Justin & Justin: I
The First Apology of Justin: chapters I-X
The first work that I am making my way through is Justin’s First Apology. This letter was written to Caesar and his sons. The letter is primarily a defense of Christians and a plea to end the persecution of the Believers.
Justin uses a couple of arguments to advance his case. First he says that it is illogical to persecute Christians because they call themselves Christians. He asks that men be tried on the basis of what they have done, not on the basis of what they call themselves. In the midst of this he quotes Plato and shows a strong knowledge of Pauline Literature.
In fact, the centerpiece of this argument is borrowed from Philemon. Justin uses a play on words between the words Chistos and chraestos. The first word is the name of Christ and the basis of the word, “Christian”. The second is a word meaning goodness or excellence. Paul used a very similar argument in Philemon about the slave Onesimus. Paul said that before Onesimus believed he was a-chraestos, or useless. This is a contrast to a-Chirstos, or without Christ. But since believing, he has become eu-chistos or useful/well-christed. This word also sounds like eucharist or thankful. All this to say that it is clear that Justin was well acquainted with the works of Paul, even a smaller one like Philemon.
Paul then defends Christians against the charge that they are atheist because they refuse to worship the Greek/Roman gods. Justin explains that these so called gods are nothing more than demons trying to distract mankind from the one true God who revealed himself in Jesus. Here again Justin shows himself to be familiar with the writings of Paul. This is the same argument Paul made about meat offered to idols.
So what can we take away from our early readings of Justin?
First, it is clear that Justin was very well read. He quoted Plato/Socrates, referenced the apostle Paul, and made a complex and poetic play on words
Second, Justin was fond of using the actions of Christians as a defense of the faith. He used logic but only so far as it lead the reader to the life of the Christians. This is interesting and instructive for us. Though he could of, Justin does not engage in classical or evidential apologetics. He uses them, but in the end, he is arguing from an embedded apologetic. The way that Christians treat one another and those outside their faith is the greatest apologetic in Justin’s argument so far. Cornelius Van Til would be proud of the sort of Presuppositional Apologetics Justin is engaging in.