Wednesday, November 27, 2013

TFBT: 23.CB22.1x, Phaedo and St. John

This wonderful week in the Harvardx online class called “The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours” Gregory Nagy led us in dialogue on another book concerning the death of Socrates; The Phaedon.

The plot of Phaedon consists of a dialogue between two characters, Phaedo a disciple of Socrates and Echecrates of the town of Philius.  Echecrates ask about the death of Socrates and why it took place so long after his conviction.  He says no one visited Athens anymore and that “has been a long time since any guest from there has visited here.” (57b)  It is an interesting phrase used in conjunction with Death because lately in class we’ve been discussing the esoteric nature of “there” compared to the here and now of “here”.  Eschecrates is right, not too many people from there come back to visit here.

Phaedon explains that the “ship of state” must sail to Delos every year for the great celebration and that the ship was “garlanded” that day. In the textbook  at “23§16 Nagy explains that “… the garlanding of objects or of persons is a way of delineating a ritual framework.” (That explains why tourists in Hawaii and people at Marti Gras wear leis and beads.) Phaedon explains that during this ritual period “they have a custom at this time of the year to purify the city and to refrain from publicly executing anybody before the ship goes to Delos and then comes back from there.” 

Nagy reminds us that Socrates good friend (Can we say therapon?) Chaerephon went to Delphi as a private person to determine, “whether there existed anyone more sophos or ‘wise’ than Socrates.”    I was about say that Socrates wasn’t too wise in the spiritual sense if he didn’t know that such hubris (vanity) was a big Bozo no no according to the gods.  Then I recalled other heroes that got the lightning bolt for their vanity; Capaneus upon the walls of Thebes, saying that not even Zeus could stop him from conquering the city now and Salmoneus who trailed bronze pots behind his chariot and threw firebrands at his subject. ) Both of whom got blasted and instant immortality.  So maybe Socrates lack of sensitive is just further evidence of his effort to go out with a bang.  See The Apology of Socrates” and 22.CB22.1x

Phaedo tells how all the disciples came to the prison and spent long days discussing philosophy.  Many topics are debated in grand style considering their host circumstance.  The day arrives when the boat has returned, so Socrates downs the hemlock.

As to that final moment Echecrates ask if Plato (the author of this two-man play) was in attendance, to which Phaedo replies; “.As for Plato, I think he was not feeling up to it.” (59b).   Off-handedly I thought about Peter denying the Lord three times for the cock crowed. (Matthew 26:75)  At which point I began noticing odd correlations with Jesus and his disciples.  Hey, speaking of which, at the very end Socrates asks one of his disciples to sacrifice a cock on his behalf.

As my Lord had four gospels written about him, so Socrates had two disciples write about his end; The Apology.  One by Xenophon and the other by Plato.  “Then he (Socrates) smiled and said, “It seems just now that I am speaking as an author of some piece of writing Still, what I am saying does hold, I think.” Plato Phaedo 102d.   But in reference to Socrates comment, Nagy concludes, at 23.24 “So, the dialogues that Socrates is having with his students in Plato’s Phaedo, for example, are really mediated by the writings of Plato. That is why Plato has to suppress himself as a writer. ” So should we assume that the red text in the Gospels are really the words of the Gospel writers rather than the Lord?

{Phaedo:} I will tell you. You see, I happened to be seated close to him, at his right hand. I was sitting on a kind of stool, while he was lying on a couch that was quite a bit higher than where I was. So then he stroked my head and fondled the locks of hair along my neck - he had this way of playing with my hair whenever he had a chance.   So this scene, the favorite seated on the right, the honored leader demonstrating his affection for his favorite sort of reminded of  the last Supper with Chris and the Apostle John.  John wrote of himself in the third person, I wonder if Plato did too.  In his Memorabilia Xenophon does not include Phaedon as one of the "true companions" of Socrates.   I wonder if “Phaedon” isn’t just a literary device as was St. John’s “the one whom Jesus loved best”.  (John 13:23) 

We’ve talked in this class about some of the requirements  to attain the status of “Hero” in order to attain heroic honors and the Isle of the Blest after death.  There’s one!  You got to be dead. You have to be larger-than-life, your existence has to have cosmic significance, it helps to have a little ichor in your veins and a god/hero antagonistic relationship with a god that is real similar to you.  In the New Testament Jesus does odd little things now and again in order to fulfill prophecy in the Old Testament, in other words to fulfill the requirement to be the Messiah to the Jewish People.  Maybe at the same time he is consciously fulfilling the requirement listed in The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours in order to be the Savior of the Greeks too.

1 comment:

  1. As I read in your Aug. 29 post about "sacred space that is somehow shared by a god and a hero whose relationship is mutually antagonistic", I thought that this seems perfectly suited for Jesus. He is a hero (divine father, human mother), he is in antagonistic relationship with his Father (at least for the last, crucial period of his life on Earth) and the two share a sacred space.