How Socrates May Have Been a Christian Thinker

Jesus and Socrates were both philosophers and prophets of relatively the same paradigm of ideas, and they preached in what seemed like the same trajectory. 

Upon hours and hours of research, we found therefore that there is every reason to agree that Socrates was a Christian thinker or, rather loosely a Christian, as some scholars put it. 

Making the reasons for the foregoing conclusion our premises, this paper shall relate to you how Socrates was a Christian. And a reason he might not be. 

More often than not, people argue for or against the point that Socrates was a Christian without some logical rationale, especially because they live or lived years very distant from those of Socrates and Jesus. 

As a result, we’ve chosen to see this topic through the eyes of philosopher Justin Martyr; one of those in the position to give facts about the lives of Jesus and Socrates. What he has to say about this: 

Justin Martyr of AD 100 to AD 165, both a philosopher and a believer of the Christian faith, argued that Socrates was a Christian basically because he participated in the rational inspiration of the Logos

Was Socrates a Christian? 

To Justin, the Logos—in person, turned out to be Christ himself. He was perceived as the ultimate truth which Socrates proselytized all his life. 

In Greek, the term Logos has several meanings and was used to express different things by different thinkers including Pythagoras, Plato, and Socrates himself. But for this study, Logos shall be seen as the ability to discern or understand the truth. 

In any case, there is a tendency for us to view Justin Martyr’s conclusion as an edgy proposal since he was a Christian. 

But going further to learn about the personal faith of Socrates will bring us to resonate with Justin. 

A summary of the belief of Socrates

History has it that the ancient Athens was founded by three gods: Chaos, Gaia, and Eros. As expected, they were supposed to be a guide for the people’s conduct. 

But the gods themselves had issues with telling their left from right. This is evident, for one, in the fact that Rhea didn’t agree with Cronos to swallow Zeus, their son, something Cronos intended to do to avoid being overthrown by the child. 

Preposterously enough, Cronos with the support of his mother Gaia, took the throne of his father Ouranos. Do you now say Cronos was being just or good?!!

The gods didn’t have good virtues, they acted like mere humans except for their immortality. 

It follows that Socrates didn’t see them as worth following. He questioned Euthypro on the stance of the gods on what is good and evil. No satisfying answer to this came forth, so Socrates believed there should be a better god. 

Was Socrates a Christian? 

His idea of a better god is one who helps in being just, rational, and discerning the true knowledge. Though unseen, to him, this is the only god one’s soul should worship.

He believed that in worshipping this good god, there would be justice perfectly served. Also, rationality and not the flesh shall define this good god of his. 

This prompted him to cluster the human soul into three parts, namely: Appetites, Spirited, and Rational, proposing that both appetites and spirited will not make one act like a god unless they’re subject to Rational

Also teaching others about it, Socrates was so pleased with himself to find this god, that he refused to worship the ancient gods of Athens— something that’d later result in his unjust murder. 

This leaves us with the question: who is this Socrates’ good god? It is ‘Rationality’ or Logos (to put it in Greek). 

Be that as it may. A source opined that looking at the nexus or congruence between Socrates’ idea and the Christian faith, the Bible tends to unveil the ultimate truth Socrates couldn’t finish discovering. 

Aside from this vignette, we may consider some other points to see how Socrates was more of a Christian than anything else. 

Reasons Socrates Must Have Been a Christian

Was Socrates a Christian? 

Mindfully examine the following: 

  • They Believed in a Hereafter

It is no news whatsoever that Christians work actively for the hereafter, but only a few know that Socrates also spoke about this ‘existence’. 

Once among other times, we learnt that Socrates told people that every ungodly thing one commits leaves one’s soul with a scar which will affect one in the hereafter. 

  • They were against irrationality

Knowing full well that Socrates’ teachings on rationality are not new to philosophy students, the emphasis here will be on Jesus’ teachings of the same virtue. 

In the same way that Socrates didn’t agree with the sophists’ heart (or emotional) knowledge, Jesus wouldn’t buy several crude doctrines the Pharisees followed. 

Once, the Pharisees were going to condemn Jesus for healing on Sabbath day, but he asked if any of them would watch his sheep fall and die in a pit without rescuing it because it’s the Sabbath day. None of them would. He related this to the rationale of doing good without a season. 

Similarly, both Jesus and Socrates arguably lived by divine wisdom— the deific inspiration of truth other than man’s mere perception of what may be true. 

Recall that Socrates was convinced that the gods of Athens were confused themselves and as such could not make their followers any better. This is the concept of rationality in some other words. 

  • Their death was similar 

Not only did Jesus and Socrates die of a similar course—which was their unshakable loyalty to mankind and their beliefs, they also had a feeling that they’d die but they didn’t run away from fate. 

  • They both preached 

We already know that Jesus preached, so, as to Socrates’ preaching, it is evident in his words when he said: “I go about… persuading… you not to care for as strongly as for the best possible state of your ” (Apology 30a-b). 

Preaching what he discovered was what Socrates took for his service to God. 

Further, Jesus and Socrates preached about Justice, Equality, and Charity. 

Maybe this wouldn’t really add up to this topic but it’s also worth mentioning that Jesus and Socrates, for reasons best known to them, never wrote their teachings. 

The Reason Socrates Might Not Be a Christian? 

It is not a zero-sum thing and therefore we should also look to the other side of the argument.

One of the reasons people tend to argue that Socrates was not a Christian is that even though Christianity masquerading as some other faiths might have begun long before the arrival of Jesus, the faith of Christianity itself was named after Jesus. 

This is a plausible point because taking Christianity as the faith of Jesus, it would be nearly unreasonable to say that Socrates who had lived some 470 years before him believed in it. 

One only finds a way out of this puzzle by revisiting history, comparing cases where Christian-like practices were observed long before Jesus’ time, and referring to the etymology of ‘Christianity’. 

As to the cases, John the Baptist had been baptizing people into the faith before Jesus walked up to him for his baptism too. Shouldn’t Jesus be the baptizer if he originally started the faith? 

Similarly, the coming of Jesus as the Messiah had been announced in the Old Testament of the Bible before we saw him in the New Testament. 

That Christianity has been before Jesus is evident in the fact that he noted, speaking of the law and the prophets, “…I am not come to destroy but to fulfil.” Matthew 5:17, KJV

The practice of praying to God the unseen and several others wasn’t changed by Jesus, only he modified those practices with the implicit introduction of rationality. 

For instance, Jesus didn’t see it rational for people to stone so-called sinners to death, because no one is righteous either. We see a scenario like this in John 8:1-11 when the Pharisees took a woman caught in the act of adultery to Jesus to be stoned to death

Now to the origin of the word Christian. The word was first used in Antioch to describe Jesus’ disciples as little Christ. You can read more about this in Acts 11:26 or see what Wikipedia says about it

So, being a Christian does not narrowly mean believing in Jesus’ teachings and observing them, it can also be said to be the practice of being like Jesus—regardless of whether one goes to church, I’ll add. 

Wiktionary puts this definition best when it says Christian (as an adjective) means “like or relating to Jesus Christ”. 

To wrap up, Socrates was a Christian or a Christian thinker, whichever way you see fit because he lived his life identical to that of Jesus or Jesus’ followers. 

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