Justin & Justin: Dialogue with Trypho XI-XX
So last week, I left you with the question of whether or not Justin was a presuppositionalist. In one way, the question was a trap. Though we can see seeds of Justin’s thoughts in his testimony, as we march through Justin’s most extensive work we will be able to piece together his method better. This week we pick up his discussion with Trypho in chapter 11.
Justin argues that Christ has come and abrogated the Law of the Old Testament and replaced it with the New Covenant in Christ. This covenant is not for Jews alone but for the whole world and we see that even pagans are leaving their former ways and being saved by Christ. Justin then turns the screws on Trypho saying that Jews ignore the eternal Law of God by ignoring Christ. Justin says, with a stroke of brilliance, that Trypho needs another, greater circumcision. To further this point, Justin quotes the entirety of Isaiah 53.
Like a master surgeon, Justin graciously but firmly asserts that Trypho and the Jews are holding up their physical circumcision as praiseworthy before God. Justin points out that baptism and circumcision are alike in that they point towards an inward reality. If that inward reality is absent, the outward signs are ineffective. Justin says that all Judaism that doesn’t point to Christ is guilty of this empty externalism.
Justin finishes up our passage by explaining to Trypho the reason for the Laws of the Old Testament. He claims that the entire Law was a means of keeping God before the eyes of the people of Israel. The real failure on behalf of the Jews was to understand this.
It is interesting to see how Justin’s thoughts on the Law of God are fairly nuanced, even at this early time in church history. With regard to Justin’s apologetic method, it is difficult to draw any strong conclusions. Justin argues almost exclusively from scripture (so far). While it would be easy to try and pigeon-hole his method, we must remember that he is confronting a Jew and is doing so with a common authority.