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:

Above image shared by Positive Psychology of well known CBT strategies

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?

Why Don’t People Hold God To The Same Legal Standards As Humans?

Consider this. In making water as necessary for life, God could have ensured water is abundant and all clean. Did God bother to do this? No:

The World Health Organization says that every year more than 3.4 million people die as a result of water related diseases, making it the leading cause of disease and death around the world. Most of the victims are young children, the vast majority of whom die of illnesses caused by organisms that thrive in water sources contaminated by raw sewage.

A report published recently in the medical journal The Lancet concluded that poor water sanitation and a lack of safe drinking water take a greater human toll than war, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction combined.

According to an assessment commissioned by the United Nations, 4,000 children die each day as a result of diseases caused by ingestion of filthy water. The report says four out of every 10 people in the world, particularly those in Africa and Asia, do not have clean water to drink. see

But, what if it would have been too difficult for God to make available lots of clean water? This doesn’t help, since surely God could have created a world without earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, childhood cancer, etc.

We often hear that God is to be thanked for all the good things in life, but never blamed for any of the bad stuff. This is not how Justice works. If God is not Evil, but merely Indifferent, how would we hold such an absentee landlord accountable if He was a human? According to the law:

In United States lawdepraved-heart murder, also known as depraved-indifference murder, is a type of murder where an individual acts with a “depraved indifference” to human life and where such act results in a death, despite that individual not explicitly intending to kill. In a depraved-heart murder, defendants commit an act even though they know their act runs an unusually high risk of causing death or serious bodily harm to a person. If the risk of death or bodily harm is great enough, ignoring it demonstrates a “depraved indifference” to human life and the resulting death is considered to have been committed with malice aforethought. In some states, depraved-heart killings constitute second-degree murder, while in others, the act would be charged with “wanton murder,” varying degrees of manslaughter, or third-degree murder. (Wiki)

It’s amazing how people respond to God in a way utterly foreign to how they would treat a human, such as hoping Jesus will come back and be a political dictator, or getting promoted to heaven for the special privilege of praising and feeding God’s ego constantly for all eternity!

What Is A God (s)

Bertrand Russell transparent bg.png
Bertrand Russell (Wiki)

It can be difficult to understand what a God is, since people understand the idea differently. In general, there is a spectrum of kinds of Gods that range from being really powerful, but basically like us (eg Thor), to the God of negative theology who is so different from us that we can’t say anything about IT, only what IT is not.

Armor clad and wearing a red cape, Thor is crouched, holding the handle of his hammer to the ground, and rock debris is being blasted away. In the background are four panels showing the faces of Jane, Loki, Odin, and Heimdall.
Thor (Wiki)

Should we believe in these gods? One problem is that there is no evidence any gods exist. You can’t pray to get God to show up and say hello in the middle of a football game. Similarly, there’s no evidence such gods interact with the world in any way, like making an amputee regrow a limb. The philosopher Bertrand Russell addressed the idea of believing in a God that we have no evidence for. We know this thought experiment as Russell’s Teapot (from Wiki):

Russell’s teapot is an analogy, formulated by the philosopher Bertrand Russell (1872–1970), to illustrate that the philosophic burden of proof lies upon a person making empirically unfalsifiable claims, rather than shifting the burden of disproof to others.

Russell specifically applied his analogy in the context of religion. He wrote that if he were to assert, without offering proof, that a teapot, too small to be seen by telescopes, orbits the Sun somewhere in space between the Earth and Mars, he could not expect anyone to believe him solely because his assertion could not be proven wrong.

In 1958, Russell elaborated on the thought experiment:

I ought to call myself an agnostic; but, for all practical purposes, I am an atheist. I do not think the existence of the Christian God any more probable than the existence of the Gods of Olympus or Valhalla. To take another illustration: nobody can prove that there is not between the Earth and Mars a china teapot revolving in an elliptical orbit, but nobody thinks this sufficiently likely to be taken into account in practice. I think the Christian God just as unlikely (Bertrand Russell).


Pastafarians Have Made the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster Popular  in Europe - The Atlantic
The Flying Spaghetti Monster, God worshipped by Pasta-farians

What is a Prophet?

A prophet is someone or thing who predicts the future. For example, many think groundhogs on groundhog day can predict if we will have an early spring.

Some have even decided to replace the groundhog with a prophesying lobster:

Who was the most famous prophet in history? It was probably Jesus, who incorrectly predicted the end of the age/apocalypse would happen in the lifetimes of those hearing him preach,  Matthew 24:34Mark 13:30; and Luke 21:32. (oops)

For a great book for older kids about Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet, see

Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium is a 1999 book by New Testament scholar Bart D. Ehrman. In it, he argues that Jesus of Nazareth was an apocalyptic preacher, i.e., his main message was that the end of history was near, that God would shortly intervene to overthrow evil and establish his rule on earth, and that Jesus and his disciples all believed these end time events would occur in their lifetimes. Ehrman also analyses New Testament passages such as Jesus’ supposed birth in Bethlehem of a virgin and finds them not historically credible. (Wiki)

Reading Strategies: What are the Gospels, Propaganda and Counter Propaganda?

If you are learning about Jesus, one question that comes up is what genre are the gospels that tell his story?

It’s often questioned what genre the gospels are, and the answer usually falls somewhere on the spectrum between ancient biography, and historical fiction.  In fact, the sense of the gospel is actually Ancient Propaganda, which is what Gospel means.

For example, Robert Price cites Randel Helms that:

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)

We also see this with ancient coins.  Michael P Theophilos comments:

Greek inscriptions on coinage contribute to lexicography. New Testament use of the word ΣΩΤΗΡOΣ (saviour) is an attempt to undermine an array of political propaganda within the Greco-Roman world (Lk 2:11; Acts 13:23; Phil 3:20 etc).

This problem is specifically outlined in the dense passage of Mark 15:10-15, a passage dis-closing the hidden vileness of the easily incited crowd, the hidden jealousy of the religious elite, and the utter lack of commitment to justice of crowd-placating Pilate, breaking Roman law, who releases Barrabas, a known killer of Romans, but who tortures and executes Jesus without a confession or having found that Jesus did anything wrong.


(1) When you are reading something with big and unusual words, what strategies can you use to understand the text?

(2) Imagine you have a brother or sister who is one year younger than you. Rewrite the above text so it would be easier for them to understand it.

(3) What is propaganda and what is it trying to do? Give some historical examples.


1. Seeing the hidden picture. You can see the old man, but can you see the hidden picture?

The old man and the two lovers - father time | Optical illusions pictures,  Cool optical illusions, Optical illusion paintings

2. Putting together a puzzle without knowing what the picture on the front of the box is:

Hands of an elderly lady solving a jigsaw puzzle