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killer_rabbit79's picture

killer_rabbit79

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Jesus and Socrates

In my philosophy class, we've been talking a lot about Socrates. Recently, reading the forums, where Jesus is mentioned, I've found a lot of similarities between the two:

  • Both were ugly. Socrates was known for having a lazy eye and a pug nose. Many Athenians called him a monster and wondered how someone as ugly as him could be such a skilled speaker. There is a verse in the bible that says that Jesus looked undesirable as well.
  • Both were able to gather crowds. When Socrates went to the market place to pick on someone, he drew a croud of people who all listened to him rip the poor bastard apart. Jesus was able to gather crowds when he preached.
  • Both had followers. Socrates had many friends and "students" (he didn't consider himself a teacher and he never charged anyone because he didn't believe he was providing a service) who were with him at his final lecture in the prison (aside from Plato who was ill at the time). Jesus had apostles (who were not charged either), who were with him at his last supper.
  • Both were revolutionaries. Socrates' method of asking questions and then putting down arguments was something none of the pre-Socrates are known for doing. Jesus' teachings went against a lot of what the Jewish authorities preached from the Torah.
  • Both considered themselves a tool of the god(s). When Socrates was charged, he went to see the oracle (a mouthpiece for the gods), who told him that he was the wisest man in all of Athens. He eventually figured that this meant that his purpose was to stimulate Athens through the use of his method. Jesus considered himself the Messiah, who was to save the Jews from damnation, he was the final lamb to be sacrificed to save everyone.
  • Both were considered dangerous. Socrates was charged at age seventy for corrupting the youth of Athens. When the youth saw him in the market place, they decided to try questioning their fathers in the same way, which pissed them off. The Jewish authorities considered Jesus' influence on the lower class to be dangerous to the well being of their own influence.
  • Both were unfairly put to death. The jury for Socrates voted to put him to death, even after he successfully (imo) argued against all three of his charges. Jesus was put to death for blasphemy by Pontius Pilate under the pressure of the Jewish authorities.
  • Both willingly accepted death. Socrates was on death row for a long time and he had many rich friends who offered to bribe the prison guard. There were also towns that were willing to accept Socrates and let him continue to practice philosophy. He refused though because he felt that running away would truly be setting a bad example for the youth of Athens because it's not honourable to run away from your problems. Jesus eventually accepted that he had to die in order to save humanity from damnation because he was the Messiah.

What do you guys think about this?

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waterfall's picture

waterfall

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I think that there are many people in history and the present that we could find similar correlations with Jesus, but few that continue to have as huge an impact on our lives even today. Why do so many continue to choose to worship and honour Jesus and not Socrates?(Of course this can be said about other religions also.) 

Jesus assures us that our spirit continues after death, whereas Socrates did not (or could not) know for sure. Jesus gives us hope and purpose for our lives because he claims to actually know what is in store for us after death. So while Socrates may have been a great teacher and had many followers his knowledge was limited. Many others throughout the ages have offered profound insights but none with the assuredness of Jesus.

It is interesting that like Jesus , Socrates did not write anything down and most of what we know about him is from Plato, yet many would not question that Socrates existed.

 

killer_rabbit79's picture

killer_rabbit79

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Hi waterfall,

waterfall wrote:

I think that there are many people in history and the present that we could find similar correlations with Jesus, but few that continue to have as huge an impact on our lives even today. Why do so many continue to choose to worship and honour Jesus and not Socrates?(Of course this can be said about other religions also.)

Socrates is considered the father of Western philosophy by many philosophers. He is also considered to be the greatest philosopher of all time and he is so important to the philosophic community that the Greek philosophers that came before him are known as the pre-Socrates. I would say he is the Jesus of western philosophy.

waterfall wrote:

Jesus assures us that our spirit continues after death, whereas Socrates did not (or could not) know for sure. Jesus gives us hope and purpose for our lives because he claims to actually know what is in store for us after death. So while Socrates may have been a great teacher and had many followers his knowledge was limited. Many others throughout the ages have offered profound insights but none with the assuredness of Jesus.

Well, in the Apology, Socrates does talk about the afterlife a little bit. He says that we shouldn't be scared of death because there are two possibilities for what happens to us when we die. First, if death turns out to be a "dreamless sleep", then that is great because we all know how great sleeping can be. Second, if death means going to an afterlife, then that is even better because we will get to see all of our ancestors and continue to philosophize with the greatest minds who ever lived. He never admitted to knowing for sure (because he was humble enough to admit that he knew nothing) but his feelings about death were still very assuring.

 

To be honest, I would like to see a conversation between Jesus and Socrates. I can't help but think that Socrates would kick Jesus' ass. Socrates talked to a lot of people who were very sure of their knowledge but he always found that nobody really knew anything. That's why the oracle told him that he was the wisest man in Athens, because he was the only one who knew he knew nothing, whereas everyone else thought they knew something but actually knew nothing.

waterfall wrote:

It is interesting that like Jesus , Socrates did not write anything down and most of what we know about him is from Plato, yet many would not question that Socrates existed.

Plato wasn't the only person who wrote about Socrates. The bard Aristophanes satirizes Socrates in one of his plays. A couple people besides Plato (I forget who) wrote their own accounts of the Apology (the defense of Socrates) and many people have wrote about how ugly and annoying he is. Unfortunately for Jesus, we don't have any witness accounts of him (as far as I know anyway). This is why the gospels have to be read with skepticism because while some of it is probably true, a lot of it could be made up.

MikePaterson's picture

MikePaterson

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Archbishop Oscar Romero, RIP.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, RIP.
Martin Luther King, RIP.
Mahatma Ghandi, RIP.

… we still murder the prophets.

Check out Amnesty International.

ShamanWolf's picture

ShamanWolf

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 waterfall: So, basically, we're really friggin scared of dying.

 

Mike: Obama almost joined that crowd a few days back.  Thank God or whatever alternative there is that at least that assassination failed.

EZed's picture

EZed

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killer_rabbit79 wrote:

killer_rabbit79 wrote:
To be honest, I would like to see a conversation between Jesus and Socrates. I can't help but think that Socrates would kick Jesus' ass.

EZ Answer: You could say that the conversation's been ongoing for 2000 years, and no one's butt's been kicked yet.  If getting one's butt kicked amounts to being assimilated into the other's worldview, then the debate continues about who is winner.  This might even be a contest between Plato and Paul.

 

Then again, an encounter between Socrates and Jesus might not erupt into an argument or debate -- just as Socrates didn't argue "with" the Oracle.  Socrates merely tested the prophesy, bringing his argument to politicians and teachers. 

 

Jesus didn't bring philosophical arguments to those he met.  Jesus' message, like the Oracle's message about Socrates, was about the "who" rather than the "why".  An encounter between Jesus and Socrates might simply be Jesus answering the question, "Who is Socrates."

 

killer_rabbit79's picture

killer_rabbit79

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Hi EZed,

EZed wrote:

EZ Answer: You could say that the conversation's been ongoing for 2000 years, and no one's butt's been kicked yet.  If getting one's butt kicked amounts to being assimilated into the other's worldview, then the debate continues about who is winner.  This might even be a contest between Plato and Paul.

If Christianity (including Paul) is on Jesus' side then who is on Socrates' side? Plato's philosophies are very close to mainsteam Christian philosophies.

EZed wrote:

Then again, an encounter between Socrates and Jesus might not erupt into an argument or debate -- just as Socrates didn't argue "with" the Oracle.  Socrates merely tested the prophesy, bringing his argument to politicians and teachers.

Socrates considered the Oracle a mouthpiece for the gods. Arguing with her would be like arguing with Zeus himself. He wasn't like that with anyone else though. I don't see why Jesus would be an exception. If Socrates saw Jesus preaching, I definitely think we would want to test his wisdom with an argument.

EZed wrote:

Jesus didn't bring philosophical arguments to those he met.  Jesus' message, like the Oracle's message about Socrates, was about the "who" rather than the "why".  An encounter between Jesus and Socrates might simply be Jesus answering the question, "Who is Socrates."

Either way, I think it would be a great conversation.

EZed's picture

EZed

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killer_rabbit79 wrote:

Quote:
Socrates considered the Oracle a mouthpiece for the gods. Arguing with her would be like arguing with Zeus himself.

EZ Answer: That leaves open the possibility of Socrates considering Jesus a mouthpiece for the gods.  Interesting that Socrates didn't question the revelatory power of the Oracle, nor the gods.  Rather, Socrates questioned the content of the revelation about himself.

killer_rabbit79's picture

killer_rabbit79

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Jesus was not a mouthpiece for the Greek gods though. Socrates believed in those gods because he was brought up to believe in them and he probably never met a Greek who didn't believe in them either so what reason would he have for thinking that they didn't exist? Jesus would've been considered a forigner in Athens so there would be little reason for him to believe in Jesus' divinity.

EZed's picture

EZed

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EZ Answer: You're right.

revjohn's picture

revjohn

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Hi guys,

 

Divinity aside, which I think can be done in a conversation between the two since Jesus didn't make acknowledgment of himself as God a pre-requisite to dialogue with others, I think that the two would have hit it off.

 

That narrative records of both individuals show that they were very appreciative of honest and genuine conversation.  Both were able to ask very pointed and probing questions although as Killer_Rabbit79 points out Socrates had a thing for ripping folk apart.

 

But not just any Tom, Dick or Aristophenes who happened to be passing by.  Socrates targetted the windbags of his society.  Much like Jesus tends to get his finger all up in the face of the Pharisees, Saducees, Lawyers of his society.

 

I can imagine them sitting on opposite sides of the street, picking off the arrogant snobs walking down the street and telling their disciples what the fatal flaw is in each heart and mind and as the target passes between them they might exchange a wink or a nod.

 

I don't know that they would automatically be antagonistic toward each other.  They have their biases certainly.  Socrates is concerned with what is going on in a person's head that makes them do the things that they do while Jesus is more concerned with what is going on in a person's heart and how that makes them do the things that they want to do.

 

They might not agree on where the seat of action is.  I think that they both realize there is something more important beneath the surface and have no time for attractive veneers.

 

Grace and peace to you.

John

mirari's picture

mirari

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Hi, KR

The differences between the two are striking as well.

Socrates was a model (or perhaps a monster) of self-control. We know he could drink any amount without getting drunk, bore hunger better than anyone, and could last through an all-night symposium then go about his day as if nothing had happened. During the expedition to Potidaea, he wore his customary light cloak when everyone else was bundled to the eyes in furs. He even walked on ice barefoot without appearing to notice.

Jesus, by contrast, is often hungry or tired. He suffers all the pains of being human.

Socrates, like Jesus, has a collection of devoted male followers. But despite (or perhaps because of) being married to the infamously shrewish Xanthippe, he doesn't seem to have much time for women. I can't recall offhand any passage in the Dialogues where a woman is allowed to open her mouth, but I may well be wrong. Jesus, on the other hand, is obviously at ease with women. They are in some ways far more faithful to him than the men. And he even gets scolded by the woman at Jacob's Well. Put it this way: Socrates and Jesus around women are like George Bush and Bill Clinton around African-Americans.

In their reported speeches , Socrates is careful, discursive, logical, and truth be told, a bit of a windbag. Jesus is swift, riddling, and poetic.

Socrates is a powerful and subtle thinker, but he respects the conventional pieties. Jesus has no time for them. So Jesus, as noted, can hang around with women, tax collectors, and even the hated Samaritans. Socrates, though, is a good Athenian of his generation. In the Meno, he is able to demonstrate that a slave boy has an innate knowledge of geometry, but when the demonstration is over the slave is kicked back into line. I doubt Socrates would ever conceive of a good Samaritan: to him, Greeks were Greeks and barbarians were barbarians. And don't forget, Socrates had served as a soldier, and distinguished himself at Delium. Plato makes much of his composure during the retreat. This is a philosopher willing to kill for his country. Is that admirable? Sometimes it reminds me of the German theologians who endorsed the catastrophe of 1914. I can't imagine Jesus killing for anyone.

Lastly, as to their deaths, let me quote from Charles Taylor in "A Secular Age": "Unless living the full span were a good, Christ's giving of himself to death couldn't have the meaning it does. In this it is utterly different from Socrates' death, which the latter portrays as leaving this condition for a better one. Here we see the unbridgeable gulf between Christianity and Greek philosophy. God wills ordinary human flourishing, and a great part of what is reported in the Gospels consists in Christ making this possible for the people whose affliction he heals...It is a mode of..'repairing the world'."

In other words, Socrates passes painlessly from a good existence to a better. Jesus suffers a painful and degrading death to affirm the worth of ordinary human life lived with God.

I'm quite fond of both these guys, but I think you can tell where my heart is.

PS Do read Charles Taylor. He may be the greatest living philosopher and he's Canadian!

killer_rabbit79's picture

killer_rabbit79

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revjohn wrote:

I can imagine them sitting on opposite sides of the street, picking off the arrogant snobs walking down the street and telling their disciples what the fatal flaw is in each heart and mind and as the target passes between them they might exchange a wink or a nod.

That's true. There is the possibility that they might do that. That would probably be funnier than both of them fighting eachother.

revjohn wrote:

I don't know that they would automatically be antagonistic toward each other.

Well, Socrates did have friends so I guess he probably wouldn't be as volatile as I thought. Either way, I just want to see them in a room together.

killer_rabbit79's picture

killer_rabbit79

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mirari,

 

That's true about the differences. They did live in different societies and different periods in time so there would be differences, however to me, they seem to be heros of their trades. Jesus dies for Judaism and Socrates died for philosophy. I thought that was a cool connection for them.

 

I might check Taylor out in the summer. I checked his Wikipedia article out and he looks like a cool philosopher.

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