DISCUSS THE STRENGTHS AND WEAKNESSES OF USING ECLECTIC TEXTS OF THE BIBLE
Throughout the centuries, the Bible has proven as an inspirational text for Christians. Furthermore, when the Bible is studied, it is clear that its message has developed into a clearer and elaborate work. One of the ways that this is done is through the use of an eclectic (wide range) of texts. At times, biblical eclecticism can be useful to inspire and decipher confusing issues in the Bible. However, an eclectic use of texts can at times prove problematic and be misinterpreted, leading to a warped personal rather than spiritual meaning.
The book of Job is used as an inspirational text to help Christians at times of suffering. It shows that good can overcome evil, despite the situation Job was in. Job does suffer immensely, losing all that he had in 'a blink of an eye.' Not only that, he had every reason to do turn his back on God and give into all the evil temptations that had surrounded him. Instead, Job chooses to defend his actions which are 'good.' He follows the good path, claiming his innocence until the point when he was confronted by God. This story of Job presents a positive role model to Christian readers even today. Job is recognised as a man that stood for justice and truth despite being inflicted with evil all around his life. The book of Job is perhaps fictional but there is no doubt that Job is an example of a virtuous human being. As Eaton (1985: pg 50) points out that:
The theme of the book can thus be recognised not as theory of the problem of evil, but as portrayal of a man who knew the problem in all its horror first hand, and yet, without a trace of dishonesty or illusion, staked his life on goodness: 'Though he may slay me, I will hope in him (13:15.)'
Regardless of the trials and tribulations found in Job, its purpose and knowledge is remarkable. Its wisdom does truly transcend its time. As book of Job attempts to answer the question of theodicy, this is still an issue in today's 'modern' society. Suffering is portrayed as a developmental stage of the human character. Job's life is more than a story, it should be used as a tool in understanding an almighty God (which Christians have a difficulty of understanding from time to time.) The book of Job helps Christians understand the nature God's justice. Copeland (I.S.1.) mentions that:
...with the book of Job we can learn how the righteous should suffer, how careful we should be in comforting the suffering, and to accept the fact that we can never fully comprehend God's working in our lives and in the world.
Through passages such as these has led to historical movements such as Black Theology. Black Theology's use of Biblical text provides a strong, religious argument in the cause of emancipating the oppressed black people. The main passages that were used in Black Theological cause is found in Job as well as Exodus, where God freed the oppressed Israelites from the reign of their Egyptian slave masters. Although, it was through hardship and the challenges as well as plagues that Moses inflicted upon the pharaoh and his people. Passages such as these reminded them that God interacts with human life (especially when under oppression of the fellow man.) Its cause was also supported by Acts 17:26 where it says "He made from one all the nations of mankind to live on all the face of the earth." The Bible teaches Christians that there is only one race --the human race-- regardless of size, shape or colour. This use of biblical knowledge theology shows a strong religious perspective in support Black Theology. In high sight, Black Theology had opened up the eyes of black and white people, making them both ware that their way of life was cruel and unjust. Also, were it not for Black Theology, perhaps it would be a very different society that we live in today.
In spite of this, its message at time has been misinterpreted and used for political purposes. To this day, it has still been argued that the goals of Black Theology were to turn religion into sociology, Christianity into a political agenda, Jesus into a black Marxist rebel, and the gospel into violent revolution. Whilst some of the prominent figures of the Black theological movement (Martin Luther King Jr.), others have been thought to misuse texts such as Job in order to cause political shift (James Cone). As cited in Ambeau (I.S.2.), Cone stated '...it is the religious counterpart of the more secular movement called black power.'
Using eclectic texts can help sometimes present a different perspective of the same image. An example of this is the calming of the storm. Whilst Matthew, Mark and Luke tell the same story, they present it in various ways. As Mark's gospel was believed to have been written first (60 AD), it is believed to be the most authoritative of the Gospels. Following Mark's Gospel were Luke and Matthew both believed to have been written in 80 AD. These dates are important as scholars such as Reddish (1997: pg 29) argue that Mark influenced Matthew and Luke's Gospels:
Second, almost all of Mark's Gospel is contained in Matthew or Luke. Matthew reproduces almost 90 percent of Mark; Luke includes around 50 percent of Mark. Only three or four of Mark's periscopes (small units of material) do not appear in one of the other two Synoptics. It is easier to believe that Mathew and Luke expanded Mark than to accept that Mark would have omitted so much material contained in Matthew and Luke.
It is evident that in the calming of the storm, Matthew and Luke copy the format of Mark's Gospel. Although, both Mathew and Luke each present their stories in different ways. In Mark's Gospel, he gives a full and detailed account of the story. On the other hand, Luke takes are more direct approach. He tell the story in only three verses accounting for only the main points found in Mark's Gospel. In contrast, Matthew accounts the story in a more poetic style. It is more elaborate than Luke's and is perhaps the most enjoyable to read.
Having three accounts of the same story is advantageous because it allows a reader to have a choice to understand and learn about the life of Jesus. Some people may like se the Bible as a prophetic and spiritual text so they may prefer the styling of Matthew. However, some people may want Luke's quick account of what happened during the calming of the storm. Either way, there is a choice for Christians as passages such as these are easily accessible to them. Also, it makes it easier to present to an intended audience as one can choose which passage is most appropriate and inspirational. For example, if a priest is delivering a sermon on faith, he may choose Matthew's account as it more inspiring as opposed to a Mark's account which is more suitable for a classroom environment. Despite this, eclectic texts of the same passage can be troublesome at time. Questions can arise such as which is more authoritative or more reliable.
Overall, biblical eclecticism has its strengths and weaknesses. Using a wide range of texts can be uplifting to some people. Texts like Job and Exodus can help Christians feel comforted at times of hurt and suffering. It can also provide as a sanctuary of peace and comfort, providing hope and joy in the kindness of God. Regardless, biblical eclecticism can also be used for political and personal satisfaction through misunderstanding the moral of the stories. Some people use texts (like Luke and Matthew) to present their own perspective on biblical accounts. Furthermore, passages can be weaved and manipulated to present a warped and tarnished account of true events. These are then presented as a basis for a certain standpoint that does not account for their true meaning, but for what someone wants them to believe. Biblical eclecticism is like a two edged sword, it can be used for good and also for evil but it must be up to the reader to decide which is which.