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.


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.

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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.

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Justin Martyr: The Meaning of Christmas

In his treatise Dialogue with Trypho, Justin Martyr, a 2nd century Christian philosopher, explains the meaning of the Christmas story to Trypho. This story uses a popular literary format to present an argument JustinMartyrSantain the form of a discussion (modeled after Plato) and explores the Jewish rejection of the Messiah using the Socratic method of questions.

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