Visions Of A Good Life: The Bible And The Analects

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Humanity as a collective has long wrestled with innumerable fundamental questions, one being how exactly people should live out their single opportunity at life. To begin the quest in search of truth, one shall turn to the classics, which have withstood the test of time, and are still very relevant in the modern era. While both The Bible and The Analects of Confucius provide an insightful framework for a good, healthy, and meaningful life for an individual, there definitely exists parallels of love and distinctions in relationships that are worth discussing through the connection of two texts.

A fundamental differentiation between The Bible and The Analects is that while the former text emphasizes on forming a close relationship with God, the creator of the universe and all beings within, the latter does not refer to any such comparable argument. Through the teachings of Jesus, the beloved son sent down to Earth to spread the gospel and good news, a bridge is built to pave the way between God and humanity. This is exemplified through a parable about a good shepherd and his sheep, where Jesus allegorizes how sheep must pass through the gate to go to green pastures, humans must likewise go through Him to be saved (John 10.9). Hence, mankind faces an important decision – to take up the invitation to develop a life-long commitment of prayer, worship, and fellowship to become closer to the Heavenly Father.

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Confucius believed that to live a good life, one should walk in the Way and rely on the moral compass as established by the heavens to live as an individual. However, The Analects (17.19) points us in the direction of a heaven that utters no words yet establishes governance over humanity in the spiritual and material realms. While the mandates are sent out from heaven, the role of humans is to receive the orders and act accordingly. The difference between this and that of a Christian perspective is that there is no spiritual relationship nor overall personal communication amongst humanity and the heavens. Subsequently, one sets out on a challenging route of life without the proper knowledge regarding the will of heaven, and may only put destiny into practice through living years upon years of moral cultivation (2:4), and that by itself may not be sufficient. Even if they understand the ideals of the celestial mandate, ritual and ethics must be employed in practice to be consistent in thought and behavior (1.12). Through accepting the limits of human control, one overcomes moral cultivation to engage with destiny and achieve full rational awareness as an individual.

A similarity between The Bible and The Analects is that they both proclaim loving and treating one another as one would like to be retributed. In the Bible, followers of Christ are called to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12.31). As Jesus focuses on love for one’s surroundings, not only do people’s actions matter, but motivations need to be taken into account as well. Human beings are designed to have interactions with God and with humans, so relationships should be in an abundance of love. Likewise, Confucius advocates for doing unto others as one would like others to do to oneself (12.2). In addition, when the Master is questioned on humaneness, disciples are told to simply love (12.22). With the same amount of kindness one reserves for family and friends, one should also extend to acquaintances, strangers, and even one’s worst enemies. Hence, people may live out a respectable and reputed life as humane gentlemen.

Jesus and Confucius, two prominent philosophers in the history of mankind, argue for different methods of following the will of heaven and a possession of all-around love and kindness for people. It is quite the coincidence that they came to the same conclusion on how one should treat others, as they are separated by centuries of thinking and culture. Without love and kindness, people will only consider their own interests, inevitably leading to insurmountable conflict and potential to turn into deep-seated hatred. Whereas during Confucius’ time, people from Ancient China saw a more pronounced relationship between men, with emphasis on respect and order, yet not so much between them and an omnipotent authority. As for The Bible, let us consult the apostle Paul on how love should look like, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13.4-5).

In conclusion, The Bible and The Analects present visions of a good life for an individual through treating one another with love and relationships between mankind and the overarching mandate giver. Though the relevant texts were written in distinct settings, time periods, and motivations, they are united by a common goal – passion for humanity and a curiosity to venture beyond the social constructs and mortal coils that were existing during their time on Earth.

Works Cited

  1. Biblica. The Holy Bible, New International Version. Biblica, Inc, 2011.
  2. Watson, Burton, translator. The Analects of Confucius. Columbia University Press, 2007.
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