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Monday, January 24, 2011

Lake of Fire

I just wanted to dash off a quick note here as I work my way through Book II of the Republic. The question presented is whether it is better to be just or unjust. Socrates argues that it is better to be just and various people argue in opposition. The second main challenger is arguing the two limiting cases of the perfectly unjust man and the perfectly just man. Through a device that is not quite perfect, he assigns humility to the just man. Thus: the perfectly unjust man would take advantage of people in his business dealing, would sleep with other men's wives, and would be universally loved as a just man; the perfectly just would do worse in business, presumably sleep only with his wife-although I don't think that was spelled out-and would be universally loathed by society because they would keep his just deed secret.

But then, the speakers brother pipes up asking Socrates why he isn't going to ask about the most important difference: the way they will each be treated by the Gods. The brother goes so far as to discuss how the just will go to the underworld and lie on couches at a feast while the unjust will be tormented in Hades. I'll have to make that a cliff hanger because that's as far as I got today. So, I don't know how Socrates deals with this.

That said, I cannot remember anything in the Old Testament that even comes close to this level of do good, get good in the after life. I've heard it said that Old Testament Hebrews did not believe in after life at all, which would obviously explain it. Now, most notably Matthew 25 makes this explicit argument; but, Matthew 25 was written about 500 years after The Republic and in by Christians who were at least emersed in Helenistic culture. Curious, yes?

7 comments:

Matt Dick said...

Isn't the goat/sheep sorting exercise Old Testament? Maybe I have misplaced it in my brain.

vedner

Matt Dick said...

But yes, it's always interesting to trace the Hellenic influence on early Christians.

My daughter's social studies class was studying ancient Babylonian culture and she found two or three things she knew to be similar in the Bible. I showed her a map of the broader Middle East and we went over which cultures were around and when each rose and fell.

The light then went on... "so *that's* where the Noah's Ark story came from..."

bilessa

JimII said...

Re: Goats/Sheep, that is actually Matthew 25, linked to in the post.

Re: shared stories, it is so undeniable. Which is one of a hundred reasons why literalists get it wrong. That is, they miss the point of the Hebrew retelling of the story that includes the Hebrew emphasis. If you think Genesis is a newspaper, you don't even look for the meaning of the story.

Matt Dick said...

Re: Goats/Sheep, that is actually Matthew 25, linked to in the post.

I wonder why I had that wrong.

If you think Genesis is a newspaper...

So why do so many people do this? It seems the harder, less plausible, less intuitive way to go.

catin

JimII said...

If I knew the answer to that, I would be a much less frustrated person. As you can imagine, I've had this conversation with many Biblical literalists, but have to admit I rarely understand why they believe what they do; and I'm sure they feel likewise.

Matt Dick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matt Dick said...

In a vague-ish way, this is related. I think the Slacktivist is a great writer, and I recommend this very quick read on a Christian Heaven/Hell/Afterlife.

lesseld