Martyr Justin.

The first apology of Justin Martyr, addressed to the Emperor Antoninus Pius : prefaced by some account of the writings and opinions of Justin Martyr online

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exorcists had in vain attempted. He here speaks as if the
suffering party was really possessed by a demon ; but on
another occasion he classes possessed and insane persons
together, and says that the souls of dead men had entered
into thera.i There, however, is no real contradiction ; for he
supposed that wicked angels hovered about the beds of dying
men, 2 on the watch to seize the parting soul \ which being now
brought within their power, was compelled to obey their
bidding. The souls of the prophets and holy men of old had
thus fallen under the dominion of demons ; as was evident
from the power, exerted by the Witch of Endor, of calling up
the soul of Samuel ; and the demons could, by a similar
exercise of power, cause them to possess the bodies of men.



In the Dialogue ivith Trypho, we find Justin using the follow-
ing language:" "There is no race of men, whether of

Jew in the name of the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. He
speaks of the demons as trembling at the name of Christ. U xrA ^a, ^«/^»v/«
(pp/<r(r£i. Pp. 269 D, 350 B, 361 C.

no-K^'xrovi y.a) i,,.^.of.k.ov, Kc^XoZ^i cr^vrsj. " And those persons who are
violently caught up and dashed down again by departed spirits, and who
pass among you all for demoniacs and mad." Apol. i. p. 65 A (26).^

2 Dial. p. 332 E. Justin speaks as if a petition to be delivered m the
hour of death from the power of evil spirits formed a special topic m the
prayers of Christians.

^ P. 345 C.

84 Some Account of the

barbarians or of Greeks, or bearing any other name, either
because they live in waggons without fixed habitations, or in
tents, leading a pastoral life, among whom prayers and thanks-
givings are not offered to the Father and Maker of the universe
through the name of the crucified Jesus." As Justin is then
endeavouring to show that the prediction of Malachi,^ which
speaks of the universal diffusion of true religion among the
Gentiles in the days of the Messiah, was fulfilled in the actual
state of Christianity, we must make allowance for some
exaggeration in the description. We may interpret his lan-
guage more strictly, when he says that new converts were
continually added to the Church through the admiration
excited by the virtuous practice and enduring constancy of the
Christians. He states,^ with regard to himself, that in embrac-
ing Christianity, he was in no small degree influenced by
observing that the Christians^ against whom so many calumnies
were propagated, encountered death, and whatever else is
deemed most dreadful, without fear. Such persons, he
reasoned with himself, could not be leading wicked and dissi-
pated lives. " For what lover of pleasure," he asks, " or
intemperate man, or delighting to feed on human flesh, would
embrace death, thereby to lose all that he deemed desirable ?
and would not rather strive, by every means, to evade the
pursuit of the governors, in order that he might live for ever in
this world ? Much less would such a man denounce himself
to the magistrate." On another occasion he says,^ " It is
evident that no one can terrify or enslave those who have
believed in Jesus. For when condemned to be beheaded, to
be crucified, to be cast to wild beasts, into chains, or into
the flames, or to be otherwise tortured, they never swerve from
the profession of their faith. Nay, the more frequently such
punishments are inflicted, the greater the addition to the

1 I. II.

- Apol. ii. p. 50 A. Compare Apol. i. p. 63 C (23).
3 Dial. pp. 337 ]5, 350 A, 360 D.

Writings of Justin Martyr. 85

faithful and pious believers in the name of Jesus ; as when
you cut off the fruit-bearing parts of the vine, it puts forth
other flourishing and fruitful branches."

As the main object of the First Apology is to remove the
unfavourable impression which had been made on the minds
of the Emperors by the calumnious accusations circulated
against the Christians, Justin naturally appeals to the moral
precepts delivered by Christ, and to the fact that the Christians
lived in conformity to them. " We," he says, " follow the
one unbegotten God, through the Son — we who formerly
delighted in vicious excesses, but now are temperate and
chaste — we who formerly had recourse to magical arts, but
have now dedicated ourselves to the good and unbegotten
God — we who formerly placed our greatest pleasure in acquir-
ing wealth and possessions, but now bring all that we have
into a common stock, and impart to every one in need^we
who hated and destroyed each other, and, on account of the
difference of manners, refused to live with men of a different
tribe, now^ since the appearance of Christ, live on terms ot
familiar intercourse with them, and pray for our enemies, and
endeavour to persuade those who hate us without a cause to
live conformably to the perfect precepts of Christ, to the end
that they may become partakers with us of the same joyful
hope of a reward from God the Ruler over all." ^

But though many might become favourably disposed to
Christianity by contemplating the pure and blameless lives of
its professors, and thus be induced at length to imitate the
virtues which they admired, yet to the majority the Christians
w^ere the objects at once of hatred and contempt.^ They were

1 Apol. i. p. 61 B (iS). In the Dial. p. 309 A, Justin challenges his
opponents to prove that the Christians were actuated by the love of gain,
or glory, or pleasure.

- Apol. i. p. 63 C (23).

86 Some Account of the

regarded as the vilest of men,^ and treated with the greatest
contumely and injustice.^ The most unnatural and revolting
crimes were laid to their charge ; they were accused of feeding
on human flesh,^ and, after their horrible repast, of extinguish-
ing the lights, and indulging in a promiscuous intercourse.
They were also charged with atheism and impiety,^ because,
as Justin states,^ they would not worship the gods of the
Gentiles, or offer libations and sacrifices to dead men. No
measure, which promised to accomplish their destruction, was
rejected on account of its iniquity or atrocity ; their domestics
were solicited to inform and to give evidence against them ; ^
and Justin in one place states that murders were purposely
committed by others, in order that the Christians might be
charged with the guilt ; '' and that their servants, their children,
or their wives were then put to the torture, in the hope that
some expression might drop in the moment of agony which
might furnish matter of accusation against them. So strong
was the current of public feeling against them, that Justin
ventures to ask of the Emperors no more than this^ — that
when the Christians were brought before the tribunals, they
should not be condemned merely because they were Chris-
tians, but should be dismissed, unless they were convicted of

^ uvSpu-ffoti ov^ivos d^iois, " Men of no worth," is Trypho's expression,
p. 225 E. In p. 349 B, Justin repels the charge, ol/xouv ov» ivxara(ppov>jros
'Br.f/.o; IcTfiiv, ovdl (idpfiapov (pZXov, ovh\ o'Tfoicx, Kapajv n ^pvyuv eVvjj. " For we are
no a despicable people, nor a barbarian race, nor a nation like the Carians
or Phrygians."

^ d}t»Ms f^iffovf^ivuv Koc) W'/jpicc^ofAivav, "Unjustly loaded with public
odium and oppression." A^ol. i. p. 53 B (i).

3 Dial. p. 227 B. 4 jp^/^ \i p^ 47 A,

5 Apol. i. p. 68 E (32).

'^ Dial. p. 254 A. Justin here alludes to Matt. x. 36.

7 ApoL ii. p. 50 B.

* ApoL i. p. 56 E (9). Yet, in the Epistle of Adrian subjoined to the
. 4pology, that Emperor directs that they who accused the Christians falsely
slnall l)e punished.

Writings of Justin Martyr. "^^

some crime. " I do not," he adds, "go the length of caUing
upon you to punish our accusers."

In one of the passages above cited,i allusion is made to
Christians who denounced themselves to the magistrates. As
Justin expresses no disapprobation of the practice, M. Bar-
beyrac has inferred that he approved this extravagant display
of zeal.2 M. Barbeyrac confirms his inference by appealing
to another passage in the same Apology,^ in which Justin
supposes an objector to say, " If you (Christians) are so eager
to go to God, why do you not kill yourselves, and give us no
further trouble ? " Justin answers, " The reason why we do
not destroy ourselves, and yet, when we are questioned, boldly
confess that we are Christians, is this : We are taught that
God did not make the world without an object, but for the
sake of the human race ; and that He delights in them wlio
imitate His attributes, and is displeased with them who embrace
what is evil either in word or deed. If, therefore, we all
should destroy ourselves, we should, as far as depends on us,
be the cause that no one would be born or instructed in the
divine doctrine, or even the cause that the whole human race
would fail ; and thus we should act in opposition to the will
of God. But when we are questioned, we do not deny that
we are Christians, because we are not conscious to ourselves
of any evil ; and because we think it impious not to speak the
truth under every circumstance." M, Barbeyrac infers from
this passage that Justin did not consider a Christian to be
really the cause of his own death, when, through an ill-
regulated desire of martyrdom, he denounced himself But
when we inquire into the circumstances which gave rise to
Justin's remark, we shall find that they have no connexion
with the case supposed by M. Barbeyrac. A Christian, named

' P. 84.

2 Traiie de la Morale des Feres, c.2, sect. viii.

•^ Apol. ii. p. 43 C,

88 Some Account of tJie

Ptolemy, was brought before Urbicus, the Prefect of Rome,
and asked whether he was a Christian ? On his replying in
the affirmative, Urbicus ordered him to be led away to execu-
tion. Another Christian, named Lucius, who witnessed the
transaction, immediately exclaimed to Urbicus, " What is the
reason that you have ordered a man to be punished who has
been convicted of no crime whatever, but has merely confessed
that he is a Christian ? The judgment which you have pro-
nounced befits neither a pious Emperor, nor the son of a
philosophic Caesar, nor the sacred Senate." Urbicus made no
other reply to this address than by saying to Lucius, " You
also seem to be a Christian." Lucius admitted that he was,
and Urbicus ordered him also to be led away to execution.
Justin adds that he thanked the governor for the sentence,
knowing that he should now be delivered from the tyranny of
such wicked rulers, and should go to the Father and King of
heaven. It is evident that, in coming forward as he did,
Lucius was not actuated by any desire of martyrdom, but was
impelled by a feeling of indignation at the gross injustice of
the Prefect's conduct towards Ptolemy. It is true that, when
condemned to death, he expressed his joy at the prospect of
quitting this world, and being admitted to the presence of his
heavenly Father ; but the desire of encountering death was
not the motive which influenced him in addressing Urbicus.
The case of a Christian who denounced himself to the magis-
trate through the desire of martyrdom does not seem to have
been in Justin's contemplation. He states the case of a
voluntary suicide on the one hand ; of a Christian who, when
questioned, denied that he was so on the other ; and he con-
demns both. He argues that Christians would be culpable if
they destroyed themselves. Why ? because they would act in
opposition to the will of God, Who did not create the world
without an object. The fair inference, therefore, would seem
to be that Justin would have condemned a Christian who
exposed himself to death without an object. The youth

Writings of Justin Martyr. 89

who made the extraordinary proposal to the governor of
Alexandria on which M. Barbeyrac has remarked, had an
object in view — that of convincing the governor that the
Christians did not practise in their assemblies those gross
immoralities which were attributed to them.^ I mean not,
however, to say that Justin does not sometimes use language
which implies, on the part of the early converts, an eagerness
to court martyrdom : ^ I am far from defending such language ;
but, as I have elsewhere stated,^ there were circumstances in
the situation of the first Christians which ought to prevent us
from being too severe in condemning it.

M. Barbeyrac also says that Justin entertained very exag-
gerated notions of the merit of celibacy. On one occasion
Justin, in order to point out the superiority of the precepts
of Christ to those of the heathen moralists, says that with
respect to chastity, they forbade practices which human laws
allowed (for instance, the practice of divorcing a wife and
contracting another marriage), and that they controlled the
inward desire as well as the outward act.* He then adds that
many persons of both sexes, who had been instructed in
Christianity from their infancy, and had, when he wrote,
attained the age of sixty or seventy, had led an uniform Hfe
of continence. On another occasion Justin says that the
Christians either abstained from marriage altogether, or
married with the sole view of having children.-^ These pas-
sages, however, are not mentioned by M. Barbeyrac, who

' Apol. i. p. 71 E (38).

' Apol. i. p. 57 A (10). iT'Trivhny.iv W) ro SfioXoySv, " We are in haste to
be confessing."

•^ In my account of Tertullian's writings, p. 154.

■* Apol. i. p. 62 A (20).

' Apol. i. p. 71 D (38). In the Dialogue, p. ZZl P^. J"stin seems to
urge, as a proof of the superiority of the Christian morals, the fact that
each man contented himself with a single wife.

90 Some Account of the

refers to the third chapter of the fragment of the tract on
the Resurrection of the Flesh, in which the author distinctly
apphes the epithet unlawful, avo/mov, to marriage. Grabe
endeavours to get over the difficulty by saying that the word
avofxov should be translated indifferent ; because, as we have
seen, Justin allowed that marriage might be contracted for
the purpose of having children. But few, I think, wall be
satisfied with this interpretation. If the fragment was really
the work of Justin, we must conclude that, like other dis-
putants, in his eagerness to answer the objections immediately
before him, he did not stay to examine very accurately the
soundness of his answer.

It is unnecessary to notice what M. Barbeyrac has said
respecting Justin's opinions on the lawfulness of an oath,
since, according to his own admission, Justin has merely
recited our Saviour's words. -^

Living so nearly as Justin did to the apostolic age, it will
naturally be asked whether, among other causes of the diffusion
of Christianity, he specifies the exercise of miraculous powers
by the Christians. He says, in general terms, that such
powers subsisted in the Church - — that Christians were en-
dowed with the gift of prophecy ;-'^ and in an enumeration
of spiritual gifts conferred on Christians, he mentions that of
healing.'* We have seen, also, in a former chapter,^ that he
ascribes to Christians the power of exorcising demons. But

1 Apol. i. p. dTy D (23).

^ Dial. p. 254 B. 5/a rs twv 'ipyeov, xec) ruv u-ro rod ovofJt.ix.TOi oclrov xa.i
vvv yiyvoyAvMv Ivvot-f^iuv. "On account of the work and the acts of power
worked now in His name."

^ *«/)« ykf) yijU-Tv xa.) f^i^pi vZv <prpo(p*;rtxa ^oiptfff^oiroiitrriv. *' For there IS
also now the gift of prophecy among us." Dial. p. 308 B. Sec ?lso

•* Dial. p. 258 A. 5 Chap. v.

Writings of Justin Martyr. 91

he produces no particular instance of an exercise of miraculous
power, and therefore affords us no opportunity of applying
those tests by which the credibility of miracles must be tried.
Had it only been generally stated by the evangelists that
Christ performed miracles, and had no particular miracles
been recorded, how much less satisfactory would the gospel
narratives have appeared ! how greatly the evidence in sup-
port of our Saviour's divine mission been diminished !

I know not that I can take a better opportunity than the
present of offering a few remarks on the arguments urged by
Justin in proving the truth of the Christian revelation. I have
elsewhere observed ^ that nothing can be more unreasonable
than to censure the Apologies of the early Fathers, because
they do not contain — what they never were designed to con-
tain — a regular exposition of the evidences of Christianity.
They were composed with the view of removing the prejudices
of the ojDponents of the new religion, and instructing mankind
in its real character and design. Whatever mention occurs
of the evidences of Christianity is merely incidental. In his
dispute with Trypho, Justin was naturally led to insist rather
on the argument from prophecy than on that from miracles.
A large portion of the Dialogue is occupied in showing that
the prophecies relating to the -Messiah in the Old Testament
were accomplished in Jesus. ^ Another argument urged by
Justin is derived from the fulfilment of the predictions de-
livered by Jesus Himself;^ to foretell future events being, as
he observes, the work of God alone.* But though he appeals
more frequently to the fulfilment of prophecy, he occasionally

1 In my volume On TertuUian, p. 134.

2 See also Apol. i. pp. 88 A (64), 73 B (40), et seq.

3 Dial. pp. 253 B, 254 A, 271 A, 308 C,

■* s^it^h 'ipyoo (pa'iviTai yiyvofjiivee, offcx, (p6a,(rcti yivitr^oct ?r^a=/Viv, o-TTip @iov spyev
-\(TTt, "Because we see these things fulfilled according to His prediction,
for this or nothing is the work of God." ApoL i. p. 60 A (16).

92 Some Account of the

introduces the mention of Christ's miracles ; ^ yet as it might
be said that they were performed by magical arts, he seems
to have thought that, without the argument from prophecy,
they would not of themselves be sufficient to establish the
divine mission of Jesus.^ They who express surprise that the
miracles wrought by Jesus and His disciples did not produce
instant conviction in the minds of all who witnessed them,
have not sufficiently attended to the state of opinion either
among the Jews or Gentiles. The distinction between their
incredulity and that of modern sceptics is this. They readily
admitted the fact that an event out of the ordinary course of
nature had occurred, but denied that it afforded conclusive
proof of the divine mission of Him through whose agency it
was brought to pass. The modern sceptic takes a different
course : he stops us at the very threshold, by asserting that
no testimony whatever can outweigh the antecedent incredi-
bility of the event.




Justin mentions Simon, ^ and says that he w^as a native of
Samaria ; that through the assistance of the demons he per-
formed magical miracles at Rome in the reign of Claudius

1 Dial. p. 254 B. In the First Apology, p, 73 A (40), both miracles
and the fulfilment of prophecy are mentioned, but the argument turns
rather on the latter. It was foretold that Christ would work miracles ;
Jesus worked miracles : He was therelore the Christ.

2 Apol i. p. 72 A (38).

3 Apol. i. p. 69 C (33). See also p. 91 B (69) ; Apol. ii. p. 52 A.

Writings of Justin Martyr. 93

Caesar, and was in consequence regarded as a god; that a
statue was erected in his honour, having the following inscrip-
tion in Latin, " Simoni Deo Sancto " ; ^ that nearly all the
Samaritans, and a few of other nations, adored him as the
supreme god,^ and called a female, by name Helena, who then
travelled about with him, but had before been a prostitute, his
first intelligence, r^v vtc avTOV evvoiav TrpwTTjv yevo/xevrjv.

Justin mentions also Menander,^ another Samaritan, who
was set on by the demons ; and when he resided at Antioch,
deceived many by magical arts. He persuaded his followers
that they should never die ; and some in Justin's time still
maintained the same doctrine.

A third heretic, mentioned by Justin as his contemporary, is
Marcion of Pontus,'^ who taught that there was a god superior
to the Creator of the universe, and another Christ besides the
Christ announced by the prophets. He had, according to
Justin, numerous followers.

Justin^ mentions cursorily that there were heretical sects

^ This story respecting the statue erected in honour of Simon Magus has
been repeated by several of the Fathers, and was generally received as
true, until in 1574 a statue was digged up in the Island of the Tiber,
having an inscription commencing thus : " Semoni Sanco Deo Fidio
Sacrum." The majority of learned men have since been of opinion that
Justin, deceived by the similarity of names, mistook a statue in honour of
a Sabine deity for one erected to Simon Magus. Thirlby afecis to defend
Justin. Dr. Burton, in the notes to his Bampton Lectures, p. 374, decides
in favour of Justin's accuracy.

2 rot -rpwTov ei'ov. In the Dialogue, p. 349 D : ®iov v-npuvco -rda-zi; o!.px^<=,
Koc) ilovffixi, xa.1 ^wdfiiu;. " God above all principality, and power, and

3 ApoL i. pp. 69 E (34), 91 A (69).
* ApoL i. pp. 70 A (35), 92 A (70).

5 Dial. p. 253 E. The Marciani were probably the same as the
Marcosii, so called from Marcus.

94 Some Account of the

under the names of Marciani, Valentiniani, Basilidiani, Satur-
niliani, so called from the individuals who first broached the
different heresies. He speaks, or rather assents to Trypho/
who speaks of Christians who, without scruple, ate food offered
to idols.

We have seen his own inference from the words in Gen.
i. 26 : 2 " Let us make man in our image, after our likeness;"
and iii. 22: " Lo, Adam is become as one of us." Some
heretics affirmed that the Almighty addressed these words to
the angels, by whom the human body was made.^

Justin speaks of two descriptions of Christians who denied
that the Jews would finally be restored to the land of their
ancestors, and that Jerusalem would be rebuilt : one class,
as we have seen, consisted of Christians who were in other
respects orthodox; the other,* of heretics who denied the
resurrection of the dead, and affirmed that the soul, imme-
diately on its separation from the body, was received into

It has been already observed^ that Justin alludes to heretics
who affirmed that the power who appeared to Moses, Abraham,
and Jacob, was only an emanation from the Father, bearing
different names, according to the functions assigned him ;
being inseparable from the Father as the light of the

1 Dial. p. 253 A. These were probably some of the Gnostic sects.
Justin couples the eating of things oftered to idols with idolatry itself,
and says that a Christian would rather suffer death than be guilty of either

2 P. 54-

^ Dial. p. 285 E. It appears from Irenaeus, i. c. 22, and Tertullian,
de Res. Cartiis, c. 5, that Menander, Marcus, and Saturnilus affirmed the
human body to be the workmanship of angels.

* P. 78 ; Dial. p. 307 A. ^ P. 50.

Writings of Jicstiu Martyr. 95

sun on the earth cannot be separated from the sun in the

Justin appHes the name of sophists to certain persons who
contended that, when God said, in Gen. iii. 22, "Lo, Adam
is become as one of us," the expression was to be understood
figuratively ; not as spoken of two or more persons numerically
distinct from each other. ^

A\^e know, from the assertion of Justin himself,^ that he
composed a work against all the heresies which had arisen in
the Church; but it has not reached our time.

Allusion has been made to a passage in the First Apology^'
in which Justin appears to insinuate that the horrible crimes
which were falsely charged upon the Christians in general by
their adversaries might, perhaps, be committed in the assem-
blies of the heretics.

Justin twice appeals to the Acts of Pilate,^ in order to show
that the predictions of the prophets concerning the Messiah
were accomphshed in Jesus : first, with respect to the cir-
cumstances which attended His crucifixion ; and secondly,
with respect to the wonderful cures which He performed.
Justin appeals^ also to the records of the census made by
Cyrenius, the first Procurator at Judaea, in proof of the birth
of Christ at Bethlehem, and of the time when the event

1 Dial. p. 359 A. 2 Apol i. p. 70 C (36).

« P. 8, note 3, p. 70 B (36).

* Apol. i. p. 76 C (44), 84 C (56). Thirlby suspects that Justin was
deceived by the fraud of some Christian who had falsified the genuine

Online LibraryMartyr JustinThe first apology of Justin Martyr, addressed to the Emperor Antoninus Pius : prefaced by some account of the writings and opinions of Justin Martyr → online text (page 9 of 24)