The Greek philosopher Socrates was known during the days of the ancients in the fifth century B.C. to be the wisest man in the world. Unfortunately, he met his fatal end by being condemned to death by a court of five hundred jurors. He was subsequently consigned to a suicidal death by drinking the executioner’s cup of the deadly hemlock poison. Socrates’ only “crime” was that he asked too many questions, and by asking too many questions he forced his intellectual and political peers to question any absolutes that they considered to be concrete truth. So really, why would someone who was considered to be the wisest man in the world end up condemned by a court of contemporary jurors simply because he asked questions concerning the beliefs of those who thought that they knew all the answers?
The Jewish Messiah Jesus was known in His days of the first century as the wisest man who ever walked across the face of the earth. He was the greatest teacher of moral integrity of all history—Christians know this. But He too by those of His time was condemned to death by both the contemporary religious leaders and the occupying Roman government of Palestine. But why did Jesus meet the same end as Socrates, having also forced to “commit suicide” on a cross outside Jerusalem? Unfortunately, He too asked to many questions that forced people to confront the very soul of their religious beliefs and behavior.
The fatal mistake of both Socrates and Jesus was that they asked too many questions, questions that forced individuals, or groups of individuals, to seriously consider the validity of what they considered to be either truth or moral. And worse yet, we wonder why would some people who were supposed to be either intellectual or spiritual leaders of the people, would behave so hypocritically? The questions of both Socrates and Jesus unleased a vile eruption on the part of those who were suffering from the indigestion of their own misguided religiosity, or in the case of Socrates, unprovable philosophical conclusions.
Both Jesus and Socrates directed questions to the hearts of those who already harbored damaged souls, and thus, the two thinkers became the opportunity for corrupted souls to unleash their venom on those who would dare question their thinking, whether philosophical or religious.
Socrates believed that in determining the validity of any truth, the truth itself must be approached with a series of questions, each question being asked to force the one who is interrogated to self-judge for himself what he considered to be the truth or a final moral standard.
By being persistent in asking challenging questions, the individual or group is forced to eliminate all alternatives to that which one considers to be the final truth or moral. In this systematic persistence of asking questions, the Socratic method of inquiry was establish, which method later gave Socrates the honor of being considered “the father of political philosophy.” The Socratic method of questioning is what defines the existing legal system of the American court.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, the Socratic method for determining truth or moral standard falls far short of that truth or moral standards that are maintained and revealed by a Higher Authority, which Higher Authority Socrates failed to discover. He simply saw the assortment of inconsistencies in religion through the interactive Greek gods of Athens who seemed to function only on demand of those who believed in them.
Socrates simply concluded that there was no such thing as a final authority in matters of faith. And if there were no God, then he was right. For him and the Greeks, there was only this catalog of gods who had been created after the imagine of desirous men who sought to play with the imagination of men’s minds. All such religious thinking only presented the opportunity for someone as Socrates to drive into hysteria those who believed in the gods.
Therefore, Socrates was accused of asking too many questions about the imagined gods who supposedly had for centuries playfully interacted with mankind. He was thus endangering the youth of his day, for he motivated them to ask questions concerning the traditional beliefs of the fathers, and the moral political system that was prevalent in Athens. His questions undermined any religious heritage that may have been given by the gods. He was thus accused of asking too many questions of religionists and politicians, and especially asking questions to which he himself gave no answers. This system of learning, therefore, set him at odds with the religious, philosophical and political establishment of his day. His questioning thus doomed him to a fateful end.
Socrates wrote nothing throughout his entire life. We think that he did not lest his writings be questioned and he be found in some contradiction of what he previously questioned. But in reference to his quest for truth through systematic questioning, to him, no truth could be considered concrete, and thus written down in the permanency of literature. So Socrates responded to his critics, “I know that I know nothing.” And if one knew nothing, then there was nothing to write. He was on an endless quest for truth through systematic questioning. In the end, he simply concluded, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
It seems that Jesus was not unfamiliar with Socrates, whose method of systematic questioning made its way from Greece to Palestine three hundred years later through the writings of one of Socrates’ most famous students, Plato. At least the apostle John many years after the death of Jesus was familiar with the writings of Plato, for when John searched throughout the Greek dictionary in order to write concerning the incarnation of God, there was only one word in the entire Greek dictionary that he could use in reference to God Himself coming into the world of humanity. John thus wrote, “In the beginning was the Word [Gr. logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1).
The Greek word logos was the best word, if not the only word in the Greek dictionary, that John could use to define how a “god” could incarnate into the affairs of the world. And it was Plato, the student of Socrates, who had three centuries before defined for philosophy the “logos” to be the word that should be used in reference to “the gods” intervening (fellowship) in the affairs of man. If John wanted to use only one word to explain the incarnation, it was the Greek word logos. So that he might not be misunderstood, in the same text of the preceding statement, John explained, “The Word [logos] was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). This is what set the stage for the irreconcilable confrontation between religiously broken souls and Jesus’ call for the broken to look beyond Him as the Word, to the fact that He was indeed God in the flesh.
These were considerations that Socrates forced “believers” in gods to reconsider. Plato simply put the matter into words, or at least, one word. So back to the point of comparison. During his final trial—and see if you do not recognize this today—Socrates accused his five hundred prejudiced jurors, who sought to impeach him, that they were more worried about their careers and political ambitions than they were about damaging their souls with an unjust condemnation of him. As all prejudiced judgments, what they would cast upon him would even further damage their souls. The point being, that through the injustices by which they were about to vote in reference to his fate, their vote of death would validate the fact that damaged souls could act no differently. With every prejudicial judgment, damaged souls only sink deeper into the abyss of injustice and the twisted irony of hypocritical judges.
Their unjust trial and judgment would continue to damage their souls because of their deep seated prejudices to condemn him were not based on their search for truth, but on promoting their own political agendas. Whatever judgment they made, therefore, would be prejudiced, and thus the revelation that their souls were deeply damaged morally. (Does this remind you of any contemporary circumstances?) Jurors with damaged souls render few fair verdicts.
Jesus fell victim to the same fate that was poured out by the damaged souls of Socrates’ court. As Socrates, Jesus asked too many questions. On one occasion, the religious court asked Jesus in reference to His plucking of grain on the Sabbath, “Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath” (Mt 12:2)—of course, this was not a violation of the Sinai law, only their self-imposed religious law.
But Jesus in turn questioned this court of religiously damaged souls in order to make them face up to their own hypocritical inconsistencies: “Have you not heard what David did … he entered into the house of God and ate the showbread?” (Mt 12:3,4)—now this was against the Sinai law. The religious jurors, however, justified David who actually violated the Sinai law, but they condemned Jesus because He questioned them about justifying David, who did violate the Sinai law, but condemned Jesus by violating some of their religious rites, rituals and ceremonies that they had invented for themselves.
And then on another occasion there was the case when Jesus, as Socrates, asked a question of the religious court of His day in order to reveal their broken souls. He asked, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” (Mt 12:10). The damaged soul of the religious leaders was on this occasion again revealed because the religionists, without answering, “went out and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him” (Mt 12:14).
Religious courts do not like to have their honored religious rites, rituals and ceremonies questioned. The jurors of such courts especially do not like their morals questioned. Such questioning of long held norms more often reveals the fact that one’s religious heritage and accepted behavior are based only on traditions, or the pronouncements of Diotrephetic leaders. Such theologies exist among religious adherents because people are often compelled to base their faith on biblically baseless mandates that are cried out from podiums around the world by persuasive religious propagandists.
Socrates questioned all such morals and traditional heritages by which men determined that which was true. In the case of religion, he questioned the inconsistencies of the religionists of his day who manufactured gods after the imagination of spirited people who had the gift of persuasion, and thus could talk the people into believing anything. Jesus did the same in questioning such religionists. He exposed their beliefs by leading them to self-examining their own thinking. Their concept of God was found lacking because the one true and living God was standing incarnate right there before their eyes.
Throughout His short ministry, Jesus continually questioned the religious establishment. On one occasion He questioned His religious judges, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do evil?” (Mk 3:4). By this time in His ministry, the self-righteous religious judges could say nothing to such a pointed and direct question. So, “they held their peace” (Mk 3:4). Their frustration was building, and Jesus knew this. In this way He was taking Himself to the cross, for He knew what damaged souls would eventually do if they were forced to realize the inconsistent theologies of their own religiosity, but especially the evil of their own hearts.
By the time in His ministry when Jesus started introducing the truth that He was God in the flesh, His continual questioning had embarrassed His adversaries so much that they remained silent. Eventually, they would lash out at Him. Their initial silence, however, revealed that they were religious judges with damaged souls, for only those with damaged souls would reject the incarnate Son of God who stood in their midst. Therefore, because they were morally damaged, it was not possible for them to see the Father through the Son.
When inquisitive minds question matters of tradition and heritage, especially matters of religious tradition and moral standards, those with damaged souls will lash out with fury, no matter how sincere they might claim to be in their religiosity. Since religion exists because of biblical ignorance, zealously religious people will often be the first to lash out at those who ask questions that force religionists to validate their beliefs and behavior with a Bible book, chapter and verse. It is at this time that inquiring individuals should be looking out for a cup of hemlock, or possibly the echoing sound of a cross being built.
We know the conclusion to the life of Socrates. Instead of fleeing to safety from His opposition, as did Confucius, he willingly took the cup and drank the poisonous hemlock. And Jesus did the same. He too drank the poisonous “cross” in order to crucify Himself for the salvation of those who did believe. We must not forget what He said in anticipation of the cross: “I lay down My life for the sheep … I lay down My life so that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it up again” (Jn 10:15,17,18). He could have called on legions of angels to deliver Him from the fate that was handed to Him by the unjust judges. Instead, He “swallowed” death on the cross in order that one day death might be swallowed up in our victory.
Yes indeed, the religious court of Jesus’ day sent an innocent man to crucify Himself. All the jurors voted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” So He relinquished to their cries and drank of the cross for us.
Jesus wrote not a word during His life. Only His immediate disciples recorded His life and word in which we grow. As His disciples, we write with the dedication of our lives that He is the greatest intellectual who ever set foot on this earth, and now, the greatest King who reigns over all this earth.
By our love for one another, people understand that we are not those with damaged souls, but the church of those who have responded with love and gratitude to the grace of the One who allowed nails to be driven through incarnate hands and feet on our behalf (2 Co 4:15; 5:14). Our faith in Him, therefore, is not shallow, for faith is only kept shallow by some damage in our souls that seems to persist.
We must continually remind ourselves, however, that all the damage that we may have brought on our souls in the past has now been healed by His grace. Therefore, in forgiving ourselves as He forgave us through the cross, our faith continues to grows deeper. It goes deeper as we grow in grace and the knowledge of Him who revealed this grace to us (2 Pt 3:18). We will not, therefore, damage our souls again by heaping unjust judgment upon another who is likewise struggling to keep his or her soul clean with the blood of Jesus (See Mt 18:21-35).
There is moral truth to the truth of the Socratic method of inquiry that has permeated thinking since the days of Socrates, and then Jesus. It is the imperative of every disciple to ask questions concerning the “why” we believe or behave in this or that way. If we ask the questions, and all that comes in return from the religious establishment is the reply, “This is simply what we have been handed to us by our fathers, and thus we will continue to believe,” then it is time for further questions. If at the end of our systematic questioning we do not receive a Bible book, chapter and verse in answer to our persistent questions, then the one giving us answers is caught up in religion. It is then time for us to cuddle our Bibles in our hands and move on.
As with those who finally led to the end of Jesus and Socrates on earth, questions will engender frustration, if not outright rage. Therefore, if we still hammer away with questions about why we religiously do this or that, the outcome is not always pleasant. Socrates was forced to drink the hemlock. Jesus was forced to carry His cross to Calvary. And we would supposed that those today who cannot give Bible book, chapter and verse replies to all our questions concerning faith, they will do as Diotrephes who loved power more than Bible, even more than the apostle of love, John. Because his soul was damaged, as the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, with a thirst for power he kicked every questioning “Socrates” out of his cloned monastery of religious robots (3 Jn 10).
The behavior of philosophers today is no different than the philosophers of Socrates’ day, who did not want their political social order disrupted by someone who was persistently forcing them to answer questions that made them go deep into their souls concerning what they believed was the foundation of their moral and political views. Socrates was an outsider in reference to the religious, philosophical and political establishment. And because he was, there was no place for him in their establishment. Jesus came into and became the same in the religious establishment of His day. Because both asked too many questions, both had to be eliminated.
The behavior of some religionists today is no different than the hypocritical antagonists of Jesus’ day who likewise did not want their “Jewish religion” to be disrupted by someone who persistently questioned their inconsistent theologies and religious leadership (See Gl 1:14). The religious leaders did not like being forced to see the hypocrisies of their own behavior (See Mt 6:2,5,16; 7:5; 15:9; 22:18; 23:13-15,23-29).
Jesus’ persistent questioning forced the religious leaders to answer questions that revealed the inconsistencies of their thinking and hypocritical behavior in reference to their own teachings. They were thus embarrassed before the people. The cross was subsequently the only answer for their embarrassment.
Therefore, the extreme frustration of the religious leaders come to a climax. Jesus’ questions forced them to be the judges of their own souls, and to face the inconsistencies of their own theologies. In fact, those who were persistently questioned by Jesus became so frustrated that they eventually schemed to commit murder. Such a scheme proved that they were indeed damaged souls of the lowest level. Therefore, Jesus’ judgment of them was validated: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do” (Jn 8:44).
And so it is today. If you ask too many questions of the guardians of the religious establishment, and do not receive book, chapter and verse answers for your questions, then there will probably be handed you a cup of “hemlock” disfellowship, or possibly a cross which you can carry outside the church house, and nail yourself thereon. Questions presented to those who seek to defend biblically unsubstantiated religious heritages will engender great hostility. Depending on where you live in the world, it might be written of you in your questioning the religious establishment, as it was in the final hours of the life of Jesus: “Now the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill Him” (Lk 22:2).