Course:Carey HIST501/Project 2/Justin Martyr

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Justin Martyr

Short biography

Justin Martyr was born c.100 AD in the city of Shechem in the Roman province of Judea (renamed Syria Palaestina in 135AD).[1] He was born to pagan parents and considered himself a Samaritan during his early years. He craved inspiration from a young age and searched for it in the metaphysical/theological teachings of the Greek philosophical traditions (Peripatetics, Stoicism, Pythagoreanism, Platonism). However, he found all these lacking and one day as he was contemplating deep philosophical matters, he encountered a Christian man who would introduce him to the teachings of the prophets and Jesus.[2] He realized that "true philosophy" can only be found in the Scriptures and in the work of Jesus during His incarnation on earth. Convinced of his new faith, he determined that the only rational action would be to spread this 'new' found knowledge of his. He then set forth travelling throughout the Roman empire to preach the gospel. He eventually ended up is Rome where he started a philosophical school.[1] He enjoyed defending the Christian faith especially against its opponents. In ~165AD, he was accused as subversive by the Cynic Crescens after debating him and he was arrested.[3] He was given the option to recant his faith or face death. He responded to his accusers by saying "No one in his right mind gives up piety for impiety...That is our desire, to be tortured for Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and so to be saved, for that will give us salvation and firm confidence at the more terrible universal tribunal of Our Lord and Saviour."[4] He was beheaded shortly after between 165-168 AD in the city of Rome.[1]

Major writings and theological contributions

A bearded Justin Martyr presenting one of his books to a Roman emperor. Paper, etching. Print made by Jacques Callot, published by Israël Henriet. French, 1632-1635

Justin Martyr was a prolific writer and theologian. While many of his works have not survived the ravages of time, the ones that have survived are:

1) Dialogue with Trypho

2) First Apology

3) Second Apology

4) Discourse to the Greeks

5) On the Resurrection

6) On the Sole Government of God

7) Hortatory Address to the Greeks

The first 3 on the list above are his most influential works. In these works, he discusses many doctrines that have become pillars of the Christian faith. One of the topics he discusses is the nature of how we come to know truth. He writes that in the past humans have had to rely on partial Logos (half-truths) arrived at by philosophers' conjectures. He argues that this is no longer needed because we have received revelation from God through the prophets and the Incarnate Son of God who revealed to us the Logos absolute. He believes that this is what separates Christianity from other world views.[4] A second topic he discusses and develops is the concept of Jesus as Logos (Word of God, John 1). In the Dialogue with Trypho, he explains that the Logos is distinct from the Father but is of the same essence and "is indivisible and inseparable from the Father".[2] He also defends the divinity of the Son. While these ideas are not without debate during his days, his arguments would form a foundation and would inspire theologians for the next couple hundred of years. His writings on the Son's divinity, same 'essence' as the Father and the Son's distinct personhood will eventually be accepted as orthodox teaching for the church at the council of Nicaea in 325AD.[5] A third contribution of Justin to doctrine (but certainly not the last) is the concept of the Trinity. While Justin never uses the word "trinity", he does say that we "worship Him [Jesus Christ], having learned that He is the Son of the true God Himself, and holding Him in the second place, and the prophetic Spirit in the third".[6] Justin starts to form the theological concept of the three personhood of the One God based on Scripture. The distinct three persons in communion as One in God will be further refined over the years until it becomes accepted as the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity in council of Constantinople in 381 AD.[7]

Both short and long-term impact of the selected church father

During his lifetime, Justin sought to educate the pagan Roman leadership about Christians. His first apology was written to emperor Antonius Pius and tried to explain to him how Christians were unjustly hated and persecuted. He tried to convince the emperor that Christians were the "best helpers and allies in securing good order" and were not a threat. Justin hope that he would be able to petition the emperor into treating Christianity as a legal religion.[8] Unfortunately, Justin was not able to achieve this dispensation during his lifetime.

Today, his works are treasured because of his theological studies and descriptions of worship and baptism in the 2nd century church. Justin's contribution to theology are numerous and has helped shaped our hermeneutical understanding of Scriptures. His works include discussions on the divine plan unwoven through history, the process of salvation, the integration of religious thought and philosophy[3], nature of absolute truth[4], the trinity[6], divinity and personhood of Jesus[2].


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 New World Encyclopedia contributors, "Justin Martyr," New World Encyclopedia, , (accessed October 15, 2021).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Martyr, Justin (155-160AD). "Dialogue with Trypho". Early Christian Writings. Retrieved Oct. 15, 2021. Check date values in: |access-date=, |date= (help)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia. "St. Justin Martyr." Encyclopedia Britannica, April 23, 2020.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Lebreton, Jules. "St. Justin Martyr." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 15 Oct. 2021 <>.
  5. Nicene creed, 325AD.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Martyr, Justin. 1st Apology. pp. chapter 13.
  7. The Constantinopolitan Creed, 381AD.
  8. "Justin Martyr - Defender of the "true philosophy"". Christianity Today. Retrieved Oct. 19, 2021. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)