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marți, 11 septembrie 2012

A study of Justin Martyr, early Christian writer

Although Justin was born in Samaria, near Jacob’s well, he was a Gentile. After he died a martyr’s death, he became known as Justin Martyr. He lived from a.d.110 to 165. Although details of his education are not know, it is accepted that he was well educated simply because of his broad knowledge and writing expertise. Early in his life he seemed to have toyed with various philosophical systems but his tastes and perceptions led him to be a disciple of Socrates and Plato. But with his sense of probing, he became a staunch disciple of Jesus Christ

Justin was straightforward in his philosophy and his apologetics. His letters to the Roman leaders showed how false and hollow is all wisdom that is not meant for all humanity, and the force that works in the words of Jesus; he points out their regenerating power. It is the mission of Justin to lead the masses to the crucified Jesus.

The practical wisdom of Justin using the rhetoric of his times, and discomfiting false philosophy with its own weapons, is not appreciated by the fastidious. But the manly and heroic pleadings of the man, for a despised people with whom he had boldly identified himself are characteristics which every instinct of the soul delights. Justin cannot be refuted by a sneer.

Justin Martyr was born in Flavia Neapolis, a city of Samaria, the modern Nablous. The date of his birth is uncertain, but may be fixed about a.d. 114. His father and grandfather were probably of Roman origin. Before his conversion to Christianity he studied in the schools of the philosophers, searching after some knowledge which should satisfy the cravings of his soul. At last he became acquainted with Christianity, being at once impressed with the extraordinary fearlessness which the Christians displayed in the presence of death, and with the grandeur, stability, and truth of the teachings of the Old Testament. From this time he acted as an evangelist, taking every opportunity to proclaim the gospel as the only safe and certain philosophy, the only way to salvation. It is probable that he traveled much. We know that he was some time in Ephesus, and he must have lived for a considerable period in Rome. Probably he settled in Rome as a Christian teacher. While he was there, the philosophers, especially the Cynics, plotted against him, and he sealed his testimony to the truth by martyrdom. (Introduction to Justin Martyr writings)

Following are a few introductory remarks of some of Justin’s discourse to the Greeks. They are all well worth their reading time.

Justin justifies his departure from Greek Customs: Do not suppose, ye Greeks, that my separation from your customs is unreasonable and unthinking; for I found in them nothing that is holy or acceptable to God. For the very compositions of your poets are monuments of madness and intemperance.

The Greek Theogony Exposed: But since, next to Homer, Hesiod wrote his Works and Days, who will believe his drivelling theogony? For they say that Chronos, the son of Ouranos, in the beginning slew his father, and possessed himself of his rule; and that, being seized with a panic lest he should himself suffer in the same way, he preferred devouring his children; but that, by the craft of the Curetes, Jupiter was conveyed away and kept in secret, and afterwards bound his father with chains, and divided the empire; Jupiter receiving, as the story goes, the air, and Neptune the deep, and Pluto the portion of Hades.

Follies of the Greek mythology: For Hercules, celebrated by his three nights, sung by the poets for his successful labours, the son of Jupiter, who slew the lion and destroyed the many-headed hydra; who put to death the fierce and mighty boar, and was able to kill the fleet man-eating birds, and brought up from Hades the three-headed dog; who effectually cleansed the huge Augean building from its dung, and killed the bulls and the stag whose nostrils breathed fire, and plucked the golden fruit from the tree, and slew the poisonous serpent (and for some reason, which it is not lawful to utter, killed Achelous, and the guest-slaying Busiris), and crossed the mountains that he might get water which gave forth an articulate speech, as the story goes:

Shameless practices of the Greeks: And your public assemblies I have come to hate. For there are excessive banquetings, and subtle flutes which provoke to lustful movements, and useless and luxurious anointings, and crowning with garlands. With such a mass of evils do you banish shame; and ye fill your minds with them, and are carried away by intemperance, and indulge as a common practice in wicked and insane fornication.

Closing appeal: Henceforth, ye Greeks, come and partake of incomparable wisdom, and be instructed by the Divine Word, and acquaint yourselves with the King immortal; and do not recognise those men as heroes who slaughter whole nations. For our own Ruler, the Divine Word, who even now constantly aids us, does not desire strength of body and beauty of feature, nor yet the high spirit of earth's nobility, but a pure soul, fortified by holiness, and the watchwords of our King, holy actions, for through the Word power passes into the soul.

"Justin Martyr was a second century Christian apologist. His apology is dedicated to Emperor Antoninus, who ruled from 138-161. His apology may be dated internally from the statement in chapter 6 that "Christ was born one hundred and fifty years ago under Cyrenius." Since Quirinius entered office in the year 6 C.E. according to Josephus, the apology may be dated to the year 156 CE. (Ibid)

He engaged in debates and disputations with non-Christians of all varieties, pagans, Jews, and heretics. He opened a school of Christian philosophy and accepted students, first at Ephesus and then later at Rome. There he engaged the Cynic philosopher Crescens in debate, and soon after was arrested on the charge of practicing an anauthorized religion. (It is suggested that Crescens lost the debate and denounced Justin to the authorities out of spite.) He was tried before the Roman prefect Rusticus, refused to renounce Christianity, and was put to death by beheading along with six of his students, one of them a woman. A record of the trial, probably authentic, is preserved, known as The Acts of Justin the Martyr."

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