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Reflections on Jesus and Socrates

Reflections on Jesus and Socrates: Word and Silence

Copyright Date: 1996
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Reflections on Jesus and Socrates
    Book Description:

    Living more than four centuries apart in very different cultures, Jesus and Socrates wrote nothing themselves, but they inspired their followers to set down words that continue to shape Western consciousness. In this deeply personal and provocative meditation, Paul Gooch reflects on enduring themes that arise from the lives of these two pivotal figures: death and witness, silence as the limit of language, prayer, obedience, and love. Focusing on the Jesus of the Gospels and the Socrates of Plato's dialogues, Gooch does not debate the historical realities of either figure but seeks to understand their fundamental commitments to philosophy and to God, drawing parallels and contrasts that invite deeper reflection upon our own lives and experiences.Throughout this book, Gooch tells and retells the stories of Socrates and Jesus as he examines perennial human issues: Why would anyone willingly die? To what do these two martyrlike deaths bear witness? What are the limits of words in explanation and defense? Why was Jesus silent during his trial? Why did Socrates' most powerful apologia fail? What words, if any, work in prayer? Do words work against the fear of death? Out of this philosophical and religious questioning,Reflections on Jesus and Socratesthrows new light on the compelling figures of these two and on the continuing meanings of their stories for us today.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14633-2
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. ONE Jesus and Socrates
    (pp. 1-18)

    I start with two stories. The first is called Socrates at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It takes place, as the title requires, in New York City; the time is late one Saturday afternoon. We are visiting friends whose children are of an age with our two daughters, and the day’s tour has included the Met. There is too much to absorb; the competition for our attention—one gallery vying with the next, children vying with art and with each other—has become tiring. And closing time is upon us. The bell sounds, we thread our way back toward the...

  6. TWO Death and Witness
    (pp. 19-46)

    Twenty-four hundred years ago a seventy-year-old Athenian prisoner took poison and died in the presence of a few friends. Four hundred and thirty years later, a young man, half the other’s age, died abandoned by most of his followers on a hill outside Jerusalem in the asphyxiating pain of crucifixion. Neither had to die when he did, or as he did. In some important fashion, their deaths came about as the result of their own choosing, and for their own reasons. Their deaths have had monumental consequences for philosophy and for faith; but we must come in this chapter to...

  7. THREE Word and Silence
    (pp. 47-108)

    As we come now in this chapter to consider the Passion of Jesus, we will find ourselves struck by the contrasts between the angry noise of the mob and the silence of the victim, the repeated interrogations of the authorities and the persistent impassivity of the accused. When we move to Athens and the trial of Plato’s Socrates, however, we will enter upon a very different linguistic space, one in which the chief speaker is the accused himself. The powerful words of Socrates in his own defense contrast boldly with the silence of Jesus, suggesting that Socrates is no pawn...

  8. FOUR Addressing and Attending
    (pp. 109-160)

    In all we haveseenso far, Jesus’ relation to the Father is essential to his self-understanding and to the meaning of his death. And we have seen in the last chapter that parts of that relationship are constituted in silence, where words are not available for the speaking. Socrates, by contrast, finds language and argument necessary not only in the defense but also in the very execution of the activity fundamental to his life.

    Now while silence is sometimes unavoidable or even welcome, all relationships require the mediation of language, very broadly conceived as a symbolic system of shared meanings. Without...

  9. FIVE Obedience and Authority
    (pp. 161-229)

    This chapter is about what it says it’s about, obedience and authority; but whether it’s about what those words usually evoke remains to be discovered. Although it would be better, for reasons I will presently discuss, not to hear anything at all about obeying authorities, that does not, however, seem to be an option for this study. Early in the book those martyrs got us involved with witness to an absolute that must be obeyed beyond the interests of the self. Insofar as they saw their deaths as acts of obedience, we cannot ignore the idea if we are to...

  10. SIX Love and Death
    (pp. 230-305)

    Love and Death: the conjunction does not state the way we want the world to be. We’d much prefer to do without the death.

    But because our preferences make very little difference in matters of mortality, at least we may be grateful for whatever love we know in our lives. In loving and being loved we make a world worth living in. The trouble is that the more we love the more we open ourselves to the wounding loss of those we love, so that we cannot simply get on with our loving by closing our eyes to death. Our...

  11. Index
    (pp. 306-308)