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Justin Martyr

Saint Justin Martyr (c. AD 100/114 - c. 162/168) was an early Christian apologist.

Most of what is known about the life of Justin Martyr comes from his own writings. He was born at Flavia Neapolis (formerly Shechem in Palestine. The city had been founded by Vespasian in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Justin suffered martyrdom at Rome under Marcus Aurelius when Rusticus was prefect of the city (between 162 and 168). He calls himself a Samaritan, but his father and grandfather were doubtless Greek or Roman, and he was brought up a pagan. It seems that he had property, studied philosophy, became converted to Christianity, and devoted the rest of his life to teaching what he considered the true philosophy, still wearing his philosopher's gown to indicate that he had attained to the truth. He probably travelled widely and ultimately settled in Rome as a Christian teacher.

The earliest mention of Justin is found in the Oratio ad Graecos by Tatian, who calls him "the most admirable Justin," quotes a saying of his, and says that the Cynic Crescens laid snares for him. Irenaeus (Haer. I., xxviii. 1) speaks of his martyrdom, and of Tatian as his disciple; he quotes him twice (IV., vi. 2, V., xxvi. 2), and shows his influence in other places. Tertullian, in his Adversus Valentinianos, calls him a philosopher and martyr, and the earliest antagonist of heretics. Hippolytus and Methodius also mention or quote him. Eusebius of Caesarea deals with him at some length (Church History, iv. 18), and names the following works:

  1. The Apology addressed to Antoninus Pius, his sons, and the senate;
  2. a second Apology addressed to Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus;
  3. the Discourse to the Greeks, a discussion with Greek philosophers on the character of their gods;
  4. a Hortatory Address to the Greeks;
  5. a treatise On the Sovereignty of God, in which he makes use of pagan authorities as well as Christian;
  6. a work entitled The Psalmist;
  7. a treatise in scholastic form On the Soul; and
  8. the Dialogue with Trypho.

He implies that other works were in circulation; from Irenaeus he knows of the apology "Against Marcion," and from Justin's "Apology" (i. 26) of a "Refutation of all Heresies " (Church History, IV., xi. 10). Epiphanius (Haer., xlvi. 1) and Jerome (De vir. ill., ix.) mention Justin. Rufinus borrows from him the Latin original of Hadrian's letter. After Rufinus Justin was known mainly from Irenaeus and Eusebius, or from spurious works. The Chronicon Paschale assigns his martyrdom to the year 165. A considerable number of other works are given as Justin's by Arethas, Photius, and other writers; but their spuriousness is now generally admitted. The Expositio rectae fidei has been assigned by Draseke to Apollinaris of Laodicea, but it is probably a work of as late as the sixth century. The Cohortatio ad Graecos has been attributed to Apollinaris of Laodicea, Apollinaris of Hierapolis, as well as others. The Epistola ad Zenam et Serenum, an exhortation to Christian living, is dependent upon Clement of Alexandria, and is assigned by Batiffol to the Novatian Bishop Sisinnius (c. 400). The extant work under the title "On the Sovereignty of God" does not correspond with Eusebius' description of it, though Harnack regards it as still possibly Justin's, and at least of the second century. The author of the smaller treatise To the Greeks can not be Justin, because he is dependent on Tatian; Hanack places it between 180 and 240.

The authenticity of the two Apologies and the Dialogue with Trypho is universally accepted. They are preserved only in the Sacra parallela; but, besides that they were known by Tatian, Methodius, and Eusebius, their influence is traceable in Athenagoras, Theophilus, the pseudo-Melito, and especially Tertullian. Eusebius speaks of two Apologies, but he quotes them both as one, which indeed they are in substance. The identity of authorship is shown not only by the reference in chapter 120 of the Dialogue to the Apology, but by the unity of treatment. Zahn showed that the Dialogue was originally divided into two books, that there is a considerable lacuna in chapter 74, as well as at the beginning, and that it is probably based on an actual occurrence at Ephesus, the personality of the Rabbi Tarphon being employed, though in a Hellenized form. The treatise On the Resurrection, of which extensive fragments are preserved in the Sacra parallela, is not so generally accepted. Even earlier than this collection, it is referred to by Procopius of Gaza (c. 465-528), and Methodius appeals to Justin in support of his interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:50 in a way which makes it natural to assume the existence of a treatise on the subject, to say nothing of other traces of a connection in thought both here, in Irenaeus (V., ii.-xiii. 5), and also in Tertullian, where it is too close to be anything but a conscious following of the Greek. The Against Marcion is lost, as is the Refutation of all Heresies to which Justin himself refers in Apology, i. 26; Hegesippus, besides perhaps Irenaeus and Tertullian, seems to have used it.

Table of contents
1 The Apology
2 The Dialogue and Resurrection
3 Justin's Theology
4 His Conversion and Teachings
5 His Doctrine of the Logos
6 External links

The Apology

The Dialogue is a later work than the Apology; the date of composition of the latter, from the fact that it was addressed to Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, and Verus, must fall between 147 and 161. The reference to Felix as governor of Egypt, since this can only be the Lucius Munatius Felix whom the Oxyrhynchus papyri give as prefect September 13, 151, fixes the date still more exactly. The Chronicon of Eusebius gives 152-153 as the date of the attacks of Crescens. What is designated as the "Second Apology" was written as a supplement to the first, on account of certain proceedings which had in the mean time taken place in Rome before Lollius Urbicus as prefect of the city, which must have been between 150 and 157.

The purpose of the Apology is to prove to the emperors, renowned as upright and philosophical men, the injustice of the persecution of the Christians, who are the representatives of true philosophy. Chapters i.-xii. give the preliminary negative proof; chap. xiii. begins a positive exposition of Christianity. Christians are the true worshippers of God, the Creator of all things; they offer him the only sacrifices worthy of him, those of prayer and thanksgiving, and are taught by his Son, to whom they assign a place next in honor to him. This teaching leads them to perfect morality, as shown in their teacher's words and their own lives, and founded on their belief in the resurrection. The doctrine of the Logos made flesh is specially emphasized. What interferes with belief in this fact is the deceitful work of demons, in contrast with which Christian righteousness is still further described. Then follows the proof that Christ is the Son of God from Old Testament prophecy, fulfilled in every detail, no matter what evil spirits may pretend; even Plato learned from Moses. The remaining chapters (lxi.-lxvii.) give a glimpse of the daily life of Christians at the time-- baptism, communion, and Sunday worship. The supplementary or "Second Apology" depicts the behavior of the Christians under persecution, of which the demons are again set forth as the instigators.

The Dialogue and Resurrection

In the Dialogue, after an introductory section (i.-ix.), Justin undertakes to show that Christianity is the new law for all men (x.-xxx.), and to prove from Scripture that Jesus is the Christ (xxxi.-cviii.). The concluding section (cix.-cxlii.) demonstrates that the Christians are the true people of God. The fragments of the work "On the Resurrection" begin with the assertion that the truth, and God the author of truth, need no witness, but that as a concession to the weakness of men it is necessary to give arguments to convince those who gainsay it. It is then shown, after a denial of unfounded deductions, that the resurrection of the body is neither impossible nor unworthy of God, and that the evidence of prophecy is not lacking for it. Another fragment takes up the positive proof of the resurrection, adducing that of Christ and of those whom he recalled to life. In another the resurrection is shown to be that of what has gone down, i.e., the body; the knowledge concern ing it is the new doctrine in contrast with that of the old philosophers; the doctrine follows from the command to keep the body in moral purity.

Justin's Theology

Flacius discovered "blemishes" in Justin's theology, which he attributed to the influence of pagan philosophers; and in modern times Semler and S. G. Lange have made him out a thorough Hellene, while Semisch and Otto defend him from this charge. In opposition to the school of Baur, who considered him a Jewish Christian, Albrecht Ritschl has pointed out that it was precisely because he was a Gentile Christian that he did not fully understand the Old Testament foundation of Paul's teaching, and explained in this way the modified character of his Paulinism and his legal mode of thought. M. von Engelhardt has attempted to extend this line of treatment to Justin's entire theology, and to show that his conceptions of God, of free will and righteousness, of redemption, grace, and merit prove the influence of the cultivated Greek pagan world of the second century, dominated by the Platonic and Stoic philosophy. But he admits that Justin is a Christian in his unquestioning adherence to the Church and its faith, his unqualified recognition of the Old Testament, and his faith in Christ as the Son of God the Creator, made manifest in the flesh, crucified, and risen, through which belief he succeeds in getting away from the dualism of pagan and also of Gnostic philosophy.

His Conversion and Teachings

In the opening of the "Dialogue," Justin relates his vain search among the Stoics, Peripatetics, and Pythagoreans for a satisfying knowledge of God; his finding in the ideas of Plato wings for his soul, by the aid of which he hoped to attain the contemplation of the God-head; and his meeting on the sea-shore with an aged man who told him that by no human endeavor but only by divine revelation could this blessedness be attained, that the prophets had conveyed this revelation to man, and that their words had been fulfilled. Of the truth of this he assured himself by his own investigation; and the daily life of the Christians and the courage of the martyrs convinced him that the charges against them were unfounded. So he sought to spread the knowledge of Christianity as the true philosophy.

Justin had, like others, the idea that the Greek philosophers had derived, if not borrowed, the most essential elements of truth found in their teaching from the Old Testament. But at the same time he adopted the Stoic doctrine of the "seminal word," and so philosophy was to him an operation of the Word -- in fact, through his identification of the Word with Christ, it was brought into immediate connection with him. Thus he does not scruple to declare that Socrates and Heraclitus were Christians (Apol., i. 46, ii. 10). His aim, of course, is to emphasize the absolute significance of Christ, so that all that ever existed of virtue and truth may be referred to him. The old philosophers and law-givers had only a part of the Logos, while the whole appears in Christ. While the gentile peoples, seduced by demons, had deserted the true God for idols, the Jews and Samaritans possessed the revelation given through the prophets and awaited the Messiah. The law, however, while containing commandments intended to promote the true fear of God, had other prescriptions of a purely pedagogic nature, which necessarily ceased when Christ, their end, appeared; of such temporary and merely relative regulations were circumcision, animal sacrifices, the Sabbath, and the laws as to food. Through Christ the abiding law of God has been fully proclaimed. In his character as the teacher of the new doctrine and promulgator of the new law lies the essential nature of his redeeming work. The idea of an economy of grace, of a restoration of the union with God which had been destroyed by sin, is not foreign to him. It is noteworthy that in the "Dialogue" he no longer speaks of a "seed of the Word" in every man, and in his non-apologetic works the emphasis is laid upon the redeeming acts of the life of Christ rather than upon the demonstration of the reasonableness and moral value of Christianity, though the fragmentary character of the latter works makes it difficult to determine exactly to what extent this is true and how far the teaching of Irenaeus on redemption is derived from him.

Still, it is safe to say that Justin's theology is characterized throughout by an ethical strain. Faith does not justify but is a preliminary to justification, which is accomplished by repentance, change of heart, and a sinless life according to God's commandments. Baptism confers the remission only of previous sins; the Christian must there after show himself worthy of union with God by a life without sin. In the Eucharist he shows his devotion by offering bread and wine and by prayer, receiving in return the food consecrated by a formula of Christ's institution, which is the flesh and blood of the incarnate Jesus, and by which our flesh and blood are nourished through a kind of transformation (kata metabolen).

Justin is confident that his teaching is that of the Church at large. He knows of a division among the orthodox only on the question of the millennium and on the attitude toward the milder Jewish Christianity, which he personally is willing to tolerate as long as its professors in their turn do not interfere with the liberty of the Gentile converts; his millennarianism seems to have no connection with Judaism, but he believes firmly in a millennium, and generally in the primitive Christian eschatology.

His Doctrine of the Logos

His use of the idea of the Logos has always attracted attention. It is probably too much to assume a direct connection with Philo in this particular. The idea of the Logos was widely familiar to educated men, and the designation of the Son of God as the Logos was not new to Christian theology. The significance is clear, however, of the manner in which Justin identifies the historical Christ with the rational force operative in the universe, which leads up to the claim of all truth and virtue for the Christians and to the demonstration of the adoration of Christ, which aroused so much opposition, as the only reasonable attitude. It is mainly for this justification of the worship of Christ that Justin employs the Logos-idea, though where he explicitly deals with the divinity of the Redeemer and his relation to the Father, he makes use of the Old Testament, not of the Logos-idea, which thus can not be said to form an essential part of his Christology.

The importance which he attaches to the evidence of prophecy shows his estimate of the Old Testament Scriptures, which are to Christians absolutely the word of God, spoken by the Holy Ghost, and confirmed by the fulfilment of the prophecies. Not less divine, however, is the teaching of the apostles, which is read in the assembly every Lord's Day-- though he can not use this in his "Dialogue" as he uses the Old Testament. The word of the apostles is the teaching of the Divine Logos, and reproduces the sayings of Christ authentically. As a rule he uses the synoptic Gospels - Matthew, Mark, and Luke - but has a few unmistakable references to John. He quotes the Book of Revelation as inspired because prophetic, naming its author. The opposition of Marcion prepares us for an attitude toward the Pauline epistles corresponding to that of the later Church. Distinct references are found to Romans, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians, and possible ones to Philippians, Titus, and 1 Timothy. It seems likely that he also knew Hebrews and 1 John. The apologetic character of Justin's habit of thought appears again in the Acts of his martyrdom (ASB, Apr., ii. 108 sqq.; Ruinart, Acta martyrum, Regensburg, 1859, 105 sqq.), the genuineness of which is attested by internal evidence.

External links

Translations of works by Justin Martyr:
First Apology
Second Apology
Dialogue with Trypho