The Anelets itself is no more then a book of saying or quotes from a philosopher known as Confucius and some of his closer contemporaries. The text was written, most likely, by Confucius’s disciples after his death during the Warring States Period. In spite of its popularity today, the text lived in the shadows of other “schools of thought” per say during the early years of its existence. At first glance, the Analets seems to be just a book of out of context quotes and weird saying that someone’s grandfather might have told them.
But at further inspection, the Analets is much deeper than that and there has to be a reason as to why it has been one of the most studied texts within China for the last 2000 years. To start, this paper will form a foundation of where and who the Analets came from. This will help bring an understanding of the mindset and thoughts of what is being said within the text. Then the major themes within the text will be discussed and analyzed to try to discover what it is that makes this text so appealing. Lastly, the philosophies within the Anelets will be compared to that of a biblical worldview.
Confucius believed in the natural good of the individual and sought after balance within all things. Yes nature, but also within society itself. The main goal of “confucius ethics” is to be “Chun Tzu” the Ideal Person. The idea is to fix one’s self, family, and then society as a whole. Confucius wanted to bring structure and order to society. This can be seen within the entire contents of the Analects. The Analects is a book of proverbs, and in a way, it could be considered a sort of self help book by today’s standards.
The text has in it the first recording of what today is known as the Golden rule and what is considered by many to be the centerpiece of the entire Anelets. Within Book XII 12.2 it says, “Do not do to others what you would not wish done to you.” This was said around 500 hundred years before Jesus was ever born. Confucius’s ideal is to become this ideal person, with their highest virtue being, that which should drive us, is to love others.
Another focus of Confucius ethics that is within the Anelects is the idea of “Xiao” (Filial Piety: “reverence for family”). This idea was best explained in Book IV 4.19 when the Master said, “When one’s parents are alive, make no distant journeys; when you travel have a set destination.” The idea is to have respect for your parents and elders; to always be there when they might need your help. It is important to point out that there is an implication that children should not leave their parents behind because they are of the utmost concern.
The third doctrine that I have found to be important within the Aneletels, is the idea of balance. It is important to understand that Confucius was living in a time of chaos and sought to bring order to the Chinese world. The goal here is to seek after and live in moderation and to be happy for what you have. In Book VII 7.6 the Master said, “Set your heart on the dao, base yourself in virtue, rely on ren, journey in the arts.” By doing theses things, we can rewrite our goals to more virtuous things and focus on what matters most, peace and family.
The Anelets have many good values that one could meditate on. However,at the same time, it can be seen to have just has many, if not even more, shortcomings then it may look like at first. In order to show the shortcomings of Confusion ethics, the Anelets teachings will be compared with a biblical worldview. After this, the biggest problems with the Anelets from even a worldly point of view will be discussed.
The Anelets has a great deal to say about someone staying respectful and honorable to one’s parents. At face value this is not in any conflict with biblical teachings. In fact, the first commandment in the Bible that has an attached promise to it is found in Exodus 20:12 “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.” The difference here is found in how one is to accomplish this command.
Confucius strongly believe that respecting one’s elders is done by not only recognizing and submitting to their elders authority but also by caring for their every need. The verse we discussed earlier tells us, “When one’s parents are alive, make no distant journeys.” This is in direct contrast to the Bible’s first great commision in Genesis 2:24,” Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife and they shall become one flesh.” The Bible makes it clear that we are to respect our elders but at a certain point in time it is right for “man” to follow his own path or “way”.
The next point discussed here is the idea of balance or peace. Here again it sounds good at first glance, however, Jesus has a lot more to say on this topic than most people recognize. Matthew 4:18-22 records the first instance where Jesus calls upon people to follow him. In these verses it shows the disciples leaving everything in that moment to follow Jesus. Jesus also is quoted in Luke 9:23 saying, “if anyone comes after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” In Rev. 3:15, Jesus says, “ I know your works: you are neither cold or hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” This verse clearly shows that Christianity is not a religion about balance. Jesus doesn’t call someone to way the odds of following Him first, but to follow Him with everything one has.
The book of Anelets is a very compeling compilation of pieces of proverbs. It is full of wise saying that even a Christian can learn and grow a little from. Treating others as you wish to be treated, respecting and taking care of your parents, and being content with what you have, all are good and honorable things. It is important, however, to remember to question the things you are reading while studying such a book. It is important to question the why behind the sayings. Taken from the masters mouth himself, Book I 1.4 “Those of crafty words and ingratiating expression are rarely ren.”