Preface of a Saint (3)
PRAYER (traditional language) Almighty and everlasting God, who
didst find thy martyr Justin wandering from teacher to teacher, seeking
the true God, and didst reveal to him the sublime wisdom of thine eternal
Word: Grant that all who seek thee, or a deeper knowledge of thee, may
find and be found by thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and
reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
PRAYER (contemporary language) Almighty and everlasting God, who
found your martyr Justin wandering from teacher to teacher, seeking the
true God, and revealed to him the sublime wisdom of your eternal Word:
Grant that all who seek you, or a deeper knowledge of you, may find and
be found by you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with
you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
Lessons revised at GC 2009.
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PHILOSOPHER, APOLOGIST, AND
MARTYR (1 JUNE 167)
was born around 100 (both his birth and death dates are approximate) at
Flavia Neapolis (ancient Shechem, modern Nablus) in Samaria (the middle
portion of Israel, between Galilee and Judea) of pagan Greek parents.
He was brought up with a good education in rhetoric, poetry, and history.
He studied various schools of philosophy in Alexandria and Ephesus , joining
himself first to Stoicism, then Pythagoreanism, then Platonism, looking
for answers to his questions. While at Ephesus, he was impressed by the
steadfastness of the Christian martyrs, and by the personality of an aged
Christian man whom he met by chance while walking on the seashore. This
man spoke to him about Jesus as the fulfilment of the promises made through
the Jewish prophets. Justin was overwhelmed. "Straightway a flame was
kindled in my soul," he writes, "and a love of the prophets and those
who are friends of Christ possessed me." Justin became a Christian, but
he continued to wear the cloak that was the characteristic uniform of
the professional teacher of philosophy. His position was that pagan philosophy,
especially Platonism, is not simply wrong, but is a partial grasp of the
truth, and serves as "a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ." He engaged
in debates and disputations with non-Christians of all varieties, pagans,
Jews, and heretics. He opened a school of Christian philosophy and accepted
students, first at Ephesus and then later at Rome. There he engaged the
Cynic philosopher Crescens in debate, and soon after was arrested on the
charge of practicing an unauthorized religion. (It is suggested that Crescens
lost the debate and denounced Justin to the authorities out of spite.)
He was tried before the Roman prefect Rusticus, refused to renounce Christianity,
and was put to death by beheading along with six of his students, one
of them a woman. A record of the trial, probably authentic, is preserved,
known as The Acts of Justin the Martyr.
Three works of Justin have been preserved.
His First Apology (in the sense of "defense"
or "vindication") was addressed (around 155) to the Emperor Antoninus
Pius and his adopted sons. (It is perhaps worth noting that some of the
fiercest persecutors of the Christians were precisely the emperors who
had a strong sense of duty, who were fighting to maintain the traditional
Roman values, including respect for the gods, which they felt had made
Rome great and were her only hope of survival.) He defends Christianity
as the only rational creed, and he includes an account of current Christian
ceremonies of Baptism and the Eucharist (probably to counteract distorted
accounts from anti-Christian sources).
The Second Apology is addressed to the Roman
Senate. It is chiefly concerned to rebut specific charges of immorality
and the like that had been made against the Christians. He argues that
good Christians make good citizens, and that the notion that Christianity
undermines the foundations of a good society is based on slander or misunderstanding.
The Diaolog with Typho the Jew is an account
of a dialog between Justin and a Jewish rabbi named Trypho(n) (probably
a real conversation with a real rabbi, although it may be suspected that
Justin in editing it later gave himself a few good lines that he wished
he had thought of at the time), whom he met while promenading at Ephesus
shortly after the sack of Jerusalem in 135. Trypho had fled from Israel,
and the two men talked about the Jewish people and their place in history,
and then about Jesus and whether he was the promised Messiah. A principal
question is whether the Christian belief in the deity of Christ can be
reconciled with the uncompromising monotheism of the Scriptures. The dialogue
is a valuable source of information about early Christian thought concerning
Judaism and the relation between Israel and the Church as communities
having a covenant relation with God. Toward the end of the dialog, Trypho
asks, "Suppose that I were to become a Christian. Would I be required
to give up keeping kosher and other parts of the Jewish law?" Justin replies:
"Christians are not agreed on this. Some would say that you must give
them up. Others, such as myself, would say that it would be quite all
right for you, as a Jewish convert to Christianity, to keep kosher and
otherwise observe the Law of Moses, provided that you did not try to compel
other converts to do likewise, and provided that you clearly understand
that keeping kosher will not save you. It is only Christ who saves you."
They finally part friends, with Trypho saying, "You have given me food
for thought. I must consider this further."
An interesting feature is the dispute about texts.
Justin would quote a passage from the Septuagint (LXX), the standard Greek
translation of the Jewish Scriptures, and Trypho would reply, "That is
not an accurate translation of the Hebrew. You Christians have been tampering
with the text!" He never (at least as reportd by Justin) denies that Justin
is correctly quoting the Greek manuscripts as they existed at the time,
never brings forward an uncorrupted translation that has been preserved
by Greek-speaking Jews.
The subsequent history of this dispute about translations is that the
Jews, who had produced the LXX translation between 285 and 132 BC, repudiated
it as unreliable and produced several subsequent translations, chiefly
that of Aquila (around 140), which were close literal translations of
the received Hebrew text -- what we may by an anachronism call the Masoretic
Text (MT). Many Christians, on the other hand, noted that the LXX is the
version usually quoted in the New Testament, even when it differs from
the Hebrew. They recalled a Jewish story to the effect that the translation
had been produced by 70 (or 72) scholars (hence the name), each working
separately, and that their results when compared agreed perfectly; and
they took this story as an indication that the LXX was an inspired translation,
and that when it disagreed with the Hebrew, so much the worse for the
Hebrew! The earliest Latin versions of the Bible (known collectively as
the Old Latin (OL)) are translated from the LXX. However, when Jerome
was called to produce a new version of the Latin Bible, he translated
directly from the Hebrew (except for the Psalms, where he produced two
versions), and this reduced the prestige of the LXX in the West. For many
years scholars, noting the differences between the LXX and the MT, supposed
that the LXX was simply a sloppy translation. However, the Dead Sea Scrolls
included many Hebrew manuscripts of portions of Old Testament books (Samuel
is the outstanding example) that had readings that agreed with the LXX
against the MT. Accordingly, it is now widely held that the LXX is an
accurate translation of Hebrew manuscripts representing one of several
versions, but not always the version that ultimately prevailed in Hebrew
circles and came to be what we call the MT. As for why it happened that
the LXX was so often better suited to Christian purposes in proof-texting
than the MT, several explanations come to mind:
(a) The early Christians, who were for the most part
Greek-speakers, started their search for good proof texts by reading the
LXX, and they accordingly found all the places where the LXX gives them
what they want and the MT doesn't, while they completely missed all the
places where the MT gives them what they want and the LXX doesn't.
(b) The Jews, in their subsequent sorting out of their
various manuscript traditions, wherever the rival claims of two readings
were otherwise roughly balanced, tended to be more hospitable to a reading
that did not furnish aid and comfort to their opponents.
(c) The early Christians, being Greek-speakers steeped
in the LXX, tended to remember the details of life of Christ in a way
that was colored by the LXX. For example (not a very good example), Matthew
(27:34) tells us that before Our Lord was crucified, he was offered wine
with gall added. It is unlikely that gall was actually used (it has no
relevant pharmacological properties), and I assume that Matthew was using
the term simply to refer generically to a bitter-tasting substance. However,
his use of this particular term is undoubtedly influenced by Psalm 69:21,
considered as a prophecy of the crucifixion. As noted, this is not a very
good example, because it does not involve the wording of the LXX. But
my point is that a Christian writer, describing an event in the life of
Christ while thinking of an Old Testament passage that he believes foreshadows
that event, will, without sacrificing factual accuracy, naturally allow
that passage to affect his choice of details to mention and words in which
to describe them, and if he has been reading the LXX, then the LXX will
be a more impressive version to cite than the MT if you are trying to
match the event as recorded with the alleged prediction of it.
From the First Apology:
On finishing the prayers we greet each other with a kiss. Then bread
and a cup of water mixed with wine are brought to the leader and he,
taking them, sends up praise and glory to the Father of the Universe
through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and offers thanksgiving
at some length that we have been deemed worthy to receive these things.
When the leader has finished the prayers and thanksgivings, the whole
congregation assents, saying, "Amen." ("Amen" is Hebrew for "So be it.")
Then those whom we call deacons give to each of those present a portion
of the consecrated bread and wine and water, and they take it to the
Justin's works are found in the multi-volumed set called The Ante-Nicene
Fathers, and in various other collections of early Christian writings.
You can find the 38-volume (I think) Ante-Nicene, Nicene, and Post-Nicene
Fathers, Edinborough edition, at the web site http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/.
The translation is by Protestant editors and is many
years old. The web site is maintained by Roman Catholics, and also contains
many articles from the Catholic Encyclopedia, which is also old
enough to be in the public domain, and is not to be confused with the
New Catholic Encyclopedia, which is from around 1970. The web site
has a pointer to a site at Wheaton
College which also has the Fathers, but I find the format at
this one more accessible.
Refs: L W Bernard, JUSTIN MARTYR, HIS LIFE AND THOUGHT (Camb UP, 1967);
Hans von Campenhausen, THE FATHERS OF THE GREEK CHURCH, tr Stanley Godman
(NY, Pantheon, 1959); H Chadwick, "Justin Martyr's Defense of Christianity,"
BULLETIN OF THE JOHN RYLANDS LIBRARY, XLVII (1965) 275-297; Justin Martyr,
THE DIALOGUE WITH TRYPHO, tr A L Williams (NY, MacM, 1931).
by James Kiefer