I think it’s safe to say that you have heard of Socrates. It’s a name you’ve picked up somewhere along the road, I’m quite certain. You have also probably heard of Plato. We don’t really know much about these men, but they profoundly influence Western thought and philosophy to this day. Today, I don’t plan on tracing how that came to be—I’m looking at something a little different.
What we know of Socrates’ philosophy comes to us solely from Plato, and today we’re going to be talking about Plato’s work, the Phædo. The Lutheran theologian Oscar Cullmann called it
perhaps the highest and most sublime doctrine ever presented on the immortality of the soul.
Plato shows us how Socrates goes to his death in complete peace and composure. The death of Socrates is a beautiful death. Nothing is seen here of death’s terror. Socrates cannot fear death, since indeed it sets us free from the body. Whoever fears death proves that he loves the world of the body, that he is thoroughly entangled in the world of sense. Death is the soul’s great friend. So he teaches; and so, in wonderful harmony with his teaching, he dies — this man who embodied the Greek world in its noblest form.
Let us begin by following Cullmann as he contrasts how Socrates faced death with another case—
now let us hear how Jesus dies….