Christianity and Confucianism are well-known systems of belief, based on the number of adherents and their significance. There are three more than 2 billion Christians today, whereas there are approximately 7 million Confucianists only. While Christianity is expected to remain the world’s largest religion in the nearest 50 years, competing with Islam for such a status, Confucianism’s future is likely to be less grandiose. Both Christianity and Confucianism are strongly associated with the names of individuals who developed and established them. In this essay, Jesus and Confucius are compared with each other on different criteria, such as background, influence, and beliefs. The thesis of this essay is that Jesus and Confucius have individuals’ lives, achievements, and public perception brought about by their influence.
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To start, one can look at the backgrounds of Jesus and Confucius. The latter was born more than 500 years earlier than Jesus in the family of a soldier. The family was quite poor, however with the flow of time the class the family belonged to started to climb the social ladder. Compared to Confucius, the birth of Jesus is more mysterious because the adherents of Christianity strongly believe that Christ was conceived through Immaculate Conception (Arnal). He is, therefore, believed to be a son of God, whereas Confucius is just a human being without any connections to divine powers. Both figures were born not only at different times but also in geographically distant places. Confucius comes from China, while Jesus is from the town of Nazareth, which is in today’s Israel. While Confucius is believed to have lived a long life, Jesus was crucified at a young age.
The ideas of two figures on many occasions are very similar to each other. For instance, continuous self-perfection as a way of living is intrinsic to both systems of ideas. According to Jesus and Confucius, it is essential to evolve and strive for perfection from within and outside, improving the relations with people around oneself. However, there are differences in the ideas of these two inspiring people. The idea of the first sin declares that any person is born with negative traits (Arnal). There is no such idea in the teachings of Confucius, as, for him, any person is good from the beginning (Confucius 26).
In terms of world fame, both figures are prominent because it is hard to find a person who hasn’t heard of either Confucius or Jesus. However, judging the actual size of their systems of beliefs, it is evident that Christianity strongly influenced by Jesus has been maintained as a religion with roots all over the world. At the same time, Confucianism is more often called philosophy, and its presence may not be so omnipotent. While its ideas have conquered Asia, one cannot say that the same happened in any other region of the world. They are perceived as representative symbols of two different civilizations.
Regarding cultural development of Confucius and Jesus’ works, it is difficult to estimate who have achieved more. For example, political ideas of the modern West are based on Christianity. The flag of the EU has twelve stars, which equals the number of apostles. Although many Western states today are secular, Christianity lies at the basis of these countries. Confucianism may not be a state ideology of China, but its significance is illustrated by the name of educational centers opened by the Chinese government all around the world (Lo and Pun 512). These centers are the symbol of Chinese soft power, and they are named after Confucius.
To sum it all up, it is crucial to take notice of the fact that both figures are inspirational symbols of two world-known systems of beliefs whose work yielded to numerous followers all around the world. They both, to some extent, influenced modern philosophy and religion, despite the significant differences in their biographies. What is also clear is that the names of Confucius and Jesus will continue to play an essential role in the history of humanity as dominant symbols of different civilizations.
Arnal, William E. The Symbolic Jesus: Historical Scholarship, Judaism and the Construction of Contemporary Identity. Routledge, 2015.
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Confucius. Analects – an Illustrated Edition. Princeton University Press, 2018.
Lo, Joe Tin-yau, and Suyan Pan. “Confucius Institutes and China’s Soft Power: Practices and Paradoxes.” Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, vol. 46, no.4, 2016, pp. 512-532.