In response to a post about Scripture and canon on the Emerging from Babel blog, I suggested we might approach a text like Ecclesiastes in the following way:
I suppose one way to approach it is to recognize that Ecclesiastes is both somewhat marginal in the canon, but nonetheless necessary. Faith without any element of doubt easily becomes credulity. Maintaining the tension in some sense seems crucial.
I now want to question my line of reasoning there, not because I’m convinced that my point was mistaken, but because I’ve found myself thinking about whether a Christian approach to the text means approaching the books of the Bible the way Jesus approached people.
Is it ever appropriate to consider the view of one of the Biblical authors marginal? Jesus welcomed sinners and the ritually unclean at table with him (and, with a little coaxing, praised the faith of a Canaanite woman); his followers expanded this to include Jews and Gentiles, not to mention slave and free, rich and poor.
Dare we marginalize Ecclesiastes? Could an approach to the text that gives preferential treatment of some voices over others be considered a genuinely Christian approach to the text? If we don’t think Jesus would marginalize people, then on what basis could we legitimate treat the voices of some human beings as marginal, just because they are a minority within the canon?
My concluding point in the earlier comment was about not losing the tension, and I think that point still stands. But I still find myself asking whether it is not appropriate to apply Christian principles about the marginalized to the books of the canon of Scripture. To sum it up in a short question: What would Jesus read?