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Justin Martyr (also Justin the Martyr, Justin of Caesarea, Justin the Philosopher, Latin Iustinus Martyr or Flavius Iustinus) (100–165) was an early Christian apologist and saint. His works represent the earliest surviving Christian "apologies" of notable size.


Most of what is known about the life of Justin Martyr comes from his own writings. He was born at Flavia Neapolismarker (ancient Shechemmarker in Judaea/Palaestina, now modern-day Nablusmarker). According to the traditional accounts of the church, Justin suffered martyrdom at Romemarker under the Emperor Marcus Aurelius when Junius Rusticus was prefect of the city (between 162 and 168).

Justin called himself a Samaritan, but his father and grandfather were probably Greek or Roman, and he was brought up as a pagan. It seems that St Justin had property, studied philosophy, converted to Christianity, and devoted the rest of his life to teaching what he considered the true philosophy, still wearing his philosopher's gown to indicate that he had attained the truth. He probably traveled widely and ultimately settled in Romemarker as a Christian teacher.

It is alleged that his relics are housed in the church of St. John the Baptist in Sacrofanomarker, a few kilometers north of Rome.

In 1882 Pope Leo XIII had a Mass and an Office composed for his feast day, which he set at 14 April, the day after the day indicated as that of his death in the Martyrology of Florus; but since this date quite often falls within the main Paschal celebrations, the feast was moved in 1968 to 1 June, the date on which he is celebrated in the Byzantine Rite since at least the ninth century.


The earliest mention of Justin is found in the Oratio ad Graecos by Tatian, who calls him "the most admirable Justin," quotes a saying of his, and says that the Cynic Crescens laid snares for him.

Irenaeus speaks of his martyrdom and of Tatian as his disciple. Irenaeus quotes Justin twice, and shows his influence in other places.

Tertullian, in his Adversus Valentinianos, calls Justin a philosopher and martyr, and the earliest antagonist of heretics. He was flogged and beheaded with six other Christians in Rome for his beliefs.

Hippolytus and Methodius of Olympus also mention or quote him.

Eusebius of Caesarea deals with him at some length, and names the following works:

  1. The First Apology addressed to Antoninus Pius, his sons, and the Roman Senate;
  2. a Second Apology addressed to the Roman Senate;
  3. the Discourse to the Greeks, a discussion with Greek philosophers on the character of their gods;
  4. a Hortatory Address to the Greeks;
  5. a treatise On the Sovereignty of God, in which he makes use of pagan authorities as well as Christian;
  6. a work entitled The Psalmist;
  7. a treatise in scholastic form On the Soul; and
  8. the Dialogue with Trypho.

Eusebius implies that other works were in circulation; from St Irenaeus he knows of the apology "Against Marcion," and from Justin's "Apology" of a "Refutation of all Heresies ". Epiphanius and St Jerome mention Justin.

Rufinus borrows from him Latin original of Hadrian's letter.

After Rufinus, Justin was known mainly from St Irenaeus and Eusebius or from spurious works. The Chronicon Paschale assigns his martyrdom to the year 165. A considerable number of other works are given as Justin's by Arethas, Photius, and other writers; but their spuriousness is now generally admitted. The Expositio rectae fidei has been assigned by Draseke to Apollinaris of Laodicea, but it is probably a work of as late as the sixth century. The Cohortatio ad Graecos has been attributed to Apollinaris of Laodicea, Apollinaris of Hierapolis, as well as others. The Epistola ad Zenam et Serenum, an exhortation to Christian living, is dependent upon Clement of Alexandria, and is assigned by Pierre Batiffol to the Novatian Bishop Sisinnius (c. 400). The extant work under the title "On the Sovereignty of God" does not correspond with Eusebius' description of it, though Harnack regards it as still possibly Justin's, and at least of the second century. The author of the smaller treatise To the Greeks cannot be Justin, because he is dependent on Tatian; Harnack places it between 180 and 240.

The Apology

The Dialogue is a later work than the First Apology; the date of composition of the latter, from the fact that it was addressed to Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, and Lucius Verus, must fall between 147 and 161.

Dialogue with Trypho

In the Dialogue with Trypho, after an introductory section, Justin undertakes to show that Christianity is the new law for all men , and to prove from Scripture that Jesus is the Christ. The concluding section (cix.-cxlii.) demonstrates that the Christians are the true people of God.

On The Resurrection

The fragments of the work "On the Resurrection" begin with the assertion that the truth, and God the author of truth, need no witness, but that as a concession to the weakness of men it is necessary to give arguments to convince those who gainsay it. It is then shown, after a denial of unfounded deductions, that the resurrection of the body is neither impossible nor unworthy of God, and that the evidence of prophecy is not lacking for it. Another fragment takes up the positive proof of the resurrection, adducing that of Christ and of those whom he recalled to life. In another the resurrection is shown to be that of what has gone down, i.e., the body; the knowledge concerning it is the new doctrine in contrast with that of the old philosophers; the doctrine follows from the command to keep the body in moral purity.

The treatise On the Resurrection, of which extensive fragments are preserved in the Sacra parallela, is not so generally accepted. Even earlier than this collection, it is referred to by Procopius of Gaza (c. 465-528), and Methodius appeals to Justin in support of his interpretation of 1 Corinthians 15:50 in a way which makes it natural to assume the existence of a treatise on the subject, to say nothing of other traces of a connection in thought both here, in Irenaeus (V., ii.-xiii. 5), and also in Tertullian, where it is too close to be anything but a conscious following of the Greek. The Against Marcion is lost, as is the Refutation of all Heresies to which Justin himself refers in Apology, i. 26; Hegesippus, besides perhaps Irenaeus and Tertullian, seems to have used it.

Role within the Church

Flacius discovered "blemishes" in Justin's theology, which he attributed to the influence of pagan philosophers; and in modern times Semler and S.G. Lange have made him out a thorough Hellene, while Semisch and Otto defend him from this charge.

In opposition to the school of Ferdinand Christian Baur, who considered him a Jewish Christian, Albrecht Ritschl has pointed out that it was precisely because he was a Gentile Christian that he did not fully understand the Old Testament foundation of Paul's teaching, and explained in this way the modified character of his Paulinism and his legal mode of thought.

M. von Engelhardt has attempted to extend this line of treatment to Justin's entire theology, and to show that his conceptions of God, of free will and righteousness, of redemption, grace, and merit prove the influence of the cultivated Greek pagan world of the second century, dominated by the Platonic and Stoic philosophy.

But he admits that Justin is a Christian in his unquestioning adherence to the Church and its faith, his unqualified recognition of the Old Testament, and his faith in Christ as the Son of God the Creator, made manifest in the flesh, crucified, and risen, through which belief he succeeds in getting away from the dualism of pagan and also of Gnostic philosophy.

Justin was confident that his teaching is that of the Church at large. He knows of a division among the orthodox only on the question of the millennium and on the attitude toward the milder Jewish Christianity, which he personally is willing to tolerate as long as its professors in their turn do not interfere with the liberty of the Gentile converts; his millenarianism seems to have no connection with Judaism, but he believes firmly in a millennium, and generally in the primitive Christian eschatology.

Justin's self-perception of himself was that of a scholar, although his skills in Hebrew were either non-existent or minimal. His opposition to Judaism was typical of church leaders in his day, but does not descend to the level of anti-semitism. After collaborating with a Jewish convert to assist him with the Hebrew, Justin published an attack on Judaism based upon a no-longer-extant text of a Midrash. This Midrash was reconstructed and published by Saul Lieberman.

Conversion and teachings

Justin had, like others, the idea that the Greek philosophers had derived, if not borrowed, the most essential elements of truth found in their teaching from the Old Testament. But at the same time he adopted the Stoic doctrine of the "seminal word," and so philosophy was to him an operation of the Word—in fact, through his identification of the Word with Christ, it was brought into immediate connection with him.

Thus he does not scruple to declare that Socrates and Heraclitus were Christians (Apol., i. 46, ii. 10). His aim, of course, is to emphasize the absolute significance of Christ, so that all that ever existed of virtue and truth may be referred to him. The old philosophers and law-givers had only a part of the Logos, while the whole appears in Christ.

While the gentile peoples, seduced by demons, had deserted the true God for idols, the Jews and Samaritans possessed the revelation given through the prophets and awaited the Messiah. The law, however, while containing commandments intended to promote the true fear of God, had other prescriptions of a purely pedagogic nature, which necessarily ceased when Christ, their end, appeared; of such temporary and merely relative regulations were circumcision, animal sacrifices, the Sabbath, and the laws as to food. Through Christ the abiding law of God has been fully proclaimed. In his character as the teacher of the new doctrine and promulgator of the new law lies the essential nature of his redeeming work.

The idea of an economy of grace, of a restoration of the union with God which had been destroyed by sin, is not foreign to him. It is noteworthy that in the "Dialogue" he no longer speaks of a "seed of the Word" in every man, and in his non-apologetic works the emphasis is laid upon the redeeming acts of the life of Christ rather than upon the demonstration of the reasonableness and moral value of Christianity, though the fragmentary character of the latter works makes it difficult to determine exactly to what extent this is true and how far the teaching of Irenaeus on redemption is derived from him.

Doctrine of the logos

Justin's use of the idea of the logos has always attracted attention. It is probably too much to assume a direct connection with Philo of Alexandria in this particular. The idea of the Logos was widely familiar to educated men, and the designation of the Son of God as the Logos was not new to Christian theology. The significance is clear, however, of the manner in which Justin identifies the historical Christ with the rational force operative in the universe, which leads up to the claim of all truth and virtue for the Christians and to the demonstration of the adoration of Christ, which aroused so much opposition, as the only reasonable attitude. It is mainly for this justification of the worship of Christ that Justin employs the Logos-idea, though where he explicitly deals with the divinity of the Redeemer and his relation to the Father, he makes use of the Old Testament, not of the Logos-idea, which thus can not be said to form an essential part of his Christology.

On the other hand, Justin sees the Logos as a separate being from God and subordinate to him:

"For next to God, we worship and love the Logos who is out of the unbegotten and ineffable God, since also He became man for our sakes, that, becoming a partaker of our sufferings, He might also bring us healing" (Second Apology, 13).

"There is, and that there is said to be, another God and Lord subject to the Maker of all things who is also called an Angel, because He announces to men whatsoever the Maker of all things, above whom there is no other God, wishes to announce to them.... I shall endeavour to persuade you, that He who is said to have appeared to Abraham, and to Jacob, and to Moses, and who is called God, is distinct from Him who made all things, I mean numerically, not in will. (Dialogue with Trypho, 56).

Justin speaks of the divine Logos as "another God" beside the Father, qualified by the gloss: ‘other, I mean, in number, not in will’. Justin actually finds fault with the view of hellenized Jews who held that the divine Logos is no more distinct from God than sunlight is from the sun and suggested, instead, that the Logos is more like a torch lit from another. He wanted to do justice to the independence of the Logos.

Scriptural citations in Justin

The importance which Justin attaches to the evidence of prophecy shows his estimate of the Old Testament Scriptures, which are to Christians absolutely the word of God, spoken by the Holy Ghost, and confirmed by the fulfillment of the prophecies. Not less divine, however, are the "Memoirs of the Apostles" (Greek ἀπομνημονεύματα τῶν αποστολων; transliteration apomnemoneumata ton apostolon), which are read in the assembly every Lord's Day - though these are perhaps not used in his "Dialogue" with the same authority as the Old Testament. As Charles E. Hill puts it, in mainstream scholarship,

"It is commonly held that in Rome of Justin's day even the Memoirs themselves possessed only a quite limited authority."

And yet, Hill argues that this is not really true. He sees in Justin "a parity of authority between these two groups of writings", and cites Bruce Metzger to the effect that Justin values the Memoirs even above the Old Testament scriptures.

As Justin saw it, the word of the apostles was the teaching of the Divine Logos, and reproduces the sayings of Christ authentically. In general, Justin uses the material from the Synoptic Gospels - Matthew, Mark, and Luke - but his use of John is somewhat debatable. Nowhere in his works, the name of any canonical gospel is mentioned specifically, other than this general designation of the "Memoirs of the Apostles", which is used quite often. It is believed that Justin used some sort of a Gospel Harmony that included the material from the 3 Synoptic gospels. As Helmut Koester says,

"On the basis of the gospel quotations of the First Apology and the Dialogue with Trypho, one can conclude with great certainty that Justin also had composed a harmony of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (he did not know the Gospel of John), which is lost but was used by his student Tatian for the composition of his famous and influential four-gospel harmony known as the Diatessaron."

It is also possible that, rather than composing this Harmony himself, he may have used a text already in existence.

Justin does not quote from the Book of Revelation directly, yet he clearly refers to it, naming its author. For Justin, this serves to bring out the role of prophesy among the Christians,

"Moreover also among us a man named John, one of the apostles of Christ, prophesied in a revelation made to him that those who have believed on our Christ will spend a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that hereafter the general and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all will likewise take place."

Justin's attitude toward the Pauline epistles generally corresponds to that of the later Church. In this area, his polemics against Marcion were in accord with the emergent mainstream Catholic views. In Justin's works, distinct references are found to Romans, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians, and possible ones to Philippians, Titus, and 1 Timothy. It seems likely that he also knew Hebrews and 1 John. The apologetic character of Justin's habit of thought appears again in the Acts of his martyrdom, the genuineness of which is attested by internal evidence.

Prophetic exegesis

Justin’s writings constitute a storehouse of early interpretation of the prophetic Scriptures.

Firm believer in Prophecies

The truth of the prophets, he declares, compels assent. The Old Testament is an inspired guide and counselor. He puts the following words in the mouth of the Christian philosopher who converted him:

" 'There existed, long before this time, certain men more ancient than all those who are esteemed philosophers, both righteous and beloved by God, who spoke by the Divine Spirit, and foretold events which would take place, and which are now taking place.
They are called prophets.
These alone both saw and announced the truth to men, neither reverencing nor fearing any man. not influenced by a desire for glory, but speaking those things alone which they saw and which they heard, being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Their writings are still extant, and he who has read them is very much helped in his knowledge of the beginning and end of things.
And those events which have happened, and those which are happening, compel you to assent to the utterances made by them.'”

Then Justin tells of his own experience:
"Straightway a flame was kindled in my soul; and a love of the prophets, and of those men who are friends of Christ, possessed me; and whilst revolving his words in my mind, I found this philosophy alone to be safe and profitable.”

Prophetic fulfillment

Justin talks of the following fulfillments of Bible prophecy

  • The prophecies concerning the Messiah, and the particulars of His life.
  • The destruction of Jerusalem.
  • The Gentiles accepting Christianity.
  • Isaiah predicted that Jesus would be born of a virgin.
  • Micah mentions Bethlehem as the place of His birth.
  • Zephaniah forecasts His entry into Jerusalem on the foal of an ass.

Second coming and Daniel 7

Justin connects Christ's second coming with the climax of the prophecy of Daniel 7.

"But if so great a power is shown to have followed and to be still following the dispensation of His suffering, how great shall that be which shall follow His glorious advent!
For He shall come on the clouds as the Son of man, so Daniel foretold, and His angels shall come with Him."
[Then follows Dan.


The second glorious advent Justin places, moreover, close upon the heels of the appearance of the Antichrist, or "man of apostasy." Justin's interpretation of prophecy is, however, less clear and full than that of others who follow.

Time, times, and a half

Daniel's "time, times, and a half", Justin believed, was nearing its consummation, when Antichrist would speak his blasphemies against the Most High. And he contends with Trypho over the meaning of a "time" and "times". Justin expects the time to be very short, but Trypho's concept is interesting.

"The times now running on to their consummation; and he whom Daniel foretells would have dominion for a time, and times, and an half, is even already at the door, about to speak blasphemous and daring things against the Most High.
But you, being ignorant of how long he will have dominion, hold another opinion.
For you interpret the 'time' as being a hundred years.
But if this is so, the man of sin must, at the shortest, reign three hundred and fifty years, in order that we may compute that which is said by the holy Daniel--'and times'--to be two times only.”


Critical editions of the text include:

  • Thirlby, S., London, 1722.
  • Maran, P., Paris, 1742 (the Benedictine edition, reprinted in Migne, Patrologia Graeca, Vol. VI. Paris, 1857).
  • Otto, J. C., Jena, 1842 (3d ed., 1876–1881).
  • Krüger, G., Leipzig, 1896 (3d ed., Tübingen, 1915).
  • Goodspeed, E. J., Göttingen, 1914 (in Die ältesten Apologeten).
  • Marcovich, Miroslav, ed. Iustini Martyris Dialogus cum Tryphone (Patristische Texte und Studien 47, Berlin/New York: de Gruyter, 1997).


  1. Catholic Encyclopedia: St. Justin Martyr
  2. Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 1969), p. 94
  3. Haer. I., xxviii. 1.
  4. IV., vi. 2, V., xxvi. 2.
  5. Church History, iv. 18.
  6. i. 26
  7. Church History, IV., xi. 10.
  8. Haer., xlvi. 1.
  9. De vir. ill., ix.
  10. Charles E. Hill, The Johannine Corpus in the Early Church. Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 345
  11. Charles E. Hill, The Johannine Corpus in the Early Church. Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 346
  12. Helmut Koester, Introduction to the New Testament: History and literature of Early Christianity. 2nd ed. Walter de Gruyter, 2000, Vol. 2, p. 344
  13. Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 81, par. 4
  14. ASB (Acta Sanctorum Bollandi), Apr., ii. 108 sqq.; Thierry Ruinart, Acta martyrum, Regensburg, 1859, 105 sqq.
  15. Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 7
  16. Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 8
  17. First Apology, Chapter 31
  18. First Apology, chapter 47
  19. First Apology, Chapter 49
  20. First Apology, Chapter 33
  21. First Apology, Chapter 34
  22. first Apology, Chapter 35
  23. Dailogue with Trypho, chapter 31
  24. Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 110
  25. Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 32
  26. Early Christian Fathers | Christian Classics Ethereal Library


See also

External links

Translations of works by St Justin Martyr


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