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 prophesied before 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. His self inspired ideas were claimed by a divine force to be the wisest of all. Although Socrates does not show support of any certain religion it is the perseverance and inspiration to enlighten others that makes him a prophet. Socrates and Jesus died for what they believed in because there was no other way for them to spread their knowledge and the established order was threatened by any teachings that varied from the norm of the day. These men found meaning in their own lives and couldn’t stop philosophizing, or spreading the word of God because it was the deed that they were inspired to accomplish. They died and became martyrs but left followers who continued their legacy through the written and verbal communication of their teachings. They started a legacy that would be worshiped or talked about for thousands of years to come through texts such as the Bible’s New Testaments, and texts by Plato and other significant followers of Socrates.