Justin Martyr

Justin Martyr, an early Christian apologist, is regarded as the foremost exponent of the Divine Word, the Logos, in the second century. He was martyred, alongside some of his students, and is venerated as saint by the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Oriental Orthodox Churches.
Most of his works are lost, but two apologies and a dialogue did survive. The First Apology, his most well known text, passionately defends the morality of the Christian life, and provides various ethical and philosophical arguments to convince the Roman emperor, Antoninus, to abandon the persecution of the Church. Further, he also indicates, as St. Augustine would later regarding the "true religion" that predated Christianity, that the "seeds of Christianity" actually predated Christ's incarnation. This notion allows him to claim many historical Greek philosophers, in whose works he was well studied, as unknowing Christians.


Justin Martyr was born around AD 100 at Flavia Neapolis in Samaria. He self-identified as a Samaritan. His family may have been pagan, since he was uncircumcised and, and defined himself as a Gentile. His grandfather, Bacchius, had a Greek name, while his father, Priscus, bore a Latin name, which has led to speculations that his ancestors may have settled in Neapolis soon after its establishment or that they were descended from a Roman "diplomatic" community that had been sent there.
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 afford theological and metaphysical inspiration to their young pupil. He says he tried first the school of a Stoic philosopher, who was unable to explain God's being to him. He then attended a Peripatetic philosopher but was put off because the philosopher was too eager for his fee. Then he went to hear a Pythagorean philosopher who demanded that he first learn music, astronomy, and geometry, which he did not wish to do. Subsequently, he adopted Platonism after encountering a Platonist thinker who had recently settled in his city.
Some time afterwards, he chanced upon an old man, possibly a Syrian Christian, in the vicinity of the seashore, who engaged him in a dialogue about God and spoke of the testimony of the prophets as being more reliable than the reasoning of philosophers.
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." His conversion is commonly assumed to have taken place at Ephesus though it may have occurred anywhere on the road from Syria Palestina to Rome.
of the beheading of Justin Martyr.
He then adopted the dress of a philosopher himself and traveled about teaching. During the reign of Antoninus Pius, he arrived in Rome and started his own school. Tatian was one of his pupils. In the reign of Marcus Aurelius, after disputing with the cynic philosopher Crescens, he was denounced by the latter to the authorities, according to Tatian and Eusebius. Justin was tried, together with six companions, by Junius Rusticus, who was urban prefect from 163–167, and was beheaded. Though the precise year of his death is uncertain, it can reasonably be dated by the prefectoral term of Rusticus. The martyrdom of Justin preserves the court record of the trial.
The church of St. John the Baptist in Sacrofano, a few miles north of Rome, claims to have his relics.
The Church of the Jesuits in Valletta, Malta, founded by papal decree in 1592 also boasts relics of this second century Saint.
A case is also made that the relics of St. Justin are buried in Annapolis, Maryland. During a period of unrest in Italy, a noble family in possession of his remains sent them in 1873 to a priest in Baltimore for safekeeping. They were displayed in St. Mary's Church for a period of time before they were again locked away for safekeeping. The remains were rediscovered and given a proper burial at St. Mary's, with Vatican approval, in 1989.
In 1882 Pope Leo XIII had a Mass and an Office composed for his feast day, which he set at 14 April, one day after the date of his death as indicated in the Martyrology of Florus; but since this date quite often falls within the main Paschal celebrations, the feast was moved in 1968 to 1 June, the date on which he has been celebrated in the Byzantine Rite since at least the 9th century.


The earliest mention of Justin is found in the Oratio ad Graecos by Tatian who, after calling him "the most admirable Justin", quotes a saying of his and says that the Cynic Crescens laid snares for him. Irenaeus speaks of Justin's martyrdom and of Tatian as his disciple. Irenaeus quotes Justin twice and shows his influence in other places. Tertullian, in his Adversus Valentinianos, calls Justin a philosopher and a 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:
  1. The First Apology addressed to Antoninus Pius, his sons, and the Roman Senate;
  2. a Second Apology of Justin Martyr addressed to the Roman Senate;
  3. the Discourse to the Greeks, a discussion with Greek philosophers on the character of their gods;
  4. an Hortatory Address to the Greeks ;
  5. a treatise On the Sovereignty of God, in which he makes use of pagan authorities as well as Christian;
  6. a work entitled The Psalmist;
  7. a treatise in scholastic form On the Soul; and
  8. the Dialogue with Trypho.
Eusebius implies that other works were in circulation; from St Irenaeus he knows of the apology "Against Marcion," and from Justin's "Apology" of a "Refutation of all Heresies ". Epiphanius and St Jerome mention Justin.
Rufinus borrows from his 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 this attribution is now generally admitted to be spurious. The Expositio rectae fidei has been assigned by Draseke to Apollinaris of Laodicea, but it is probably a work of as late as the 6th 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 Pierre Batiffol to the Novatian Bishop Sisinnius. 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 2nd century. The author of the smaller treatise To the Greeks cannot be Justin, because he is dependent on Tatian; Harnack places it between 180 and 240.

Dialogue with Trypho

The Dialogue is a later work than the First Apology; the date of composition of the latter, judging from the fact that it was addressed to Antoninus Pius and his adopted sons Marcus Aurelius and Lucius Verus, must fall between 147 and 161. In the Dialogue with Trypho, after an introductory section, Justin undertakes to show that Christianity is the new law for all men.
Justin's dialogue with Trypho is unique in that he provides information on tensions between Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus of the second century. and in acknowledging the existence of a range, and a variety, of attitudes toward the beliefs and traditions of the Jewish believers in Jesus.

''On The Resurrection''

The treatise On the Resurrection exists in extensive fragments that are preserved in the Sacra parallela. The fragments 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 yet another fragment 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 to that of the old philosophers. The doctrine follows from the command to keep the body in moral purity.
The authenticity of the treatise is not so generally accepted as are Justin's other works. Even so, earlier than the Sacra parallela, it is referred to by Procopius of Gaza. 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, to say nothing of other traces of a connection in thought both here in Irenaeus and 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.

Role within the Church

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 2nd 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 both pagan and Gnostic philosophy.
Justin was confident that his teaching was 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 Christian eschatology.
After collaborating with a Jewish convert to assist him with 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.
Opposition to Judaism was common among church leaders in his day, however Justin Martyr was hostile towards Jewry and regarded Jews as an accursed people. His anti-Judaic polemics have been cited as an origin of Christian antisemitism, he was the first to argue that the Romans bore no responsibility for the death of Jesus, supporting the idea of Jewish deicide. However his views elaborated in the Dialogue with Trypho were comparatively tame to those of John Chrysostom and others.


Justin, like others, thought 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. His aim was 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 devils, had deserted the true God for idols, the Jews and Samaritans possessed the revelation given through the prophets and awaited the Messiah. However, the law, 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.
The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia notes that scholars have differed on whether Justin's writings on the nature of God were meant to express his firm opinion on points of doctrine, or to speculate on these matters. Specific points Justin addressed include that the Logos is "numerically distinct from the Father" though "born of the very substance of the Father," and that "through the Word, God has made everything." Justin used the metaphor of fire to describe the Logos as spreading like a flame, rather than "dividing" the substance of the Father. He also defended the Holy Spirit as a member of the Trinity, as well as the birth of Jesus to Mary when she was a virgin. The Encyclopedia states that Justin places the genesis of the Logos as a voluntary act of the Father at the beginning of creation, noting that this is an "unfortunate" conflict with later Christian teachings.

Memoirs of the apostles

Justin Martyr, in his First Apology and Dialogue with Trypho, sometimes refers to written sources consisting of narratives of the life of Jesus and quotations of the sayings of Jesus as "memoirs of the apostles" and less frequently as gospels which, Justin says, were read every Sunday in the church at Rome.
The designation "memoirs of the apostles" occurs twice in Justin's First Apology and thirteen times in the Dialogue, mostly in his interpretation of Psalm 22, whereas the term "gospel" is used only three times, once in 1 Apol. 66.3 and twice in the Dialogue. The single passage where Justin uses both terms makes it clear that "memoirs of the apostles" and "gospels" are equivalent, and the use of the plural indicates Justin's awareness of more than one written gospel.. Justin may have preferred the designation "memoirs of the apostles" as a contrast to the "gospel" of his contemporary Marcion to emphasize the connections between the historical testimony of the gospels and the Old Testament prophecies which Marcion rejected.
The origin of Justin's use of the name "memoirs of the apostles" as a synonym for the gospels is uncertain. Scholar David E. Aune has argued that the gospels were modeled after classical Greco-Roman biographies, and Justin's use of the term apomnemoneumata to mean all the Synoptic Gospels should be understood as referring to a written biography such as the Memorabilia of Xenophon because they preserve the authentic teachings of Jesus. However, scholar Helmut Koester has pointed out the Latin title "Memorabilia" was not applied to Xenophon's work until the Middle Ages, and it is more likely apomnemoneumata was used to describe the oral transmission of the sayings of Jesus in early Christianity. Papias uses a similar term meaning "remembered" when describing how Mark accurately recorded the "recollections of Peter", and Justin also uses it in reference to Peter in Dial. 106.3, followed by a quotation found only in the Gospel of Mark. Therefore, according to Koester, it is likely that Justin applied the name "memoirs of the apostles" analogously to indicate the trustworthy recollections of the apostles found in the written record of the gospels.
Justin expounded on the gospel texts as an accurate recording of the fulfillment of prophecy, which he combined with quotations of the prophets of Israel from the LXX to demonstrate a proof from prophecy of the Christian kerygma. The importance which Justin attaches to the words of the prophets, which he regularly quotes with the formula "it is written", shows his estimate of the Old Testament Scriptures. However, the scriptural authority he attributes to the "memoirs of the apostles" is less certain. Koester articulates a majority view among scholars that Justin considered the "memoirs of the apostles" to be accurate historical records but not inspired writings, whereas scholar Charles E. Hill, though acknowledging the position of mainstream scholarship, contends that Justin regarded the fulfillment quotations of the gospels to be equal in authority.


Scriptural sources


Justin uses material from the Synoptic Gospels in the composition of the First Apology and the Dialogue, either directly, as in the case of Matthew, or indirectly through the use of a gospel harmony, which may have been composed by Justin or his school. However, his use, or even knowledge, of the Gospel of John is uncertain. One possible reference to John is a saying that is quoted in the context of a description of Christian baptism. However, Koester contends that Justin obtained this saying from a baptismal liturgy rather than a written gospel. Justin's possible knowledge of John's gospel may be suggested by verbal similarities to John 3:4 directly after the discussion about the new birth. Justin also uses language very similar to that of John 1:20 and 1:28. Furthermore, by employing the term "memoirs of the apostles" and distinguishing them from the writings of their "followers", Justin must have been of the belief that at least two gospels were written by actual apostles.


Justin does not quote from the Book of Revelation directly, yet he clearly refers to it, naming John as its author. Scholar Brooke Foss Westcott notes that this reference to the author of the single prophetic book of the New Testament illustrates the distinction Justin made between the role of prophecy and fulfillment quotations from the gospels, as Justin does not mention any of the individual canonical gospels by name.


Reflecting his opposition to Marcion, Justin's attitude toward the Pauline epistles generally corresponds to that of the later Church. In Justin's works, 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, the genuineness of which is attested by internal evidence.

Testimony sources

According to scholar Oskar Skarsaune, Justin relies on two main sources for his proofs from prophecy that probably circulated as collections of scriptural testimonies within his Christian school. He refers to Justin's primary source for demonstrating scriptural proofs in the First Apology and parallel passages in the Dialogue as a "kerygma source". A second source, which was used only in the Dialogue, may be identical to a lost dialogue attributed to Aristo of Pella on the divine nature of the Messiah, the Dialogue of Jason and Papiscus. Justin brings in biblical quotes verbatim from these sources, and he often appears to be paraphrasing his sources very closely, even in his interpretive remarks.
Justin occasionally uses the Gospel of Matthew directly as a source for Old Testament prophecies to supplement his testimony sources. However, the fulfillment quotations from these sources most often appear to be harmonizations of the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Koester suggests that Justin had composed an early harmony along the lines of his pupil Tatian's Diatesseron. However, the existence of a harmony independent of a collection of sayings for exposition purposes has been disputed by scholar Arthur Bellinzoni. The question of whether the harmonized gospel materials found in Justin's writings came from a preexisting gospel harmony or were assembled as part of an integral process of creating scriptural prooftexts is an ongoing subject of scholarly investigation.

"Kerygma source"

The following excerpt from 1 Apol. 33:1,4–5 on the annunciation and virgin birth of Jesus shows how Justin used harmonized gospel verses from Matthew and Luke to provide a scriptural proof of the messiahship of Jesus based on fulfillment of the prophecy of.
According to Skarsaune, the harmonized gospel narratives of Matthew and Luke were part of a tradition already circulating within Justin's school that expounded on the life and work of Jesus as the Messiah and the apostolic mission. Justin then rearranged and expanded these testimonia to create his First Apology. The "kerygma source" of prooftexts is believed to have had a Two Parousias Christology, characterized by the belief that Jesus first came in humility, in fulfillment of prophecy, and will return in glory as the Messiah to the Gentiles. There are close literary parallels between the Christology of Justin's source and the Apocalypse of Peter.

''Dialogue of Jason and Papiscus''

The following excerpts from the Dialogue with Trypho of the baptism and temptation of Jesus, which are believed to have originated from the Dialogue of Jason and Papiscus, illustrate the use of gospel narratives and sayings of Jesus in a testimony source and how Justin has adopted these "memoirs of the apostles" for his own purposes.
The quotations refer to the fulfillment of a prophecy of Psalm 2:7 found in the Western text-type of Luke 3:22. Justin's mention of the fire on the Jordan without comment suggests that he was relying on an intermediate source for these gospel quotations, and his literal interpretation of a pseudo-etymology of the Hebrew word Satan indicates a dependence on a testimony source with a knowledge of Hebrew, which was probably the Dialogue of Jason and Papiscus.
The Dialogue attributed to Aristo of Pella is believed to have furnished Justin with scriptural prooftexts on the divinity of the Messiah by combining a Wisdom Christology – Christ as the incarnation of preexistent Wisdom – with a Second Adam Christology – the first Adam was conquered by Satan, but this Fall of Man is reversed by Christ as the Second Adam who conquers Satan. This is implied in the pseudo-etymology in Dial. 103:5–6 linking the name of Satan to the "apostate-serpent". The Christology of the source is close to that of the Ascension of Isaiah.

Catechetical sources

Justin quotes many sayings of Jesus in 1 Apol. 15–17 and smaller sayings clusters in Dial. 17:3–4; 35:3; 51:2–3; and 76:4–7. The sayings are most often harmonizations of Matthew and Luke that appear to be grouped together topically and organized into sayings collections, including material that probably originated from an early Christian catechism.
The following example of an ethical teaching On Swearing Oaths in 1 Apol. 16:5 shows a combination of sayings material found in Matthew and the Epistle of James:
Do not swear at all. Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No. Everything beyond these is from evil.

The saying "Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No" from James 5:12 is interpolated into a sayings complex from Matthew 5:34,37. The text appears in a large number of Patristic quotations and twice in the Clementine Homilies. Thus, it is likely that Justin was quoting this harmonized text from a catechism.
The harmonization of Matthew and Luke is evident in the following quotations of Mt 7:22–23 and Lk 13:26–27, which are used by Justin twice, in 1 Apol. 16:11 and Dial. 76:5:
Many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not in your name eat and drink and do powerful deeds?' And then I shall say to them, 'go away from me, workers of lawlessness'.

Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not in your name eat and drink and prophecy and drive out demons?' And I shall say to them, 'go away from me'.

In both cases, Justin is using the same harmonized text of Matthew and Luke, although neither of the quotations includes the entire text of those gospel passages. The last phrase, "workers of lawlessness", has an exact parallel with 2 Clement 4:5. This harmonized text also appears in a large number of quotations by the Church Fathers. 1 Apol. 16:11 is part of a larger unit of sayings material in 1 Apol 16:9–13 which combines a warning against being unprepared with a warning against false prophets. The entire unit is a carefully composed harmony of parallel texts from Matthew and Luke. This unit is part of a larger collection of sayings found in 1 Apol. 15–17 that appear to have originated from a catechism used by Justin's school in Rome, which may have had a wide circulation. Justin excerpted and rearranged the catechetical sayings material to create Apol. 15–17 and parallel passages in the Dialogue.

Prophetic exegesis

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

Belief in prophecy

The truth of the prophets, he declares, compels assent. He considered the Old Testament an inspired guide and counselor. He was converted by a Christian philosopher whom he paraphrased as saying:
Then Justin told his own experience:


Justin listed the following events as fulfillments of Bible prophecy
Justin connected the Second Advent with the climax of the prophecy of Daniel 7.


The second advent Justin placed close upon the heels of the appearance of the Antichrist, or "man of apostasy." His interpretation of prophecy is less clear and full than that of others who followed him.

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.


Justin's statements are some of the earliest Christian expressions on the Eucharist.


Greek texts:
English translations: