Justin was born to pagan parents in Samaria. He spent some years exploring various philosophical schools, looking for the truth about life, but found most teachers shallow and unconvincing. In the philosophy of Plato, however, he found a basic framework of understanding. Then about 135 at Ephesus, he was introduced to Christianity and remarked, “This is the only really reliable and useful philosophy I have found.”
Fifteen years later Justin was teaching in Rome, and it is there that the three works for which he is remembered were published. He is rightly the first Christian Apologist (Verbal and written defender of Christianity). The Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, is set in Ephesus and is a long work defending the church against Jewish accusations of distorting the Old Testament. Justin, in common with many Christians of the day, sees the Old Testament as foreshadowing the events of the New. His First Apology, is addressed to the emperor Antoninus Pius, about 155, and his Second Apology, is addressed to the Roman Senate, about 161.
Most earlier defences of Christianity had relied on simple assertions of blameless lives and harmless beliefs. However, Justin makes connections with widespread Greek philosophical ideas about the universe as a whole, notably in the concept of the “Logos” (“word” or “reason”) that shapes the rational world, linking it with Christ as the Word of God. He therefore can also be counted as the first theologian. Justin argues that the state has nothing to fear from Christians. In his defence of the exemplary character of Christians and of their practices, Justin also gives us insights into early Christian worship practices, baptism and the Eucharist (Communion).
Justin and others were denounced to the authorities, according to one source, by Crescens the Cynic philosopher. They refused to make the customary gesture of allegiance to the emperor by participating in the pagan religious rites. Justin was a straightforward person, who had the courage to hold to his convictions at the cost of his life. He was executed about 165, along with six other Christians.
BORN: 100 AD, Samaria
DIED: 165 AD, Rome, Italy