Justin Martyr’s Second Apology

Justin’s Second Apology, while shorter than the first, offers no less food for thought than his first offering.  The brief time it would take to read this letter will more than reward the reader.

Justin begins again with the charge that Christians are unjustly condemned simply for bearing the name “Christians” while their upright lives are never taken into consideration.  He again appeals (this time to the Roman Senate) to common sense and justice in asking why it is permissible for the Christians to be persecuted thus while men who live wicked lives are celebrated by the Romans.  “But would that even now,” writes Justin, “some one would mount a lofty rostrum, and shout with a loud voice, ‘Be ashamed, be ashamed, ye who charge the guiltless with those deeds which yourselves openly commit, and ascribe things which apply to yourselves and your gods to those who have not even the slightest sympathy with them.  Be ye converted; become wise” (ch.12).

In a moving passage, Justin reveals that he “too, therefore, expect[s] to be plotted against and fixed to the stake” like so many of his brothers and sisters in Christ.  He scoffs at the charge, leveled by Crescens and others, that “the Christians are atheists.”

In this Apology, Justin further developes the idea of Christ (the Logos) as “the whole rational being” (ch.10).  In fact, the reason exercised by pre-Christian philosophers is itself attributed to Christ, for no man, according to Justin, has ever been able to use his reason except that Christ was “partially known” even by the pagans.  “For each man spoke,” Justin tells us, “well in proportion to the share he had of the spermatic word, seeing what was related to it” (ch.13).  This leads Justin to declare all truth as God’s truth, and thus the property of God’s people:  “Whatever things were rightly said among all men, are the property of us Christians” (ch.13).

As I say, this is a brief work, but not unimportant.  Justin’s thoughts on the nature of truth are especially worthy of consideration.

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