Reason and Revelation

Methinks, mistress, thou should have little reason for that. And yet, to say the truth, reason and love keep little company nowadays, the more pity some honest neighbors will not make them friends. Nay, I can gleek upon occasion.

(Shakespeare, Bottom the Weaver, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, III,i, 137-141)

[In progress: draft]

The relation of the thought of Leo Strauss to Christianity is obviously a primary question for the students of Strauss that arrive for class from a Christian rather than a Jewish tradition. While Strauss addresses the questions of reason and revelation, he does not directly address the teachings of Jesus, but addresses the traditional question of reason and revelation from the Hebrew rather than the Gentile or non Hebrew Biblical tradition. “The Bible” hence excludes the New Testament. For example, he writes: “I speak only of the Jewish version” of the older and newer views regarding reason and revelation (MI, p. 114). This may be no more surprising for him than it was for Maimonides, who worked as a physician for Saladin during the crusades. How then do Christian students of Strauss take up the question of Athens and Jerusalem? The following is an essay or attempt.

Strauss has presented the two sources of Western civilization and the alternatives in the crisis of modernity as the philosophic life from Athens and the life of belief, from Jerusalem. Famously, he presents these two as incompatible- one might pursue one or the other, but not both. One must always be subordinate and handmaid to the other. The ways of faith and reason are incompatible. The alternative- of their conjunction- Strauss attributes to Nietzsche:

…The single goal of mankind is conceived by him as in a sense super-human. He speaks of the super-man of the future. The superman is meant to unite in himself Jerusalem and Athens on the highest level.

Athens and Jerusalem, p. 149

A Caesar with the soul of Christ would be a conjoining of Jerusalem and Rome, not Athens. While it is not clear immediately what text Strauss draws this from, or what of Athens and what of Jerusalem the Nietzschean conjunction might have in mind, his contrast of reason and revelation is quite clear.

In response to this we begin from indicating that the word “revelation” is not used in the scriptures in the sense in which Strauss uses it. This is as an object of belief received by hearing rather than something uncovered to sight. The word revelation is then not used in this sense contrary to reason. This very contrast is medieval, not ancient, while the Bible is not medieval but ancient.[note*] His Christian student, Fr. Ernest Fortin, writing on Augustine, simply assumes the medieval use of the word. The answers regarding the compatibility of the ways of faith and reason depend upon definitions and understanding of what these are, what faith is and what reason is, and as it turns out, there are various meanings for each- not all of which conflict. Strauss argues that the two, Athens and Jerusalem, agree as to the importance of justice, but disagree regarding what completes “morality-” Athens, the life of the quest for wisdom, Jerusalem a way of faith which assumes but does not seek regarding the first principle.

In the 1950 Athens and Jerusalem lecture of Strauss, at 6: 50 of the second lecture, there occurs this statement, repeated in the Mutual Influence essay (p. 111) which shows in its root the arguments which later emerged into such bloom:

The philosopher sees no necessity in assenting to something which is not evident to him… If he is told that his disobedience to revelation might be fatal, he raises the question “What does fatal mean?” If the philosopher is told that his disobedience to revelation might be fatal to him, he raises the question what does fatal mean? Eternal damnation to Hell fire? The philosophers are absolutely certain that a wise God would not punish with eternal damnation or anything else human beings that were seeking the truth with clarity. (MI, 113).

To begin with the statement itself, what if those “seeking truth with clarity” torture their fellow humans? Is the “philosopher” still quite as certain, that “no wise God,” etc? He may say that no one seeking the truth with clarity would ever do such a thing or that the combination- of evil and the pursuit of “truth-” is by nature impossible. Yet in his published text on Athens and Jerusalem (p. 149), the example of the attempt to combine Jerusalem and Athens on the “highest level” is the Nietzschean “super-man.” Would a wise God, then, “punish” one who causes an anti-Christian culture of murder, torture and general lowness-crushing among his underlings? We are no longer so “certain.” One wonders if Strauss has taken the anti-christian teaching and aspect of Nietzsche quite seriously, or if he sees Nietzsche as more of an ally in opposing Christianity for the restoration of philosophy. He does not seem to notice that the hierarchy is upside down. Does he distinguish then between the Antichrist-ian superman of Nietzsche and the Christ?

The statement implies an understanding of Hell, faith and salvation that is the shadow of an artificial picture of the Biblical teaching of what Hell is and how faith in the Christ saves men from this. Salvation may work naturally, not magically, the image of God in the soul being drawn up and out with the Christ, through the way of the cross. If the soul is immortal, and this the immortal life in us, it would follow in a sense, but refers through images to the soul- a much more serious matter than what happens to the body in the image. It is said that the many in one sense do desire tyranny if uncultivated, though they live decent lives if not brought to the test (Republic, IX), and this is something like what is being said- if we are not saved, this will still be primary in the soul. In a stunning account at the conclusion of the Gorgias (523-4), and also at the end of Phaedo (108b), Plato’s Socrates describes such a thing in an image closer to that of Strauss and Dante than to the most direct addressing of these things in the New Testament, as in Chapter 20 of the Revelation or Chapter 16 of Luke. At the very least, one can conclude that he did not think such things harmful to say- though not a “philosopher” today would agree. The souls are judged “by what they have done (Rev. 20:12)” not condemned unwisely for the failure to profess something they do not know as though they knew. There are some very bad tyrants among the men of human history, and if the soul is immortal, one would be hard pressed to describe what might occur- if the soul is immortal- and we surely do not know that this is nonsense. But when Justin Martyr describes Socrates as saved, and even as a “Christian,” due to his following of the logos, (Apology, XLVI), it is clear that the depiction in images need not correspond to the question of philosophy and faith in that way. Justin writes:

We have been taught that Christ is the first born of God, and we have declared above that he is the word of whom every race of men were partakers; and those who lived reasonably (meta logou) are Christians even though they have been thought atheists, as among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus,and men like them, and among the barbarians, Abraham and Ananias, and Azarias and Misael and Elias, and many others.

Apology XLVI

Socrates has none of the visible appearances of a Christian at all, and there is difficulty distinguishing his appearance from a believer in many gods, reincarnation, and such things. Yet one cannot but be struck with wonder, in hindsight, at his speech to Phaedrus on the planting of the word (276d-277a), or his analogy to Euthyphro at the opening of the dialogues on the good farmer. Why does Justin say this, and could it be true? And if it is true, is it not the case that ways of life based on the teachings of Athens and Jerusalem are at their peaks quite compatible? But if a man-made law is made out of the Christ as an assumption, this will always be incompatable with the life of the light of the mind, whether it is the revelation of the Pharasees or Athenian law, and it will always be difficult or impossible to explain from within this assumption.

Strauss draws this simple early statement of the issue between Athens and Jerusalem without reference to any text. The reason may be that the texts do not quite say that, if the advocates of traditions based on the text describing the actions and teachings of the Christ do say such things- things we do not know at all. Nor is it ever said, exactly, “believe in revelation.” The word revelation is used by Strauss and others to describe something– the adherence to law, in the Hebrew Bible, the imitation or continuation of the Temple in the Christian churches, a two millennia old tradition- but we would say that law and “revelation” in this sense are not coextensive. We will have occasion to look at the uses of this word in scripture, as well as the related words revealed and revealing.

Law seems to depend upon the presumption of knowledge- the taking as known something that is not known. Every code depends upon the presumption of knowledge, every city, and it is this, not “revelation” in any other sense, that conflicts with the life of reason. Surely it is no different within the regime described in Plato’s Laws, which then must conflict irreconcilably with philosophy, with Plato in self contradiction, showing two irreconcilable ways. But the law and the philosophizing of Socrates are two different things, and the latter is not a “code” at all. Similarly, Paul contrasts Grace and law (as in Romans 5-8), so that to describe the difference as that between “two codes” excludes the New Testament and Christianity as a possibility. That Christianity has become a belief and a law is obviously true, but is this what Christianity is? Is this what Christianity is in the scripture? Or is this how Christianity in the scripture understands itself? A belief enforced by law, with the prosecution of heresy as though it were a political crime, with censors employed, etc.? Another way to say this is that while law goes with hearing, the word “revelation” is always used in scripture as something revealed to sight rather than hearing, as in the uncovering of the apo-kalypse. It is the followers of these texts that say such things, and use the word revelation to describe the object of belief, and we will try to show that this is an addition which occurs between an original and its image, two or three times removed, and that the conflict Strauss presents between Jerusalem and Athens is due not to what these two are in themselves, but to the imitation.

The very persecution of the Jews committed by Christians makes it impossible, apparently, for the Jews to consider the truth of the Messiah. The persecution of Christians by Christians was far more common, and even this did not occur prior to about 330 AD, that is, prior to the conjunction of Christianity and political power, with the first judicial death sentence for doctrines in 380. Persecution did not become massive or pronounced until the second millennium, The persecution of Jews in particular by Christians may belong to the second millennium.The Christ is not a code or nomos at all. There may not be a single example of a single act of violence by a Christian in persecution of either heretic or Jew prior to this time- of the conjunction of Christianity and political power. The political powers simply continued to persecute as they have always done regardless of having taken up- and being vastly improved by- the Christian and Jerusalem based beliefs and images.

For Christians, the scholarship of the Jews is revealing, as the Jewish philosophers must find the New Testament in the Old, much as when we contemplate the Greeks, we are able to see what man is without the Bible or without Christianity, and so to see what pertains to man as man, and the flowering of “natural reason.” One notes that for the Jewish Platonists of the 20th century, Socrates holds something like the place of the relation between the Old Testament and the New. It may be that the Christ is not a code or nomos at all, or that the savior and the legislator are two different characters entirely, even if the latter fulfills the law brought by the former, as we will try to show. In practice, we find that the Jews are forbidden by custom from considering the Christian things at all, outside the formal medieval logic, even while the study of Hebrew things by Christians has become much more common since the Second World War. Strauss somewhere suggests that the emphasis on “love” switches to the pious cruelty of its opposite, as though inherently, regardless of the intermediate influence of custom. Similarly in philosophic studies, the truth of the Christ cannot be considered, in practice, where its rejection or acceptance is simply assumed- as though dependent upon “miracles” and outside causality and nature of every sort.

Contrary to Strauss, we think the two to fit together quite nicely, inhabiting the same cosmos, as is obvious. As philosophy brings to Christianity the healthy skepticism that allows the renunciation of the sects and orders of persecution, so Christianity might bring to philosophy the ability to renounce evil, despite the perennial uncertainty which Socrates truly discerns to be the human condition. The skin of Socrates may crawl at the statements of Callicles (473d), but does he oppose evil with certain knowledge, or rather with thought? Despite the connection to happiness, does “seeking truth with clarity” provide certain knowledge for accurately choosing good and rejecting evil? When no two thinkers yet have agreed very far at all regarding the foundations of these matters? Is not the choice of good over evil not based on faith, for the vast most of the true philosophers, who do not possess certain knowledge of the good at all? Socrates explicitly teaches that his own salvation from corruption is due to the divine sign. and that it will be difficult for these natures to avoid corruption while seeking truth with clarity (Republic). So too, if Socrates and Jesus are both what they say they are, there is not a diametric opposition. The quest might be higher than belief, but lower than faith; This faith might be higher than sophistry, but lower than the full activity of the divine in man by nature. What faith is and what reason is will be a part of our inquiry along the way. We may begin by noting that the relation of the Latin conscience to the Greek word “reason” is not at all clear. Is the perception of the good a part of reason? Or is it not rather a higher faculty, even for the Greeks?

The philosopher, Strauss explains, is certain that the quest for the most important things is the best way of life because he knows he does not know the most important things.- These most important things would seem to include the truth about the relation of the ways shown by Athens and Jerusalem. This absolute certainty is possible despite our ignorance of a great part of the whole- the most important things. But first, does it follow? Worms are presumably ignorant of the most important things, and it is not clear that the philosophic life is the best life for them. The recognition that the philosophic life is best turns out to be based on a noesis regarding the nature of man, and the philosopher presumably believes and has faith in this. The beginning of Nietzsche too has something to do with the pursuit of truth not being best for man, for him because it destroys what is high or great, for us because it undermines the belief on which even a descent life depends. But can it be shown that certainty regarding a part does not require certainty regarding the whole? Our certainties seem all to depend upon hypotheses of which we are not “certain.” One wonders if Strauss is not stating the positions in this opposition in a way that he knows is exaggerated in common opinion. His speeches on the topic surely evoke the attempt to state the contrary, forcing Christendom to become more reflective.

As we will present this, the best life as shown in Philosophy and the best life as shown in the Bible and especially the New Testament are like the upper angle of a right triangle, where the higher one goes the closer to the apex appears, which is one point, the closer the two lines appear, while the further down one looks, the further these two lines are apart.


But to return: The Allegory of the Cave is the Platonic snapshot image of the “desire and conception,” as Montaigne refers to it, of Philosophy, presented following the center of Plato’s Republic (VII). The whole medieval discussion of reason and “revelation” occurs without access to Plato’s Republic– but this turns out to be the crucial Athenian text. What if both the Christ is true, and Plato right about the Allegory of the Cave? What if these are both just what they say they are, addressing very different audiences- the dialogues addressing a very few, while the scriptures in a way address literally everyone? Does Socrates have some superior way of addressing everyone? Eschew all images, beliefs and opinions, lest we think ourselves to rely upon someone else’s opinion, images and beliefs? Or would there be a visible object, something like the cross, accessible to almost everyone? To turn about a phrase of the superman proponent, if Christianity is called a “Platonism for the masses,” might Socratic philosophy not be- or contain as a possibility- a Christianity for the few? In the presentation of Strauss, it is to be noted that it is theology, not attachment to the Christ, that is in conflict with the way of reason, as we understand the love of wisdom (philo-sophia). If the Christ is true, the issue may be different than it is if the Christ is not true. Though John, in the title of the “Revelation” or Apo-calypse, is called “John the divine,” (theologou: or John the word of God), there is no New Testament way called “theology.” Socrates does such a thing in the Republic (III), where the word is first used, saying that it must not be said that the gods lie, change shape, or are the cause of naught but good. Thought and opinion about the divine took on a new relevance first in clarifying the teaching of the Christians against heresies or wrong accounts of the Christ, then in setting the doctrine of the Roman emperor and empire. The influence of Athenian philosophizing intersected with the gospel teaching, leading to efforts to give an account. Paul, when writing of such things, switches to the passive: …”Now that you have come to know God, or rather, to be known by God!” (Gal. 4:9; 1 Cor 8:2-3). It may well be that Strauss was forbidden to consider such a possibility, or he may have thought it unintelligible, as he returned more toward the things of Judaism toward the end of his brilliant career. Again, these had seen such a face from the Christian world that reasoning through this appearance may not have been a leading priority. But is there any reason “apriori,” as is said, that these could not both be so? That the Christ is true, but mankind, being in a cave, see only the images and beliefs, and not the nature of the thing itself outside the cave? Further, that these two at the peaks of Athens and Jerusalem have in common the things seen outside the cave, far more so than any others in human history?

   Athens and Jerusalem, Greek philosophy and the Bible, are the two sources that we find when we attempt to return to the roots of Western civilization. (MI, p.111 top). The common ground between these two is what is shown- we will not say “revealed- when we consider the rejection, in a single breath, of both the Socratic best regime and the Biblical Kingdom of God in the famous fifteenth chapter of Machiavelli’s The Prince. Rousseau seems to have read this work as a satire of princes. Contrary to Rousseau, this rejection of both Athens and Jerusalem marks the beginning of modernity. Machiavelli here contrasts his attempt to “go behind to the effectual truth of the thing,” with “the imagination therof.” By this he means certain “republics and principates which have never been seen or known to be in truth,” but which “many have imagined” (The Prince, de Alvarez translation). [See note 1] Machiavelli chooses to let go what “ought to be done” for what is actually done, implying, we read, not satire, but that what ought to be done, justice or righteousness, is merely imaginary. Machiavelli indeed upholds a certain rejected part of the life of Western civilization- He attempts to recover Roman political action and ferocity (albeit without even the Roman gods). This became apparent not to Rousseau, but only after the course of modernity had unfolded, and especially in the “new” tyrannies of the twentieth century. But from its two roots, the life of Western civilization is primarily one of seeing how one in fact lives, or what is in truth done under the sun, in light of how it is best to live, or what ought to be done. No single man has done more for the recovery of this way of life than Leo Strauss.

   The common ground between the Bible and Socratic philosophy is presented by Strauss as follows: Athens and Jerusalem agree regarding the importance of “morality,” or, ethics and justice, as well as the insufficiency of morality. We pass over obvious differences in the accounts of ethical virtue, magnanimity and such. But these entirely disagree regarding what it is that completes morality, or what the basis of morality is. This assertion, which will be addressed, seems to me to be in part correct, getting hold of a genuine difference between what the Bible and Socratic philosophy present as the best life. But the assertion also seems to under-emphasize a certain very important similarity between these two regarding what completes morality, and it is because of this that two lives, of faith and ceaseless, comprehensive inquiry, are to say the least quite compatible, even in the same soul. I do not refer to the similarities between the Bible and the theological or cosmological teachings in the dialogues, which similarity Strauss also addresses (J. A., pp. 165-6). With perhaps one exception in India, these two are where it is said that the cause is transcendent- the maker of heaven and earth, hence Being or the good is the highest, and is beyond the things in heaven and on earth. To even think of the whole introduces an apparently insoluble question as to whether the whole we consider is that including God or that made by God. Rather, the similarity to be taken up here pertains to what the Bible and Socratic philosophy show about what man is. But first let us consider what Strauss writes about the supposedly fundamental conflict between these two. Strauss writes:

It seems to me that the core, the nerve of Western intellectual history, Western spiritual history, one could almost say, is the conflict between the Biblical and philosophic notions of the good life. It seems to me that this unresolved conflict is the secret of the vitality of Western civilization. The recognition of two conflicting roots of Western civilization is, at first, a very disconcerting observation. Yet this realization has also something reassuring and comforting about it. The very life of Western civilization is the life between two codes, a fundamental tension There is therefore no reason inherent in the Western civilization itself, in its fundamental constitution, why it should give up life. [Note 2] But this comforting thought is justified only if we live that life, if we live that conflict. No one can be both a philosopher and a theologian, nor for that matter, some possibility which transcends the conflict between philosophy and theology, or pretends to be a synthesis of both. But every one of us can be and ought to be either one or the other, the philosopher open to the challenge of theology or the theologian open open to the challenge of philosophy.

                                                                   (P. R. 44-45; M.I., p.111)

The two lives are presented as mutually exclusive, though friendly alternatives. The alternatives are friendly because these are based on a common ground: “the common ground between the Bible and Greek philosophy is the problem of divine law” (P. R., p. 35), to which philosophy and the Bible present “two diametrically opposed solutions” (P. R., p. 35; M. I., p. 111). The two lives coexist in a friendly way on the basis of their fundamental agreement, and share a “perfect agreement in opposition to the elements of modernity which led to its crisis (P. R., p. 34).

But no one can be principally guided by both. The Biblical and philosophic lives can co-exist in one civilization or one nation, but cannot be together in one soul. It is not even possible, reasonably, to give up the life based on the tension between souls guided by each, because the supposed refutations of either are based on an indemonstrable hypothesis regarding one of the two.

All the alleged refutations of revelation presuppose unbelief in revelation, and all alleged refutations of philosophy presuppose already faith in revelation. There seems to be no ground common to both and therefore superior to both.

                                                                              (M. I., p. 177)

It is strange, then, that these both have justice or righteousness (it is the same word in the New Testament, dike) in common. The inferior common ground is the agreement between the Bible and philosophy regarding justice and the divine law. Strauss states, “By justice, both understand primarily obedience to the law. The law that requires man’s full obedience is in both cases not merely civil, penal, and constitutional law, but moral and religious law as well” (P. R., p. 34). The two agree also regarding the limitation of obedience to law, and this limitation is related to the problem of divine law. The problem is stated as follows:

The original notion of a divine law or divine code implies that there is a large variety of them. The very variety, and more specifically the contradiction between the various divine codes makes the idea of a divine law in the simple and primary sense of the term radically problematic.       

 (M. I., p. 111)

   It is to this problem that the Bible and Greek philosophy present two diametrically opposed solutions between which there appears to be no common ground. The Biblical solution, which “stands or falls by the belief in God’s omnipotence,” is based on “the basic premise that one particular divine code is accepted as truly divine,” that the code of one particular tribe is the divine code” (MI, p. 112). By contrast, the philosophers…

…transcend the dimension of divine codes altogether, the whole dimension of piety and pious obedience to a pre-given code. Instead, they embark on a free quest for the beginnings,, for the first things, for the principles. And they assume that on the basis of knowledge of the first principles, of the principles of the beginnings, it will be possible to determine what is by nature good, as distinguished from what is good merely by convention.

(MI, p. 111-112)

The terms of morality or ethics and its completion are derived from the division in Aristotle’s Ethics between the intellectual and the ethical virtues, or in Plato, wisdom and the “vulgar” virtues. Philosophy, and not the Bible, completes morality by ascending from opinion toward knowledge:

To put it very simply, and therefore somewhat crudely, the one thing needful according to Greek philosophy is the life of autonomous understanding. the one thing needful as spoken of by the Bible is the life of obedient love. (P.R.,p. 33


As has been suggested regarding what completes “morality,” Strauss writes:

…Or is there a notion, a word, that points to the highest in the Bible on the one hand and the greatest works of the Greeks claim to convey? There is such a word: wisdom. Not only the Greek philosophers but the Greek poets as well were considered to be wise men, and the Torah is said in the Torah to be “your wisdom in the eyes of the nations.” We must try to understand the difference between Biblical wisdom and Greek wisdom…According to the Bible the beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord; according to the Greek philosophers the beginning of wisdom is said to be wonder…

Jerusalem And Athens p. 149.

Fear of the Lord can also mean reverence- the recognition of what is higher than ourselves. In the Proverbs, it is also written, “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight” (Proverbs 4:7; Wis. Sol., 6:7 Note #) Solomon in his Proverbs reminds of the Seven Wise men of ancient presocratic Greece, an advance on Solon who also composed such wise sayings at Athens just a bit about four centuries later than Solomon. Wisdom is identified both with the cause of happiness, the crown of life (4:8), and the cause of the cosmos (17-20):

Her ways are ways of pleasantness, \

And all her paths are peace

She is a tree of life to those that lay hold of her,

and those that hold her fast are called Happy

The Lord by wisdom founded the earth,

By understanding He established the heavens

by his knowledge the deeps broke forth

and the clouds drop down the dew

Interestingly, the tree of life appears at the beginning, near the middle and at the end of the library collection we call the Bible, and many suggest that despite the variety of books and authors, the Bible stands as a whole, even as is said, by a kind of divine writing. The tree of life is identified with wisdom, rather than the Torah or law given by Moses. When Daniel is told that in the end times,

the wise will shine as the brightness of the firmament, and those who lead many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever (12:3). Many shall purify themselves and make themselves white, and be refined; but the wicked shall do wickedly. And none of those who are wicked shall understand, but those who are wise shall understand.” (12:10) while the wicked by contrast will continue to do wickedly (12:3).

Daniel 12:3-10

Here it is not said the obedient, the loving, the dutiful, the pious, but the wise. Setting aside the end in the beginning, Strauss may underestimate wisdom even in the Old Testament. It is the things revealed by this end that are marvels, objects of sight, and a permanent wonder: the things of the Revelation. We say that wisdom is the bride of the Lord, as Socrates too says wisdom is the possession of “the God”(Apology), and so appears especially rather in places where the tree of life appears. In the Proverbs she is nearly personified, and cries aloud in the streets: “He who believes in the literal interpretation, let him turn in here!

The prayer of Solomon demonstrates the primacy of wisdom even in the Hebrew Bible. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said “ask what I shall give you (1 Kings 3:5). In humility before the task of his kingship, and in recognition of his ignorance, Solomon pleases the Lord with this prayer:

Give thy servant therefore an understanding mind to govern thy people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to govern this thy great people?

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life, or riches or the life of your enemies, , but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word…

1 Kings 3:9-14

God then gives him a wise and discerning mind, so that none like him shall arise before or after, and also riches and honor beyond all the kings during his days. This is in accordance with the Socratic and Christian teaching to seek first the Kingdom of heaven, and the lesser goods will follow (Apology, Meno, ; . ). Like the teaching against revenge (Crito ), it is not an accident that Socrates and Jesus teach the same regarding these things, unique to these two and no others. Nor apparently is it because the Jews read Plato, though the teachings had filtered down in Alexandrian Judea, as in Philo. But rather it is because Justin is correct, and therefore Terullian is wrong. Socratic philosophy is an exercise in seeing these things without the clothing of the visible appearance. To see the same is mutually confirming, and corrects errors to which each visible appearance is susceptible.

The knowledge of good and evil here is clarified in its meaning, and is not forbidden, as though tradition forbade the pursuit of political knowledge.

But this is not the same as it is for Adam- where this “knowing,” “like one of us,” is more a faculty. resulting in shame. In the Kingdom, it is the leaves of the tree of life that are given for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2).

Strauss contrasts with the fear of the Lord the Greek beginning of Philosophy in wonder (Thaumis) as in the description in the Metaphysics of Aristotle. Philosophy began in the Greek discovery of nature, which is an appeal to nature rather than the gods as causes. Strauss famously notices that there is no word for nature in “the Bible” (PR p. 39). The word is of course used in the New Testament, though not in the 4 gospels, but mostly by Paul, most significantly when Peter refers to the divine nature (theos phusis, 2 Pet. 1:4). There is of course no “supernature,” (uperphusis), in the Bible, nor a word for “miracles.” The words translated this way are “wonders” and “signs,” but we know what they mean, and these are meant to be marvelous, not usual. The things miracles in the Bible are not inconsistent with that of which nature may admit when in contact with the divine- just as atoms and molecules admit of being parts of living organisms, though nothing in their own natures or usual ways causes this.

Interestingly, the place where Aquinas writes of philosophy as the handmaid of theology (Summa, Q1A4) cites Wisdom calling aloud in the streets, from Solomon:

Wisdom has built her house,

She has set up her seven pillars

She has slaughtered her beasts, she has mixed her wine,

she has also set her table

She has sent out her maids to call

from the highest places in the town,

Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!…leave simpleness and walk in the way of insight.

Proverbs 9:1-6

Now, the love of wisdom is not a handmaid in the Bible.

The Discovery of Nature

What it is that occurred in Athens but not Jerusalem is the discovery of nature. From wonder, as Aristotle explains, men turned from their original amazement at astronomical questions Aristotle explains that the first philosophers appealed to nature rather than the gods as causes, most thinking that the principles that are of a kind with matter are the only principles (983b 20). These emerged from less important problems of astronomical questions of the sun moon and stars, to inquire regarding the principles of nature. Thales is said to be the first to attempt to explain the causes of all things by a single principle in nature, saying that water is that from which all things come to be (Aristotle, Metaphysics, 983 b 20). Strauss states:

Nature was discovered when men embarked on the quest for the first things in the light of the fundamental distinctions between hearsay and seeing with one’s own eyes, on one hand, and between things made by man and things not made by man on the other.

(NRH, p. 88)

The presocratic philosophers tried to understand “the nature of all things” and in speech considered “the cosmos, and what natural necessity governs the coming to be of each thing of the heavens” (Xenophon, Memorabilia, I.15). Socratic philosophy came into being, by contrast, when Socrates, from among these students of nature, turned away from the presocratic study of the heavenly or divine and the earthly or natural things back to the city, to inquire, by studying the specifically human things, the nature of man and also, through this the divine, if in an indirect way. (NRH, IV, pp. 120-129) HPP pp. 3-5; Xen Mem. I. 14). The Socratic study of man is then like the concerns of the poets and the city with the human things and the right way of life, yet from natural philosophy, Socrates retains the distinction between nature and convention and the appeal to natural causes, asking the “what is” question of the human things (H. Pol Phi, p. 5), hence arriving at the famous cause (Phaedo 99?) which Aristotle (dividing, apparently, by space and time) calls formal and final cause (Physics, II.3, 19418-1951 2), and seeking to know and live the best life according to nature. As Strauss explains, Socrates

did not simply turn away from the study of the natural things, but originated a new kind of the study of the natural things, a kind of study in which,for example the nature or idea of justice, or natural right, and surely the nature of the soul or man, is more important than, for example the nature of the sun.

HPP, p. 5

This famous Socratic turn seems to be that described to Phaedrus, by which Socrates does not have time for the de-mythologizing of the natural philosophers because he is too busy wondering whether he is of a typhonic or more moderate character, seeking self knowledge instead. And it does seem an error to think that mere demythologizing is escape from the cave- if it is involved in release from our chains. But it is indirectly, and through psychology, the nature of man, that Socrates approaches the things of metaphysics or divine physics. And this is as one would expect if it were indeed true that man is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27), so that these two are especially mutually confirming.

Strauss agrees that noesis, “an awareness of the mind’s eye as distinguished from sensible awareness,” “has certainly its Biblical equivalent, and even its mystical equivalent” (MI, p. 112). It is on this equivalent that the Greek and Biblical seem to us to have something in common regarding what completes and is the basis of ethical virtue or morality. Strauss distinguishes the Greek and Biblical noetic activities, stating:

Its equivalent in the philosophic context is never divorced from sense perception and reasoning based on sense perception. In other words, philosophy never becomes oblivious of its kinship with the arts and crafts, with the knowledge used by the artisan and with this humble but solid kind of knowledge.

It is through opinion that Socratic philosophy attempts to ascend, and this is possible because “the law wishes to be a finding out of what is (Plato, Minos, 315a). It is through the regime that Socrates and his interlocutors catch sight of the soul, and seek for justice in the soul (Republic III-IV). Law and poetry, the objects of belief and imagination, the man-made artifacts and their shadows in the cave, are imitations of the things outside the cave (520c 4) and are said to be “third from a king and virtue.” It may be through the image of the philosopher king ruling in the best regime that the nature of man is fully shown, and through this that the Good is contemplated. But there are no artificial objects outside the cave.

Central to the similarity regarding noesis is what any Jungian might note is the common archetype, some same thing in the nature of man indicated by the account of baptism on one hand and the ascent from the cave on the Athenian. “Lest you be reborn,” Jesus tells Nicodemus (John 3), and Socrates too tells Meno something he has heard from certain wise men and women who spoke of things divine. They say…

…that the soul of man is immortal, and at one time has an end, which is termed dying, and at another time is born again, but is never destroyed. And the moral is that a man ought to live always in perfect holiness.” For when Persephone sends the souls of those whom she has received the penalty of ancient crime back again from beneath into the light of the sun above, and these are they who become noble kings and mighty men and great in wisdom, and are called saintly heroes in after ages. The soul, then, being immortal and having been born again many times,, and having seen all things that existed, whether in this world or in the world below, has knowledge of them all; and it is no wonder that she should be able to call to remembrance all that she ever knew about virtue and everything; for as all nature is akin, and the soul has learned all things,there is no difficulty in her eliciting, or as men say, learning, out of a single recollection, all the rest, if a man is strenuous and does not faint, for all learning is but recollection.

(Meno, 81, Jowett tr)

Socrates tells this to Meno in explaining how it is that one can look for virtue when one does not know what it is, just as the slave boy can follow geometry by hypothesis, conjecture and refutation, as Karl Popper writes. He gains a better opinion AND the knowledge that he does not know, and so might continue looking. But this is said to be due to the mystery of rebirth. Socrates will tell Meno that virtue is wisdom, the one end that is always good, but then since there are apparently no teachers of virtue, they will conclude that virtue could not be knowledge, and hence seems to be by a divine inspiration.

In reading, too, one sees that when the knowledge in the soul is active and awake, the meaning is understood, while until then, the truth in writings is hidden, as is the upper part of a parable- while the lower part is visible to sense perception. Secret writing is then not a matter of great calculative effort. If one speaks out of the knowledges in the soul, he will not be understood, except by like minds “knowing.”

When Jesus gives the account of rebirth to Nicodemus, he asks, “Are you a teacher of all Israel, and yet you do not know this?” (John 3:10). The mysteries may be common to all men from Noah. The mystery of the soul reflected and recalled in baptism is salvation, and is, as Peter writes, eight were saved through water (2 Pet.3:10 ), identified with the removal of the veil, and what is born is the divine in man. The images in the baptism do intend the birth of the divine in the soul. Paul (2 Cor. 4) writes:

For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day, whenever whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their minds, but when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed…And we all, with face unveiled beholding the glory of the Lord, are being,changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

Jacob Klein writes:In its surge upwards, the faculty of dianoetic eikasia, which our natural dianoia exercises,with regard to the visible world,is changed into the power of dianoetic insight. This change is a radical one, involving a total turnabout, a total conversion (periagoge 518c 8-9;d 4; 522c6) Metastrophe 518d 5; 525c 5;532b 7 of the entire soul(518c 8). It marks the beginning of a new life, a life of philosophia (521c 6-8527b 10 available only to a few (494a 4-7).

The consideration of the philosophic education in the Republic is to be that of “in what way, such men (the philosophers) will come into being,and how one will lead them up to the light, just as some men are said to have gone from Hades up to the gods.”(521c 1-2).

When it is said that salvation is only through Christ (as most emphatically at John 16:9), it is not immediately clear whether this does not mean that like Justin’s Socrates, all those saved were saved through the Christ, who laid down his life from the beginning, or whether one must understand this as Tertullian and Strauss do- that it is by assenting to a certain opinion from fear of mortality. But it is also not clear that Jews who saw their families persecuted by Christians might not have access to the Christ, and yet might still be born out of the world, since it is by nature, now for all or our species.

The ascent from the cave is not a matter of the three part soul, with reason calculating as the faculty called logisticon, which serves ends other than reason, holding first principles in the faculties called belief and wish or imagination. These things are seen reflected in opinion. Before turning, the attempt of the soul to know is this knowing being directly, characteristic both of theology and natural philosophy. But the ascent involves the turning of the whole soul, “just as an eye is not able to turn toward the light from the dark without the whole body” (Republic 518c). This turning might be identified with the conquest of the fear of death, at the navel of the love of ones own, and self knowledge in light of truth may even be inseparable from repentance. Allan Bloom states,

Our love of our own ties us to the cave, and that most powerful passion must be overcome in order to move upward on the line of knowledge…these are the bonds which tie us to the cave and its images To break them requires rare passion and courage, for the lion in our souls, spiritedness, guards the gates of the dungeon.

Interpretive essay on (Plato’s Republic, p. 405

In a singularly cryptic statement, Strauss himself writes that our openness to the best regime occurs upon the sacrifice of eros for the sake of justice (The City and Man, 117-118). The overcoming of the fear of death, or the sacrifice of the love of one’s own, is not the same as the turn of the first philosophers from custom to nature. It is at the center of Plato’s Apology, and may be identified with knowing that one does not know- our attachment to opinion and such things as self esteem or persona. The word “philosophy,” replacing the sophoi and then sophists, arises quite late, from Pythagoras, and is then carried over by the Socratic philosophers.

“unless you turn (straphete) and become like little children, you cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat. 18:3; John 3 3-11

From theology and the Protestant Reformation, the Christians talk about “faith and “works,” citing Paul then James then Paul again, first against indulgences, that we can buy salvation by works even of the law, then that faith with out works lies dead, then that Abraham is justifies by faith, reckoned to him as righteousness- the word reason also being quite rare in the Hebrew) but what we can do is to turn. The eye of the soul “must be turned around from that which is coming into being together with the whole soul until it is able to endure looking at that which is, and the highest part of that which is,” toward God,.up, toward the truth about the good and just, though we fall on our faces.

Wisdom is justified by her offspring (tokos, Luke 7:35). One thinks again about Socrates demonstration in the Apology that he does believe in the divine, believing that there are the offspring.

[Strauss further explains:

The Biblical God is known in a humanly relevant sense only by his actions, by his revelations. The book, the Bible, is the account of what God has done and what He has promised. It is not speculation about God. In the Bible as we would say, men tell about God’s actions and promises on the basis of their experience of God. This experience, and not reasoning based on sense perception, is the root of Biblical wisdom.]

?[PR 24; 44 and 42 top; NRH p. 88; 97 top?]

It is this discovery of nature that does not occur in Jerusalem, making the common ground between the flowering of the two cities the more amazing. In Jerusalem, what comes between the law and the New is the prophets.

Strauss seems to understand Jerusalem as entirely pre-philosophic, and simply an appeal to the divine as cause not essentially different from the prephilosophic Greeks, due to there having been no discovery of nature.

Note* Tertullian, [Adam Setser] “What has Jerusalem to do with Athens, the Church with the Academy, the Christian with the heretic?… After Jesus we have no need of speculation, after the Gospel no need of research.” —Tertullian, “Prescription against Heretics,” trans. Peter Holmes, in Ante- Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Peabody, MA: Hen- drickson, 1994), 3:249. Clement of Alexandria countered with the more reasonable view.

Note 1: pp. 93-95. Strauss contrasts the Socratic best regime with the medieval understanding of the Kingdom of God in Chapter IV of Natural Right and History, pp. 144-145.

Note 2: See “Jerusalem and Athens, ” p. 149, top. It is agreed that on the level of “culture,” the conflict cannot and ought not be overcome.


   Strauss indeed assumes that the Christ is false. But IF the Christ is true, philosophy is obviously not impossible. Nor, given that a thinker like Strauss could miss that truth of that possibility, is it clear that philosophy will not be necessary. For us, contemporaries, Socratic philosophy has provided an access to a teaching regarding justice for those outside the Biblical traditions, where otherwise there is a desert. Nor is philosophy impossible due to the multiplicity of laws. Strauss assumes that the Bible is simply a law or divine code, and that piety is the way of life it teaches- piety in the Greek sense, not only for the many who do not philosophize, but also for those who do. None of these assumptions are warranted, but as Strauss says, each assume the other to be impossible alternatives, philosophy and the Bible. “If the Christ is true” can be a self known premise with which Christians enter reasoning, and if the Christ is true, Christian philosophy is possible. One can think out what might follow, for example, in history, the rise of the opposite when a significant part of mankind is able to hate the visible image, The place of the Christian gospel would be little different from the place of truth, and the higher truths, in Socratic philosophy. People who think we “know” what these things mean are fools. And if Plato is right about the allegory of the cave, it would not be surprising that there are shadows, artifacts, and men chained to viewing images in the Medieval as well as the ancients’ cave. The city killed the philosopher as mankind did the Messiah because what both have in common is ascent from the cave, the earth, the body, etc.

   [Long ago we tried to explain why it seemed obvious to us that the Bible and philosophy did not present mutually exclusive alternatives as the last, and not the first word on the issue. The two ways appear that way inside the cave, but are “resolved,” at least potentially, when one considers the nature of man. Consider, for example, that the Sermon on the Mount opens the ministry of Jesus by rejecting 5 teachings derived for the Jews from Mosaic law. Or that the teaching of Jesus on providence is a bit different from the common assumption about providence. And it is not that these things are not difficult, or that the questions go away. We do quite like the final word of Socrates to the Athenians on the immortality of the soul- that we do not know- though this is as true in Jerusalem as in Athens. We do not even know what we mean- are we not then immortal always, including now and in the past, even as though this were our guardian angel? But whether the soul is immortal or not, we hold that the life of justice or phronesis– the Greek intellectual virtue that contains but transcends justice- is the best life either way. Whether one is happy for a short lifetime or an eternal eternity is perhaps not our business. Like wisdom, this concern too may be the possession of “the God.” Nor does it matter much to the mortal body, which would not be there to receive benefit. One cannot imagine a conjunction of temporality and eternity in immortal live, or living immortality- but something of the sport is foretold., as that the body will rise. Ours is to do the right thing in each particular, or to aim at this (Aristotle, Ethics I, ). Those who are good or obedient only for the promised reward may be in obvious difficulty, especially if that reward turn out to be true. We learned this very point by considering the speech of Socrates in Book II of the Republic distinguishing the three kinds of goods, and proposed it to a street preacher at the Diag in Ann Arbor, MI. Can people really be saved if they turn to God from their own self-interest, to save their own skin? His answer was that people begin to take the Christ seriously from concern for their own immortal soul. And we are not yet satisfied with this answer.

There are two natural principles in man, not one, and the self interest of the body is different from that of the soul and mind. In either case, the way of the cross is self sacrificing or self forgetting, for the sake of what is truly good- just as though this were sacred]

   The Christ, Socrates, Jefferson, and romantic love are four things that seems to us to fit quite well together in the same cosmos. A Socratic Christianity might be said to replace the sects, a Protestant or Catholic Christianity, etc, replacing the adherence to a belief with the quest, philosophy replacing these in a philosophic Christianity. It may be that doctrine, which splinters the churches, is as an attempt to know the divine directly, as in theology, and the sects are divided by doctrines when they assume a divine knowledge that we do not possess and for which we are not obligated. Socrates, it is said thought he might be excused at his trial for not believing in the gods of the city, due to the difficulty of the subject matter. We do not have divine wisdom, even as Socrates teaches, but everyone supposes that they do, especially the quarreling sects, and Socrates may be the only human to succeed at the knowledge of ignorance. Irv would say: Socrates is boasting! Only Socrates is THE philosopher, able truly to know his own ignorance, despite the marvel that innate knowledge apparently is sufficient for us to know what the questions are. This ignorance is not the same as belief in the Christ, but might replace not the account of being, but the opinions regarding this. We do not know divine physics for example regarding the transubstantiation, but if the Christ is true, we may do that in remembrance. The tradition of “revelation” assumes for itself divine and natural things, from which Socrates returned to the human things. Hence, for us, Socrates and philosophy replace not the account of the first things, the divine and natural things, but the human understanding of this. We say the Christians ought apply the teaching regarding humility here, in our assumption of divine knowledge. It is wonderful to have the word of God, if only we could read it! This solves the problem of the sects in Christianity.

Conversely, the unbelievable “metaphysics” of the Christ, from incarnation through resurrection- we do not know these are impossible at all, and might not be so quick to judge the metaphysics of one who teaches such things about the soul and man. He does the miracles not for their own sake, but so that we might believe he can forgive sins ( ). Much more could of course be said about this, but we will limit ourselves to a few indications. We do not even know what life is, and how this supervenes upon the physics of inanimate stuff, so that in living beings cause acts simultaneously and as a whole, yet without violating the “laws” of physics at all. Missler notes that life contradicts entropy, by which energy and order would dissipate. This is only the demarcation between biology and physics. the same pertains between botany and zoology, zoology and psychology, the human and the divine, as each supervenes upon the lower without violating its laws, adding dimension upon dimension of complexity regarding “cause,” yet inexplicable in terms of the laws of the lower level. We surely do not know that resurrection is literally impossible. Life itself passes ONLY the order and likely none of the literal matter through the generations, just as we ourselves are said to have not a molecule the same every 7-10 years. That genes can pass on the life through the ORDER, the meaning of a code, would surely seem incredible, and cannot be explained from the principles of physics, but of biology. That this was possible in the nature of things even IF there was yet no life in the universe in 6 Billion BC is most amazing, obviously true, and utterly indiscernible from what then was before life existed.

   Jefferson, in the second sentence of the Declaration, sets out the natural rights, recognized because we are a large nation, but also because of human ignorance, and hence the impossibility, for almost all practical purposes, that government be able publicly to know and tend the good of the soul for each. Our psychology and psychiatry are disastrous examples, and soon these may realize that the Constitution forbids their assumed authority of the soul, even as it forbids the medieval Church from burning or otherwise treating “witches” and “heretics.”

Socratic philosophy can, though the Bible for us cannot, be the basis of a genuinely scientific psychology, appealing to the nature of the soul, without so easily becoming entangled in the appearances. Our psychology had been based almost entirely on an attempt to imitate physics or biology, harming more than healing the true human soul.

   Finally, Shakespeare in Drama sets out a program of poetry that manages to avoid presenting the divine as known- though prior to this Socratic poet, it seems to have been assumed that the function of poetry was to do just that. So, the Christ, Socrates, Jefferson and Shakespeare fill out four sections of the true divided line, properly understood. And these are only examples and guides, but they show the enterprises and the place of each activity- poetry, law, philosophy and “metaphysics.” Or do we have a theologian who understands the mystery of the “trinity” and the Bride? Or an old testament Jew who understands why wisdom is said to be:

…a tree of life to those that lay hold of her,

And those who hold her fast are called happy.

(Proverbs, 3:

If wisdom is the tree of life, the pursuit of wisdom cannot be forbidden by the Bible, nor is it “diametrically opposed” to the Socratic pursuit of wisdom, but rather, to the antichrist. Nor was Moses piously following Abraham, and Abraham following Noah, Noah, Enoch and Enoch, Adam, on the assumption that the old is the good. These are rather the non-philosophic assumptions of the majority, who do not have the time or good fortune to attempt the ascent, but for whom light must be provided.

And during the time of trouble, as Michael tells Daniel (Daniel 12:3), “those who are wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament.; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.”

IV: From notes 36-37 to Chapter III on King Lear and The Tempest.

In Deuteronomy, where the Law is given with the preface “Hear Oh Israel (6:4)” even here, the revealed things of the law are contrasted with the secret things of the Lord, the higher things that are not revealed (29:29; 5:24). But indeed, here the things heard are called the things revealed, though the law is not called “revelation.” Just as in the setting of Deuteronomy, the written law does not exist, so during the writing of scripture in the New Testament, the New Testament itself does not exist, and so is not included in Paul’s reference to the inspiration of every word of scripture. The word of God was in the beginning, though there can be two different senses- as when the Prophets say, “God said, ….”.

In one of the most important treatments of reason and revelation, Paul writes, “has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” Acts 17:18 is another important place, where Paul, in the Areopagus at Athens, questioned by Stoic and Epicurean “teachers,” comments on the altar “to the unknown God.” This Paul says he proclaims. But he does not use the word revelation or call the gospel “revelation” as opposed to \reason.” Jack MacArthur notes that the word “revelation” occurs 18 times in the New Testament, and always indicates that something has become evident to the eye (Revelation, 1973, p. 4). The closest- and perhaps an exception to what is being said, is 1 Peter 1:7; 13, where “the revelation of Jesus Christ” is future, and the same uncovering that is given to John (1 Peter 1:13), though here it is especially said

…whom not having seen, you love, in whom yet not seeing, believing, but you exalt with joy unspeakable and glorified obtaining the end of your faith, the salvation of souls, for which the prophets searched, to whom it was “revealed” that they ministered not to themselves, but “to you.”

The place held for Socrates by the “myth” of recollection in the Meno (81 b-e) is in the Christian epistemology future rather than past, as in the account of recollection- hence in this life, in the body, we do not come to know or eat from the tree of life. In this life, it is said, we are rather known by the Most High or first principle than knowing this. “Blessed are those who have not seen yet believed,” as Jesus tells Thomas the doubter, who could see for himself and yet not believe. These are told then to set their hope fully on the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” the second coming. The revelation remains primarily the object of sight, though there is access to this through pisteos– believing, faith, “obtaining the end of your faith, the salvation of (your) souls (psuchon).” In the Bible, revelation means literally an uncovering, as of mysteries that have been hidden (Romans 16:25-26), and so may be precisely a seeing for oneself. Elsewhere in the New Testament, the revelation is the second coming, in the title and first sentence of the last book, Revelation (Title and 1:1). The closest direct contrast of reason and revelation as a divinely given set of principles or beliefs, after Deuteronomy, may be 1 Corinthians 1:22: “For the Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly for the Greeks.” Paul in Galatians 1:12) uses the word revelation in contrast to a teaching “according to man, but even here revelation is a direct perception of the Apostle. The gospel is a teaching or doctrine- something like the Apostle’s Creed, and there is concern very early with presenting this correctly. John identifies and opposes certain heresies.

The question is whether this belief or faith, with its emphasis on belief or faith, is necessarily in conflict with the life of reason or philosophy, in a sense in which, for example, belief in the Allegory of the cave is not. Is Christianity or Biblical faith in general consistent with the knowledge of ignorance? Or does faith require that certain things be taken as known when these are not known? For it may be that the gospel, as an object of faith, works in some natural way, like a magnet, to attract and awaken the image of God in the soul by the pattern of the deed of the Savior, as Jung writes, and we believe, drawing out the golden element toward the throne of the soul (Jung, Aion, p. 185).

The two, reason and revelation, would be contrasted in this way, mutually exclusive and diametrically opposed, if Socratic philosophy were a teaching according to man. But these things are notoriously problematic in the Socratic thinkers, and Paul has not read Plato. The Platonic Socrates may be, as he is presented in the Apology, equally unimpressed with the wisdom of the world and the knowledge attained by human beings. Reason and revelation or faith would also be contrasted in this way if the Bible or teaching of Jesus could be simply identified with the city or with opinion. Yet there is a conflict in Jerusalem between convention or the city (nation) and the prophets and the Messiah, and the conflict often led similarly to the deaths of those similarly said to have been sent. It is surprising that the Straussians and Hebrew students of Plato do not see or emphasize the obvious similarity of the crucifixion of the Christ by Israel or mankind and the trial and death of Socrates- each put to death under law by the city. The same pattern was one of the first things to us to appear. The same pattern occurs with Romeo and Juliet too regarding the family. Each politea or political body, family, city and mankind or the nation, commits what is oddly like a ritual sacrifice, due to something like a conflict of love and law by nature. The families are then to repent upon seeing what they have done, reconciling opposites that were irreconcilable prior to the sacrifice. The conflict of the city and philosophy in Greece parallels that between the prophets and Israel. Hence Jesus calls them out for killing the prophets, etc. and by this love, philosophy and salvation are accommodated among mankind, or civilization, within the nation, city and family.

Regarding similarity of the teachings of the fool and St.Paul in King Lear and St. Paul’s contrast of faith and philosophy, Laurence Berns writes: For Paul, the foolish of faith possess a wisdom far deeper than anything accessible to natural reason.” (Gratitude, Nature and Piety in King Lear, p. ). He asks, “Is this what Shakespeare suggests by echoing this language about wisdom and folly in his articulation of the problem of morality and justice in King Lear?” Berns apparently answers the question negatively because of 1) the primacy of sight to compassionate love (p. 45); and 2) The absence of the patience based on the expectation of the coming of the Lord (pp. 45, 48); and 3) the disproportion between the sins and the unredeemed suffering of Gloucester and Lear (pp. 46, 48 top). On sight, consider Matthew 6:22-3:

The teaching of Providence is also medieval, with something like that surely being said in the Bible. This teaching enables Machiavelli to teach that all worship fortuna (Discourses II.2), and we marvel at the efforts made by men to get God himself to sign up as one of their servants. The Bible actually does not teach that at all regarding providence, but that the rain falls on good and evil alike (Mat. 5:), Job’s questions, and of course Jesus teaching in the parable of the sower and regarding the fall of a tower (Luke 13: ). The Bible may not even have a teaching of “omnipotence” beyond the name “Almighty.”

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light.; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be filled with darkness. If, then, the light in you is dearkness, how great is the darkness!”

If compassionate love is the soundness of the heart, this is ultimately dependent upon sight. The teaching of Jesus here is similar to the teaching of Aristotle that once one has the intellectual virtue of phronesis or practical wisdom, the rest of the ethical virtues are there as well. (Ethics, VI, 1144b 11-18). This is the soundness of the body that is dependent upon the eye of the soul. Augustine too distinguishes Plato from the worldly wise as addressed by Paul (City of God, VIII, 10), and writes that philosophy as the attempt to attain virtue by knowledge and the imitation of God fulfills the great commandment (VIII.8). There is a higher sense of “knowledge,” by which the teaching of faith does not contradict the teaching that “by knowledge are the righteous delivered” (Proverbs 11:9). Paul, on one hand, claims, “We have the mind of Christ.” (I Cor. 2:6-16). However, he also writes, that now we see “as in a glass dimly, but then face to face” (I Cor. 13: 12), and “we all with face unveiled, seeing as in a mirror, (katoptridzomenoi) the glory (doxan) of the Lord, are being changed into the same image” (2 Cor. 3:18) (Plato, Republic, 500 c-d; 500e-501b1, 510e; 516a; 540b 1).

It seems to be a very difficult, and not an easy question at all, how Socrates and Plato would themselves have reacted to Jesus or the teaching of Christ crucified. A Socratic conversation with Jesus did not take place, but one doubts that Jesus would have considered Socrates impious, or that Socrates would have considered the “way” to be diametrically opposed to philosophy of the Socratic or Pythagorean sort. And this too is how Justin Martyr- the first Christian to read Plato of whom we know, fit Christianity and Socratic philosophy together in the same cosmos:

We have been taught that Christ is the first born of God, and we have declared above that He is the Word of whom every race of men were partakers; and those who lived reasonably (meta logos), are Christians, even thought they have been thought atheists; as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus, and men like them; among barbarians, Abraham…Elias…

Justin, Apology,

Strauss was aware of this striking passage, and may indicate that it is an alternative to his presentation of the contrast (Class on Plato’s Gorgias). That Socrates is saved is the possibility. If so, or if, as was said, the Christ is true, Athens and Jerusalem will be compatible on the highest level, their difference widening perhaps as we are submerged again into the visible.

The shocking teaching in this regard is that nous– intellect or the eye of the soul is a thing begotten, as distinct from a thing made, and this, we say is the eye of the soul and the image of God in man. So, as John writes, ” In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world (John 1:4, 9). We equate this with baptism, and the birth of the soul or man out of the cave or world. Hence the veil that was on the law and the images is lifted (2 Cor 3:13). This is the rebirth of the soul (John 3; Romans 6). It is in one sense common to all men from Noah, or universal. Hence allusions to it appear in the Elysian mysteries as well, or even in the story of Arion in Herodotus, as referenced in the Republic, as they have a hard swim through the conjunction of the male and female guardian classes of the city. From this conjunction is born the begotten nous (Plato, Republic 494; 501b, etc). That this and what follows are begotten not made distinguishes it from the created “reason” of the 3 part soul which most presentations contrast with revelation as “unaided reason.” Still, as Peter indicates, by faith in the gospel, one can be aligned with the image, if one is not literally reborn in this life- contrary to the teaching of the reborn Christians. The symbols provide for the libido a gradient, as Jung writes (Symbols of Transformation, p. 226),[Note+] as distinct from a sublimating of the higher out of the lower, if the things of the soul are indeed by nature.

Is it possible that Socrates and Jesus each are what they say they are? That being a philosopher it is proper that Socrates not know the “what of God,” or of the beings in whose work our service would be piety, if we could figure out what work this is Euthyphro, 12-15). Socrates is famous for teaching that the just man harms no one, but Jesus that we should love one another, and even our enemies. Or again, that salvation be brought to a few by one in a human way, and to many more by Jesus, each being in truth just what they say they are? For it is true, what Socrates tells Phaedrus, that the true philosophers are those that recover their wings (Phaedrus, 249d). And this may be why he tells the Athenians that one who believes in offspring of the divine must then believe in the divine- which they call Gods, but he calls “the God.”

The two, Athens and Jerusalem, seem then to be mutually verifying or mutually confirming on many of the most important points, or in the most important way, and there seems to be no reason to exclude the possibility that the Christ is true, and Plato right about the Allegory of the Cave. What would we see in Plato if the Christ were true, or again what would the teaching of the messiah be if Socrates indeed were living the best life? If the Christ were false, the height of the teaching would be difficult to account, and if the true philosopher were indeed born out of the earth, he might say and do just what Socrates is shown to say and do. Christianity and philosophy indeed may correct important dangers on the periphery, where most of us will struggle and serve. The confusion over doctrine that occurs due to the cave disappears when one realizes that we are not obligated to know or hold the right opinions about divine physics- simple old ladies obligated regarding such things as “transubstantiation-” ours are the human things, our penance and forgiveness of others, without which we will not be forgiven, believing whatever (Matthew 7:14). Faith, of course is different from belief, if it is related. Christians are too gullible, perhaps, and philosophers, as the Stoic or Epicurean, too faithless. “Natural reason,” in one sense is the child begotten in the soul of the one ascending, who then sees the plants, animals and men along with “the divine images in water” before turning to behold the marvels of the true cosmos, in the new Socratic kind of the contemplation of the heavens. We would surely never thing of of the things revealed in the Bible, nor be able to contemplate them- such as the incarnation- without the inspiration of the Apostles and prophets. But as we say, it is a wonderful thing to have the word of God, if only we could understand it!

The Greek completion, then is not natural philosophy nor the direct contemplation of the cosmos of the theologians and natural philosophers, and it is quite possible that Socratic philosophy involves the same natural thing in or above the soul or mind as does the Biblical completion of morality in the eye of the soul or nous, intellect, the light of man. Hence the teaching: Is it not written, I said, you are gods, sons of the Most High.” Jesus is citing the Psalm of David and Isaiah. This spark of the divine begotten in man will be above anything manmade, and indeed any political authority, as is the Spirit in us, whatever practical difficulties such a theoretical truth may entail- and as a natural fulfillment, it will be more rare than its imitators. But just as for Socrates, the ascent from the cave does not mean that one then “knows” or cannot be mistaken. It is rather the beginning of a way of life, following out unfolding wonders that cohere in wonders.


The entire history of modernity might be understood as aiming to get Christianity to give up the assumption of knowledge implied in dogma, when the Christ becomes the flag of a city or the enforced orthodoxy of kingdoms and empires. Socrates was as if sent by the God to the Athenians to teach that wisdom is the possession not of the city nor of sophoi, the wise, but of God. Those who believe this come closer to the truth than those who disbelieve it.

Like the presocratic thinkers, the modern thinkers appeal to the origins and not the ends, the origins rather than the end, while Socratic philosophy and Christianity are both concerned at least equally with the ends along with or rather than the origins, looking to see the full natures revealed in the best regime or the city of God. These two are vastly different otherwise, the one pertaining to a single city that is not likely to come to be at all, while the city of the New Jerusalem is prophesied to be coming to be. While it is a city along with, or rather than, a kingdom, it is yet in the vision not an empire, but coexists apparently with the plural nations, who bring tribute, or they get no rain. It contains the tree of life, the leaves of which are to be given for the healing of the nations. That these two in contrast with all others look to the ends is another point on which these two are mutually confirming. The difference may indicate the wonder of the scripture and the moderation of Socrates and the Socratic philosophers. But it is due to Socrates and the turn addressed in the Phaedo that it occurred at all to the philosophers unaided reason to look to the oak tree rather than the acorn for the fullness of the natures.

Contrary to Tertullian, philosophy is required in addition to scripture because it is the virtue a part of the soul, which we are servants in cultivating. When the risen Christ teaches John the three kinds of friendship and love if God, his teaching is “feed my lambs…tend my sheep…feed my sheep.” If his are only the visible Christians, this might refer to the work of pastors within their flocks. But if this refers to all who are to become Christ’s in the future, and those who are so without the visible appearance, it is the highest teaching of 3 kinds of phronesis: The education of the young; the governing involved in the tending of politics, and then the highest, the education of the adults.

In the Republic, too, the good is known most after ruling, or, it is seen from within it (VII, 540).


The Socratic philosopher sees the human things, and through this sees the things in the heavens, the things of “Metaphysics.” The nature of the soul bears witness to the things of the gospel- even baptism to resurrection, if this is true. We marvel at these, but do not “know,” for example which accounts are literal and symbolic, in which ways. If the shroud of Turin- a negative photographic image, made by light, the first photograph, unforgeable even by Da Vince- were simply what it seems to be, the “philosophers.” like Thomas, would still not believe it. Strauss has some things to say about sense perception, and we should turn now to a conversation regarding these.

And it can become visible how in the soul as an image, baptism is like and may in turn evince the resurrection, though “natural reason” may not even hypothesize such a thing on its own, as the things said are truly wonders and incredible.

Nor is such a faith refuted, so as to be contrary to reason, nor therefore the life of reason, except when we think we know what we do not know.

Jesus said, “Seek, and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you” (Luke 11.9; Mat. 7.7). He also said, to the Jews and Pharisees, that if they continue in his way, “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

Augustine addresses the reasons that the prophecies foretell the crucifixion (XVI. 16-18) Is this reason or revelation? It is called the secret science of the old testament, which Jesus addresses to Clopas, Peter and others (Luke 24:27; 44). Similarly, Shakespear’s Paulina, in A Winter’s tale, answers the false charge of adultery by the King her husband, saying, “It is an heretic that makes the fire, not she that burns in it.” If the Christ comes, and teaches, “love one another,” then men make of this the custom of nations attacking Albigenses and burning heretics and assumed witches, is this known to be heresy by “reason,” or is it rather “revelation?” How is it that even the most obvious misunderstandings of “revelation” are known? It is by the same faculty that the whole question of reason and revelation can be mistaken or understood correctly. This is known without an argument demonstrating, for example that such things are unjust, for the perpetrators will argue that such killings are saving men or saving souls from such things as the slight difference in doctrine that led to the schism.

Note +: Jung addresses these things on the point of his departure from the school of Freud, 224-228. For Augusine, in Confessions, a going through ones origin to His eternity is what is described, as penance apparently coincides with a regression toward one’s origin, as though the soul had developed and is disrobed of accretions. Rebirth also has a diabolic opposite- the souls apparently developing in the same pattern but in rejection of the light. Hence, “the nothing” does not result in nothing, but in “will to power,” etc. Is the following of the light, though, to be called aided or unaided “reason?

Note # There is a pre-Christian meeting of Athens and Jerusalem in Alexandrian Israel, from 335-4 BC, and the texts from this period without a Hebrew source use the words reason and virtue. In the Septuagint, word in the Psalms is first translated as logos. The authoritative assimilation would seem to be here, and the argument of Strauss would need to get through this, simply by arguing that reason is here subject to “revelation.”

An analogy to what is being said might be this: a man is in a long pool with rising water in the dark, and one tells him that there is a ladder at the other end, and if he does not believe it, he will die. The man is offended that merely believing that there is a ladder is held to be the cause of his salvation. He is right, yet if he does not believe it, he will drown. But he did not understand what was being said, and was not helped by thinking that he already knew what was being said.

The man, believing, will not turn, because he was told that if he believed the ladder story, he would be saved, so believing it, he stands there and wont look at the other end while the water rises. If he did, the natural consequence would occur when the water rose.

We hope to go get that guy out too! But the scoffers won’t come with us if we go get them, hating us for having told the story that if they believed us about the ladder, they would be saved.

However odd the symbol of a ladder is in such an explanation of belief and salvation, our attachment to the Christ and the way of the cross- of sacrifice of the original or Adamic man, and if one believes, but does not go the way of the cross, the order of the soul remains, but with the way of the cross, the higher ends emerge, in light of which the lower and animal things become dust and nothing.

“Revelation” as it is used in the argument contrasting reason and revelation is itself incomplete according to scripture. The Churches can be praised and blamed (Rev. 2-3), and there is prophesied future books, which we think refers to the New testament and other books. The churches are the lamps, but there is no lamp needed in the kingdom. What is called “revelation-” a body of doctrine taken as law- is not even complete or fully authoritative in the scriptures.


At the conclusion of his Jerusalem and Athens essay, Strauss compares and contrasts the Best regime of the Republic and the Messianic age pp. 171-2. He manages to do this without mentioning the city or Kingdom of God. The best regime is a city quite prior to the messianic age, and while wisdom would rule in either, this difference is crucial- the best regime is a particular city where there will still be war, while in the messianic age they will practice war no more. The messianic age refers to the undoing of the change that occurred with Adam and Eve and the eating of the tree of knowledge- which tree disappears from any description of the kingdom. Jesus speaks of the Kingdom, while the Revelation shows a vision in which the New Jerusalem descends as a Bride from heaven. My Kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus says, while in the vision, the city of God is “of this world.” “The Kingdom of God has come near you,” it is said when Jesus heals. There is no necessity that these even refer to the same, though it has never been thought that they might be different. There are still plural nations, which bring tribute to Jerusalem. The leaves of the tree of life are given for the healing of the nations, and this tree grows on either side of the river. There is supposed to be some contrast between the Bible and Plato on whether the cessation of evils is possible, or the transformation of man assumed possible in the vision- but Strauss, we think, has again got two things out of context. The context in platonic thought for the transformation envisioned in the Bible is something like the golden age when the gods ruled humans directly. This is the fall in Adam, and its undoing would be a restoration of the golden age, not mentioned regarding the best regime, though the rule of wisdom and cessation of evils would be a restoration on a higher level. One suggestion is that the messianic age is the same as our familiar world, except that political philosophy will be permitted and will flourish- a change, as we have argued, that is entirely possible.

Athens and Jerusalem seem to indicate not the same account, nor two diametrically opposed accounts, but two different accounts of the same, approached in each case by a quest or seeking:

The reason that Strauss does not refer to the New Testament in discussing Athens and Jerusalem may be indicated by his report on Herman Cohen. Strauss writes:

Being concerned with the social ideal, he does not say a single word on Christianity in the whole lecture.

Concern with the “social ideal,” or politics, makes reference to the New Testament unnecessary. One is reminded of the division set by Augustine between the two cities. Musing on the creation of Heaven and light in Genesis, and citing Paul at Galatians 4: 26, He writes:

…or under the name of light, the Holy city was signified, composed of holy angels and blessed spirits, the city of which the apostle says, “Jerusalem which is above is our eternal mother which is in in heaven.”

City of God, XI:7; p. 351

This is in contrast with the “present Jerusalem,” but that is the meaning, drawn out in an analogy of Hagar and Sarah, slave and free. This heavenly Jerusalem is why the baptismal font is there in the church, and we have said that it is the same that is involved in true philosophy.

To conclude, we will address two questions with one another. The reason that Strauss does not refer to the New Testament when considering the Bible and the two ways of Athens and Jerusalem is related to the question of natural right and Nathan. Strauss concludes the essay with the story of a comment of Socrates that was reported to the tyrant Critias, as the nearest parallel to the Biblical story of Nathan. Citing the Memorabilia of Xenophon, the essay concludes:

When the thirty were putting to death many of the citizens and by no means the worst ones,and were encouraging many in crime, Socrates said somewhere, that it seemed strange that a herdsman who lets hid cattle decrease and go to the bad should not admit that he is a poor cowherd; but stranger still that a statesman, when he causes the citizens to decrease and go to the bad, should feel no shame nor think himself a poor statesman. This remark was reported to Critias.

Xenophon, Memorabilia, I 2.32-33; Jerusalem and Athens, p. 173

Strauss blames Christianity for the persecution of the Jews and the attack on thinkers such as Galileo and Moore, the Inquisition and the killings of heretics throughout Europe from the time the Crusades turned inward- an event that has the look of a divinely inflicted scourge. The hatred of Christianity as a result especially of the Medieval persecutions in turn gives rise to the antichristian.

We have yet to consider the Biblical instances of the word reveal and revelation, and have a section of same and different regarding the Christ and Socrates: coming soon!

The height of the teaching of the Christ is one of the reasons we think the Christ is true. At the conclusion of the gospel of John, Jesus delivers what is surely one of the highest teachings on what the Greeks call phronesis– two kinds of which can be identified regarding the tending of intellectual and ethical virtue- the midwifery of Socrates and his teaching bu descending into ignorance with his interlocutor, and then his upholding of the just and noble against pleasure and the appetites.The teaching of Jesus here also indicates the unique christian meanings of the word love- which the philosophers wish to restrict to the emotions and the heart in contrast with reason. Socratic philanthrope is the closest to the Christian teaching. Peter has denied Jesus three times. Again before the charcoal fire, as a great sermon has indicated, the resurrected Jesus asks, Peter,”Do you love (agapos) me more than these, Simon Peter? Peter answers, You know I love (philos) you. Jesus answers “feed my lambs, then asks again, But do you love (philos) me? Peter answers that knows he loves him (philos) him, and Jesus answers, “tend my sheep.” Then a third time Jesus asks him, Do you love me? and answers, feed my sheep.” Philo is usually friendship, while agape is the more universal philanthrope or love of mankind, as in the love of the neighbor that is the fulfillment of the law. Abraham was friend of God, and at the conclusion of Plato’s Symposium, he slips by the gate keeper this one sage saying as a description of the highest condition- friend of God.” John then refers to himself as the disciple who loved (agapas) Jesus. This refers also to the love of Jesus by the martyrs who follow him through death (John 15:7) and John next interprets the saying to Peter as referring to his martyrdom to come some 30 years later. The three kinds of phronesis that are the affirmative answer to this question are especially the teaching of the young, the governing of the adults, and then the teaching of the adults. While the Christian tradition may see this as especially the pastoring of the church flocks, there is as we have seen no reason to limit the intention referred to in the analogy of the shepherd of men.

The fulfillment of the law obviously has something to do with the “social ideal,” if it does transcend the kingdom that is of this world and the things owed to Caesar.

John wrote, “God is love” (I John 4:7) though the medieval metaphysicians have less to say about “love” that they have to say about being and the good. Love too is considered at the beginning middle and end of the Bible, which ends in a marriage. That Being or the Good One is also Love- that of which the love surrounding man and woman is an image. This too is a meaning of the word we do not have yet in English.

*Revised from King Lear with The Tempest, 2004, p. 74 and note 36-7 to Chapter III, (p. 254)

The abbreviations used are:

MI: The Mutual Influence of Theology and Philosophy.

JA: Jerusalem and Athens.

PR: Progress or Return


Jung, Carl. Aion. p. 185.

________. Symbols of Transformation.

Berns, Laurence. Gratitude, Nature and Piety in King Lear.

MacArthur, Jack. Revelation. Eugene Oregon. Vernon I Iverson Co., 1973.

Strauss, Leo. Jerusalem and Athens: in Leo Strauss: Studies in Platonic Political Philosophy, University of Chicago Press, 1983.

____________. The Mutual Influence of Theology and Philosophy, in The Independent Journal of Philosophy, Vol. III,(Vienna)1979.

____________. “On the Interpretation of Genesis.”

____________. Progress or Return? The Contemporary Crisis in Western Civilization. In Modern Judaism Vol. 1, pp.17-45.