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Bible Dictionaries

A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography

Justinus Martyr, Philosopher


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Justinus (2) Martyr, St., son of Priscus, grandson of Bacchius; born at Flavia Neapolis, hard by the ruins of ancient Sychem (now Nablous), in Palestine ( Apol. i. 1). He calls himself a Samaritan ( Dial. c. 120, § 349 C), so that his family had probably settled there definitely; but he is obviously not a Samaritan by blood or religion; nothing in his writing would point to such an origin. He has not heard, even, of Moses or of the prophets until well on in life; he classes himself among those Gentiles to whom the Gospel was opened so largely when the main mass ( Apol. i. 53, § 88 B) of the house of Jacob, in which he includes by name the Samaritans as well as the Jews, rejected it. He speaks of being brought up in heathen customs, being uncircumcised ( Dial. c. 29, § 246 C), and receiving a thoroughly Greek education ( Dial. c. 2, § 219). The name of his grandfather is Greek; of his father and himself Latin. What we know of him is gathered almost entirely from his own writings, and chiefly from his famous description of the studies through which he passed to his conversion, given in his Dialogue with the New Tryphon. The opening of the Dialogue discovers Justin walking in the colonnades of a city, which Eusebius identifies with Ephesus ( H. E. iv. 18), shortly after the wars of the Romans against Bar-Cocheba in 132–136 ( Dial. c. 1, § 217). To the Jew, who greets him as a philosopher, he recounts his philosophic experiences, though we gain but little clue as to where or at what time these experiences occurred. He speaks of his first longing to share in that wisdom "which is verily the highest possession, the most valued by God, to Whom it alone leads and unites us"; when with this hope he went successively to a Stoic teacher, a Peripatetic, and a famous Pythagorean, but in each case to no purpose. Much grieved at this, he thought of trying the Platonics, whose fame stood high. He went chiefly to one lately settled in his town, who was thought highly of by his school; advanced some way with him, giving him the greater part of every day; was delighted with the perception of the Incorporeal; the contemplation of the Ideas "gave wings to my mind, quickly I thought to become wise, and expected that, if it were not for my dull sight, I should be in a moment looking upon God; for this sight is the fulfilment of the Platonic philosophy." "While in this frame of mind I one day had a wish for quiet meditation, away from the beaten track of men, and so went to a bit of ground not far from the sea; and there, just as I was nearing the place where I looked to be alone with my thoughts, an old man, of a pleasant countenance, and with a gentle and dignified mien, came following me a little behind." The old man asked Justin, "'For what are you come here?' 'I delight,' I answered, 'in these strolls, in which I can hold converse with myself, without interruption; a place like this is most favourable for such talking as I love.' 'Ah! you are a lover of talk, and not of action or of reality,' he said. 'You are one, I suppose, who cares more for reasons than for facts, for words than for deeds.' 'And how, indeed,' I answered, 'can a man act more efficiently than in exhibiting the reason that governs all, or than in laying hold of it, and there, borne aloft on it, looking down on others who stray helplessly below, and do nothing sane, or dear to God? Without philosophy and right reason there is no possible wisdom. Every man, therefore, ought to esteem philosophy as his noblest work, and to let all else come second or third to it; for by philosophy things are made right and acceptable, without it they become common and vulgar.' 'Philosophy, then, is the true cause of happiness, is it?' he asked in reply. 'Yes, indeed, it is,' I said, 'it and it alone.'"

A discussion follows on the possibility of philosophy giving the true knowledge of God, which is Happiness; at its close Justin confesses that his philosophy supplies no clear account of the soul, of its capacity to perceive the Divine, nor of the character of its life; the old man speaks with a decision that he professes to owe neither to Plato nor to Pythagoras, who are the bulwarks of philosophy. What teacher is there who can give certainty where such as these fail? asks Justin. The old man replies that there have been men, far older than all these philosophers, men blessed and upright and beloved of God, who spoke by the spirit of God, and are called Prophets. These alone have seen the truth, and spoken it to men; not as reasoners, for they go higher than all argument, but as witnesses of the truth, who are worthy to be believed, since the events foretold have come to pass and so compel us to rely on their words, as do also the wonders they have worked to the honour and glory of God the Father and of His Christ. "Pray thou, then, that the gates of the Light may be opened too for thee; for these things can only be seen and known by those to whom God and His Christ have given understanding." Justin saw the old man no more; but in his soul the flame was fired and a passion of love aroused for these prophets, the friends of Christ; and as he reflected upon it he found that here indeed lay the one and only sure and worthy philosophy.

This is all we know of his conversion. The scene is, perhaps, idealized; it has a savour of Plato; but the imagination of Justin was hardly equal to producing, unaided, such vivid detail of scenery and character. The description would imply that he was somewhat advanced in study, but not past the enthusiasms of earlier life. The event, apparently, occurred in Flavia Neapolis, i.e. " our town," in which the Platonist teacher had settled; but "our town" may mean that in which he and Tryphon were conversing, i.e. , according to Eusebius, Ephesus. It must have been before the Bar-Cocheba wars, if it is from them that Tryphon was flying when Justin met him. The conversion takes the form of a passage from the imperfect to the perfect philosophy; throughout his life it retains that impress. He was not rescued from intellectual despair, but was in the highest condition of confidence when the old man met him. The aim with which he started on his studies was achieved when he became a Christian. Hence he is not thrown into an attitude of antagonism to that which he leaves; his new faith does not break with the old so much as fulfil it. He still, therefore, calls himself the philosopher, still invites men to enter his school, still wears the philosopher's cloak (Dial. i. § 217; Eus. H. E. iv. 11; cf. the Acts of Justin). From the first, philosophy had been pursued with the religious aim of attaining the highest spiritual happiness by communing with God; the certified knowledge of God, therefore, professed by the prophets, and made manifest in Christ, comes to him as the crown of his existing aspiration.

One other motive he records to have affected his conversion, i.e. his wondering admiration at the steadfastness of Christians under persecution. "When I was still attached to the doctrine of Plato, and used to hear the accusations hurled against Christians, and yet saw them perfectly fearless in the face of death and of all that is terrible, I understood that it was impossible they should be living all the time a life of wickedness and lust" ( Apol. ii. 12, § 50 A). This appeal, which the moral steadfastness of the Christians had made to him, he continually brings to bear upon others (i. 8, § 57; i. 11, § 58 E, etc.). Perhaps, too, the lack of moral reality and energy in the doctrines of philosophy was not unfelt by Justin, for his words seem sometimes to recall the old man's taunt, "You are a man of words, and not of deeds" (cf. i. 14, § 61 E, "For Christ was no Sophist, but His word was the power of God").

We have no details of his life after baptism. He seems to have come to Rome, and, perhaps, to have stayed there some time, according to Eusebius (H. E. iv. 11). His peculiar office was to bring the Christian apologetic into the publicity of active controversy in the schools. The collision with Tryphon in the Colonnades is probably but a specimen of the intellectual intercourse which Justin challenged by wearing the philosopher's cloak. The introduction to the Dialogue appears to record a familiar habit. The Second Apology mentions a dispute with Crescens the Cynic (3, § 43, B, C). The memory of Justin's characteristic attitude is recorded by Eusebius: "It was then that St. Justin flourished, who, under the dress of a philosopher, preached the word of God, and defended the truth of our faith by his writings as well as by his words"; and the Acts of his martyrdom speak of Justin as sitting in the house of Martinus, a recognized place of meeting for Christians, and there conversing with any who visited him, imparting to them the true doctrine. The persons condemned with him are companions whom he has gathered about him and converted. "I took delight," says one of them, Evelpistus, "in listening to Justin's discourse."

When persecution fell sharply upon the church, he was in the van of those who considered it their first duty to make public to their judges the doctrine and life so foully accused (Apol. i. 3, § 54). So, in the Dialogue with Tryphon, he speaks of the guilt he would incur before the judgment seat of Christ if he did not freely and ungrudgingly open to them his knowledge of the meaning of Scripture ( Dial. c. 58, § 280 B).

This freedom of apologetic crowned itself towards the close of Justin's life in the three works which alone can be accepted as undoubtedly authentic: the two Apologies and the Dialogue with Tryphon the Jew. This same freedom brought him to his death.

The secret cause of his seizure is supposed by Eusebius to have been the enmity of an opponent whom he had convicted of ignorance, Crescens the Cynic. "Crescens," Tatian write, "who made himself a nest in Rome, while professing to despise death, proved his fear of it by scheming to bring Justin and myself to death as to an evil thing" (Or. c. 32; cf. Eus. H. E. iv. 16). For the reality of his violent death for Christ we have the indubitable testimony of his historic title, Justin Martyr. For the actual account of it we are dependent on the Acts of his martyrdom, which embody, probably without serious change, the simple and forcible tradition which the 3rd cent. retained of the death-scene. They have the appearance of containing genuine matter. According to these, he and his companions are brought before Rusticus, the prefect of the city, and are simply commanded to sacrifice to the gods, without any mention of Crescens, or of Justin's Apologies to the emperors. Justin, on examination, professes to have found the final truth in Christianity, after exploring all other systems; this truth, he declares, consists in adoring the one God, Who has made all things, visible and invisible, and Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Who was foretold by the prophets to be coming into the world to preach salvation and teach good doctrine. He declares that Christians meet wherever they choose or can, seeing that their God is not limited to this or that place, but fills heaven and earth; but that he himself, on this, his second visit to Rome, held meetings for his followers in the house of one Martinus only, near the baths of Timotinus. After a brave refusal to sacrifice, and an assurance of salvation in Christ, he and those with him were condemned to be beaten with rods and beheaded. They died praising God and confessing their Saviour. The faithful secretly carried their bodies to a fit burial.

Such are the fragments left to us of his life; between what dates do they fall? The title of the First Apology is decisive; it is addressed to the "Emperor Titus Aelius Antoninus Pius, Augustus, Caesar; to Verissimus his son, philosopher, and to Lucius, the natural son of a philosophic Caesar, the adopted son of a pious Caesar." Here we have Antoninus Pius as sole emperor, with his two imperial companions, adopted by him as sons at the request of Hadrian, i.e. Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus (cf. Neander, Ch. Hist. [trans.] vol. ii. 446, 1851). With this the Eusebian tradition agrees; according to it, the first Apology was addressed to Antoninus; in the Chronicon it is assigned to c. 141, the fourth of that reign. Antoninus reigned from 137 to 161; will 141 suit Justin's language?

According to some, this is not early enough, for the title omits to salute Aurelius as Caesar, which he became publicly in 140. Against this lie several weighty objections: (1) Lucius Verus is called, possibly philosopher, certainly "ἐραστὴς παιδείας ," lover of culture; but by 140 he is only ten years old. (2) Marcion is in the Apology the greatest type of heresy, "with a following spread over every race of men." Justin's language seems to belong to a time when Marcion's pre-eminence had overshadowed the earlier heretics (cf. Lipsius, Die Quellen der Ketzergeschichte , 1875, pp. 21, 22), and this could hardly be till well after 140. It was under Antoninus (according to general authority, cf. Tertullian, Clement, etc.) that Marcion succeeded in putting himself .in the front, and arrived at Rome. Yet, already before the Apology , Justin has written a book against him, with other heretics (Apol. i. 26, § 70 C). It is difficult to attribute to Marcion this immense position in the very first years of Antoninus (cf. contra. Semisch, Justin , p. 73, 1840). (3) Justin professes to be writing 150 years after our Lords birth, a round number, it is true, but in a context where the object is to diminish the interval. Without very positive evidence against it, the year 148—i.e. Justin's A.D. 150—should be taken as the approximate date. These reasons would place the first Apology near the end of the first half of the reign of Antoninus. This would not conflict with two other references to times—to the deification of Antoninus, i.e. 131 ( Apol. i. 29, § 72), and to the wars of Bar-Cocheba, 132, 136 (31, § 72). Both have the same formula: τῷ νῦν γεγενημένῳ πολέμῳ and Ἀντινόου τοῦ νῦν γεγενημένου . The expression is vague, but requires the two events to be well within the memories of Justin's readers.

The address of the second Apology has at last, after many confusions, been determined to refer to Antoninus again, and Marcus Aurelius. It is indirect, and found in 2, § 42 C, where a single emperor is definitely meant, and in the last chapter, where the rulers are spoken of in the plural; in 2, § 43 B there are two people in office, Pius the αὐτοκράτωρ , and a philosopher, who is saluted as son of Caesar; and continued reference is made to the mingled piety and philosophy of these personages. These two, with the well-known titles, can hardly be other than Antoninus and Marcus Aurelius. This is made almost a certainty when we consider that the second Apology seems to have followed close upon the first and bears all the mark of a sequel or appendix (cf. Volkmar, in Theolog. Jahrb. 1855, N. 14; cf. Hort, in Journ. of Classic and Sacred Philol. vol. iii. p. 155 (1857), of which much use is made in the art.). This is clear, among other things, from the references in the second to the first Apology (Apol. ii. 4, § 43; 6, § 45; 8, § 46) as to a writing close at hand and freshly remembered. The date of the Apologies may be thrown back as far in the reign of Antoninus as is consistent with the prominence attributed to Marcion.

Of the date of Justin's birth we have nothing certain. Epiphanius states that he died when 30 years old. The evidence is not forthcoming. For the date of his conversion we have scarcely any evidence except that it was before the wars of Bar-Cocheba, 132–136 (Dial. i. 1, § 217) Eusebius supposes he was unconverted at the date of Antinous, A.D. 131 ( H. E. iv. 8), but it is doubtful if Eusebius had any ground for this except Apol. i. 29, § 72, which certainly does not require it.

The genuineness of the three writings already mentioned is universally accepted. The first Apology definitely pronounces itself to be Justin's; the second obviously belongs to the first; the Dialogue claims to be written by a Samaritan, who had addressed the emperor—its personal history of the writer exactly tallies with Justin's attitude towards philosophy in the Apologies. The peculiar phrase ἀπομνημονεύματα τῶν Ἀποστόλων occurs in these three works, and in them alone. The whole tone of the works agrees with the period assigned. The external evidence gathered by Eusebius is strong and unbroken (cf. Eus. H. E. iv. 18).

But it is otherwise with an Oratio ad Graecos ; a λόγος παραινετικὸς πρὸς Ἕλληνας , Cohortatio ad Graecos ; a fragment, περὶ Ἀναστάσεως ; and a book, περὶ Μοναρχίας , which must be classed as very doubtful; others are decidedly not genuine.

Several works of Justin have been entirely lost: (1) The book Against all Heresies , to which he refers in Apol. i. 26, § 70. (2) Against Marcion , referred to by Irenaeus (iv. contra Haer. c. 14; cf. v. 26), supposed by some to be part of (1). (3) A book called Ψάλτης , and (4) περὶ ψυχῆς , in which he contrasts his own doctrine with that of the Greek philosophers (Eus. H. E. iv. 18).

"Many other works of his," says Eusebius, "are in the hands of the brethren." Evidently he must have written a great deal, and the three undoubted works still extant perhaps account for this voluminous character of his writings. For these three pieces are written loosely and unsystematically, and read like the outpouring of a mind that had ranged widely in heathen literature and philosophy, and had massed a large store of general knowledge, which could be easily and effectively brought to bear upon current topics, without any scrupulous regard to the artistic or symmetrical appearance of the result.

Justin's writing, especially in the first Apology , is full of direct and striking force; it moves easily and pleasingly; his thinking is fresh, healthy, vigorous, and to the point; his wide knowledge is used with practical skill; his whole tone and character are immensely attractive by their genuineness, simplicity, generous high-mindedness, and frank and confident energy.

In the first Apology , composed with much more care and completeness than the second, he defines and justifies his position of apologist before the rulers, with supreme dignity, and confidence. He calls upon them to let it be seen whether they are the loyal guardians of right and lovers of culture, which they are reported to be. He demands for himself and his fellows the justice of an exact and critical examination, without regard to prejudice, superstition, irrational panic, or any long-established evil fame. It is, as it were, for the sake of the governors and their justice that he seems to be asking a trial, for, "as for us Christians," he proudly declares, "we do not consider that we can suffer any ill from any one, unless we are convicted of wickedness or evil-doing; you can kill us indeed, but damage us you cannot" (Apol. i. 2, 54 A); "Princes who prefer prejudice to truth can do no more harm than robbers in a desert" ( Apol. i. 12, § 59 E). So he opens his Apology , which can be roughly divided into three divisions, cc. 3–23, in which he refutes, generally, the false charges made against Christianity; cc. 23–61 exhibiting the truth of the Christian system and how it has got misunderstood; cc. 61–68 revealing the character of Christian worship and customs.

The charges against the Christians, encountered in pt. i., are: (1) The very fact of Christianity is itself treated as a punishable crime (c. iv.). (2) Atheism (c. vi.). How can they with any justice be called atheists, who reverence and worship the Father of all Righteousness, the Son Who came from the Father and taught us this, the whole Host of Angels and the Prophetical Spirit? "These are they whom we honour in reason and truth, offering our knowledge of them to all who will learn of us." (3) That some Christians have been proved malefactors. Yes, very likely, for we all are called Christians however much we vary. Therefore let every one be tried on his merits. If convicted of evil, let him pay the penalty, only as an evil-doer, not as a Christian. If innocent of crime, let him be acquitted though a Christian. (4) Christians are charged with aiming at a kingdom. But this can hardly be a kingdom on earth; for, then, we should be ruining all our hopes of it by our willingness to die for Christ. Yet we never attempt to conceal our faith; and here Justin makes a direct appeal. "Surely," he cries, "we are the best friends that a ruler could desire, we who believe in a God Whose eye no crime can escape, no falsehood deceive; we who look for an eternal judgment, not only on our deeds, but even on our thoughts! So our Master, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, has taught us." For the reality and true character of this faith in God through Christ, he offers the proof of the Christian's moral conversion. "We who once delighted in adultery, now are become chaste; once given to magic, now are consecrated to the one good God; once loving wealth above all things, now hold all our goods in common, and share them with the poor; once full of hatred and slaughter, now live together in peace, and pray for our enemies, and strive to convert our persecutors." All this is emphasised by our belief in the resurrection of the body, in which we shall hereafter suffer pain for all our sins done here (c. 18). Is this incredible? Yet it is believed not only by us, but by all who turn to magic rites, to spiritualists, to witches, to frenzied seers, to oracles at Dodona or Delphi; by Empedocles and Pythagoras, Plato and Socrates, by Homer and Virgil.

Here begins a defence of Christian doctrine, on the ground of its likeness to doctrines already held in heathenism (c. 21). We alone are hated, even though we hold the same as the Greeks; we alone are killed for our faith, even though we do nothing bad.

(C. 30.) He turns to a new objection. "How do you know the genuineness of your Christ, or that He was not some clever magic-worker?" Justin's answer is, by the proof of prophecy. The books of the Jews, translated in the LXX, in spite of the bitter hatred of the Jews against us, speak, years before the event, of us and of our Christ.

(C. 46.) A new objection: were all men irresponsible before 150 years ago, when Christ was born under Quirinus? No; there were Christians before Christ, men who lived in the power of the Word of God, Socrates and Heraclitus, Abraham and Elias.

(C. 56.) The demons have deceived men before Christ by the tales of Polytheism; and, after Christ, by the impieties of Simon, Menander, and Marcion: but have never been able to make men disbelieve in the end of the world and the judgment to come, nor to conceal the advent of Christ.

(Cc. 61–67.) He has spoken of Faith in Christ and Regeneration of Life; he will now tell what this exactly means; and so proceeds to describe the baptism by which the regeneration is effected; the reasons for this rite; its accomplishment in the Name of the Nameless God called the Father, in the Name of the Son Jesus Christ crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the Name of the Holy Spirit Who spake by the Prophets. He describes (c. 65) the Eucharistic Feast to which the baptized are admitted, and gives a brief account of the character to be attributed to the bread and wine then consecrated and of the authority on which this rests.

He speaks once more of the feast, as it recurs on the Sundays, when they all assemble together, and (c. 68) closes rather abruptly, with the personal directness which throughout gives dignity to the Apology. "If my words seem to you agreeable to reason and truth, then give them their due value; if they strike you as trifling, then treat them lightly as trifles; but, at least, do not decree death against those who do nothing wrong, as if they were enemies of the state. For, if you continue in iniquity, we foretell that you will not be able to escape the future judgment of God; we shall be content to cry, God's will be done!"

He adds an epistle of Hadrian to Minucius Fundanus, by which he could claim a fair trial; but he would rather ask that as a matter of plain justice than by right of law or precedent. This letter of Hadrian's, we are told by Eusebius, was preserved by Justin in its Latin form (H. E. iv. 8), and thrown by him into Greek. Its style suits the age of Hadrian (Otto, ed. of Justin, vol. i. note on p. 190); it is considered genuine by Aubé, Ueberweg, doubted by Keim ( Theol. Jahrb. t. xv. Tüb. 1856, p. 387). It gives so little to the Christians, that it seems hardly likely to be fictitious.

The second Apology , possibly an appendix to the first (Otto, ed. p. lxxxi.; Volkmar, Baur and Zell. Theolog. Jahrb. t. xiv. Tüb. 1855; Keim, Protest. K.-Z. Ber. 1873, n. 28, col. 619), anyhow written at no long interval after the first, begins abruptly with an appeal directly to the Romans, but in reality addressed to the imperial rulers (cf. cc. 3, 14, 15), together with the whole people. These rulers, under whom the affairs which led to the Apology occurred, are, it has been argued, the emperor Pius and the philosopher Marcus Aurelius, and, according to a suggested reading, Lucius Verus son of Caesar. The opening betrays by its suddenness, and emphasizes by dwelling on the speed with which the Apology had been produced, the excitement under which it was composed. "Things had happened within the last two days in Rome," such as the irrational actions of the magistrates, which had driven Justin to write an Apology for his own people, who are, though the Romans know it not and will not have it, their brothers, of like feelings with themselves.

(C. 2.) He relates the case which had so fired him with indignation; it is very typical of what Christians were subject to. The dissolute wife of a dissolute man is converted and is anxious to separate from her husband. He holds out some hopes of amendment, so she forces herself to remain, but he plunges into worse debauchery. She sends a writ of divorce and leaves him. Then this "good and noble husband" bethought himself of accusing her of being a Christian. While her case was pending, a certain Ptolemaus, the wife's master in the faith, whom Urbicus had imprisoned, is challenged with being a Christian. Ptolemaus, brought up before Urbicus, is asked, "Are you a Christian?" and on confessing it is at once condemned to death. Lucius a Christian publicly challenges Urbicus to justify a decision which punished a man simply for the name of Christian. "You, too, are a Christian, I suppose?" is the only answer he gets from Urbicus; and on confessing it he is condemned to death, declaring as he goes that he is glad to be free of rulers so unjust and to depart to the Father and King of Heaven. A third in the same way passes to a like punishment; "And I myself," breaks in Justin, "look for the same fate, for I, too, have enemies who have a grudge against me, and are likely enough to take this way of avenging themselves; Crescens especially, the sham philosopher, whom I have convicted of entire ignorance about the Christianity which he slanders."

(C. 4.) It may be said in scorn, "Be off, then, to your God to Heaven by killing yourselves, and trouble us no longer!" But Christians believe the world to be made by God to fulfil His purpose; they are not at liberty to destroy, as far as in them lies, the human race, for whom the world was created. Nor yet can we deny our faith; for this would be to allow its guilt and to lie, and would leave you in your evil prejudices.

(C. 5.) "Why does God not help His own?" He spares to punish and destroy the evil world, for the sake of this holy seed, the Christians, who are the real reason why God still preserves the order of nature, which the fallen angels have so corrupted.

The effect of these Apologies upon the rulers of Rome is unknown; but Justin's expectation of death was not disappointed, and Marcus Aurelius still mistrusted the motives which made Christians martyrs and saw no reason to stay the outcry of the Roman crowd when it demanded Christian victims. It remained a legal crime to be a Christian. Indeed, according to Roman ideas of government, it could hardly cease to be criminal as long as Christianity continued its private and peculiar organization and found it impossible to conform to the tests of good citizenship, such as the oath to the emperor. The Apologies never hint at concession on such points, but persist that their present position is entirely innocent. Their vigour must have revealed the irreconcilability of Christian life with the mass of pagan custom and temper in which the solidity of Rome had its foundation.

The Dialogue with Trypho follows the first Apology , and probably the second also, between 142 and 148 according to Hort; in 155 (Volkmar); or in 160–164 (Keim). It was written to report to a dear friend, Marcus Pompeius (cf. c. 8, § 225 D; c. 141, § 371 B), a discussion which Justin had held with the Jews during the Bar-Cocheba wars. The discussion represents the Christian polemic against the Jews; but Trypho makes his advance as a philosopher rather than as a Jew, and it is Justin who turns the talk to the Jewish Scriptures by expressing his surprise at a Jew being still engaged in searching for truth in the pagan philosophers when he possessed already in those Scriptures the authorized exponent of revealed wisdom, for the sake of whose secured certainty Justin himself had left all other human systems. Trypho is, indeed, a curious type of Judaism; a light and superficial inquirer in the courts of the schools, surrounded by a band of loud and lively friends, he begins with a reference to a Socratic at Argos, who had taught him to address courteously all who wore the philosopher's cloak, in the hope of finding, through the pleasant interchange of thoughts, something useful to both. He smiles gracefully as he inquires what opinion Justin holds about the gods, and, apparently, justifies his philosophic studies in the face of Scripture, by claiming that the philosophers are equally with Moses searchers after the Being of God. The noisy friends having been avoided by retirement to a quiet seat, Trypho opens the question with the air of a free and tolerant seeker after truth; he has read the Gospel, and found in it a morality too high for real practice, and is ready to acknowledge the piety of the better Christians. What he wonders at is that with so much goodness, they should nevertheless live as Gentiles without keeping the pure laws of God, e.g. the Sabbath and circumcision, by which He separates the holy from sinners; he wonders, too, how those who place their hope in a man can yet hope for a reward from God. He would gladly have all this explained (cf. c. 57, § 280 A; c. 68, § 293 A). Trypho, then, is no fierce Jewish opponent, prepared to attack, but adopts the tone almost of an inquirer. It is the Jew under a new aspect that we find here, the Jew of culture, of open and tolerant mind, with the easy courtesy of the literary world. Before such, apparent openness and easy-going lightness it is perhaps not without artistic skill that Justin hints at the fierce and implacable hatred of Jew against Christian which had tortured and slain Christians without pity under Bar-Cocheba and made Jews everywhere the most violent and remorseless of the church's slanderers and persecutors (c. 108, § 335).

The Dialogue takes two days. Some fresh friends of Trypho join him on the second day (c. 118, § 346 C); he speaks sometimes of them as if only two, at other times as if many. One is named Mnaseas (c. 85, § 312). They shout disapproval once, as if in a theatre (c. 122, § 351 A). The whole is spoken as they sit on some stone seats in the gymnasium, Justin being about to sail on a voyage.

The actual argument begins at c. 10. The points especially raised by Trypho were two, i.e. how the Christians could profess to serve God and yet (1) break God's given law, and (2) believe in a human Saviour (cf. c. 10, § 227 D). The purity of Christian living is acknowledged; the problem is its consistency with its creed.

Justin's argument may be roughly divided into three parts (Otto, Prolegomena). In cc. 11–47 he refutes Trypho's conception of the binding character of the Jewish law, which refutation involves him also in a partial answer to the second part of the problem, i.e. the nature of the Christ in Whom they trust; for the passing away of the Law turns on the character of the Christ of Whom it prophesies. In cc. 48–105 he expounds the absolute divinity of Christ, His pre-existence, incarnation, passion, resurrection, and ascension, by virtue of which the belief in Him is proved consistent with belief in God alone. In c. 109 he passes to the necessary outcome of these two principles—the conversion of the Gentiles, the new Israel, and the abandonment of the old Israel, unless they accept the new covenant. The whole is rested on the Scriptures, on the interpretation of prophecy. Justin starts with a claim to believe absolutely in the God of Israel; here is his common ground with Trypho (c. 11)—both accept the old revelation (c. 68, § 298 A; cf. 57, § 279 B; 56, § 277 D). "I should not endure your argument," Trypho says (c. 56, § 277 D), "unless you referred all to the Scriptures; but I see you try to find all your reasons in them, and announce no other God but the Supreme Creator of the world."

The Dialogue , therefore, is a perfect storehouse of early Christian interpretation of Scripture. This forms its wonderful value; it carries us back to that first effort at interpretation which dates from St. Peter's speech at the election of Matthias, and knits itself so closely with the walk to Emmaus, when the Scriptures were first opened and it was seen from them that Christ must suffer. The O.T. is still the sacred guide and continual companion of the Christian life, the type of the written revelation; everything is there. Yet by the side of it we already feel in Justin that a new power has appeared, a fresh canon is forming, another book is beginning to assert itself. The work is full of crucial interest, just because Justin appears at the moment when this is gradually becoming clear.

In the two Apologies and the Dialogue Justin covers a large part of the theological field. His treatment is peculiarly typical of the earliest form of Christian speculation outside and beyond the immediate lines laid down by the apostolic writings. The apostolic Fathers were rather practical than speculative. The doctrinal works of people like Melito of Sardis are lost. In the Apologists Christianity, according to its preserved records, first prominently applies itself to the elucidation of its dogmatic position, and of them Justin is among the earliest and the most famous. But in considering his theology we must remember that we only possess his exoteric utterances. He is not spontaneously developing the Christian's creed, but is striving, under the stress of a critical emergency, to exhibit it most effectively and least suspiciously to an alien and unsympathetic audience, prepared not merely to discuss but to judge and kill. The whole position tended to quicken the natural tendency of Justin's mind towards an optimistic insistence on likenesses and agreements, rather than on differences between himself and his opponents. This is not said to discredit his utterances, but simply in order to consider them, as all intelligent criticism must consider them, under their actual historical conditions. Justin is on what is yet new ground to a great extent; he is pioneering, he is venturing along unmarked and unexamined roads. Christian doctrine is still forming itself under his hands, even on some essential and cardinal points.

Justin's Theology , then, begins in the presence of (1) Jewish Monotheism, and (2) of the Primal and Absolute and Universal Cause of all Existence, posited by the philosophic consciousness of paganism. He has to state how his conception of the Deity stands to these.

He answers, that he believes (1) in a God identical with the God of the Jews: "There is no other God, nor ever has been, but He Who made and ordered the Universe; that very God Who brought your fathers, Trypho, out of Egypt, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" (Dial. 11, § 228 A). his God of creation is the one cause of all existence, therefore known as the Father: ὁ πατὴρ τῶν ὅλων ( ib. 114, § 342 A), or τῶν πάντων ( Apol. i. 8, § 57 A). In Apol. ii. 6, § 44 D, he sums up all the names by which the absolute God may be known, πατήρ, Θεός, κτίστης, κύριος, δεσπότης . This is his cardinal and prevailing expression for God the Father—that He is the Maker and Ordainer and Lord of all creation. (2) But, besides the Father, Justin undertakes to exhibit the Divinity of a Second Person, the Son, ὁ μόνος λεγόμενος κυρίως υἱός ( Apol. ii. 6, § 44). υἱὸν αὐτοῦ τοῦ ὄντως Θεοῦ ( ib. i. 13, § 60 C), to whom is allotted the second place, in honour and worship, after the ἄτρεπτον καὶ ἀεὶ ὄντα Θεὸν γεννήτορα τῶν ἁπάντων . He is, primarily, ὁ Λόγος , the Word of God, with God before creation began, συνῆν τῷ πατρὶ πρὸ πάντων τῶν ποιημάτων ( Dial. 62, § 285 D). With Him the Father communicated ( προσομιλεῖ ), having begotten Him before all things (γέννημα ὑπὸ τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐγεγέννητο ). The manner of this begetting is spoken of as a projection (τῷ ὄντι ἀπὸ τοῦ πατρὸς προβληθὲν γέννημα ). Such is the Λόγος , called by Solomon the Wisdom, who co-existed with the Father at that moment when, at the beginning, by Him the Father made and perfected all things (Apol. ii. 6, § 44 E; Dial. 62, § 285 D). He it is Who is ὁ Θεός, ἀπὸ τοῦ πατρὸς τῶν ὅλων γεννγθείς , and Who is known as the Word, and the Wisdom, and the Power, and the Glory of Him Who begat Him (Dial. 61, § 284 A, B). The Son is the instrument of "Creation" ( δἰ αὐτοῦ πάντα ἔκτισε ); hence (in addition to His primal names, Λόγος , Υἱός ) called Χριστός , κατὰ τὸ κεχρίσθαι τὰ πάντα δἰ αὐτόν ; but this name is in itself of unknown significance, just as the title "God" is no real name, but rather expresses a natural opinion, inborn in man, about an unutterable fact. Christ's Being, therefore, as well as the Father's, is beyond all human expression, and is known only economically; for, if this is true of the title Χριστός , it can hardly but be true of the higher names, Λόγος and Υἱός . This Λόγος is identical with the Man Jesus, conceived through the will of the Father on behalf of man, named Jesus as being a Man and a Saviour. Justin holds, then, the entire Divinity of Him Who was born a Man and crucified under Pontius Pilate. Nothing can be more pronounced or decided than his position; it is brought to the front by the necessities of his arguments both with the Jew and the Gentile. He starts with this position, that he worships as God, a man Christ Jesus; it is this that he has to justify to the Gentile (cf. Apol. i. 21, 22, § 67). "In that we say," he says, "that the Word, Which is the first-begotten of God, has been born without human mixture, as Jesus Christ, our Master, Who was crucified and died, and rose again;" or, again, "Jesus Christ, Who alone was begotten to be the only Son of God, being the Word of God, and the first-born and the Power of God ( πρωτότοκος καὶ δύναμις ), became Man by the will of the Father, and taught us these things." He justifies the possibility of these statements to the emperors by appeals to Greek mythology, i.e. he is so fast bound to this belief that he has to run the risk of all the discredit that will attach to it in the minds of the philosophic statesmen to whom he is appealing from its likeness to the debasing fables which their intellectualism either rationalized or discarded. That Justin is conscious of this risk of discredit is clear from cc. 53 and 54 of the first Apology , with which we may compare the taunt of Trypho (Dial. 67, § 219 B). So again, in the Dialogue , it is the Christian worship of a man that puzzles Trypho; and the first necessity for Justin is to exhibit the consistency of this with the supreme monarchy of God. "First shew me," asks Trypho (ib. c. 50), "how you can prove there is any other God besides the Creator of the universe?" and this not in any economical sense, but verily and indeed (cf. ib. 55, § 274 C); and Justin accepts the task, undertaking to exhibit Jesus, the Christ, born of a virgin, as Θεὸς καὶ Κύριος τῶν δυνάμεων ( ib. 36, § 254 E), to shew Him to be, at the same time, both Θεὸς καὶ Κύριος , and also ἀνὴρ καὶ ἄνθρωπος ( ib. 59, § 382 C). The rigour with which this is posited may be tested by the crucial case of the appearance to Abraham at Mamre. Here, it is allowed, after a little discussion, that no angelic manifestation satisfies the language used by Scripture. It is certainly God Himself Who is spoken of. Justin undertakes to prove that this cannot be God the Father, but must be other than He Who created all things—" other ," he means, "in number, in person, not in will or spirit" (ib. 56, § 276 D, ἕτερος , ἀριθμῷ λέγω ἀλλ᾿ οὐ γνώμῃ ). So, again, he applies to this Divine Being the tremendous words delivered to Moses from the midst of the burning bush, and he will not suffer this to be qualified or weakened by any such subtle distinctions as Trypho attempts to draw between the angel seen of Moses and the voice of God that spoke. He insists, against any such subtleties, that whatever Presence of God was actually there manifested was the Presence, not of the Supreme Creator, Who cannot be imagined to have left His Highest Heaven, but of that Being Who, being God, announces Himself to Moses as the God Who had shewn Himself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. To Him, therefore, apply the words "I am that I am." By these two cases, specimens of a hundred others drawn from Law and Psalm and Prophets, it will be seen how clearly the problem was present to Justin, and how definitely he had envisaged its solution so far as the O.T. was concerned; in direct collision with the Monotheism of the Jew, he defends himself, not by withdrawing or modifying his assertions, but by discovering the evidence for His dual Godhead in the very heart of the ancient Revelation itself; not in any by-ways or minor incidents, but in the very core and centre of those most essential manifestations of God to Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and Joshua, on the truth of which the whole fabric of Jewish faith and worship was reared.

Justin has next to consider in what relation these two Divine Beings stand to each other. Given the existence of a Second Person Who can so effectually identify Himself with the First as to be called ὁ Θεός , how can we conceive the harmony and unity of such a duality? Justin is clear that the distinction between the two Beings is real; it is a numerical distinction. The Word is no mere emanation of the Father, inseparable from Him as the light is inseparable from the sun. He is a real subsistence, born of the Father's Will (Dial. 128, § 358 B). The words used, therefore, to express their relation are words of companionship, of intercourse, of συνῆν , προσομιλεῖ ( cf. ib. 62, § 285 C, D, where he brings out the fact of this personal intercourse as involved in the consultations at the creation of man). They are two distinct Beings, but yet must be One in order not to dissolve the absoluteness of the only Godhead. Such a unity may be pictured by the connexion between a thought and the Reason that thinks it, or by the unity of a flame with the fire from which it was taken. Each of these examples of the unbroken unity has the shortcoming that they compel us to think of a stage prior to the dual condition in which that which is now dual was single. What, then, of the existence of the Word before It became the προβληθὲν γέννημα ? Justin is content with the statements: (1) That "before all things," already "at the beginning," this projection had been effected, the two Persons were already distinct (cf. ib. 62, § 285 D; 56, § 276 C, τὸν καὶ πρὸ ποιήσεως κόσμου ὄντα Θεόν ). (2) That besides this actual projection of the Λόγος there is a state which may be described as a condition of inner companionship with God the Creator ( συνῆν ). This precedence is never distinctly asserted to be temporal by Justin. In the Dialogue the συνών is stated to be eternal in exactly that sense in which the γέννημα is eternal, i.e. as being "before all things."

Justin does not appear to definitely pronounce on the question how the process of Begetting consists with the absolute eternity of the Personal Word begotten. There is no precise realization of a Λόγος ἐνδιάθετος and προφορικός . He hardly seems conscious of this difficulty in his two analogies of the thought and the flame; he is satisfied with expressing, by them, the unity, and yet distinctness, of the Father and the Son. He is content to state that this unity in difference existed from the very first, before all created things. His analysis seems hardly to have pressed back to the final question, which Arian logic discovered to lie behind all minor issues, i.e. was there a moment when the Father was not yet a Father? Such a suspension of analysis is not unnatural, since Justin, in the writings before us, hardly enters on the contemplation of the Nature of God in and to Himself. It is always as the source of all things—the Father, the Maker, the Lord of the Universe—that he presents God to us. It is God in His relation to His works that we contemplate. What He was in Himself before all His works does not seem considered, and it is therefore all the more sufficient to state that God came to the making of the world already dual in character. The moment at which creation was to begin found the Son already existent, as ὁ Θεός , in personal intercourse with the Father. With this he leaves us, only affirming that that character of paternity which constitutes the relation of God to the world had a prior and peculiar significance and reality in the relation that united the absolute God and His Word (cf. Apol. ii. 6, § 44, ὁ μόνος λεγόμενος κυρίως υἱός ).

Justin's metaphysic, then, culminates in the assertion of this essential Sonship pre-existent to the creation. This being so, his language remains as indecisive on the ulterior question of the origin of the Sonship as is the language of Proverbs on the eternity of the Wisdom. In both cases the utmost expression for eternity that their logic had attained to is used. It is useless to press them for an answer to the puzzles of a later logic, which carried the problem back into that very eternity which closed their horizon. It was inevitable that the natural and unsystematized language used before the Arian controversy should be capable of an Arian interpretation. Since the Father is indeed alone ἀγένητος , the sole unoriginate fount of the Divine life, the expressions used about Him, and about the Son, must necessarily impute to Him an underivative, to the Son a derivative Being; and must, therefore, tend to class the Son rather with the rest of τὰ γενητά than with the sole ἀγενητόν . It could only be at the end of a most subtle and delicate reflection that Christian logic could possibly realize that it was bound, if it would be finally consistent with itself, to class the derived Being of the Son, by virtue of the absolute eternity of its derivation, on the side of τὸ ἀγενητόν rather than on that of τὰ γενητά . Justin, in the full flush of readiness to sweep in to the service of faith the dear and familiar language of his former Platonism, may have left himself unguarded and careless on this uttermost point of the philosophy of the Incarnation; but it will not easily be doubted—by any one who has observed how he develops the full divinity of the Son over all the ground which his logic covered with a boldness and a vigour that, in face of the inevitable obstacles, prejudices, misunderstandings excited by such a creed, are perfectly astonishing—what answer he would have given if the final issue of the position had once presented itself definitely to him.

Justin had also affirmed the moral unity of the Son with the Father. This is not stated to be the ground of the Unity. The analogies of the thought and of the flame, on the contrary, imply a unity of substance to be the ground of the κυρίως υἱότης , but it is introduced in order to explain the consistency of his belief with the reality of a single supreme Will in the Godhead (Dial. 56, § 274), and the explanation naturally led him to affirm the complete subordination of the Son to the will of the Father. The Son is the expression of the Father's mind, the δύναμιν λογικήν , which He begat from Himself. He is the interpreter of His Purpose, the instrument by which He designs. In everything, therefore, the Son is conditioned by the supreme Will; His office, His very nature, is to be ὁ ἄγγελος , ὁ ὑπηρέτης . All His highest titles, υἱός and λόγος , as well as others, belong to Him by virtue of His serving the Father's purpose and being born by the Father's Will (ἐκ τοῦ ἀπὸ τοῦ πατρὸς θελήσει γεγενῆσθαι , ib. 61, § 284 B). "I say that He never did anything but what the Maker of the world, above Whom there is no God at all, willed that He should do" ( ib. 56, § 276). The Father is above all. Trypho would not endure to listen to Justin if he did not hold this ( ib. 56, § 278 B). The Son is then subordinate, and perfectly subordinate, but this subordination is such that it can allow the Son to identify Himself utterly with the Father, as with Moses at the bush, and so to be called ὁ Κύριος and ὁ Θεός .

In the expression "born of the Father's Will" we are once more close to Arian controversy. Was there, then, a moment when the Father had not yet willed to have a Son? If so, how can the Son be eternal? Yet, if not, how was the Father's will free? Justin has no such questions put to him. He states this dependence of the Son for His very Being on the Will of the Father without anxiety as to His right to be named ὁ Θεός , and to receive worship in the absolute sense in which a Jew would understand that title and that worship. And here, again, surely it was inevitable that the Christian consciousness should have so stated frankly the subordinate and dependent character of the eternal Sonship, before it appreciated the subtle puzzle that would ensue when logic began its critical work upon the novel and double-sided conception. Subordination of the Son to the Father must represent the immediate, primary, natural, and intelligible method of presenting to the reflecting mind the reconciliation of the duality of Persons with the unity of Will. The very name of Son, or of the Word, implied it. So far, too, the logic inherited from the philosophies would supply the needful formula. It would take time to discover that Christianity held implicitly, in its faith in the entire Divinity of the Son, a position which, if ever it was to be made consistent with the explicit formula of the subordination, must necessitate an entirely new and original logical effort, such as would justify the synthesis already achieved by the Christian's intuitive belief in the absolute Divinity of a dependent and subordinate Son. This new logical effort was made when Athanasius recognized the dilemma into which the old logic of the Schools had thrown the Christian position, and, instead of abandoning either of the alternatives, evolved a higher logic, which could accept both. For it must be remembered, if we are to be impartial to Justin, that the Nicene controversy was not closed by the church throwing over the subordination, while the Arian threw over the entire Divinity of the Son. Nicaea confessed the subordination, and made it theoretically consistent with the absolute Divinity. This being so, the only possible test by which to try Justin (who certainly held both the divinity and the subordination) would be to ask whether, if he had seen the dilemma, he would have held the subordination of the Son to be the primary and imperative truth to the logical needs of which the fulness of the divine Sonship must be thrown over, or whether he would have felt the latter truth to be so intimately essential that a novel logic must be called into existence which should interpret it into accordance with the subordination. It cannot but be felt that Justin's faith is a great deal more pronounced and definite than his Platonic logic; that the one is clear and strong where the other is vague and arbitrary; and, if so, that in a conflict between the two his faith would have remained supreme. Justin's temper of mind is the complete reverse of that of Arius.

On the ministerial activities of the Son for the Father Justin is much more explicit.

The Word has one chief mission from the Father, that of interpreting Him to man; hence He received the name of ἄγγελος (cf. Dial. 56, § 275). He accomplishes this (1) to the Jews by means of the Theophanies and through the lips of the prophets. The Word is the direct inspirer Whose spirit moves the prophets, and Whose words they speak (cf. Apol. i. 36, § 76 D). The whole manifold Scripture, with all its many parts and voices, is, as it were, a great play written by a single author, the Word of God, Who alone speaks through all the characters displayed. Of this Justin gives instances in cc. 37, 38, 39. Again, He is not only the inward force, but the outward object also, to Which all prophecy is directed. The Jewish Scripture has in Him a permanent aim, a fixed canon; it all arranges itself round Him (cf. Apol. i. 31, § 73 A). To foretell Him and His work is the one purpose of prophecy. By it His whole life in its main outlines is described, His advent, His birth from the virgin, His coming to man's estate, His curing of the sick, His raising the dead, His being hated, and unknown, and crucified, His death, resurrection, and ascension, His divine sonship, His mission of the apostles, His success among the Gentiles ( ib. i. 31, § 73). (2) Justin attributes a revelation of the Word to the Gentiles, as well as to the Jews; to them He is the ἄγγελος , the interpreter of the Father, not by prophetic anticipations, but by partial manifestation, of Himself. Every man in every race possesses a germ of the Word, by the power of which men knew what truth they did know, and did what good they did do; above all, the philosophers and lawgivers who, in their rational inquiries and speculations, were obeying the measure of the Word within them ( κατὰ λόγου μέρος . . . δἰ εὑρέσεως καὶ θεωρίας , ib. ii. 10, § 48 C). It is Justin who promulgates the famous formula: " Οσα παρὰ πᾶσι καλῶς εἴρηται ἡμῶν τῶν Χριστιανῶν ἐστι ( ib. ii. 13, § 51). "We do not believe less, but more, than Empedocles and Pythagoras, Socrates and Plato," he says: "we approve what they rightly said; but our doctrine is higher than theirs;" and so too with the Stoics, poets, and historians (cf. ib. i. 18, § 65 C; ii. 10, 13). This is the principle the Alexandrians are to develop. These ancient friends of Christ, for their obedience to the Word, were hated as Christians are hated, as impious and curious busy-bodies; chief of them was Socrates, who was martyred for Christ. With him are mentioned Heraclitus, Musonius the Stoic, etc. In the exercising of human reason to search out God such as these obeyed the power of the Word, the Reason of God ( λόγῳ πειραθέντε


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Bibliography Information
Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Justinus Martyr, Philosopher'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hwd/j/justinus-martyr-philosopher.html. 1911.

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Tuesday, November 24th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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