Justin Martyr

Justin Martyr

Infobox Saint
name=Saint Justin Martyr
birth_date=c. 100
feast_day=1 June (Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodox Church
14 April (Roman Calendar, 1882-1969)
venerated_in=Roman Catholic Church
Anglican Communion
Eastern Orthodox Church
Oriental Orthodoxy

caption="Saint Justin Martyr"
birth_place=Flavia Neapolis (modern-day Nablus), Palaestina
death_place=Rome, Roman Empire

Saint Justin Martyr (also Justin the Martyr, Justin of Caesarea, Justin the Philosopher, Latin Iustinus Martyr or Flavius Iustinus) (100–165) was an early Christian apologist and saint. His works represent the earliest surviving Christian "apologies" of notable size.


Most of what is known about the life of Justin Martyr comes from his own writings. He was born at Flavia Neapolis (ancient Shechem in Judaea/Palaestina, now modern-day Nablus). According to church tradition Justin suffered martyrdom at Rome under the Emperor Marcus Aurelius when Junius Rusticus was prefect of the city (between 162 and 168). He called himself a Samaritan, but his father and grandfather were probably Greek or Roman, and he was brought up a pagan. It seems that St Justin had property, studied philosophy, converted to Christianity, and devoted the rest of his life to teaching what he considered the true philosophy, still wearing his philosopher's gown to indicate that he had attained the truth. He probably traveled widely and ultimately settled in Rome as a Christian teacher.

It is alleged that his relics are housed in the church of St. John the Baptist in Sacrofano, a few kilometers north of Rome.

In 1882 Pope Leo XIII had a Mass and an Office composed for his feast day, which he set at 14 April, [ [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08580c.htm Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Justin Martyr"] ] the day after the day indicated as that of his death in the Martyrology of Florus; but since this date quite often falls within the main Paschal celebrations, the feast was moved in 1969 to 1 June, the date on which he is celebrated in the Byzantine Rite since at least the ninth century. [Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1969), p. 94]


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

# The "First Apology" addressed to Antoninus Pius, his sons, and the Roman Senate;
# a "Second Apology" addressed to the Roman Senate;
# the "Discourse to the Greeks", a discussion with Greek philosophers on the character of their gods;
# a "Hortatory Address to the Greeks";
# a treatise "On the Sovereignty of God", in which he makes use of pagan authorities as well as Christian;
# a work entitled "The Psalmist";
# a treatise in scholastic form "On the Soul"; and
# the "Dialogue with Trypho".

He implies that other works were in circulation; from St Irenaeus he knows of the apology "Against Marcion," and from Justin's "Apology" [i. 26] of a "Refutation of all Heresies " ["Church History", IV., xi. 10.] . Epiphanius ["Haer.", xlvi. 1.] and St Jerome [De vir. ill., ix.] mention Justin.

Rufinus borrows from him Latin original of Hadrian's letter. After Rufinus, Justin was known mainly from St Irenaeus and Eusebius, or from spurious works. The "Chronicon Paschale" assigns his martyrdom to the year 165. A considerable number of other works are given as Justin's by Arethas, Photius, and other writers; but their spuriousness is now generally admitted. The "Expositio rectae fidei" has been assigned by Draseke to Apollinaris of Laodicea, but it is probably a work of as late as the sixth century. The "Cohortatio ad Graecos" has been attributed to Apollinaris of Laodicea, Apollinaris of Hierapolis, as well as others. The "Epistola ad Zenam et Serenum", an exhortation to Christian living, is dependent upon Clement of Alexandria, and is assigned by Batiffol to the Novatian Bishop Sisinnius (c. 400). The extant work under the title "On the Sovereignty of God" does not correspond with Eusebius' description of it, though Harnack regards it as still possibly Justin's, and at least of the second century. The author of the smaller treatise "To the Greeks" can not be Justin, because he is dependent on Tatian; Harnack places it between 180 and 240.

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

The "Apology"

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

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

The "Dialogue" and "Resurrection"

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

Interestingly, in the "Dialogue", Justin also wrote, "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." [ [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.iv.lxxx.html Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 80] ]

"The Catholic Encyclopedia" includes 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”.


Flacius discovered "blemishes" in Justin's theology, which he attributed to the influence of pagan philosophers; and in modern times Semler and S.G. Lange have made him out a thorough Hellene, while Semisch and Otto defend him from this charge. In opposition to the school of 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 Paulinism and his legal mode of thought. M. von Engelhardt has attempted to extend this line of treatment to Justin's entire theology, and to show that his conceptions of God, of free will and righteousness, of redemption, grace, and merit prove the influence of the cultivated Greek pagan world of the second century, dominated by the Platonic and Stoic philosophy. But he admits that Justin is a Christian in his unquestioning adherence to the Church and its faith, his unqualified recognition of the Old Testament, and his faith in Christ as the Son of God the Creator, made manifest in the flesh, crucified, and risen, through which belief he succeeds in getting away from the dualism of pagan and also of Gnostic philosophy.

Conversion and teachings

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

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

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

Justin's self-perception of himself was that of a scholar, although his skills in Hebrew were either non-existent or minimal. His opposition to Judaism was typical of church leaders in his day, but does not descend to the level of anti-semitism. After collaborating with a Jewish convert to assist him with the Hebrew, Justin published an attack on Judaism based upon a no-longer-extant text of a Midrash. This Midrash was reconstructed and published by Saul Lieberman.

Doctrine of the logos

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

On the other hand, 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).

"There is, and that there is said to be, another God and Lord subject to the Maker of all things who is also called an Angel, because He announces to men whatsoever the Maker of all things, above whom there is no other God, wishes to announce to them.... I shall endeavour to persuade you, that He who is said to have appeared to Abraham, and to Jacob, and to Moses, and who is called God, is distinct from Him who made all things, I mean numerically, not in will. ("Dialogue with Trypho", 56).

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.

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

Prophetic exegesis

Justin’s writings constitute a storehouse of early interpretation of the prophetic Scriptures.

Firm believer in Prophecies

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.'” [ [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.iv.vii.html Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 7] ]

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.” [ [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.iv.viii.html Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 8] ]

Prophetic fulfillment

Justin talks of the following fulfillments of bible prophecy

* The prophecies concerning the Messiah, and the particulars of His life. [ [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.ii.xxxi.html First Apology, Chapter 31] ]
* The destruction of Jerusalem. [ [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.ii.xlvii.html First Apology, chapter 47] ]
* The Gentiles accepting Christianity. [ [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.ii.xlix.html First Apology, Chapter 49] ]
* Isaiah predicted that Jesus would be born of a virgin. [ [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.ii.xxxiii.html First Apology, Chapter 33] ]
* Micah mentions Bethlehem as the place of His birth. [ [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.ii.xxxiv.html First Apology, Chapter 34] ]
* Zephaniah forecasts His entry into Jerusalem on the foal of an ass. [ [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.ii.xxxv.html first Apology, Chapter 35] ]

econd coming and Daniel 7

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.] [ [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.iv.xxxi.html Dailogue with Trypho, chapter 31] ]


The second glorious advent Justin places, moreover, close upon the heels of the appearance of the Antichrist, or "man of apostasy." [ [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.iv.cx.html Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 110] ] Justin's interpretation of prophecy is, however, less clear and full than that of others who follow.

Time, times, and a half

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.” [ [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.iv.xxxii.html Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 32] ]


Critical editions of the text include:

*Thirlby, S., London, 1722.
*Maran, P., Paris, 1742 (the Benedictine edition, reprinted in Migne, "Patrologia Graeca", Vol. VI. Paris, 1857).
*Otto, J. C., Jena, 1842 (3d ed., 1876–1881).
*Krüger, G., Leipzig, 1896 (3d ed., Tübingen, 1915).
*Goodspeed, E. J., Göttingen, 1914 (in "Die ältesten Apologeten"). [ [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/richardson/fathers.x.ii.ii.html Early Christian Fathers | Christian Classics Ethereal Library ] ]



* This article incorporates text from the [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/encyc06.html New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge] (a text that has entered the public domain and is available online).

See also

*Epistle to Diognetus

External links

* [http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08580c.htm Catholic Encyclopedia: "St. Justin Martyr"]
* [http://www.cogwriter.com/justin.htm COG writer site on Justin Martyr]
* [http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/20_30_0100-0160-_Iustinus,_Sanctus.html Opera Omnia ex Migne Patrologia Graeca with analytical indexes]

Translations of works by St Justin Martyr

* [http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/justin.html Works of Justin Martyr]
* [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.ii.html First Apology]
* [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.iii.html Second Apology]
* [http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.viii.iv.html Dialogue with Trypho the Jew]
* [http://ocafs.oca.org/FeastSaintsViewer.asp?SID=4&ID=1&FSID=101570 Martyr Justin the Philosopher and those with him at Rome] Orthodox Icon and Synaxarion for June 1


* [http://www.earlychurch.org.uk/justin.php EarlyChurch.org.uk]

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