Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Justin Martyr: A.K.A. Apologist

Today is the commemoration of Justin Martyr (A.D. 100-165).  An appropriate moniker considering his life and work and death - by which he was a witness to the faith once and for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). The measure of a theologian and defender of the faith can hardly be grasped from narrow glimpses into his life and work such as we read from the LC-MS web site:

Born at the beginning of the second century, Justin was raised in a pagan family. He was student of philosophy who converted to the Christian faith and became a teacher in Ephesus and Rome. After refusing to make pagan sacrifices, he was arrested, tried and executed, along with six other believers. The official Roman court proceedings of his trial before Rusticius, a Roman prelate, document his confession of faith. The account of his martyrdom became a source of great encouragement to the early Christian community. Much of what we know of early liturgical practice comes from Justin.

The best way to familiarize yourself with Justin the apologist - or any other early church father/apologist - is simply to pick up the books and read for yourself.  C.S. Lewis was right when he said (in his introduction to On the Incarnation) that there really is nothing quite like reading the old books.  And before reading any new ones we should rub our fingers across the pages of Christian history in more than cursory fashion. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, this proves to be quite easy these days.  New Advent is a handy resource, from which I pulled the following little sample of his famous Dialogue With Trypho.  It's a marvelous work wherein he spends no short amount of time discussing the faith, refuting errors and making the case for Christianity from secular life to the Old Testament (Trypho was a Jew after all).  There wasn't much lacking from Justin's apologetic quiver.  May his work be a ready arrow for us this day as we commemorate his faithful apologia inscribed in antiquity through sainted blood and ink.

Justin: I excuse and forgive you, my friend, for you know not what you say, but have been persuaded by teachers who do not understand the Scriptures; and you speak, like a diviner, whatever comes into your mind. But if you are willing to listen to an account of Him, how we have not been deceived, and shall not cease to confess Him—although men's reproaches be heaped upon us, although the most terrible tyrant compel us to deny Him—I shall prove to you as you stand here that we have not believed empty fables, or words without any foundation but words filled with the Spirit of God, and big with power, and flourishing with grace. - Dialogue with Trypho, chapter 9.

Almighty and everlasting God, You found Your martyr Justin wandering from teacher to teacher, searching for the true God.  Grant that all who seek for a deeper knowledge of the sublime wisdom of Your eternal Word may be found by You, who, sent Your Son to seek and to save the lost; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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