Socrates and Jesus Christ

Socrates and Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ and Socrates are often compared: 

  • Both were put to death for their beliefs. 
  • Both sought to make the people they lived among better, which is the reason they were killed. 
  • Both believed in the immortality of the soul.
  • Both sought to teach humans how to be the best humans they could possibly be.
  • Jesus taught in parables; Socrates by asking questions.  Not the same thing, but both subverted ordinary discourse.

Both lived at approximately the same time in the same corner of the world.  Socrates died first in 399 BCE.  Jesus died around year 4 of the Common Era, about a 400 year difference.  There was contact between Judea and Athens.  Paul’s longest sermon was delivered in Athens (Acts 17:16–34), where Socrates lived and died.  People have wondered about cross-cultural influences, but there probably were little or none.  Philo of Judea, a Hellenistic (Greek) Jewish philosopher, sought to harmonize the Torah with Greek philosophy.  Evidently, he persuaded more Christians than Jews, but played no role in the development of Christianity or Judaism. 

Western Civilization, it has been wisely said, is a combination of Athens, the home of Socrates, and Jerusalem, where Christ was crucified.  Classical Athens valued reason, the examined life, or at least her philosophers did.  Jerusalem represents the value of faith.  It is this combination that has characterized life in the West for almost 2,000 years.  For most of that time faith was dominant.  More recently, faith has taken a back seat to reason, even if this reason is not always very reasonable. 

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