Analytical Paper: Justin Martyr, First Apology

Categories: Apology
About this essay

Justin Martyr was the Greek apologist of Christianity who lived in the 2nd c. A. D. He was famous for his two Apologies (the First Apology dates back to about A. D. 155, rediscovered in 1364 ), and the Dialogue with Trypho. Both Chadwick and Richardson called him one of the most prominent advocates of Christian faith due to the most genuine spirit and voluminosity. The First Apology is addressed to the emperor Antoninus Pius and his confidants.

The eloquent speech, which sometimes resembles of Platonic dialogues or defensive declaration in classic court, explains to the hostile prevailing authorities the foundations of Christian theology from the point of a true believer.

As Richardson noted, the work was not recklessly structured, so far as it was difficult for commentators “to find a clear outline. ” There is a scheme of the Apology given in chapter 23, though it “is hard to follow through in detail. ” However, Richardson observed a distinctive rhetorical scheme consisting of seven themes: Plea for a Fair Hearing (chs.

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1 to 8), The Faith and Life of Christians (chs. 9 to 20), Superiority of Christianity to Paganism (chs. 21 to 29), The Argument from Prophecy (chs. 30 to 53), Paganism an Imitation of Christianity (chs. 54 to 60), Christian Worship (chs. 61 to 67), and Conclusion (ch. 68) (1953, 236). Thus, the First Apology topically consists of the appeal to the Pagan Emperors who used to prosecute early Christians, the description of Christian theological position, the comparison of Pagan and Christian faiths, the overview of Biblical prophecies in regard to Jesus Christ, the account of Christian traditions (Eucharist, prays, etc.

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) and the summary of previous argumentations.

Justin addressed the Emperor and his relatives as philosophers and lovers of culture in the name of people regardless of nationality being “unjustly hated and reviled” for their faith. The apologist evidently held the hearers for humans being able to follow reason. More than that, Justin Martyr called for the high reputation of the Emperor as the pillar of justice who could not send a criminal to death before conviction but, nevertheless, illogically did not pause to murder Christians. The author swept aside the suspicions that he would flatter higher authorities, or try to seek their indulgent protection.

Instead, Justin suggested that the listeners should voluntary “give judgment according to strict and exact inquiry” without “prejudice or respect for superstitious men, or by irrational impulse and long-established evil rumor. ” No doubt that the author built his argument as if he was a solicitor speaking before the trial jury. In evidence of his firm and sincere position of a Christian, he exclaimed, For we are firmly convinced that we can suffer no evil unless we are proved to be evildoers or shown to be criminals. You can kill us, but cannot do us any real harm.

Justin’s discourse is founded on the concept of reason and truth. He juxtaposed the negative rule of custom to the positive guidance of truth. The apologist’s conceptualization of truth linked to the one of justice even at the cost of life, as well as to the most perfect embodiment of Reason, God. Justin warned his audience, “if those who learn [the truth] do not do what is right, they have no defense before God. ” Chadwick stated that, according to the apologist, “the gospel and the best elements in Plato and the Stoics are almost identical ways of apprehending the same truth.

” It seems to be true that Justin did not afraid to appellate to the authority of pagan philosophers, Plato and Socrates. The latter “made the race of men endowed with intelligence, able to choose the truth and do right, so that all men are without excuse before God, for they were made with the powers of reason and observation. ” He was executed for denouncing the power of evil demons who seduced humans and made them act wickedly. Justin found that there were parallels between the Stoics’ catastrophic comprehension of the world and “the eschatological fire of God’s judgement.

” Still, the Christian spirit proclaimed by Justin is closer to Plato’s teaching. For example, in regard to death and martyrdom the apologist seemed to echo the Greek philosopher in the utterance, “we are not troubled by being put to death, since we will have to die somehow in any case. ” The Christian idea of eternal punishment for sinners and salvation for true and virtuous believers, when “the souls of the unrighteous will be punished after death, still remaining in conscious existence, and those of the virtuous, delivered from punishments, will enjoy happiness,” also seems to correspond with Plato’s ideas.

It looks as if Justin assigned both philosophers and the prophets of the Old Testament to the one and the same position. He argued that Plato in his saying that, “The blame belongs to him who chooses, and God is free from blame,” sounded like the prophet Moses. The concept of Divinity as bodiless and formless substance having created the Universe traveled from one philosophic mind to another. Justin seemed to view the role of the Old Testament prophets in paving the road to the descending of Jesus Christ to people to redeem them of sins and evil.

Justin wrote, “There were among the Jews certain men who were prophets of God, through whom the prophetic Spirit announced in advance events that were to occur. ” One may assume that the apologist had knowledge of human psychology and community behavior. He assumed that “God testified in advance through the prophetic Spirit that things which are unbelievable and thought impossible among men would happen, so that when this should occur it would not be disbelieved, but received with faith because it had been predicted.

” Citing the Bible, Justin analyzed the evidence from the Old Testament in regard to the events of the New Testament. He stated further that there were even more events to have been predicted by ancient prophets and there would be the second epiphany of Christ to Earth. Justin Martyr was a pioneer in underlining the Christian emphasis on spirit and dismissing human flesh as the driving cause for any acts and events. According to him, Christians were outstanding in their “longing for the life which is eternal and pure.

” When the writer compared the pagan tradition of portraying gods as the objects of craft, he stressed that it was disgusting because of craftsmen’s licentious habits. He recalled ancient accounts of pagan gods living material life in contrast to Christian God who “has no need of material offerings from men, considering that he is the provider of all. ” It is interesting to observe how Justin tried to build the hierarchy of three Christian deities: the Father, the Son and the Spirit. He made his best to explain that Christians honored Jesus as occupying the second place in the system, whereas the prophetic Spirit was in the third rank.

He dwelt in details on the teaching of Jesus where people were taught to love and trust each other, live in purity and clarity of thought and deed. That formed a sharp contrast to the pagan traditions of prostitution, greed, lust and wilderness. Justin put Christianity superior to Paganism because Christian God let believers “not to consume by fire the things he has made for our nourishment, but to devote them to our use and those in need, in thankfulness to him sending up solemn prayers and hymns for our creation.

” Christian God pursued the genuine truth and did not enjoy prejudices and human blindness in referencing to the truth. Involuntary, Justin sometimes made similar Christian and Pagan deities. However, he immediately tried to explain those analogies “as imitations of the truth inspired by the devil, who with foresight and sagacity has thereby tried to inoculate men against the gospel by caricatures of the Incarnation or of the virgin birth or of baptism and the eucharist. ” What is the use of Justin’s First Apology in the Roman and modern period?

First, he addressed plain people who craved after the main idea for their lives. Second, he integrated the new teaching in the sequence of human thought to change the outliving mode of political and spiritual life. Third, he was “utterly frank and open-hearted” in describing the emerging faith. So far as his theological contribution is concerned, Justin was artful enough “to piece together a mosaic providing a clear and surprisingly full account of his doctrines of God, Creation, Incarnation, Atonement, the Church, the sacraments of baptism and eucharist, and the Last Things.

” Richardson admitted in his turn that Justin Martyr stood apart from other apologists in his warm and human tone: “Most of the other Apologists lead their reader to the door of the church […] while Justin opens it and tells a good deal about what goes on inside. ”


  1. Chadwick, Henry. Early Christian Thought and the Classical Tradition: Studies in Justin, Clement, and Origen. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984. Richardson, Cyril Charles. Early Christian Fathers. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1953.
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Analytical Paper: Justin Martyr, First Apology. (2017, Mar 31). Retrieved from

Analytical Paper: Justin Martyr, First Apology

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