Reading History: Justin Martyr answers Why the Cross?

Around 150 years before Athanasius wrote On the Incarnation, Justin Martyr wrote Dialogue with Trypho. As a Christian philosopher, Justin explored the case for Christ through a conversation with a Jewish seeker named Trypho. As the conversation unfolds the need for the cross is affirmed.

The rest of this post contains excerpts from chapters 89-95 from CCEL.


Then Trypho remarked, “Be assured that all our nation waits for Christ; and we admit that all the Scriptures which you have quoted refer to Him. … But whether Christ should be so shamefully crucified, this we are in doubt about. For whosoever is crucified is said in the law to be accursed, so that I am exceedingly incredulous on this point. It is quite clear, indeed, that the Scriptures announce that Christ had to suffer; but we wish to learn if you can prove it to us whether it was by the suffering cursed in the law.”

Saint_Justin_Martyr_by_Theophanes_the_Cretan

Justin the Philosopher by Theophanes the Cretan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I replied to him, “If Christ was not to suffer, and the prophets had not foretold that He would be led to death on account of the sins of the people, and be dishonoured and scourged, and reckoned among the transgressors, and as a sheep be led to the slaughter, whose generation, the prophet says, no man can declare, then you would have good cause to wonder.

But if these are to be characteristic of Him and mark Him out to all, how is it possible for us to do anything else than believe in Him most confidently? And will not as many as have understood the writings of the prophets, whenever they hear merely that He was crucified, say that this is He and no other?” Continue reading

Justin Martyr: What we do in life echoes in eternity

As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we are looking at some of the people that have stood out in the history of the church. This past Sunday we focused on Justin Martyr.

Justin was probably a Roman Gentile, born early in the second century in the city of Flavia Neapolis located in Samaria. What we know of him comes primarily from his extant works or statements about him in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History

Justin was especially prominent in those days. In the guise of a philosopher he preached the divine word, and contended for the faith in his writings. (Eccl Hist 4.11)

Justin lived in the early 2nd century, spending most of his life under the reign of the Roman Emperors Hadrian and Antonius Pius.

JustinMartyrWorld

Living in the early 2nd century, and traveling broadly as he studied philosophy, Justin would have learned about Christianity from people who were potentially taught by the apostles. Given his travels, he also would have a good understanding of the doctrines held across numerous locations. Thus, in Justin’s writings we find important descriptions of the practices and doctrines of the early church.

There are three extant works that are generally accepted as being written by him.

  • First Apology, addressed to Antonius Pius, and generally dated between 150 and 157
  • Second Apology, often considered as part of the First Apology
  • Dialogue with Trypho, which defends Jesus as Messiah to those who are Jewish. It is usually dated around 160.

Continue reading

Justin Martyr: The Problem of Evil (Christmas Edition)

Do not be afraid! Listen carefully, for I proclaim to you good news that brings great joy to all the people

In explaining the meaning of Christmas, Justin tackles the problem of evil by examining the massacre of infants ordered by Herod. Think for a moment about what life would have been like in Bethlehem for parents with young children.

BookCover_UnholyNightIf you have trouble imagining what it might be like, Unholy Night, the mashup by Seth Grahame-Smith (of Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter fame) may help. In this book he relates some of the horrors unleashed by Herod.

a woman in dark robes, running barefoot toward them down one of the cobblestoned streets. Running faster than she’d run in her life, because nothing in her life had ever been as important. …

There was a baby in her arms.

Naked. Tiny. Held to its mother’s breast as she ran from the horse. The black horse galloped after them with a soldier on its back, his armor clanging around him, his sword drawn.

That image should make you recoil. Continue reading