Day Fifteen: St. Justin Martyr: First Apology, Chaps. 36-47

Who: Justin Martyr was a Philosopher who converted to Christianity and became a tireless evangelist and apologist. Justin wrote more Christianity than any other person prior to his time. He is classified herein as Eastern, since he a native of Samaria and his thought patterns were Eastern. However, he spent the last years of his life in Rome, where he was executed as a martyr (c. 165).

What: An apologetic (defence) essay to explain what Christians believe and do.

Why: Justin is demanding the Emperor to investigate accusations and unjust persecution against Christians so that they at least may face a fair trial.

Advertisement

When: Around 156 AD

Each chapter or so in this apology deals with a different area of Christian doctrine, with somewhat compact arguments for the reality of what is believed and accepted. I’m going to try and summarise as much as I can and pull out any points which stand out, though not necessarily cover everything written in each chapter.

You can find today’s reading on page 70 here: lentfatherscomplete.pdf

Following on from yesterday's theme of prophecy which predicts Christ, Justin explains the different types, or “modes”, of prophetic messages. From utterances which foretell the future, to speaking on behalf of the Father, he goes on to say how the Jews missed the prophecies that pointed to Jesus – even those which showed that he would be crucified; and so the Jews hate the Christians who keep showing these things from the Scriptures.

Advertisement

What follows is some really interesting interpretation of prophecy in the Old Testament which not only is used to prove the power of God, but also to show that the different ways prophecies are spoken demonstrates who inspired them; ie. some are from the Father, some Christ and others, the Spirit. This in itself is demonstrating a view of the Trinity within prophecy, too.

The Father

Quoting various passage from Isaiah, Justin makes the point that when a prophecy is spoken from a “thus saith the Lord” perspective, then that is the Father speaking through the prophet; for example—

Isaiah 66:1

Thus says the Lord:
Heaven is my throne
and the earth is my footstool;
what is the house that you would build for me,
and what is my resting place?

The Son

Advertisement

But those times where the prophet speaks a message of suffering, pain or sacrifice from the perspective of God, then it is Christ speaking as the pre-existing Word. He gives various examples from the Psalms and Isaiah to show this, such as:

Isaiah 50:6
I gave my back to those who struck me,
and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;
I did not hide my face
from insult and spitting.

And,

Psalms 22:17-18
I can count all my bones.
They stare and gloat over me;
they divide my clothes among themselves,
and for my clothing they cast lots.

The Spirit

Advertisement

When it is the the Spirit speaking, it appears to be prophecies which are more in the 3rd person about the Lord and what he will do. Using an example from Isaiah again, Justin gives an example of a prophecy and also goes on to explain how it has been fulfilled through Christ in the Christians who follow him:

Isaiah 2:3-4
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

I know many people today read this passage as something future and yet to be fulfilled, thinking it is speaking of a global event where all people suddenly stop making war. But Justin gives us an example of how early Christians interpreted this, and it's one I've never heard and modern preacher say:

And that it (Isa. 2:3-4) did so come to pass, we can convince you. For from Jerusalem there went out into the world, men, twelve in number, and these illiterate, of no ability in speaking: but by the power of God they proclaimed to every race of men that they were sent by Christ to teach to all the word of God; and we who formerly used to murder one another do not only now refrain from making war upon our enemies, but also, that we may not lie nor deceive our examiners

Christ’s appearance and death foretold

Advertisement

Continuing with the theme of the prophetic messages, Justin goes to show more examples from the Old Testament which foretold the life of Jesus and “the conspiracy which was formed against Christ by Herod the king of the Jews, and the Jews themselves” because he “thought it right and relevant to mention some other prophetic utterances of David” and goes on to quote the whole of Psalm 2 as his proof.

Yet have I been set by Him a King on Zion His holy hill, declaring the decree of the Lord. The Lord said to Me, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee.

And to the death and resurrection of Jesus, he goes on to show that “through the same David, intimated that Christ, after He had been crucified, should reign” and quotes 1 Chron. 16: 23-27 and merges that with Ps. 96 to make up one long prophetic statement.

There’s an interesting bit here where Justin quotes Ps 96:10 as saying:

“Let them rejoice among the nations. The Lord hath reigned from the tree.”

Which he uses as his proof for Jesus reigning after his death. But if you look this up in a Bible now, it will say:

Say among the nations, “The Lord is king!
The world is firmly established; it shall never be moved.
He will judge the peoples with equity.”

Looking a little more into this, it appears that this quote in First Apology is the only ancient Greek text to have this wording, and then any other quote from Tertullian onward (~200 AD), comes purely from the The Old Latin Version (Vetus Latina Bible) translation of the Psalm, which is the Latin Bible which predated the Vulgate.

Prophecy and free will

Advertisement

The rest of the chapters go through more examples of prophetic messages and the different types that can be found in the OT, such as explaining that sometimes the Spirit spoke prophecies in the past tense as though they had already happened. To avoid this being used as a reason to misrepresent the message, Justin goes on to explain that the “things which [God] absolutely knows will take place, He predicts as if already they had taken place”.

There seemed to be some who would accuse the Christians of believing in fate, and so Justin offers an argument against such thoughts to provide some kind of “prophetic responsibility”.

All of our actions, whether good or bad, whether there be rewards or chastisements; all of these are given due to man’s own actions. “Since if it be not so, but all things happen by fate, neither is anything at all in our own power”, which begins the argument for freedom of will, asserting that if people are fated to do either good or bad, then the one is no more deserving of reward than the other is of punishment.

And again, unless the human race have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions

Advertisement

He goes on to make the argument that if fate decides how people act, then it is fate which is the cause of evil, and not people, and this is not how God has made mankind to be. To borrow from the terminology of “fate”, Justin makes one final point that there is one thing in which the Christians “assert is inevitable fate” – that those who choose good, will be rewarded, and those who choose evil will be punished. By this, prophecy is not nullified by free will, and free will is not overcome by prophecy, but that all which God spoke through his prophets concerning rewards or punishments for the actions of the human race, are still valid foretellings even with freedom of will, because as “God spoke thus to the man first created: ‘Behold, before thy face are good and evil: choose the good.’” The choice is there and the foretelling is that of the outcome of our choices.

A couple more topics are covered briefly, such as those who lived before Christ and how salvation affects them (basically it does because Jesus was the pre-existing Word), and Christ ruling from heaven and the prediction of Judea being made desolate, fulfilling Isa. 64:10.

Even though this has been a long post and not as brief as I maybe would have liked to keep it, since there was a lot of topics covered, I thought that it would be an injustice to skip on these things since they are central to some of our understanding of Christ and his relation to being the prophetic fulfillment of the Scriptures. I recommend that you read the original text of today’s chapters to really get an understanding of what Justin was saying and drawing out in order to clarify Christian doctrine.

Contribute on Patreon

Enjoying this? Consider contributing regular gifts for this content on Patreon.
* Patreon is a way to join your favorite creator's community and pay them for making the stuff you love. You can simply pay a few pounds per month or per post that a creator makes, and in return receive some perks!

Subscribe to Updates
Order my new book today from Amazon or fortydays.co.uk

Subscribe to:

Have something to say? Leave a comment below.

Leave a comment   Like   Back to Top   Seen 86 times   Liked 0 times

Subscribe to Updates

If you enjoyed this, why not subscribe to free email updates ?

Order my new book today from Amazon or fortydays.co.uk

Subscribe to Blog updates

Enter your email address to be notified of new posts:

Subscribe to:

Alternatively, you can subscribe via RSS

‹ Return to Blog

We never share or sell your email address to anyone.

I've already subscribed / don't show me this again

Recent Posts

Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?

| 01st April 2018 | Easter

Today we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ! What a wonderful day to remember and praise, but not just because Jesus was raised to new life, but because in that moment it sealed the promise of our own hope in God. Through Jesus' death and resurrection, we can now be partakers in that new, eternal life! 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” "Where, O death, is your sting?" Paul writes, showing the fulfillment of this prophecy in Christ. This should now be our battle cry as we go forward in Christian life; death has no hold over us who are sealed by the Holy Spirit through baptism, raised to new life in Christ. I won't go into this topic too much now, as I've written on it plenty before here and here. I just wanted to focus our minds on the victory we have because of Jesus and what he did for us this day, centuries ago. I'll close with this worship song which celebrates the resurrection, which I really like. Focus on the words of the song and praise God for Jesus! Happy Easter, everyone. ...

How was Jesus a sacrifice?

| 25th March 2018 | Lent

So often we hear this phrase said about Jesus, that he was “the lamb of God” and that he “takes away the sins of the world” — but what do those things mean and how did he take away sin? John 1:29The next day [John] saw Jesus coming toward him and declared, “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (cf. Jn 1:36) The New Testament writers repeatedly refer to Jesus as a lamb; but not only that — as a ransom too. Jesus even introduces himself that way at one point: Mark 10:45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many. (cf. Matthew 20:28) To better understand the terminology and analogy we need to go back to the Torah, the Old Testament, and look at this from a Jewish perspective and what the sacrificial lamb initially meant. The main comparison that is drawn between Jesus and the old sacrifices, is that of the Passover lamb. The link between the two is really quite amazing and to be honest, I didn't realise just how much of this Jesus fulfilled in himself until I was writing this. First we need to go back to the very first Passover to see what it meant for Israel. The whole story can be found in Exodus 12, but the relevant parts to the lamb are about how it should look and be prepared, and the reason for the blood covering: Exodus 12:5-7, 13 Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. […] The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt. The instructions about the Passover meal also go on to say that no bones of the lamb may be broken (v. 46) and that nothing must be left overnight (v. 10). Already I’m sure you can see some of the parallels with Jesus and other prophecies and Scripture concerning him in these ways, primarily in the Psalms, and specifically John 19:33; Numbers 9:12 and Psalm 34:20 concerning his bones not being broken. But it doesn’t end there — even the day that Jesus was crucified aligned with the Passover sacrifice of the 14th of Nisan (by our calendar, April), and later died that evening. The Jews asked Pilate to let them take the bodies down that same day (which was unusual, but done because of the Sabbath), so that meant that Jesus wasn’t left overnight, thus fulfilling the obligations of the Passover ritual! The apostles obviously recognised these parallels, as they refer to them in their epistles — see 1 Peter 1:18-20, 1 Corinthians 5:7 and basically all of Revelation. But how does this help us in our sins? The Passover wasn’t a sin offering, yet somehow the death of Jesus in this way saves us from our sins. To better understand this, and to grasp why in various places Jesus is called our “ransom”, we need to go back to the reason for the original Passover, not the ritual. Passover was what God did when he delivered his people from the slavery of the Egyptians. The blood of the lamb was the symbol that they belonged to God, and so escaped death. Originally the paschal lamb was about Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and slavery, now Jesus is the greater lamb who rescues us from slavery and bondage to sin by his blood. The blood on the doorposts covered the Israelites from the angel of death, and now by Christ's blood that covers us, we are saved from eternal death (Hebrews 9:11- 14)! Paul covers this topic of sin as our master which we are slaves to quite often (Romans 6:16-18), and how through Jesus we have been set free by being baptised into his death, so that we are dead to sin and alive in Christ (Romans 6:4-6). Romans 6:11 So you also mus...

What did Jesus actually sacrifice?

| 18th March 2018 | Lent

Sometimes the question, or accusation/criticism maybe, is posed by atheists and critics of Christianity that Jesus didn’t really sacrifice anything because he is God and also because he got his life back three days later. So where’s the sacrifice if you know that what you give up will be given back, and given back even better than you previously had it? It’s an interesting question, and one that should cause us to stop and think about what we, as Christians, say to non-believers in case the question is ever given to us. Most people will say Jesus  gave up his life for us – but is that such a big deal if he knew he’d have it back in three days; and then to be taken up to heaven and resume his Godly-divine status he had before the incarnation? Well, yes. Obviously all the pain and suffering that Jesus had to endure before his death was a big deal, and it showed, as we can see from the Gospels when Jesus says to his disciples that he is “deeply grieved, even to death” (Matt 26:38). Luke 22:42-44‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done.’ Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength. In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground. We can see from the quote above that Jesus really wasn’t looking forward to this, despite knowing its purpose. He even needed an angel to come to physically come to him to give him the strength to go on with this plan! Suggesting that this was a walk in the park for Jesus and making light of what he was about to go through is just ignorance of the reality of the situation. There’s also a significant detail in the Luke passage above which gives us a medical insight into what Jesus was going through in these moments: the sweat of blood. This is actually a rare condition known as Hematidrosis, and in certain conditions of extreme physical or emotional stress and/or mental anxiety, the blood vessels that feed the sweat glands break and result in actual blood seeping through. This in itself shows just how much stress Jesus was under in the lead up to his execution to cause such a thing to happen. Modern day research also shows that this condition still manifests in people awaiting execution today. So even if you knew that you would be resurrected in a few days time, I am sure that you wouldn’t really want to go through a Roman flogging and crucifixion –  some of the most brutal ways to be tortured and executed in human history! There’s lots of atheist memes on the internet making digs at this idea of what it means that Jesus sacrificed himself. “Jesus came back to life, so he basically sacrificed his weekend for you”, or similar types of jabs, totally missing the point. Typical atheist meme So what did Jesus sacrifice if he only lost his life temporarily? Everything about his pre-incarnate self. Where once a spirit, now a glorified body. Where once only divine, now fully God and fully man. The incarnation had eternal consequences for the Godhead. Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t just about dying, it was about taking on our humanity eternally. The eternal God now united forever with humanity. Jesus wasn’t only the “visible image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) whilst on earth, no; he is forever that now. Like John says in his opening chapter about the coming of the Word into our world: he became flesh (John 1:14) and has stayed that way. This is the “mystery of godliness” (as some translations have it) that Paul talks about in 1 Tim 3:16, where he states that Jesus was “revealed” or “manifested in flesh” and later taken up in glory. Look at when Jesus was taken up into heaven in Acts 1:11, the angels say to the disciples watching that they will see Jesus “come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” – ie., bodily. But we know from the accounts in the Gospels that Jesus’ body was no lon...

The Temptations of Jesus: Complacency

| 11th March 2018 | Lent

So now we are at the end of the temptations that Jesus endured in the desert, and I wanted to look at what happens at the end. So often I think this aspect is overlooked when we read of this time in Scripture. Let’s take a look at the text: Matthew 4:11Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him. Luke 4:13When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time. The two Gospel accounts both give us a varying perspective with different details. Afterwards, the devil leaves and angels “suddenly” come. This is almost a temptation in itself; one to think we are all good and safe now we've won the battles. But look: the devil left him “until an opportune time”. We are never beyond being tempted, or far from that tempter who ‘prowls around like a roaring lion’ (1 Peter 5:8). Christ withstood his temptations, and as a model for us, so can we. But it's a constant battle. 1 Corinthians 10:12So if you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall. As Paul writes in the quote above, we must watch ourselves and not get too confident that we think we're strong enough not to get tripped up. Temptation can strike at any time, and if we're not prepared it could lead us into sin (James 1:14-15). James 1:12A man who endures trials is blessed, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him. This is why we mustn't get complacent in our situations just when it seems, or feels, like we have it all together. We must always “put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11) and make as little “opportune” times as possible for the enemy to strike at us. Remember, Jesus lived as a human to know what it was like to be a human; he went through these temptations, and others no doubt, as he lived out his life. That is why the writer of Hebrews says that he is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses” and has “in every respect has been tested as we are” — yet Jesus didn't sin (Heb 4:15). When we do get get tempted, or if we do fall into sin, we can always turn to Jesus in our moments of weakness knowing that he understands what it's like. 1 Corinthians 10:13No testing has overtaken you that is not common to everyone. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength, but with the testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it. Everything we experience as humans, Jesus knows also. Although we don’t angels physically coming and waiting on us after we go through hard times, we have the Holy Spirit in us – the comforter! God’s very own Spirit is here with us through it all, helping us and convicting us to lead us back out of our complacency to the narrow path, focusing our minds back on Christ and his example. And while the devil may come and go, and wait on those “opportune times” to get at us, we shouldn’t fret or worry because God has said he will never leave nor abandon us – no matter what, God loves us and is daily conforming us into the image and mind of Christ (Rom 8:29; 12:2; Deut 31:6; Heb 13:5). Keep running the race, working out your salvation with fear and trembling and go with the love of God. Amen....