(c. 100–165)

Early Christian writer and martyr

Of Greek parents, Justin was born in Palestine near the modern city of Nablus in Samaria. He went to Ephesus and studied the philosophies of the time, especially Platonism. Although deeply impressed by the death of Christian martyrs, he was actually converted (as he himself related) by a humble old Christian. For awhile he taught Christian philosophy at Ephesus, but left in 135 and went to Rome, where he taught and wrote until he was martyred under Marcus Aurelius.

Only two or three of his treatises are still extant: his first Apology (the second may not be authentic) and his Dialogue with Trypho. The Apology was addressed to Emperor Antoninus Pius (adoptive father of Marcus Aurelius); the Dialogue was earlier. The Dialogue was a discussion with a Jewish rabbi (possibly the historical Rabbi Tarphon) about the superiority of Christianity over Judaism. The Apologies were defenses of Christianity presented to Roman authority. Justin was one of the first apologists striving to offer Christianity to the world of his day in the current Hellenistic modes of thought. He believed, as did Philo the Jew, that the pagan philosophers had studied and learned from the Old Testament. To him Christianity was Platonism and Stoicism corrected and completed by the Bible and by the Logos that enlightens everyone. He opposed the early Christian heresies of Gnostic origin, in particular Docetism, by standing for the historicity of Jesus. He also opposed Marcionism, which tried to separate Christianity from its Old Testament precedents. To Justin the culminating act of God was the Incarnation—when God became man. He remained within the early Palestinian tradition by his stress on the church as the true Israel and by his doctrine of the Millennium.

It is in Justin’s writings that one first encounters, outside of Scripture, the teaching that Mary by her obedience reversed the effects of Eve’s disobedience. And it is from his first Apology that the church has its first description, apart from Scripture, of early Christian worship. He also gave evidence of the emerging canon of the New Testament.

A. Cabaniss

Taken from:   Who’s Who in Christian History
                         Copyright © 1992 by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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