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Justin Martyr



OT in NT

Sadie Pounder

October 5, 2007

Dialogue of Justin Martyr with Trypho

We as Christians living under the Roman Empire in the Second Century

  • We live in a Jewish and pagan world where it is illegal to be a Christian.
  • We are not constantly persecuted but live under the threat of persecution because of delators or informers.
  • While Romans do not seek us out, they cannot ignore accusations against us.
  • Pliny’s letter to Emperor Trajan asking “what do we do with these Christians?”
  • If we refuse to worship the gods of the Empire, we will be punished or killed.
  • Our worship is misunderstood with rumors of incest, cannibalism and love feasts.
  • We would meet every week to celebrate eucharist in private. Only those baptized were admitted. We called each other brother and sister.
  • Most educated Greeks and Romans think of Christianity as a lower class superstition.
  • Jesus was known as a criminal crucified by the Romans. If he was God, why did he allow himself to be crucified?
  • If there is anything good in Jewish Scripture, it is believed it is because the Jews copied it from the Greeks.
  • It is believed Christianity is a religion of barbarians who derive their teaching, not from Greeks or Romans, but Jews, a primitive people whose best teachers never rose to the level of Greek philosophers.
  • We count on apologists, the defenders of the faith, to show the rumors and beliefs about Christians were not true and give pagans a better and more favorable understanding of Christianity.




Appearance of Apologists

The defense of Christianity, apologia, appeared to:

1 .Refute attacks on Christians

Vindication against false accusations.

Emperor must hear of cruel wrongs done in his name.

Christian way of life had to be shown as the highest ideal of ethical conduct.

2. Show how Christianity embodied the noblest concepts of Greek philosophy and the

truth par excellence.

Not an appeal for toleration.

A desire to win others to the Christian faith.

3. Answer questions of thoughtful people.

Object, form and character of the Christian life were the subject of

discussion in certain circles

Enter Justin Martyr

  • A Gentile Samaritan by birth (110 – 165 CE) Dates uncertain.
  • Received a Greek education
  • In Dialogue with Trypho Justin gives a detailed account of the spiritual journey he went through before becoming a Christian.
  • Searched for truth among the Stoics, Peripatetics, Pythagoreans and Platonists.
  • Met a man who showed him futility of philosophy and led him to study Scriptures and the prophets. From this moment he began to be a Christian.
  • Read OT. Found for him Christianity was the one, sure, worthy philosophy.
  • Did not cease being a philosopher but took upon himself the task of doing “Christian philosophy.”
  • Sought to explain the connection between Christianity and classical wisdom.
  • Said to have founded a school in Rome where he taught what he called “the true philosophy,” or Christianity.
  • Kept wearing his philosopher’s gown after his conversion, as a token he had attained the only true philosophy.
  • Concerned not only with refuting attacks against Christians but to show:

Philosophy is truth

Reason is a spiritual power

Christianity is the fullness of both.

  • He bested a famous pagan philosopher, Crescens, in a public debate. Some sources indicate it was he who accused Justin but no solid evidence.
  • “It is the mission of Justin to be a star in the West, leading its Wise Men to the cradle of Bethlehem.” Ante-Nicene Fathers, V.1, 159.
  • Martyred during reign of Marcus Aurelius between 162 and 167 CE
  • Account of death in Acts Martyrum, which embodies early traditions of the death scene.





The way Justin explained connection between philosophy and Christianity

  • Answer found in doctrine of the Logos, Gk word meaning “word” and “reason”
  • Gk philosophy believed the human mind can understand reality because it shares in the Logos or universal reason that undergirds all reality.
  • According to Justin, what has happened in the incarnation is that the underlying reason of the universe, the Logos or Word of God, has come in the flesh.
  • The Logos was the embodiment of Christ himself who visited the patriarchs.
  • Fourth Gospel affirms that in Jesus the Logos or “Word” was made flesh.
  • The incarnation was still needed because philosophers of old only knew the Logos “in part,” whereas those who have seen him in his incarnation know him “fully.”
  • Justin opened the way for Christianity to claim whatever good it could find in classical culture. Following his inspiration other Christians tried to build further bridges between their faith and ancient culture.

His vocation

Defending the Christian faith.

Philosopher who preached the truth of God and contended for the faith.


Writer – many writings attributed to him but three main ones preserved in later writings are thought to be genuine.

  • First Apology 150-155CE
  • Second Apology 150-155 CE
  • Dialogue with Trypho

The first elaborate exposition of the reasons for regarding Christ as the Messiah of the OT.

The first systematic attempt to show the “false position of the Jews” in regard to Christianity.

Text of the three works based on a single manuscript, Parisinus 450 dated September 11,

1363 CE, which also has many of the spurious writings.


The only checks on the readings of Parisinus 450 are a few passages where Justin is quoted by other Fathers, and a fragment of the First Apology chapters 65-67,

which had an independent tradition in Codex Ottobonianus Graecus CCLXXIV

of the 15th century.



Some peculiarities in Dialogue

  • Mentioned circumstances not in the Bible

Our Lord was born in a cave at Bethlehem.

Fire appeared at His Baptism.

  • Believed that wherever in the OT God is mentioned to have appeared to man, it was the Son.



Death account

  • Probably between 163 and 167 CE BE2
  • Justin and companions brought before Rusticus, prefect of Rome
  • Commanded to sacrifice to the gods but refused
  • Confessed Christianity as the truth and that he held house meetings
  • Condemned to be beaten with rods and beheaded.
  • Went to their deaths praising God and confessing Christ.
  • Later secretly carried away and buried by faithful Christians

Church Fathers

  • Early theologians and apologists designated by the church as orthodox and authoritative
  • Term first used by Athanasius at the time of first Nicean council, 325. “It is not only now that the canons of the Church were placed in our hands; but they were handed down to us securely and faithfully by the Fathers.”
  • Earliest said to be known personally by the apostles.
  • Patristic literatures ends about 680.


Attitude of Church Fathers toward the Jews

  • They lived in a time when the dogma of Christianity was being formulated.
  • New creed struggles against paganism “without” and numerous heresies “within.”
  • Judaism was first considered the mother religion and a wonderful support against paganism.
  • Fathers found their inspiration in the prophets of the OT.
  • Used writings of Josephus for historical data.
  • Drew freely on Philo and his doctrine of the Logos to argue against pagan philosophers.
  • In debates with Judaism, they used the same sources, reading in the OT the prophecies thought to be fulfilled by the NT.
  • Principal points of controversy were:

Question of the Messiah.

The doing away with the Mosaic law.

  • Jews considered the Christians merely a sect of Judaism.
  • Christians considered ancient law to have been superseded by teachings of Jesus.
  • Jews and Christians originally used the same books but interpreted Scriptures differently.
  • At all times, the fathers accused the Jews of misunderstanding the Scripture.
  • Jews had the advantage of knowing the original language of Scripture, while most of the fathers could read only its translations, “often corrupted.”
  • Their writings are important in Jewish theological literature because many passages of the Talmud and Midrash may be correctly understood only in light of patristic exegesis and polemics of the fathers.

Justin’s attitude toward the Jews

  • Justin was more familiar with Greek philosophy than Judaism.
  • He did not understand Hebrew.
  • Attacked them as those whose hearts were hardened
  • Method was not to use NT scriptures in hoping to convert Jews but to cite from the OT, to demonstrate the fulfillment of prophecy.
  • He tried to convince others that Jesus of Nazareth was the Savior of sinners and Divine Teacher and to follow His ways.
  • Discussion with Trypho and others note, “if we could do this more frequently, we should be much helped in the searching of the Scriptures.”
  • Amicable ending to Dialogue. Discussion ends with their well-wishes to Justin and his, “I can wish you no greater blessing than this, gentlemen, that, realizing that wisdom is given to every man through this Way, you also may one day come to believe entirely as we do that Jesus is the Christ of God.





  • Septuagint LXX Translation of OT Hebrew into Greek
  • Justin knew the major Pauline epistles but never quoted from them (presumably because of the confusion over the epistles caused by Marcion’s radical revisions).
  • Justin knew and preferred the Apocalypse of John. Quotes Book of Revelation.
  • He knew several Gospels which he identified for Greek readers as “memorabilia of the apostles.”
  • In his christological exegesis of Ps 21 (22) Dial 99-107, he refers to the “memorabilia” 13 times, including one reference to the “memorabilita of Peter” for information found only in Mark 3:16-17 (partly Luke 6:14).
  • Not concerned about what Scripture meant to the people to whom it had actually been written.
  • Scriptures were inspired by the Holy Spirit whom he calls the Divine Spirit or the Spirit of Prophecy. Dial vii, xxxii, xxxiv.
  • Believed God gave his revelations to the prophets through the medium of ecstasy. Dial cxv.3 Zech 2:10-3:2 “He did not see either the devil or the angel of the Lord by his actual eyes, as being in his normal state, but in an ecstasy, for a revelation was made to him.”
  • His was a christocentric interpretation, the value of Scripture as a witness to Christ, the Logos of God in whom all should believe.
  • The hardness of Jewish hearts played a great part in his interpretation of OT.
    • Circumcision, the Sabbath, and all other festivals were enjoined on the Jews because of their transgressions and hardness of heart. Dial.xviii.2
    • God gave the commandments because of the wickedness of the Jews.

Dial. Xxvii.4

  • Stressed the value of every word and phrase of Scripture. If a passage seemed contradictory, it was because he did not understand the passages that seemed contradictory.

*Justin is commemorated annually on June 1st in the Lutheran Church

Justin Martyr Example



Example 2 from Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho

Chapter 94

“Now tell me, did not God, through Moses, forbid the making of an image or likeness of anything in the heavens or on earth, yet he himself had Moses construct the brazen serpent in the desert and set it up as a sign by which those who had been bitten by the serpents were healed, and in so doing was he not free of any sin?


2. “By this, as I stated before, he announced a mystery by which he proclaimed that he would break the power of the serpent, which prompted the sin of Adam, and that he would deliver from the bites of the serpent (that is, evil actions, idolatries, and other sins) all those who believe in him who was to be put to death by this sign, namely, the cross.


3. “If this is not the interpretation of the passage, give me a reason why Moses set up the brazen serpent on the sign, and commanded all who had been bitten to look up it; and they were healed, and this, in spite of the fact that he himself had forbidden them to make an image of anything whatsoever.”


4. Another of those who had come on the second day interrupted me by saying, “You are right. We cannot give a reason. I have personally asked our teachers about this question on numerous occasions, but none of them could ever give me a reasonable answer. Therefore, please continue on this topic, for we are most attentive as you reveal a mystery through which the teachings of the prophets are exposed to calumny.”


5. “As God ordered the sign to be made by the brazen serpent,” I went on, and yet is not guilty, so in the Law a curse is placed upon men who are crucified, but not upon the Christ of God, by whom all who have committed deeds deserving a curse are saved.



Regarding Scripture, Justin understood:

· The Holy Spirit to speak in veiled terms.

· Every word of Scripture was inspired by God.

· Therefore, every word must have a meaning.

· All Scripture pointed to Christ, the Logos of God.

· Some references to Christ are obvious. Some are veiled.

· Christians can see this pointing to Christ because of the special grace God had given them.


1. It was God who commanded Moses that no images of any kind should be made.

2. It was God who told Moses to make a serpent.

3. God is omnipotent and unmovable and to Justin, unchangeable.

4. When Justin saw an apparent contradiction in the commands of God, he looked for a reason.

5. God must want to show something special or different to appear to give two conflicting commands.

6. God must have wanted to point to a hidden meaning with God’s second command.


Published on September 11, 2007 at 9:39 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. So am I, and with a little (read a lot) help from Mark, I finally got a page. Just couldn’t leave it blank!

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