The Women At The Empty Tomb (Appendix to the 2 previous posts.)

The 2 Previous Posts were

  1. The Women At The Empty Tomb

2. The Women at the Empty Tomb 2/2

Now, Reflecting on these 2 posts:

Regardless of attributing to specific authors, these below early documents reflect a certain attitude by some Christians to women:

Ephesians 5:22-24 “…wives should submit to their husbands etc.

1 Timothy 2:11-15 “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent etc.

1 Corinthians 14:33-35 “…women should remain silent in the churches (and following).

1 Corinthians 11:3-16 “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man (and following).

Colossians 3:18 “Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.

Peter 3:1-6 “Wives in the same way be submissive to your husbands (and following).

Titus 2: 4-5 “Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands so that no one will malign the word of God.

These ideas seem to have trickled down to influence our first gospel Mark.  Reversing Genesis, Mark (1) has the naked young man, who was as guilty as the naked Adam in society’s eyes for following Jesus, redeemed in beautiful clothing in the tomb.  The meaning is clearly to do what is right in the eyes of God, not man, and you will be vindicated in the end.  Similarly, we see (2) a reversal of Eve in Genesis not having a healthy fear of God and His commands, with the women at the tomb in Mark who break the command they are given out of a surplus of fear – and hence this fear and submissiveness serves the purpose of God.  If the women passed on the empty tomb narrative to the disciples before the resurrection appearance, they may have been thought to have caused/influenced the hallucinations.  In the same way, we read “16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. (2 Peter 1:16).”  So, in Mark it seems that just as men were called to turn from the opinions/ways of the world and onto God’s ways, the paradigmatic holy woman is one in fearful submissiveness, such as we see with the woman in Mark 7:24-30:

“Throughout the entire story, the woman is described as submissive, a Gentile of Syrophoenician origin, and even a dog.  Never, however, is she, or her daughter, addressed by name (whatever it may have been).  The women are a composition of stereotypes – weak and submissive women, dog-like Syrophoenician Gentiles – rather than individuals worthy of respect. (Mac McCann)

The term “dog” is diminutive, meaning the household pets that get the scraps the children drop. The children are the disciples who need rest and nourishment (bread). The woman is disturbing their peace, and it is Jesus’ priority to make sure His disciples get what they need before yet another person steals His attention. It’s possible the woman recognizes the metaphor in the setting—she as household puppy who is distracting the Master from the children

(A) Reflection Question:

Traditionally, Philosophers have asked about the ultimate ground of reality. Many pre-Socratic philosophers called this the “Arche.” Much later, the philosophers Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida said we need to change this way of thinking and make Ethics First Philosophy and First Religion, especially after the horrific use Martin Heidegger put his philosophy to with the Nazis. Can you find places in the Gospel of Mark where women are presented as intelligent, brave, and powerful? Write your own Gospel story presenting women in this way.

(B) Teacher Further Reading

If teachers would like to consider reading a few resource articles as background to extend inquiry/activities for kids from the above three Secular Web Kids posts on The Women At The Tomb, please consider these articles:

(i) The Justified Lie by the Johannine Jesus in its Greco-Roman-Jewish Context:

(ii) A Critique of the Penal Substitution Interpretation of the Cross of Christ

Reflection Passage:

“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,

    the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6)

(iii) LGBTQ + Rights And The Birth Of Christianity

The Women At The Empty Tomb part 2/2: Fear of God (Middle School Level)

“He fulfills the desire of those who fear him; he also hears their cry and saves them.” – Psalm 145:19 (ESV)

“Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Proverbs 31:30 ESV”

Just as a lack of a healthy fear of God and his commands, not bad intentions, lay behind Eve disobeying in the Garden, so too did a surplus of fear of God lay behind the women disobeying the command of the Lord conveyed by the young man in the tomb, but the irony is the result in Mark is the opposite of the result in Genesis. 

Fear of God may refer to fear itself, but also to a sense of awe, and submission to, a deity. People subscribing to popular monotheistic religions for instance, might fear Hell and divine judgment, or submit to God’s omnipotence. Proverbs 1:7 says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  Indeed — fear is the beginning, the catalyst. Fear is the motivator. This is echoed in Psalm 111:10, which notes, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.”  And again, later on in Proverbs, we’re reminded, “The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, turning a person from the snares of death” (Proverbs 14:27). In the Magnificat (Luke 1:50) Mary claims, “His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.” The Parable of the Unjust Judge (Luke 18:1-8) finds Jesus describing the judge as one who “…neither feared God nor cared for man.”

Bible commentator Melanie Newton points out Sarah went along with Abraham’s “Tell them you’re my sister” plan because she was willing to do what he thought was needed to preserve his life. Remember that as the Holy Spirit inspired Peter to write his letter, God honored Sarah for not giving way to fear (1 Peter 3:5-6). Newton points out a major Old Testament theme is women repeatedly overcoming fear by trusting God.

Similarly, Miriam experienced that amazing exit from Egypt along with more than 2 million others. When the people were terrified, the Lord fought for them. They needed only to stop being terrified and trust Him. Through Moses’ instructions, the trembling people were able to apply faith to their fear. They confronted it and turned it over to God. Their faithful God took over and proved that He was stronger than their enemies.

The conclusion that Rahab made about the God of Israel was exactly what God wanted all of them to know (Deuteronomy 4:35). Everyone heard the same news. While most stayed in their fear, Rahab responded with faith to the revelation given. Rahab was given an opportunity to make a conscious choice for God based upon the few facts she knew about Him, and she responded with FAITH. Faith resulted in action. God’s grace to Rahab forgave her past and gave her a new future. She was given a place among the Israelites as a recognizable person because she acted on faith instead of melting into fear. She married an Israelite man and produced a son who was King David’s great grandfather, placing Rahab in the lineage of Jesus.  God loved Rahab. He knew what was going on in her life. He was able to do something about it. But, God did not keep Rahab from losing the security of her home nor did He prevent her from having to go through the agony of watching the Israelites march around the city for 7 days. Remember, she didn’t know that plan. When she stepped out in faith, He met her there. She trusted Him to rescue her, and He did. God judged her by her heart (the inward woman), not by her lifestyle (the outward appearance). He not only saved her life, but He forgave her past and gave her a new future. She chose to trust Him rather than melt in fear.

The Old Testament also says God loved the two single moms and their children. He knew what was going on in their lives. He was able to do something about it. But, God did not restore their husbands back to these women nor did He prevent them from going through the agony of watching food supplies dwindle or facing threats from a creditor. His provision was not luxurious foods or easy money. During their walk, a loving God said no to some things. Yet, they chose to trust Him rather than submit to fear. And, God rewarded their faith with an outpouring of His blessing. Likewise, God may not choose to remove the threats from your life. But, in any and all situations, you can count on these truths

Regarding the ending of Mark, Rollin Grams comments that:

Some believe that Mark’s Gospel ends in irony.  After keeping Jesus’ identity secretive throughout the Gospel, when the risen Jesus now tells the women to go tell his disciples to meet him in Galilee, they say nothing to anyone out of fear (Mark 16.7-8; this is the actual end of the Gospel as vv. 9-20 were a later addition trying to resolve this surprising ending).  Andrew Lincoln has argued that this surprising ending may fit the context of Mark’s Gospel being written in Rome during the time of Nero’s persecution of Christians.  If so, the Gospel ends as a challenge to Christians not to be silent but to witness to who Jesus is.  Another way to understand this ending is that the women’s response could be understood to mean that they did tell the disciples but did not broadcast Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem (surely this is what happened!).  Thus, v. 7 is the key: the risen Jesus would now reveal himself fully to his disciples back in Galilee (a safer place for them than Jerusalem).  They would be able to put all the pieces of the puzzle together in their post-resurrection meeting of Jesus.  They would understand how he was both Messiah of the Jews and ‘Son of God’ for Jews and Gentiles.

I think Rollin is on the right track, but we can do better. Mark is well known for using irony in his Gospel, more than any other biblical book, eg While the disciples have been unable to see who Jesus is, ironically, blind Bartimaeus does (Mark 10:46-52; see also 8:22-26). But, as I argued in the previous post (see ) , Mark’s final irony seems to be it is the fear of the Lord of women at the tomb causing them to break the young man’s/God’s command, resulting in silence, that ironically gives a sense of truthfulness to the resurrection appearance claims, since empty tomb rumors/old wives’ tales weren’t resulting in hysteria/hallucinations. 

Certainly, this is simply a made up literary theme by Mark, and so there is no reason to think there ever were women discovering an empty tomb. The bible certainly acknowledges hallucinations can be a problem, such as when we drink too much:

31 Do not look at wine when it is red,
    when it sparkles in the cup
    and goes down smoothly.
32 At the last it bites like a serpent,
    and stings like an adder.
33 Your eyes will see strange things,
    and your mind utter perverse things. (Proverbs 23:31-33 New Revised Standard Version)

Hallucinations due to various causes were well known in the ancient world, so for instance Aristotle thought of them as waking dreams: He compares hallucinations to dreams, saying “…the faculty by which, in waking hours, we are subject to illusion when affected by disease, is identical with that which produces illusory effects in sleep. (Aristotle, On Dreams, 1.458b26-28).”

Women were thought to be particularly prone to hysterical/delusional thinking in ancient times, and so we read: Have nothing to do with profane myths and old wives’ tales. Train yourself in godliness,(1 Timothy 4:7).” The writer of 1 Timothy calls them graōdeis, which literally means “old woman-ish.” In the culture of that day, superstition and gossip were rampant. Today, we refer to a superstitious myth as an “old wives’ tale,” and this is a similar sense of what the passage is saying here. The claims about God which Timothy needs to avoid are “silly:” unreliable hearsay which does not honor God.

.Basically, the end of Mark reverses the Genesis story. The naked young follower of Jesus is as guilty as the naked Adam in the eyes of man for following Jesus, but is shown to be holy in God’s eyes inside the tomb where the criminal Jesus was vindicated through God resurrecting him. Similarly, that the women rejecting the command of the young Adamic man in the tomb in silent fear that vouchsafed the authenticity of the resurrection appearances, is contrasted with Eve who disobeyed since she did not have a healthy fear of God. On those structural grounds I would argue Mark 16:8 is the authentic ending.

The Women At The Empty Tomb

The Gospel of Mark, our oldest gospel, ends like this:

“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing (Mark 16:6-8)

Longer endings have been attached as forgeries over the years, but this is how the gospel ends. Many thinkers have thought this ending was good evidence of the empty tomb, because Mark wouldn’t have invented a story with women as witnesses, because the ancient Jewish people of the time were prejudice in that they did not see women as reliable witnesses.

I don’t see this to be a very convincing interpretation. Mark would have been aware of the risen Jesus appearance claims described in the Corinthian Creed/Poetry the apostle Paul quotes:

“That Christ died for our sins

in accordance with the scriptures.

and that he was buried;

That he was raised on the third day

in accordance with the scriptures,

and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.”

So, why would Mark end his gospel where he does without mentioning the appearances? Clearly, the women finding the empty tomb was the climax of Mark’s story. Why? What seems clear is the issue isn’t one of whether women would be reliable or not, but rather of easily terrified women who told no one what they discovered out of fright. Why is this an issue? Perhaps there were early opponents of Christianity who were saying the tomb was empty because someone stole the corpse, as was a problem at the time (which we can see from the famous Nazareth Inscription), and then some of the disciples went to pay their respects to the dead Jesus and found the tomb empty: Then, the opponents were claiming that those disciples started thinking Jesus was risen and after some hallucinated him

The Nazareth Inscription

The ending of Mark is actually a pretty good counter to this complaint, because it affirms the truth of the empty tomb, but pauses its transmission to give the male disciples, who Mark says ALL ran away at Jesus’ arrest, the opportunity to have “legitimate” resurrection appearance experiences without being prompted to hallucinate them by empty tomb rumors. And in fact, Matthew employs a similar strategy in his gospel. Matthew invents the idea that there were guards at the tomb to answer the accusation that the disciples stole the body and then lied about it. When reading the gospels, we always have to ask not only what is written, but what purpose it serves, because a “gospel” is historically not simply biography, or history, but “propaganda:” a substantial amount being historical fiction. Helms comments

The syncretic flavor of Mark is at once evident from his reproduction of a piece of Augustan imperial propaganda and his setting it beside a tailored scripture quote. “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God” closely matches the formula found on a monument erected by the Provincial Assembly in Asia Minor (1st century BCE): “Whereas… Providence… has… brought our life to the peak of perfection in giving us Augustus Caesar… who, being sent to us and to our descendants as a savior…, and whereas… the birthday of the god has been for the whole world the beginning of the gospel (euaggelion) concerning him, let all reckon a new era beginning from the date of his birth.” (Helms, p. 24) 

That’s why Mark’s gospel end’s where it does, and why he invents the detail of hysterical women finding the empty tomb. In Mark’s mind, it made much more sense to have women discover the empty tomb because in his ancient view they would be much more likely to keep it a secret out of terror than if men found the empty tomb.

An “Incredible Person” Study of Friedrich Nietzsche part 2/2, this time for middle school kids.

I really like imagery that dis-closes fundamental, but hidden, aspects of the human condition.

For instance, one of the core experiences of Time we have, but often don’t realize, is Eternal Repetition or Recurrence, meaning that beings lose their luster for us simply as a function of our spending time with them. Even a favorite song becomes a worn out recording, as Escape (The Piña Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes says.

Nietzsche poetizes it this way:

“What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence—even this spider and this moonlight between the trees, and even this moment and I myself. The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it, speck of dust!’ Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.”(Nietzsche The Gay Science, Aphorism 341)

We see this tragic thought expressed throughout our intellectual history:

(1) “All things are wearisome; more than one can express; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, or the ear filled with hearing. 9 What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes)

(2) “26. Some people suffer from a surfeit of doing and seeing the same things. Theirs is not contempt for life but boredom with it, a feeling we sink into when influenced by the sort of philosophy which makes us say, ‘How long the same old things? I shall wake up and go to sleep, I shall eat and be hungry, I shall be cold and hot. There’s no end to anything, but all things are in a fixed cycle, fleeing and pursuing each other. Night follows day and day night; summer passes into autumn, hard on autumn follows winter, and that in turn is checked by spring. All things pass on only to return. Nothing I do or see is new: sometimes one gets sick even of this.’ There are many who think that life is not harsh but superfluous. (Seneca ep. mor. 24. 26).”

(3) “He who lives to see two or three generations is like a man who sits some time in the conjurer’s booth at a fair, and witnesses the performance twice or thrice in succession. The tricks were meant to be seen only once; and when they are no longer a novelty and cease to deceive, their effect is gone.” (Schopenhauer, “Essays on Pessimism”)

But Nietzsche points out if beings have no inherent luster, they are open to interpretation, and so are not tragic but joyous for those who bestow value rather than just trying find it. Hence, we find eternal return for Heidegger’s reading of Nietzsche thus refers to the manner in which beings appear, which is: they appear as though they’ve been encountered countless times before, and so lose their luster for us simply as a function of our spending time with them, that is unless we are artistic and creative.

Nietzsche knew this experience well even before he articulated eternal return as a concept, and so in a letter to Overbeck he talked about how he was oblivious to the cabin fever affecting his friends at a rainy cottage as he joyously worked on his Third Untimely Meditation (Nietzsche, 1975,: 11.3 382). To express this cabin fever Nietzsche gives the image of the caged bird:

In the Horizon of the Infinite. We have left the land and have gone aboard ship! We have broken down the bridge behind us, – nay, more, the land behind us! Well, little ship! look out! Beside thee is the ocean; it is true it does not always roar, and sometimes it spreads out like silk and gold and a gentle reverie. But times will come when thou wilt feel that it is infinite, and that there is nothing more frightful than infinity. Oh, the poor bird that felt itself free, and now strikes against the walls of this cage! Alas, if home sickness for the land should attack thee, as if there had been more freedom there, – and there is no “land” any longer! (Friedrich Nietzsche – The Gay Science Book III – Aphorism # 124)

Hence, we read Nietzsche in response to Schopenhauer and the tragedy of the “performance” imagery cited above:

[A]nyone who has done these things (and perhaps precisely by doing these things) will have inadvertently opened his eyes to the inverse ideal: to the ideal of the most high-spirited, vital, world-affirming individual, who has learned not just to accept and go along with what was and what is, but who wants it again just as it was and is through all eternity, insatiably shouting da capo not just to himself but to the whole play and performance, and not just to a performance, but rather, fundamentally, to the one who needs precisely this performance – and makes it necessary: because again and again he needs himself – and makes himself necessary. – – What? and that wouldn’t be –circulus vitiosus deus? (Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil)

So, that’s the kind of stuff I find really intellectually fascinating: when someone can un-hide a profound truth of the human condition for you, like one of those hidden gestalt images that is initially hidden, but once you see it you can’t unsee it!

You see the old man, but can you see the young couple kissing?

Hegel said we can un-hide the “Oneness” of the sock by tearing it in half, that in the tearing the Unity appears “as a lost unity.” He called this method of un-hiding “phenomenology.” What important truths of the human condition can you coax out of hiding? Remember, the great ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus said “Being love to hide!”

An “Incredible Person” study of Friedrich Nietzsche (1/2)

  “Like an unskilled doctor, fallen ill, you lose heart and cannot discover by which remedies to cure your own disease.” (Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound)

How can you have a great life? One strategy is to study and emulate the lives of great people like Martin Luther King Junior. Every padawan benefits from having a mentor, like Luke Skywalker was Yoda’s student.

Where can you find such highly successful people? Some places to look are sports, politics, and of course the history of ideas. One such person was the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Renowned Nietzsche Scholar Yunus Tuncel points out:

“Nietzsche dealt with the problems of life as a child and a teenager. He lost his father at a young age and then they had to move to the nearest town. In his early teen years, he started having health problems. And yet, he struggled and did not give up. He always confronted his sufferings rather than surrender and pursued his studies and learning. There is much to learn from all of that.”

Übermensch - Wikipedia
Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche had many great and interesting ideas. One was about morality. For instance, if we look at the terms “good” and “evil,” they seem to have a religious sense, such as our word “good-bye,” which originally meant “God-be-with-you.” Things were good because God liked them, and evil if God hated them. Nietzsche pointed out that things can be good and yet morally wrong, for instance “good” means “effective” if we speak of a good bird of prey – though a human doing what a good bird of prey does would be a problem for society. Moreover, one event can generate multiple contradictory ethical interpretations, such as the western reaction to 9’11 vs the Palestinian celebration of it at the time.

Nietzsche reasoned that we were asking the wrong question when it comes to judging events, since evaluation at some level is arbitrary and based on taste (eg, a rubric of criteria judging fine wine may be objective, but meaningless if you hate the taste of wine as I do). And, determining things as good and evil can identify “good” things which could be diagnosed as “unhealthy,” such as what Nietzsche called “slave morality.” For example, accumulating wealth was evil to the original Christians (Matt 19:21, and esp Mark 10:25). Nietzsche said we should go beyond asking what is good and evil to the diagnosis of whether a particular society or action are healthy or sick. Nietzsche referred to himself as a cultural physician.

There are many examples of how Nietzsche’s thoughts have informed modern ideas, such as cognitive behavioral psychology and therapy, commonly known as CBT. For instance, consider these strategies for challenging bad, which is to say unhealthy, thinking patterns:

Part of Nietzsche’s genius was seeing that events and actions are not inherently good or bad, but can be interpreted in different ways. The question is whether your experience of something as good or bad is a healthy or sickly one. This is not a relativism where everything is equally desirable or undesirable. For example, a child bride and her family may see her marriage as “good,” but we can still say it’s objectively “unhealthy” because twelve year old brains are not old enough to rationally judge whether or not to be in such a relationship.

Religion and Government

Napoleon Crowning Himself Emperor (wiki)
The Apotheosis (becoming a God) of Washington (wiki)

What we see from the current war between Russia and Ukraine, is that the closer someone gets to being a dictator, the more dangerous it becomes that he/she will use the position to lie to his/her people and increase power. But if it is obvious to us that a free democracy is the way to go, why do religious people so often want an absolute dictator, eg. returning King Jesus?

Part of the reason is that religious and secular people have different interpretations of the person. For instance, do you think parents/guardians would want for their adult children that they completely depend on the parents/guardians and never leave the childhood home and obsess over the parent/guardian’s every opinion – or would the grownups’ wish for the child be that he/she grows up, become independent, and learns to have his/her own life?

Certain faiths view the individual as a servant, and the goal is not being free, but going from one kind of servant to another, being a slave to a better master. For instance, we read in the Hebrew Scriptures:

O Lord, I am your servant;
    I am your servant, the child of your serving girl.
    You have loosed my bonds. (Psalm 116:16)

For Paul in the New Testament, we have an inner principle of goodness, God wrote the law on our hearts (Rom 2:12-16), but Satan is in control of the “fleshly” part of us. But Jesus, the great resister of Satan, because he was resurrected, could take over a believer (if welcomed) in angelic possession, and so there is a transition from being a slave to Satan, to being a slave to God through Christ whose death, so to speak, paid the “ransom” to Satan to free the slaves. Jesus’ death didn’t, as is commonly interpreted, “pay a sin debt” to God, since obviously God wasn’t holding anyone hostage for a “ransom (Mark 10:45),” but Jesus’s death paid the price it took to free the slaves from Satan’s grasp. Paul says:

But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. 18 Shun fornication! Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body (1 Cor 6:16-20)

The argument is we go from being a slave to Satan to a slave to God. With Paul above we see that the point is, in his words, that “you are not your own,” and so we are meant to be a slave to an extreme sense: rejecting yourself and becoming simply Jesus incarnate, Christ in you (Colossians 1:27).

The question is, do you want to go from being one kind of slave to another? Usually, if someone comes and wants to be a politician, we would expect them to be democratically elected, have limits in terms of their power, and voluntarily step down from office when their term ends. Should we not expect the same of Jesus if he returns, and is elected? Don’t let titles fool you. Padme in Star Wars was queen, but she was also democratically elected, and had term limits.

ACTIVITY: Watch the Star Wars clip below: “Anakin and Padme: Dictatorship and Democracy.” Consider the figure of Palpatine/Darth Sidious in Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith. Write and illustrate a dystopian comic about how a democratic society might will their own repression and come to elect a dictator.

Reflection Question: Does Star Wars reflect a Utopia or a Dystopia when the Jedi are in charge?

Inquiry Questions and Metacognition

One of the most important goals of teaching is fostering “Metacognition,” making implicit student thinking processes explicit for the students. One approach to this is teaching Inquiry Questions. All student work is going to be an answer to questions, and so getting students to become aware of the questions they are answering helps to create cohesion and meaningfulness to their learning. Here are two examples:

(1) This essay is called “The Justified Lie By The Johannine Jesus In Its Greco-Roman-Jewish Context.” The Inquiry Questions it is answering are: (i) Does the Gospel of John portray Jesus as lying? (ii) If so, why would the writer portray such a thing? See:

(2) This essay is called “A Critique of the Penal Substitution Interpretation of the Cross of Christ.” The Inquiry Questions it is answering are: Our oldest faith statement of the cross is from the Corinthian creed/poetry Paul quotes that “Christ Died For Our Sins.” Does this mean Christ died (i) to pay our sin debt, or (ii) to make our hidden sin nature conspicuous to inspire transformation and repentance? See:

In the above cases, seeing how student writing not only has a specific form (eg recount, report, narrative, etc), but also has an unfolding thesis, theme, etc, and blossoms forth in the context of inquiry questions, students not only find greater purpose in their work, but also become better thinkers as their cognitive strategies and approaches go from implicit to explicit.

Background For Teachers On The Argument For God’s Existence From Beauty

Of the traditional arguments trying to prove the existence of God (ontological argument, cosmological argument, argument from design, and argument from beauty), the argument from beauty is one of the most popular, persuasive, and easy to understand. For instance, surely the beautiful image below is evidence of a divine artist …

In helping students question the argument from beauty, there is no need to upset them by showing the image below, but a gentler analogous image can be used to show the argument from beauty is special pleading, picking and choosing images that might support a religious belief and ignoring those that don’t. Eg:


And besides, beauty is not in the world, but in the eye of the beholder: eg one person sees a dilapidated bungalow, while another sees it as a quaint cottage; or, one person see a mansion as magnificent, while a minimalist sees it as gawdy.