(a.k.a.) Justin Apologetic
It is the cause and not merely the death that makes the martyr. Napoleon Bonaparte
Justin Martyr was given that last name not because he was the first Christian martyr, but bestowed as a posthumous honor for his speaking and writing (Second Apologetic) against the Roman Empire's mistreatment of Christians -- even though these apologetics led the sixty some year olds' own bravely faced deadly Roman persecution.
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.Acts 1:8
Justin was born around the turn of the second century in the Samaritan town of Neapolis (modern Nabulus), a Latin-named son to an uncircumcised Gentile father Latin-named Priscus, whose father in turn was Greek-named Bacchius. We know about his conversion as recorded in his Second Dialogue; which discussed his initial dabbling in philosophy consisting of argument about "what is truth?" -- to embracing the Truth: Jesus Christ. Nazareth, of course, was Jesus' childhood neighborhood not too far down the road from his own place growing up -- and time-wise, away from him only a hundred years. His teachers were followers of the Stoics, Aristotle, Pythagoras, Socrates, and Plato; but the best mentor was the philosopher-turned-Christian who pointed the thirty year old the Way with an ablility to use the traditional classical disciplines to explain Christian doctrine. He was also influenced by the discipline of the believers willing to die for their beliefs.
Disciple to Discipler
Borrowing heavily from Plato (e.g. Republic
, and also Euripides
, he began teaching and developing his famous arguments against the Pagan world-view
predominant throughout the Empire
. Out of this Middle Platonian
thought came the idea of the Logos
, and extremely important concept of the Word
incarnated in Jesus Christ
's version adopted caused the issue of heresy
with a second God
.) Before he eventually brought his tutoring to the house of Martinus, Via Tiburtina
, Rome, he had made his first acquaintance with Trypho
with whom he will cross paths again.
Now around 150 A.D. he began to write his impactual First Apology to Emperor Antonius Pius and his adopted children Lucius Verus and Marcus Aurelius (who, despite his 'enlightened' philosophy, became one of the worst persecutors of "...those dangerous to the State..." Christians.) This letter consisted of sixty-six chapters and contained a letter from the preceding Emperor Hadrian in a heartfelt and intellectual no-stops, no-holds-barred attempt to ameliorate the deteriorating conditions of those who insisted on calling Jesus Lord. He had to provide rebuttal to the arguments of immorality and treason levelled against the small, but rapidly growing Church. In this work where he exercises reason for promoting the superior morality offered in the fulfilled Law in the Love of Christ over the myths offered in the convoluted tales of the Pantheon. His development of the Logos as taught also previously by Heraclitus and alluded to in Christaphonies in the Old Testament; and his writings would become foundational for later Church Fathers, Tertullian and Irenaeus. In the latter half of this discourse he details Christian life and worship that transports us by time-travel to the second century Church. He has to answer the charges of atheism and cannabalism, evidently based on passed on gossip and inuendos. We see that the Gospels of the Apostles, and many letters and Old Testament manuscripts were read, as well as important descriptions of baptism, where the "assembly of the brethren pray over them, presented," and the Eucharist the communion service of breaking the bread (like the broken body of Christ for our healing - Luke 22:19, And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.
) and the wine (the blood poured out for the cleansing of our sins - Luke 22:20, Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.
). He argues that the Mithraistic Mystery religion's similarities (adopted by Gnostics like Marcion) is merely a superficial demonic copy purposed for the obvious confusion. (1 Corinthians 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.)
Justin's Second Apology, this work written in 160, only fifteen chapters, was an intercessary letter to the prefect of Rome, Urbicus, to stop the trumped-up execution of a teacher of a pagan's Christian wife named Ptolemy. It includes an answer to the question to why martyr-seeking Christians would not simply commit suicide. In his writings he Christianizes Hellenistic thought not vice-versa, while offering a somewhat universalistic view of God's raining down a measure of truth to all men, and missing emphasizing the Pauline teaching of the commonality of man's sin.
Trifle with Trypho
Also around 160 he wrote his Dialogue with Typho, but dedicated to Marcus Pompeius and thought to be aimed at Gentiles being swayed by Jewish teachers like the philosopher Trypho, now running his school in Corinth. (The earlier assumption that this person was an anti-Christian rabbi, Tarphon has been de-bunked.) This teacher was a formidable enemy, as he was well versed in New Testament verses, and able to spread rumors of Jesus being some kind of supernatural trickster. Throughout his apologetics with this group, Justin insists that Christians, rather than hate Jews, pray for them. Most impressive is his use of trying to prove from the Old Testament the fulfillment of Messianic prophecies like Psalm 22 (twenty-six references) and answering the questions that Trypho had concerning the divinity of the Messiah and his death by crucifixion.
Five years after writing appeals pleading for the lives of others, during his interrogation he could only admit that his only Lord was the King of Kings, Jesus, and he faced death courageously with six others brought to Caesar's court.
And you, you can kill us, but not hurt us. (1 Apol. 2.4)
A History of Christianity (Vol. I), Kenneth Scott Latourette, Harper and Row: San Francisco; 1975.
Great Leaders of the Christian Church, ed. John D. Woodbridge, Moody: Chicago; 1988.
The Bible Through the Ages, ed. Robert V. Huber, Reader's Digest: Pleasantville, 1996.