Justin Martyr
(c.100 - c.165)


Justin Martyr (from André Thevet)

Justin Martyr (from André Thevet)
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Justin came from a Greek-speaking non-Jewish family living in Flavia Neapolis (Shechem) in Samaria.[1] He wrote of how he searched for truth, attaching himself to a succession of philosophical schools: Stoicism, Aristotelianism, Pythagorianism and Platonism.[2] Finally (in about AD 130)[3] he met an old man while walking on the seashore at Ephesus who pointed out some of the weaknesses in his Platonic system. He showed Justin how the Old Testament predicted the coming of Christ; but it was seeing the courage of the Christian martyrs that finally convinced him.[4] Still wearing his philosopher’s cloak[5] he dedicated the rest of his life to defending orthodox Christianity against its philosophical opponents.[6]

During the reign of Antoninus Pius (AD 138-161) Justin ministered in Rome, founding a school that attracted a wide variety of students, including Tatian from Nisibis in Assyria, Irenaeus from Smyrna and Theophilus from near the Euphrates.[7] There he vigorously opposed the Cynic philosopher Crescens,[8] the Gnostic Valentinians, the Marcionites[9] and the Jews.[10] Justin earned his surname when he perished during the persecution of Christians by Marcus Aurelius (121-180) in about AD 165.[11]

Most scholars agree that Justin was verbose, confused, inconsistent and often not convincing in his arguments. Nevertheless, he is an important figure in the history of the Church. For him Christianity was "theoretically, the true philosophy,[12] and, practically, a new law of holy living and dying.[13] The former is chiefly the position of the Apologies, the latter that of the Dialogue."[14] In recent years the traditional view that Justin’s theology was dominated by his philosophical background has been questioned. As we shall see, his view of creation was very much influenced by Platonism. He used philosophy as a tool to spread orthodox Christianity, rather than translate Christianity into an academic philosophical system.[15]

Justin used allegory extensively in his writings, but it was the Palestinian allegory of the Rabbis rather than the Alexandrian allegory of Philo.[16] Given that Justin was born in Samaria this it is not really surprising. For Justin, the key to understanding the Old Testament was Christ and his Christocentric interpretation meant that the meaning of the original writers was considered unimportant.[17] There appears to be some dispute as to how much of his hermeneutic Justin derived from his study of the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament. W.H.C. Frend states that there "is no evidence that he was influenced by any of the writers of the NT."[18] William Shotwell, on the other hand, argues at length that Justin was heavily dependent on the New Testament writers.[19] However, Shotwell also states that the New Testament writers were not interested in the historical background of the Old Testament passages they used,[20] and the validity of such a statement is extremely doubtful. In balance I think that it is most likely that Justin formulated his method of interpretation from a variety of sources: the New Testament, his Christian predecessors, Palestinian Jewish exegesis, and Stoic allegory.[21]

Rob Bradshaw, Webmaster


[ 1](48) Robert M. Grant, Greek Apologists of the Second Century. (London: SCM, 1988), 50; Justin Martyr, 1 Apology 1.1 (ANF, Vol. 1, 163).

[2 Justin Martyr, Dialogue, 2 (]ANF, Vol. 1, 195).

[3] L.W. Barnard, Justin Martyr, His Life and Thought. (Cambridge: CUP, 1967), 13, places the date of his conversion shortly before the Bar Vochba rebellion of 132-135.

[4] Justin Martyr, 2 Apology, 12.2; Eusebius, History, 4.8.5 (NPNF, 2nd series, Vol. 1, 181).

[5] Justin, Dialogue, 1 (ANF, Vol. 1, 163); Eusebius, History, 4.11.8 (NPNF, 2nd series, Vol. 1, 184).

[ 6] Barnard, 12.

[ 7] Philip Carrington, The Early Christian Church, Vol. 2. (Cambridge: CUP, 1957), 101-102.

[ 8] Justin Martyr, 2 Apology, 3.1 (ANF, Vol. 1, 189).

[9] Justin Martyr, 1 Apology, 26.8; 58 (ANF, Vol. 1, 171-172, 182).

[ 10] Justin Martyr, Dialogue, Theodore Stylianopoulos, "Justin Martyr," Everett Ferguson, ed., Encyclopedia of Early Christianity. New York: Garland Press, 1990. pp.514-516.

[11] Barnard, 13.

[12] Justin, Dialogue, 100.8 (ANF, Vol. 1, 249).

[ 13] Justin, Dialogue, 100.11 (ANF, Vol. 1, 249).

[ 14] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 2, 1910. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 722.

[ 15] Stylianopoulos, "Justin Martyr," Everett Ferguson, ed., Encyclopedia of Early Christianity. New York: Garland Press, 1990. p.515.

[ 16] William A. Shotwell, The Biblical Exegesis of Justin Martyr. (London: SPCK, 1965), 40: "In Palestine it was symbolical and 3typological, but in Hellenistic Judaism it was generally philosophical and mystical."

[ 17] Shotwell, 7-8.

[18] Shotwell, 42: "Although, in the Apologies and the Dialogue, Justin dues not use the word "allegory" to describe his method, he does use the allegorical method of interpretation. He interprets the Old Testament as saying one thing and yet meaning another. This is allegory as it is defined by the Greek themselves." See Pseudo-Heraclitus, Quaestiones Homericae, 6.

[ 19] W.H.C. Frend, The Rise of Christianity. Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1984. p.237.

[ 20] Shotwell, 49-64.

[ 21] Shotwell, 63-64.

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Primary Sources

On-line Resource Justin Martyr (Christian Classic Ethereal Library)
Book or monograph Justin Martyr: 1st & 2nd ApologiesSt. Justin Martyr the First and Second Apologies, Leslie William Barnard, trans. Ancient Christian Writers, No. 56. Paulist Press, 1997. Hbk. ISBN: 0809104725. pp.211. {CBD} {Amazon.com}
Book or monograph Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Fathers of the Church, Vol. 3, Thomas B. Falls, translator. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2003. Hbk. ISBN: 081321341X. pp.256. {Amazon.com} A new translation with up-to-date bibliography.
Book or monograph The Writings of Justin Martyr Entries from Earliest Times to the Present DayJustin Martyr, The Writings of Justin Martyr Entries from Earliest Times to the Present Day. Broadman / Holman, 1998. Pbk. ISBN: 0805492208. pp.100. {Amazon.com}
Book or monograph A. Roberts & J. Donaldson, eds. "Justin Martyr," Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1980. Hbk. ISBN: 0802880878. pp.610. {Amazon.com}
Book or monograph A.L. Williams, translator, The Dialogue with Trypho. London: SPCK, 1930.

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Secondary Sources

On-line Resource David E. Aune, "Justin Martyr's use of the Old Testament," Bulletin of the Evangelical Theological Society 9.4 (Fall 1966): 179-197. View in PDF format [Reproduced by permission of the current copyright holder]
Article A. Baker, "Justin's Agraphon in the Dialogue with Trypho," Journal of Biblical Literature 87 (1968): 277-87.
Article L.W. Barnard, "Hadrian and Christianity," Church Quarterly Review 155 (1964): 277-89.
Article L.W. Barnard, "The Old Testament and Judaism in the Writings of Justin Martyr," Vetus Testamentum 14 (1964): 395-406.
Article L.W. Barnard, "Justin Martyr in Recent Study," Scottish Journal of Theology 22.2 (1969): 152-164.
Article L.W. Barnard, "The Logos Theology of St. Justin Martyr," Downside Review 89.295 (1971): 132-141.
Book or monograph A.J. Bellinzoni, The Sayings of Jesus in the Writings of Justin Martyr. Leiden: Brill, 1967.
Article D. Jeffrey Bingham, "Justin and Isaiah 53," Vigiliae Christianae 54.3 (2000): 248-261.
Article Gary Bisbee, "The Acts of Justin Martyr: A Form-Critical Study," Second Century 3.3 (1983): 129-157.
On-line Resource Eric F.F. Bishop, "Some Reflections on Justin Martyr and the Nativity Narratives [Luke 2]," The Evangelical Quarterly 39.1 (Jan.-Mar. 1967): 30-39.View in PDF format [All reasonable efforts have been made to contact the copyright holder of this article without success. If you hold the rights, please contact me]
Book or monograph A.W.F Blunt, The Apologies of Justin Martyr, Cambridge, 1911.
Article Daniel Boyarin, "Justin Martyr Invents Judaism," Church History 70.3 (2001): 427-461.
Article Anthony Buzzard, "Justin Martyr on Dying Souls Going to Heaven," Resurrection 97.2 (1994): 21-22.
Article Henry Chadwick, "Justin Martyr's Defence of Christianity," Bulletin of the John Ryland's Library, Vol. 47 (1965): 275-297.
Book or monograph Chadwick: Early Christian Thought and the Classical TraditionHenry Chadwick, Early Christian Thought and the Classical Tradition. Oxford: Clarendon, 1984. Pbk. ISBN: 0198266731. pp182.. {CBD} {Amazon.com}
Article Charles H. Cosgrove, "Justin Martyr and the Emerging Christian Canon: Observations on the Purpose and Destination of the Dialogue with Trypho," Vigiliae Christianae 36.3 (1982): 209-232.
Book or monograph F.L. Cross, The Early Christian Fathers. Studies in Theology 1. London: Gerald Duckworth & Co. Ltd., 1960. Hbk. pp.48-53.
On-line Resource D.M. Davey, "Justin Martyr and the Fourth Gospel," Scripture 17 (1965): 117-22. .View in PDF format [Reproduced by permission of the Catholic Biblical Association (UK)]
Article Arthur J. Droge, "Justin Martyr and the Restoration of Philosophy," Church History 56.3 (1987): 303-319.
On-line Resource Church, God, and Martyrdom, in Ignatius of Antioch and Justin Martyr (Martin Eastwood) View in PDF format
Article M.J. Edwards, "On the Platonic Schooling of Justin Martyr," Journal of Theological Studies 42.1 (1991): 17-34.
Article M.J. Edwards, "Justin's Logos and the Word of God," Journal of Early Christian Studies 3.3 (1995): 261-280.
Article M.S. Enslin, "Justin Martyr: An Appreciation," Jewish Quarterly Review 34 (1943-4): 179-205.
Article Arnold Ehrhardt, "Justin Martyr's Two Apologies," The Journal of Ecclesiastical History 4.1 (1953): 1-12.
Article Everett Ferguson, "Justin Martyr and the Liturgy," Restoration Quarterly 36.4 (1994): 267-278.
Book or monograph E.R. Goodenough [1893-1965], The Theology of Justin Martyr. Jena: Frommann, 1923.
Article Robert M. Grant, "A Woman Of Rome: The Matron In Justin, 2 Justin 2.1-9," Church History 54.4 (1985): 461-472.
Article Anthony J. Guerra, "The Conversion of Marcus Aurelius and Justin Martyr: The Purpose, Genre, and Content of the First Apology," Second Century 9.3 (1992): 171-187.
Article D.A. Hagner, "The Sayings of Jesus in the Apostolic Fathers and Justin Martyr," Gospel Perspectives 5 (1985): 233-68.
Article R. Heard, "The APOMNHMONEYMATA in Papias, Justin and Irenaeus," Bulletin of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas 1/2 (1954): 122-29.
Article A. J. B. Higgins, "Jewish Messianic Belief in Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho," Novum Testamentum 9 (1967):298-305.
Article Marc Hirshman, "Polemic Literary Units in the Classical Midrashim and Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho," Jewish Quarterly Review 83.3-4 (1993): 369-384.
Article R. Holte, "Logos Spermatikos: Christianity and Ancient Philosophy According to St. Justin's Apologies," Studia Theologica, Vol. 12 (1958): 109-168.
Book or monograph Timothy J. Horner, Listening to Trypho: Justin Martyr's Dialogue With Trypho Reconsidered. Contributions to Biblical Exegesis and Theology, 28. Peeters Publishers, 2002. Pbk. ISBN: 9042910402. pp.224. {Amazon.com}
Article G. Hulen, "Dialogue as a Source of Jewish anti-Christian Polemics," Journal of Biblical Literature (1932): 58-70.
Article T.G. Jalland, "Justin Martyr and the President of the Eucharist," Studia Patristica (1962): 83-85.
On-line Resource Justin Martyr, the First Outstanding Apologist of the Second Century ( Johnson Thomaskutty, Faculty of New Testament, Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India)
On-line Resource Justin Martyr (Peter Kirby)
Article P. Katz, "Justin's Old Testament Quotations and the Greek Dodekapropheton Scroll," Studia Patristica 1. Berlin, 1957. p.343.
On-line Resource Graham A. Keith, "Justin Martyr and Religious Exclusivism," Tyndale Bulletin 43.1 (1992): 57-80.View in PDF format
Article F. Kenyon, "The Date of the Apology of Justin Martyr," The Academy 49 (1896): 98f.
Article Leslie L. Kline, "Harmonized Sayings of JEsus in the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies and Justin Martyr," Zeitschrift für die neutesamentliche Wissenschaft 66.3/4 (1975): 223-241.
Book or monograph Benedict Kominiak, The Theophanies of the Old Testament in the Writings of St. Justin. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1948.
Article Gordon W. Lathrop, "Justin, Eucharist and 'Sacrifice': A Case of Metaphor," Worship 64.1 (1990): 30-48.
Article Andrew Louth & Veselin Kesich, "Review Essays: Recent Research on St. Maximus the Confessor: A Survey (Louth), and St. Justin Martyr: The First and Second Apologies (Kesich)," St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 42.1 (1998): 67-97.
Article J.E. Morgan-Wynne, "The Holy Spirit and the Christian Experience in Justin Martyr," Vigiliae Christianae 38.2 (1984): 172-177.
Article Charles Nahm, "The Debate on the 'Platonism' of Justin Martyr," Second Century 9.3 (1992): 129-151.
Article J. Nilson, "To Whom is Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypo Addressed," Theological Studies, Vol. 38 (1977): 538-546.
Book or monograph Eric Francis Osborn, Justin Martyr. Tübingen: Mohr, 1973. ISBN: 3161332628. pp.228. {Amazon.com}
Article W.L. Petersen, "Tatian's Dependence upon Justin's APOMNHMONEYMATA," New Testament Studies 36 (1990): 512-34.
Article O.A. Piper, "The Nature of the Gospel acc, to Justin Martyr," Journal of Religion 41 (1961): 155-68.
Article R.M. Price, "'Hellenization' and Logos Doctrine in Justin Martyr," Vigiliae Christianae 42.1 (1988): 18-23.
Article John W. Pryor, "Justin Martyr and the Fourth Gospel," Second Century 9 (1992): 153-169.
Book or monograph George T. Purves, The Testimony of Justin Martyr to Early Christianity. New York: A.D.F. Randolph & Co., 1889.
Article E.C. Ratcliff, "The Eucharistic Institution Narrative of Justin Martyr's First Apology," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 22.2 (1971): 97-102.
Article J.S. Romanides, "Justin Martyr and the Fourth Gospel," Greek Orthodox Theological Review 4 (1958-9): 115-34.
Article Michael Root, "Images of Liberation: Justin, Jesus, and the Jews," Thomist 48.4 (1984): 512-534.
Article H.P. Schneider, "Some Reflections on the Dialogue of Justin Martyr With Trypho," Scottish Journal of Theology 15 (1962): 164-175.
Book or monograph J.S. Sibinga, The Old Testament Text of Justin Martyr. Leiden: Brill, 1963.
Article O. Skarsaune, "The Conversion of Justin Martyr," Studia Theologica, Vol. 30 (1976): 53-73.
Book or monograph Oskar Skarsaune, The Proof from Prophecy: A Study in Justin Martyr's Proof Text Tradition Text-Type, Provenance, Theological Profile. Supplements to Novum Testamentum 56. Leiden: Brill, 1987. Hbk. ISBN: 9004074686. pp.505. {Amazon.com}
Book or monograph William A. Shotwell, The Biblical Exegesis of Justin Martyr. London: SPCK, 1965.
Article Hendrik F. Stander, "Is Justin Really a Bad Stylist?" Second Century 86, 5(4) (1986): 226-232.
Book or monograph Cullen I K. Story, The nature of Truth in 'The Gospel of Truth' and in the Writings of Justin Martyr: a Study of the Pattern of Orthodoxy in the Middle of the Second Christian Century. Novum Testamentum. Supplements 25. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1970. pp. xiv + 47.
Book or monograph Theodore Stylianopoulos, Justin Martyr and Mosiac Law. Missoula: Scholars, 1975. Pbk. ISBN: 089130018X. {Amazon.com}
On-line Resource Donald F. Hudson, "The Attitude of the Apologists to Non-Christian Religions," Indian Journal of Theology 6.1 (Jan.-Mar. 1957): 15-18. View in PDF format [Reproduced by permission of the current copyright holder]
Book or monograph Demetrius Christ Trakatellis, The Pre-Existence of Christ in Justin Martyr. Missoula: Scholars, 1976. Pbk. ISBN: 0891300988. {Amazon.com}
Demetrios Trakatellis, "Justin Martyr's Trypho," Harvard Theological Review 79.1-3 (1986): 289-297.
A. Craig Troxel, "All Things to All People: Justin Martyr's Apologetic Method," Fides et Historia 27.2 (1995): 23-43.
C.N. Tsirpanlis, "The Antichrist and the End of the World in Irenaeus, Justin, Hippolytus and Tertullian," Patristic and Byzantine Review 9 (1990): 5-17.
On-line Resource

William Varner, "In the wake of Trypho: Jewish-Christian dialogues in the third to sixth centuries," The Evangelical Quarterly 80.3 (July 2008): 219-236.View in PDF format [Reproduced by permission of the current copyright holder]

C.M. Watts "The Humanity of Jesus in Justin Martyr's Soteriology," Evangelical Quarterly 56 (1984): 21-33.
Book or monograph J.C.M. van Winden, An Early Christian Philosopher: Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho Chapters One to Nine. Leiden: Brill, 1971. Hbk. ISBN: 9004017321. {Amazon.com}
On-line Resource Prof. Francis Watson, "Have you not read…?" Christians, Jews and Scripture in Justin's Dialogue with Trypho . The Ethel M. Wood Lecture, University of London, 3 March 2005. View in PDF format
On-line Resource Craig M. Watts, "The Humanity of Jesus in Justin Martyr’s Soteriology," The Evangelical Quarterly 56.1 (Jan.-Mar. 1984): 21-34.View in PDF format [Reproduced by permission of the current copyright holder]
Rodney Werline, "The Transformation of Pauline Argument in Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho," Harvard Theological Review 92.1 (1999): 79-93.
Peter Widdicombe, "Justin Martyr and the Fatherhood of God," Laval Theologique et Philosophique 54.1 (1998): 109-126.
Peter Widdicombe, "The Wounds and the Ascended Body: The Marks of Crucifision in the Glorified Christ from Justin Martyr to John Calvin," Laval Theologique et Philosophique 59.1 (2003): 137-154.
On-line Resource David F. Wright, "Christian Faith in the Greek World: Justin Martyr's Testimony," The Evangelical Quarterly 54.2 (Apr.-June 1982): 77-87.View in PDF format [Reproduced by permission of the current copyright holder]

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Book or monograph L.W. Barnard, Justin Martyr, His Life and Thought. Cambridge: CUP, 1967. (Out of print).
On-line Resource Justin Martyr, Philosopher, Apologist, and Martyr (James E. Kiefer)
Book or monograph C.C. Martindale, Justin Martyr. London, 1921.
On-line Resource C.E. Stowe, "Sketch of Justin Martyr," Bibliotheca Sacra 9 No. 36 (1852): 821-831.View in PDF format [This material is in the Public Domain]

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