Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Plato's Salvation and Day of Judgment

Once I asked my favorite seminary teacher how much of the N.T. was Hebrew and how much Greek. He looked at me fixedly for a moment, then replied, "I would say about half and half".

At the time I was a recently commited Christian, and his answer was kind of a shock. Now, 49 years later, I'm coming to perceive some things anew.

Plato's Cave has always been an engrossing story, but perhaps it is more. How does it compare with the gospel of Jesus?

Or take another example: look at The Myth of Er. If this exceeds your span of attention, we might try a much briefer summary.

Even more briefly the myth of Er concerns the afterlife, where men are judged and recieve a reward or a punishment.

Students of the O.T. learn that the afterlife was very nearly non-existent there, except for a shadowy place called Sheol where everyone goes after death. Now if the ideas of Jesus came purely from divine inspiration, this suggestion does nothing for such a person. But if you perceive that Jesus' learning came in more natural ways like yours and mine, then you have to wonder where his Last Judgment came from.

Sepphoris, the capital of Galilee, was abuilding when Jesus was working as a young carpenter (and stone mason). It was very much of a Greek city; the area was very much of a multi-cultural place, and workmen there would be expected to know Greek. Did Jesus know only the simple elements of the language? Or did he know more??? Is it reasonable to suppose that he may have known something about Plato?


Lorcan said...

Human culture is a rather remarkable thing... For example Native Irish and Native Alaskans invented the same boat, the currach and the umiak, there is no connection other than matterials and need.
So, part, the fact that concepts like the death as planting a seed for regrowth is found in distant cultures because we have the same needs, same materials and come up with common symbology as a result. Thee will not find the idea of the planted earth and death, likely among people who have no ability to plant, for example artic hunting cultures.
Also, there is a swirl of story and conversation eddying through the world, even before the TV... I see it among semi and illiterate nomadic folks I work among, how storries of one culture drift into antother, from the classics to the sitcom, humans share...
Now, I think, the important question is why is there such power in any of these storries and observations. Think of the power that the sermon on the mount had in a man like Bonnhoffer, and such little effect it has on some other Christians... Maybe it is not so much a question of where an idea comes from, so much as what we do in living it
Thine in the light
(Really interesting post by the way)

Zach Young said...

It is interesting how much different traditions coincide. There is no doubt that Greek philosophy played into Jesus' message. It's much more apparent in the gnostic texts, but can still be found in Jesus' teachings in the gospels as well as in Paul's work.

xianchick said...

i once called my "devout" auntie and asked her a similar line of questioning: she hung up on me and disowned me. hmph.

the cave illustrates basic human awakening... with your permission, i would like to add more, in order to tie in faith.

the sun represents worship, right? perhaps true, deep, faith, would be the discovery (by the clay people) of radiation and all that it entails?

could we add relativity and the warping of time/space in relation to the gravity of that sun somewhere as a metaphor for salvation?

Larry said...

And a very interesting comment, Lor. We are all brothers (sisters). The differences are largely superficial. IMO the hinge of human culture is the difference between the tribalistic mentality and the universal one. All of us have some of both, but the second is what it means to be truly human.

Your comment is interesting, too, Zach. I would be very interested in some of the particulars re Jesus and Greek culture, beside the one I hazarded about 'The Last Judgment'.

Chick, it is sad the way so many 'devout' people feel threatened by any deviation from the 'straight and narrow' orthodox thought forms that make up their faith.

Re faith and radiation: yes, yes! Einstein sat down like a child before the mysteries of nature. The open minded spirit of inquiry of the scientist is much close to Christ's spirit than the 'straight and narrow' 'mind forg'd manacles' of the 'devout'.

Jon said...

If Jesus really did spend some of his childhood in Egypt (I see no reason to disbelieve the possibility), he would probably have in the Jewish community of Alexandria, arguably the greatest center of Greek culture. Anne Rice imagines that Jesus might have been taught by Philo of Alexandria, an interesting possibility! Then, Sepphoris, right next door.

Then all the legends about his journeys to the East--which I find doubtful, but I don't doubt the East came to him. All roads passed through Israel between Rome and the East. And Fr. Robert Kennedy points out that in Jesus' time, there was a Buddhist community in Alexandria!

Interesting, nicht wahr?