Jesus and Socrates with Dr Dennis R MacDonald

I just wanted to share this short MythVision interview that came out today where Dennis MacDonald argues Luke’s passion narrative purposefully imitates the death of Socrates:

One disagreement I have is how Dennis reads his thesis of the contrast between Mark and Luke into the way he translates Mark 15:39 to be sarcastic. He translates: “Oh sure, this was the son of God!” Certainly, a sarcastic reading is possible, and others have attempted it, but as the NRSVUE says the Greek just reads: Now when the centurion who stood facing him saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” (Ἀληθῶς οὗτος ὁ ἄνθρωπος Υἱὸς Θεοῦ ἦν). I would like to argue that Luke is simply making more conspicuous what Mark is also saying with Luke building an entire Socrates themed Jesus in Luke’s passion account. In both cases of Mark and Luke they seem to be using imagery indicating Paul’s future success among the pagans with the transformation of the soldiers at the cross.

In any case, I think Dr. MacDonald has made a compelling case for the influence of Socrates/Plato on Luke, though I would further add that the thanks given for the poison with Socrates quite obviously means Socrates as cultural physician and its societal healing properties as much as healing Socrates’ soul by removing it from its body. And this cultural pharmakon (poison and cure) is what it did historically. Seeing the unjust nature of Socrates’ death helped society evolve and grow ethically, so that society no longer executes people for the crimes Socrates was charged with – and in fact we find such legal charges silly.

For my take on Socrates and the impaled just man of book 2 of Plato’s Republic on the Jesus narrative, please see my first penal substitution essay: