French Revolution Terror: A necessary evil? 

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HISTORY PAPER (9155/1) with Joy Dandadzi*

Question:”The French Revolutionary terror was a necessary evil.”Discuss (25 marks)

Question Interpretation: Does the French Revolutionary Terror save any meaningful purpose given the situation at hand? The Question calls for a thorough assessment of the pros and cons of the reign of terror, starting with the positives.

BRIEF Synopsis

The reign of terror (6 September 1793-28 July 1794) also known as The Terror (French: LA Terreur),  was a period of violence that occurred after the onset of the French Revolution and was marked by mass executions of “enemies of the revolution” (Wikipedia,2016). Prominent figures among the victims of the guillotine were Madame Rolland, Herbert, Robespierre and Danton. The Reign of Terror was largely a product of the revolutionary ideology and need for a weapon of political repression in a time of significant foreign and civil upheaval (Marisa, 2010). 


The Reign of Terror (6 September 1793– 28 July 1794) was a period of violence that occurred after the onset of the French Revolution marked by mass executions of “enemies of the revolution” (Wikipedia, 2016). Terror could be classified into economic, religious and socio-political terror. The reign of Terror was a necessary evil in the sense that it warded off the internal Revolutionary enemies such as the clergy, nobility and Royalists who were offended by the revolutionary developments as the Civil Constitution of the Clergy and Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. The revolution was under threat and the majority of French Citizens feared that the revolution would be reversed and in order to deal with that fear, terrorizing all the enemies of the revolution became a necessity. More so,  the revolutionary government with so many problems to solve, restoration of order at home was essential if they were to diffuse external threat. The Committee of Public Safety’s Leveé en Masse helped France to stand against all European states which threatened the revolution and the Law of the Maximum helped in pacifying the economic challenges and food shortages. However the revolution terror somehow wrecked the order and Revolutionary principles meant for the promotion of humanity as with the case of the “law of 22nd Prairal” which advocated for the worship of the goddess Reason and led to the execution of many people, the majority of whom innocent and could have led the revolution.

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The reign of terror was a necessary invention especially during 1794, when revolutionary France was beset with conspiracies by internal and foreign enemies (Ellis and Esler, 2000). Within France, the revolution was opposed by various elements including the French nobility which had lost its inherited privileges  and the Roman Catholic Church criticised the National Assembly which had turned the clergy into employees of the state and required they take an oath of loyalty to the nation through the Civil Constitution of the Clergy. These developments were worth preserving from the perspective of the majority of Frenchman however the conservative elements (Royalists and Clericals) sought to reverse all such revolutionary developments to the Old system. Throughout the years 1793, France experienced vast counter-revolutionary insurgencies which thereatened the existence of the revolution (ibid). One good case of such insurgency  is that at Tolon which was suppressed by the young artillery officer ” Napoleon Bonaparte”. The impact of the revolutionary terror was immediate as the enemies of the revolution were silenced, bringing about popular support for the revolution . This was vital given that the revolutionary government had a lot to focus on.

In addition,the revolution terror was necessary given that the French First Republic was engaged in a series of wars with neighboring powers, and parts of France were engaging in civil disputes. Following the Pilnitz Declaration by Austria and Prussia and the Brunswick Manifesto by the Prussian Duke of Brunswick; the extension of civil war and the advances of foreign armies on national territory produced a political crisis and increased the already present rivalry between the Girondins and the more radical Jacobins (KhanAcademy, 2016). The French government established the Committee of Public Safety, which took its final form in September 1793 in order to suppress internal counter-revolutionary activities and raise additional French military forces. Those in power believed the Committee of Public Safety was an unfortunate but necessary and temporary reaction to the pressures of foreign and civil war (Owen,2006). With the leveé en Masses led by Carnot, the French citizenry lost its liberty as was enshrined in the revolutionary principles however this was a critical and defining strategic move by the revolutionary government (National Convention) which went all the way to restore parity on the crisis situation. According to Richards(1985) The French managed mass conscription to ward off foreign threats under Carnot,”the organizer of victory”. Given the formidability of the forces that France had to fightin order to defend the revolution, “the Leveé en masse” is justifiable since it was the only way to raise a citizen army to diligently defend their territorial integrity, thus it can be labeled a ‘necessary evil’.

On 9 September, the Convention established sans-culottes paramilitary forces, the “revolutionary armies” to force farmers to surrender grains and on the 29th the ‘Law of Maximum’ extended prices fixing from grain and bread to other essential goods, and also fixed wages (Ellis and Esler, 2000). The Revolutionary efforts to purge the pre-revolutionary problems of hunger and starvation by seizing the church property through the Civil Constitution of the Clergy and creation of assignotes had all failed to resuscitate the economy. The effects of the 1787 droughts were still troubling France and events as the March of women (1789) were prompted by hunger and starvation. France had declared war on Austria and Prussia in order to plunder as contingency to deal with the same problems (KhanAcademy, 2016). The law of Maximum enabled the grains held by farmers to reach the market at controlled prices much to the detriment of farmers but also to the greater good of the revolution. The law of Maximum undoubtedly pacified the situation for the French populace and aided the revolution given that the public was frustrated that the social equality and anti-poverty measures that the revolution originally promised were not materializing. In light of the preceding facts, it is worthy to note the Dictum in question that ‘the revolution terror was a necessary evil’ is valid and plausible. 

The enactment of the Law of Suspects stepped up political terror to a much higher level of cruelty as anyone who ‘by their conduct, relations, words or writings show themselves to be supporters of tyranny, feudalism and enemies of freedom’ was targeted and suspected of treason (Wikipedia,2016). This created a mass overflow in the prison systems. As a result, the prison population of Paris increased causing an overpopulation problem and execution rates to rise enormously. Such terrorism became a tool for the realization of a much higher political goal. Through the Revolutionary  Tribunal, the Terror’s leaders exercised broad powers and used them to eliminate the internal and external enemies of the republic.The reign of terror guaranteed results for the revolutionaries cause and maintained the revolutionary momentum at a time it was needed the most. According to Owen (2006) without the National Convention coming up with structures as the Committee of Public Safety and Revolutionary Tribunal, it could have been difficult for them to have dealt efficiently with their external enemies at the battle front and insurgenciesat at home. In light of the above,the revolutionary terror saved the revolution in many aspects as it enforced cooperation and togetherness among the French citizenry which was vital if they were to survive the war against European monarchies. However, the fact that the number of people guillotined after November 1793 raise concerns as most scholars argue that the external threat was neutralized by then, thus terror could have served a different purpose unjustifiable alltogether. The revolutionary terror was not all good as it was detrimental towards the revolution itself as 16 594 people lost their lives among which were notables as Roland, Hebert, Danton and Robespierre who were executed for more personal or unjust cause (Marisa,2006). These executions were based either on being suspected of the anti-revolutionary cause in contravention of the ‘law of suspects’ or victims of summary executions. 

According to (2007) the revolutionary terror undoubtedly got rid of the most prominent revolutionary leaders who could have saved the revolution in many circumstances. The period 1795-99 saw the Directory occupied by less gifted Directors as the majority of the early revolutionary leaders had fallen victims of the guillotine machine. The above circumstances express why the majority of historians still challenge the validity of the reign of terror in France. 

The law of 22nd Prairial enacted on the 10th of June 1794 also wrecked havoc in France as the abandonment of Catholicism for the worship of the goddess Reason led to mass massacre of Catholic nuns and other notable clericals as priests and bishops. The whole program of de-Christianization waged against Catholicism included the deportation or execution of clergymen; the closing of churches; large-scale destruction of religious monuments and the removal of the word “saint” in street names. According to Wikipedia (2016) the majority of Frenchman were Catholic though they resented the church influence on the government system, thus the religious terror created by Robespierre and other revolutionaries created religious strife in France. More so the French public felt more and more threatened by such enactment which eroded the moral fabric of the state. In that regard, religious terror can be perceived as an unnecessary evil.


Ellis E &  Ester G (2000). “WorldHistory”. PrenticeHall, NewYork

Dennis Richards (1987) An Illustrated History of Modern Europe 1789- 1984. (add publisher) 

Marisa, L. (2010) “The Terror in the French Revolution” (PDF) Kingston University. Retrieved 2nd December 2011.

KhanAcademy (2016) The French Revolution: The Causes, Course and Rise of Napoleon Bonaparte. (2007) “French Revolution”. The History Channel. Retrieved 24 October 2014.

Marisa, L (2006) “Robespierre and the Terror theTerror:Marisa L reviews the life and career of one of the most verified men in history,(Maximilien Robespierre)”.

History Today: Biography, 8 (56)

Owen C (2006). The Wars of the French Revolution and Napoleon, 1792-1815. NewYork: Rutledge Publishing

Wikipedia (2016) (Retrieved4thofOctober,2016)


How and why the prophetic books were compiled; what efforts are being done to compile the work of Zimbabwean Prophets?

Question Interpretation 

The question calls One to elaborate on ways by which the prophetic books were created; specifically focusing on their sources of Information and how the compilers came up with the prophetic books. These prophetic books are simply the Old Testament books bearing prophetic traditions and encompasses that Torah/Pentateuch (First Five Books), the Wisdom Literature (including Psalms, Job and Songs of Solomon), Canonical Books (Including the book of Amos, Hosea, Jeremiah and Isaiah). A thorough review of ways by which Zimbabwean Prophets are compiling their work like online repositories, video recording, photographing and use of social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter  and the motives behind will be also explored in depth. 

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Various reasons sorround the collection of the prophetic books among which are safeguarding monotheism, preserving prophetic and Isrealite traditions. Well known sources consist of Oral Traditions, Written Records and Archaeology. As much as these three sources help each other, it is aknowledgeable that most of the pre-pre-canonical prophetic books rely much on Oral Traditions as well as canonical prophetic books rely on written records however Archaeology contributes towards the compilation of prophetic books. The criterion for compilation of the prophetic as chronological sequence and thematic schemes have been used to present flowing ideas on the written septuagint script. Efforts made to compile the work of Zimbabwean Prophets manifest in the printing of DVDs, Church pamphlets, church songs and prophetic activities recorded on disks, prophetic articles on newspapers, uploading prophetic material on social media platforms as Facebook, WhatsApp ad Twitter, church television channels and church institutional repositories, photographing in the church. One should be diligent to note that compilations of prophetic work in the Zimbabwean context is inspired by various reasons. 

The Exposition

Oral traditions; defined as the word of mouth passed from generation to generation, has contributed much to the compilations of pre-canonical prophetic books as the Torah (first 5 books of the Bible), I & II Kings, I & II Kings. Information of the prophetic traditions was preserved through poetic literature, songs and stories in legendary form. Whilst human memory is fallible; that is, it easily forgets, the use of poems and songs helped the Israelite community to keep their prophetic traditions intact. In the Torah, Mirriam is denoted to have been given the title of a prophetess after singing a glorious song after the Red Sea victory against the Egyptians (Confer – Exodus 15 v1ff). A thorough review of the song shows that the song bears a clear exploration of the Red Sea incident and there is prima facie evidence that such a song was popular among the Israelites even long after the death of the Exodus generation. Poetic literature by the same token formed much of the pre-canonical literature though it may have included hyperboles which entails the exaggeration of the prophetic literature. Compilers of the Old Testament prophetic books heavily depended on Oral Traditions as a source of their information.

Written Records were also used in the compilation of the Old Testament Literature. Much of the literature with regards to the Canonical (writing) Prophets as Amos, Hosea, Isaiah and Jeremiah. These Prophets recorded their own prophetic messages since they were able to write by the period 6th to 8th Century BC. Whilst information was recorded by the prophets themselves as with the case of Amos and Hosea; Jeremiah employed a secretary, Baruch (cf Jeremiah 36 v18ff). The material given by these prophetic books was however subject to interpolations by later editors as with the case with the passage of Amos 9v 11 -15 which is ascribed to later editors by Constable (2016). The superscription of Amos is also a good case in point (Amos 1 v1) as it is given in third person narrative; an element which clearly denotes that Amos was not the one writing. This trend is also clear in other passages of the Canonical Prophets such as Jeremiah, Isaiah and Hosea and it is such and observation which prompted Mathew Henry (1964) to reach the conclusion that ‘Written Records formed larger sections of the canon prophetic literature found in the Old Testament.’ 

Archaeological evidence was undoubtedly invoked in coming up with the final script of the Tanakh (Original Hebrew Text) and Septuagint (Greek Text) which was translated to the form the modern Bible. The original source of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20 v1ff) is plausibly the second Stone tablets that Moses scribbled on (cf Exodus 24 vs12, 31 vs 18; 32 vs15, 16 & 19; I Kings 8 vs 9). The covenental tablets were preserved for generations as attested by I Kings 8 vs 9; “…… The ark (of the Lord) was empty except for the two stone tablets that Moses had placed there at Horeb………”. Mathew Henry (2000) further substantiate that, Tablets of stone denotes the perpetual duration of it and proceeded to pose a rhetoric on ‘what can be supposed to last longer than that which is written on stone and laid up?’. The Old Testament bears several scripts where ‘tablets’ are mentioned to have contained prophetic messages like that of Isaiah 8 vs 1 and 30 vs 8;  and Habakkuk 2 vs 2 and the information held by such tablets is devulged in the subsequent passages. Archaeological sources were certainly an indispensable source of Old Testament prophetic books such as Exodus, Isaiah and Habakkuk meant for the transmission of the message to those in future ages. 

While the sources of the Biblical information have been deliberated at full length in the subsequent paragraphs; the compilers of the Old Testament Prophetic Books used two basic criterion in their compilations namely the chronological sequence and thematic schemes. A quick glance on the Prophetic books can bring about substantial evidence that event based chronological sequence (events laid in order of occurrence; first to happen, first to be given) was used.This is evident in most books and passages as it was the primary methodology used (Constable, 2016). Exodus gives the story of Moses from his birth, infancy, early adulthood experience, his Devine call, confrontation with Pharoah and the Exodus of the Israelites in order of occurrence. Elsewhere; the books of I and II Samuel, I and II Kings also relates the prophetic literature held herein in accordance to the event chronological sequence. 

Thematic Schemes were the second criterion used to compile the prophetic books using sources as Oral Traditions, Written Records and Archaeology. Information of the same themes was sometimes grouped together. According to Watson (1976) this method was plausibly used whenever the Chronological sequence was somewhat obscure and might have been prompted by the fact that Oral traditions often keep same storylines in the same categories. Amos’ ‘Woe Passages’ (cf Amos 5 vs18ff) and ‘Visions’ (cf Amos 7 vs 1 -9 and 8 vs18ff) were plausibly grouped together using the criteria of thematic schemes. It is also important to note at this juncture that whilst the compilers used various criterion for compilation of the prophetic books, the books they came up with were not immune to interpolations as with the case of Amos Chapter 9 vs11 -15 which is believed by various schools of thought to have been a product of later editors. More passages are also evidently products of later editors as with the case of these Canonical prophetic books’ superscriptions where they are introduced in third person narratives (cf Hosea 1 vs1ff, Jeremiah 1vs1ff). 

The motives for the compilation of the Prophetic Books was definitely inspired by a plethora of reasons among which was the need to inform future generations and to safeguard monotheism; one of the defining characteristic of the Mosaic Covenant and Yahweism. According to Gnuse (1997), Compilers of the prophetic books conceptualised that, ‘what is handed down by traditions is easily mistaken and liable to corruption; but what is written is reduced to certainty and preserved safe and pure.’  It is clear from this stand point that the compilers did not only intent to make an imprint in their own mind, or the scriptures clear to themselves but to make sure that it would be transmitted to those in future ages. Given that various proponents like the Wikipedia (2017) suggest that the majority of the prophetic books were compiled during the Babylonian exile, it is plausible to note that the preservation of monotheism was critical at this era given that Israel was living  in an environment extemely polluted by polytheism. There is vast evidence in extra biblical sources that the Ancient Near East was plied by Baal worshipping, a religion likely to contaminate Yahweism as earlier on witnessed when Queen Jezebel of the Omride Dynasty imported a whole cult of Baal Prophets; only to be challenged by Elijah the Tishbite who restored parity whilst facing inherent dangers. 

In addition to the above, the preservation of the Israelite traditions was basically at stake for the compilers of the prophetic books. Israel had been through a long journey and her forth coming generations had to be well-informed about this history. Moses’ law given by Yahweh was preserved on tablets (Exodus 24 vs12; 32 vs 15, 16 & 17) for it’s safe upkeep and had to dwell in the Arc of the Lord forever. According to Mathew Henry, A stone tablet does not only stand the test of time but can also endure any form of pestilence or the worst form of destruction like fire; an element which would assure the survival of the prophetic information for longer to assure the preservation of important traditions. It is no wonder why the Israelites were able to preserve their traditional festivals like the Passover from the Mosaic era to the present (cf Exodus 12 vs4; Numbers 9 vs2; II Chronicles 30 vs1ff; Acts 12 vs4 & Hebrews 11 vs28). Whilst Israel was in the Babylonian exile, her traditions were likely to face extinction altogether and a compilation of prophetic books was a definite solution.

The confirmation of prophecies in Israel was one of the most significant issues to vindicate the supremacy of Yahweh. The prophets of Yahweh had set out a tone of challenging the existence of other gods as was with the case of Moses who challenged the Egyptian magicians belonging to King Pharoah’s court (Exodus 7 vs8ff) and Elijah the Tishbite who challenged the Baal prophets by the Drought Proclamation and the  Mt Carmel contest before proceeding to execute them (I Kings 17 –  18 vs1ff). The Deutronomic literature reveals that Isreal always had challenges with false Prophets (Numbers 11 vs23 & Deutronomy 13 vs1-2) and this might have been induced by the contact she had experienced with the Ancient Near East whilst in Egypt and during the Exodus (Anderson, 1972). The compilation of the prophetic books undoubtedly intended to confirm prophecies like the coming of Christ, the redeemer. Canon prophets like Amos and Jeremiah wrote their messages to confirm their prophecies (cf Amos 7 vs10ff against Amaziah & Jeremiah 28 vs 1ff against Hananiah the false prophet). Such confirmations for prophecies authenticated their Devine commission and warranted the Greatness of Yahweh since a true prophet was one whose message would come to pass (Deut 13 vs 1ff). 

The history of Israel was great in its own right and was definitely important to illustrate the Greatness of Yahweh. It is no wonder the prophetic books are an in-depth illustration of the greatness of YAHWEH; starting with the breathtaking story of creation (cf Genesis 1 vs1ff), the miraculous appearance of Yahweh to his people like Abraham and his descendents from time-to-time and all the riches and blessings he poured on them. Yahweh had manifested himself to his people, Israel on multiple occasions and had done majestic deeds to vindicate his presence, performing miracles that were never paralleled elsewhere (cf Deut 34 vs10), winning victory for his people Israel even when facing formidable odds (Exodus 14 & 15; I Samuel 7 vs 3ff); when they faced a heavily armed Egyptian army without any weapon but Yahweh on their side and when they faced the Philistines respectively. To reveal the greatness of Yahweh, the least the compilers of the prophetic books could do was to illustrate such greatness. 

The Zimbabwean prophets are making vast efforts to record their work through the printing  of sermon DVDs and books; Church pamphlets and photography meant to popularize prophetic figures and ministries. Prophetic figures like Emmanuel Makandiwa; born Shingirirai Chirume of United Family International Church (UFIC), Walter Magaya of Prophetic Healing and Deliverance and Apostle Utabwashe of Heartfelt International Ministries had been popularized by such methods, as per alia. Teaching achieves by these prophets had been also in line with recording their own work and this had been aided with the digitalization as church repositories makes it easy for them to store their prophecies and prophetic activities for the sake of saving masses, gaining popularity, and crowd pulling. The case of controversial prophets on Zimbabwean social media platforms like prophet Paul Sanyangore whose miracle of walking on water flooded Harare news in March 2016 and the popular Talent Madungwe of Desire of All Nations Church who allegedly met with God on several occasions to dine together,   wrestle among other issues elaborates that “some” of the prophets are audience seekers and crowd pullers. 

Church healing sessions and sermons, songs and prophetic activities are also recorded on CDs, and prophetic articles furnished on newspapers whereas there has been an influx of uploaded prophetic material on social media platforms as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter, church television channels and church institutional repositories as well as photographing in the church. One should be diligent to note that compilations of prophetic work in the Zimbabwean context is inspired by various reasons which rank from gold digging; no wonder the church is now regarded as “the best business” since it is an investment without loss for those of the crooked path. It is under such pretext that Prophet Emmanuel Makandiwa has castigated social media prophets (NehandaRadio, 2017). 

The digitalization has virtually made the writing of prophetic information or books in Zimbabwe an easy task as they are able to utilize multiple sources to note their activities down for various reasons. It should however be noted that there are various reasons for the compilation of the prophetic activities in our Zimbabwean context as outlined in a above. 


In conclusion, various sources were used to compile the Old Testament prophetic books like Oral Traditions, Archaeology and Written Records and two basic criteria used consisted of event chronological sequence and thematic schemes. These books were compiled for a multiplicity of reasons among which was the need to safeguard monotheism, inform future generations, reveal the greatness of Yahweh, confirm prophecies and the preservation of the prophetic traditions. 


Dr Constable Thomas. L (2014) The Expository: Bible Study Notes. Available on:

Gnuse, Robert. Karl. (1997) No Other Gods: Emergent Monotheism in Israel, Sheffield Academic Press. ISBN 1-85075-657-0. 

NehandaRadio  (2017): (Retrieved, 2017 October 2). 

NehandaRadio (2017): Prophet Madungwe Claims to Regularly Visit God. Available on: (Accessed on 01 October 2017).

The South Africa Morning Post (2017) Zimbabwean Prophet Claims to Have Defeated God in Wrestling Match. Available on: (Retrieved 18 August 2017).

Mathew, Henry (1976) Commentary on The Whole Bible. Available on: (Retrieved on 12 June 2013).

Wikipedia (2017) Available on: (Accessed on 20 August 2017)

Zimbabwe News (2017) I’m God’s Number 4: Harare Prophet Claims. Available on: http://Zimbabwe/ (Accessed 01 October, 2017)

MySword Application (2017) Version 8.2 Available on Google Play Store (visit: http:mysword.infor/)

The Bible: Revised Standard Version. 

Advanced Level Arts: Essay Writing Skills (Part 2)

Part 1 took us from the initial step to the Introductory part of an essay. This level will mainly focus on paragraphing our arts subject essays (Step 4) 
Step 4: Paragraphing

Essay paragraphs in advanced level arts subjects are a bit complicated and demanding. Students are not supposed to be too casual when writing paragraphs as strong and well coined paragraphs make a strong impression about yourself to the marker. This will definitely come along with merits, thus careful planning is a MUST for this part. 

To Begin with I’ll give you an example of a paragraph and will give a thorough explanation of how to come up with such paragraphs. 

Example of a Paragraph. 

In order for the early Christian church to start its evangelical work, it needed the Holy Spirit as noted on Acts 1 v 8, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you be my witness in Jerusalem, all Judea and in Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”  Constable (2016) notes that, prior the coming of the Holy Spirit, the apostles were inactive.  After the Pentecost (Acts 2), the apostles with the power of the Holy Spirit vested in them were able to preach with so much boldness exhibiting a fearless and noble character which was essential for the development of the early church given the adversities and high intensity opposition they faced. Bravado came along with this power (Holy Spirit) for the apostles, thenceforth apostle Peter took his stand before the crowd proclaiming that the crucified Christ was the Son of Man (Barclays, 2010). One would wonder how Peter could be so brave given he was once a coward who denied Christ thrice during the time of his trial? (Luke 22 v54ff). In this regard, the power which was vested by the Holy Spirit in the apostles and early church at large led them to be brave and able to preach despite antagonism, leading to the development of the Early Church in the hostile Palestinian environment and beyond. 

The paragraph above reveals the following traits: 

  1. Topic Sentence: The point is in the opening line, thus the marker does not have to hunt for you point 
  2. Supporting information: The point has a good follow up. Constable (2016) is cited to substantiate the point given in topic sentence in our example however it is not always the case. 
  3. Point per paragraph: the whole paragraph maintains a single point. Only one point can be used in a paragraph to allow a smooth flow of the essay. 
  4. Case Studies and Examples: The paragraph is pregnant of examples of Acts of the Holy Spirit which manifested through Peter and other Apostles in the Church
  5. Citation: To show evidence of having read a lot, the Bible (Chief source in Divinity) is cited on numerous occasions, however citing should not be over done as it may distract your flow of information. Scholarly material should be appropriately cited since poor citations and not citing is plagiarism.  
  6. Analysis: it is through analysis of facts presented in each paragraph that takes the writer back to the question. In other words, analysis in Arts subjects essays should focus on how your facts and cases/examples are answering the question being addressed. 

A good paragraph should give the marker a good impression of the question being addressed and I hope that all reading and following this post have managed to grasp the Divinity Question being addressed by the above paragraph extract which is: 

QUESTION: Discuss possible reasons which prompted the development of the early Church despite persecution in the apostolic age (25 marks) 

LENGTH OF PARAGRAPH: There is no stipulated size for essay paragraphs however too long or too short paragraphs may entail the following:

  • Too little information, thus lacks depth expected for advanced level student standards. 
  • Poorly planned work: often a product of too large a paragraph which may be characterized by over-stressed points and examples. Such essays are monotonous to the marker and do not fetch good scores. 
  • Generally, through my 7 years of teaching experience, I have come to recognize that students who write too long paragraphs also write too long sentences which may stretch to 5/6 lines with poor use of punctuations. 
  • Too long paragraphs often holds multiple facts interwoven in a rudimentary fashion. Even when the writer has good facts, they are buried and are hardly visible to the marker. PLEASE NOTE: emphasis is on Point Per Paragraph, thus multiple points in a single paragraph is not entertained by Markers, and is considered below standard.  
  • Loss of focus in essay writing also manifest in too long paragraphs. Too short paragraphs may also reveal running short of ideas for most students, thus a 7/11 line paragraph is ideal (relative to your handwriting size and spacing). 
  • Citing should be properly done (see subsequent posts on citing and referencing)

Please Check Out for: Advanced Level Arts; Essay writing Skills  Part Final. 

Advanced Level Arts: Essay writing Skills (Part 1)

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Most Arts students face a challenge in writing essays. Passing ZIMSEC exams takes more than knowing the subject content and students have to express their ideas to the Examiner through essays. That being said, essay writing skills are an indispensable asset for excelling at advanced level.

 A good essay can only be furnished by a student who understands the question. Each and every question has its unique question demands that candidates should focus on. 

For Example: To what extent did Marie Antoinette contribute to the French Revolution? 

The Question above has multiple demands that are unique to it which may also make it different from the bunch of questions it may come along with. The content demands of the question is one aspect, however the most important element for the Question above is its call for candidates to evaluate the contributions of (Marie) an individual cause relative to others. Evaluative language therefore become essential and a central tenet for this question. 

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How one write a given essay is something that is determined by the nature of Question to be addressed however there is a universal formula for essays. Below is a Step-by-step guide on how to come up with a good essay for Advanced Arts subjects. 

Step 1: Question Interpretation 

This allows one to express or rephrase the question from another angle. Question interpretation does not alter the question but rather simplify it. This is vital as it allows one to see the multiple dimensions of the question. 

In the example of the Question given in the preceding paragraphs, the interpretation can simply be that: Compared to other individuals like the King, philosophers, Nobles, peasants and whole range of causes of the French revolution; how much was the Queen to blame for the revolution. Of course you’re comparing Marie’s contributions versus each contributing factor not against the whole range of causes. 

NB* Question interpretation is the initial stage of the essay and should be carefully done though you’re not suppose to waste time on it. Failure on this part will mean failure for the whole essay since an essay constructed on poor question interpretation give a wrong answer. 

Step 2: Point taking

Briefly proceed to note (jot down)  your main points for the essay. 

For example (with regard to the Question given above) 

*Marie – Unpopularity because of her Austrian origins * Extravagant spending- nicknamed Madame Deficit * Poisoned the King’s mind and was of bad influence – instigated the dismissal of Nicker and Turgot  *Poor political perception – said wrong at bad times which inspired the 1789 revolution 

However Side:

KING: * Weak minded – easily manipulated by the privileged classes and Queen  *Responsible for French Economic meltdown-  He sanctioned France to support America, Dissmised Turgot and Necker and refused to extend taxes to first two estates  *Absolutism – had all power for himself (contemplated that the “state is myself”) 

PLEASE NOTE: do the same for other factors. 

Step 3: Composing Introduction

An introduction should be coined with vast precision to question demands. It should stand as a true reflection of the whole essay and most examiners who mark by impression can determine your score or grade at this stage. Given that the introduction is very important candidates should accurately interpret the question and proceed to give a brief outline of the whole essay. 

A good introduction should not be too long or too short but good enough to engage the marker in a manner that he/she will approve as a trail to the best answer ever for the question. Simplicity is ultimate sophistication in an introduction as one may be able to conceptualize the whole array of the essay lines in a simplified manner. 

NB* for some Advanced Level Arts essays, simplifying the question through defining terminology used on the Question may be essential as it further reveals your understanding of the question. Proper citations may be evoked in that regard since the definitions may not be yours. Always bear in mind that not citing scholarly work is plagiarism. 

Please Check Out for: Advanced Level Arts; Essay writing Skills  Part 2

Colossian heresy: it’s existence in today’s Zimbabwean church

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Question: Examine the Colossian heresy and show how the same affects churches today


Heresy refers to a doctrine held by a member of a religion at variance with the established religious belief (Wikitionary, 2016). The Colossian heresy was largely a product of Gnosticism. A Gnostic is a person who considers himself as having “knowledge” beyond that which the ordinary person has (Bishop, 2000). A Gnostic thinks of himself as a member of intellectual elite, one of the few who set themselves above all others as possessing a superior knowledge. Also, an elaboration of how this affects the church of today in our Zimbabwean society or elsewhere is supposed to be given. 
The Colossian church was being threatened by a “philosophy” that, if believed, would make them victim of false teachers who denied the sufficiency of Christ. The Colossians were living under fear of the stoicheia (hostile spiritual forces as used in Colossians) and the promoters of the Colossian heresy promised answers to their fears. According to Powell (2009) Gnosticism in the first Century was concerned mainly with two questions: First, how can the work of creation be explained? Second, how are we to account for the existence of evil in the universe? The Colossian epistle addresses the following subjects: Ceremonialism, Asceticism, Angel Worship, Depreciation of Christ, Secret Knowledge and Reliance on Human wisdom and tradition (Constable, 2016). These elements seem to fall into two categories, i.e. Jewish and Gnostic. It is therefore high likely that the Colossian heresy was a mixture of an extreme form of Judaism and an early stage of Gnosticism (ibid). Paul never explicitly describes the false teaching he opposes in the Colossian letter however the nature of the heresy can be inferred from statements he made in opposition to the false teachers. The lines below explores. 

The main heretical teaching of Colossae was on the depreciation of Christ and it is implied in Paul’s emphasis on the supremacy of Christ (Col 1 vs15-20; 2 vs2ff). The Colossian agnostics argued that Christ is prominent but not preeminent (Constable, 2016) and this false teaching that was threatening the congregation. The outstanding Christian doctrine that this letter deals with is Christology in order to correct the Church from the false doctrine on the image of Christ, thus the main purpose of the epistle is to refute the Colossian heresy. To accomplish this goal he exalts Christ as the very image of God (Col 1v15), the Creator (1 v16), the pre-existent sustainer of all things (1 v17), the Head of the Church (1 v 18), the first to be resurrected (1 v18), the fullness of the deity in bodily form (1 v19; 2 v9) and the reconciler (1 v20- 22) (ibid). Thus Christ is completely adequate. The present society has seen the upsurge of religious syncretism, notably in Zimbabwe where most white garment apostolic sects combine the African Tradition Religion with Christianity. The church today desperately needs the message of Colossians. We live in a day when religious toleration is interpreted to mean ‘one religion is just as good as another.’ Some people try to take the best from various religious systems and manufacture their own private religion (DeWaay, 2002).

The Gnostics boasted of their secret knowledge: (see Col 2 v18 and Paul’s emphasis in 2 v2-3 on Christ in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom). According to the Gnostics, the way to God was barred by a series of emanations and getting past these emanations to the true God was through knowledge and a series of passwords which only the Gnostics could supply (Gonzalez, 1984). This meant that salvation was limited to only a few intellectuals (or pseudo-intellectuals). The Gnostics claimed to be the elite, the wise, the philosophers to whom was the secret knowledge was revealed which the overwhelming mass of mankind could never know (ibid). The intellectual pride of the Gnostics would have changed the gospel into a philosophy of which only a select intellectual could be a part. This is very clearly what was happening in Colossae and Paul warned not to let this happen there was no need for new revelations to keep Christians from a bad “fate” (i.e. negative events in our lives) or hostile spiritual powers. These are what the elitist of our day always offer, often getting very rich doing so. Some have even taken up the clever scheme used by “success” moguls of the infomercial variety —teach others the “secret” to doing it for themselves through television networks, crusades among others. 

In addition to the above, reliance on human wisdom and tradition is another heresy that troubled the Colossian church (see Colossian 2 vs4 and 8). The gnostic teachers of Colossae have handy “proof texts” that can be easily twisted to support their claims. The one used the most often is Hosea 4:6a, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”  Every gnostic teacher who cites this passage out of context claims that the answer is the knowledge they are offering, usually some type of special revelation, secret technique or higher level spiritual experience. If this passage were used properly, it would be pressed upon people to believe the gospel. To refute such a heresy Paul exalted in the fullness of the deity of Christ and warned them against the philosophies of men (Colossians 2 vs1-23). Modern preachers and prophets proclaim to know everything about theological issues and the church today desperately needs the message of Colossians. We live in a day when religious toleration is interpreted to mean ‘one religion is just as good as another.’ Some people try to take the best from various religious systems and manufacture their own private religion

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Another heresy that troubled the church of Colossae was that of asceticism or legalism: it holds to strict rules about the kinds of permissible food and drink, religious festivals (Col 2: 16-17) and circumcision (Colossians 2 vs11; 3 vs11). The gnostic tendencies in Colossae held that if they have stricter rules, dietary laws, or some other version or rigorous self-denial, they can get closer to God (DeWaay, 2002). It is noteworthy that Paul says that there is no reason to submit to these because Christians have died with Christ to the stoicheia (elementary principles). Pagan rituals that required strict adherence to such rules as preparation for “entering” the temple to undergo initiation rites were no longer relevant. There were also Judaizers who delighted in demanding adherence to Mosaic Law and Paul’s warning extended to any particular kind of legalism or asceticism (ibid). One cannot get closer to God by the means of following manmade rules or “ascend” to a higher place by such practices. Here is what Paul said elsewhere. Today these matters still “appear” to be pious and exemplary. This version of asceticism and ceremonialism is rife today and will be around until Christ returns (Gonzalez, 2009). Modern Churches as the Seventh Day holds strict rules about kinds of permissible foods, drink and religious festivals. They also argue on issues to do with religious festivals as Christmas and Easter among other things which may somehow give a reflection of the Colossian heresy.

In addition to the above, the Epistle to the Colossians reveals the existence of ascetic practices taught by the false teachers (Colossians 2 vs21-23). Asceticism in Colossians consists of the following: Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch! (Col 2: 21, 23). These ascetic practices became very common among Gnostics for those who favoured unnatural asceticism often fell into the opposite sin of shocking licentiousness. The body and soul are entirely distinct in their nature; the soul cannot be defiled by anything (Gonzalez, 1984). Many churches in our modern day holds to ascetic principles as the white garment apostolic sect which adheres to Jewish food laws such as not eating pork (Levitical Law: Leviticus 11 vs1ff cf Acts 10 vs1ff)
Angel Worship is another threat to the Colossian church (Colossians 2 vs18). Angels were considered as intermediaries to keep the highest God (pure Spirit) uncontaminated by contact with the physical universe (Colossians 2:18). This was a pagan feature since Jews did not worship angels, nor did they regard the physical universe as evil. This would have robbed Christ of his glory and centrality to the new Christian movement. The conception of Christ as the invisible image of God, first born of all creation, the Head of the Church and First Born of Death (Colossians 1 vs15 -19) by the Apostle Paul is to refute and decimate the false doctrine in Colossae prompting angel worship.  In the white garment apostolic sect in Zimbabwe, angel worship is rife as angels and prominent figures such as in Johanne Marange and Masowe who have got angels Michael, Gabriel and Abraham as their chief inter-mediators.  

In conclusion the nature of the Colossian heresy (doctrine held by a member of a religion at variance with the established religious belief) was largely a product of Gnosticism. The Colossian church was being threatened by a “philosophy” that, if believed, would make them victim of false teachers who denied the sufficiency of Christ. The Colossian Christians were living under fear and the promoters of the Colossian heresy promised answers to their fears. Ceremonialism, Asceticism, Angel Worship, Depreciation of Christ, Secret Knowledge and Reliance on Human wisdom and tradition are the main heresy of Colossians. A thorough review of the modern society’s Christian community reveals that the same heresy affects the church today as angel worship, asceticism, ceremonialism, reliance on human wisdom and tradition and the challenge of Christ’s pre-eminence. 


Constable, T. L. (2016) “Notes on Colossians.” Online: Accessed 29 February 2016: pdf document.

Gonzalez, J. L. (1984). The Story of Christianity, Vol 1; Harper/Colins: New York 137- 143.

DeeWaay, B. (2002) A Biblically Based Commentary on Issues that Impact You I SS MAY / JUNE 2002 UE NUMBER 70 CIC (Critical Issues Commentary) THE COLOSSIAN HERESY PART 2

Powell M, A (2009) Introducing the New Testament. Published by Baker Academic: A division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2009. Used by permission.

Development of the Early Church in the Apostolic age. 

Advanced LEVEL Divinity

 Question (Typical ZIMSEC) 

Discuss possible reasons which prompted the development of the early Church despite persecution in the apostolic age (25 marks) 


Examining the factors which led to the development of the church in the first Christian generation apart from persecution.  Centrality can also be given on the Holy Spirit as per alia (among a pool of factors) like the devotion and commitment of the apostles, their resilience in the face of opposition, persecution and the existence of good leadership structures. 


Apostolic age refers to the period of the twelve apostles, dating from the great commission by the resurrected Christ in A.D 33 until the death of the last apostle believed to be John in Anatolia, A.D 100 (Wikipedia, 2016). The development of the early church during the apostolic age cannot be attributed to a single factor but a multiple of factors, among which are contribution of the Holy Spirit which was the power and chief propeller for the apostles, instilled discipline in the church as noted on the case of Ananias and Saphira (Acts 5 v1ff), miracle-performance and stood in loco parentis providing guardianship to the church. The existence of good leadership structures in the name of the Jerusalem Council and in local churches, the evangelical work of the apostles, good transport and communication network, the resilience of the apostles as well as their commitment and dedication to the early Christian community also had a great contribution to the early Christian church development. 

In order for the early Christian church to start its evangelical work, it needed the Holy Spirit as noted on Acts 1 v 8, But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you be my witness in Jerusalem, all Judea and in Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Constable (2016) notes that, prior the coming of the Holy Spirit, the apostles were inactive.  After the Pentecost (Acts 2), the apostles with the power of the Holy Spirit vested in them were able to preach with so much boldness exhibiting a fearless and noble character which was essential for the development of the early church given the adversities and high intensity opposition they faced. Bravado came with this power for the apostles, thenceforth apostle Peter took his stand before the crowd proclaiming that the crucified Christ was the Son of Man (Barclays, 2010). One would wonder how Peter could be so brave given he was once a coward who denied Christ thrice during the time of his trial? (Luke 22 v54ff). In this regard, the power which was vested by the Holy Spirit in the apostles and early church at large led them to be brave and able to preach despite antagonism, leading to the development of the Early Church.

In addition to the above, the Holy Spirit made miracle performance possible and was a vital element towards the development of the early Church. Miracle performance undoubtedly acted as a tool for the authentication of the gospel, gather people around as it drew the attention of many and creating the opportunity to preach; thus Luke the writer had to take much time to elaborate how people were converted, increasing the church congregants each time a miracle was performed. At the Beautiful Gate, the lame man who asked for alms was healed by apostle Peter and John (Acts 3 v1-10), Philip in Samaria (8 v1 -25) among other miracles were performed and in the end a lot of people believed and were converted. It is also interesting to note that Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians elaborated the significance of miracles in the development of the early church by insisting that, .. Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom (I Corinthians 1 v 22). 

In the entirety of the Book of Acts of the Apostles, the Holy Spirit was in loco parentis of both the apostles and the early church. The Holy Spirit was the main guardian which gave directives and instructions to the church which were crucial for its development. The expansion of the early church into the gentile world was instigated by the Holy Spirit, most notably on the conversion of Cornelius (Acts 10), Philip in Samaria and with the Ethiopian Eunuch (Acts 8 v 1ff), the commission of Paul and Barnabas to the first missionary journey (Acts 13 v 1- 2). This guardianship role assumed by the Holy Spirit was indispensable in the development of the early church especially given that the church was still in its infancy stages and lacking in many aspects, thus the Holy Spirits role as in loco parentis of the church is a prime factor worth of mentioning. 

Instilling discipline in the early church was also equally important with other factors to the development of the early church. The case of Ananias and Saphira as elaborated in Acts 5 bears it all. Disobedience in the church could have been a stumbling block to its development however the Holy Spirit exhibited no toleration for it and made the early church to realize that disobedience had no place in the church (Constable, 2016). The Holy Spirit unreservedly castigated disobedience which encouraged obedience in the church. According to Young (1997) the case of Ananias and Saphira was one meant to assure that the church had deep roots laid in obedience which was a vital house rule if the Christian movement was to succeed. Without obedience, the early church could have been a lawless movement bound to fail. Thus; Paul, Peter, James and all prominent figures of the early Christian church, thus had strong and obedient personalities which made the expansion of the church in fulfilment of the promise mentioned in Acts 1 v8 possible. 

Good leadership structures could not be also undermined despite the vast contribution of the Holy Spirit. The early Church depended on adhocracy; system of governance which address problems as they arise and this structure proved to be effective in maintaining and restoring parity on several conflicting cases and issues. The case of Hellenist who murmured against the Hebrews for allegedly neglecting their widows (Acts 6 v 1ff) was resolved by the appointment of the 7 Deacons to assist in the administrative work whereas the highly explosive case of the admission of gentiles in to the early Christian community which manifest in the Galatian heresy (Acts 15) was resolved by the Jerusalem Council. All these challenges among others could have threatened the existence and development of the early church if they could not have been handled with utmost wisdom (Constable, 2016). Given the above outline, one can justly note that the existence of good leadership structures in the early church in the name of the apostles, the Jerusalem Council and leaders in various churches contributed much to its development; thus Paul in his numerous epistles including Colossians and Galatians had to mention the significance of these structures.

The early Christian movement started with the congregation present at the Pentecost which had a strong desire (willpower) to spread the good news to the ends of the earth in fulfilment of the promise (Acts, 1 v8). Without exhibiting a strong commitment towards their cause, the apostles could have failed in the mission given the magnitude of the adversities they were facing on a daily basis. Persecution was a menace that was intended for the destruction of the church which ended when the Roman Emperor Constantine issued the Edict of Milan in 313 A.D which mandated complete toleration of Christianity (Minto, 2002), however prior to that, the church overcame it by their commitment to the gospel (ibid). The book of Acts of the Apostles exhibits numerous occasions on which the apostles suffered for the sake of the gospel as with the case of the imprisonment faced by Paul (Acts 28), Stephens martyrdom (Acts 7 v54- 60), Peters imprisonment and execution of James the brother of John (Acts 12 v1ff). The apostles and other prominent figures like James the Just exhorted the congregants from time to time to remain faithful to the gospel whereas others as Luke the physician wrote his second account to reveal that the Christian movement was apolitical. The epistle of James and the majority of Pauls, reports that the apostles were toiling every day for the church. Such commitment from the apostles and other church leaders within the apostolic age cannot be undermined for the development of the church. 
The importance of the Jewish temple in centralizing and unifying Hellenic and Judean Judaism at this time can-not be undermined. Josephus, the Historian gave an approximation of about three million people attending a single Passover. According to Crownfield (1960), this is plausibly an exaggeration however it gives a clue about the magnitude of the mass which attended such festivals and rituals and points to the cultural and spiritual unity of all Judaism. With the vast patronage of diaspora Jews, the return of the converted to their respective locations assured the spread of the gospel. At the Pentecost, following the coming of the Holy Spirit, about 3ooo were converted (Acts 2 v41). The dissemination of the gospel to such outlying centers as Damascus, Antioch of Syria, Cyprus, Cyrene and even Rome was certain. In light of the above lines, the temple can be said to have played an indispensable in the growth of the Christian Church during the Apostolic Age. 

Rome assumed a generous stance towards Christians as approved religions were granted freedom within the empire however Christianity was not granted such freedom until 313 A.D when Emperor Constantine issued the Milan Decree. Judaism, however recognized under graced with this recognition from the very beginning of the Christian movement, and since Christianity had flowered from Judaism Rome appears not to have distinguished between the two (Acts 18 v1-2 & v12-17) (Carter, 1964). Christianity enjoyed the Protection of Rome up to the period of Pauls 1st imprisonment under Emperor Nero when the demarcation between Christianity and Judaism was more pronounced. It is from this time that Christians became convenient scapegoats for Nero, ibid. The protection enjoyed by the Christian movement in its infancy was of greater importance in its developments and without which it could have died a premature. 

The availability of good transport and communication channels in the Roman Empire during the Apostolic Age gave a massive room to the development of the early church. According to Crownfield (1964), the apostolic mission was made easier by the high navigability of the vast Roman Empire which was intended for state administrative purposes. Paul, thus easily moved around during his evangelical missions and found easy to maintain contact with the gentile churches as those of Rome, Colossae, Galatians and Thessalonians even when away or under confinement as evidenced by his epistles to these churches among others. Transport communication channels of the 1st Christian generation, thus become invaluable as they added much to the growth and development of the church. 
To sum it all, multiple factors as the Holy Spirit which acted as the source of power and chief propeller for the apostles, disciplinarian in the church, miracle performance and acting in loco parentis through the provision of guardianship; the existence of good leadership structures in the name of the Jerusalem Council and in local churches, the evangelical work of the apostles, the resilience of the apostles as well as their commitment and dedication to the early Christian community greatly contributed to the church development in the apostolic age. 


Dr Constable. T (2016) Expository Notes (retrieved 10 June 2016)

Minto. A (2002) Biblical Foundations and The Apostolic Fathers. Course Lectures, Franciscan University, Steubenville: Ohio, United States of America. 

 Young F. M (1997) Biblical Exegesis and the Formation of Christian Culture. Cambridge University Press, London

The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version

Barclays. W (1959) William Barclays Daily Study Bible. (retrieved April 2016)* 

Wikipedia (2016) (retrieved April 2016)*

Crownfield F. R (1960) An Historical Approach to the New Testament*

Carter C. W (1964) The Acts of the Apostles, The Wesleyan Bible Commentary, Vol IV