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Justin Martyr and his Apology

Julian Spriggs M.A.

Justin Martyr (81-165) was born in Neapolis, the ancient city of Shechem in Samaria. He became a convert from paganism, having seen much persecution of Christians. He searched for truth in a variety of philosophical schools, seeing the Gospel as the truest and most perfect philosophy. He was finally led to the Lord by an old man. He continued to visit the philosophical schools, now sharing his faith. He taught in Ephesus and Rome and became a famous Christian apologist, defending the Christian faith. He also effectively battled against Gnosticism. He was martyred in Rome and awarded the name "Martyr".

Justin wrote his ‘Apology’ defending the Christian faith in response to persecution of the church by the Roman government. It was addressed to Emperor Antoninus Pius, who ruled from 138 to 161. Even though it was addressed to the emperor, this was more of a dedication, as he intended that it should have a wider readership. His intention was remove misunderstandings about the nature of the Christian faith, lifestyle and worship which were prevalent at the time.

His main point was that Christians were innocent of any crime, and that the state had no right to punish innocent people. He proclaimed that it was wrong for the state to punish people merely for being Christians. He went as far as declaring that the Roman authorities are being driven by demonic powers to persecute and kill the Christians without a fair trial or a proper investigation of their actions.

He showed that the Christians were loyal citizens of the empire, who, although they did not worship the Roman gods, they did not cause trouble or disturbance. He included detailed descriptions of Christian character to counter the popular misunderstandings of the love-feasts, which were thought to include orgies and other immoralities. Because of the persecution, Christian worship was mostly conducted in secret, which led people to make dreadful speculations about what went on. In his Apology, Justin gave a detailed description of Christian worship services to remove the secrecy and mystery, and to show their harmless nature.

Most importantly, Justin’s intention was to show the truth of the Christian faith against other religions and philosophies. He used his background in Greek philosophy to show that Jesus was the Divine Logos, or Reason. The Logos had been at work, not only in the Old Testament patriarchs, but also in the Greek philosophers. By this, he demonstrated that Christianity is the true philosophy, so that the Gospel did not only bring redemption from sin, but also true enlightenment from ignorance.

He later added a short supplement to his Apology, which he addressed to Marcus Aurelius and the Roman Senate. In this he protested about the injustice shown by the Roman authorities to the Christians, following the execution of some believers. He protested that they were innocent of any crime, other than declaring their faith in Christ.

His ‘Dialogue with Trypho’ is his other surviving writing. I this he conducts a debate with a Jew he met in Ephesus over the truth of Christianity. Despite deep disagreement, they conducted the debate with great respect for each other. Justin based his argument on the Old Testament Scriptures, which he demonstrated to point to Christ.