peter, James and John, his disciples. Moses and Elijah appear and talk to Jesus. I am familiar with the story of Moses in the Old Testament, but I really don’t remember much about Elijah. Can you help me find something?

A. There are scholarly articles in two multi-volume reference encyclopedias here. “The Encyclopedia of Religion” and “The Encyclopedia Judaica,” both have lengthy articles on the prophet Elijah who lived in the 9th century BC during the reign of King Ahab of Israel.

Our research indicated that the Old Testament books of First and Second Kings are the primary Biblical source on Elijah, although there are other references such as this one in the New Testament. Elijah is also found in the Koran/ Qur’an.

However, scholarly references really weren’t what our reader wanted. I thought it was worth looking at the story Bibles on the juvenile non-fiction shelves.

“The Children’s Bible,” published in 1965, has the cadence of the Bible with an emphasis on the narrative line of Elijah’s life and work.

It discusses King Ahab and Queen Jezebel, the worship of Baal, the drought and famine that led Elijah to the poor widow who fed him from supplies replenished by God, the death of the widow’s son, and Elijah’s pleas to God to revive the boy.

The story continues with Elijah’s unrelenting challenge to Jezebel and the prophets of Baal. It ends with Elijah being carried to heaven by a chariot and horses of fire.

The patron asked if there were any historical fiction versions of Elijah’s life. Paulo Coelho, the Brazilian author who wrote the popular “The Alchemist” also penned “The Fifth Mountain,” a novel based on Elijah’s life. The patron took home our copy of that book.

The reader also checked out Barbara Diamond Goldin’s “Journeys with Elijah: Eight Tales of the Prophet.” In Goldin’s introduction, she writes: “Throughout the ages, Jews all over the world have told stories about Elijah’s reappearance on earth and his working of miracles. These stories abound in the Jewish folklore of Eastern European countries, such as Poland, as well as in Russia and in Asian and African countries, such as Yemen, Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt.

“Part of the appeal of Elijah the prophet as a figure in religion and folklore is that he is a symbol of hope, a figure who stands for what is just and good in the world.

“He is a helper and friend to those in need, a teacher of lessons, a master of disguises and surprises. He is immortal, able to appear at any time, in any place, to any person. Because of Elijah’s ability to assume any form, the characters in the stories (and we, too) can never be quite sure who he is. He may be that poor beggar on the street or the old man by the side of the road.

“The belief in the possibility of an Elijah encourages us to act as if each person we meet might be Elijah in disguise. It encourages us to be more caring and considerate of others. It teaches us that ordinary people, as well as the prophet Elijah, can help to bring about the days of peace prophesied by the rabbis of old.”

San Marcos Daily Record

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