Vol. 2, Chapter XIII (Cont’d) – The Epistle to Diognetus



Epistola Ad Diognetum, ed. Otto (with Lat. transl., introduction and critical notes), ed. II. Lips. 1852.

In the Leipz. edition of the Apost. Fathers, by O. v. Gebhardt and Ad Harnack, I. 216-226; in the Tübingen ed. of Hefele-Funk, I. pp 310-333.

W. A. Hollenberg: Der Brief an Diognet. Berl. 1853.

E. M. Krenkel: Epistola, ad Diogn. Lips. 1860.

English translation: in Kitto’s “Journal of S. Lit.” 1852, and in vol. I of the “Ante-Nicene Library.” Edinb. 1867.

French versions by P. le Gras, Paris 1725; M. de Genoude, 1838; A. Kayser, 1856.



Otto: De Ep. ad Diognetum. 1852.

A. Kayser: La Lettre à Diognète 1856 (in “Révue de Théologie”).

G. J. Snoeck: Specimen theologicum exhibens introductionem in Epistolan ad Diogn. Lugd. Bat. 1861.

Donaldson: A Critical Hist. of Christian Liter., etc. Lond., 1866, II 126 sqq. He was inclined to assume that Henry Stephens, the first editor, manufactured the Ep., but gave up the strange hypothesis, which was afterwards reasserted by Cotterill in his Peregrinus Proteus, 1879.

Franz Overbeck: Ueber den pseudo-justinischen Brief an Diognet. Basel 1872. And again with additions in his Studien zur Geschichte der alten Kirche (Schloss-Chemnitz, 1875), p. 1-92. He represents the Ep. (like Donaldson) as a post-Constantinian fiction, but has been refuted by Hilgenfeld, Keim, Lipsius, and Dräseke.

Joh. Dräseke: Der Brief an Diognetos. Leipz. 1881 (207 pp.). Against Overbeck and Donaldson. The Ep. was known and used by Tertullian, and probably composed in Rome by a Christian Gnostic (perhaps Appelles). Unlikely.

Heinr. Kihn (R.C.): Der Ursprung des Briefes an Diognet. Freiburg i. B. 1882 (XV. and 168 pages).

Semisch: art. Diognet, in Herzog2 III. 611-615 (and in his Justin der Märt., 1840, vol. I. 172 sqq.); Schaff, in McClintock and Strong, III. 807 sq., and Birks, in Smith and Wace, II. 162-167.

The Ep. to D. has also been discussed by Neander, Hefele, Credner, Möhler, Bunsen, Ewald, Dorner, Hilgenfeld, Lechler, Baur, Harnack, Zahn, Funk, Lipsius, Keim (especially in Rom und das Christhum, 460-468).


The Epistle to Diognetus

1. The short but precious document called the Epistle to Diognetus was unknown in Christian literature until Henry Stephens, the learned publisher of Paris, issued it in Greek and Latin in 1592, under the name of Justin Martyr. He gives no account of his sources. The only Codex definitely known is the Strassburg Codex of the thirteenth century, and even this (after having been thoroughly compared by Professor Cunitz for Otto’s edition), was destroyed in the accidental fire at Strassburg during the siege of 1870. So great is the mystery hanging over the origin of this document, that some modern scholars have soberly turned it into a post-Constantinian fiction in imitation of early Christianity, but without being able to agree upon an author, or his age, or his nationality.

Yet this most obscure writer of the second century is at the same time the most brilliant; and while his name remains unknown to this day, he shed lustre on the Christian name in times when it was assailed and blasphemed from Jew and Gentile, and could only be professed at the risk of life. He must be ranked with the “great unknown” authors of Job and the Epistle to the Hebrews, who are known only to God.

2. Diognetius was an inquiring heathen of high social position and culture, who desired information concerning the origin and nature of the religion of the Christians, and the secret of their contempt of the world, their courage in death, their brotherly love, and the reason of the late origin of this new fashion, so different from the gods of the Greeks and the superstition of the Jews. A Stoic philosopher of this name instructed Marcus Aurelius in his youth (about 133) in painting and composition, and trained him in Attic simplicity of life, and “whatever else of the kind belongs to Grecian discipline.” Perhaps he taught him also to despise the Christian martyrs, and to trace their heroic courage to sheer obstinacy. It is quite probable that our Diognetus was identical with the imperial tutor; for he wished especially to know what enabled these Christians “to despise the world and to make light of death.”

3. The Epistle before us is an answer to the questions of this noble heathen. It is a brief but masterly vindication of Christian life and doctrine from actual experience. It is evidently the product of a man of genius, fine taste and classical culture It excels in fresh enthusiasm of faith, richness of thought, and elegance of style, and is altogether one of the most beautiful memorials of Christian antiquity, unsurpassed and hardly equalled by any genuine work of the Apostolic Fathers.

4. Contents. The document consists of twelve chapters. It opens with an address to Diognetus who is described as exceedingly desirous to learn the Christian doctrine and mode of worship in distinction from that of the Greeks and the Jews. The writer, rejoicing in this opportunity to lead a Gentile friend to the path of truth, exposes first the vanity of idols (ch. 2), then the superstitions of the Jews (ch. 3, 4); after this he gives by contrasts a striking and truthful picture of Christian life which moves in this world like the invisible, immortal soul in the visible, perishing body (ch. 5 and 6), and sets forth the benefits of Christ’s coming (ch. 7). He next describes the miserable condition of the world before Christ (ch. 8), and answers the question why He appeared so late (ch. 9). In this connection occurs a beautiful passage on redemption, fuller and clearer than any that can be found before Irenaeus. He concludes with an account of the blessings and moral effects which flow from the Christian faith (ch. 10). The last two chapters which were probably added by a younger contemporary, and marked as such in the MS., treat of knowledge, faith and spiritual life with reference to the tree of knowledge and the tree of life in paradise. Faith opens the paradise of a higher knowledge of the mysteries of the supernatural world.

The Epistle to Diognetus forms the transition from the purely practical literature of the Apostolic Fathers to the reflective theology of the Apologists. It still glows with the ardor of the first love. It is strongly Pauline. It breathes the spirit of freedom and higher knowledge grounded in faith. The Old Testament is Ignored, but without any sign of Gnostic contempt.

5. Authorship and Time of composition. The author calls himself “a disciple of the Apostles,” but this term occurs in the appendix, and may be taken in a wider sense. In the MS. the letter is ascribed to Justin Martyr, but its style is more elegant, vigorous and terse than that of Justin and the thoughts are more original and vigorous. It belongs, however, in all probability, to the same age, that is, to the middle of the second century, rather earlier than later. Christianity appears in it as something still new and unknown to the aristocratic society, as a stranger in the world, everywhere exposed to calumny and persecution of Jews and Gentiles. All this suits the reign of Antoninus Pius and of Marcus Aurelius. If Diognetus was the teacher of the latter as already suggested, we would have an indication of Rome, as the probable place of composition.

Some assign the Epistle to an earlier date under Trajan or Hadrian, others to the reign of Marcus Aurelius, others to the close of the second century or still later. The speculations about the author begin with Apollos in the first, and end with Stephens in the sixteenth century. He will probably remain unknown.


171. Sixtus of Rome

Enchiridion SIXTI philosophi Pythagorici, first ed. by Symphor. Champerius, Lugd. 1507 (under the title: Sixtii Xysti Anulus); again at Wittenberg with the Carmina aurea of Pythagoras, 1514; by Beatus Rhenanus, Bas. 1516; in the “Maxima Bibliotheca Vet. Patrum.” Lugd. 1677, Tom. III. 335-339 (under the title Xysti vel Sexti Pythagorici philosophi ethnici Sententicae, interprete Rufino Presbytero Aquilejensi); by U. G. Siber, Lips. 1725 (under the name of Sixtus II. instead of Sixtus I.); and by Gildemeister (Gr., Lat. and Syr.), Bonn 1873.

A Syriac Version in P. Lagardii Analecta Syriaca, Lips. and Lond. 1858 (p. 1-31, only the Syriac text, derived from seven MSS. of the Brit. Museum, the oldest before a.d. 553, but mutilated).

The book is discussed in the “Max. Bibl.” l. c.; by Fontaninus: Historia liter. Aquilejensis (Rom. 1742); by Fabricius, in the Bibliotheca Graeca, Tom. I. 870 sqq. (ed. Harles, 1790); by Ewald: Geschichte des Volkes Israel, vol. VII. (Göttingen, 1859), p. 321-326; and by Tobler in Annulus Rufini, Sent. Sext. (Tübingen 1878).

Xystus, or as the Romans spelled the name, Sextus or Sixtus I., was the sixth bishop of Rome, and occupied this position about ten years under the reign of Hadrian (119-128).

Little or nothing is known about him except that he was supposed to be the author of a remarkable collection of moral and religious maxims, written in Greek, translated into Latin by Rufinus and extensively read in the ancient church. The sentences are brief and weighty after the manner of the Hebrew Proverbs and the Sermon on the Mount. They do not mention the prophets or apostles, or even the name of Christ, but are full of God and sublime moral sentiments, only bordering somewhat on pantheism. If it is the production of a heathen philosopher, he came nearer the genius of Christian ethics than even Seneca, or Epictetus, or Plutarch, or Marcus Aurelius; but the product has no doubt undergone a transformation in Christian hands, and this accounts for its ancient popularity, and entitles it to a place in the history of ecclesiastical literature. Rufinus took great liberties as translator; besides, the MSS. vary very much.

Origen first cites in two places the Gnomae or Sententiae of Sextus (γνῶμαι Σέξτου), as a work well known and widely read among the Christians of his times, i.e., in the first half of the second century, but he does not mention that the writer was a bishop, or even a Christian. Rufinus translated them with additions, and ascribes them to Sixtus, bishop of Rome and martyr. But Jerome, who was well versed in classical literature, charges him with prefixing the name of a Christian bishop to the product of a christless and most heathenish Pythagorean philosopher, Xystus, who is admired most by those who teach Stoic apathy and Pelagian sinlessness. Augustin first regarded the author as one of the two Roman bishops Sixti, but afterwards retracted his opinion, probably in consequence of Jerome’s statement. Maximus the Confessor and John of Damascus ascribe it to Xystus of Rome. Gennadius merely calls the work Xysti Sententiae. Pope Gelasius declares it spurious and written by heretics. More recent writers (as Fontanini, Brucker, Fabricius, Mosheim) agree in assigning it to the elder Quintus Sextus or Sextius (Q. S. Pater), a Stoic philosopher who declined the dignity of Roman Senator offered to him by Julius Caesar and who is highly lauded by Seneca. He abstained from animal food, and subjected himself to a scrupulous self-examination at the close of every day. Hence this book was entirely ignored by modern church historians. But Paul de Lagarde, who published a Syriac Version, and Ewald have again directed attention to it and treat it as a genuine work of the first Pope Xystus. Ewald puts the highest estimate on it. “The Christian conscience,” he says,” appears here for the first time before all the world to teach all the world its duty, and to embody the Christian wisdom of life in brief pointed sentences.” But it seems impossible that a Christian sage and bishop should write a system of Christian Ethics or a collection of Christian proverbs without even mentioning the name of Christ.



The following is a selection of the most important of the 430 Sentences of Xystus from the Bibliotheca Maxima Veterum Patrum, Tom. III. 335-339. We add some Scripture parallels:

“1. Fidelis homo, electus homo est. 2. Electus homo, homo Dei est. 3. Homo Dei est, qui Deo dIgnus est. 4. Deo dIgnus est, qui nihil indigne agit. 5. Dubius in fide, infidelis est. 6. Infidelis homo, mortuus est corpore vivente. 7. Vere fidelis est, qui non peccat, atque etiam, in minimis caute agit. 8. Non est minimum in humana vita, negligere minima. 9. Omne peccatum impietatem puta. Non enim manus, vel oculus peccat, vel aliquod huiusmodi membrum, sed male uti manu vel oculo, peccatum est. 10. Omne membrum corporis, quod invitat te contra pudicitiam agere, abjiciendum est.

Melius est uno membro vivere, quam cum duobus puniri [Comp. Mat_5:29] …

“15. Sapiens vir, et pecuniae contemptor, similis est Deo. 16. Rebus mundanis in causis tantum necessariis utere. 17. Quae mundi sunt, mundo et quae Dei sunt, reddantur Deo [Comp. Mat_22:21]. 18. Certus esto, quod animam tuam fidele depositum acceperis a Deo. 19. Cum loqueris Deo, scito quod judiceris a Deo. 20. Optimam purificationem putato, nocere nemini. 21. Enim purificatur Dei verbo per sapientiam …

“28. Quaecumque fecit Deus, pro hominibus ea fecit. 29. Angelus minister est Dei ad hominem. 30. Tam pretiosus est homo apud Deum, quam angelus. 31. Primus beneficus est Deus: secundus est is, qui beneficii eius fit particeps homo. Vive igitur ita, tanquam qui sis secundus post Deum, et electus ab eo. 32. Habes, inquam, in te aliquid simile Dei, et ideo utere teipso velut templo Dei, propter illud quod te simile est Dei [1Co_3:16,1Co_3:17] …

“40. Templum sanctum est Deo mens pii, et altare est optimum ei cor mundum et sine peccato. 41. Hostia soli Deo acceptabilis, benefacere hominibus pro Deo. 42. Deo gratiam praestat homo, qui quantum possibile est vivit secundum Deum …

“47. Omne tempus, quo Deo non cogitas, hoc puta te perdidisse. 48. Corpus quidem tuum incedat in terra, anima autem semper sit apud Deum. 49. Intellige quae, sint bona, ut bene agas. 50. Bona cogitatio hominis Deum non latet et ideo cogitatio tua pura sit ab omni malo. 51. Dignus esto eo, qui te dignatus est filium dicere, et age omnia ut filius Dei. 52. Quod Deum patrem vocas, huius in actionibus tuis memor esto. 53. Vir castus et sine peccato, potestatem accepit a Deo esse filius Dei [Comp. Joh_1:13]. 54. Bona mens chorus est Dei. 55. Mala mens chorus est daemonum malorum …

“78. Fundamentum pietatis est continentia: culmen autem pietatis amor Dei. 79. Pium hominem habeto tamquam teipsum. 80. Opta tibi evenire non quod vis, sed quod expedit. 81. Qualem vis esse proximum tuum tibi, talis esto et tu tais proximis [Luk_6:31] …

“86. Si quid non vis scire Deum, istud nec agas, nec cogites, 87. Priusquam agas quodcunque agis, cogita Deum, ut lux eius paecedat actus tuos …

“96. Deus in bonis actibus hominibus dux est. 97. Neminem inimicum deputes. 98. Dilige omne quod eiusdem tecum naturae est, Deum vero plus quam animam dilige. 99. Pessimum est peccatoribus, in unum convenire cum peccant. 100. Multi cibi impediunt castitatem, et incontinentia ciborum immundum facit hominem. 101. Animantium omnium usus quidem in cibis indifferens, abstinere vero rationabilius est. 102. Non cibi per os inferuntur polluunt hominem, sed ea quae ex malis actibus proferuntur [Mar_7:18-21] …

“106. Mali nullius autor est Deus. 107. Non amplius possideas quam usus corporis poscit …

“115. Ratio quae in te est, vitae, tuae lux est [Mat_6:22]. 116. Ea pete a Deo, quae accipere ab homine non potes …

“122. Nil pretiosum ducas, quod auferre a te possit homo malus. 123. Hoc solum bonum putato, quod Deo dignum est. 124. Quod Deo dignum est, hoc et viro bono. 125. Quicquid non convenit ad beatudinem Dei. non conveniat nomini Dei. 126. Ea debes velle, quae et Deus vult. 127. Filius Dei est, qui haec sola pretiosa ducit quae et Deus. 139. Semper apud Deum mens est sapientIs. 137. Sapientis mentem Deus inhabitat …

“181. Sapiens vir etiamsi nudus sit, sapiens apud te habeatur. 182. Neminem propterea magni aestimes, quod pecunia divitiisque abundet. 183. Difficile est divitem salvari [Mat_19:3] …

“187. Age magna, non magna pollicens. 188. Non eris sapiens, si te reputaveris sapientem. 189. Non potest bene vivere qui non integre credit. 190. In tribulationibus quis sit fidelis, agnoscitur. 191. Finem vitae existima vivere secundum Deum. 192. Nihil putes malum, quod non sit turpe …

“198. Malitia est aegritudo animae. 199. Animae autem mors iniustitia et impietas. 200. Tunc te putato fidelem, cum passionibus animae carueris. 201. Omnibus hominibus ita utere, quasi communis omnium post Deum curator. 202. Qui hominibus male utitur, seipso male utitur. 203. Qui nihil mali vult, fidelis est …

“214. Verba tua pietate semper plena sint. 215. In actibus tuis ante oculos pone Deum. 216. Nefas est Deum patrem invocare, et aliquid inhonestum agere …

“261. Ebrietatem quasi insaniam fuge. 262. Homo qui a ventre vincitur, belluae similis est. 263. Ex carne nihil oritur bonum …

“302. Omne quod malum est, Deo inimicum est. 303. Qui sapit in te, hunc dicito esse hominem. 304. Particeps Dei est vir sapiens. 305. Ubi est quod sapit in te, ibi est et bonum tuum. 306. Bonum in carne non quaeras. 307. Quod animae non nocet, nec homini. 308. Sapientem hominem tanquam Dei ministrum honora post Deum …

“390. Quaecunque dat mundus, nemo firmiter tenet. 391. Quaecumque dat Deus nemo auferre potest. 392. Divina sapientia vera est scientia …

“403. Animae ascensus ad Deum per Dei verbum est. 404. Sapiens sequitur Deum, et Deus animam sapientis. 405. Gaudet rex super his quos regit, gaudet ergo Deus super sapiente. Inseparabilis est et ab his quos regit ille, qui regit, ita ergo et Deus ab anima sapientis quam tuetur et regit. 406. Reqitur a Deo vir sapiens, et idcirco beatus est …

“424. Si non diligis Deum, non ibis ad Deum. 425. Consuesce teipsum semper respicere ad Deum. 426. Intuendo Deum videbis Deum. 427. Videns Deum facies mentem tuam qualis est Deus. 428. Excole quod intra te est, nec ei ex libidine corporis contumeliam facias. 429. Incontaminatum custodi corpus tuum, tanquam si indumentum acceperis à Deo, et sicut vestimentum corporis immaculatum servare stude. 430. Sapiens mens speculam est Dei.”


172. The Apologists. Quadratus and Aristides

On the Apologetic Lit. in general, see § 28, and § 37.

We now proceed to that series of ecclesiastical authors who, from the character and name of their chief writings are called Apologists. They flourished during the reigns of Hadrian, Antoninus, and Marcus Aurelius, when Christianity was exposed to the literary as well as bloody persecution of the heathen world. They refuted the charges and slanders of Jews and Gentiles, vindicated the truths of the Gospel, and attacked the errors and vices of idolatry. They were men of more learning and culture than the Apostolic Fathers. They were mostly philosophers and rhetoricians, who embraced Christianity in mature age after earnest investigation, and found peace in it for mind and heart. Their writings breathe the same heroism, the same enthusiasm for the faith, which animated the martyrs in their sufferings and death.

The earliest of these Apologists are Quadratus and Aristides who wrote against the heathen, and Aristo of Pella, who wrote against the Jews, all in the reign of Hadrian (117-137).

Quadratus (Κοδράτης) was a disciple of the apostles, and bishop (presbyter) of Athens. His Apology is lost. All we know of him is a quotation from Eusebius who says: “Quadratus addressed a discourse to Aelius Hadrian, as an apology for the religion that we profess; because certain malicious persons attempted to harass our brethren. The work is still in the hands of some of the brethren, as also in our own; from which any one may see evident proof, both of the understanding of the man, and of his apostolic faith. This writer shows the antiquity of the age in which he lived, in these passages: ‘The deeds of our Saviour,’ says he, ‘were always before you, for they were true miracles; those that were healed, those that were raised from the dead, who were seen, not only when healed and when raised, but were always present. They remained living a long time, not only whilst our Lord was on earth, but likewise when he left the earth. So that some of them have also lived to our own times.’ Such was Quadratus.”

Aristides (Ἀριστείδης) was an eloquent philosopher at Athens who is mentioned by Eusebius as a contemporary of Quadratus. His Apology likewise disappeared long ago, but a fragment of it was recently recovered in an Armenian translation and published by the Mechitarists in 1878. It was addressed to Hadrian, and shows that the preaching of Paul in Athens had taken root. It sets forth the Christian idea of God as an infinite and indescribable Being who made all things and cares for all things, whom we should serve and glorify as the only God; and the idea of Christ, who is described as “the Son of the most high God, revealed by the Holy Spirit, descended from heaven, born of a Hebrew Virgin. His flesh he received from the Virgin, and he revealed himself in the human nature as the Son of God. In his goodness which brought the glad tidings, he has won the whole world by his life-giving preaching. [It was he who according to the flesh was born from the race of the Hebrews, of the mother of God, the Virgin Mariam.] He selected twelve apostles and taught the whole world by his mediatorial, light-giving truth. And he was crucified, being pierced with nails by the Jews; and he rose from the dead and ascended to heaven. He sent the apostles into all the world and instructed all by divine miracles full of wisdom. Their preaching bears blossoms and fruits to this day, and calls the whole world to illumination.”

A curious feature in this document is the division of mankind into four parts, Barbarians, Greeks, Jews, and Christians.

Aristo of Pella, a Jewish Christian of the first half of the second century, was the author of a lost apology of Christianity against Judaism.


173. Justin the Philosopher and Martyr

Editions of Justin Martyr

*Justini Philosophi et Martyris Opera omnia, in the Corpus Apologetarum Christianorum saeculi secundi, ed. Jo. Car. Th. de Otto, Jen. 1847, 3d ed. 1876-’81. 5 vols. 8vo. Contains the genuine, the doubtful, and the spurious works of Justin Martyr with commentary, and Maran’s Latin Version.

Older ed. (mostly incomplete) by Robt. Stephanus, Par., 1551; Sylburg, Heidelb., 1593; Grabe, Oxon., 1700 (only the Apol. I.); Prudent. Maranus, Par., 1742 (the Bened. ed.), republ. at Venice, 1747, and in Migne’s Patrol. Gr. Tom. VI. (Paris, 1857), c. 10-800 and 1102-1680, with additions from Otto. The Apologies were also often published separately, e.g. by Prof B. L. Gildersleeve, N. Y. 1877, with introduction and notes.

On the MSS. of Justin see Otto’s Proleg., p. xx. sqq., and Harnack, Texte. Of the genuine works we have only two, and they are corrupt, one in Paris, the other in Cheltenham, in possession of Rev. F. A. Fenwick (see Otto, p. xxiv.).

English translation in the Oxford “Library of the Fathers,” Lond., 1861, and another by G. J. Davie in the “Ante-Nicene Library,” Edinb. Vol. II., 1867 (465 pages), containing the Apologies, the Address to the Greeks, the Exhortation, and the Martyrium, translated by M. Dods; the Dialogue with Trypho, and On the Sole Government of God, trsl. by G. Reith; and also the writings of Athenagoras, trsl. by B. P. Pratten. Older translations by Wm. Reeves, 1709, Henry Brown, 1755, and J. Chevallier, 1833 (ed. II., 1851). On German and other versions see Otto, Prol. LX. sqq.


Works on Justin Martyr

Bp. Kaye: Some Account of the Writings and Opinions of Justin Martyr. Cambr., 1829, 3d ed., 1853.

C. A. Credner: Beiträge zur Einleitung in die bibl. Schriften. Halle, vol. I., 1832 (92-267); also in Vol. II., 1838 (on the quotations from the O. T., p. 17-98; 104-133; 157-311). Credner discusses with exhaustive learning Justin’s relation to the Gospels and the Canon of the N. T., and his quotations from the Septuagint. Comp. also his Geschichte des N. T Canon, ed. by Volkmar, 1860.

*C. Semisch: Justin der Märtyrer. Breslau, 1840 and 1842, 2 vols. Very thorough and complete up to date of publication. English translation by Ryland, Edinb., 1844, 2 vols. Comp. Semisch: Die apostol. Denkwürdigkeiten des Just. M. (Hamb. and Gotha, 1848), and his article Justin in the first ed. of Herzog, VII. (1857), 179-186.

Fr. Böhringer: Die Kirchengesch. in Biographien. Vol. I. Zürich, 1842, ed. II., 1861, p. 97-270.

Ad. Hilgenfeld: Krit. Untersuchungen über die Evangelien Justin’s. Halle, 1850. Also: Die Ap. Gesch. u. der M. Just. in his “Zeitschr. f. wiss. Theol.,” 1872, p. 495-509, and Ketzergesch., 1884, pp. 21 sqq.

*J. C. Th. Otto: Zur Characteristik des heil. Justinus. Wien, 1852. His art. Justinus der Apologete, in “Ersch and Gruber’s Encyklop.” Second Section, 30th part (1853), pp. 39-76. Comp. also his Prolegomena in the third ed. of Justin’s works. He agrees with Semisch in his general estimate of Justin.

C. G. Seibert: Justinus, der Vertheidiger des Christenthums vor dem Thron der Caesaren. Elberf., 1859.

CH. E. Freppel (R.C. Bp.): Les Apologistes Chrétiens du II.e siècle. Par., 1860.

L. Schaller: Les deux Apologies de Justin M. au point de vie dogmatique. Strasb., 1861.

B. Aubé: De l’apologetique Chrétienne au II.e siècle. Par., 1861; and S. Justin philosophe et martyr, 1875.

E. de Pressensé, in the third vol. of his Histoire des trois premiers siècles, or second vol. of the English version (1870), which treats of Martyrs and Apologists, and his art. in Lichtenberger VII. (1880) 576-583.

Em. Ruggieri: Vita e dottrina di S. Giustino. Rom., 1862.

*J. Donaldson: Hist. of Ante-Nicene Christian Literature. Lond., vol. II. (1866), which treats of Justin M., pp. 62-344.

*C. Weizsäcker: Die Theologie des Märtyrers Justinus in the “Jahrbücher fur Deutsche Theologie. Gotha, 1867 (vol. XII., I. pp. 60-120).

Renan: L’église chrétienne (Par., 1879), ch. XIX., pp. 364-389, and ch. XXV. 480 sqq.

*Moritz von Engelhardt (d. 1881): Das Christenthum Justins des Märtyrers. Erlangen, 1878. (490 pages, no index.) With an instructive critical review of the various treatments of Irenaeus and his place in history (p. 1-70). See also his art. Justin in Herzog2, VII.

G. F. Purves: The Testimony of Justin M. to Early Christianity. New York. 1888.

Adolf Stähelin: Justin der Märtyrer und sein neuster Beurtheiler. Leipzig, 1880 (67 pages). A careful review of Engelhardt’s monograph.

Henry Scott Holland: Art. Justinus Martyr, in Smith and Wace III. (1880), 560-587.

Ad. Harnack: Die Werke des Justin, in “Texte und Untersuchungen,” etc. Leipz., 1882. I. 130-195.

The relation of Justin to the Gospels is discussed by Credner, Semisch, Hilgenfeld, Norton, Sanday, Westcott, Abbot; his relation to the Acts by Overbeck (1872) and Hilgenfeld; his relation to the Pauline Epistles by H. D. Tjeenk Willink (1868), Alb. Thoma (1875), and v. Engelhardt (1878).

The most eminent among the Greek Apologists of the second century is Flavius Justinus, surnamed “Philosopher and Martyr.” He is the typical apologist, who devoted his whole life to the defense of Christianity at a time when it was most assailed, and he sealed his testimony with his blood. He is also the first Christian philosopher or the first philosophic theologian. His writings were well known to Irenaeus, Hippolytus, Eusebius, Epiphanius, Jerome, and Photius, and the most important of them have been preserved to this day.


I. His Life

Justin was born towards the close of the first century, or in the beginning of the second, in the Graeco-Roman colony of Flavia Neapolis, so called after the emperor Flavius Vespasian, and built near the ruins of Sychem in Samaria (now Nablous). He calls himself a Samaritan, but was of heathen descent, uncircumcised, and ignorant of Moses and the prophets before his conversion. Perhaps he belonged to the Roman colony which Vespasian planted in Samaria after the destruction of Jerusalem. His grandfather’s name was Greek (Bacchius), his father’s (Priscus) and his own, Latin. His education was Hellenic. To judge from his employment of several teachers and his many journeys, he must have had some means, though he no doubt lived in great simplicity and may have been aided by his brethren.

His conversion occurred in his early manhood. He himself tells us the interesting story. Thirsting for truth as the greatest possession, he made the round of the systems of philosophy and knocked at every gate of ancient wisdom, except the Epicurean which he despised. He first went to a Stoic, but found him a sort of agnostic who considered the knowledge of God impossible or unnecessary; then to a Peripatetic, but he was more anxious for a good fee than for imparting instruction; next to a celebrated Pythagorean, who seemed to know something, but demanded too much preliminary knowledge of music, astronomy and geometry before giving him an insight into the highest truths. At last he threw himself with great zeal into the arms of Platonism under the guidance of a distinguished teacher who had recently come to his city. He was overpowered by the perception of immaterial things and the contemplation of eternal ideas of truth, beauty, and goodness. He thought that he was already near the promised goal of this philosophy — the vision of God — when, in a solitary walk not far from the sea-shore, a venerable old Christian of pleasant countenance and gentle dignity, entered into a conversation with him, which changed the course of his life. The unknown friend shook his confidence in all human wisdom, and pointed him to the writings of the Hebrew prophets who were older than the philosophers and had seen and spoken the truth, not as reasoners, but as witnesses. More than this: they had foretold the coming of Christ, and their prophecies were fulfilled in his life and work. The old man departed, and Justin saw him no more, but he took his advice and soon found in the prophets of the Old Testament as illuminated and confirmed by the Gospels, the true and infallible philosophy which rests upon the firm ground of revelation. Thus the enthusiastic Platonist became a believing Christian.

To Tatian also, and Theophilus at Antioch, and Hilary, the Jewish prophets were in like manner the bridge to the Christian faith. We must not suppose, however, that the Old Testament alone effected his conversion; for in the Second Apology, Justin distinctly mentions as a means the practical working of Christianity. While he was yet a Platonist, and listened to the calumnies against the Christians, he was struck with admiration for their fearless courage and steadfastness in the face of death.

After his conversion Justin sought the society of Christians, and received from them instruction in the history and doctrine of the gospel. He now devoted himself wholly to the spread and vindication of the Christian religion. He was an itinerant evangelist or teaching missionary, with no fixed abode and no regular office in the church. There is no trace of his ordination; he was as far as we know a lay-preacher, with a commission from the Holy Spirit; yet be accomplished far more for the good of the church than any known bishop or presbyter of his day. “Every one,” says he, “who can preach the truth and does not preach it, incurs the judgment of God.” Like Paul, he felt himself a debtor to all men, Jew and Gentile, that he might show them the way of salvation. And, like Aristides, Athenagoras, Tertullian, Heraclas, Gregory Thaumaturgus, he retained his philosopher’s cloak, that he might the more readily discourse on the highest themes of thought; and when he appeared in early morning (as he himself tells us), upon a public walk, many came to him with a “Welcome, philosopher!” He spent some time in Rome where he met and combated Marcion. In Ephesus he made an effort to gain the Jew Trypho and his friends to the Christian faith.

He labored last, for the second time, in Rome. Here, at the instigation of a Cynic philosopher, Crescens, whom he had convicted of ignorance about Christianity, Justin, with six other Christians, about the year 166, was scourged and beheaded. Fearlessly and joyfully, as in life, so also in the face of death, he bore witness to the truth before the tribunal of Rusticus, the prefect of the city, refused to sacrifice, and proved by his own example the steadfastness of which he had so often boasted as a characteristic trait of his believing brethren. When asked to explain the mystery of Christ, he replied: “I am too little to say something great of him.” His last words were: “We desire nothing more than to suffer for our Lord Jesus Christ; for this gives us salvation and joyfulness before his dreadful judgment seat, at which all the world must appear.”

Justin is the first among the fathers who may be called a learned theologian and Christian thinker. He had acquired considerable classical and philosophical culture before his conversion, and then made it subservient to the defense of faith. He was not a man of genius and accurate scholarship, but of respectable talent, extensive reading, and enormous memory. He had some original and profound ideas, as that of the spermatic Logos, and was remarkably liberal in his judgment of the noble heathen and the milder section of the Jewish Christians. He lived in times when the profession of Christ was a crime under the Roman law against secret societies and prohibited religious. He had the courage of a confessor in life and of a martyr in death. It is impossible not to admire his fearless devotion to the cause of truth and the defense of his persecuted brethren. If not a great man, he was (what is better) an eminently good and useful man, and worthy of an honored place in “the noble army of martyrs.”


II. Writings

To his oral testimony Justin added extensive literary labors in the field of apologetics and polemics. His pen was incessantly active against all the enemies of Christian truth, Jews, Gentiles, and heretics.

(1) His chief works are apologetic, and still remain, namely, his two Apologies against the heathen, and his Dialogue with the Jew Trypho. The First or larger Apology (68 chapters) is addressed to the Emperor Antoninus Pius (137-161) and his adopted sons, and was probably written about a.d. 147, if not earlier; the Second or smaller Apology (25 chapters) is a supplement to the former, perhaps its conclusion, and belongs to the same reign (not to that of Marcus Aurelius). Both are a defense of the Christians and their religion against heathen calumnies and persecutions. He demands nothing but justice for his brethren, who were condemned without trial simply as Christians and suspected criminals. He appeals from the lower courts and the violence of the mob to the highest tribunal of law, and feels confident that such wise and philosophic rulers as he addresses would acquit them after a fair hearing. He ascribes the persecutions to the instigation of the demons who tremble for their power and will soon be dethroned.

The Dialogue (142 chapters) is more than twice as large as the two Apologies, and is a vindication of Christianity from Moses and the prophets against the objections of the Jews. It was written after the former (which are referred to in ch. 120), but also in the reign of Antoninus Pius, i.e., before a.d. 161 probably about a.d. 148. In the Apologies he speaks like a philosopher to philosophers; in the Dialogue as a believer in the Old Testament with a son of Abraham. The disputation lasted two days, in the gymnasium just before a voyage of Justin, and turned chiefly on two questions, how the Christians could profess to serve God, and yet break his law, and how they could believe in a human Saviour who suffered and died. Trypho, whom Eusebius calls “the most distinguished among the Hebrews of his day,” was not a fanatical Pharisee, but a tolerant and courteous Jew, who evasively confessed at last to have been much instructed, and asked Justin to come again, and to remember him as a friend. The book is a storehouse of early interpretation of the prophetic Scriptures.

The polemic works, Against all Heresies, and Against Marcion, are lost. The first is mentioned in the First Apology; of the second, Irenaeus has preserved some fragments; perhaps it was only a part of the former. Eusebius mentions also a Psalter of Justin, and a book On the Soul, which have wholly disappeared.

(2) Doubtful works which bear Justin’s name, and may have been written by him: An address To the Greeks;  a treatise On the Unity of God; another On the Resurrection.

(3) Spurious works attributed to him: The Epistle to Diognetus probably of the same date, but by a superior writer, the Exhortation to the Greeks, the Deposition of the True Faith, the epistle To Zenas and Serenus, the Refutation of some Theses of Aristotle, the Questions to the Orthodox, the Questions of the Christians to the Heathens, and the Questions of the Heathens to the Christians. Some of these belong to the third or later centuries.

The genuine works of Justin are of unusual importance and interest. They bring vividly before us the time when the church was still a small sect, despised and persecuted, but bold in faith and joyful in death. They everywhere attest his honesty and earnestness, his enthusiastic love for Christianity, and his fearlessness in its defense against all assaults from without and perversions from within. He gives us the first reliable account of the public worship and the celebration of the sacraments. His reasoning is often ingenious and convincing but sometimes rambling and fanciful, though not more so than that of other writers of those times. His style is fluent and lively, but diffuse and careless. He writes under a strong impulse of duty and fresh impression without strict method or aim at rhetorical finish and artistic effect. He thinks pen in hand, without looking backward or forward, and uses his memory more than books. Only occasionally, as in the opening of the Dialogue, there is a touch of the literary art of Plato, his old master. But the lack of careful elaboration is made up by freshness and truthfulness. If the emperors of Rome had read the books addressed to them they must have been strongly impressed, at least with the honesty of the writer and the innocence of the Christians.


III. Theology

As to the sources of his religious knowledge, Justin derived it partly from the Holy Scriptures, partly from the living church tradition. He cites, most frequently, and generally from memory, hence often inaccurately, the Old Testament prophets (in the Septuagint), and the “Memoirs” of Christ, or “Memoirs by the Apostles,” as he calls the canonical Gospels, without naming the authors. He says that they were publicly read in the churches with the prophets of the Old Testament. He only quotes the words and acts of the Lord. He makes most use of Matthew and Luke, but very freely, and from John’s Prologue (with the aid of Philo whom he never names) he derived the inspiration of the Logos-doctrine, which is the heart of his theology. He expressly mentions the Revelation of John. He knew no fixed canon of the New Testament, and, like Hernias and Papias, he nowhere notices Paul; but several allusions to passages of his Epistles (Romans, First Corinthians, Ephesians, Colossians, etc.), can hardly be mistaken, and his controversy with Marcion must have implied a full knowledge of the ten Epistles which that heretic included in his canon. Any dogmatical inference from this silence is the less admissible, since, in the genuine writings of Justin, not one of the apostles or evangelists is expressly named except John once, and Simon Peter twice, and “the sons of Zebedee whom Christ called Boanerges,” but reference is always made directly to Christ and to the prophets and apostles in general. The last are to him typified in the twelve bells on the border of the high priest’s garment which sound through the whole world. But this no more excludes Paul from apostolic dignity than the names of the twelve apostles on the foundation stones of the new Jerusalem (Rev_21:14). They represent the twelve tribes of Israel, Paul the independent apostolate of the Gentiles.

Justin’s exegesis of the Old Testament is apologetic, typological and allegorical throughout. He finds everywhere references to Christ, and turned it into a text book of Christian theology. He carried the whole New Testament into the Old without discrimination, and thus obliterated the difference. He had no knowledge of Hebrew, and freely copied the blunders and interpolations of the Septuagint. He had no idea of grammatical or historical interpretation. He used also two or three times the Sibylline Oracles and Hystaspes for genuine prophecies, and appeals to the Apocryphal Acts of Pilate as an authority. We should remember, however, that he is no more credulous, inaccurate and uncritical than his contemporaries and the majority of the fathers.

Justin forms the transition from the apostolic fathers to the church fathers properly so called. He must not be judged by the standard of a later orthodoxy, whether Greek, Roman, or Evangelical, nor by the apostolic conflict between Jewish and Gentile Christianity, or Ebionism and Gnosticism, which at that time had already separated from the current of Catholic Christianity. It was a great mistake to charge him with Ebionism. He was a converted Gentile, and makes a sharp distinction between the church and the synagogue as two antagonistic organizations. He belongs to orthodox Catholicism as modified by Greek philosophy. The Christians to him are the true people of God and heirs of all the promises. He distinguishes between Jewish Christians who would impose the yoke of the Mosaic law (the Ebionites), and those who only observe it themselves, allowing freedom to the Gentiles (the Nazarenes); the former he does not acknowledge as Christians, the latter be treats charitably, like Paul in Romans Rom_14:1-23 and Rom_15:1-33. The only difference among orthodox Christians which he mentions is the belief in the millennium which he held, like Barnabas, Irenaeus and Tertullian, but which many rejected. But, like all the ante-Nicene writers, be had no clear insight into the distinction between the Old Testament and the New, between the law and the gospel, nor any proper conception of the depth of sin and redeeming grace, and the justifying power of faith. His theology is legalistic and ascetic rather than evangelical and free. He retained some heathen notions from his former studies, though he honestly believed them to be in full harmony with revelation.

Christianity was to Justin, theoretically, the true philosophy, and, practically, a new law of holy living and dying. The former is chiefly the position of the Apologies, the latter that of the Dialogue.

He was not an original philosopher, but a philosophizing eclectic, with a prevailing love for Plato, whom be quotes more frequently than any other classical author. He may be called, in a loose sense, a Christian Platonist. He was also influenced by Stoicism. He thought that the philosophers of Greece had borrowed their light from Moses and the prophets. But his relation to Plato after all is merely external, and based upon fancied resemblances. He illuminated and transformed his Platonic reminiscences by the prophetic Scriptures, and especially by the Johannean doctrine of the Logos and the incarnation. This is the central idea of his philosophical theology. Christianity is the highest reason. The Logos is the preexistent, absolute, personal Reason, and Christ is the embodiment of it, the Logos incarnate. Whatever is rational is Christian, and whatever is Christian is rational. The Logos endowed all men with reason and freedom, which are not lost by the fall. He scattered seeds (σπέρματα) of truth before his incarnation, not only among the Jews but also among the Greeks and barbarians, especially among philosophers and poets, who are the prophets of the heathen. Those who lived reasonably (οἱ μετὰ λόγου βιωσαντες) and virtuously in obedience to this preparatory light were Christians in fact, though not in name; while those who lived unreasonably (οἱ ἄνευ λόγου βιώσαντες) were Christless and enemies of Christ. Socrates was a Christian as well as Abraham, though he did not know it. None of the fathers or schoolmen has so widely thrown open the gates of salvation. He was the broadest of broad churchmen.

This extremely liberal view of heathenism, however, did not blind him to the prevailing corruption. The mass of the Gentiles are idolaters, and idolatry is under the control of the devil and the demons. The Jews are even worse than the heathen, because they sin against better knowledge. And worst of all are the heretics, because they corrupt the Christian truths. Nor did he overlook the difference between Socrates and Christ, and between the best of heathen and the humblest Christian. “No one trusted Socrates,” he says, “so as to die for his doctrine, but Christ, who was partially known by Socrates, was trusted not only by philosophers and scholars, but also by artizans and people altogether unlearned.”

The Christian faith of Justin is faith in God the Creator, and in his Son Jesus Christ the Redeemer, and in the prophetic Spirit. All other doctrines which are revealed through the prophets and apostles, follow as a matter of course. Below the deity are good and bad angels; the former are messengers of God, the latter servants of Satan, who caricature Bible doctrines in heathen mythology, invent slanders, and stir up persecutions against Christians, but will be utterly overthrown at the second coming of Christ. The human soul is a creature, and hence perishable, but receives immortality from God, eternal happiness as a reward of piety, eternal fire as a punishment of wickedness. Man has reason and free will, and is hence responsible for all his actions; he sins by his own act, and hence deserves punishment. Christ came to break the power of sin, to secure forgiveness and regeneration to a new and holy life.

Here comes in the practical or ethical side of this Christian philosophy. It is wisdom which emanates from God and leads to God. It is a new law and a new covenant, promised by Isaiah and Jeremiah, and introduced by Christ. The old law was only for the Jews, the new is for the whole world; the old was temporary and is abolished, the new is eternal; the old commands circumcision of the flesh, the new, circumcision of the heart; the old enjoins the observance of one day, the new sanctifies all days; the old refers to outward performances, the new to spiritual repentance and faith, and demands entire consecration to God.


IV. Platonic Philosophy

From the time of Justin Martyr, the Platonic Philosophy continued to exercise a direct and indirect influence upon Christian theology, though not so unrestrainedly and naively as in his case. We can trace it especially in Clement of Alexandria and Origen, and even in St. Augustin, who confessed that it kindled in him an incredible fire. In the scholastic period it gave way to the Aristotelian philosophy, which was better adapted to clear, logical statements. But Platonism maintained its influence over Maximus, John of Damascus, Thomas Aquinas, and other schoolmen, through the pseudo-Dionysian writings which first appear at Constantinople in 532, and were composed probably in the fifth century. They sent a whole system of the universe under the aspect of a double hierarchy, a heavenly and an earthly, each consisting of three triads.

The Platonic philosophy offered many points of resemblance to Christianity. It is spiritual and idealistic, maintaining the supremacy of the spirit over matter, of eternal ideas over all temporary phenomena, and the pre-existence and immortality of the soul; it is theistic, making the supreme God above all the secondary deities, the beginning, middle, and end of all things; it is ethical, looking towards present and future rewards and punishments; it is religious, basing ethics, politics, and physics upon the authority of the Lawgiver and Ruler of the universe; it leads thus to the very threshold of the revelation of God in Christ, though it knows not this blessed name nor his saying grace, and obscures its glimpses of truth by serious errors. Upon the whole the influence of Platonism, especially as represented in the moral essays of Plutarch, has been and is to this day elevating, stimulating, and healthy, calling the mind away from the vanities of earth to the contemplation of eternal truth, beauty, and goodness. To not a few of the noblest teachers of the church, from Justin the philosopher to Neander the historian, Plato has been a schoolmaster who led them to Christ.



The theology and philosophy of Justin are learnedly discussed by Maran, and recently by Möhler and Freppel in the Roman Catholic interest, and in favor of his full orthodoxy. Among Protestants his orthodoxy was first doubted by the authors of the “Magdeburg Centuries,” who judged him from the Lutheran standpoint.

Modern Protestant historians viewed him chiefly with reference to the conflict between Jewish and Gentile Christianity. Credner first endeavored to prove, by an exhaustive investigation (1832), that Justin was a Jewish Christian of the Ebionitic type, with the Platonic Logos-doctrine attached to his low creed as an appendix. He was followed by the Tübingen critics, Schwegler (1846), Zeller, Hilgenfeld, and Baur himself (1853). Baur, however, moderated Credner’s view, and put, Justin rather between Jewish and Gentile Christianity, calling him a Pauline in fact, but not in name (“er ist der Sache nach Pauliner, aber dem Namen nach will er es nicht sein”). This shaky judgment shows the unsatisfactory character of the Tübingen construction of Catholic Christianity as the result of a conflux and compromise between Ebionism and Paulinism.

Ritschl (in the second ed. of his Entstehung der altkatholischen Kirche, 1857) broke loose from this scheme and represented ancient Catholicism as a development of Gentile Christianity, and Justin as the type of the “katholisch werde die Heidenchristenthum,” who was influenced by Pauline ideas, but unable to comprehend them in their depth and fulness, and thus degraded the standpoint of freedom to a new form of legalism. This he calls a “herabgekommener oder abgeschwächter Paulinismus.” Engelhardt goes a step further, and explains this degradation of Paulinism from the influences of Hellenic heathenism and the Platonic and Stoic modes of thought. He says (p. 485): “Justin was at once a Christian and a heathen. We must acknowledge his Christianity and his heathenism in order to understand him.” Harnack (in a review of E., 1878) agrees with him, and lays even greater stress on the heathen element. Against this Stähelin (1880) justly protests, and vindicates his truly Christian character.

Among recent French writers, Aubé represents Justin’s theology superficially as nothing more than popularized heathen philosophy. Renan (p. 389) calls his philosophy “une sorte d’eclectisme fondé sur un rationalisme mystic.” Freppel returns to Maran’s treatment, and tries to make the philosopher and martyr of the second century even a Vatican Romanist of the nineteenth.

For the best estimates of his character and merits see Neander, Semisch, Otto, von Engelhardt, Stähelin, Donaldson (II. 147 sqq.), and Holland (in Smith and Wace).