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.
The letter from James is “a one-of-a-kind document”, according to scholar and commentator Scot McKnight, with “no real parallel among ancient letters, essays, and homilies.”
It is a letter that addresses numerous topics, many of which underlie the tensions behind the headlines today, including suffering, social justice, and poverty. It also contains some challenging passages related to the role of faith and works.
Here are 5 interesting facts as we start our study.
1) It was probably written by the brother of Jesus
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ (1:1)
Most scholars (at least those writing evangelical commentaries) agree that the author of this letter is James the brother of Jesus (Matt 13:55; Mark 6:3; Gal 1:19), also known as James the Just. Another candidate is James, the son of Zebedee, the older brother of John, and an apostle in Jesus’ inner circle (Matt 17:1; Mark 5:37, 14:32-33). Many rule out the latter James, due to his early death at the hands of Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:2) around 44 CE. But that shouldn’t disqualify him. James the son of Zebedee would have been alive to write the letter if the earliest suggested dating of the letter is correct.
The primary reason for accepting James the Just as the author, over other possible candidates, is the tradition of the early church, which attributed the letter to him. Continue reading
I finished reading The Trouble with Physics by theoretical physicist Lee Smolin. In this book Smolin tackles the current state of physics and its lack of progress in solving the five fundamental questions. It was an interesting read, though if you are not someone who tackles popular works of science I would recommend Brian Greene’s Elegant Universe first.
Toward the end of the book, Smolin laments the inability of the scientific community to jump start another series of great discoveries, like those of the early twentieth century, to help move science forward toward finding the grand Theory of Everything (TOE). He attributes this to an academic system that rewards master craftsman who don’t challenge the current theories, while also failing to promote an environment for seers to flourish. Continue reading