Education free essay: Justin Martyr
The significance of Justin Martyr (his conversion to Christianity and the message to the pagans) is clear when one deliberates on his dialogues. The Apology and Dialogue of Justin address several theological subjects that have continued to emerge through the entire era of Christian interpretation.
Justin is one of the most significant Greek apologists of the second century. No one actually knows his exact date and place of birth. The Apologies (the First and the Second Apology) and Dialogue may indicate his time and place of birth. Most people indicate that he was born around 100 AD. However, his place of birth is not clearly known, some indicates that Justin was born of pagan parents in Palestine around 100 A.D. and died as a martyr in 165 A. D. Others indicate that he was probably born in Flavia Neapolis (Nablus) around the same time. In the Dialogue, he narrates of his conversion to Christianity. This is after he had experimented with several Greek philosophies such as the Pythagorean, Peripatetic, and Stoic.
As a Christian, Justin continued to travel as an itinerant teacher. He was devoted to defend Christianity during his travels. Upon arrival in Rome, Justin established a school there. However, he was denounced by his adversaries and martyred in 165 along with other six companions. It is important to note that only three of Justin’s have survived despite the fact he was a creative writer. These works include his Dialogue with Trypho (the Jew) and his two Apologies against pagans. The Dialogue with Trypho is the most ancient apologetic against the Jews, and it was written after the two Apologies. However, a portion of the introduction has been lost.
Justin Martyr’s life, birth, and death details are relatively sketchy and obscure. Any understanding of Justin’s life must be assessed from various sources such as his works (the first apology, the second apology, and the dialogue with Trypho) and from ancient writers (Tatian, Irenaeus, and Eusebius) who mention Justin in their works. Justin was born probably around 100 CE in Nablus (a Roman colony established when the Second Temple was destroyed near the Shekhem’s ruins). In the Dialogue, he asserted that he was of Samaritan origin; however, he might have been probably indicating his geographical roots. This is because he indicates in the First Apology that he belonged to one of the countries that did not get the revelation given to the Samaritans and the Jews. He also asserts that he was educated and raised as an uncircumcised pagan in the Dialogue.
Justin sought truth in four main philosophical schools (Peripatetic, Platonist, Pythagorean, and Stoic), and he was very much convinced that Christianity led to unambiguous and complete truth. After he was converted, he established an influential school in Rome. He became a devoted educator and defender for Christianity. In the Dialogue with Tryphon, he states that he first placed himself under the Stoic. However, after sometime he recognized that he did not learn anything about God, and that his master did not have anything to teach him on the subject. The Peripatetic man welcomed him but after a while, he requested for a fee; this scenario proved to him that the man was not a philosopher. The Pythagorean man declined to teach him anything; Justin had to learn first astronomy, music, and geometry before anything else.
Finally, the Platonist delighted Justin for some time. These accounts cannot be taken literally, because they indicate the weaknesses of pagan philosophies in comparison to the teachings of the Christ and the prophets. It is important to note that Justin was attracted to both theology and philosophy, and he was particularly drawn to Platonic doctrine. However, he met an old Christian by chance, who praised the prophets and heavily criticized the philosophers, and the Holy Spirit had spoken through him.
He said that the prophets was the truth and spread it to humanity. The prophets also predicted the future and this could be proved by the life of Jesus as narrated in the New Testament. Through Justin’s own account, the prophecy resulted in the reversal of his views, and thus, his conversion to Christianity. Justin was persuaded that his pagan readers would also be convinced that the prophets got their inspiration from the divine Logos. Thus, his defense of Christianity concerning the pagans and the Jews was based on the prophetic argument and his imaginative exegesis. The biblical prophecy argument was also a major contributing factor in the conversion to Christianity of writers like Hilary, Theophilus of Antioch, and Tatian (a disciple of Justin).
His grandfather had a Greek name (Bacchius), and his father had a Roman name (Priscus). Justin also had a Roman name. However, he was aware of a number of Samaritan religious customs. Historians indicate that Justin taught in Rome during the times of Antoninus Pius. During the reign of Marcus Aurelius, he was executed on the account of practicing Christianity and his rejection to sacrifice and recant to the gods. According to the traditions, the execution happened when Junius Rusticus was the prefect of Rome (that is between the years 163 and 167 CE). He was executed approximately 165 CE.
Justin’s most authentic works are the first and the second Apologies, and the Dialogue with Trypho (a Jew). The First Apology was written approximately 155 CE. This is because it mentions Felix (the procurator of Egypt) who served between the years 151 and 154 CE. The First Apology is also linked to Polycarp (Smryna’s bishop) martyrdom, which happened either in 155 or 156. References about the account of Polycarp’s death are found in the Apology in a letter, which was sent immediately after the event by the Smyrna’s Christian community to other Christian communities. The Second Apology was probably written around 160 CE. This is because it was mentioned at the end of chapter 120 of the Dialogue. The Second Apology was initially intended to be the addendum or appendix to the First Apology.
The First Apology
In this Apology, Justin spoke to the Emperor Antoninus Pius (and his adopted sons), and the future emperors Lucius Verus and Marcus Aurelius. However, his real audience was the pagan people in general. As its name suggests, the Apology is a defense against the charges leveled by the adversaries of Christianity. Actually, the first part of Justin’s work (chapter 1 to 29), disproves various accusations against the Christians. The accusations include immoral behavior (cannibalism and adultery), disloyalty to their nation, and atheism. Justin argues that the Christians should be judged based on their actions, and not by the fact that they are Christians. The crime of being a Christian at that time carried the death penalty. It is worth noting that Justin was executed based on these accusations.
Justin quotes the statements of Jesus about mercy for the sinners, the love of God, turning the other cheek, and other statements. Christians do pay the taxes, and therefore, they satisfy the orders of their master who said that whatever belongs to Caesar should be given to Caesar (as indicated in Matthew 22: 21). He also states that Christians pray for the Empire’s welfare (chapter 15 to 17 of the First Apology). However, according to Justin, religious tolerance is not a significant principle. Based on the statements of Jesus, a tree that does not bear good fruit must be cut down and thrown into the fire (according to Matthew 7: 19). Justin advised the rulers to discipline individuals who claimed to be Christians but they did not live according to the precepts of Jesus.
In the core portion of his work (chapters 30 to 57), Justin explains the scriptural evidence for the appearance of Messiah and his destiny, and the realization of the mentioned prophecies in the times of Jesus and his disciples. His assertions are regarded as missionary propaganda. Among the apologists, Justin is unique because he does not limit himself in the defense of Christianity against pagan attacks. He expands his scope to embrace a presentation of the Scripture as the base for the Gospels. The other apologists are involved in clearing up superstitions and misunderstandings concerning Christians. They mostly lead the reader to the Church’s door but Justin opens the door and ushers the reader into inner sanctum of the Church. He even recalls mentioning the donations gathered in the Church and their sharing to the needy at the conclusion of his treatise (First Apology 67: 6).
The Second Apology
In this Apology, Justin focuses on the latest incident at Rome. The incident expressed the Christians’ legal status. A dishonest individual, scolded for his profligate manner of life, informed the authorities that the teacher of his wife was a Christian. The teacher was sentenced to death with other two people by the prefect of the city. Afterwards, Justin narrates of the stout impression made upon him by the fearless endurance of death and torture by the Christian martyrs. A similar story is narrated of the impression created on the Roman official by R. Hanina b. Tradyon. The official had witnessed his execution at the pole during the Bar Kokhba rebellion.
Dialogue with Trypho
Justin sets the fictive time of the Dialogue with Trypho (for theological reasons) in times of Bar-Kokhba war or more accurately, at the conclusion of the rebellion that did not succeed. The Dialogue is generally divided into four sections based on the subject matter. The first section is based on chapters one to nine. In this part, a description of Justin’s search for God and the truth is given, his understanding of the Greek philosophical schools of the time, and his encounter with an old Christian who convinced him to choose Christianity. The second section is based on chapters 10 to 30, 40 to 47, 67, 92 to 93, and 95. These chapters are dedicated to the Mosaic Torah discussion. It focuses on the Christian’s desertion of the ritual laws like those regarding circumcision, forbidden foods, and the Sabbath. Trypho indicates that Justin claims to worship God in the proper way but he fails to fulfill some things such as segregating himself from the Gentiles, failure to observe important festivals (like the Sabbath), and the failure to practice circumcision. Justin’s response is based on the exegetical path given by Paul. He cites Abraham and other individuals as proof for the insignificance of circumcision and further argues that Torah was temporary (its validity elapsed when Jesus appeared).
Contribution of the Church Father, Justin
The most authoritative account of the life of Justin Martyr perhaps comes from the reflection of a Christian life that began when he became a convert at around AD 130. Rising as an indefatigable protector and advocate of the persecuted Christians in Rome and Asia Minor until his own persecution, Father Justin became a central religious figure of his time. The irony of the religious life looms over his biography since the scanty cues point towards a pagan origin, particularly by the names of his father and grandfather. Despite the fact that an interaction with paganism and Platonism ought to have made his interaction with Christianity difficult and probably drive conversion further remote, Justin stood his ground and became an iconic advocate of Christianity.
His writings present him as a staunch scripture adherent to religious doctrines around the Messiah and critics accuse him of extremism. According to certain interpretations of his writings, St. Justin advocates for the punishment of the weak Christians by the authorities from the perspective that Christ taught the same for trees that do not bear fruit. Presentation of his advocacy for Christianity around scriptures projects him uniquely when compared with other apologists. Illumination is a principle observed in Justin’s interpretation of scriptures and the figure of Christ in his bible orientation overshadows his orientation on the Old Testament. In view of his reliance of the scripture to defend his position on religion and effectively answer pagan critics, Justin finds authority for his arguments. Recognition of the church under Pope Leo XIII and subsequent elevation as a saint was from the information of his tireless contribution to Christianity.
Liturgy recognition of Justin under the leadership of Leo XIII also witnessed the establishment of a Mass and Office for his honor. This is testament to his unique contribution in the church when compared to many other apologists during and before his life. Reconciliatory perspectives embraced by Justin in his writings particularly towards the Jews imply that he was equipped to handle conversion of hardliners who felt anti-Judaism sentiment from the mention of Christianity. To illustrate his relevance in the apostolic target of the Jews, he applied the Hebrew Bible to convince the Jews of the compatibility of Christianity and Judaism. It was therefore easy for his to employ scripture to convince that the Judaizers and Marcion tensions were baseless.
Justin’s Perceptions on the Law
Justin holds the opinion that the law (Torah) was only given through the prophets as a result of the hardness of the people. Despite the fact that the perspective on law taken by other apologists such as Tryphon entails the accusation of Christians who fail to observe the law, Justin expressly blames the hardness other than the people. Finding the cause of the hardness may prove to offer a stronger solution to the lawlessness. In a deep and passionate approach from the scripture, Justin recommends that the superiority and intention of the law of God make sense than sticking to mere legal demands. He proposes that the Christian view of law and compliance with the requirements of religion should not offer an obstacle to realization of fullness of Christ’s call. As an illustration, the rituals of the traditional Jewish religious practices observance and preserved in Judaism and dropped in Christianity should not act as a cause of disunity among the Jews.
Critics also find fault in Justin’s perspective regarding distinction between Christian’s obligation in following the law of the land and the Mosaic Law. By explaining his mind on the topic of circumcision and partaking in meals containing forbidden foods, Justin engages closely with contentious issues that also had a complex encounter with St. Paul the Apostle. Using scriptural prowess, Justin explains that the physical manifestation of faith in the act of circumcision makes sense in faith as opposed to the tradition. Borrowing the explanation adopted by Paul, the Jewish-Christian perspective of circumcision as a necessity to demonstrate faith in the Christ obtains a critical blow in that the intention of the internal conversion to Christianity makes sense to religion.
Despite the weighty nature of the matter at a time when the religion take on rituals closely guarded by the law, Justin bravely adopts a firm engagement of the doctrines of Christianity. In explaining the role of the Messiah as the custodian of the law and raising the standards of interpretation against a number of complicated interactions with religion and cultural traditions, Justin illustrates the need for tolerance and understanding of the salvation story. By providing scriptural evidence that the Christ replaced the Torah with a specialized relief from the law that acts as bondage in several respects, Justin reflects the need for the incorporation of several practices into Christianity that would otherwise appear as offensive.
Justin’s Philosophical Orientation
Justin has rightly been regarded as the first true Christian philosopher that places a lot of emphasis on the belief in God as the most honorable passion that any human being could boast of possession. He is remembered for holding the philosophical opinion that if philosophy in God is utilized accordingly, it leads humanity to God, making the believers a community of holy men. However, he reckons that the realization of this level of utilization remains elusive to philosophers, and he associated this fact to the presence of different philosophical schools including that professed by Platonists, Stoics, Theoretics, Pythagoreans and Peripatetics. Justin also observes that the knowledge underlying the various philosophical schools, some of which he personally studied, indicates that the fundamental thoughts belong to one cause, just as God enables men.
He explains that the reason for the multiple perspectives taken by philosophy despite the apparent singularity of the discipline is because the core truth intended by the pioneers was weathered by shoddy investigations. Instead of performing proper investigation and strengthen the work of the pioneer brains behind philosophy, Justin accuses mere admiration and little lacked substantial contribution. Incorrect perceptions from the teachers of philosophy and passing on of the wrong philosophy destroyed the value of the discipline as would have been the case if the appropriate investigations on the intentions of the initial teachers were conducted and sustained throughout the learning. Justin gives a personal account of the interactions he had with various philosophical schools of thought and found out that the lack of truth weathered the integrity of philosophy as would have been intended by the illustrious pioneers. Perhaps the reason behind his insistence on Christian doctrines as guided by scriptural truth was informed by the apparent loose following.
Correlationist method that Justin developed and mastered is celebrated and employed in Christian theology is a classical philosophical approach placing comparison on paganism and Christianity. Isolation and identification of Christianity traditions as perfect religious practices worth of an intellectual analysis enabled Justin to enumerate Christianity as a faith worth of respect before several skeptics particularly among the Romans. Intertwining of philosophical principles of religions in the argument for Christianity as theological masterpiece, Justin ensured that the skepticism lost its credibility in a huge and significant way. Understaning science and religion enabled Justin to employ theology to reach to pagans, without making an offensive approach that would put the pagan audience away. As opposed to several theologians of his time, Justin did not dispel pagans, mainly on the rare perspective that philosophical intelligence and calmness embraced by such students. The Christian dictum of being in the world as opposed to being of it also gets a huge boost in the philosophical contribution of Justin Martyr.
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Allert, Craig D. Revelation, Truth, Canon, And Interpretation: Studies In Justin Martyr’s Dialogue With Trypho (Danvers, MA: Brill, 2002).
Rokeah, David. Justin Martyr and the Jews (Danvers, MA: Brill, 2002).
Benedetto, Robert. and Duke, James O. The New Westminster Dictionary Of Church History: The Early, Medieval, And Reformation Eras (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008).
Lebreton, Jules. “St. Justin Martyr,” The Catholic Encyclopedia, accessed June 21, 2012, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08580c.html.
Wade, Rick. “Justin Martyr: Defender for the Church,” Probe Ministries, accessed June 22, 2012, http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/justin.htm.
Kiefer, James E. “Biographical Sketches of Memorable Christians of the Past: Justin Martyr,” Anglican.com, accessed June 22, 2012, http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/175.html.
Severance, Diane. “Justin Martyr: 1st Christian Philosopher,” Christianity.com, accessed June 22, 2012, http://www.christianity.com/ChurchHistory/11629596/
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Slick, Matthew J. “Justin Martyr Describes His Studies in Philosophy and Other Articles,” Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, accessed June 22, 2012, http://carm.org/justin-martyr-philosophy.
 Brevard S Childs, The Struggle To Understand Isaiah As Christian Scripture (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2004), 32.
 Ibid., 32.
 Craig D Allert, Revelation, Truth, Canon, And Interpretation: Studies In Justin Martyr’s Dialogue With Trypho (Danvers, MA: Brill, 2002), 27.
 David Rokeah, Justin Martyr and the Jews (Danvers, MA: Brill, 2002), 1.
 Robert Benedetto and James O Duke, The New Westminster Dictionary Of Church History: The Early, Medieval, And Reformation Eras (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008), 367.
 Jules Lebreton, “St. Justin Martyr,” The Catholic Encylopedia, accessed June 21, 2012, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08580c.htm.
 David, 2.
 Ibid., 1.
 Ibid., 2.
 Ibid., 2.
 Ibid., 3.
 Ibid., 3.
 Ibid., 3.
 Ibid., 4.
 Ibid., 4.
 Rick Wade, “Justin Martyr: Defender for the Church,” Probe Ministries, accessed June 22, 2012, http://www.leaderu.com/orgs/probe/docs/justin.html
 James E. Kiefer, “Biographical Sketches of Memorable Christians of the Past: Justin Martyr,” Anglican.com, accessed June 22, 2012, http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/175.html
 Diane Severance, “Justin Martyr: 1st Christian Philosopher,” Christianity.com, accessed June 22, 2012, http://www.christianity.com/ChurchHistory/11629596/
 Matthew J Slick, “Justin Martyr Describes His Studies in Philosophy and Other Articles,” Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, accessed June 22, 2012, http://carm.org/justin-martyr-philosophy
 Diana, Butler Bass, “Faith and Philosophy: Justin Martyr” Christianity for the Rest of Us, accessed June 22, 2012, http://blog.beliefnet.com/christianityfortherestofus/2010/06/faith-and-philosophy-justin-martyr.html
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