Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

St. Justin Martyr: He Considered Christianity the "True Philosophy"
Zenit News Agency ^ | March 21, 2007 | Benedict XVI

Posted on 03/21/2007 7:55:03 PM PDT by ELS

On St. Justin Martyr

He Considered Christianity the "True Philosophy"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 21, 2007 ( Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave at the general audience today in St. Peter's Square. The reflection focused on St. Justin Martyr.

* * *

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

With these catecheses we are reflecting on the great figures of the early Church. Today, we will talk about St. Justin, philosopher and martyr, the most important among the apologist fathers of the second century.

The term "apologist" refers to those ancient Christian writers who wanted to defend the new religion from the weighty accusations of the pagans and the Jews, and to spread Christian doctrine in terms understandable for the times.

Thus, the apologists have a twofold objective: the properly apologetic one, that is, to defend newborn Christianity (in fact, the Greek word "apologhía" means defend); and the "missionary" objective, which seeks to explain the faith using language and ideas which were understandable to their contemporaries.

Justin was born around the year 100, near the ancient city of Sichem, in Samaria, in the Holy Land. For a long time he searched for truth, passing through the various schools of traditional Greek philosophy.

Finally -- as he himself tells in the first chapters of his "Dialogue with Trypho" -- a mysterious person, an old man he met on the beach, initially unsettles Justin by showing him that it is impossible for the human person to satisfy the desire for the divine with human strengths alone.

Then, this man pointed to the ancient prophets as the ones who could show Justin the path to God and "true philosophy." Before leaving, the old man exhorts him to pray so that the doors of light would be opened to him.

The story symbolizes a crucial moment in Justin's life: At the end of a long philosophical journey in search of truth, he comes to find Christianity. He then founded a school in Rome, where, for free, he initiated his students into the new religion, which he considered the true philosophy.

In this religion, in fact, he had found the truth and, therefore, the way to live uprightly. Because of this he was denounced and decapitated around the year 165, under the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the emperor-philosopher to whom Justin had dedicated an "Apologia."

His two "Apologies" and the "Dialogue with Trypho" are the only works of his still in existence. In them, Justin aims above all to show the divine projects of creation and of salvation brought about by Christ, the "Logos," that is, the eternal Word, eternal Reason, creative Reason.

Every person, as a rational creature, participates in the "Logos," carrying within himself a "seed," and can perceive glimmers of truth. In this way, the same "Logos," who had revealed himself as a prophetic image to the Jews in the Old Covenant, had also partially revealed himself, as with "seeds of truth," in Greek philosophy.

Thus, Justin concludes, given that Christianity is a historical and personal manifestation of the "Logos" in its entirety, "all that is beautiful which has been expressed by anyone, belongs to us Christians" (II Apologia 13,4). In this way, Justin, even while contesting Greek philosophy for its contradictions, decidedly directs any philosophical truth toward the "Logos," justifying from a rational viewpoint the unusual "pretension" of truth and the universality of the Christian religion.

If the Old Testament tends toward Christ in the same way that a figure tends toward the reality which it represents, Greek philosophy also tends toward Christ and the Gospel, just as a part tends toward union with the whole.

And he says that these two realities, the Old Testament and Greek philosophy, are like two roads leading to Christ, to the "Logos." This is why Greek philosophy cannot be opposed to evangelical truth, and Christians may confidently draw from it, as if it was their own possession. This is why my venerable predecessor, Pope John Paul II, defined Justin as a "pioneer of a positive engagement with philosophical thinking -- albeit with cautious discernment. Although he continued to hold Greek philosophy in high esteem after his conversion, Justin claimed with power and clarity that he had found in Christianity 'the only sure and profitable philosophy,' ("Dialogue with Trypho" 8,1)" ("Fides et Ratio," No. 38).

On the whole, the person and the work of Justin mark the ancient Church's decisive option for philosophy, because of reason, instead of pagan religions. In fact, the first Christians refused any compromise with the pagan religion. They considered it idolatry, even at the cost of being accused as "impious" and "atheists." In particular and especially in his first "Apology," Justin harshly criticized the pagan religion and its myths, which he considered diabolical "disorientations" on the path to truth.

Instead, philosophy represented the privileged meeting place for paganism, Judaism and Christianity, precisely at the level of critiquing the pagan religion and its false myths.

Another apologist, Justin's contemporary, Bishop Melito of Sardis, defined the new religion as "our philosophy …" ("Hist. Eccl." 4,26,7).

In fact, the pagan religion did not walk along the path of the "Logos," but insisted on following its myths even if recognized by Greek philosophy as inconsistent with the truth. Therefore, the fall of the pagan religion was inevitable: It was the logical consequence of detaching religion from the truth of things, reducing it to a fake collection of ceremonies, traditions and customs.

Justin, and with him other apologists, took the position of the Christian faith as the God of the philosophers instead of the false gods of the pagan religion. It was a choice for the truth of being versus the myth of traditions. Some decades after Justin, Tertullian defined the same option of the Christians with a perennially valid phrase: "Dominus noster Christus veritatem se, non consuetudinem, cognominavit -- Christ said he was the truth, not the tradition" ("De virgin. vel." 1,1).

Note that the term "consuetudo," used here by Tertullian with reference to the pagan religion, may be translated in modern languages with expressions like "cultural fashions" or "fads."

In an era such as ours, marked by relativism in the debate on values and on religion -- as well as in interreligious dialogue -- this is a lesson that should not be forgotten. With this objective, and here I'll conclude, I again present to you the words of the mysterious old man that Justin found by the sea: "You, above all, pray that the doors of light will be opened for you. For, no one can see nor understand if God and his Christ do not give him understanding" ("Dial." 7,3).

[Translation by ZENIT]

[After the audience, Benedict XVI greeted visitors in various languages. In English, he said:]

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Continuing our catechesis on the Fathers of the Early Church, we consider today St. Justin, Philosopher and Martyr. St. Justin was born in Samaria, Palestine, around the year 100 (one hundred). During his youth he ardently sought the truth. After a meeting with an old man, who directed him to prayer and the study of the prophets, the St. converted to Christianity. He eventually established a school in Rome where he taught the new religion; he was denounced as a Christian and decapitated in the year 165 (one sixty five). Of his written works only his two Apologies and his Dialogue with Trypho remain. These emphasize God's project of Creation and Salvation which find fulfillment in Jesus Christ, who is the Logos or Word of God. Before the birth of Christ the Logos allowed men and women to come to know part of the truth about God and man. The full truth, however, has been given to Christians with the Incarnation of the Word of God. Our dialogue with philosophy and other religions, inspired by St. Justin, must remain firmly rooted in Truth, while always avoiding that which is merely fashionable.

I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking visitors present at today's audience. I extend particular greetings to the students from the American Taipei School, to the members of the Shinto religious delegation from Japan and to the pilgrims from St. Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe. May this Lenten season purify your hearts and fill you with joy, and may God bless you all!

© Copyright 2007 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

TOPICS: Catholic; Current Events; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: generalaudience; popebenedictxvi; stjustinmartyr; vatican

A nun smiles during Pope Benedict XVI's weekly general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican March 21, 2007(Alessia Giuliani/CPP)

Pope Benedict XVI prays as he leads his weekly general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican March 21, 2007. (Alessia Giuliani/CPP)

U.S. boxing promoter Don King waves during Pope Benedict XVI's weekly general audience in Saint Peter's Square at the Vatican March 21, 2007. (Alessia Giuliani/CPP)
1 posted on 03/21/2007 7:55:05 PM PDT by ELS
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

Recent catecheses on the Early Church Fathers:
On St. Clement of Rome -The Church Has a Sacramental, Not Political Structure (March 7, 2007)
Truly a Doctor of Unity (St. Ignatius of Antioch) (March 14, 2007)
2 posted on 03/21/2007 7:56:43 PM PDT by ELS (Vivat Benedictus XVI!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: clockwise; bornacatholic; Miss Marple; bboop; PandaRosaMishima; Carolina; MillerCreek; ...
Weekly audience ping!

Please let me know if you want to be on or off this list.

3 posted on 03/21/2007 7:58:11 PM PDT by ELS (Vivat Benedictus XVI!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

Again, thank you so much for the ping to the Holy Father's teaching. ... "Dominus noster Christus veritatem se, non consuetudinem, cognominavit -- Christ said he was the truth, not the tradition" ("De virgin. vel." 1,1). Men alter and construct traditions; The TRUTH is unchanged though preceived more fully at some times.
4 posted on 03/21/2007 8:12:21 PM PDT by MHGinTN (If you've had life support. Promote life support for others.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: ELS; Lady In Blue; Salvation; narses; SMEDLEYBUTLER; redhead; Notwithstanding; nickcarraway; ...

Thank you for the post and those wonderful pictures.

5 posted on 03/22/2007 12:10:50 AM PDT by NYer ("Where the bishop is present, there is the Catholic Church" - Ignatius of Antioch)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: NYer

St. Justin and Don King,...forever linked in Salvation History,...and only in this thread. ;-)

Thanks for the (ping)

6 posted on 03/22/2007 1:02:01 AM PDT by incredulous joe ("If there were no God, there would be no atheists." - G.K. Chesterton)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 5 | View Replies]

St. Justin is the earliest Church authority who articulated the eucharistic nature of the Divine Liturgy:

Chapter 65. Administration of the sacraments.

But we, after we have thus washed him who has been convinced and has assented to our teaching, bring him to the place where those who are called brethren are assembled, in order that we may offer hearty prayers in common for ourselves and for the baptized [illuminated] person, and for all others in every place, that we may be counted worthy, now that we have learned the truth, by our works also to be found good citizens and keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation. Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen answers in the Hebrew language to genoito [so be it]. And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.

Chapter 66. Of the Eucharist.

And this food is called among us eucharistia [the Eucharist], of which no one is allowed to partake but the man who believes that the things which we teach are true, and who has been washed with the washing that is for the remission of sins, and unto regeneration, and who is so living as Christ has enjoined. For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh. For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, "This do in remembrance of Me, Luke 22:19 this is My body;" and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, "This is My blood;" and gave it to them alone. Which the wicked devils have imitated in the mysteries of Mithras, commanding the same thing to be done. For, that bread and a cup of water are placed with certain incantations in the mystic rites of one who is being initiated, you either know or can learn.

Chapter 67. Weekly worship of the Christians.

And we afterwards continually remind each other of these things. And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost. And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need. But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead. For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration.

The First Apology

He also left us a clear foundation of mariology:

Chapter 100. In what sense Christ is [called] Jacob, and Israel, and Son of Man.

"Then what follows —'But You, the praise of Israel, inhabitest the holy place'—declared that He is to do something worthy of praise and wonderment, being about to rise again from the dead on the third day after the crucifixion; and this He has obtained from the Father. For I have showed already that Christ is called both Jacob and Israel; and I have proved that it is not in the blessing of Joseph and Judah alone that what relates to Him was proclaimed mysteriously, but also in the Gospel it is written that He said: 'All things are delivered unto me by My Father;' and, 'No man knows the Father but the Son; nor the Son but the Father, and they to whom the Son will reveal Him.' Matthew 11:27 Accordingly He revealed to us all that we have perceived by His grace out of the Scriptures, so that we know Him to be the first-begotten of God, and to be before all creatures; likewise to be the Son of the patriarchs, since He assumed flesh by the Virgin of their family, and submitted to become a man without comeliness, dishonoured, and subject to suffering. Hence, also, among His words He said, when He was discoursing about His future sufferings: 'The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the Pharisees and Scribes, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.' Matthew 16:21 He said then that He was the Son of man, either because of His birth by the Virgin, who was, as I said, of the family of David and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham; or because Adam was the father both of Himself and of those who have been first enumerated from whom Mary derives her descent. For we know that the fathers of women are the fathers likewise of those children whom their daughters bear. For [Christ] called one of His disciples— previously known by the name of Simon—Peter; since he recognised Him to be Christ the Son of God, by the revelation of His Father: and since we find it recorded in the memoirs of His apostles that He is the Son of God, and since we call Him the Son, we have understood that He proceeded before all creatures from the Father by His power and will (for He is addressed in the writings of the prophets in one way or another as Wisdom, and the Day, and the East, and a Sword, and a Stone, and a Rod, and Jacob, and Israel); and that He became man by the Virgin, in order that the disobedience which proceeded from the serpent might receive its destruction in the same manner in which it derived its origin. For Eve, who was a virgin and undefiled, having conceived the word of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy, when the angel Gabriel announced the good tidings to her that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her: wherefore also the Holy Thing begotten of her is the Son of God; and she replied, 'Be it unto me according to your word.' " Luke 1:38 And by her has He been born, to whom we have proved so many Scriptures refer, and by whom God destroys both the serpent and those angels and men who are like him; but works deliverance from death to those who repent of their wickedness and believe upon Him.

Dialogue with Trypho (Chapters 48-108)

Do not let anyone fool you. The Church of 2c was as Catholic as your Rosary beads.

7 posted on 03/22/2007 3:42:29 PM PDT by annalex
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: annalex
Thank you for the links to St. Justin's writings.

His two "Apologies" and the "Dialogue with Trypho" are the only works of his still in existence.

Here is St. Justin's Second Apology.

8 posted on 03/22/2007 4:36:52 PM PDT by ELS (Vivat Benedictus XVI!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

American Catholic’s Saint of the Day

June 1, 2007
St. Justin
(d. 165)

Justin never ended his quest for religious truth even when he converted to Christianity after years of studying various pagan philosophies.

As a young man, he was principally attracted to the school of Plato. However, he found that the Christian religion answered the great questions about life and existence better than the philosophers.

Upon his conversion he continued to wear the philosopher's mantle, and became the first Christian philosopher. He combined the Christian religion with the best elements in Greek philosophy. In his view, philosophy was a pedagogue of Christ, an educator that was to lead one to Christ.

Justin is known as an apologist, one who defends in writing the Christian religion against the attacks and misunderstandings of the pagans. Two of his so-called apologies have come down to us; they are addressed to the Roman emperor and to the Senate.

For his staunch adherence to the Christian religion, Justin was beheaded in Rome in 165.


As patron of philosophers, Justin may inspire us to use our natural powers (especially our power to know and understand) in the service of Christ and to build up the Christian life within us. Since we are prone to error, especially in reference to the deep questions concerning life and existence, we should also be willing to correct and check our natural thinking in light of religious truth. Thus we will be able to say with the learned saints of the Church: I believe in order to understand, and I understand in order to believe.


"Philosophy is the knowledge of that which exists, and a clear understanding of the truth; and happiness is the reward of such knowledge and understanding" (Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, 3).

9 posted on 06/01/2007 8:09:54 AM PDT by Salvation (†With God all things are possible.†)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson