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.

Subscribe to Updates
Subscribe to:

Have something to say? Leave a comment below.

Leave a comment   Like   Back to Top   Seen 75 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

Lent 2018: The Temptations of Jesus

| 5 days ago | Lent

Lent is just around the corner, and so this year I've decided to write a short series over the next 40 days looking at the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, and the temptations he faced. I'll post a new blog each Sunday of Lent looking at each temptation, and then finish the series on Easter Sunday looking at “what did Jesus sacrifice?”. Series outline: Temptation one: Pride (1st Sunday of Lent, February 18, 2018) Temptation two: Worship and Glory (2nd Sunday of Lent, February 25, 2018) Temptation three: Testing God (3rd Sunday of Lent, March 4, 2018) Temptation four: Complatancy (4th Sunday of Lent, March 11, 2018) What did Jesus sacrifice?: Easter Sunday (5th Sunday of Lent, March 18, 2018) Stay tuned for the first installment in a few days time, and if you haven't already, don't forget to subscribe so you will be notified by email when each new post goes out!...

Former Muslim Explains the Trinity

| 09th February 2018 | Trinity

I saw this video doing the rounds on Facebook, and thought it was too good not to share here as well. Very few people tend to articulate the Trinitarian doctrine well enough to: a) still make sense, and b) not slip into heresy. Just reading the comments section on this video proves point b) quick enough, with many people giving their take on it (and usually espousing some form of Modalism). I won't make a big post on the Trinity now, but I may do one soon off the back of this one, as it's clearly still something believers (and non-believers) struggle to understand, or explain without heresy! For now though, sit back and take about 5 minutes to listen to this former Muslim explain one of the core beliefs of Christianity very well:   Some additional information: The man in the video is Nabeel Qureshi who has wrote a few books on his journey to Jesus from the Muslim faith; one of them being: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. He also has sadly died in 2017. I haven't read his books, and only just found out about him after looking up more info on this video, though his book is definitely on my wish list now....

Is there salvation for fallen angels?

| 05th February 2018 | Angels

I've seen and heard this question asked numerous times before, and I've even wondered it myself in my earlier years as a new Christian. Is there salvation for angels and can demons go back to their previous, uncorrupted state? 2 Corinthians 11:14And no wonder! Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. As far as scripture is concerned, Satan can pretend to be angelic for the sake of deceit, but that's about it. There's no mention of redemption for angels or demons — that's the long and short of it. So let's explore four areas of Scripture to see what we do know. #1 They have been imprisoned for judgement by God. 2 Peter 2:4For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into Tartarus and committed them to chains (or pits) of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgment; This judgement is eternal for them and there appears to be no second chance; their judgement is sealed: Matthew 25:41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; #2 They have been imprisoned for judgement by the saints. Not only has God set a judgement, but we who are in Christ will have the role of actually judging the angels as well. How's that for a hefty responsibly! 1 Corinthians 6:3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels—to say nothing of ordinary matters? #3 Judgement is final We can also see from Revelation some more details about what this judgement entails for the devil and those who followed him: Revelation 19:20And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who […] were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. Revelation 20:10And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. #4 Salvation is for humans Salvation appears to be only something that God designed for humans, and is apparently something that makes the angels curious. 1 Peter 1:12[Salvation is the] good news by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things into which angels long to look! Christ came as the "second Adam" (1 Cor 15:45) to rectify the problems caused by the first Adam. We humans are all "in Adam" (1 Cor 15:22), whereas angels are not. They are sometimes called "sons of God" — we are the son of Adam, therefore Jesus' sacrifice is only effective for "Adam". The writer of Hebrews sums this up for us nicely by saying, “it is clear that [Jesus] did not come to help angels”, but those in whom he shared a nature with — us! (Heb 2:14-16) Whatever sins the angels have made (other than rebelling; cf. Rev 12:4,7-9) it is not covered by the blood of Jesus as far as we know. We can infer this from what Paul teaches us about the ministry of reconciliation: 2 Corinthians 5:19that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. (Emphasis mine) The plan of salvation and the power of the Gospel to reconcile God and man appears to only apply to this world and our sins (or trespasses). The Greek word here for “world” is kosmos, which can sometimes have a broader meaning of “universe” or “creation” rather than just this planet, but in this context I'm not sure it allows for that scope of reconciliation, given the other passages of scripture we've seen about the rebellious angels (or demons) level of punishment. Either way, Scripture doesn't give us any more information on this topic than that, so anything else would be speculation, but I think we can be reasonably certain that salvation through Christ is only for humans. ...

Google, Jesus and Artificial Intelligence

| 28th January 2018 | Technology

You may have seen the videos and articles being shared around social media lately about Google's new voice-activated digital assistant, Google Home, not knowing who Jesus is. Shock, horror — right? No. It's just more faux outrage and fuel for America's persecution complex. I mean, so what? Google isn't a Christian run company, they have no obligation to Christ or the Church. Why are we letting something like this bother us so much? It's just another thing in the ever growing list of things-to-be-mad-about-that-don't-really-matter on social media. Where is our faith rooted? What is the foundation and rock upon which we stand? Is it in how well a 'smart speaker' can read Wikipedia? Or what decorations Starbucks put on their cups? Or how non-Christians greet you during the holidays? No. Our faith is in Christ. If it's so easily shaken by this nonsense then maybe it ought to cause us to look a bit deeper within and see what our foundations truly are; where our 'centre of gravity' and peace is. Because if all of these external factors shake you so much, your foundation probably isn't as securely in Christ as it should be. He gives us "peace ... which surpasses all understanding" (Phil 4:7) — a peace that isn't the same as what is in the World (Jn 14:27). Therefore the World shouldn't be able to unsettle us with such peripheral things. In as close as a comparison as I can think of, look at what Paul said to the Corinthians when they worried about meat and idols from their local markets: if you faith isn't strong enough to not be bothered by such things, avoid them (I'm paraphrasing, obviously). If Google offends your conscience, don't buy their smart speaker. Simple. Paul didn't tell them to go into a "holy outrage" about it. Why? Because these things really should have no effect on us or our faith. Just move along. Concern yourselves with the real cause for outrage, like injustice and poverty and actual persecution of our fellow brothers and sisters who,  in many countries around the world, are "accounted as sheep to be slaughtered" (Rom 8:36). Isaiah 1:17learn to do good;seek justice,rescue the oppressed,defend the orphan,plead for the widow. (cf. James 1:27) It is violations of these things that should outrage us. Not how well AI can read webpages. A little perspective goes a long way. ...