Yesterday, I mentioned Ludwig Hohl’s comparison of Jesus and Socrates. As Hohl is not available in an English translation, let me translate his aphorism – his post, I could call it – from the Collapsing Banks – Von den hineinbrechenden Rändern
“We speak of the similarity of the death of Jesus of Nazareth and that of Socrates, but don’t call attention to the differences, which are just as great. Jesus of Nazareth provoked his death; Socrates did not provoke his, which was merely, for him, inescapable. For Jesus, his death was nothing other than the final action of a series of actions, that we call “miracles” [Wunder]: which were the grasping of another means than that of words, in the doubt, lifted to the most extreme level of despair, of the unbearableness of words in the face of the mental slothfulness of men. He could have lived somewhere else, or moved, he didn’t need to live in Jerusalem. In contrast, Socrates lived by the word his whole life long, not with miracles; and he didn’t know where else he could live besides Athens (see Burkhardt); that he thus chose his death, between two possibilities, doesn’t mean he provoked it.”
Of course, Hohl ignores John’s hymn to the Logos – but I think he is onto something important in seeing Jesus’ life as a series of miracles, wonders rather than signs. For Socrates, the omens must be disciplined by the word; for Jesus, the words are only as good as the community of humans who create them. Instead of words, then, the act – and it is here that the miracle and the everyday converge. In eating bread. In drinking wine.
Hohl does not favor one side or the other. Myself?…
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