Justin Martyr (c. 100 - c. 165), born in modern day Palestine, was an early Christian apologist and martyr. "He claimed to have been raised a Gentile, and in his search for truth he studied with the Stoics, Aristotelians, Pythagoreans, and Platonists. Impressed by the devotion of Christian martyrs, he was eventually converted to Christianity by an old Christian who taught him about the Hebrew prophets. According to Justin, Christianity filled the highest aspirations of Platonic philosophy and was, therefore, the 'true philosophy.'"^[1]^ In his First Apology, Justin argued that there were traces of Christian truth that could be found in pagan writings. He held to a doctrine of the logos spermatikis, meaning 'seed-bearing word', which asserted that God had prepared a way to his final revelation in Jesus through hints of truth found within classical philosophy.

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"During the reign of Antoninus Pius (131-161) he taught in Rome, influencing Tatian and Irenaeus. He was one of the first to consistently use Greek philosophy (especially Platonism) to explain Christian doctrine, thereby setting himself in dramatic opposition to Tertullian, who would ask "what does Athens [representing the academy, or philosophy] have to do with Jerusalem [representing the churhc]?" The Logos (God immanent), he believed, was "other than" the Father (God transcendent) in number, but not in will. Three of his writings, The First Apology, The Second Apology, and The Dialogue with Trypho, the Jew, exist in complete form, though there is some question about the precise relationship between the First and Second Apology. Justin, a central figure in the history of second century Christian thought, suffered martyrdom early in the reign of Marcus Aurelius under Junius Rusticus (prefect 162-168)." ^[2]^

Justin is an excellent example of an early theologian who sought to relate and explain the gospel through Greek philosophical concepts.

Works

In the writings of the early church we have three documents existant from Justin Martyr—The First Apology; The Second Apology; and The Dialogue with Trypho. There is account according to Eusebius of five more works from the pen of Justin which have been lost. The apologies seek to defend the poistion of the Christians in the kingdom against unfair persecution and misconceptions. Justin seeks to dispel the myths surrounding Christians such as cannibalism or licentious sex but to prove these he goes on to write vastly on the Christian faith. Upon reading the two apologies one will see that Justin is more focused on quoting Scriptures and Christian truths rather than sophisticated arguments or philosophical ideals to defend early Christians. The Dialogue with Trypho was written later (c.a. 150 AD) and is an account of a debate between Justin and Trypho a Jew. In this work one sees the Old Testament Scriptures saturate even more of the writing than in Justin's Apologies. It is a work that is decidedly Christocentric and exegetical.

Resources

  • Sara Parvis and Paul Foster, eds. Justin Martyr and His Worlds. Fortress, 2007.
  • Leslie William Barnard, St. Justin Martyr: The First and Second Apologies. Ancient Christian Writer Series, no. 56. Paulist Press, 1997.

Notes

  1. ? The Ecole Glossary
  2. ? The Ecole Glossary

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