Brandon's Notepad

July 10, 2019

Justin Martyr’s First Apology

Filed under: Christianity,Religion — Brandon @ 4:05 pm

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This Second Century explanation of Christian belief was written as a plea to the Roman Emperor to end the unjust persecution of Christians in the realm. The chief charge against Christians was that of atheism, especially the refusal to make offerings to the Roman gods. Justin was a convert from Platonism (and several other Greek philosophies) and he used reason and logic to defend the Christian faith and prove that the charges were unwarranted. Found in this work are principles and practices still central to the Catholic faith today.


Justin (Iustinus) was born in Flavia Neapolis (Syria Palaestina) at the beginning of the Second Century, converted to Christianity in his early 30s, and was martyred for the faith in his mid-60s. This work has been dated around A.D 155


I chose to summarize this text by rewriting it in condensed and simplified language. The bracketed numbers indicate the transition between chapters as defined in the English Translation found at New Advent.

To Emperor Antoninus Pius, his sons, and the sacred Senate,

[1] I, Justin of Flavia Neapolis, present this petition on behalf of all who are unjustly hated and wantonly abused, myself included. [2] We ask that you, who are lovers of truth, judge us (Christians) based on an honest and thorough investigation and not on evil rumors, [3] for if any are found truly guilty after giving a testimony of their lives, then they should be punished, and if not, then it is only fair that they not be harmed, else the guilt be upon our judges. [4] A name alone is not an adequate basis for conviction or acquittal, for praise or punishment, yet the name “Christian” is being taken as proof against us. He who denies the name is acquitted and he who does not is punished, without any investigation into the deeds of either. All Christians are being accused based on the wickedness of a few, whereas those amongst your philosophers who are worthy of punishment themselves for these same crimes are instead praised. [5] If you would examine the charges made against us, you would know that we are not atheists at all. These accusations are the lies of demons masquerading as gods, about whom Socrates tried to issue a warning, yet he too was put to death as an atheist. [6] So, we are atheists with respect to those gods, but not with respect to the true God, who we adore (Father, Son and Spirit) and invite all to know. [7] Again, just as philosophers are called such regardless of their actual wisdom, some Christians are called such even if they are wicked; thus, we ask that each be judged and convicted on account of his own actions.

How then are you to recognize a Christian? [8] We know that we can deny the name and escape punishment, but we do not wish to live a lie, and in the end, dying for the name can only benefit us. For we believe (rightly or wrongly) that they who do God’s will are rewarded, and those who do not are punished eternally. [9] Christians do not worship idols, because they are just profane things shaped by evil men and to do so would be insulting to God who has ineffable glory and form. [10] We have been taught and we believe that God does not accept material offerings, but instead accepts those who imitate his virtues, for God created man on his own accord, and anyone who willfully chooses to do what is pleasing to God will be delivered from suffering and reign by his side. This is the message we desire all to hear and consider, yet we are set back by the accusations of demons. [11] Yes, Christians look for a kingdom yet to come, but not a human kingdom. [12] We also believe that it is impossible to hide from God and so choose to live good lives, and that should all men understand this, then none would choose wickedness even for a short time; therefore, Christians could be your valuable allies in keeping the peace. [13] Christians do not make offerings of blood, libations, or incense, but of thanksgiving in prayer and song for health, sustenance and salvation. We worship Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as well as the prophetic Spirit.

[14] Despite what our accuser demons have said to deceive you, we who once lived deeply in sin now live in accordance with the teachings of Jesus, which promote amongst other things [15] chastity, charity, [16] patience, honesty, not taking oaths, [17] obedience to civil authorities and paying taxes. This is because we believe that our lives will lead to eternal reward or punishment. [18] Death, should it truly be final, would benefit the wicked, but there are many known even to you who have professed that the souls of the departed persist. Show to us the same kindness, then, as we believe even more firmly in God than they do. All things are possible for God, and so we believe that we will receive our own bodies again after death, [19] an idea which should not seem any more impossible than the generation of human life as it occurs naturally. [20] These same (or similar) thoughts have been expressed by some of the poets and philosophers, so why then are we hated? [21] Likewise, what we claim regarding Christ — that he was begotten, crucified and died, rose from the dead, and ascended to Heaven — is not unlike what you believe about the Sons of Jupiter (save that Jupiter and his offspring are endowed with human weaknesses). [22] That he came to us through a peculiar birth and suffered a terrible death does not make him unique amongst the gods and heroes.

[23] We want you to understand these things about Christians. First, what we say is in accordance with the prophets of old (i.e. older than your writers) who spoke the truth. Second, Jesus Christ is the only Son of God who willfully became man and taught us so that the human race may be converted and restored. Third, before he came, demons (through the poets) spread rumors and lies about him, just as they have spread lies about us. [24] Others freely worship animals and other natural objects and do not even agree on which ones to worship, and yet we who often say similar things are wrongly executed for worshiping a different God than they do. [25] Though some of us once believed in the same gods as you, we have learned to despise them, and to pity those who still believe in them, because they have been deceived by devils. [26] Ever since Jesus ascended into Heaven, certain men have come forward claiming to be gods (and you did not persecute but honored them). There was Simon the Samaritan who performed mighty acts of magic in Rome (works of the devils within him), and he was called a god, and a statue near the Tiber was erected to his honor. Simon’s disciple, Menander performed magic in Antioch and persuaded many that they would never die. Marcion of Pontus is now teaching about a god greater than the Creator, causing many people to blaspheme and deny that God is the maker of this universe. These men and their followers are called Christians though they teach other things (much as those who disagree with the philosophers in their doctrines are often called philosophers as well), and we do not know if they commit the crimes of which we are accused, but we do know that they are not persecuted for them as we are who have not committed them. I have written a treatise against all the presently-known heresies, which I can provide if you would like to read it. [27] We have also been taught that infanticide (leaving babies exposed to the elements) is wicked [29] and doing so would make us murderers (for we marry only to have children, else we live continently). Moreover, nearly all of the babies who are left to die in this manner are gathered and raised to be prostitutes here and in every nation. You hire them and receive taxes from them when you should be banishing them. In pictures of your gods is often found a serpent, [28] which is the symbol of Satan, the prince of the wicked spirits, according to our writings. Jesus foretold that Satan and all who follow him will be eternally punished in everlasting fire. This punishment has been delayed by God only out of mercy for those who may still repent, even those yet to be born. God made men to be rational beings capable of choosing good; therefore, one who thinks that God does not care for these things either implies that God does not exist or asserts that God does not pay any regard to vice and virtue — or even that he delights in vice!

[30] What proof do we have that Jesus was not a magician like the men discussed above? Things that were prophesied about him have happened as predicted. [31] Jewish prophets, inspired by the Spirit, published their prophecies, which were preserved by the kings and eventually compiled into books in the Hebrew language. These books were later translated into Greek and sent to Egypt at the request of King Ptolemy. Though read by Jews everywhere, they do not understand the prophecies and have become our enemies, for the books foretell the entire life of Jesus and make clear that the Christ was not sent for the Jews alone. [32] It was Moses who first prophesied the coming of Jesus from the tribe of Judah, that he would be sought by all nations, and that he would enter his kingdom on a foal and endure a bloody passion. All of these things you can verify by inquiry. Isaiah was another who prophesied the same things in different ways, [33] and that he would be born of a virgin. These things were predicted by God through the Spirit so that when they came about, his people would recognize the Christ and believe. And when his coming was nigh, a messenger of God came to the virgin and foretold that her son would save his people from their sins, and this is why his name in Greek means Σωτήρ (Saviour). [34] Even the place his birth, Bethlehem in Judah, was foretold by another prophet, Micah, and this can be verified in the tax records registered under the rule of the first governor, Cyrenius. [35] It was also prophesied by Isaiah that Jesus would escape notice until he was a man and that he die upon a cross. The details in David’s foretelling of the crucifixion can be verified in the Acts of Pontius Pilate. Zephaniah, too, spoke of the foal. [40] The king and prophet David wrote extensively about the proclamation of Christ’s coming, and his goodness, and how kings would conspire against him, and how he will be victorious over all of his enemies, [41] and that he should be feared and praised for he reigns from the tree (cross). [45] David foretold of Christ’s ascension, and [47] Isaiah prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem, [48] the healing miracles of Jesus, the persecution and martyrdom of those who follow him, [49] the Jews’ rejection of him, [50] his humiliation, and [51] his majesty and might over his enemies. [46] Those who lived before Christ and lived reasonably can rightly be called Christians, whereas those who lived without reason were wicked and hostile to Christ. [52] And just as all of these prophecies have come to pass, so shall the ones that have not yet happened. For it has also been foretold that Christ will come into the world again in glory, giving immortality to the good and eternal punishment to the wicked. [53] And there are many other prophecies, but we find these persuasive enough for those who wish to understand and are not mere assertions without proof, like the fables about the Sons of Jupiter. Why would we choose to believe all of this ourselves without proof?

[36] It is important to hear the words of the prophets as if spoken by one voice, even if the words are attributed to different persons. The Jews did not understand this and thus did not recognize Christ when he came. [37] At times, the words are attributed to God the Father, [38] to the Son, [39] or directly to the Spirit himself. [42] Note also how the prophecies are sometimes stated in the past tense, as though they had already happened. [43] And lest our reliance on prophecy imply that we believe everything to be based on fate, it must be stated that our belief that reward or punishment is to be granted to each man based on the merit of his actions is predicated on the idea that each man has the free choice to avoid evil and do good. For if men by fate are either good or bad, then one could never be capable of being the other or to change his ways, and it would seem in the end that fate would actually be working against herself (unless virtue and vice have no objective meaning, which is an impious thought). No, the only inevitable thing is that reward and punishment is based on choice, and in this way did God create man uniquely. [44] The prophets teach the same, for Moses tells us that God presented a choice between good and evil to the first man and commanded him to do the good, and Isaiah proclaimed that those who willingly obey God will eat the good of the land but the disobedient will be devoured by the “sword” which is the everlasting fire. Plato said too that the blame belongs to he who chooses, but this he took from Moses who came before him. Indeed, anything that the philosophers and poets have said concerning the immortality of the soul came from the prophets. for the seeds of truth are found among all men, though they may not fully understand the truth and assert contradictions. God knows all that will be done by all men, and has made it known that rewards follow according to the merit of actions because he cares and provides for them; yet men are often forbidden under pain of death from learning the truth by those who wish to keep them enslaved. We not only read for ourselves, but present these truths to you with nothing to hide or fear, and if we win over only a few, it is still a gain.

[54] The unproven myths of the poets are the works of demons who influenced men to write about fantastic tales in an attempt to make the prophecies about Christ sound also like works of fiction. For example, the story of Bacchus, a Son of Jupiter, was fabricated in response to the prophecy of Moses, and of Perseus in response to Isaiah, and Hercules and Æsculapius to oppose other prophecies. [64] Likewise, the stories of the Daughters of Jupiter, such as Proserpine (also called Kore) and Minerva (called the first conception [ἔννοια]) have been fabricated in imitation of Moses. [55] They could not understand the crucifixion, however, so all references to it are symbolic. The form of the cross, for example, which resembles a man with arms outstretched, is ubiquitous in the world, as it appears in the masts of ships, in workmen’s tools, and even in the Roman standards. [56] This obfuscation of the prophecies was not enough, and the demons sent men (like the aforementioned Samaritans, Simon and Menander) to continue the work. [57] They also could not understand that Christ should be hidden after He came and could not convey the notion of eternal punishment, but only that the wicked should hate and kill us though we have no reason to hate them. [58] And so we now have heretics such as Marcion of Pontus in our midst. [59] As proof that the poets and philosophers borrowed ideas from Moses the prophet, consider the contributions attributed to Plato. The manner and materials used to create the world were described first by Moses. Also, the darkness that the Greeks call a god, Erebus, was derived from his story of creation. [60] Plato misunderstood the story of the bronze serpent and thus claimed that the second power (the Logos) was spread out crosswise in the universe. Likewise, reading about how the Spirit of God moved over the waters, he mentions a third power (the Spirit).

[63] How, then, did God appear to Moses? All Jews teach that God spoke to Moses through an angel in a burning bush, declaring that he was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But it was prophesied (even by Christ himself) that the Jews knew him not. Just as the Son of God was called (of old) the Word of God, he has also been called an Angel (because he has taken the appearance of an angel and of fire) as well as an Apostle (because he declares and reveals). The Jews did not recognize that Moses spoke, not to the Father, but to the Son in the burning bush. They do not recognize the Logos as the Son or that God even has a Son, nor was any of this revealed to them. But since the days of the prophets, the Son became a man by the will of God to suffer, die, and rise again so to conquer death and attain salvation for those who believe in him. From this we can reason that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, though dead, still exist and belong to Christ, for they were the first to search after God.

[61] It only seems fair to explain some of our practices, the first being the way in which we dedicate ourselves to God and are made new through Christ. All who believe begin with prayer and fasting (along with the community) for the forgiveness of their past sins. We then wash them in the water in the name of God, the Father, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. This idea that we must be born again was handed down to us by both Christ and the Prophets. [62] This practice of washing has been imitated by demons who require it in the temples, as well as the removal of shoes based on Moses’ account of the burning bush. [65] The brethren then gather and pray for the newly baptized person, and for the whole community of believers as well, that we, having accepted the truth (faith) and kept the commandments (works), may be saved eternally. After a holy kiss, the one presiding is given bread and a cup of wine mixed with water, and after giving a lengthy prayer of thanksgiving to which the people express assent by saying “Amen!” (γένοιτο; so be it), he distributes the bread and wine through the deacons, some of which is taken away to those who could not attend. [66] We call this food the Eucharist (Εὐχαριστία). It is reserved for those who believe, have been baptized, and live accordance with the teachings of Christ. And it is not common food, but is the very flesh and blood of Christ. (The demons have imitated this as well in the mysteries of Mithras.) [67] On Sundays, all believers who live nearby, from city or countryside, gather to listen to readings from the memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets for as long as time permits, after which the one presiding provides verbal instruction with regard to what they’ve heard, and then the whole assembly partakes of the Eucharist as described above. Those willing and able contribute to the care of orphans, widows, the sick and the suffering, the poor, prisoners, pilgrims and all who are in need. This large assembly is held on Sunday, because it is the first day of God’s creation and the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

[68] In conclusion, if these things we say sound reasonable to you, then please honor them. If not, you may consider then nonsense, but do not punish those who do believe them with death as though they were your enemies. Injustice will not be overlooked by God. Your father, Emperor Adrian, wrote in a letter that by his authority proper judgment could be demanded, yet we make this appeal to you and provide this explanation because we know that what we ask is just.


  • Antoninus Pius was Roman Emperor from A.D. 138 to 161, whose reign was notably peaceful.
  • Justin begins by naming his father and grandfather. All sources agree that from these names we know Justin belonged to a pagan family. Also, the town of his birth was a colony established by Rome.
  • Justin appeals to the truth, as the Emperor and his sons “are called pious and philosophers, guardians of justice and lovers of learning”.
  • In Chapter 3, Justin quotes an unnamed source, “Unless both rulers and ruled philosophize, it is impossible to make states blessed.”
  • Chapter 4 exposes the hypocrisy of the Romans for allowing philosophers to not only escape punishment but to receive honor for committing the same crimes of which the Christians were being accused, atheism and blasphemy being chief among them.
  • In Chapter 5, Justin personifies Reason (i.e. Logos) as the incarnate Jesus.
  • In Chapter 6, a direct reference to the Trinity is made.
  • Christian mercy and justice are illustrated in Chapter 7: “For we will not require that you punish our accusers; they being sufficiently punished by their present wickedness and ignorance of what is right.”
  • Salvation by both faith and works is described in Chapter 8: “For, impelled by the desire of [eternal] life, we…hasten to confess our faith, persuaded and convinced as we are that they who have proved to God by their works that they followed Him…can obtain these things.”
  • Plato claimed that Rhadamanthus and Minos (demigods of Hades) would punish the wicked for a thousand years.
  • In discussing idols, Justin notes that the craftsmen use inferior materials “often out of vessels of dishonour” and that they “are practised in every vice”. Compare this with the Christian iconographers who use pure and natural materials and paint in prayer.
  • Also concerning idolatry, Is 44:9-20 and Jer 10:3 are referenced.
  • “We have been taught…” The English text actually states, “But we have received by tradition…”
  • In Chapter 10, Justin emphatically states that willfull acts of believers (“choosing them by means of the rational faculties He has Himself endowed us with”) are proof of their devotion to God and thus lead to salvation. He also states that the demons take “as their ally the lust of wickedness which is in every man”.
  • The second direct reference to the Trinity is made in Chapter 13.
  • Chapters 15-17 convey the teachings of Jesus about several topics primarily by paraphrasing scripture. Most of the material comes from the latter portion of Matthew 5 (starting at around verse 22), with some lines from Chapters 6, 7, 13, 19 & 22, as well as a few lines from Mark and Luke. The lines are not presented in the same order as they appear in Scripture, as a block quote for example, but in line with Justin’s argument as applicable.
  • Chapter 19 gives insight into how the ancients viewed life. The living body is created from very basic material and can return to basic material, “dissolved…like seeds resolved into earth”. Thus, why should the resurrection of the body be hard to believe?
  • Per the Wikipedia article on Simon Magus, the statue of Simon the Magician that Justin said in Chapter 26 was erected in Rome was discovered in the 16th Century, and the inscription that reportedly read Simoni Deo Sancto (Simon the holy God) actually read Semo Sancus, and was therefore not a reference to Simon at all, but to an older diety.
  • In Chapter 27, several details about Roman immorality are provided that would be superfluous here.
  • In Chapter 28, Justin makes a logical connection between the creation of man with rational powers who can choose to do good and the delay in God’s wrath against the powers of evil, so that every man — even those not yet born — has an opportunity to repent. This belief of the early Christians seems to contradict the concept of predestination, at least in the Calvinist sense.
  • The summary of Chapter 29 has been moved in between Chapters 27 & 28, and both the story of the youth who petitioned permission from Felix the Governor to become a eunuch as well as the reference to Antinous have been omitted for better continuity.
  • Infanticide is explicitly called murder in Chapter 29.
  • EDITORIAL NOTE: Chapters 31 through 60, 63 and 64 constitute a treatise on how the prophecies about Jesus provide enough evidence to warrant belief. Specific references to the prophecies of Moses, David, Isaiah, and others are made in order to show that what they claimed about the coming Christ had actually happened as predicted. It is important to note that because Justin’s explanation is lengthy and layered, I have rearranged the summarized material into a more logical sequence. This isn’t to say that Justin’s message is flawed, but that in shortened form, the narrative would sound very disjointed if the original order were to be followed exactly. The reorganization yielded four topical paragraphs: (1) Specific prophecies about Christ in Jewish literature, (2) notes on the nature, style, and interpretation of Jewish prophecy, (3) the work of demons to undermine and circumvent the prophecies, and (4) the manner in which God spoke to Moses.
  • In Chapter 31 we are given examples of how Sacred Scripture was inspired by the Spirit and preserved by men.
  • The English translation uses the work “predict” a lot in the chapters about Jewish prophecy. It is good to keep in mind the etymology of that word (pre- “beforehand” + dicere “to say”), because modern usage of the word connotes that the person making the prediction does so either by their own power or by the power of some supernatural force, but not typically by the power of God.
  • In Chpater 32, prophecies by Moses (Gn 49:10) & Isaiah (Is 11:1) are fulfilled by the foal on Palm Sunday and the bloody passion; also destruction of the temple is mentioned.
  • Chapter 33 Scripture references: Isaiah 7:14, Luke 1:32; Matthew 1:21
  • Chapter 34 Scripture references: Micah 5:2
  • Chapter 35 Scripture references: Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 65:2, Isaiah 58:2, psalm ?, Zechariah 9:9
  • In chapter 35, Justin cites the Acts of Pontius Pilate as a source. It can be found in the Apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus
  • In chapters 37-39, Justin illustrates how the words of prophecy can be attributed to different persons (Father, Son, Spirit) by providing excerpts from Isaiah.
  • Chapter 40-41 Scripture references: Psalm 18:1-6, Psalms 1 & 2, Psalm 95
  • Chapter 43 is a testimony regarding free will, responsibility/accountability for one’s actions, and control over one’s own salvation, and a denial of predestined fate.
  • Chapter 44 quotes Isaiah 1:16; the Oracles of Hystaspes & Sibyl & the Prophets forbidden by a law successfully established through men by demons.
  • Chapter 45 quotes Psalm 109 (110); Justin again claims that death is no harm to the Christians and that the unjust hate of the Romans will bring upon them eternal punishment.
  • Chapter 47-51 Scripture references: Is 64:10-12; Is 1:7; Is 35:6; Is 57:1; Is 65:1-3; Is 5:20; Is 52:13-15, Is 53:1-8; Isaiah 53:8-12; Ps 23 (24): 7-8; Daniel 7:13; also a second citation of the Acts of Pontius Pilate
  • Chapter 52 Scripture references: Ezekiel 37:7-8; Isaiah 45:24; Isaiah 66:24; there is a reference to Zechariah in Chapter 52 but cant identify the passage exactly
  • Chapter 53 Scripture references: Isaiah 54:1; Isaiah 1:9
  • Chapter 54 Scripture references: Genesis 49:10
  • Chapter 55, Roman standards: vexilla
  • In Chpater 56, Justin asks the emperor to destroy the statue of Simon.
  • In Chpater 57, Justin re-emphasizes that the Christians do not fear death, and those who have them killed “that we may be deprived of life and pleasure” would do well to learn the Christian doctrines and gain eternal life.
  • Chapter 59-560 Scripture references: Gn 1; Deut 32:22; Numbers 21:8
  • In Chapter 60, the physiology of the Son of God came from the Timæus of Plato.
  • Chapter 61 Scripture references: John 3:5, Isaiah 1:16-20
  • In Chapter 61, Justin explains the reason for baptism as handed down from the Apostles. He states that man is born “without our own knowledge or choice” and raised with “bad habits and wicked training”; thus, baptismal washing allows willful penitents to “become the children of choice and knowledge” and to be forgiven past sins. This does call into question the practice of infant baptism, though Justin does not even mention it, much less explicitly condemn it. He also states that baptism is also called “illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings”, which sounds somewhat Gnostic (though according to theologian Marcellino D’Ambrosio, this chapter is included in the Office of Readings).
  • Chapter 63 Scripture references: Isaiah 1:3, Matthew 11:27, Exodus 3:6, Luke 10:16
  • Chapter 64 mentions two Daughters of Jupiter. Proserpine was called Persephone in Greek mythology and was abducted by and eventually married Hades, king of the underworld. Minerva was called ἔννοια/énnoia, which means to consider or reflect upon, and Justin claims that her myth arose from Moses’ writing that the Word (the Logos, the very thought of God that is God) was present at the creation of the world.
  • Chapters 65-67 describe the Mass. Believers gather in prayer of petition, they share a kiss of peace, sacrificial gifts of bread and diluted wine are given to the “president” (one presiding) who prays a prayer of thanksgiving over them in the name of the Trinity, there is a great Amen!, the gifts are distributed to the people by the servers (deacons; no indication of sacramental orders here) to eat, and some is taken to those who were absent (still a common practice today). The Eucharist was reserved for those who believed the same thing as the community, who had been baptized and who lived according to Christ’s commandments; though Justin does not use any sort of technical language here, such as “free from mortal sin” (or even “remaining in the friendship of Christ”), it is obvious that the same meaning is intended, that the person partaking of the Eucharist is not working against the will of God or the teachings of Christ. The notion that the bread and wine are the very body and blood of Jesus is stated explicitly. Luke 22:19 Chapter 67 notes that readings of Scripture and a sermon based upon them were part of the Eucharistic celebration on Sundays, as well as an offertory collection to support widows, orphans, and others in need.

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