I will be dealing with two questions in this week’s mailbag, one about me personally – do I meditate? – and one about the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection: in all our narratives it is specifically women who are said to have found the empty tomb and so to be the first witnesses to the resurrection. Given ancient views that denigrate women, is it likely that anyone would make up such a story? If someone made up the tomb-discovery story, wouldn’t they have claimed that that *men* found the tomb empty? And doesn’t that suggest the story really happened as narrated?
Do you meditate? If so, which techniques do you use? Do you find it helpful?
Yes indeed, I do meditate. Every New Years I make it a resolution to meditate each and every day. This year I’m doing pretty well *except* when I’m traveling (which, unfortunately, is a lot this semester); that’s probably when I need most to meditate and I just have real trouble scheduling it in. Not good.
I find meditation to be terrifically calming and centering. I think it has the same psychological and emotional effect that sustained prayer has, since it involves a similar mental focus. My meditation practice, if I were to summarize it, all involves body-awareness. I have numerous techniques that I use, all of which I have simply come up with myself (for good or ill), that involve recognition of my bodily existence – either sensing parts of my body (either doing a full-body scan or focusing on an area, e.g. the head and brain), or consciously recognizing my bodily activities and systems, especially respiratory (thinking of my breathing and all its stages) and cardio-vascular (being aware of my heart-beat, and tracing it from the top of my head to the tip of my toes and everywhere in between); or focusing on my bodily senses (all five of them, in turn); and … well other things. Typically I meditate for 15-20 minutes, and most effectively I do so right after a work out.
I have found this practice not just relaxing but, as I said, centering. It reminds me of what is most important to me and helps keep me focused on the things that matter in my brief mortal existence. I highly recommend it!
That still begs the question of why the first stories have the resurrection revealed first to women. Why would they make that up?
I think this is a vital question, and it’s one I get asked a lot. Here is what I said about it in my book How Jesus Became God:
It is often argued by Christian apologists that no one would make up the story of the discovery of the empty tomb precisely because according to these stories, it was women who found the tomb. According to this line of reasoning, women were widely thought of as untrustworthy and, in fact, their testimony could not be allowed in courts of law. According to this view, if someone wanted to invent the notion of a discovered tomb, they would be sure that it was discovered by credible witnesses, namely by the male disciples.
I used to hold this view as well, and so I see its force. But now that I’ve gone more deeply into the matter, I see its real flaw. It suffers, in short, from…
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