|Born||ca. 100 in Flavia Neapolis, Palestine|
|Died||ca. 165-168 in Rome|
|Venerated in||Eastern Orthodox Church, Roman Catholic Church, Lutheran Church, Anglican Communion|
|Feast||April 14 (Roman Catholic), June 1 (Eastern Orthodox)|
Justin Martyr (also Justin the Martyr, Justin of Caesarea, Justin the Philosopher) (ca. 100–165) was an early Christian apologist and saint. Born to a pagan family and trained in the philosophical traditions of Ancient Greece, Justin was one of the earliest and most successful Christian writers to specifically address a Gentile audience in their own terms. The Apology, his most notorious text, passionately defends the morality of the Christian life, and provides various ethical and philosophical arguments to convince the emperor to abandon the persecution of the fledgling sect. Further, he also makes the theologically-innovative suggestion that the "seeds of Christianity" (manifestations of the Logos acting in history) actually predated Christ's incarnate existence. This notion allows him to claim many historical Greek philosophers (including Socrates, Plato, and Heraclitus) as unknowing Christians. It should be noted that this doctrine was later repudiated.
Though imperial sanctions against Christianity were not yet unilateral in Justin's time, he evidently stirred up a sufficient quantity of controversy (either through his writings or through his school) to be seen as a threat to the peace. As a result, he was beheaded in 165 C.E., alongside some of his students.
Given the antiquity of Justin Martyr, facts concerning his corporeal existence are in rather short supply. Fortunately, his theological and apologetic writings, in addition to providing a cogent defense of his new-found faith, also contain numerous biographical details. It is from these scattered references that classical and modern authors have been able to piece together an admittedly brief biography of the saint.
Around the turn of the second century C.E., Justin was born at Flavia Neapolis (modern Nablus) in Palestine to non-Christian parents. He calls himself a Samaritan, but based on his father and grandfather's names, it is more likely that they were Greek or Roman. He was raised following his family's religious beliefs, as attested to by the fact that he speaks of himself as uncircumcised (Dialogue, xxviii).
In the opening of the "Dialogue," Justin describes his early education, stating that his initial studies left him unsatisfied due to their failure to provide a belief system that would provide theological and metaphysical inspiration to their young pupil. This charge of inadequacy is leveled at the Stoics, Peripatetics, and Pythagoreans, all of whom fail to provide the youthful seeker with a meaningful understanding of God. This disappointment was rectified when he first encountered the ideas of Plato (and the Neo-Platonists), whose deep and mystical musings seemed to be exactly what he had been seeking:
One day, while walking near the sea, he chanced to meet an aged man who, by virtue of some pointed, Socratic questioning, convinced him that the path of the philosopher was ultimately barren and that true enlightenment could only come from the adoption of Christianity:
Moved by the aged man's argument, Justin renounced both his former religious faith and his philosophical background, choosing instead to re-dedicate his life to the service of the Divine. His newfound convictions were only bolstered by the ascetic lives of the early Christians and the heroic example of the martyrs, whose piety convinced him of the moral and spiritual superiority of Christian doctrine. As a result, he thenceforth decided that the only option for him was to travel throughout the land, spreading the knowledge of Christianity as the "true philosophy."
Following his conversion, Justin traveled throughout the empire, involving himself in various debates and composing the various treatises that bear his name. During this time, he also founded a philosophical school in Rome, where he spent many years teaching. After a long and productive theological career, the saint (and some of his students) were arrested by the Roman prefect Junius Rusticus, given a sham trial, and beheaded. Though the precise year of his death is uncertain, it can reasonably be dated by the prefectoral term of Rusticus (who governed from 162 and 168). An account of Justin's trial and martyrdom are preserved in the Acts of the Saints:
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 speaks of his martyrdom, and of Tatian as his disciple; he quotes him twice, 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 of Olympus also mention or quote him. Eusebius of Caesarea deals with him at some length, and names the following works:
He implies that other works were in circulation; from Irenaeus he knows of the apology "Against Marcion," and from Justin's "Apology" of a "Refutation of all Heresies." Epiphanius and Jerome mention Justin.
Rufinus borrows from him the Latin original of Hadrian's letter. After Rufinus, Justin's reputation was known mainly from Irenaeus and Eusebius, or from spurious works. 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 cannot be Justin, because the text is dependent on Tatian (Justin's theological successor); Harnack places it somewhere 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, in addition to the fact that they were known by Tatian, Methodius, and Eusebius, their influence is also traceable in Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, 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 style, treatment and authorial voice. 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, this text 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 that makes it natural to assume the existence of a treatise on the subject, a supposition that is further supported by an analysis of Irenaeus (V., ii.-xiii. 5), and Tertullian, both of whom make claims that are too similar 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 (and which is also mentioned by Hegesippus, Irenaeus and Tertullian).
The First Apology, which is arguably Justin's most influential extant work, was written 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. It can be dated to some time between 147 and 161 C.E., based on the fact that it was addressed to Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, and Lucius Verus. Further, the mention of a certain "Felix" as governor of Egypt, which must have been a reference to Lucius Munatius Felix (whose ascent to the prefecture is dated to September 13, 151, in the Oxyrhynchus papyri), fixes the date still more exactly. What is designated as the Second Apology was written as a supplement to the first, likely on account of certain proceedings that subsequently taken place in Rome before Lollius Urbicus became prefect of the city, which must have been between 150 and 157.
The basic contents of the text can be summarized as follows: Chapters i.-xii. give the preliminary negative proof, arguing that the persecutions of Christianity are motivated only by a misunderstanding of its fundamental character (and its relationship to Hellenic thought and society); chapter xiii. begins a positive exposition of Christianity. Within this explanation, Justin argues that Christians are the true worshipers of God, the Creator of all things; that 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 of penultimate honor. He next asserts that this teaching leads them to perfect morality, which he considers to be evidenced in their teacher's words and their own lives, and founded on their belief in the resurrection. The doctrine of the Logos begotten of flesh (discussed below) is specially emphasized. Then follows a "proof" that Christ is the Son of God, which draws upon Old Testament prophecy, arguing that it was fulfilled in every detail. The remaining chapters (lxi.-lxvii.) detail the righteous practices that so endeared the Christians of the day to Justin—baptism, Eucharist, and Sunday worship. The supplementary document (Second Apology) builds upon his thesis that the moral excellence of Christians is evidenced by their behavior, this time by examining the faith and conduct of the Christians under persecution.
It was also in the Apology that he first presented his notion that the "seeds of Christ" predated Christianity, and were existent in classical Greek philosophy:
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.
Interestingly, the Dialogue features a very early example of a creedal statement, which Justin suggests using to determine the religious orthodoxy of believers: "For I choose to follow not men or men's doctrines, but God and the doctrines [delivered] by Him. For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this [truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians." Further, the text can be seen as somewhat anti-Semetic in its focus, as it argues for the ultimate fallibility of the Jewish faith:
The Catholic Encyclopedia includes some cautionary remarks that are a helpful guide to understanding Justin's writings: “In both "Apologies" and in his "Dialogue" he gives many personal details, e.g. about his studies in philosophy and his conversion; they are not, however, an autobiography, but are partly idealized, and it is necessary to distinguish in them between poetry and truth ... He received a good education in philosophy, an account of which he gives us at the beginning of his "Dialogue with the Jew Tryphon" ... This account cannot be taken too literally; the facts seem to be arranged with a view…This interview is evidently not described exactly as it took place, and yet the account cannot be wholly fictitious”.
While Justin is revered as both an apologist and a martyr, his theology is generally given shorter shrift in modern analysis. These types of criticism can be traced back (at least) to Flacius (1520-1575 C.E.), who discovered "blemishes" in Justin's theology and attributed them to the influence of pagan philosophers. In modern times, Johann Semler and S.G. Lange have made him out to be a thorough Hellene, while Semisch and Otto defend him from this charge. In opposition to the school of Ferdinand Christian 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 Paulism 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. While the specific valuations vary, it can definitively be said that Justin was not primarily honored for his skills as a theologian.
Despite the generally second-order reception of his theology, Justin's innovative use of the idea of the logos has always attracted attention. The refined application this concept, which would have already had cultural currency among educated men, to the Christian context was still an important progression in the history of theology. Given his neo-Platonic roots (and his intellectual debt to Philo), it was necessary for Justin to identify the historical Christ with the rational force operative in the universe (logos) in order to justify the claim that all truth and virtue reside in Him. 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.
In describing his Christology, Justin sees the Logos as a separate being from God and subordinate to him: "For next to God, we worship and love the Logos who is out of the unbegotten and ineffable God, since also He became man for our sakes, that, becoming a partaker of our sufferings, He might also bring us healing" (Second Apology, 13). Though subordinate, the Logos was still a divine force that was active in human history:
Justin speaks of the divine Logos as "another God" beside the Father, qualified by the gloss: ‘other, I mean, in number, not in will’. Justin actually finds fault with the view of Hellenized Jews who held that the divine Logos is no more distinct from God than sunlight is from the sun and suggested, instead, that the Logos is more like a torch lit from another. He wanted to do justice to the independence of the Logos.
As Goodenough summarizes,
Given his wide range of experience with the Septuagint, Justin’s writings constitute a storehouse of early Christian interpretation of the prophetic Scriptures.
The truth of the prophets, he declares, compels assent. The Old Testament is an inspired guide and counselor. He puts the following words in the mouth of the Christian philosopher who converted him:
"There existed, long before this time, certain men more ancient than all those who are esteemed philosophers, both righteous and beloved by God, who spoke by the Divine Spirit, and foretold events which would take place, and which are now taking place. They are called prophets. These alone both saw and announced the truth to men, neither reverencing nor fearing any man. not influenced by a desire for glory, but speaking those things alone which they saw and which they heard, being filled with the Holy Spirit. Their writings are still extant, and he who has read them is very much helped in his knowledge of the beginning and end of things. …And those events which have happened, and those which are happening, compel you to assent to the utterances made by them.”
Then Justin tells of his own experience:
"Straightway a flame was kindled in my soul; and a love of the prophets, and of those men who are friends of Christ, possessed me; and whilst revolving his words in my mind, I found this philosophy alone to be safe and profitable.”
Justin talks of the following fulfillments of bible prophecy
Justin connects Christ's second coming with the climax of the prophecy of Daniel 7.
"But if so great a power is shown to have followed and to be still following the dispensation of His suffering, how great shall that be which shall follow His glorious advent! For He shall come on the clouds as the Son of man, so Daniel foretold, and His angels shall come with Him." [Then follows Dan. 7:9-28.]
The second glorious advent Justin places, moreover, close upon the heels of the appearance of the Antichrist, or "man of apostasy." Justin's interpretation of prophecy is, however, less clear and full than that of others who follow.
Daniel's "time, times, and a half," Justin believed, was nearing its consummation, when Antichrist would speak his blasphemies against the Most High. And he contends with Trypho over the meaning of a "time" and "times." Justin expects the time to be very short, but Trypho's concept is interesting.
"The times now running on to their consummation; and he whom Daniel foretells would have dominion for a time, and times, and an half, is even already at the door, about to speak blasphemous and daring things against the Most High. But you, being ignorant of how long he will have dominion, hold another opinion. For you interpret the 'time' as being a hundred years. But if this is so, the man of sin must, at the shortest, reign three hundred and fifty years, in order that we may compute that which is said by the holy Daniel—'and times'—to be two times only.”
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