Biblical References in Pilgrim’s Progress
Pilgrim’s Progress is a work by John Bunyan that is considered to be one of the most well-known allegories of a spiritual journey. For one to even begin to understand this work, it is necessary to embark on one’s own personal spiritual journey. Biblical references and quotations are riddled in even the simplest moments of this work, to the extent that one is seemingly forced to open a Bible and find the hidden meaning. This essay will analyze three characters of Pilgrim’s Progress and demonstrate how biblical references led to further understanding of said characters, and how these references encouraged a personal spiritual journey.
Obstinate is introduced as Christian’s neighbour in the City of Destruction. He refuses to join Christian in his quest, exclaiming: “What!…and leave our Friends, and our Comforts behind us!” (Bunyan 13) From this exclamation alone, it is possible to deduct that Obstinate is both worldly and stubborn. His first thought is to defy Christian’s request, rather than consider the possibility of better options. This notion is supported by the explanatory note that refers the reader to 2 Corinthians 4:18. This verse says: “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” This verse explains that to lust for things that are seen is wrong, for those that are not seen are the things that are important to seek after. Obstinate is demonstrating a temporal perspective, and refuses to waver from his ideas. He refuses to abandon his friends and his comfort, both of which are in the category of temporal ideals. Christian attempts to aid him in seeking for things of an eternal nature, but to no avail. Isaiah 48:4 aids in the understanding of his character by using his name to explain another stubborn person in the Bible. It says: “Because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass” (KJV, Isaiah. 48. 4). This verse demonstrates that to be obstinate means to have a neck of iron sinew, and a brow of brass. To have a neck of iron sinew means to be unwavering in beliefs and stance. Obstinate as an attribute is also referred to in the Bible as stubborn; the footnote in the Bible for stubborn leads to 1 Samuel 15:23, which says: “stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” This explanation accurately describes Obstinate; to avoid progression is considered sin, and to put comforts and people before God is considered idolatry. Obstinate, both as a character and as an attribute, is considered to be iniquity. With that understanding, it enables the reader to understand that Obstinate’s character is one that represents slothfulness and iniquity, one that considers temporal needs as most important, and therefore the reader can more fully understand Obstinate’s role in the life of Christian.
Worldy Wiseman is a practical man that Christian meets during the early part of his journey. He believes in living a secular life, and attempts to convince Christian to stray from his pilgrimage. To fully understand his character, it is important to understand each part of his name. Worldly, in both the Bible and The Pilgrim’s Progress, is considered to be ungodly. In this case, the word world represents the carnal desires of man. As 1 John 2:15 states, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” This verse states that one cannot have one eye to the world and one eye to God; it is necessary to have an eternal perspective. From the first word of Worldly Wiseman’s name, it is possible to understand that he is not a positive/helpful character for Christian to associate himself with. Wiseman is his second name, and to aid the understanding of this name it is necessary to separate the name into two words. Those who are wise (in the Bible) are commonly those who seek worldly knowledge and not spiritual knowledge. They lean on the arm of man, and not on the arm of God. As Proverbs 3:5 states, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” The Lord instead encourages meekness, which considered to be a Christ-like attitude. Christ delivered the Sermon on the Mount in the fifth chapter of Matthew, and in the seventh verse of this chapter he says, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” (KJV, Matt. 5. 7.) Meek has a different connotation in the Bible than it does in the world; Christ likens this attribute unto himself in Matthew 11:29: he says: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Although Christ is the Son of the all-knowing God, He refers to Himself as being meek, not wise. Meekness is to have humility, while being wise is to be stiff-necked. Worldly Wiseman considers his counsel to be so wise that he rebukes the counsel of Evangelist: he says: “I beshrow him for his counsel…And why should a man so carelessly cast away himself, by giving heed to a stranger?” (Bunyan 19) Not only does Worldly Wiseman look down upon Evangelist for his counsel, but he also states the ironic observation that Christian should never ‘give heed to a stranger’. Evangelist and Worldly Wiseman are both strangers to Christian, yet Worldly Wiseman finds it rash to heed the warnings of Evangelist but necessary to listen to himself. This example shows that Worldly Wiseman is not meek in the slightest; he considers his counsel to be the most sound, to the extent that he considers himself to be the exception of the rule. The second part of his last name is ‘man’. Man, in a biblical sense, is considered to be a lesser version of God. Though created after the image of God, man is mortal and has imperfections. Man is not perfect like the all-knowing God; man struggles with pride and shortcomings. Man lives in the world, and is not privy to the beauty and knowledge of Celestial glory due to his imperfections. After analyzing the name of Worldy Wiseman, the reader is able to view him as what he truly is; a son of man that is wise, but nothing compared to God.
Faithful is an old friend of Christian that reunites with him before they enter the city of Vanity-Fair. Evangelist said to the pair: “be you sure that one of both of you must seal the testimony of which you hold, with blood: but be you faithful unto death, and the King will give you a Crown of life!” (Bunyan 85) This quote means that at least one of the pair would perish because of their faith, but that if they remain faithful until death they will be crowned with celestial glory. Despite this warning, Christian and Faithful continued into Vanity-Fair and were taken captive. They were persecuted for their faith, and it was determined that Faithful would be the one killed. Until the very end of his life, Faithful remained steadfast in his beliefs. His last recorded words were: “That what Rule, or Laws, Custom, or People, were flat against the Word of God, are diametrically opposite to Christianity.” (92) Faithful heeded the advice of Evangelist by being faithful unto death, and demonstrated true Christianity. After his death he was immediately “carried through the Clouds, with the sound of Trumpet, the nearest way to the Celestial Gate” (95). Just as Evangelist promised, he was given the Crown of life. The story of Faithful is similar to the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego from the book of Daniel in the Bible. They were commanded by Nebuchadnezzar to worship the golden idol, but they refused because of their belief in the Ten Commandments that Moses had received on Mount Sinai. Upon their refusal to worship idols, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were cast into a fiery furnace. However, God preserved them just as He promised to preserve the faithful. In this case they were saved from harm and death, but there are other times in the Bible when that means that the faithful would receive an even greater reward. On page 85 of Pilgrim’s Progress Evangelist states the same principle. He says: “He that shall die there…he will yet have the better of his fellow; not only because he will be arrived at the Celestial City soonest, but because he will escape many miseries that the other will meet with in the rest of his Journey.” (Bunyan 85) This quote explains that by sealing their testimonies with blood, they will be saved from further misery and will be awarded with Celestial glory. Just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were awarded by God for their faithfulness, Faithful was given his award of celestial life and preservation from further misery.
The biblical references in Pilgrim’s Progress both aided the understanding of characters and allowed for a personal spiritual journey as references led to verses with different references and extended levels of meaning. The names of Bunyan’s characters alone were deep in meaning and encouraged the reader to understand more fully what it means to be obstinate, wordly, and faithful. Bunyan created two spiritual journeys: Christian’s, and the reader’s, as he sent the reader on a quest to more fully understand the lessons he sought to teach.
Bibliography: Bunyan, John. The Pilgrim’s Progress. Ed. W. R. Owens. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print. The Holy Bible. Ed. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2013. Web. Authorized King James Vers.
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Pilgrim’s Progress is a work by John Bunyan that is considered to be one of the most well-known allegories of a spiritual journey. For one to even begin to understand […]