How A Literary Piece, Character, Or Author Can Be Used As Christian Witness Or Salvific Tool To – Essay Example
Can a literary piece, character or be used as a Christian witness or salvific tool to fulfil the Great Commission? Whether or not it was the original intention of the author, or indeed whether or not the literary composition in question was written within the Christian era, it has become clear, over the duration of this course, that a literary piece, character or author can be used as a Christian witness to fulfil the Great Commission. It is worth beginning by considering what we mean by the Great Commission. By this term, we mean the instruction of Jesus to his disciples after the resurrection, to spread his teachings to the people of all nations. This event is recorded in several of the Gospels, but to quote Matthew, ‘Go then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to obey everything I have commanded you’ (28:16-20).
The works of the great Victorian poet laureate, Alfred Lord Tennyson, provide particularly good examples. He wrote the monumental poem In Memoriam to express his feelings on the death of his close friend Arthur Henry Hallam. He takes the reader through what might now be termed the grieving process, as he moves from utter despair, to the realisation that his friend is now in hands of a higher power. That In Memoriam helps those who are similarly suffering from immense grief to come to terms with their loss, and have faith that terrestrial death is not the end is made clear by Queen Victoria’s comment on the death of her beloved husband, Prince Albert: ‘Next to the Bible, In Memoriam is my comfort’. This impression is only strengthened by the original title Tennyson intended for this work: The Way of the Soul. To take one section of the poem as a study, in section XXVII, the writer is still able to recognise, due to his strong faith, that ‘Tis better to have loved and lost/Than never to have loved at all’. By not envying those who have never felt pain, Tennyson is surely acknowledging the possibility of divine salvation. This is reinforced at the very end of In Memoriam, where Tennyson recognises that his friend’s soul endures on a higher plane, and celebrates this knowledge.
Some of these themes are picked up in other works in Tennyson’s impressive corpus. If we consider his poem Ulysses, for example, the ‘Happy Isles’ of the poem, for which Ulysses heads as he sets off on his last voyage, bear comparison with the Christian belief of heaven, despite the poem’s setting in pagan Greece. The poem ends as the speaker repeats his resolve to keep on going, to carry on heading for this goal: ‘To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield’.
Other works with a pagan Greek setting have likewise been adapted to Christian themes. While the original Oedipus Rex was penned by the tragedian Sophocles in Classical Athens, some medieval adaptations made the story into a Christian tale, with Oedipus’ role taken on by Judas Iscariot, who, unaware, kills his father and marries his mother. Some of the conceptions of morality and immorality which are to be found in the original play are also shared in Christian tradition. Furthermore, it is worth examining the closing lines of the original script, spoken by Oedipus: ‘Then learn that mortal man must always look to his ending, And none can be called happy until that day when he carries His happiness down to the grave in peace’. The call to men to look to the ending of their mortal lives is one that fits with Christian ideas of working on Earth for salvation and the afterlife, and thus playing one’s part in fulfilling the Great Commission.
The last work I will consider here is Shakespeare’s Othello: The Moor of Venice. I would argue that Christian themes are not the most important in this play. Nevertheless, many of the key lessons Jesus Christ passed on to his disciples have echoes in the play. Othello is a Christian and fights for Christian, and the dichotomy of Christian and Turk is certainly crucial in parts of the play. Othello also gives thanks to God for the destruction of the mighty Turkish fleet, and thus the salvation of Venetian Cyprus. Othello also has at least something of Christ’s belief in the redemptive power of love, despite the play’s ending, as he calls Desdemona ‘my soul’s joy’ even after Iago has begun to turn him against her.
In conclusion, it is obvious that literary works from across the centuries, written in both pagan and Christian societies, can play some part as salvific tools, carrying as they do elements of the lessons Jesus Christ taught to his disciples, and then dispatched them to spread the word throughout the world.
Edmunds, L. (1985). Oedipus: The Ancient Legend and its Later Analogues. Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press.
Shakespeare, W., Muir, K. ed., (2005). The Tragedy of Othello, The Moor of Venice. London: Penguin.
Sophocles, Watling, E. F., trans., (1974). The Theban Plays. London: Penguin.
Tennyson, A. (2007). Selected Poems. London: Penguin.
Good News Bible (1994). London: The Bible Societies/Harper Collins.
“Tennyson’s Poetry: In Memoriam” (2010). Sparknotes. Retrieved from: http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/tennyson/section8.rhtml [Accessed August 2 2010].
“Tennyson’s Poetry: Ulysses” (2010). Sparknotes. Retrieved from: http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/tennyson/section4.rhtml [Accessed August 2 2010].