Book Reviews

Day Twelve: St. Justin Martyr: First Apology, Chaps. 1-11

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

I've been wanting to read Justin Martyr’s apologies for some time now, so I'm glad for the opportunity during this reading plan. Over the next six days we’ll have read the whole essay.

The first of his major works (that we still have), this defence of the Faith is addressed to the Roman Emperor with a very long name, Titus Ælius Adrianus Antoninus Pius Augustus Caesar, and his adopted sons and the Senate.

Justin appeals to their sense of justice, love of reason, philosophy and pursuit of truth in order that the charges often brought against Christians may be fully investigated to see whether any punishment should fall upon the Christian population or not.

Advertisement

During this time, Christians were being punished purely for identifying as “Christians” with little more evidence used against them than maybe “evil rumours” which were doing the rounds.

Justin argues that even with convicted criminals, they at least investigate the claims before punishing that person, but in the case of Christians, they only “receive the name as proof” against them, which is unjust.

The Emperor’s sons were philosophers, which in Greek and Roman times was more like a profession, since it had its own clothing style to display this (similar to how you'd recognise a vicar today by the white dog collar). To this end, Justin argues that there are those who wear the “garb” of philosophers, but who “do nothing worthy of their profession”, yet not all philosophers are punished for this just because they claim the name.

Similarly, there were poets who would get a laugh by insulting the gods and who also “taught atheism”, yet to the contrary of how Christians were treated, the Romans “bestow prizes and honours upon those who euphoniously insult the gods”!

Advertisement

“Why, then, should this be?”, Justin asks, especially since the Christians “pledge [themselves] to do no wickedness” but yet are still charged with atheism for teaching that the gods of old were in fact demons deceiving the people, calling themselves by different names to be worshipped. Apparently Socrates was killed by men driven with evil passion from demons for trying “to bring these things to light, and deliver men from the demons” and charged “as an atheist and a profane person” — a charge which was similar to what the Christians were accused of.

Here Justin does a nice contrast between the reasoning used by the Greeks in condemning Socrates, and the pure Reason (Jesus) which condemns them all for following demons. The word play is lost in English, but the word for “reason” is logos and so he says that the Greeks used their own reasoning (logos) to pass judgement, but that they, along with the Barbarians, were condemned by Reason Himself (the Logos), “who took shape, and became man, and was called Jesus Christ”. It is because of this, Justin argues, that the Christians denounce the gods as being “wicked and impious demons”.

Now, to modern ears, what the Christians were accused of will sound strange: their charge was that of atheism! But back in the early second century “atheism” was a phrase which was applied to those who denied the Roman gods. Justin gladly admits this too, but with some added clarification; “we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this sort are concerned, but not with respect to the most true God, the Father of righteousness”.

Justin makes the point that if the Emperor is to try people for wrongdoing, that “each one who is convicted may be punished as an evil-doer, and not as a Christian” – to judge them as a person by their life and deeds, rather than an assumption of them due to a name they claim.

Advertisement

The end part of these opening chapters close off with a denouncement of idols and their futility, since they are mere items crafted by men who are “intemperate” and who “are practised in every vice”, which is contrasted with the formless God who formed all things and who needs nothing offered to Him, since “He is the provider of all things”.

In speaking of how the True God should be worshipped, in contrast with the demonic practices of the Roman gods, he explains that,

[God] accepts those only who imitate the excellences which reside in Him, temperance, and justice, and philanthropy, and as many virtues as are peculiar to a God who is called by no proper name

Contrasted with “the wicked demons” who work with the “lust of wickedness which is in every man” to draw them to “all manner of vice”, the Christian God is a stark contrast to those which the Emperor is familiar, even with regards to the kingdom which he has heard Christians look for. “You suppose, without making any inquiry, that we speak of a human kingdom” but goes on to explain that it is not so with Christians, since their minds are fixed elsewhere.

Advertisement

This ends the first eleven chapters of this massive apologetic work. Come back tomorrow for the next installment!

Subscribe to Updates
Subscribe to:

Have something to say? Leave a comment below.

Leave a comment   Like   Back to Top   Seen 60 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

The Problem of Suffering and How We Approach it

| 06th January 2018 | Christianity

The topic of human suffering is a subject many Christians struggle with, and is an issue many theologians have written about over the centuries — so it's definitely not something I can fully address in a single blog post! But there are some general principles we can find in Scripture that many Christians can/do accept, which should act as a starting point to addressing this subject, such as: We live in a fallen world due to sin (Gen 3), and so things aren’t perfect and neither are people, therefore suffering can happen from illness, nature, and human action (or inaction). Not all suffering is necessarily “bad”, from a Christian perspective. For example, if we are made to suffer due to our faith, we should rejoice to be counted as partakers in Christ’s suffering — 1 Peter 4:12-16 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or even as a mischief maker. Yet if any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name. And, Matthew 5:10-12 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Sometimes suffering can be used to test our faith to make us stronger, which we see an example of with Peter in the Gospels: Luke 22:31-32 “Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to sift all of you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” And also in James’ epistle: James 1:2-4 My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing. Lastly, sometimes bad things just happen for no good reason. This kind of relates to point one, but with a bit of a different explanation to point out that just because someone suffers, it doesn’t necessarily mean they were under any judgement or that they were any worse than another person — though there are certain times where God's judgement was on someone, but these things are explained in Scripture so we can expect them (see: Acts 12:22-23 and 1 Cor 11:28-32). We can infer consequential suffering from Jesus’ teaching when he speaks about a local tragedy of a tower collapsing and killing some people: Luke 13: 4-5 Or those eighteen who were killed when the tower of Siloam fell on them—do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others living in Jerusalem? No […] Can we do anything about it? Christianity isn't about trying to philosophise about why we suffer, but rather it's to do with how we respond to suffering. We accept that it's a reality of our lives and world, and then go about trying to make it better. James makes the point in his epistle when explaining that “pure religion” is “to care for orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27). This is similar to what Isaiah declared about the type of worship that God is truly interested in: Isaiah 58:6-7Is not this the fast that I choose:to loose the bonds of injustice,to undo the thongs of the yoke,to let the oppressed go free,and to break every yoke?Is it not to share your br...

Jesus was a pagan copy, and other Christmas myths

| 24th December 2017 | Christmas

It's that time of year again when certain groups of people like to share memes and videos that apparently "prove" Jesus to be a carbon-copy of ancient Egyptian gods. This has been debunked so many times, yet it's still so pervasive on social media, mindlessly shared over and over again. This myth about Jesus being a copy of other pagan "dying-and-rising gods" doesn't have its roots in Egyptian legend, but rather in the claims of a film called Zeitgeist. A quick search online will bring up many websites which have gone through the claims of this film with a fine tooth comb, and debunked each one. Here's one such example, which lists out the major claims and gives a detailed response to each: Analysis and Response to Zeitgeist Video. To quote a pertinent part of the above website, Dr. Norman Geisler, a Christian systematic theologian and philosopher, gives a good response to the major claims against the resurrection: Dr. Norman Geisler, author or coauthor of more than 80 books, writes, “The first real parallel of a dying and rising god does not appear until A.D. 150, more than a hundred years after the origin of Christianity. So if there was any influence of one on the other, it was the influence of the historical event of the New Testament [resurrection] on mythology, not the reverse.  If you don't want to read a long essay of the subject though, this video by Inspiring Philosophy breaks it down nicely in just under 5 minutes: Other myths debunked If not Osiris, Jesus is often claimed to be copied from the Egyptian god Horus... or the Roman god Mithras. Apparently everyone just copied whoever came before them, and hoped no one would notice! All of these claims are equally as nonsensical as the others, and have "facts" which are completely fabricated to push an agenda of causing Christianity disrepute. But if you look into the actual myths of these ancient gods, you will see that none of them have any resemblance to Jesus or the New Testament. Here is another video which summarises these claims and counters them in a humorous way, this time by Lutheran Satire:    So let us go forward in the knowledge that Jesus was truly born, truly lived and truly rose again; and that he was unique and not a copy of other so-called gods. In the words of Leo the Great, let us celebrate "the birthday of Life, which destroys the fear of mortality and brings to us the joy of promised eternity"! Merry Christmas everyone....

Why Read The Early Church Fathers?

| 08th December 2017 | Early Church

Why read the Early Church Fathers? Maybe for some of you reading this, the question might better be phrased as: who are the Church Fathers? No doubt you will be familiar with some of their names: Augustine, Jerome, Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr et al. You may have even read portions or quotes by some of these men. But that still doesn't really explain to you who they are and why you should care, much less actually read any of their works. My new book deals with a selection of some of the most influential Early Church Fathers, sometimes also referred to as the Apostolic Fathers (if they lived between AD 70-150), or collectively as the Ante Nicene Fathers for all of those in the period of time preceding the Council of Nicea (AD 325). It is these men who wrote doctrine and defences against heresy and helped to continue and shape the Church in its most formative years. Some of the earlier Christian leaders of the 2nd Century were discipled and taught by the Apostles themselves. Those include Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna. Still others in mid-2nd century were then taught by those who knew the men who were taught by some of the Apostles. One of the more well-known Bishops who was second generation to the Apostles was Irenaeus (best known for his extensive apologetic works, Against Heresies). From chapter 21 onward in my book, I look at a few writers from beyond this period (around 356) up until AD 449 where we can observe some distinctive changes in thought and practice. These people who came before us, those great men of faith, many of whom suffered persecution and martyrdom to preserve the Church and Christ's mission, bridge the gap between the Bible and the present day. They fill the void we sometimes wonder about when we get to the end of reading Acts or the Epistles and think, “what happened next?” or “what happened to the Ephesian church after Paul left?”. So Why Read What They Wrote? The Bible didn't just drop out of the sky, all leather bound and ready to read for us to pick up today. There was a lengthy process of selecting and preserving the apostles teachings which spanned nearly four centuries, and it was due to the Fathers and their faithfulness to the Scriptures that this was possible. Not only that, but due to their close links to the Apostles — some who were even taught directly by an apostle — we now have valuable resources and insights into aspects, teaching and issues within the very early Church which we can learn from and measure our doctrine and interpretation against. This isn't to say that everything the Church Fathers said, did or wrote is perfect; or that we should elevate their texts to the level of Scripture, but we can glean much from those who knew and were discipled by the Apostles (or those who knew them second hand). We can read what certain portions of Scripture meant to them, or see how they interpreted things in the years following the Apostles, and can compare that to how we might read those same Scriptures today. This is a highly valuable resource for us to still have available; to be able to check our beliefs and doctrines against accepted, historical orthodoxy, which was quite literally shaped through blood, sweat and tears. It's a wonderful thing to be able to look back millennia and know that what we believe and follow as Christians has been faithfully passed on and preserved for all this time. Many doctrines we now take for granted were actually developed and defended during this time; carefully worded and formed to ensure that the truth of God doesn't get lost, diluted or warped for selfish gain. We owe much to these men of God and can still learn a great deal from them, as they still speak to us today as part of that great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us (Heb 12:1). This is an excerpt from the introduction to my new book. You can read more from the Early Church Fathers in my new book, 40 Days with the Fathe...

Evidence of the Trinity in the Hebrew Scriptures

| 08th November 2017 | Trinity

Table of Contents Jewishness and the Trinity 1. God Is A Plurality The Name Elohim Plural Verbs used with Elohim The Name Eloah Plural Pronouns Plural Descriptions of God The Shema II. God Is At Least Two Elohim and YHVH Applied to Two Personalities III. God Is Three How Many Persons Are There? The Three Personalities in the Same Passage Conclusion New Testament Light I was recently in some discussions/debates online about the nature of God and whether the "Trinity" exists, or if God is purely singular and exists in different forms rather than different persons.   This idea that God has different "forms" or "modes" is what is known as Modalism (also sometimes called Sabellianism). This doctrine was condemned as heresy by Tertullian around 213 AD, and later by the bishop of Rome around 262 AD. A more modern sect of Christians, often called "Oneness Pentecostals", still hold to this heretical doctrine today. Now, to be clear: I do believe in the Trinity and accept that it is the orthodox position to hold. But that doesn't mean I've always fully grasped the concept. This is something Christians have struggled to define for centuries, hence the sometimes confusing and lengthy language of the creeds (see here, here, here and here for example). So after reading this debate online with some Oneness believers, I decided to look more into the Trinity to try and get my head around it as much as possible. On my searching and reading, I came across an article by Arnold Fruchtenbaum on the Jews for Jesus website. He had taken the time to really look into the Tri-unity of God from a Jewish/Hebrew perspective to bring some clarity to the issue. I found the article to be very helpful for my own understanding, and very illuminating to see the plurality of God in oneness hidden within the Hebrew language, something that is often lost in translation to our English bibles. I'm no Hebrew scholar, so rather than try (and probably fail) to explain the language nuances to you, I sought permission to post a copy of the original article here. I hope that the information provided is as helpful to you as it was for me. The original article begins below. Let me know your thoughts in the comments! Jewishness and the Trinity In a recent question-and-answer article, Rabbi Stanley Greenberg of Temple Sinai in Philadelphia wrote: Christians are, of course, entitled to believe in a trinitarian conception of God, but their effort to base this conception on the Hebrew Bible must fly in the face of the overwhelming story of that Bible. Hebrew Scriptures are clear and unequivocal on the oneness of God . . . The Hebrew Bible affirms the one God with unmistakable clarity. Monotheism, an uncompromising belief in one God, is the hallmark of the Hebrew Bible, the unwavering affirmation of Judaism and the unshakable faith of the Jew.” Whether Christians are accused of being polytheists or tritheists or whether it is admitted that the Christian concept of the Tri-unity is a form of monotheism, one element always appears: one cannot believe in the Trinity and be Jewish. Even if what Christians believe is monotheistic, it still does not seem to be monotheistic enough to qualify as true Jewishness. Rabbi Greenberg’s article tends to reflect that thinking. He went on to say, “…under no circumstances can a concept of a plurality of the Godhead or a trinity of the Godhead ever be based upon the Hebrew Bible.” It is perhaps best then to begin with the very source of Jewish theology and the only means of testing it: the Hebrew Scriptures. Since so much relies on Hebrew language usage, then to the Hebrew we should turn. 1. God Is A Plurality The Name Elohim It is generally agreed that Elohim is a plural noun having the masculine plural ending “im.” The very word Elohim used of the true God in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” is also used in Exodus ...