“We pray for our enemies and attempt to persuade those who hate us unjustly to live according to the good precepts of Christ. This is so that they may become partakers with us of the same joyful hope of a reward from God, the Ruler of all.”
Justin was born in the Roman city of Flavia Neapolis (ancient Shechem in Samaria). Raised by pagan parents, he sought to find life's meaning in the philosophies of his day. This only brought a series of disappointments.
At last, about A.D. 130, after a conversation with an old man, his life was transformed: "A fire was suddenly kindled in my soul. I fell in love with the prophets and these men who had loved Christ; I reflected on all their words and found that this philosophy alone was true and profitable. That is how and why I became a philosopher. And I wish that everyone felt the same way that I do."
“There are, and therefore there were, many who come forward in the name of Jesus and teach both to speak and act impious and blasphemous things. And we name these people after the men from whom each doctrine and opinion had its origin … We have nothing in common [with these men] since we know them to be atheists, ungodly, unrighteous, and sinful; confessors of Jesus in name only rather than worshipers of him.”
Justin continued to wear his philosopher's cloak, seeking to reconcile faith and reason. His teaching ministry took him first to Ephesus (c. 132), where he held a disputation with Trypho, a Jew, about the true interpretation of Scripture. The Dialogue with Trypho teaches three main points: the Old Covenant is passing away to make place for the New; the Logos is the God of the Old Testament; and the Gentiles are the new Israel.
“For all things with which we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through his Son Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit.”
Later Justin moved to Rome, founded a Christian school, and wrote two bold apologies (i.e., defenses—from the Greek apologia). Justin's First Apology, addressed to Emperor Antoninus Pius, was published in 155 and attempted to explain the faith. Christianity was not a threat to the state, he asserted, and should be treated as a legal religion. He wrote "on behalf of men of every nation who are unjustly hated and reviled."
“Our teacher of these things is Jesus Christ, who also was born for this purpose. He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the times of Tiberius Caesar. We will prove that it is reasonable to worship Him, for we have learned that he is the Son of the true God Himself.”
Justin argued that Christians are, in fact, the emperor's "best helpers and allies in securing good order, convinced as we are that no wicked man ... can be hidden from God, and that everyone goes to eternal punishment or salvation in accordance with the character of his actions." He further showed that Christianity is superior to paganism, that Christ is prophecy fulfilled, and that paganism is actually a poor imitation of the true religion.
“If we persuade even a few, our gain will be very great; for, as good husbandmen, we shall receive the reward from the Master.”
However, this apology has gained the most attention for modern readers because in it Justin records detailed descriptions of early Christian worship (to show unbelievers that Christianity was not subversive).
Justin's Second Apology was written soon after Marcus Aurelius became emperor in 161. In these writings, Justin tried to show that the Christian faith alone was truly rational. He taught that the Logos (Word) became incarnate to teach humanity truth and to redeem people from the power of the demons.
“He has exhorted us to lead all men, by patience and gentleness, from shame and the love of evil.”
When Justin was arrested for his faith in Rome, the prefect asked him to denounce his faith by making a sacrifice to the gods. Justin replied, "No one who is rightly minded turns from true belief to false."
It was in one sense an easy answer for Justin because he had spent most of his adult life discerning the true from the false.
They were taken out and beheaded. Since he gave his life for the "true philosophy," Justin has been surnamed Martyr.