Jesus Essay, Research Paper
Jesus: A Modern Sokratic Dialogue – Sokrates, Lucretius, young student of Sokrates, Jesus, Paul, apostle of JesusThe Scene:Classical AthensSection 1. Meeting in AthensLUCRETIUS: I hear that the man from Jerusalem has arrived,Sokrates. The one whose followers so loudly denounce our city. SOKRATES: And me as well, I’m told. My fellow Athenians dub me agadfly, but these followers of Jesus hate me far more bitterly. LUCRETIUS: How strange, then, Sokrates, that this Jesus has cometo speak with you. Perhaps he’s not like his followers. [Enter Jesus and Paul.]SOKRATES: I would bid you welcome to our fair city, sirs, but myeagerness for philosophy overcomes me. Many, many people havetold me that you have knowledge of all things. I cannot approach thatlevel of insight, but I am wise enough to at least realize my ignorance. JESUS: Many thanks for your welcome, then. You seem to know agreat deal about me, but I’ve heard only of your wisdom and yourmodesty, Sokrates.PAUL: And his impiety, Lord! Why must we stop here, master? We’ve nothing to gain from these faithless ones. JESUS: Patience, Paul. What harm can come to good or truththrough free discussion? Put aside then your prejudices, Paul, andrecognize wisdom wherever it may lie, even in an opponent. SOKRATES: I beg your pardon, but I wasn’t aware that we wereopponents. First we must hear your teachings, then examine them,then support or oppose them as the case may be. If I may be so bold,I’d like to start on a question that’s challenged me before. Section 2. The Question of KnowledgeLUCRETIUS: Would that be the question of knowledge, Sokrates?SOKRATES: You guessed correctly, young Lucretius, which makesme think I’ve been over this question a few too many times. Buthaving never been satisfied in the past, I must try once more. Tell me,Jesus, what is knowledge? I’ve heard that you answer that knowledgeis faith, but I want to hear you state it in your own way to avoid anymisunderstanding. JESUS: Dear Sokrates, you’ve heard correctly. Over-proud men saythat reason gives them knowledge, but I say that true knowledgecomes from God, and that God sends that knowledge by faith. SOKRATES: Please slow down, Jesus, if you wouldn’t mind. Mymind is a little slow, and I can only think on one issue at a time. Let’sback up and make sure that we’re answering the right question. Myoriginal query was, what knowledge is. But you seem to have told meinstead where knowledge comes from. PAUL: My master Jesus’ intent was obvious enough. He meant thatknowledge is faith, as was plain enough to any listener not trying todistort his words. You Greeks blather on and on about words; butwhat do they matter? It’s the spirit that matters. LUCRETIUS: When words are imprecise, so is thought; or is rigor toodifficult for you men from Jerusalem? You talk a lot about “thespirit”;but it seems to me like you possess the spirit of angry beasts and lackthe spirit of good sense. SOKRATES: Hold, Lucretius. Paul’s answer was fair enough, if hisexpression a little provocative. Is Paul’s statement what you had inmind, Jesus? JESUS: It was. SOKRATES: Very well then; we have a starting point. Knowledge isfaith. And may I ask more about the nature of faith? For some saythat faith is trust in God, others that faith is mystical intuition,stillothers that faith is belief in the absurd and the impossible. JESUS: You Athenians are fond of distinctions, I see. Well, Isuppose then that I am with the first group, the one that holds thatfaithis trust in God.SOKRATES: Very good. Now like I said my mind is not so quick, andI may need a few questions to grasp your meaning clearly. Knowledge, you say, is faith; and faith is trust in God?JESUS: Exactly. SOKRATES: How then, if I may ask, do we come to know aboutGod?JESUS: By faith, naturally. SOKRATES: But in order to trust someone, and in particular toequate that trust with knowledge, we would surely have to know of hisexistence. JESUS: Doubtlessly, Sokrates. Are questions like these the onesthat make my followers hate you so? They seem mild enough, thoughperhaps they cost a lot of time compared to the benefit they bring. SOKRATES: Their mildness and their benefit we shall see in the end. So you concede that before we can trust someone, we must know oftheir existence?JESUS: Yes, yes. SOKRATES: And we know of God’s existence by faith?PAUL: As Jesus already told you. SOKRATES: And faith is trust in God?PAUL: Yes! Isn’t one answer enough? SOKRATES: Perhaps, Paul. Forgive me, Jesus, but I am puzzled. For you have told me that before we could trust someone, we wouldhave to know of their existence; and you have told me that faith istrustin God; and you have told me that we know of God by faith. I amafraid we are in a vicious circle here; for unless we knew of God bysome way other than faith, we could not use faith to establish hisexistence. JESUS: I am not sure I understand. LUCRETIUS: Allow me to clarify. Sokrates just pointed out that yourreasoning was circular and inconsistent. You use faith to defineknowledge, and God to define faith. But your system doesn’t permitknowledge of God, since knowledge of God has to come before faith. At this point, you have a few choices. You can either decide thatknowledge isn’t faith, or that faith isn’t trust in God, or that youdon’tneed to know that someone exists in order to trust him. PAUL: Even the Athenian boys are filled with sin and impiety! Youwould do better to have more faith and question it less. JESUS: Gentle Paul, the boy’s manner may be impious, but I detectno wickedness in him. Asking questions is the way of Athens, not ofJerusalem; but since we are in Athens, why not show them that wecan do as well as they at their own game? Lucretius, I trust, has laiddown my options fairly, has he not, Sokrates? SOKRATES: I think he has, Jesus. So which premise do you chooseto cast aside, so we can get back down the track of knowledge?JESUS: I leapt too quickly to affirm that faith is trust in God. Faithisbroader and deeper than trust in God alone. Faith is what gives ustrust in God, but its limits are so much broader. PAUL: All that proceeds from doubt is sin, and all that proceeds fromfaith is righteous. Faith justifies us and cleanses us of our sin, thesinthat all of us bear. LUCRETIUS: The sin that all of you bear is vagueness of speech andlaziness of thought. Why don’t you keep to the subject?S0KRATES: Perhaps Jesus would be good enough to keep to it if youwould only let him. I believe that he was just going to revise hisdefinition of faith, for we had concluded that faith was not trust inGod. Do you then say that it is belief in the absurd and the impossible? JESUS: No, no. Faith teaches us nothing absurd, but only simpleand sublime truths. But I think, Sokrates, that you mentioned anotherview of faith.SOKRATES: Yes, there are some who say that faith is mysticalintuition, although I confess that what they mean by this is far fromclear. PAUL: Well, intuition is simply knowledge that does not proceedindirectly, as in a deductive argument; but instead it proceedsdirectly,by examining a premise itself. LUCRETIUS: Well-spoken, Paul. So what you mean is thatsometimes, we learn that something is true because we deduce itfrom other premises which we know to be true. But this could notalways be the case, because ultimately we must know some premisesto be true which are not derived from other premises. Indeed, sinceproof begins with the most evident truths and moves to less well-known ones, it follows that what we know best of all cannot be proven. Nor indeed would such a proof be necessary, for it would lead to aninfinite regress. SOKRATES: I fear that Lucretius may be putting his own answer intothe mouths of our guests. Tell me, Jesus, do you mean now to defendthe view that faith is mystical intuition?JESUS: Most certainly. And I think that Paul spoke well, as didLucretius. SOKRATES: Perhaps. But as you notice, both Paul and Lucretiusdescribed the faculty of intuition, and Lucretius went further and
argued that we did indeed possess it. JESUS: Truly they did, Sokrates. Did your own pupil misspeak?SOKRATES: Perhaps, though I found nothing in his statement tocriticize at the moment. But Paul and Lucretius told me only ofintuition; but you said that faith is mystical intuition. You haveidentified knowledge with only the narrower species, and not the wholegenus. I confess that I am at a loss to explain how the mysticalintuition differs from intuition proper. JESUS: Mystical intuition goes beyond human reason. It revealsthings to us that human reason unaided could never see. But I seethat you will say that I am telling you about mystical intuition ratherthan defining it. So let me say that mystical intuition is intuitionwhichoperates under the inspiration of divine guidance. PAUL: And God forbid that His guidance should ever be taken fromus, as it has been taken from these Greeks. SOKRATES: I’ll welcome God’s guidance or anyone else’s, as soonas I’m convinced He knows where He’s going any better than I do. But let us focus on Jesus’ second definition. Could you explain for us,Jesus, what the “inspiration of divine guidance” is?JESUS: It is when God leads us to truths that we could not see on ourown. SOKRATES: And how does God lead us to these truths?JESUS: He puts a holy feeling into us when we encounter his truths. SOKRATES: And this “holy feeling” – it is knowledge, or, as it seemsto be, one of the passions?JESUS: The holy feeling leads to knowledge, but you are right thatthe feeling is not itself knowledge. SOKRATES: What you are saying seems strange to me. I hadalways assumed that the passions needed to be checked by theintellect, for they often lead us in the wrong direction. PAUL: Of course, the weak mortal passions need to be controlled; butnot the sacred passion of love of God and His works. SOKRATES: But would you not agree, Paul, that the faithful of otherreligions have passions very much like yours?PAUL: [hesitant] No… They have deceptive feelings. SOKRATES: But were you not at one time a traditional Jew ratherthan a follower of Jesus?PAUL: Yes… SOKRATES: And did you not experience religious passion before youmet Jesus?PAUL: In a way… SOKRATES: And did your passion give you truth then?PAUL: No, it led me to horribly struggle against the goodness ofJesus’ message. SOKRATES: Because at that time your feelings were deceptive?PAUL: Yes. SOKRATES: Did your feelings feel deceptive at the time?PAUL: No. SOKRATES: Nor less intense?PAUL: Perhaps… SOKRATES: So would it be fair to say that the only difference is thatyour passions were different at different times?JESUS: Let me spare Paul and try to answer for him. What is yourobjection, Sokrates?SOKRATES: Well, I think that I shall drop this line of questioning andget on to my real objection. JESUS: Which would be?SOKRATES: You have explained that mystical intuition is intuitionwhich operates under the direction of divine guidance. JESUS: I have. SOKRATES: And without this divine direction, we should still lackknowledge. JESUS: Correct. SOKRATES: Which means that if we considered these claims bereftof divine direction, we would not see their truth. JESUS: True enough, Sokrates. SOKRATES: So in themselves these claims do not seem evident toour reason. Do they seem to be false, or merely undecided?PAUL: Of course they seem false to your sinful minds!SOKRATES: Does Paul’s answer accord with yours, Jesus?JESUS: No, I would say that they merely seem undecided to theintellect bereft of divine guidance. SOKRATES: So they are never contrary to human reason?JESUS: I should think not. LUCRETIUS: But what of your doctrines of the “divine mysteries”? Do you not call them mysteries because they seem to human reasonto be false?JESUS: Well, we must not be presumptuous and assume that ourintellects are superior to God’s, young Lucretius. LUCRETIUS: Naturally not — assuming that God’s existence andteachings are already known. But just as before, you and Paul arearguing in a circle. JESUS: How so?LUCRETIUS: You begin by saying that knowledge is faith, and thatfaith is mystical intuition. You add that mystical intuition gives usknowledge of claims that seem unclear or even – as you tacitly admit -false. When we protest, you instruct us that we must not place ourintellects above God’s. But unfortunately, in order for your argumentto work, your claims would have to seem neither indifferent nor false,but true. Or in other words, in order to make us believe in your”mysteries,” you must convince us in a way which is not itselfmysterious; for otherwise, your view simply becomes the absurd onethat we should first believe something that seems false, and thenother seemingly unclear and false claims will seem to be true. SOKRATES: I think that Lucretius speaks for myself as well. PAUL: Both of you will burn in hell for your lies! Why can’t yousimplyhave faith in God’s word?SOKRATES: Perhaps we would, if only we understood what the twoof you meant by “faith.”PAUL: “Faith means the assurance of what we hope for; it is ourconviction about things that we cannot see.”SOKRATES: And I assume that you include not only literal sight, butthe intellectual sight we possess through our reason?PAUL: I do. SOKRATES: And could faith give you conviction about things that weseem to see to be false. PAUL: If God says it, then I believe it. He created my reason to besubserviant to him. LUCRETIUS: So if God said you were ten feet tall, would you believeit?PAUL: I would. LUCRETIUS: And if God said that doubt was sin, would you believeit?PAUL: I would and I do. LUCRETIUS: And if God said that two and two make five, would youbelieve it?PAUL: Without hesitation. LUCRETIUS: So you seem to have finally leapt to the third view offaith. JESUS: Which view was that?LUCRETIUS: It was the view that says that faith is belief in the absurdand the impossible. JESUS: Now I would not want to say that. LUCRETIUS: Ah, but I think you must. Did Paul answer myquestions as you would have?JESUS: Yes. LUCRETIUS: So if God said that two and two make five, you wouldbelieve it?JESUS: If God said it, then I would. But why would God saysomething so clearly false?LUCRETIUS: But you have no standard outside of your God’scommands to judge them! So your own view requires that you mustgive your believe even to the most absurd and impossible claims. PAUL: And why should that bother us? Why should the “wisdom ofthe world” matter to us, Jesus, when we have received our instructionsdirectly from God? We must not let their earthly standards infect ourcertainty in the Word of God! Tell them, Jesus! Tell them![Jesus seems troubled.]Section 3. ConclusionPAUL: What is happening to you, dear precious Jesus? Why are youtesting me?JESUS: Testing you, Paul?PAUL: Yes, that must be it! All this has been arranged to test myfaith in you and God. Now I see. But I pass the test, Jesus! Ibelievein you with all my heart and all my soul, and no mortal words will eversway me! Let us begone with their vicious, wicked Athenians, andspeak to those who are open to the truth. LUCRETIUS: “Open to the truth”? It is you are closed to the truth,Paul, by your own words. JESUS: If you say that, you cannot know Paul. No one loves truth ashe does. LUCRETIUS: Loves truth, you say? Paul despises truth. He lovesonly his faith, no matter what lies it tells.JESUS: Faith does not lie, young man! What have you beenteaching these young men of Athens, Sokrates? Perhaps Paul is rightto say that you wean these babes of Athens on irreligion!SOKRATES: I train them to raise questions about all things, includingreligion, if that is what you mean. PAUL: His own words convict him of hatred of God. Let us go speakto the humble people who will listen to us, Jesus. JESUS: Very well, Paul. We will pray for your soul Lucretius. LUCRETIUS: And what of Sokrates’ soul?PAUL: We shall pray that it burns in hell![Jesus and Paul leave.]LUCRETIUS: They seemed to be rather wicked men after all, didn’tthey, Sokrates?SOKRATES: That would bring us to the question of virtue. But Isuspect that you would turn out to be right. LUCRETIUS: So they have gone to speak to the people of Athens. Do you think that they will find any converts?SOKRATES: Quite possibly they shall. LUCRETIUS: What will become of the world if their ideas spread?SOKRATES: The prospect is too frightening for me to contemplate. What would you say, Lucretius?LUCRETIUS: If their ideas spread to enough of the people, the wholeworld will become the hell to which they damned you. SOKRATES: Dear Lucretius, I suspect that you are correct.