Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Christian apologist, born at Flavia Neapolis, about A.D. 100, converted to Christianity about A.D. 130, taught and defended the Christian religion in Asia Minor and at Rome, where he suffered martyrdom about the year 165. Two "Apologies" bearing his name and his "Dialogue with the Jew Tryphon" have come down to us. Leo XIII had a Mass and an Office composed in his honour and set his feast for 14 April.


Among the Fathers of the second century his life is the best known, and from the most authentic documents. 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 ; they furnish us however with several precious and reliable clues. For his martyrdom we have documents of undisputed authority. In the first line of his "Apology" he calls himself "Justin, the son of Priscos, son of Baccheios, of Flavia Neapolis, in Palestinian Syria ". Flavia Neapolis, his native town, founded by Vespasian (A.D. 72), was built on the site of a place called Mabortha, or Mamortha, quite near Sichem (Guérin, "Samarie", I, Paris, 1874, 390-423; Schürer, "History of the Jewish People", tr., I, Edinburgh, 1885). Its inhabitants were all, or for the most part, pagans. The names of the father and grandfather of Justin suggest a pagan origin, and he speaks of himself as uncircumcised (Dialogue, xxviii). The date of his birth is uncertain, but would seem to fall in the first years of the second century. He received a good education in philosophy, an account of which he gives us at the beginning of his "Dialogue with the Jew Tryphon"; he placed himself first under a Stoic, but after some time found that he had learned nothing about God and that in fact his master had nothing to teach him on the subject. A Peripatetic whom he then found welcomed him at first but afterwards demanded a fee from him; this proved that he was not a philosopher. A Pythagorean refused to teach him anything until he should have learned music, astronomy, and geometry. Finally a Platonist arrived on the scene and for some time delighted Justin. This account cannot be taken too literally; the facts seem to be arranged with a view to showing the weakness of the pagan philosophies and of contrasting them with the teachings of the Prophets and of Christ. The main facts, however, may be accepted; the works of Justin seem to show just such a philosophic development as is here described, Eclectic, but owing much to Stoicism and more to Platonism. He was still under the charm of the Platonistic philosophy when, as he walked one day along the seashore, he met a mysterious old man; the conclusion of their long discussion was that he soul could not arrive through human knowledge at the idea of God, but that it needed to be instructed by the Prophets who, inspired by the Holy Ghost , had known God and could make Him known ("Dialogue", iii, vii; cf. Zahm, "Dichtung and Wahrheit in Justins Dialog mit dem Jeden Trypho" in "Zeitschr. für Kirchengesch.", VIII, 1885-1886, 37-66).

The "Apologies" throw light on another phase of the conversion of Justin: "When I was a disciple of Plato ", he writes, "hearing the accusations made against the Christians and seeing them intrepid in the face of death and of all that men fear, I said to myself that it was impossible that they should be living in evil and in the love of pleasure" (II Apol., xviii, 1). Both accounts exhibit the two aspects of Christianity that most strongly influenced St. Justin; in the "Apologies" he is moved by its moral beauty (I Apol., xiv), in the "Dialogue" by its truth. His conversion must have taken place at the latest towards A.D. 130, since St. Justin places during the war of Bar-Cocheba (132-135) the interview with the Jew Tryphon, related in his "Dialogue". This interview is evidently not described exactly as it took place, and yet the account cannot be wholly fictitious. Tryphon, according to Eusebius (Hist. eccl., IV, xviii, 6), was "the best known Jew of that time ", which description the historian may have borrowed from the introduction to the "Dialogue", now lost. It is possible to identify in a general way this Tryphon with the Rabbi Tarphon often mentioned in the Talmud (Schürer, "Gesch. d. Jud. Volkes", 3rd ed., II, 377 seq., 555 seq., cf., however, Herford, "Christianity in Talmud and Midrash ", London, 1903, 156). The place of the interview is not definitely told, but Ephesus is clearly enough indicated; the literary setting lacks neither probability nor life, the chance meetings under the porticoes, the groups of curious onlookers who stop a while and then disperse during the inteviews, offer a vivid picture of such extemporary conferences. St. Justin lived certainly some time at Ephesus; the Acts of his martyrdom tell us that he went to Rome twice and lived "near the baths of Timothy with a man named Martin". He taught school there, and in the aforesaid Acts of his martyrdom we read of several of his disciples who were condemned with him.

In his second "Apology" (iii) Justin says: "I, too, expect to be persecuted and to be crucified by some of those whom I have named, or by Crescens, that friend of noise and of ostentation." Indeed Tatian relates (Discourse, xix) that the Cynic philosopher Crescens did pursue him and Justin; he does not tell us the result and, moreover, it is not certain that the "Discourse" of Tatian was written after the death of Justin. Eusebius (Hist. eccl., IV, xvi, 7, 8) says that it was the intrigues of Crescens which brought about the death of Justin; this is credible, but not certain; Eusebius has apparently no other reason for affirming it than the two passages cited above from Justin and Tatian. St. Justin was condemned to death by the prefect, Rusticus, towards A.D. 165, with six companions, Chariton, Charito, Evelpostos, P æon, Hierax, and Liberianos. We still have the authentic account of their martyrdom ("Acta SS.", April, II, 104-19; Otto, "Corpus Apologetarum", III, Jena, 1879, 266-78; P. G., VI, 1565-72). The examination ends as follows:

"The Prefect Rusticus says: Approach and sacrifice, all of you, to the gods. Justin says: No one in his right mind gives up piety for impiety. The Prefect Rusticus says: If you do not obey, you will be tortured without mercy. Justin replies: That is our desire, to be tortured for Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and so to be saved, for that will give us salvation and firm confidence at the more terrible universal tribunal of Our Lord and Saviour. And all the martyrs said: Do as you wish; for we areChristians, and we do not sacrifice to idols. The Prefect Rusticus read the sentence : Those who do not wish to sacrifice to the gods and to obey the emperor will be scourged and beheaded according to the laws. The holy martyrs glorifying God betook themselves to the customary place, where they were beheaded and consummated their martyrdom confessing their Saviour."


Justin was a voluminous and important writer. He himself mentions a "Treatise against Heresy" (I Apology, xxvi, 8); St. Irenæus (Adv. Hær., IV, vi, 2) quotes a "Treatise against Marcion " which may have been only a part of the preceding work. Eusebius mentions both (Hist. eccl., IV, xi, 8-10), but does not seem to have read them himself; a little further on (IV, xviii) he gives the following list of Justin's works: "Discourse in favour of our Faith to Antoninus Pius, to his sons, and to the Roman Senate"; an "Apology" addressed to Marcus Aurelius ; "Discourse to the Greeks"; another discourse called "A Refutation"; "Treatise on the Divine Monarchy"; a book called "The Psalmist"; "Treatise on the soul "; "Dialogue against the Jews ", which he had in the city of Ephesus with Tryphon, the most celebrated Israelite of that time. Eusebius adds that many more of his books are to be found in the hands of the brethren. Later writers add nothing certain to this list, itself possibly not altogether reliable. There are extant but three works of Justin, of which the authenticity is assured: the two "Apologies" and the "Dialogue". They are to be found in two manuscripts : Paris gr. 450, finished on 11 September, 1364; and Claromont. 82, written in 1571, actually at Cheltenham, in the possession of M.T.F. Fenwick. The second is only a copy of the first, which is therefore our sole authority; unfortunately this manuscript is very imperfect (Harnack, "Die Ueberlieferung der griech. Apologeten" in "Texte and Untersuchungen", I, Leipzig, 1883, i, 73-89; Archambault, "Justin, Dialogue a vec Tryphon", Paris, 1909, p. xii-xxxviii). There are many large gaps in this manuscript, thus II Apol., ii, is almost entirely wanting, but it has been found possible to restore the manuscript text from a quotation of Eusebius (Hist. eccl., IV, xvii). The "Dialogue" was dedicated to a certain Marcus Pompeius (exli, viii); it must therefore have been preceded by a dedicatory epistle and probably by an introduction or preface; both are lacking. In the seventy-fourth chapter a large part must also be missing, comprising the end of the first book and the beginning of the second (Zahn, "Zeitschr. f. Kirchengesch.", VIII, 1885, 37 sq., Bardenhewer, "Gesch. der altkirchl. Litter.", I, Freiburg im Br., 1902, 210). There are other less important gaps and many faulty transcriptions. There being no other manuscript, the correction of this one is very difficult; conjectures have been often quite unhappy, and Krüger, the latest editor of the "Apology", has scarsely done more than return to the text of the manuscript.

In the manuscript the three works are found in the following order: second "Apology", first "Apology", the "Dialogue". Dom Maran (Paris, 1742) re-established the original order, and all other editors have followed him. There could not be as a matter of fact any doubt as to the proper order of the "Apologies", the first is quoted in the second (iv, 2; vi, 5; viii, 1). The form of these references shows that Justin is referring, not to a different work, but to that which he was then writing (II Apol., ix, 1, cf. vii, 7; I Apol., lxiii, 16, cf. xxxii, 14; lxiii, 4, cf. xxi,1;lxi, 6, cf. lxiv, 2). Moreover, the second "Apology" is evidently not a complete work independent of the first, but rather an appendix, owing to a new fact that came to the writer's knowledge, and which he wished to utilize without recasting both works. It has been remarked that Eusebius often alludes to the second "Apology" as the first (Hist. eccl., IV, viii, 5; IV, xvii, 1), but the quotations from Justin by Eusebius are too inexact for us to attach much value to this fact (cf. Hist. eccl., IV, xi, 8; Bardenhewer, op. cit., 201). Probably Eusebius also erred in making Justin write one apology under Antoninus (161) and another under Marcus Aurelius. The second "Apology", known to no other author, doubtless never existed (Bardenhewer, loc. cit.; Harnack, "Chronologie der christl. Litter.", I, Leipzig, 1897, 275). The date of the "Apology" cannot be determined by its dedication, which is not certain, but can be established with the aid of the following facts: it is 150 years since the birth of Christ (I, xlvi, 1); Marcion has already spread abroad his error (I, xxvi, 5); now, according to Epiphanius (Hæres., xlii, 1), he did not begin to teach until after the death of Hyginus (A.D. 140). The Prefect of Egypt, Felix (I, xxix, 2), occupied this charge in September, 151, probably from 150 to about 154 (Grenfell-Hunt, "Oxyrhinchus Papyri", II, London, 1899, 163, 175; cf. Harnack, "Theol. Literaturzeitung", XXII, 1897, 77). From all of this we may conclude that the "Apology" was written somewhere between 153 and 155. The second "Apology", as already said, is an appendix to the first and must have been written shortly afterwards. The Prefect Urbinus mentioned in it was in charge from 144 to 160. The "Dialogue" is certainly later than the "Apology" to which it refers ("Dial.", cxx, cf. "I Apol.", xxvi); it seems, moreover, from this same reference that the emperors to whom the "Apology" was addressed were still living when the "Dialogue" was written. This places it somewhere before A.D. 161, the date of the death of Antoninus.

The "Apology" and the "Dialogue" are difficult to analyse, for Justin's method of composition is free and capricious, and defies our habitual rules of logic. The content of the first "Apology" (Viel, "Justinus des Phil. Rechtfertigung", Strasburg, 1894, 58 seq.) is somewhat as follows:

  • i-iii: exordium to the emperors: Justin is about to enlighten them and free himself of responsibility, which will now be wholly theirs.
  • iv-xii: first part or introduction:
    • the anti-Christian procedure is iniquitous: they persecute in the Christians a name only (iv, v);
    • Christians are neither Atheists nor criminals (vi, vii);
    • they allow themselves to be killed rather than deny their God (viii);
    • they refuse to adore idols (ix, xii);
    • conclusion (xii).
  • xiii-lxvii: Second part (exposition and demonstration of Christianity ):
    • Christians adore the crucified Christ, as well as God (xiii);
    • Christ is their Master; moral precepts (xiv-xvii);
    • the future life, judgement, etc. (xviii-xx).
    • Christ is the Incarnate Word (xxi-lx);
    • comparison with pagan heroes, Hermes, Æsculapius, etc. (xxi-xxii);
    • superiority of Christ and of Christianity before Christ (xlvi).
    • The similarities that we find in the pagan worship and philosophy come from the devils (liv-lx).
    • Description of Christian worship : baptism (lxi);
    • the Eucharist (lxv-lxvi);
    • Sunday-observance (lxvii).
Second "Apology":
  • Recent injustice of the Prefect Urbinus towards the Christians (i-iii).
  • Why it is that God permits these evils : xxyyyk.htm">Providence, human liberty, last judgement (iv-xii).
The "Dialogue" is much longer than the two apologies taken together ("Apol." I and II in P.G., VI, 328-469; "Dial.", ibid., 472-800), the abundance of exegetical discussions makes any analysis particularly difficult. The following points are noteworthy:
  • i-ix. Introduction: Justin gives the story of his philosophic education and of this conversion. One may know God only through the Holy Ghost ; the soul is not immortal by its nature ; to know truth it is necessary to study the Prophets.
  • x-xxx: On the law. Tryphon reproaches the Christians for not observing the law. Justin replies that according to the Prophets themselves the law should be abrogated, it had only been given to the Jews on account of their hardness. Superiority of the Christian circumcision, necessary even for the Jews. The eternal law laid down by Christ.
  • xxxi-cviii: On Christ: His two comings (xxxi sqq.); the law a figure of Christ (xl-xlv); the Divinity and the pre-existence of Christ proved above all by the Old Testament apparitions (theophanies) (lvi-lxii); incarnation and virginal conception (lxv sqq.); the death of Christ foretold (lxxxvi sqq.); His resurrection (cvi sqq.).
  • cviii to the end: On the Christians. The conversion of the nations foretold by the Prophets (cix sqq.); Christians are a holier people than the Jews (cxix sqq.); the promises were made to them (cxxi); they were prefigured in the Old Testament (cxxxiv sqq.). The "Dialogue" concludes with wishes for the conversion of the Jews.
Besides these authentic works we possess others under Justin's name that are doubtful or apocryphal.
  • "On the Resurrection" (for its numerous fragments see Otto, "Corpus Apolog.", 2nd ed., III, 210-48 and the "Sacra Parallela", Holl, "Fragmente vornicänischer Kirchenväter aus den Sacra Parallela" in "Texte und Untersuchungen", new series, V, 2, Leipzig, 1899, 36-49). The treatise from which these fragments are taken was attributed to St. Justin by St. Methodius (early fourth century) and was quoted by St. Irenæus and Tertullian, who do not, however, name the author. The attribution of the fragments to Justin is therefore probable (Harnack, "Chronologie", 508; Bousset, "Die Evangeliencitaten Justins", Göttingen, 1891, 123sq.; archambault, "Le témoignage de l'ancienne littérature Chrétienne sur l'authenticité d'un traité sur la resurrection attribué à Justin l'Apologiste" in "Revue de Philologie", XXIX, 1905, 73-93). The chief interest of these fragments consists in the introduction, where is explained with much force the transcendent nature of faith and the proper nature of its motives.
  • "A Discourse to the Greeks" (Otto, op. cit., III, 1, 2, 18), an apocryphal tract, dated by Harnack (Sitzungsberichte der k. preuss. Akad. d. Wiss. zu Berlin, 1896, 627-46), about A.D. 180-240. Later it was altered and enlarged in Syriac : text and English translation by Cureton, "Spicileg. Syr.", London, 1855, 38-42, 61-69.
  • "Exhortation to the Greeks" (Otto, op. cit., 18-126). The authenticity of this has been defended without success by Widman ("Die Echtheit der Mahnrede Justins an die Heiden", Mainz, 1902); Puech, "Sur le logos parainetikos attribué à Justin" in "Mélanges Weil", Paris, 1898, 395-406, dates it about 260-300, but most critics say, with more probability, A.D. 180-240 (Gaul, "Die Abfassungsverhältnisse der pseudojustinischen Cohortatio ad Græcos", Potsdam, 1902).
  • "On Monarchy" (Otto, op. cit., 126-158), tract of uncertain date, in which are freely quoted Greek poets altered by some Jew.
  • "Exposition of the Faith" (Otto, op. cit., IV, 2-66), a dogmatic treatise on the Trinity and the Incarnation preserved in two copies the longer of which seems the more ancient. It is quoted for the first time by Leontius of Byzantium (d. 543) and refers to the Christological discussions of the fifth century; it seems, therefore, to date from the second half of that century.
  • "Letter to Zenas and Serenus" (Otto, op. cit., 66-98), attributed by Batiffol in "Revue Biblique", VI, 1896, 114-22, to Sisinnios, the Novatian Bishop of Constantinople about A.D. 400.
  • "Answers to the Orthodox."
  • "The Christian's Questions to the Greeks."
  • "The Greek's Questions to the Christians."
  • "Refutation of certain Aristotelean theses" (Otto, op. cit., IV, 100-222; V, 4-366).
The "Answers to the Orthodox" was re-edited in a different and more primitive form by Papadopoulos-Kerameus (St. Petersburg, 1895), from a Constantinople manuscript which ascribed the work to Theodoret. Though this ascription was adopted by the editor, it has not been generally accepted. Harnack has studied profoundly these four books and maintains, not without probability, that they are the work of Diodorus of Tarsus (Harnack, "Diodor von Tarsus., vier pseudojustinische Schriften als Eigentum Diodors nachgewiesen" in "Texte und Untersuch.", XII, 4, Leipzig, 1901).


Justin and Philosophy

The only pagan quotations to be found in Justin's works are from Homer, Euripides, Xenophon, Menander, and especially Plato (Otto, II, 593 sq.). His philosophic development has been well estimated by Purves ("The Testimony of Justin Martyr to early Christianity", London, 1882, 132): "He appears to have been a man of moderate culture. He was certainly not a genius nor an original thinker." A true eclectic, he draws inspiration from different systems, especially from Stoicism and Platonism. Weizsäcker (Jahrbücher f. Protest. Theol., XII, 1867, 75) thought he recognized a Peripatetic idea, or inspiration, in his conception of God as immovable above the heavens (Dial., cxxvii); it is much more likely an idea borrowed from Alexandrian Judaism, and one which furnished a very efficacious argument to Justin in his anti- Jewish polemic. In the Stoics Justin admires especially their ethics (II Apol., viii, 1); he willingly adopts their theory of a universal conflagration ( ekpyrosis ). In I Apol., xx, lx; II, vii, he adopts, but at the same time transforms, their concept of the seminal Word ( logos spermatikos ). However, he condemns their Fatalism (II Apol., vii) and their Atheism (Dial., ii). His sympathies are above all with Platonism. He likes to compare it with Christanity; apropos of the last judgment, he remarks, however (I Apol., viii, 4), that according to Plato the punishment will last a thousand years, whereas according to the Christians it will be eternal ; speaking of creation (I Apol., xx, 4; lix), he says that Plato borrowed from Moses his theory of formless matter; similarly he compares Plato and Christianity apropos of human responsibility (I Apol., xliv, 8) and the Word and the Spirit (I Apol., lx). However, his acquaintance with Plato was superficial; like his contemporaries (Philo, Plutarch, St. Hippolytus ), he found his chief inspiration in the Timæus. Some historians have pretended that pagan philosophy entirely dominated Justin's Christianity (Aubé, "S. Justin", Paris, 1861), or at least weakened it (Engelhardt, "Das Christentum Justins des Märtyrers", Erlangen, 1878). To appreciate fairly this influence it is necessary to remember that in his "Apology" Justin is seeking above all the points of contact between Hellenism and Christianity. It would certainly be wrong to conclude from the first "Apology" (xxii) that Justin actually likens Christ to the pagan heroes of semi-heroes, Hermes, Perseus, or Æsculapius; neither can we conclude from his first "Apology" (iv, 8 or vii, 3, 4) that philosophy played among the Greeks the same role that Christianity did among the barbarians, but only that their position and their reputation were analogous.

In many passages, however, Justin tries to trace a real bond between philosophy and Christianity : according to him both the one and the other have a part in the Logos , partially disseminated among men and wholly manifest in Jesus Christ (I, v, 4; I, xlvi; II, viii; II, xiii, 5, 6). The idea developed in all these passages is given in the Stoic form, but this gives to its expression a greater worth. For the Stoics the seminal Word ( logos spermatikos ) is the form of every being; here it is the reason inasmuch as it partakes of God. This theory of the full participation in the Divine Word ( Logos ) by the sage has its full value only in Stoicism (see LOGOS). In Justin thought and expression are antithetic, and this lends a certain incoherence to the theory; the relation established between the integral Word, i.e. Jesus Christ, and the partial Word disseminated in the world, is more specious than profound. Side by side with this theory, and quite different in its origin and scope, we find in Justin, as in most of his contemporaries, the conviction that Greek philosophy borrowed from the Bible : it was by stealing from Moses and the Prophets that Plato and the other philosophers developed their doctrines (I, xliv, lix, ls). Despite the obscurities and incoherences of this thought, he affirms clearly and positively the transcendent character of Christianity : "Our doctrine surpasses all human doctrine because the real Word became Christ who manifested himself for us, body, word and soul." (II, Apol., x, 1.) This Divine origin assures Christianity an absolute truth (II, xiii, 2) and gives to the Christians complete confidence; they die for Christ's doctrine ; no one died for that of Socrates (II, x, 8). The first chapters of the "Dialogue" complete and correct these ideas. In them the rather complaisant syncretism of the "Apology" disappears, and the Christian thought is stronger.

Justin's chief reproach to the philosophers is their mutual divisions; he attributes this to the pride of the heads of sects and the servile acquiesence of their adherents; he also says a little later on (vi): "I care neither for Plato nor for Pythagoras." From it all he concludes that for the pagans philosophy is not a serious or profound thing; life does not depend on it, nor action: "Thou art a friend of discourse", says the old man to him before his conversion, "but not of action nor of truth " (iv). For Platonism he retained a kindly feeling as for a study dear in childhood or in youth. Yet he attacks it on two essential points: the relation between God and man, and the nature of the soul (Dial., iii, vi). Nevertheless he still seems influenced by it in his conception of the Divine transcendency and the interpretation that he gives to the aforesaid theophanies.

Justin and Christian Revelation

That which Justin despairs of attaining through philosophy he is now sure of possessing through Jewish and Christian revelation. He admits that the soul can naturally comprehend that God is, just as it understands that virtue is beautiful (Dial., iv) but he denies that the soul without the assistance of the Holy Ghost can see God or contemplate Him directly through ecstasy, as the Platonic philosophers contended. And yet this knowledge of God is necessary for us: "We cannot know God as we know music, arithmetic or astronomy " (iii); it is necessary for us to know God not with an abstract knowledge but as we know any person with whom we have relations. Thr problem which it seems impossible to solve is settled by revelation ; God has spoken directly to the Prophets, who in their turn have made Him known to us (viii). It is the first time in Christian theology that we find so concise an explanation of the difference which separates Christian revelation from human speculation. It does away with the confusion that might arise from the theory, taken from the "Apology", of the partial Logos and the Logos absolute or entire.

The Bible of Justin A. The Old Testament

For Philo the Bible is bery particularly the Pentateuch (Ryle, "Philo and Holy Scripture ", XVII, London, 1895, 1-282). In keeping with the difference of his purpose, Justin has other preferences. He quotes the Pentateuch often and liberally, especially Genesis, Exodus, and Deuteronomy ; but he quotes still more frequently and at greater length the Psalms and the Books of Prophecy -- above all, Isaias. The Books of Wisdom are seldom quoted, the historical books still less. The books that we never find in his works are Judges, Esdras (except one passage which is attributed to him by mistake-Dial., lxxii), Tobias, Judith, Ester, Canticles, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Abdias, Nahum, Habacuc, Sophonias, Aggeus. It has been noticed, too (St. John Thackeray in "Journ. of Theol. Study", IV, 1903, 265, n.3), that he never cites the last chapters of Jeremias (apropos of the first "Apology", xlvii, Otto is wrong in his reference to Jer., 1, 3). Of these omissions the most noteworthy is that of Wisdom, precisely on account of the similarity of ideas. It is to be noted, moreover, that this book, surely used in the New Testament , cited by St. Clement of Rome (xxvii, 5) and later by St. Irenæus ( Eusebius, Hist. eccl., V, xxvi), is never met with in the works of the apologists (the reference of Otto to Tatian, vii, is inexact). On the other hand one finds in Justin some apocryphal texts: pseudo-Esdras (Dial., lxxii), pseudo-Jeremias (ibid.), Ps. xevi (xcv), 10 (Dial., lxxii; I Apol., xli); sometimes also errors in ascribing quotations: Zacharias for Malachias (Dial., xlix), Osee for Zacharias for Malachias (Dial., xiv). For the Biblical text of Justin, see Swete, "Introduction to the Old Testament in Greek", Cambridge, 1902, 417-24.

B. The New Testament

The testimony of Justin is here of still greater importance, especially for the Gospels, and has been more often discussed. The historical side of the question is given by W. Bousset, "Die Evangeliencitaten Justins" (Göttingen, 1891), 1-12, and since then, by Baldus, "Das Verhältniss Justins der Märt. zu unseren synopt. Evangelien" (Münster, 1895); Lippelt, "Quæ fuerint Justini mart. apomnemoneumata quaque ratione cum forma Evangeliorum syro-latina cohæserint" (Halle, 1901). The books quoted by Justin are called by him "Memoirs of the Apostles ". This term, otherwise very rare, appears in Justin quite probably as an analogy with the "Memorabilia" of Xenophon (quoted in "II Apol.", xi, 3) and from a desire to accommodate his language to the habits of mind of his readers. At any rate it seems that henceforth the word "gospels" was in current usage; it is in Justin that we find it for the first time used in the plural, "the Apostles in their memoirs that are called gospels " (I Apol., lxvi, 3). These memoirs have authority, not only because they relate the words of Our Lord (as Bossuet contends, op. cit., 16 seq.), but because, even in their narrative parts, they are considered as Scripture (Dial., 49: citing Matthew 17:13 ). This opinion of Justin is upheld, moreover, by the Church who, in her public service reads the memoirs of the Apostles as well as the writings of the prophets (I Apol., lxvii, 3). These memoirs were composed by the Apostles and by those who followed them (Dial., ciii); he refers in all probability to the four Evangelists, i.e. to two Apostles and two disciples of Christ (Stanton, " New Testament canon " in Hastings, "Dictionary of the Bible ", III, 535). The authors, however, are not named: once (Dial., ciii) he mentions the "memoirs of Peter", but the text is very obscure and uncertain (Bousset, op. cit., 18).

All facts of the life of Christ that Justin takes from these memoirs are found indeed in our Gospels (Baldus, op. cit., 13 sqq.); he adds to them a few other and less important facts (I Apol., xxxii; xxxv; Dial., xxxv, xlvii, li, lxxviii), but he does not assert that he found them in the memoirs. It is quite probable that Justin used a concordance, or harmony, in which were united the three synoptic Gospels (Lippelt, op. cit., 14, 94) and it seems that the text of this concordance resembled in more than one point the so-called Western text of the Gospels (cf. ibid., 97). Justin's dependence on St. John is indisputably established by the facts which he takes from Him (I Apol., lxi, 4, 5; Dial., lxix, lxxxviii), still more by the very striking similarity in vocabulary and doctrine. It is certain, however, that Justin does not use the fourth Gospel as abundantly as he does the others (Purves, op. cit., 233); this may be owing to the aforesaid concordance, or harmony, of the synoptic Gospels. He seems to use the apocryphal Gospel of Peter (I Apol., xxxv, 6; cf. Dial., ciii; Revue Biblique, III, 1894, 531 sqq.; Harnack, "Bruchstücke des Evang. des Petrus", Leipzig, 1893, 37). His dependence on the Protevangelium of James (Dial., lxxviii) doubtful.

Apologetical method

Justin's attitude towards philosophy, described above, reveals at once the tendency of his polemics; he never exibits the indignation of a Tatian or even of a Tertullian. To the hideous calumnies spread abroad against the Christians he sometimes answers, as do the other apologists, by taking the offensive and attacking pagan morality (I Apol., xxvii; II, xii, 4, 5), but he dislikes to insist on these calumnies : the interlocutor in the "Dialogue" (ix) he is careful to ignore those who would trouble him with their loud laughter. He has not the eloquence of Tertullian, and can obtain a hearing only in a small circle of men capable of understanding reason and of being moved by an idea. His chief argument, and one calculated to convert this hearers as it had converted him (II Apol., xii), is the great new fact of Christian morality. He speaks of men and women who have no fear of death (I Apol., ii, xi, xlv; II, ii; Dial., xxx), who prefer truth to life (I Apol., ii; II, iv) and are yet ready to await the time allotted by God (II, iv1); he makes known their devotion to their children (I, xxvii), their charity even towards their enemies, and their desire to save them (I Apol., lvii; Dial., cxxxiii), their patience and their prayers in persecution (Dial., xviii), their love of mankind (Dial., xciii, cx). When he contrasts the life that they led in paganism with their Christian life (I Apol., xiv), he expresses the same feeling of deliverance and exaltation as did St. Paul ( 1 Corinthians 6:11 ). He is careful, moreover, to emphasize, especially from the Sermon on the Mount, the moral teaching of Christ so as to show in it the real source of these new virtues (I Apol., xv-xviii). Throughout his exposé of the new religion it is Christian chastity and the courage of the martyrs that he most insists upon.

The rational evidences of Christianity Justin finds especially in the prophecies ; he gives to this argument more than a third of his "Apology" (xxx-liii) and almost the entire "Dialogue". When he is disputing with the pagans he is satisfied with drawing attention to the fact that the books of the Prophets were long anterior to Christ, guaranteed as to their authenticity by the Jews themselves, and says that they contain prophecies concerning the life of Christ and the spread of the Church that can only be explained by a Divine revelation (I Apol., xxxi). In the "Dialogue", arguing with Jews, he can assume this revelation which they also recognize, and he can invoke the Scriptures as sacred oracles. These evidences of the prophecies are for him absolutely certain. "Listen to the texts which I am about to cite; it is not necessary for me to comment upon them, but only for you to hear them" (Dial., liii; cf. I Apol., xxx, liii). Nevertheless he recognizes that Christ alone could have given the explanation of them (I Apol., xxxii; Dial., lxxvi; cv); to understand them the men and women of his time must have the interior dispositions that make the true Christian (Dial., cxii), i.e., Divine grace is necessary (Dial., vii, lviii, xcii, cxix). He also appeals to miracles (Dial., vii; xxxv; lxix; cf. II Apol., vi), but with less insistence than to the prophecies.



Justin's teaching concerning God has been very diversely interpreted, some seeing in it nothing but a philosophic speculation (Engelhardt, 127 sq., 237 sqq.), others a truly Christian faith (Flemming, "Zur Beurteilung des Christentums Justins des Märtyrers", Leipzig, 1893, 70 sqq.; Stählin, "Justin der Märtyrer und sein neuester Beurtheiler", 34 sqq., Purves, op. cit., 142 sqq.). In reality it is possible to find in it these two tendencies: on one side the influence of philosophy betrays itself in his concept of the Divine transcendency, thus God is immovable (I Apol., ix; x, 1; lxiii, 1; etc.); He is above the heaven, can neither be seen nor enclosed within space (Dial., lvi, lx, cxxvii); He is called Father, in a philosophic and Platonistic sense, inasmuch as He is the Creator of the world (I Apol., xlv, 1; lxi, 3; lxv, 3; II Apol., vi, 1, etc.). On the other hand we see the God of the Bible in his all-powerful (Dial., lxxxiv; I Apol., xix, 6), and merciful God (Dial., lxxxiv; I Apol., xix, 6), and merciful God (Dial., cviii, lv, etc.); if He ordained the Sabbath it was not that He had need of the homage of the Jews, but that He desired to attach them to Himself (Dial., xxii); through His mercy He preserved among them a seed of salvation (lv); through His Divine Providence He has rendered the nations worthy of their inheritance (cxviiicxxx); He delays the end of the world on account of the Christians (xxxix; I Apol., xxviii, xlv). And the great duty of man is to love Him (Dial., xciii).

The Logos

The Word is numerically distinct from the Father (Dial., cxxviii, cxxix; cf. lvi, lxii). He was born of the very substance of the Father, not that this substance was divided, but He proceeds from it as one fire does from another at which it is lit (cxxviii, lxi); this form of production (procession) is compared also with that of human speech (lxi). The Word ( Logos ) is therefore the Son: much more, He alone may properly be called Son (II Apol., vi, 3); He is the monogenes , the unigenitus (Dial., cv). Elsewhere, however, Justin, like St. Paul, calls Him the eldest Son, prototokos (I Apol., xxxiii; xlvi; lxiii; Dial., lxxxiv, lxxxv, cxxv). The Word is God (I Apol., lxiii; Dial., xxxiv, xxxvi, xxxvii, lvi, lxiii, lxxvi, lxxxvi, lxxxvii, cxiii, cxv, cxxv, cxxvi, cxviii). His Divinity, however, seems subordinate, as does the worship which is rendered to Him (I Apol., vi; cf. lxi, 13; Teder, "Justins des Märtyrers Lehre von Jesus Christus", Freiburg im Br., 1906, 103-19). The Father engendered Him by a free and voluntary act (Dial., lxi, c, cxxvii, cxxviii; cf. Teder, op. cit., 104), at the beginning of all His works (Dial., lxi, lxii, II Apol., vi, 3); in this last text certain authors thought they distinguished in the Word two states of being, one intimate, the other outspoken, but this distinction, though found in some other apologists, is in Justin very doubtful. Through the Word God has made everything (II Apol., vi; Dial., cxiv). The Word is diffused through all humanity (I Apol., vi; II, viii; xiii); it was He who appeared to the patriarchs (I Apol., lxii; lxiii; Dial., lvi, lix, lx etc.). Two influences are plainly discernible in the aforesaid body of doctrine. It is, of course, to Christian revelation that Justin owes his concept of the distinct personality of the Word, His Divinity and Incarnation ; but philosophic speculation is responsible for his unfortunate concepts of the temporal and voluntary generation of the Word, and for the subordinationism of Justin's theology. It must be recognized, moreover, that the latter ideas stand out more boldly in the "Apology" than in the "Dialogue."

The Holy Ghost occupies the third place in the Trinity (I Apol., vi). He inspired the prophets (I Apol., vi;xxxi; Dial., vii). He gave seven gifts to Christ and descended upon Him (Dial., lxxxvii, lxxxviii). For the real distinction between the Son and the Spirit see Teder, op. cit., 119-23. Justin insists constantly on the virgin birth (I Apol., xxii; xxxiii; Dial., xliii, lxxvi, lxxxiv, etc.) and the reality of the flesh of Christ (Dial., xlviii, xcviii, ciii; cf. II Apol., x, 1). He states that among the Christians there are some who do not admit the Divinity of Christ but they are a minority; he differs from them because of the authority of the Prophets (Dial., xlvi); the entire dialogue, moreover, is devoted to proving this thesis. Christ is the Master whose doctrine enlightens us (I Apol., xiii, 3; xxiii, 2; xxxii, 2; II, viii, 5; xiii, 2; Dial., viii, lxxvii, lxxxiii, c, cxiii), also the Redeemer whose blood saves us (I Apol., lxiii, 10, 16; Dial., xiii, xl, xli, xcv, cvi; cf. Rivière, "Hist. du dogme de la rédemption", Paris, 1905, 115, and tr., London, 1908). The rest of Justin's theology is less personal, therefore less interesting. As to the Eucharist, the baptismal Mass and the Sunday Mass are described in the first "Apology" (lxv-lxvii), with a richness of detail unique for that age. Justin here explains the dogma of the Real Presence with a wonderful clearness (lxvi, 2): "In the same way that through the power of the Word of God Jesus Christ our Saviour took flesh and blood for our salvation, so the nourishment consecrated by the prayer formed of the words of Christ . . . is the flesh and blood of this incarnate Jesus." The "Dialogue" (cxvii; cf. xli) completes this doctrine by the idea of a Eucharistic sacrifice as a memorial of the Passion.

The role of St. Justin may be summed up in one word: it is that of a witness. We behold in him one of the highest and purest pagan souls of his time in contact with Christianity, compelled to accept its irrefragable truth, its pure moral teaching, and to admire its superhuman constancy. He is also a witness of the second-century Church which he describes for us in its faith, its life, its worship, at a time when Christianity yet lacked the firm organization that it was soon to develop (see ST. IRENÆUS), but the larger outlines of whose constitution and doctrine are already luminously drawn by Justin. Finally, Justin was a witness for Christ unto death.

More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed in fifteen hardcopy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 3:1-10
1 Once, when Peter and John were going up to the ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 105:1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9
1 Alleluia! Give thanks to Yahweh, call on his name, ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 24:13-35
13 Now that very same day, two of them were on their ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 23rd, 2014 Image

St. George
April 23: Pictures of St. George usually show him killing a dragon to ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook

Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter