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Prophet Jeremiah as the Matrix for Socrates

Socrates as a Prophet

by

Damien F. Mackey

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My argument here will be that the ‘Socrates’ of Greek tradition, arose from the biblical prophet Zechariah, whose multi-identifications include the prophet Jeremiah.

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Introduction

 

For the substance of this article to be fully appreciated, one needs to be aware of the basic thrust of (but preferably to have read) my

 

(i):

 

Re-Orienting to Zion the History of Ancient Philosophy

http://www.academia.edu/4105845/Re-Orienting_to_Zion_the_History_of_Ancient_Philosophy

 

basing myself on the Fathers of the Church who had “appreciated at least the seminal impact that the Hebrews had had upon Greco-Roman thinking, though without their having taken the extra step that I [took there] of actually recognising the most famous early western (supposedly) philosophers as being originally Hebrew”,

and my:

 

(ii):

A Case for Multi-identifying the Prophet Jeremiah

https://www.academia.edu/6923241/A_Case_for_Multi-identifying_the_Prophet_Jeremiah

 

in which I tentatively extended my identifying of the great prophet Jeremiah to include the prophet Zechariah.

 

In (i) I had re-identified several of the most prominent pre-Socratic philosophers, in their true origins, as Israelites (Hebrews). For instance, Pythagoras as Joseph of the Book of Genesis (who was, in turn, the genius Imhotep of 3rd dynasty Egyptian history). The matter could not be left there with the pre-Socratics, though, for as I stated (emphasis added):

 

My purpose in this article will be to try to restore the original in relation to [certain pre-Socratic philosophers] {leaving aside at this stage the more important Socratics, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, whose proper identities will really need to be established}, and thereby to uncover the original artisans of wisdom, giving the precedence to Hebrew Hochmah (Wisdom) over Greek Sophia (from whence we get our word philosophy).

 

In other words, to complete this radical work of historico-philosophical re-orientation, one would need to be able to mount a case also for that most famous trinity of ‘Greek’ philosophy, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, to have been, originally, famous biblical characters. My argument here will be that the ‘Socrates’ of Greek tradition, arose from the biblical prophet Zechariah, whose multi-identifications include the prophet Jeremiah. However, as in the case of the prophet Mohammed, who, as I proposed in:

 

The Serious Historical Dislocation of the Prophet Mohammed (Muhammad)

 

https://www.academia.edu/6035995/The_Serious_Historical_Dislocation_of_the_Prophet_Mohammed_Muhammad_

 

is essentially based upon the prophet Nehemiah of Israel, Socrates, too, appears to be actually a composite mix of some famous persons. Regarding Mohammed as a composite, I wrote in “The Serious Historical Dislocation …”:

 

… something is seriously wrong with many aspects of the received AD history. I, trying to make some sense of this, looking to find a reliable golden thread, so to speak – and especially interested in the case of Mohammed who had begun to seem to me like something of a composite Israelite (or Jewish) holy man (traces there of Moses; Tobit; Job; Jeremiah; and Jesus Christ) – nearly fell off my chair when I read for the first time that there was a “Nehemiah” contemporaneous with the Prophet Mohammed.

OK, no big deal with that, insofar as there are, even today, people named “Nehemiah”.

But a “Nehemiah” doing just what the biblical Nehemiah had done? ….

Socrates is also, as I shall be arguing along most similar lines – though essentially based upon the prophet Jeremiah (and his multi-identifications as according to my “A Case for Multi-identifying the Prophet Jeremiah”) – a composite figure of notable Israelites (Jews).

 

Era of Socrates

 

The era of history in which the prophet Jeremiah and, supposedly, Socrates, emerge, pertains to the most active phase (c. 600-300 BC) of what is known as “The Axial Age”. This age has been defined as, e.g.:

 

“… the enigmatic synchronous emergence of cultural innovations and advances across Eurasia in the period of the Classical Greeks and early Romans, the Prophets of Israel, the era of the Upanishads and Buddhism in India, and Confucius in China”.

(http://history-and-evolution.com/LFM/ch1_page2.htm)

 

It is my belief that this cultural phenomenon was basically the fructifying scattering of Israelite wisdom (Yahwism), permeating both east and west due to disruption caused by wars and exiles, but especially as a result of the Babylonian Captivity (c. 600 BC, conventional dating) at the time of great sapiential minds such as the prophets Jeremiah and Daniel.

The conventional dates for Jeremiah are c. 650-570 BC.

Those for Socrates are, in round figures, c. 470-400 BC.

 

{These figures will probably need to be lowered significantly once a full revision of Persian and Greco-Roman history has been achieved}

 

But we learned in “Re-Orienting to Zion” just how flimsy are the facts and dates pertaining to the so-called Greek (Ionian) philosophers. And indeed there is an ancient tradition that Plato (c. 430-350 BC, conventional dating), the disciple of Socrates, had encountered the prophet Jeremiah in Egypt. Thus Saint Ambrose (Ep. 34) suggested that Plato was educated in Hebraïc letters in Egypt by Jeremiah. And along similar lines we read of a Jewish tradition, in Galus Unechama (http://parsha.blogspot.com.au/2009/08/yirmeyahu-and-plato-but-not-in-egypt.html):

 

When Jeremiah returned to Jerusalem from the Babylonian exile and saw the ruins of the Holy Temple, he fell on the wood and stones, weeping bitterly. At that moment, the renowned philosopher Plato passed by and saw this.

He stopped and inquired, “Who is that crying over there?”

“A Jewish sage,” they replied.

So he approached Jeremiah and asked, “They say you are a sage. Why, then, are you crying over wood and stones?”

Jeremiah answered, “They say of you that you are a great philosopher. Do you have any philosophical questions that need answering?

“I do,” admitted Plato, “but I don’t think there is anyone who can answer them for me.”

“Ask,” said Jeremiah, “and I will answer them for you.”

Plato proceeded to pose the questions that even he had no answers for, and Jeremiah answered them all without hesitation. Asked the astonished Plato, “Where did you learn such great wisdom?”

“From these wood and stones,” the prophet replied.

One difference in this English story is that Plato also asked what the purpose was for crying about the past, and Yirmeyahu [Jeremiah] replies that this is a very deep matter which Plato will not succeed in understanding, for only a Jew is able to understand the depth of the matter of crying about the past. ….

 

Though, from a comparison of the above conventional dates, it would have been quite impossible for Plato to have met, and been taught by, the prophet Jeremiah, I suspect that the story actually has some truth. That Plato really was a younger contemporary of Jeremiah, who, interestingly, was in Egypt with the younger Baruch, his scribe – Baruch, in turn, thought by some to have been the famous ‘eastern’ prophet Zoroaster himself (possibly, then, another of those “Axial” connections). Thus: “The Arabic-Christian legends identify [the biblical] Baruch with the eastern sage, Zoroaster, and give much information concerning him”. (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/2562-baruch)

Eusebius of Caesarea, moreover, believed that Plato had been enlightened by God and was in agreement with Moses. (http://www.gospeltruth.net/gkphilo.htm)

Anyway, such legends open up some intriguing possibilities for the identification of Plato, too, as an Israelite sage. And that, in turn, would relieve the following sorts of tensions with which the likes of Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian had had to grapple regarding Plato:

 

“According to Clement [of Alexandria], Plato plagiarized revelation from the Hebrews; this gave the Athenian’s highest ideas a flavor of divine authority in the estimation of Clement”. (http://www.gospeltruth.net/gkphilo.htm).

 

Tertullian: “… free Jerusalem from Athens and the church of Christ from the Academy

of Plato”. (De praescriptione, vii)

 

To be able to confirm Socrates and Plato (and perhaps Aristotle as well) as originally biblical characters, would also serve to relieve tensions relating to the supposed pagan Greek (with all of its corruptions, e.g. pederasty) foundations of much of Christian philosophy (Thomism).

 

The Evolution of ‘Socrates’

 

Though both the prototypal Socrates and Mohammed are (according to my view) grounded historically in the above-mentioned “Axial Age”, in which era the conventional Socrates – but not Mohammed – is considered to have existed, the two underwent a literary-historical evolution thereby picking up aspects of other characters and eras not truly belonging to them. Striking Christian aspects, for instance, such as Mohammed’s supposed ascension from Jerusalem into the seventh heaven. Frequent claims that the Prophet Mohammed copied from Judaïsm and Christianity – such as e.g. the Christian Apocryphal source “The Infancy Gospel” and Gnostic Christians about the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ – would need to be modified substantially, according to my reconstructions, so as not to include the “Axial Age” Mohammed as a copier (since he was originally a prophet of Israel anyway). No, these borrowings from Christianity had occurred instead, I say, during the long evolution of the system known today as Islam.

For likenesses between Jesus Christ and Socrates, see my next section below.

Socrates and Jeremiah were also alike in many ways. Both, called to special work by oracular or divine power, reacted with great humility and self-distrust. And, whenever Socrates or Jeremiah encountered any who would smugly claim to have been well instructed, and who would boast of their own sufficiency, they never failed to chastise the vanity of such persons.

Again, the Book of Jeremiah can at times employ a method of teaching known as ‘Socratic’:

 

“Then came the word of the Lord unto Jeremiah, saying, Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for me?” – Jeremiah 32:26, 27. THIS method of questioning the person to be instructed is known to teachers as the Socratic method. Socrates was wont, not so much to state a fact, as to ask a question and draw out thoughts from those whom he taught.

http://www.sermonindex.net/modules/mydownloads/scr_index.php?act=bookSermons&book=Jeremiah&page=6

 

Similarly in the case of Zechariah, as we read in another place, “God used what we today call the Socratic method to teach Zechariah [my Jeremiah alter ego] and the readers of this book” (http://www.muslimhope.com/BibleAnswers/zech.htm)

And perhaps to none of the Old Testament prophets more than Jeremiah would apply the description ‘gadfly’, for which Socrates the truth-loving philosopher is so famous (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_gadfly):

 

The term “gadfly” (Ancient Greek: μύωψ, mýops[1]) was used by Plato in the Apology[2] to describe Socrates‘s relationship of uncomfortable goad to the Athenian political scene, which he compared to a slow and dimwitted horse.

The Book of Jeremiah uses a similar analogy as a political metaphor. “Egypt is a very fair heifer; the gad-fly cometh, it cometh from the north.” (46:20, Darby Bible)

 

Could this last be the actual prompt for the ‘Socratic’ concept?

But, as we are going to read in the last section of this article, the ‘historical problem of Socrates’ is a major one, about which much has been written and debated. Statues of Socrates, for instance, can be found in post-Christian Roman contexts, such as at Pompeii (http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/ancient-cultures/solomon-socrates-and-aristotle/).

Socrates and Jeremiah were very humane individuals – Jeremiah’s constant concern for the widow and orphan – men of profound righteousness, always trying to do all that was good for the people.

Both Socrates and Jeremiah were hated for having challenged the gods of the society; Jeremiah, of course, being a loyal Yahwist.

Socrates, like Jeremiah, had followers or disciples who also were inspired by him and were willing to go into exile and defy the government for him.

As for the origin of the Greek name ‘Socrates’, or ‘Sokrates’, well I should consider that it must have arisen – according to my revised context – from the Hebrew name ‘Zechariah’ of which ‘Sokrates’ is a most adequate transliteration (allowing, of course, for a typically Greek ending to have replaced the typically Hebrew one).

 

But can the prophet Jeremiah also have been a martyr, as the philosopher Socrates was so famously said to have been?

 

There appears to be much uncertainty about how and when Jeremiah actually died. According to one tradition, the great prophet was martyred by stoning whilst an exile in Egypt (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8586-jeremiah):

 

The Christian legend (pseudo-Epiphanius, “De Vitis Prophetarum”; Basset, “Apocryphen Ethiopiens,” i. 25-29), according to which Jeremiah was stoned by his compatriots in Egypt because he reproached them with their evil deeds, became known to the Jews through Ibn Yaḥya (“Shalshelet ha-Ḳabbalah,” ed. princeps, p. 99b); this account of Jeremiah’s martyrdom, however, may have come originally from Jewish sources.

 

Jeremiah’s life was so full of suffering and persecution, however, that we shall discover in The Jerome Biblical Commentary (19:98), for instance, the designation of the substantial block of Jeremiah 36:1-45:5, as the “Martyrdom of Jeremiah”. And, whilst neither Jeremiah nor his alter ego (as I think) Zechariah is recorded in Scripture as having suffered a life-ending martyrdom, there was an earlier prophet Zechariah who assuredly did. And his end was brought about most interestingly, in light of the above, by stoning (2 Chronicles 24:20-21 (NRSV):

 

Then the spirit of God took possession of Zechariah son of the priest Jehoiada; he stood above the people and said to them, ‘Thus says God: Why do you transgress the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has also forsaken you.’ But they conspired against him, and by command of the king they stoned him to death in the court of the house of the Lord.

 

Perhaps the death by martyrdom in the Old Testament (Catholic) Scriptures that most resembles that of Socrates, is that of the venerable and aged Eleazer in 2 Maccabees 6:18-31.

 

More striking, too, are the oft-noted comparisons between the trial and death of Jesus Christ and that of the philosopher Socrates, a supposed “pagan foreshadowing of Jesus” (see next section). A major reason for the similarities between Jesus and Socrates I would attribute, though, to the fact that the prophet Jeremiah (Zechariah), my original ‘Socrates’, was perhaps the most Christ-like of all the Old Testament prophets. Thus Morgan Elizabeth: “A majority of the heroes of the Old Testament resemble Christ in some manner, prophets, priests, and kings. Yet perhaps the most Christ-like of them all is the prophet Jeremiah”. (http://elizabethayers.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/jeremiah-jesus/).

A browsing of the Internet will quickly reveal there to be an abundance of articles and comments on this very subject – one easy to grasp one being Patty Bowling’s highly useful “Comparison Between Jeremiah And Christ” (http://www.summit1.org/gun08/gun04.htm)

 

The original Socrates, according to what I am arguing here, well-predated Jesus Christ, but was very much a type of Him. Hence the similarities. Moreover, due to the literary evolution of ‘Socrates’ down through the centuries, the original or prototype came to be invested with – just like Mohammed – Jesus-like aspects. Of necessity some of these, however, cannot justifiably be attributed to the original.

Socrates and Jesus Christ

 

Much has been written over many centuries concerning comparisons between Socrates and Jesus Christ, beginning with Justin Martyr. Thus we read in Peter Leithart’s intriguing article, “The Hemlock and the Cross”

 

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2007/01/the-hemlock-and-the-cross

Already in the second century, Justin the Martyr was struck by the similarities between Socrates and Jesus. When the world was full of demonic myths, “Socrates endeavored, by true reason and examination, to bring these things to light,” only to be condemned “as an atheist and a profane person.” To be sure, Justin notes many differences between Jesus and Socrates. While Socrates died for exhorting men to become acquainted with the unknown God, “no one trusted in Socrates so as to die for this doctrine.” While Socrates taught philosophers and scholars, Christ’s philosophy is known among “artisans and people entirely uneducated.” Despite these differences, Justin argued that the same Logos that was at work in Socrates took flesh in Jesus, who also condemned the demons and met with the same fate. This meant for Justin that Socrates was a pagan foreshadowing of Jesus. Long before the Logos became incarnate, it was clear from the experience of Socrates and others that the demons would not put up with anyone devoted to “a reasonable and earnest life.” ….

 

Regarding this same subject another writer has asked the question: “Was Socrates a Prophet?” (http://esmancientgreeks.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/was-socrates-a-prophet-similarities-between-socrates-and-jesus-christ/)

 

Was Socrates a Prophet? Similarities between Socrates and Jesus Christ.

 

It is common knowledge that Socrates has long been regarded as one of the wisest men that has ever lived. Many have been inspired by his ideas and techniques throughout time trying to depict his beliefs. While listening and participating in class discussions and reading Plato’s “Euthyphro”, “The Apology”, and “Crito,” I could not help but notice the similarities between Socrates, and Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the founder of Christianity and considered the ultimate prophet: the Son of God. Although bringing religion into the same topic as Socrates can be a little controversial, I believe that if Jesus was considered a prophet, one could make the case that Socrates was a prophet as well.

After researching some of the stories of Jesus, and using the information from class I have found some similarities between Socrates and Jesus. To start off, Both Socrates and Jesus were told they were significant by some sort of divine power. For Socrates, an oracle had told him that he was the wisest of men and he took it upon himself to test this theory. For Jesus it had been prophesiedbefore his time as well as during his life by God. He believed himself to be the Son of God, was visited by the Holy Spirit, Angels, and Satan. These divine forces passed on information to them that required a mission on their part to do what is right and to establish some sort of societal change. Socrates needed to examine life, he had to philosophize. He had to figure out what made life worth living and what aspects of life meant in of itself. Why were they significant? Because through obtaining the knowledge of the examined life everyone would be able to understand what was wrong with the established order and themselves. For this reason Socrates could not stop these teachings. In the story of Jesus, he was sent to earth to save us all from original sin. God sent him to earth so that he could die for us and reconcile our sins. They both were unique and were perceived as a threat to the society that surrounded them.

Another similarity between Jesus and Socrates is that they were both considered to be “Corrupting society”. This was the very reason that Socrates and Jesus were brought to trial. In a democratic society, Socrates tried to make people think about and question what the purpose of society’s set of morals and virtues. Jesus tried to make people question their religious beliefs and introduced concepts of faith, and a different kind of worship for God. For the established order at the time they were causing too much attention. Both Socrates and Jesus either introduced new gods or challenged the gods of the society. Jesus claimed that there was one God, the almighty, Creator of heaven and earth. Jesus spoke with authority and performed miracles for everyone to see and hear. Many people lived in the limited human mindset and tried to determine the word of God, but Jesus claimed to be the word of God, the “King of the Jews” which made him a threat and he was viewed as attempting to overthrow a monarchy. Socrates was charged with some sort of heresy by not believing in the cities’ gods and was accused of being an atheist despite having a clear belief in divine power. Like Jesus, Socrates is seen as one who has more knowledge than anyone else. Because like Jesus, he was extraordinary with the power of rhetoric and was able to make people question the gods that they believed in. Socrates claimed that gods such as Zeus were not in control of everything that took place in this world and that there was no “will of the gods.” This was regarded as an attack on the Athenian government, for if you did not believe in the cities’ gods, you were not considered a citizen.

Socrates and Jesus were very humane individuals. They believed in the righteous and tried to do all that was good for the people. They both tried to inspire people to think for themselves and to use their knowledge for the good of others. This trait is what made both Jesus and Socrates wise teachers of their day. Jesus had a group of disciples that believed in him and were willing to sacrifice material possessions to follow his teachings. Socrates also had followers who also were inspired by him and were willing to go into exile and defy the government for him. They used simplistic ideas such as analogies, metaphors and parables to convey their teachings to their followers and their logic. An example can be seen in the discussion between Socrates and Euthyphro regarding piety through the story of Zeus and Cronus or comparing the concept of knowledge to tending for horses and cattle. Jesus also did this by using quotes such as “I am the vine, you are the branches”. He essentially established himself as the root and called his followers “branches” so that they could spread his word and establish Christianity throughout the world.

In addition to both of them having disciples or followers, Socrates and Jesus each had one person who questioned their beliefs and actions and who betrayed them in some way. Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver and all of his disciples questioned him on the night of the last supper (the night before he died) and were unable to understand why Jesus would not try to run away or escape his eventual execution. In Plato’s Crito, Crito visits Socrates on what can be considered the night before his death and questions why Socrates is content with remaining in the prison and offers him an escape route which would allow Socrates and his followers to leave the country and live in exile.

Socrates and Jesus Christ were both given a trial. In these trials they were given the chance to speak and to convince the “jury” that their teachings were truths and why they were right and why they couldn’t stop doing what they believed. In Plato’s The Apology, Socrates confronts Meletus (the judge of the established order) and has a debate with him about how he is benefiting society. Socrates proves that Meletus is contradicting himself and that neither one of them truly knows who is corrupting the youth and society, but his fate is determined by the entire council that sentences him to death. Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate along with many of the citizens of Judea. He is also given the opportunity to speak and to defend himself. Like Socrates he tries to convince the established order that he is not corrupting the people, but enlightening them bringing them truth and faith. Although Pontius Pilate sees no reason for him to be executed, Pilate allows the people and the rest of the government to crucify Jesus. Both Socrates and Jesus were “legally” executed.

The dictionary defines a Prophet as a person who speaks for God or a Deity, or by divine inspiration. I believe that like Jesus, Socrates could be considered a prophet. ….

 

Most interestingly, Socrates himself is thought to have appeared to Pilate’s wife, Claudia Procula, on the eve of Christ’s trial. Here is an account that I wrote in an old article, “The Lost Cultural Foundations of Western Civilisation”, that later became a site under that title (http://westerncivilisationamaic.blogspot.com.au/2013/10/a-description-of-our-amaic-sites.html):

 

Jesus Christ and Socrates

 

The first point that I wish to be noted is that there is a great deal of doubt about the historical Socrates, which is surprising given his cardinal value in human thinking. But such doubt is, as we saw in our PHILOSOPHY section, a common characteristic in regard to the so-called history of ancient philosophers. The historical problem of Socrates has become classical, with various books having been written about it. Thus we read in The Encyclopedia of Philosophy [Kidd, I., “Socrates”, The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol. 7 (Collier Macmillan, London, 1972), p. 480]:

 

Socrates … of Athens … was perhaps the most original, influential, and controversial figure in the history of Greek thought. Very little is known about his life. … There is no agreement … on whether anything certain can be said of the historical life of Socrates. This controversy is known as the Socratic problem, which arises because Socrates wrote nothing on philosophy…. Not only a historical problem is involved in the nature of the evidence, but also a philosophical puzzle in the character of Socrates embedded in Plato’s dialogues.

 

Comparisons Between Jesus and Socrates

 

Such comparisons are common because Socrates, like Jesus, is regarded as ‘a watershed in human thinking’. Philosophy before Socrates was ‘pre-Socratic’: he was the ‘hinge’, or the orientation point, for most subsequent thinkers and the direct inspiration for Plato. Professor A. Taylor has written [Socrates, Peter Davies, London, p. 9]:

 

In the case of both the historical figures whose influence on the life of humanity has been the profoundest, Jesus and Socrates, indisputable facts are exceptionally rare; perhaps there is only one statement about each which a man ought not deny without forfeiting his claim to be counted among the sane. It is certain that Jesus ‘suffered under Pontius Pilate’, and no less certain that Socrates was put to death at Athens on a charge of impiety in the ‘year of Laches’ (399 BC) [sic].

 

With regard to the last, we are happy to be numbered amongst the ‘insane’.

And, according to T. Glover [The Ancient World, Penguin Books, 1965, p. 310]:

 

Socrates was famous for making men define their thoughts and be clear in their minds as to what they are saying. Similarly, it is to be noted how apt Jesus is to use a question to make men think. Someone has counted some hundred and fifty questions in St. Luke. As in Socrates … so in Jesus, the attentive listener can catch something of humour amongst his most serious utterances; not wit of course, but the subtler, more universal, happier thing, that speaks of peace of mind whatever the contrasts and contradictions it sees….

 

Their influence is all the more remarkable when one considers that neither Jesus nor Socrates wrote anything down. But their disciples did. “In Xenophon and Plato, some have said, Socrates had his St. Mark and St. John” [Burn, op. cit., p. 310].

Glover has linked Jesus and Socrates when writing about the genuine teacher [op. cit., pp. 305-306]:

 

He realizes that, to achieve what he wants, the teacher must stamp something indelible on the memory – his words or his personality, or both; and it should be noted that, though [Jesus] wrote nothing down … no man’s words are so well remembered. Nor so fertile; for he, like Socrates, used the analogy of sowing, and aimed at planting something in the mind that would root itself there and grow, and he trusted to its development.

 

What was Socrates’ practical method? It took the form of ‘dialectic’ or conversation. He would get into conversation with someone and try to elicit from him his ideas on some subject – e.g. piety and impiety, the just and the unjust. The wealthy, young Meno plunged straight in and asked him: ‘Tell me, Socrates, is virtue teachable or not?’ [Plato, Meno, 70]. That is exactly the method that Jesus employed with a very ‘Meno-like’ rich and young man who came to him and asked: ‘Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?’ (Matthew 19:16). Jesus began his reply with the dialectical question: ‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ (var. ‘Why do you call me good?’), leading into a lengthy dialogue in which Jesus steers the young man towards a higher virtue and knowledge.

Jesus’ attacks were aimed chiefly at the hypocrisy of the money-loving Scribes and Pharisees. Similarly, Socrates had in his sights the money-loving Sophists (cf. Plato’s Protagoras), who denied the absolute and objective character of Truth. Both Jesus and Socrates were able to illustrate a point about virtue by writing on the ground. (Cf. John 8:6, 8; Meno, 82). We are not told what Jesus actually wrote, or drew. But Socrates, in classical Greek fashion, drew geometrical diagrams to illustrate his point. ….

Jesus said: “many are called but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). Socrates said to Simmias: “many bear the emblems, but the devotees are few” (Plato’s Phaedo, 68C-69D).

Socrates was supposedly possessed of particular robustness of body and powers of endurance. His habits were spartan like those of Jesus. As a man, Socrates wore the same garment winter and summer, and continued his habit of going barefoot. He was very abstemious regarding his food and drink, and was remarkable for living the life that he preached. From his youth upwards he was the recipient of messages from his mysterious “voice” or sign. Jesus, too, was the recipient of “a voice … from heaven” (Mark 1:10).

Plato in his Symposium tells us of Socrates’ long fits of abstraction, one lasting the whole of a day and a night. Professor Taylor has interpreted these abstractions as ecstasies or rapts [op. cit., pp. 46-47].

Jesus would spend whole nights in prayer (e.g. Luke 6:12).

“… within [Socrates]“, Glover exclaimed [op. cit., p. 149], “there was a god indeed!” Jesus insisted that he was divine: ‘I tell you most solemnly, before Abraham ever was, I AM’ (John 8:58).

 

At the time of writing this article, I had been wrestling with the possibility that Socrates was primarily based on Jesus Christ, so striking where the likenesses. (Though to date Socrates so late was really prohibitive). I even thought that the names of the two could be reconciled (though, happily, I did also include the name ‘Zechariah’ at the time). Thus:

 

As to the origins of the name, ‘Socrates’, it may derive from a Hebrew name like Zechariah. But it is also very similar – when largely ignoring the changeable vowels – to the name of Jesus Christ (especially when Socrates is given his full name of Isocrates). Thus:

[I] SO K Ra T e S

 

Ie Sou ChRisTu S

 

However, I later went on to correct this:

 

But we have now concluded that Socrates was largely based on the prophet Jeremiah, who was indeed a forerunner of Jesus Christ himself. ….

 

Despite the conventional dating, I believe that the similarities between Jeremiah and Socrates are so striking that I must conclude – based on the pattern that began to emerge at the very beginning of this article, in the PHILOSOPHY section – that Socrates is just the Greco-Roman version of an ancient prophet of Israel.

….

 

Returning to the main theme (same article):

 

And ‘their’ trials and deaths have often also been compared. There is something anomalous about the callous slaying of Socrates at that particular era of Greek ‘history’, when conditions would not really seem to have favoured it. Glover calls it “almost unintelligible” [op. cit., p. 149]. G. Thomas has written an entire book on The Trial [The Trial, Bantam Press, NY, 1987, p. 175], in which he seems to be at a loss to account for many things, not least of which was why poor old Socrates was martyred, and why they waited until he was 70 years of age to do this.

The supposed trial and death of Socrates may be something of a composite event; a mix of the ‘martyrdom’ of Jeremiah; death of the aged Maccabean hero, Eleazer (2 Maccabees 6:18-31); and the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ.

Eleazer, for instance, has the Socrates-like aspects of being,

 

(i) during Greek rule (as the Macedonian Greeks were ruling Palestine in Maccabean times);

(ii) “advanced in age”;

(iii) a witness to “the young”. Socrates was actually accused of ‘corrupting youth’.

(iv) Socrates’ death by swallowing (viz. the ‘hemlock’) may be an echo of Eleazer’s refusal to swallow the pig’s flesh.

(v) Eleazer’s acquaintances of long-standing begged him to feign compliance by substituting meat of his own, to save himself. Likewise, Crito begged Socrates to escape, even to using bribery if necessary (Apologia, Scene II); but (vi) Eleazer refused to do this out of honour, and instead faced death with courage; as did Socrates.

 

Folklore has sensed the similarity between the demise of Socrates and the end of the earthly life of Jesus, and thus has Socrates warning Pontius Pilate’s wife, Claudia Procula, to save Jesus: “… in her premonitory dream Socrates appeared to Pilate’s wife and urged her to intercede on behalf of Jesus” [ibid.]. (Cf. Matthew 27:19).

According to H. Tredennick [trans. Plato. The Last Days of Socrates (Penguin Books, 1969), p. 43]: “The first part of the charge [against Socrates] – heresy – was no doubt primarily intended to inflame prejudice. … The prosecution relied mainly on a powerful conjunction of religious and political hostility”. The same combination that Jesus had to face. Anytus, the moving spirit in the prosecution of Socrates, has a name a bit similar to Annas, father-in-law of the high-priest Caiaphas at the time of Jesus’ death.

Jesus’ disciple John “was known to the high priest” (John 18:13, 15). Meno 90b. Socrates: “Please help us, Anytus – Meno, who is a friend of your family, and myself – to find out …”. St. John was known to Caiaphas”.

…. even the cock chanting to a new day figures in Plato’s Symposium (223c), connected by J. Pepple to Socrates’ death [“The Order of Plato’s Dialogues” (February 14, 1995) (www.uni-heidelberg.de/subject/hd/fak7/hist/o1/logs/sophia/log.started941201/mail-50.html)]. (Cf. John 18:27).

Socrates, in good Greek fashion will – as we just saw – drink hemlock. He does not die on a cross. Still, even that terrible death is depicted in Plato’s The Republic, Intro., # 362]: “The just man … will be scourged, tortured, and imprisoned … and after enduring every humiliation he will be crucified”.

I submit that this statement would not likely have been written before the Gospels.

Mixed reflections of St. John’s account of the Resurrection three days after Christ’s death, with the woman Mary Magdalene at the tomb, and her vision of two angels in white (John 20:1-17), may have been picked up in Plato’s Crito [43A], where the condemned Socrates gives an account of a dream he had just had:

 

Crito: Why, what was the dream about?

Socrates: I thought I saw a gloriously beautiful woman dressed in white robes, who came up to me and addressed me in these words: ‘Socrates, To the pleasant land of Phthia on the third day thou shalt come’.

 

Conclusion

 

I hope here that I have managed to answer the intriguing question about the true identification of the enigmatic Socrates such as posed in the following piece named ‘The Socratic Problem’

(http://www.blackwellreference.com/subscriber/uid=1039/tocnode?id=g9781405115216_chunk_g97814051152166):

 

Socrates is one of the most famous and influential figures in the western intellectual tradition; but who was he? His disciples included the most influential philosophers of his time, who are credited by historians of philosophy with founding several schools; but what did he teach them? These questions constitute the “Socratic Problem,” the attempt to discover the historical individual behind the ancient accounts of Socrates and his philosophy. Socrates wrote nothing; for our information we depend on four major sources. …. The Socratic Problem stems in part from questions about the reliability of these sources. ….

 

To learn about the true ‘Socrates’ – the supposed cardinal philosopher of the classical Greeks – assuredly a prophet, I suggest that one turn one’s gaze to the Old Testament of the Hebrews, the source of Divine wisdom and philosophy.

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