Comparing Phaedo and Ecclesiastes

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Separated by language, history and several hundred miles of the Mediterranean Sea, two of the world's greatest cultures simultaneously matured and advanced in the centuries before the birth of Christianity. In the Aegean north, Hellenic Greeks blossomed around their crown jewel of Athens, while the eastern Holy City of Jerusalem witnessed the continued development of Hebrew tradition. Though they shared adjacent portions of the globe and of chronology, these two civilizations grew up around wholly different ideologies. The monotheistic devotion of Judaism that evolved in the Hebrew lands stood in stark contrast to the Greek worship of polytheistic Olympians, a religion that often tended more towards the rational and philosophic than…show more content…
The notion that all things in the world take part in some perfect and incorruptible form, a focus of the Phaedo, is an idea attributed by modern scholars not to Socrates but to Plato himself. Ecclesiastes shows a similar removal, for though it clearly speaks the words of Solomon (who predates the book by half a millenium), its actual author is unknown and is usually said to be the prophet Koheleth, son of David. Both works thus impersonate the philosophies of an esteemed ancient personage, but both clearly are impregnated by the thoughts of their authors.

An examination of contextual similarities reveals that both texts clearly laud the value of wisdom. Koheleth says to have "set [his] mind to study and to probe with wisdom all that happens under the sun" (1:13) in much the same way that Socrates dedicates himself to a life of thought. Though Koheleth warns, "as wisdom grows, vexation grows" (1:18), he decides after exploring the alternatives that "vexation is better than revelry"(7:5) and that "wisdom is more of a stronghold to a wise man than ten magnates that a city might contain" (7:19). Socrates offers a similar explanation: "there is no way to escape form evil or salvation for it except by becoming as good and wise as possible" (107c-d). Clearly these two men, aged and at a pinnacle of wisdom from which they can view their prior follies,
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