This post is the last in this miniseries looking at the problem of evil. The previous posts are linked below. This last post begins below the linked posts:
This interpretation offered over the above previous posts in the miniseries regarding God as evil/stupid is related to what we find in the ancient Gnostic interpretation of Christianity. What did the Gnostics teach? One commentator explains:
In the arch-dualist ideology of the various Gnostic systems, the material universe is evil, while the non-material world is good. According to some strains of Gnosticism, the demiurge is malevolent, as it is linked to the material world. In others, including the teaching of Valentinus, the demiurge is simply ignorant or misguided. Gnosticism attributed falsehood or evil to the concept of the Demiurge or creator, though in some Gnostic traditions the creator is from a fallen, ignorant, or lesser—rather than evil—perspective, such as that of Valentinius. Whereas Plato’s Demiurge is good wishing good on his creation, Gnosticism contends that the Demiurge is not only the originator of evil but is evil as well.
How can we summarize this for ourself? Another commentator suggests:
The demiurge (Greek demiurgos, “craftsman”) is the being who created the world in Gnosticism. The Gnostics identified him with the god of the Old Testament. The Gnostic scriptures portray him as ignorant, malicious, and utterly inferior to the true God who sent Christ to earth to save humankind from the demiurge’s evil world.
So, in agreement with this ancient Gnostic interpretation, the interpretation being put forth in this mini series of posts is God sent Jesus to awaken the divine Law written on our hearts through dis-closing (“a-letheia,” truth) our hidden vileness so as to inspire repentance. This Law written on our hearts that Paul describes (Romans 2:15) is what the Gnostics called the divine spark.
Ecclesiastes 3:11 declares that God has “set eternity in the hearts of men.” In Luke 17:21, Jesus proclaims, “The kingdom of God is within you.” The New Testament teaches that every human being possesses an immaterial soul-spirit, and it is this part of us that connects with God (Hebrews 4:12).
The dual function of the cross was this awakening as a path to redemption for humans, as well as God punishing himself for the mess he created. God planned the horrific torture and execution of his beloved Son because God was eternal and hence unable to torture and execute Himself for the monstrous world he created. In the terrible death of his beloved son Jesus, God the Father experienced an event worse than death – as any father would at the death of their beloved son.
When people realized what they did to God’s chosen one Jesus, this was the catalyst for the divine spark within to awaken and inspire repentance (Truly this was the son of God/an Innocent man, Mark 15:30, Luke 23:47). This allows us to understand Christ is understood as fulfilling the prophesy of Jeremiah 31:31-33:
31 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32 It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer. 31:31-33)
- Previous 3 Secular Web Kids posts links, new analysis following these below:
In the last series of posts on “What is the problem of evil?” we raised the possibility of God’s supreme recklessness and poor judgment in allowing earthquakes, floods, famine, pestilence, Sin, etc. God did such a poor job creating and managing that things just got worse and worse until He had to wipe away evil humanity with a flood, but despite this eventually evil Rome still rose up to take over the world and put the Jews under its imperial thumb. The solution was Jesus, as the specially chosen son of God, to undergo a horrific unjust torture and execution to awaken people to their hidden vile nature as a catalyst for repentance (“Truly this was God’s son/an innocent man.”)
Innocent Son Jesus had to suffer to reverse the sins of the Father. But also, God, who was the most guilty of all for what the law today calls the monstrosity of depraved indifference murder, could not pass judgment and execute Himself for his crimes (God can’t die), and so had to do the next best thing and plan the execution of his beloved Son. In this way, God suffered a pain worse than the death he could not suffer, which is he had to plan the horrific death of his only beloved Son. There was a higher principle than God, that of Justice, that dictated the Son had to be punished for the sins of the Father. Similarly, in Euripides we read:
“The gods visit the sins of the fathers upon the children. (Euripides Phrixus, Frag. 970)”
Guiltless Jesus had to restore humanity to holiness, that righted God neglecting to make man revulsed by Sin, and in fact man tempted/leaning toward Sin. The mistake in creation of the inclination toward sin had compounded and compounded generation upon generation. Horace said
Guiltless, you will pay for your ancestors’ failure,
Roman, until you rebuild the temples
and fallen shrines of the gods and
the statues filthy with black smoke.
Because you consider yourself lesser than the gods, you hold power:
Derive every beginning from this, and to this each ending:
Negelcted gods gave many misfortunes
to mournful Hesperia. (Horace Odes 3.6)
In the Jewish tradition a major theme is innocent children being punished by God for the sins of the father. For instance, we read:
“5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me (Exodus 20:5)”
‘The Lord is slow to anger,
and abounding in steadfast love,
forgiving iniquity and transgression,
but by no means clearing the guilty,
visiting the iniquity of the parents
upon the children
to the third and the fourth generation.’ (Numbers 14:18)”
“You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, 10 but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments. (Deuteronomy 5:9-10)”
“17 Ah Lord God! It is you who made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. 18 You show steadfast love to the thousandth generation, but repay the guilt of parents into the laps of their children after them, O great and mighty God whose name is the Lord of hosts, (Jeremiah 32:17-18).”
It’s interesting everyone knows God is the Father and Jesus the only begotten son of the Father, but miss the double imagery. Mark says when Jesus died darkness covered the whole land, which seems to suggest the pain of the Father at the success of his plan for the beloved Son to suffer and die horrifically.
What if you stole a video game from a friend, and later the friend moved away and you couldn’t return it and apologize. Would you figure out a way to punish yourself? Come up with 3 good punishments.
In the Jewish tradition, the question of evil is not just about personal failings, but overcoming the temptations of Satan. This is even true for God, who said Satan “caused” him to move against Job, which He wouldn’t otherwise have done simply on His own:
- 3 The Lord said to Satan,“Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.” (Job 2:3)
The God of the bible was certainly prone to bad judgment. Even on a simple level, consider with the story of Noah, He had so poorly designed humans that he had to wipe them all out with a flood and start over from square one. Along these lines we read:
“God ‘regretting’ his decisions: Two times the Bible says that God regretted something he had done in the past (Genesis 6:6–7; 1 Samuel 15:11). And in at least 15 places the Bible says he regretted, or that he might regret, something he was about to do in the future (Exodus 32:12–14; 2 Samuel 24:16; 1 Chronicles 21:15; Psalms 106:45; Jeremiah 4:28; 18:8; 26:3, 13, 19; 42:10; Joel 2:13–14; Amos 7:3, 6; Jonah 3:9–10; 4:2). (see desiringGod.org)”
Let’s play a thought game: Conservative Christians argue Jesus had to die because a just God couldn’t simply forgive sins but had to punish them. But would such a “righteous punisher” God not also be unable to forgive Himself for His own sins of depraved indifference and recklessness in creation and influence, so that in the absence of his ability to execute himself, he underwent the horror of watching his only beloved Son receive the worst possible torture and execution as the punishment God Himself deserved?
What was God guilty of? God is supposedly as revulsed by sin as if being presented with sin would be like being offered garbage to eat. But not only is man not disgusted by sin in this way, he inclines toward it.
Edouard Tahmizian argues:
[T]he reason Adam and Eve were able to sin is because they were created with an inclination to sin by God, an inclination that simply needed the right stimulus (the tree of knowledge) to become actualized (so that Adam and Eve could experience temptation to sin)…This would, beyond a doubt, make God the final cause of Adam and Eve’s sin. For if God originally created them as morally perfect beings, they would not have been able to feel a motivation to sin (or experience temptation). They would, instead, have only been motivated to choose what was right, which would mean that good is all that they would have been able to have chosen. https://infidels.org/library/modern/edouard-tahmizian-cause-of-evil/
In a created world that is so obviously not a responsibly and carefully thought out creation (earthquakes, floods, disease, hunger, sin), no one more deserves to be held accountable than God for depraved indifference murder. And in fact, the story of Jesus was meant to begin to undo this horror by being a catalyst to awaken the Inner Law written on people’s hearts (Rom 2:15) to begin to fight back against the influence of Satan. It is in dis-covering this inner light, cultivating it, and getting “righteousness supercharged” by welcoming the angelic possession of “Christ in you” is why Jesus says the only way to salvation, that is the only way to have a chance against the temptations of Satan, is through him.
This post used a thought game. Why are thought games helpful in making arguments?
The problem of evil is an old philosophy question that has been asked for centuries. In the Christian tradition, it is something like “If God is all Good and all powerful, why does He allow suffering? If He cant stop it, He isn’t all powerful, and if He doesn’t try to stop it, He isn’t all good”
For instance, the objection is that if God is love, there wouldn’t be children dying of cancer or starvation. That isn’t love. God may be evil, indifferent, insane, powerless, but not all powerful and loving.
Some would say God is legally guilty of depraved indifference murder, which is when you knowingly could have prevented death but chose not to, so it’s the same as planning the death with evil intent. Others say you can only love God if you hold him to much lower ethical and legal standards than you hold other human beings.
Are there things that don’t seem to make sense about life if there is an all powerful and loving God?
Scholars have long thought Jonah was a “type” of Christ, meaning Jesus’ story imitates/reverses the story of Jonah on many issues, and presents Jesus as greater than Jonah.
“38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth. 41 The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here! (Matthew 12:38-41)“
The difference between the people of Nineveh and those of Jesus’ generation was the people weren’t repenting in Jesus’ time, and so since the end was soon something needed to happen to save as many as possible.
We can see imitations and reversals of the Jonah Story were used to form the story of Jesus. For instance, we read
Jonah as a type of Christ:
(1) Both received a mission from God to go preach. However, Jesus obeyed the Father willingly while Jonah refused at first and only obeyed reluctantly after God let him pout inside a fish.
(2) Both went down to Sheol for three days (Jonah 2:2). Jonah’s experience was more like extreme discomfort (in addition to it being against his will). Jesus went to his death willingly in obedience to the Father and in love for his people.
(3) Both were delivered from their trip down to Sheol, but Jesus was resurrected and offers that same resurrection to whoever would follow him. Jonah was merely spat out of a fish and offers a half-hearted sermon on repentance.
(4) Both preached a message exhorting people to repent in the face of impending judgment. Jonah preached the bare minimum and had no power to save. Jesus preached relentlessly for years and had the power to forgive sins.
(5) Both saw sinners repent and believe in God for the forgiveness of sins. Sadly, Jonah hated the Ninevites and didn’t want God to have mercy on them. Jesus, our Good Shepherd, rejoiced when sinners (especially Gentiles) repented and believed.
(6) In dramatic fashion, Jonah selfishly wished for death to escape his discomfort and to avoid seeing his enemies enjoy God’s mercy. Jesus, in quiet obedience, endured torture and death intended for sinners in order to save them from Hell.
What is the moral of the story of Jonah? No person can sink so low as to be beyond forgiveness. As a prophet of God, Jonah had sunk about as low as he could, but God would still forgive him. Nineveh was wicked enough that God intended to destroy it, but He could still forgive them. The primary theme of the story of Jonah and the huge fish is that God’s love, grace, and compassion extend to everyone, even outsiders and oppressors. God loves all people. This story is the exact opposite of how many conservative Christians understand God: that God couldn’t forgive and so Jesus needed to die. This conservative interpretation clearly makes no sense in a Jewish context.
One key to the Jonah story is that Jonah laments the successful teshuva/repentance of Nineveh, but this this terrible rejection of God’s will paradoxically encourages the reader to their own teshuva/repentance, specifically to overcome the desire we have to self-righteously criticize Jonah for being callous, clueless, etc, because we can see Jonah’s failings in ourselves: (see https://www.myjewishlearning.com/2014/09/29/our-prophets-ourselves-jonah-judgment-and-the-act-of-repentance/).
And this is exactly the point of the Jesus story. It is seeing the vileness of those who wrongly executed Jesus in ourselves that inspires repentance. Penal substitution simply doesn’t work. Executing an innocent child in Africa for the crimes of a criminal in Texas simply doesn’t serve justice: God thinks you deserve to die but, no worries, because God is going to take it out on a little innocent animal. And, contra penal substitution, if repentance is acceptable for new sins, why isn’t it acceptable for old sins. And what has the average moral unsaved person ever done that warrants the punishment of death for their lack of belief sin?
Rather, we see in the penitential psalms God is a God of forgiveness, not punishment. These psalms declare that God can’t resist a repentant heart. He accepts a humble and contrite heart (Ps 51:19). In your repentant fear of Him, He wants you to be confident that “with [Him] is forgiveness” (Ps 130:4).”
For the first Christians the True Holy of Holies storing the Law is our heart: Jesus inaugurating the kingdom as he changed hearts of men one at a time (Lk 17:21). This done by Jesus un-covering (aletheia, truth) the hidden law written on our hearts through discovering ourselves in those who tortured and killed Jesus, and letting this law shine through (Rm 2:14-15; Jer 31:33-34). Why? As the saying goes, but for the grace of God any one of us could have been the inflamed crowd, corrupt religious elite, or indifferent to Justice Pilate, all who wrongly sent Jesus to his death. Walk a mile in the other person’s shoes and see the log in you own eye before criticizing (cf Matthew 7:5).
The psychologist doesn’t only ask what people believe/think, but what these beliefs can tell you about the person. For instance, conservative Muslim men often believe women should cover themselves with the Hijab:
Does the Quran say women are required to wear the hijab covering? No, what the Quran says is the wives of the prophet Muhammad were required to cover up, and for very specific religious reasons:
Dr. Asma Lamrabet explains:
“The term “Hijab” is reiterated seven times in the Qur’an referring each time exactly to the same meaning. “Hijab” means curtain, separation, wall and, in other words, anything that hides, masks and protects something.
But the verse that has been most often used to prove the “obligation” of veiling for women and that mentions the term Hijab is the following: ” O you who have believed, do not enter the houses of the Prophet except when you are permitted for a meal… And when you ask [his wives] for something, ask them from behind a separation (Hijab)” Quran 33; 53.
As indicated here, the Hijab concerns only the wives of the Prophet and meets a circumstantial requirement in order to respect the private life of the Prophet. Besides, it does not represent, in any way, a particular model of clothing. The essence of this requirement aimed, mainly, to educate Arabs of that time to respect the privacy of people and good manners.
It is therefore quite clear that the term Hijab does not absolutely refer to the meaning given nowadays as the scarf that should cover the head. The Hijab has nothing to do with any Islamic female dress. It is rather a symbol of separation between public life and private life at the time of the Prophet. It aimed to make of the prophet’s wives Mothers of the Believers. see Dr. Amrabet’s article here: http://www.asma-lamrabet.com/articles/how-does-the-qur-an-address-the-issue-of-muslim-woman-s-veil-or-hijab/”
So, one question that might be asked is if the Quran doesn’t order all women to wear the hijab, if it was just a religious requirement for the wives of the prophet Muhammad, then do certain conservative Muslim men requiring women to wear the hijab tell you something about Muslim women, or does it rather tell you what some of these conservative Muslim men think about themselves (that perhaps some unconsciously feel they are on the same level as the prophet Muhammad)?
(A) Reflection Questions/Assignments:
Read the comic below which was shared on Twitter:
(B) Can you think of healthy reasons why Muslim women may choose to wear the hijab (eg., perhaps they value tradition, modesty, etc)?
(C) Should wearing the hijab be a choice for Muslim women?
The 2 Previous Posts were
- 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: https://infidels.org/library/modern/john-macdonald-justified-lie/
(ii) A Critique of the Penal Substitution Interpretation of the Cross of Christ
“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
“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 https://secularwebkids.freethinkers.org/2022/03/28/the-women-at-the-empty-tomb/ ) , 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: “7 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.