Paul and Justin on the Identity of Israel

This post is part of an ongoing series on Paul and Pneuma, Justin and Judaism.

As noted previously, in Paul’s day the conflagration centered on whether or not the Gentiles could be brought into the people of God.[1] For Paul, belonging to Christ did not negate the importance of proper genealogy; on the contrary, genealogical descent continued to be of the utmost importance.[2] Gentiles were brought into the Abrahamic People of God—although not into Israel proper—through Christ. The Gentiles, therefore, do not replace Israel as the People of the Covenant, but instead stand alongside Israel as Peoples of the Covenants. Perhaps no writing of Paul makes this clearer than Romans, where on multiple occasions Paul espouses the continued importance of the Jewish people.[3] Paul demonstrates great concern for Israel (Rom. 9:1-5, 10.1, 11:1-2a, 11:13-16), lamenting over their stumbling and seeking to explain why they have not immediately accepted the Messiah (Rom. 11:11-16). For the Apostle, Israel still possesses the adoption, glory, covenants, law, worship, promises of God, patriarchs and ancestry of the Messiah (Rom. 9:4-5). Even circumcision retains its value for Jews when properly practiced and understood (Rom. 3:1-2). Although “not all Israelites truly belong to Israel, and not all of Abraham’s children are his true seed” (Rom. 9:6b-7a), Paul looks forward to the day when all Israel will be saved (Rom. 11:25-26). In sum, for Paul the identity of true Israel included actual Israel, although the nations were being inaugurated through the power of Christ.

In contrast, for Justin Martyr true Israel no longer included ethnic Israel, only those who belong to Christ. Dialogue 11.5 reads, “For the true spiritual Israel, and descendants of Judah, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham…are we who have been led to God through this crucified Christ,” a turn of phrase that is widely recognized as dependent upon Galatians 3:6-7.[4] By faith Christians have become children of Abraham (Dial. 119.5) and as a result of Christian faith the faithless Jews have been removed from the “righteous nation” of God (Dial. 119.6, 123.9).[5] In a word, Christians have become true spiritual Israel. Contrary to Paul’s expressed concern and hope for Israel, Justin offers little lament for the ethnic children of Abraham. While Jewish Christ-believers who did not advocate Torah observance for Gentiles were acceptable, in Justin the destruction of the temple and defeat of bar Kokhba illustrate the truth: Judaism as a whole was coming to an end.[6] According to Justin Martyr the “true spiritual Israel” consisted of spiritual genealogy in Christ, not the Jewish race.[7]

But why was this happening, why was ethnic Israel replaced by the Church as true Israel? Justin suggests three reasons. First, proper interpretation of Old Testament prophecy reveals the superiority of a supercessionist Christian hermeneutic (Dial. 29.2, 32.2).[8] Second, the end of Judaism serves as punishment for the rejection and killing of Christ and his followers (Dial. 16.1-4, 25.5, 108.3).[9] Third, the Jews have misunderstood circumcision. Whereas “Abraham received circumcision for a sign” the Jews have interpreted it as “justification itself” (Dial. 23.4).[10] Because of this, circumcision became “not a sign of a covenant with God, but rather ‘a medium for punishment.’”[11] For their inaccurate interpretation of the scriptures, rejection of Christ, and misunderstanding of circumcision, Justin argues that God disinherited the Jews and made the Church true Israel. In similar manner to how Justin began with Pauline thinking on Abraham and developed it, so also on the topic of true Israel Justin began with Paul’s thought and recast its meaning. True Israel still descends from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but now genealogy depends on faithfulness rather than ethnicity. As a result, ethnic Israel now stands on the outside of the people of God looking in, in no small part due to the fact that they do not possess the pneuma of Christ that enables them to interpret properly or belong to Christ. Once more, then, Justin’s development of the Pauline notion of true Israel represents a transformation of Pauline thought, here based on differing concepts of who belongs to the truly spiritual Israel.


[1] Thiessen, 107.

[2] Ibid., 115

[3] Livesey, “Theological,” 74.

[4] On this passage, Adair remarks, “Dialogue 119.5 alludes to Gal 3:7, a companion to the allusion of Gal 3:6 in Dialogue 119.6. This is not a direct quote, substituting ‘children’ for the ‘sons’ of the Galatians passage. Also, the grammatical construction is different, but there is congruence in the meaning—faith has made the Christians children of Abraham. The combination of the references from Galatians in such close proximity makes it likely that Justin is dependent on a Pauline idea here. Also, as noted above, this faith is connected to the confession that has been heard through the voice of the apostles and prophets, the Christological confession.” See Adair, 227. See also Werline, 8.

[5] Daniel Boyarin, “Justin Martyr Invents Judaism,” Church History 70.3 (2001): 435-6. Livesay, “Theological,” 74. Boyarin suggests that “The threat of Gentile Christianity to the borders of Jewish peoplehood represented by the claim to be Verus Israel, first attested in Justin but surely not originated by him, was the catalyst that gave rise to non-liturgically formalized, or even popular, curses on Gentile Christians and reviling of Christ in the synagogues.”

[6] Willitts, 159. Chilton, 83-4. Wendel, 95.

[7] Goodenough, 100. Yontan Binyam, “Depends on Whom You Ask: The ‘Parting of the Ways’ in the Didache, Epistle of Barnabas, and Dialogue with Trypho the Jew” (M.A. Thesis, Wheaton, I.L.: Wheaton College Graduate School, 2012), 80-1.

[8] Chilton, 82.

[9] 1 Apol. 47-49. Wendel, 95.

[10] Lieu, Image and Reality, 119. Binyam, 71-2. See also Dial. 16.3, 19.2.

[11] Binyam, 71.

Paul and Justin on the Ancestry of Abraham

This post is part of an ongoing series on Paul and Pneuma, Justin and Judaism.

Paul refers to Abraham nineteen times in his undisputed letters, often citing God’s promise to Abraham, his faith, or status as intermediary.[1] Key for Paul’s theology was the genealogical function Abraham filled. Galatians 3:1-9 suggests that, for Paul, Abrahamic sonship was intimately connected to reception of the pneuma.[2] That is, to receive the pneuma of God was to be brought into the Abrahamic family of God. This new ancestry further transformed Gentiles-in-Christ, legitimating if not actualizing their existence within the pneuma and kinship of the People of God.[3] Both Abraham and Christ stand as faithful followers of God; as Israel participated in Abraham’s blessed faithfulness, so now Gentiles—through Christ’s faithfulness—participate in Abraham as well.[4] Summarizing this viewpoint, Thiessen writes,

“Since those who are out of faith receive the pneuma of Abraham’s seed, Christ, they too become Abraham’s seed. The reception of the pneuma thus provides gentiles with a new genealogy so that they become truly descended from Abraham, not through the flesh, but through the pneuma. Paul does not reject genealogical descent; instead, he envisages a newly possible pneumatic form of such descent.”[5]

Justin refers to Abraham 103 times in the Dialogue, employing him in relation to the question of circumcision, the promises of God, and Christ.[6] While Justin summarily denigrates circumcision as a “sign of suffering,”[7] Abraham avoids this fate. Justin focuses instead on Abraham’s faith before circumcision.[8] He writes, “Abraham, indeed, was considered just, not by reason of his circumcision, but because of faith. For, before his circumcision it was said of him, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him unto justice’” (Dial. 92.3). While Jews and Christians alike may claim Abraham as their ancestor, Jewish emphasis on circumcision clearly aligns them with “later Abraham” and Christian rejection of the need for circumcision aligns them with “early Abraham,” that is, the Abraham who was justified by faith prior to his circumcision.[9] Justin thus divorces Abraham from Jewish faith and practice, using the two stages of the patriarch’s life as the boundary formation between corrupted fleshliness and spiritual faithfulness.[10] 

What then are the differences between Paul and Justin? In the first place, where for Paul Abraham has two sorts of children—those according to the flesh and those according to the promise—Justin argues that only the children of the promise (Christ-followers) are Abraham’s true children.[11] Building on the Platonic notion that the new pneuma of faith must transcend the old, Justin argues that, “And along with Abraham we shall inherit the holy land, when we shall receive the inheritance for an endless eternity, being children of Abraham through the like faith…. He promises to him a nation of similar faith, God-fearing, righteous, and delighting the Father; but it is not you, ‘in whom is no faith.’” (Dial. 119)

Secondly, circumcision—for Paul only rightly part of the covenant with Israel—is entirely useless for Justin. Although he follows a Pauline reading of the Abraham story in Dialogue 23-24 (where Abraham received circumcision as a sign of justification), Justin developed this claim to mean that “the blood of circumcision is now abolished, and we now trust in the blood of salvation. Now another covenant, another law has gone forth from Zion, Jesus Christ” (Dial. 24). That is, the covenant now brought about by the logos transcends and interiorizes the demands of the old covenant.[12] Similarly, in Dialogue 18.2 (and repeated in Dial. 92), Justin builds on Paul’s notion in Romans 2-3 that true circumcision occurs in the heart, enjoining Trypho to, “Wash therefore, and be now clean, and put away iniquity from your souls, as God bids you be washed in this laver, and be circumcised with the true circumcision.” Likewise, Dialogue 19.3 argues that, “Even you, who are the circumcised according to the flesh, have need of our circumcision; but we, having the latter, do not require the former.”

Finally, while Paul employs Abraham to argue that both Jews and Gentiles inherit the promise made to the patriarch, Justin uses Abraham in concert with the new covenant to indicate Jewish unfaithfulness and rejection.[13] Dialogue 11, 23, and 119 make clear that the Gentile Church is new, true Israel. Because Christ—the true descendent, the true seed of Abraham—has come, only those fully in fellowship with him belong to the family of Abraham and, consequently, the People of God.[14] Those who think otherwise are deluded and “beguile themselves…supposing that the everlasting kingdom will be assuredly given to those of the dispersion who are of Abraham after the flesh, although they be sinners, and faithless, and disobedient towards God, which the Scriptures have proved is not the case” (Dial. 140).

While Justin clearly relies on Paul to start his thinking about Abraham and Abrahamic sonship, he significantly recasts the apostle’s arguments for his own purposes.[15] Underlying these differences is Justin’s Platonic worldview, which lead him to summarily ignore Paul’s dynamic Stoic cosmology and posit significant differences between the old and new covenants. Justin’s pneumatic ideal presumes a contrast between old and new, and the new covenant ushered in by Christ cannot possibly be identical to the old perceptible law of Judaism. New Israel’s Abrahamic sonship—rooted in the higher reality of Christ—wholly surpasses Old Israel and its fleshly existence.


[1] Rom. 4.1, 2, 3, 9, 12, 13, 16, 9.7, 11.1; Gal. 3.6, 7, 9, 14, 16 18, 29, 4.22; and 2 Cor. 11.22. Jeffrey S. Siker, Disinheriting the Jews: Abraham in Early Christian Controversy (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1991), 18-28.

[2] Thiessen, 107-9.

[3] Johnson Hodge, 76. Thiessen, 122.

[4] Gal. 3.6-9. Rom. 4.16. Johnson Hodge, 91. Thiessen, 126. Sena Pera, 202.

[5] Thiessen, 105-6.

[6] Siker, “Gentile Inclusion,” 34-5.

[7] Dial. 16.2. Livesey, “Theological,” 62.

[8] Siker, “Gentile Inclusion,” 34-5. Siker, Disinheriting, 163.

[9] Dial. 92.2-4, 15.7. Denise Kimber Buell, “Constructing Early Christian Identities Using Ethnic Reasoning,” ASE 24 (2007): 98. Nina E. Livesey, Circumcision as Malleable Symbol (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010), 125-30.

[10] Livesay, “Theological,” 56. Siker, “Gentile Inclusion,” 35.

[11] Thiessen, 121. Rom. 9.8, 11.28-9. Siker, Disinheriting, 13. Siker, “Gentile Inclusion,” 30.

[12] Werline, 84. See also Andrew S. Jacobs, Christ Circumcised: A Study in Early Christian History and Difference (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012).

[13] Ibid., 86.

[14] Werline, 93. Sena Pera, 192-3.

[15] Werline, 92.

Paul and Justin on Pneuma

This post is part of an ongoing series on Paul and Pneuma, Justin and Judaism.

Turning to Justin’s views on pneuma, it is instructive that the Dialogue opens with reflections on his philosophical journey to Christianity, wherein he remarks that he learned “nothing new about God” while studying under the tutelage of a Stoic (Dial. 2.3). As Justin goes on to explain his journey through Platonism in Dial. 2.6-8.2, he highlights the Platonic priority of the spiritual—that the eternal and unchanging is superior to the ephemeral and changing.[1] In clear contrast to the Stoic concept of the ultimate, in Justin’s mind the ideal remained detached from materiality.[2] We must be wary to not over-read Cartesian dualism back into Justin’s Platonism. However, his Platonic dualism—wherein God was the transcendent ideal which was distinct from perceptible reality[3]—stood at odds with Paul’s Stoic pneumatology—wherein God was made of the same stuff as the rest of reality, albeit in a higher and more animate form than the rest of the cosmos.

The divergence between an immanently accessible pneuma and a categorically ultimate pneuma begins to demonstrate Justin’s shift away from the cosmology and grammar of Paul. For Paul, the boundaries of the People of God are somewhat malleable, as the pneumatic motion of Christ animates the cosmos. For Justin, the ultimate stands as a measure which must be met by those claiming God’s inheritance (Dial. 11.2-3). In other words, “This eternal covenant establishes who is a true, spiritual Israelite and Judaite, and who is not, taking the place of all other aspirants to those names.”[4] Justin still speaks of the pneuma, but when he does so he contrasts its higher reality with lower fleshliness, as in Dial. 135.6, where he compares the two houses of Jacob: “the one born of flesh and blood, and the other of faith and the Spirit.” To summarize the differences between Paul’s and Justin’s views on pneuma: Paul operates under Stoic presuppositions, believing that all reality is material. Justin thinks, like a Platonist, that reality is divided into the ideal and the perceptible. When Paul talks about being in the pneuma he takes that to mean corporeal participation in the stuff that constitutes God. When Justin talks about being in the pneuma he presumes it means existence in an ideal and that there also exists a contrast—the perceptible. Justin believes there is a difference between the new ideal of life in the pneuma of Jesus and the old perceptible law of Judaism. This is a development from Paul, for whom there is only one level of pneumatic reality into which Gentiles can be grafted. These different cosmologies and their attendant theological grammars result in several divergent aspects of practical theology.

First, while Justin would affirm along with Paul that Christ-followers possess the pneuma, he would have understood the implications of that statement differently than Paul. For Paul, participation in the material pneuma meant reception of the “very DNA” of Christ’s body.[5] For Justin, participation in the pneuma meant standing on the “ideal” side of divided reality.[6] Second, where Paul spoke of the pneuma as power to enact the fruits of the Spirit in the Christian life (Gal. 5:25),[7] Justin viewed the pneuma primarily as a one who speaks through Jesus-followers.[8] Third, whereas for Paul the pneuma inhabits all of reality, Justin has moved onto to the logos as that which inhabits all of the cosmos.[9] This is due at least in part to Justin’s interpretation of the pneuma as belonging to the realm of the ideal, thereby necessarily preventing its mixing with the corporeal. For Justin, the incarnate logos stands in the gap, uniting the pneumatic ideal with the materiality of the perceptible in the mystery of the incarnation.[10] Finally, where Paul viewed the work of the pneuma as bringing the Gentiles into the family of God, Justin interpreted language of pneuma and sarx as references to the new transcending the old. Indeed, Justin stands as the first Christian writer to “explicitly argue for the cessation of the Spirit from Judaism following the coming of Christ.”[11] These differing conceptions of pneuma in hand, I now turn to aspects of Justin’s reception and transformation of Pauline thought concerning the ancestry of Abraham and identity of the true Israel.[12]


[1] Dial. 2.6, 4.1-7. de Beer, 376.

[2] Thorsteinsson, “Justin,” 533. de Beer, 376-7. On this, de Beer writes, “Of the utmost importance for the Christian religion is Plato’s doctrinal insistence on the priority of the spiritual: the eternal, unchanging soul is superior to the ephemeral, changing body and precedes it in time, both for the world as a whole and for human beings. It is further maintained by Plato that the highest life, which is spiritual and eternal life, is made possible by the presence of the soul, while the soul is contaminated by matter, including the physical body. Thus, both the Platonist and Christian traditions teach that the invisible things are more important than the visible things.” See de Beer, 376.

[3] John M. Dillon, “Platonism” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary: Volume 5 (O-Sh) (ed. D.N. Freedman, New York and London: Doubleday, 1992), V.380.

[4] Chilton, 83. Dial. 11.5. See also Isa. 55.3-4.

[5] Thiessen, 117.

[6] Dial. 11.5.

[7] W. Wright, 17, 22. 1 Cor. 6.11. Rom. 8.1.

[8] Dial. 56.14. Kyle R. Hughes, “The Spirit Speaks: Pneumatological Innovation in the Scriptural Exegesis of Justin and Tertullian,” VC 69 (2015): 465, 470. See also 1 Apol. 36.1-2.

[9] Dial. 62.2-3, 128-129.

[10] Dial. 35.5, 39.4-6, 61.1-5, 84-85.

[11] Hughes, 481. Lieu, Image and Reality, 103-48. Susan Wendel suggests that, in Justin’s view, when Jesus received the pneuma, it departed from Israel’s prophets. See Susan Wendel, “Interpreting the Descent of the Spirit: A Comparison of Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho and Luke-Acts” in Justin Martyr and His Worlds (ed. S. Parvis and P. Foster, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007), 97. Dial. 87.1-2.

[12] Another aspect of possible divergence between Paul and Justin concerns the miraculous. See Dial. 30-31, 35, 39, 76, 85. On this Kelhoffer concludes, “Despite their common assumptions, Paul and Justin have strikingly contrasting goals in their appeals to the miraculous. Paul is usually concerned with defending his own authority by virtue of his own miracles…. In contrast with most of Paul’s statements, Justin Martyr refers to exorcisms performed by others and maintains that these wonders demonstrate the validity of certain parts of his larger apologetic enterprise.” See James A. Kelhoffer, “The Apostle Paul and Justin Martyr on the Miraculous: A Comparison of Appeals to Authority,” Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 42 (2001): 183-4.

Books I Read in 2021

Every year, I commit to reading as much and as widely as possible and (as a means of remembering everything I’ve read and holding myself accountable to my reading goals) I track the books I’ve read each year. (Click here to see what I read in 2020)

A couple of notes before my list. First, I read a fair amount of churchworld and theology, so please don’t read this as one of those “what you should read” lists that you might see floating around. Second, I’ve found that breaking down what I read by category is helpful for me, so this list appears that way (and includes some sub-categories as well).

Please also note a couple of special markers. My favorite books (and the one’s I recommend you consider reading) are marked with an asterisk and hyperlinked. Additionally, the books I’d read prior to this year but re-read are marked with a [re-read] notation. The best book I read this year is marked by three asterisks and will come as no surprise to many of you: Tish Harrison Warren’s Prayer in the Night. I can’t recommend it enough.

Finally, my goal the past several years has been to read 150 books (~3/week) and that was again the case this year. However, I’m pleased to say that this year’s list of books read includes some 185 titles completed. So, without further ado, what I read in 2021:

Biblical Studies – General

Biblical Studies – Old Testament

  • Reflections on the Psalms, Lewis
  • Daniel and the Twelve Prophets, Goldingay
  • Haggai and Malachi: NAC, Taylor and Clendenen
  • An Introduction to the Old Testament, Goldingay
  • Answering God, Peterson*
  • The Epic of Eden, Richter*
  • Genesis: The Book of Beginnings, Sacks
  • When Pain is Real and God Seems Silent, Duncan
  • An Unsettling God, Brueggemann
  • Deuteronomy: Love the Lord Your God, She Reads Truth
  • Prophetic Lament, Rah
  • The Lost World of Genesis One, Walton

Biblical Studies – New Testament

  • The Letter of James, Moo
  • James, The Bold Movement
  • Women in the New Testament, Thurston [re-read]
  • Gospel Women, Bauckham
  • The Gospel according to St. John, Barrett
  • Encountering John, Kostenberger
  • The Gospel of John, Core Christianity*
  • The Gospel according to John, Carson [re-read]
  • What if Jesus was Serious?, Jethani*
  • The Chosen: I Have Called You by Name, Jenkins
  • Rappin’ with Jesus, McCary
  • New Testament Exegesis: Revised Edition, Fee
  • The Power of Parable, Crossan
  • This is the New Testament, She Reads Truth

Biography

  • An American Life, Reagan
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Angelou
  • Steve Jobs, Isaacson
  • The Answer Is…, Trebek
  • Brainiac, Jennings
  • Hitler’s Last Days, O’Reilly
  • A Burning in My Bones, Winn*

Churchworld and Pastoring

  • Ten Most Common Mistakes Made by New Church Starts, Griffith and Easum
  • Nine Keys to Effective Small Group Leadership, George
  • The New Pastor’s Handbook, Helopoulos [re-read]
  • Letters to a Young Congregation, Peterson
  • Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity, Peterson
  • Growing Young, Powell, Mulder, Griffin
  • The Fabric of Faithfulness, Garber*
  • Letters to the Church, Chan [re-read]
  • Study Guide for Letters to the Church, Chan [re-read]
  • Kingdom Conspiracy, McKnight
  • Servolution, Rizzo
  • Sermons to the People, Augustine
  • Branded, Sinclair
  • The Divorce Dilemma, MacArthur
  • For the City, Patrick and Carter
  • The Living Church, Stott [re-read]
  • Small Preaching, Pennington
  • The Social Church, Wise

Cultural Issues

  • iGen, Twenge
  • White Fragility, DiAngelo
  • Going Clear, Wright
  • A Practical Guide to Culture, Stonestreet and Kunkle*
  • How to Avoid a Climate Disaster, Gates
  • Counter Culture, Platt
  • We Will Not Be Silenced, Lutzer
  • This Book is Not Garbage, Thomas
  • You Found Me, Richardson
  • You Lost Me, Kinnaman
  • The Rise of the Nones, White

Family Life

Fiction

  • Ready Player Two, Cline
  • Norse Mythology, Gaiman
  • AAAA!, Amend
  • The City of Ember, DuPrau
  • Timmy Failure, Pastis
  • The Strain, Del Toro and Hogan
  • The Fall of Arthur, Tolkien
  • More than a Skeleton, Maier* [re-read]
  • A Week in the Life of Corinth, Witherington
  • The Hobbit, Tolkien [re-read]
  • The Fellowship of the Ring, Tolkien [re-read]

History

  • Maphead, Jennings*
  • The Cubs Way, Verducci
  • The Professor and the Madman, Winchester*
  • The Room Where It Happened, Bolton
  • Founding St. Louis, Fausz
  • Killing Crazy Horse, O’Reilly and Dugard
  • Killing the SS, O’Reilly and Dugard
  • The Fall of Richard Nixon, Brokaw
  • Killing Lincoln, O’Reilly and Dugard
  • Killing Reagan, O’Reilly and Dugard
  • How to Lose a War at Sea, Fawcett
  • 100 Bible Verses that Made America, Morgan
  • Black Hawk Down, Bowden
  • Killing Patton, O’Reilly and Dugard
  • Killing Kennedy, O’Reilly and Dugard
  • In This Generation, Ahrend
  • The Evil Empire, Grasse
  • Killing England, O’Reilly and Dugard
  • Killing the Rising Sun, O’Reilly and Dugard
  • Killing the Mob, O’Reilly and Dugard
  • Music Society and Antiquity and the Middle Ages, ed. McKinnon

Leadership

  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Lencioni
  • Good Leaders Ask Great Questions, Maxwell
  • Christ in Church Leadership, Winslow and Followwill
  • Essentialism, McKeown*
  • Game Storming, Gray et al
  • Rapid Problem Solving with Post-It Notes, Straker
  • Better Decisions, Fewer Regrets, Stanley*
  • Mastering Our Passions, Kuhatschek
  • Spiritual Leadership, Blackaby and Blackaby
  • Effortless, McKeown

Mental Health

Politics

Reading and Writing

  • How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One, Fish
  • The Horse in My Garage and Other Stories, McManus
  • The Complete Poems and Plays, Eliot
  • On Reading Well, Prior*

Theology – General

  • The Best Things in Life, Kreeft [re-read]
  • A Guide to Christian Ambition, Hewitt [re-read]
  • New Girl at Church, Martin
  • (Un)Qualified, Furtick
  • The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness, Keller
  • Managing Our Finances God’s Way, Warren et al
  • Abide in Christ, Murray
  • Proper Confidence, Newbigin
  • From Christ to Christianity, Edwards
  • A Little Book for New Theologians, Kapic*
  • Who Is This Man?, Ortberg
  • Faith and Doubt, Ortberg
  • My Utmost for His Highest, Chambers [re-read]
  • The Language of God, Collins
  • Humility, Murray
  • He Chose the Nails, Lucado
  • How to Think Theologically, Second Edition, Stone and Duke
  • Credo, Williams [re-read]
  • Delighting in the Trinity, Reeves
  • The Liturgy of the Ordinary, Warren [re-read]
  • A Year with C.S. Lewis, Lewis

Theology – Heaven, Hell & the Afterlife

Theology – Identity

Theology – Spiritual Disciplines


Transformations of Pauline Theology in Justin’s Dialogue

This post is part of an ongoing series on Paul and Pneuma, Justin and Judaism.

Scholars have long noted that Paul and Justin differ on who possess Abraham as ancestor and who belongs to true Israel. Less satisfactory, however, have been explanations as to why Paul and Justin diverge over these claims. It is my contention that these differing interpretations arose because of Paul’s Stoic worldview and cosmology and Justin’s Middle Platonic view of the world and the cosmos. That is, Justin’s largely Platonic worldview in some sense prevented him from sufficiently understanding Paul’s largely Stoic conceptions—especially concerning pneuma—and its influence on the boundaries of the Christian community. This section considers Paul’s and Justin’s conceptions of pneuma and how their cosmologies caused them to understand the Abrahamic ancestry and identity of Israel differently.

To understand the differences between Paul’s pneumatology and Justin, one must enter the world of ancient philosophy. The Stoic development of Platonic physics which was popular in Paul’s day held that everything that “is” (including the soul and virtues) is a material body (σῶμα) or a property of body.[1] Our post-Cartesian minds should not interpret this materiality as purely mechanical or (negatively) materialist, but rather as natural materiality, a corporeality in which reality is physically real.[2] According to Chrysippus, the animating force of reality was pneuma, a mixture of air and fire which permeates the whole cosmos and serves as a self-moving vehicle of divine reason.[3] In Stoic cosmology, the pneuma functioned as the universal controlling entity through a peculiar double movement (κινησις πνευματικη) in which it simultaneously moved into itself and out of itself.[4] Pneuma was often associated with the divine as the seminal principle of the world, indicating that God—like everything else in the Stoic cosmos—was made of pneumatic matter.[5]

Stoic cosmology proves particularly important because a number of New Testament scholars have argued that Paul inhabited a Stoic worldview, at least when it came to his conception of the pneuma.[6] For example, in Romans 8:14-17 Paul speaks of pneuma as the binding agent which unites Gentiles to Christ—the pneuma of God confirms (συμμαρτυρεῖ) that human pneuma now belongs to the divine. Likewise in Galatians 4:1-7, the Gentiles join Christ by taking his pneuma into their hearts (εἰς τὰς καρδίας), that is, by mixing their substances with his. This pneumatological connectivity forms new kinship, kinship that is not “spiritual” in the Cartesian sense of the term, but “material” in the Stoic sense.[7] In practicality, for Paul this meant that Gentiles who were brought into Christ received the pneuma of Christ—real participation in the material stuff of Christ—through baptism into Christ.[8] Furthermore, it is not just faith that brings one into contact with divine pneuma, but the pneuma of Christ through faith (Gal. 3:26) provides subsistence within the family of God.[9] As Thiessen summarizes, “Paul consistently portrays the reception of the pneuma in ways that coincide closely with Stoic conceptions of both pneuma and krasis…. The presence of the pneuma means that believers share the very substance of Christ and therefore share the shape of his life, death, and resurrection….”[10] Thus the Gentiles—who previously did not belong to the family of God—were pneumatically grafted into the People of God through faith. The key here is not just that the Gentiles-in-Christ now belong to the God, but also that the status of the Jews has not changed. That is, while Christ has pneumatologically opened up God’s kinship group to the nations, that group remains primarily composed of God’s “first family”—the Jews (Rom. 9:4-5; Phil. 3:4b-6).


[1] Christoph Jedan, Stoic Virtues: Chrysippus and the Religious Character of Ethics (London: Continuum, 2009), 11. Walter C. Wright, “The Source of Paul’s Concept of Pneuma,” The Covenant Quarterly 41 (1983): 20. Aeschylus, The Suppliant Maidens (trans. Richmond Lattimore, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953-56), 66-7. Jedan locates Stoicism at the junction of three intellectual schools: traditional polytheistic Greek religion, ancient philosophy-theology, and a materialist ontology. Michelle Lee offers a helpful discussion of the three forms of the Stoic body: different, adjacent, and unified. See Michelle Lee, Paul, the Stoics, and the Body of Christ (Cambridge: CUP, 2006), 49-50.

[2] Jedan, 9-10. Terrence Paige, “Who Believes in ‘Spirit’? Πνευμα in Pagan Usage and Implications for the Gentile Christian Mission,” HTR 95 (2002): 425.

[3] Jedan, 14-5, Stanley K. Stowers, “What Is ‘Pauline Participation in Christ’?” in Redefining First-Century Jewish and Christian Identities: Essays in Honor of Ed Parish Sanders (ed. F.E. Udoh et al, Notre Dame, I.N.: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008), 355.

[4] Jedan, 15. Cicero, On the Nature ofthe Gods 11.7.19.

[5] Jedan, 14. Diogenes Laertius, Lives 7.136. Paige, 425.

[6] N.T. Wright, Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2013), 232. Stanley Stowers, “What Is ‘Pauline Participation in Christ’?,” 355. Stanley Stowers, “Paul and the Terrain of Philosophy,” Early Christianity 6 (2015): 156. Thiessen, 114. Troels Engberg-Pedersen, “Paul’s Body: A Response to Barclay and Levison,” JSNT 33.4 (2011): 438-9.

[7] Johnson Hodge, 75-6. Thiessen writes that, “To receive the pneuma is to be enclothed in Christ because the pneuma is the pneuma of God’s son, who is Christ (Gal 2:20; 4:6; cf. Rom 8:9; Phil 1:19).” See Thiessen, 111.

[8] Thiessen, 117, 126. Rom. 6.3-11; Gal. 3.27.

[9] Thiessen, 105-6. Gal. 3.26-9. For a differing position, see Stephen Westerholm, “The Judaism Paul Left Behind Him” in The Making of Christianity: Conflicts, Contacts, and Constructions: Essays in Honor of Bengt Holmberg (ed. M. Zetterholm and S. Byrskog, Winona Lake, I.N.: Eisenbrauns, 2012), 356.

[10] Thiessen, 114.

The Letters of Paul in Justin Martyr (Part 2)

This post is part of an ongoing series on Paul and Pneuma, Justin and Judaism.

Justin also develops his reading of the Old Testament beyond Paul, for many of Justin’s glosses on these passage emphasize the separateness of Christ-followers and Jews because of belief in Christ as the Messiah.[1] In the interpretation of the scriptures—especially Old Testament theophanies—exegetical conflict arises between Christians and Jews, a conflict which for Justin must be settled by appeal to Christ.[2] Furthermore, Paul’s question of “should Gentiles follow the Jewish law in order to be saved?” remains a concern, but in Justin’s mind, those living post-Christ no longer attribute any wholesomeness to the Mosaic Law (Dial. 47).[3] Thus, in Justin’s use of the Jewish scriptures we may trace a clear development from Paul. Although he begins by using many of the same scriptural passages as Paul and interprets them Christocentrically, Justin takes the additional steps of locating exegetical disagreement between the Messiah and the Mosaic Law.

How then does Paul function for Justin in the Dialogue? A fair characterization seems to make Paul an important yet mutable source for Justin’s thought. That is, Justin employed Pauline language and themes as a foundation and then constructed his own theological interpretation on that base. In contrast to perspectives which argue Paul was the formative influence for Justin,[4] it seems more likely that he viewed the Apostle as one source among many which formed the regula fide, albeit an authority who had lots to say about the relationship between Jews and Gentiles. Themes which were connected in Paul (such as the association of circumcision and righteousness) could be severed by Justin (who speaks of both righteousness and circumcision, but not together).[5] It appears that Justin was not interested in reading Paul on Paul’s own terms. Rather, he was looking for strands of thought concerning various topics which he could resource and employ against Trypho. In sum, Justin knew and used Paul as a source for constructing his theology but not without leaving open the possibility of transforming Paul’s arguments.


[1] Adair, 217.

[2] Bogdan C. Bucur, “Justin Martyr’s Exegesis of Biblical Theophanies and the Parting of the Ways between Judaism and Christianity,” Theological Studies 75 (2014): 35. Adair, 192.

[3] See Benjamin L. White, “Justin between Paul and the Heretics: The Surprising Salvation of Gentile Christian Judaizers in Dialogue with Trypho 47.” Under Review. Online.

[4] Adair, 229-30.

[5] Dial. 23.4-5. Livesay, “Theological,” 69-70. See also Rensberger, 187-9.

Christmas Letter 2021

Merry Christmas Friends and Family,

Hayley, Judah, Jake, and Bree

We hope this missive finds you well, warm, and enjoying many a festivity celebrating the birth of King Jesus! 2021 has been an, erm, interesting year for the Prahlows, but we continue to forge ahead, thankful for all we’ve been blessed with and eager to what God has in store for us next. Our overarching news is that we said goodbye to our beloved (if a bit battered) Arlee home, though we remain renting in St. Louis while waiting for the housing market to cool off a bit. And now, to everyone’s highlights for 2021.

#breeberry

Five-year-old Bree started pre-K at Our Savior Lutheran this Fall. She loves going to school so much that the worst part of her day is usually leaving. She’s supremely outgoing and social, often saying “hi” to people while walking into the store, singing her favorite songs, and telling complete strangers that she loves their hair or shoes. Bree loves her many animals, especially when she can help mom with the rabbits. She’s also taken to building Lego with dad, especially any sets that cross over with her other love: shows on Disney+. One of her favorite memories from this past year was a trip to Great Wolf Lodge, which she reminds us about every time she hears someone say “Kansas City.”

#judahjap

Judah turned two this year and loves everything relating to dinosaurs (‘saurs) and cars (caws. Judah may secretly be from Boston). He’s our little empath and is always ready to provide a hug or snuggle to anyone in need of one. He’s enjoyed more mom time this fall while Bree is at school and loves hanging out with dad as much as he can too. Judah loves to run, explore, climb, and get into as many things as he can. He relishes reading books, playing with his toys, and taking long afternoon naps (much to the delight of his parents). He’s truly a member of the TikTok generation, as he loves to dance and wiggle anytime he hears something remotely resembling music.

At the St. Louis Zoo

In what is now year seven, Hayley runs her own small business, The Scrub Cap Co, where she makes scrub caps for doctors, nurses, and vets, while also taking on the occasional side project. She’s also been busy with Wool+Down Rabbitry, where she raises American Fuzzy Lop rabbits and somehow manages to find time to make the occasional rabbit show. She also attends Homeschool Group every Friday with Bree and Judah, in addition to all her many other mom-ing tasks. Not to be outdone by Jacob, Hayley leads the Service Team at Arise, where she coordinates volunteer work in the community and church.

Preaching at Arise

Jacob continues to serve as lead pastor at Arise Church, in Fenton, MO, the church that we planted in September 2020. Launching a church during a pandemic has been an adventure, but it’s rewarding work. In January, Jacob experienced a cardiac event that led to heart surgery and persisting mental health struggles. It’s been a particularly hard year for him, but he’s been working hard to abide in Christ and remain faithful to his calling. He’s rediscovered his love for building Lego and eagerly builds with Hayley and the kids. He continues to read copiously and is always looking for more books to add to his reading list. In his spare time, Jacob watches TikToks with Bree and Judah (and manages to make a few on occasion too).

Finally, in the spirit of Jolabokaflod, the Icelandic tradition of giving books and chocolate for Christmas, we wanted to leave you with a couple of book recommendations for this new year. Judah’s favorite book from this year (we think) is Little Blue Truck’s Christmas. Bree recommends all of the Pigeon books, but especially The Pigeon Needs a Bath! Hayley’s favorite read this year was Stephen King’s 11/22/63. And Jacob (who’s annual list of books is coming soon) recommends Tish Harrison Warren’s Prayer in the Night. Finally, the best book that Hayley and Jacob read together this year was The Liturgy of the Ordinary, also by Tish Harrison Warren.

And with that, we wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year! Our prayer for you this season and this coming year is best summed up in the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 15: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Grace and Peace, Jacob, Hayley, Bree, and Judah Prahlow

The Letters of Paul in Justin Martyr (Part 1)

This post is part of an ongoing series on Paul and Pneuma, Justin and Judaism.

An astounding variety exists among the receptions of Pauline literature and thought in early Christian writings.[1] Though certainly not the first interpreter of Paul, Justin Martyr remains one of the most influential. Before turning to Justin’s specific receptions and transformations of Paul in the Dialogue, we must first address the ongoing debate regarding Justin’s general knowledge and use of Pauline literature. Nowhere in the Dialogue or other extant writings does Justin mention Paul or formally quote any of his sayings.[2] Yet this does not mean that Justin did not know of Paul. Scholars have proposed four options regarding Justin’s general relationship to Pauline literature: 1) Justin did not know Paul; 2) Justin knew Paul and chose not to use him; 3) Justin knew Paul and disagreed with him; and 4) Justin knew Paul and used him, though without formally citing him.

Of these options, the claim that Justin did not know Paul[3] is the least likely for a variety of reasons, chief among them the fact that Justin lived and wrote from Rome, where a plethora of evidence indicates that Paul’s Epistle to the Romans enjoyed consistent use. The position that Justin knew Paul but did not use him also seems unlikely, given that scholars holding this position tend to be older work and have rigid criteria for ascertaining uses of one ancient text in another.[4] Similarly unpopular—often for confessional reasons—is the view that Justin knew of Paul but disagreed with him.[5] The most compelling explanation of this viewpoint involves Paul’s co-option by Marcion of Pontus and Justin’s rejection of Paul along with Marcion.[6] This perspective, however, has been sufficiently problematized by recent studies on the influence of Marcion on the early Church.[7]

The vast majority of scholars concur that Justin was aware of Paul, had access to at least some of his letters, and employed his thought without formally citing him.[8] While some disagreement exists as to whether Justin simply developed Pauline themes[9] or employed specific language from his letters, many scholars argue Justin employed Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Galatians in writing the Dialogue.[10] As for why Justin did not formally cite Paul, there are two likely explanations. First is the purpose of Justin’s argument, namely, to convince Trypho that Jesus is God’s Messiah. If Trypho does not buy this argument, he is certainly not going to accept Paul’s theology. Second, the authority in question for Justin and Trypho is not Paul but the Jewish scriptures. Justin must demonstrate the case for Jesus through appeal to a source that Trypho finds authoritative, making citation of Paul unnecessary.[11] Given Justin’s dialogue partner and purpose in writing, it is not surprising to see Paul alluded to but not explicitly cited.

This knowledge and transformation of Paul is further evidenced in Justin’s utilization of Jewish scripture.[12] Of particular interest to scholars are a number of Old Testament citations which Justin either cites in the form of Paul or interprets similar to how Paul uses them.[13] For example, both Paul (Gal. 3:6) and Justin (Dial. 119.5) cite Genesis 15:6 in order to declare that Gentile Christians are justified like Abraham.[14] Not only does Justin cite many of the same passages as Paul, but he also employs a highly Christocentric reading of those passages, locating in the Old Testament numerous attestations to Christ and the truth of prophecy.[15] Craig Allert concludes that for Justin, “The [Old Testament] scriptures must be interpreted through an understanding of the events of his pre-existence, incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father.”[16] In these ways, Justin interprets the Jewish scriptures very similarly to Paul.


[1] Michael F. Bird and Joseph R. Dodson, Paul and the Second Century (LNTS 412; London: Bloomsbury, 2011). Dodson, 4-10. Jennifer R. Strawbridge, The Pauline Effect: The Use of the Pauline Epistles by Early Christian Writers (SBIR 5; Berlin and Boston: de Gruyter, 2015).

[2] Paul Foster, “Justin and Paul” in Paul and the Second Century (ed. M.F. Bird and J.R. Dodson, LNTS 412, London: Bloomsbury, 2011), 108.

[3] Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity (trans. R. Kraft and G. Krodel, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971), 215-16. Hans von Campenhausen, The Formation of the Christian Bible (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1972), 98-9. Wilhelm Schneemelcher, “Paulus in der griechischen Kirche des zweiten Jahrhunderts,” Zeitschriftfur Kirchengeschichte 75 (1964): 7-9.

[4] Foster, 113. F. C. Baur, Das Christenthum und die christliche Kirche der drei ersten Jahrhunderte (Tubingen: Fues, 1860. Reprint, ed. Klaus Scholder, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann, 1966), 3.135-40. David Rensberger, “As the Apostle Teaches: The Development of the Use of Paul’s Letters in Second-Century Christianity” (Ph.D. diss., New Haven: Yale University, 1981), 162-92.

[5] Foster, 124.

[6] Judith M. Lieu, “The Battle for Paul in the Second Century,” Irish Theological Quarterly 75 (2010): 12.

[7] Jacob J. Prahlow, “Discerning Witnesses: First and Second Century Textual Studies in Christian Authority” (M.A. Thesis, Winston-Salem, N.C.: Wake Forest University, 2014), 27-34. (Unless you publish this, I would omit it!) Larry W. Hurtado, “The New Testament in the Second Century: Text, Collections and Canon” in Transmissions and Reception: New Testament Text-Critical and Exegetical Studies (eds. J.W. Childers and D.C. Parker, Texts and Studies, Third Series, 4. Piscataway, N.J.: Gorgian Press, 2006), 5. W. Schmithals, “On the Composition and Earliest Collection of the Major Epistles of Paul” in Paul and the Gnostics (trans. J. Steely, Nashville: Abingdon, 1972), 41.

[8] Andreas Lindemann, Paulus im dltesten Christentum: Das Bild des Apostels und die Rezeption der paulinischen Theologie in derfriihchristlichen Literatur bis Marcion (Beitrage zur historischen Theologie 58, Tubingen: Mohr, 1979), 353-67. Edouard Massaux, The Influence of the Gospel of Saint Matthew on Christian Literature Before Saint Irenaeus (trans. Norman J. Belval and Suzanne Hecht, Macon, G.A.: Mercer University Press, 1993), 5/3 47-49, 96-101.

[9] Foster, 110. Massaux, The Influence on the Gospel of Matthew, 5/3, 96.

[10] Likely uses include Rom. 2.28-29 in Dial. 41.21-22, 92.21-22, and 113.7; Rom. 9.7 in Dial. 25.2, 44.5, and 140.12-14; Rom. 10.16-18 in Dial. 42.1-3; Gal. 3.6-7 in Dial. 119.5-6. See also the possible use of 1 Cor. 15.24 in Dial. 111.12-13; Col. 1.15 in Dial. 85.2; and Col. 1.17 in Dial. 100.2. Skarsune, “Justin and His Bible,” 74. Lindemann, 366. Foster, 111, 119-120. John A. Adair, Paul and Orthodoxy in Justin Martyr (Ph.D. diss. Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 2008), 225-6. Rodney Werline, “The Transformation of Pauline Arguments in Justin Martyr’s ‘Dialogue with Trypho,’” HTR 92 (1999): 80.

[11] Werline, 80-1.

[12] A.J.B. Higgins, “Jewish messianic belief in Justin Martyr’s ‘Dialogue with Trypho,’” Novum Testamentum 9 (1967): 298-305. B.Z. Bokser, “Justin Martyr and the Jews,” Jewish Quarterly Review 64 (1973): 97-122. Oskar Skarsaune, “Judaism and Hellenism in Justin Martyr, elucidated from his portrait of Socrates,” in: H. Lichtenberger (ed.), Geschichte—Tradition—Reflexion: Festschrift für Martin Hengel zum 70. Geburtstag Vol III (Tübingen: Mohr and Siebeck 1996) 585–611.

[13] Skarsaune, Proof from Prophecy, 92-100. Adair, 216-7.

[14] Allert, 174.

[15] Bruce Chilton, “Justin and Israelite Prophecy” in Justin Martyr and His Worlds (ed. S. Parvis and P. Foster, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007), 79. Adair, 192. Skarsaune, “Judaism and Hellenism,” 608. Chilton notes that the for Justin, the Prophets of Israel “(1) attested Christ, (2) inspired the best of Greek philosophy, (3) forecast the transfer of the prophetic Spirit from Israel to Christians, and (4) agreed that the divine Logos lies at the core of human cognition of God.”

[16] Allert, 251.

Paul and the Gentile Problem

This post is part of an ongoing series on Paul and Pneuma, Justin and Judaism.

The status of the Gentiles within the Jesus Movement seems to have become a topic of concern soon after the death and resurrection appearances of Jesus in the mid-30’s CE. By the time Paul began his missionary work, likely in the late 40’s, at least two perspectives on the “Gentile Problem” (if Gentiles could belong to the Jesus community) had congealed. The first option was that Gentiles had to become religious Jews[1] in order to be saved. Paul’s opponents in Galatia seem to have held this view (Gal. 1:6-3:14), which was apparently a fairly common Jewish perspective on what God-Fearers had to do in order to become Jews.[2] The second perspective on the “Gentile Problem” argued that Gentiles and Jews alike could belong to the movement. In this view, “Through the death and resurrection of Christ, the God of Israel has called the gentiles to be his people…. [The] gentiles have been adopted as sons and made into a laos of the God of Israel, a position previously occupied by the Israelites alone.”[3] In years past, some (primarily Protestant) scholars believed a third perspective existed, namely, that the Gentiles had supplanted the Jews as the People of God.[4] As we will see below, this view incorrectly read later Christian arguments back into the earliest years of the Jesus Movement.

Most modern scholarship rightly affirms Paul’s location within the second perspective: both Jews and Gentile could belong to the Jesus Movement. Exactly how this worked, however, has been open to considerable debate. For years, the so-called “Lutheran View” of Paul dominated Biblical Studies, claiming that Jesus did away with Judaism qua Judaism and replaced the Jewish Law with a faith-centered Law of Christ. In this view, Jesus Followers—Jews and Gentiles alike—were freed from the shackles of rote legalism and the burden of the Jewish old covenant. In recent decades, however, this perspective has been challenged by the New Perspective on Paul. New Perspective scholars such as E.P. Sanders, Krister Stendhal, James Dunn, and N.T. Wright argue that the failure of Israel centered on its ethnocentrism and that the Christian innovation extended the people of God category to Gentiles as well.[5] In this view, Paul’s statement in Gal 3:28 was paradigmatic: there is no longer Jew or Greek in Christ, for ethnic identity has been done away with. The New Perspective on Paul has not convinced everyone, least of all those belonging to the Paul within Judaism school of thought. For this viewpoint ethnic identity remains—Jews and Gentiles were separate peoples as they had been since the time of Abraham—but these differences are surpassed by the Christ event, which makes Gentiles “descendants of Abraham, adopted sons of God and coheirs with Christ.”[6] Jesus makes possible Gentile inclusion and Judaism rightly understood[7] still grants access to God.

This series proceeds on the basis of the Paul within Judaism perspective. To flesh out this viewpoint further, being in-Christ does not negate ethnic identity, for Paul can still use terminology of Ioudaioi and ethnoi meaningfully in his letters.[8] Kinship and ethnicity are not merely metaphorical but instead constitute fundamental identity characteristics which impact one’s status before God. Christ Followers are always simultaneously ethnic—Roman, Greek, or Jewish—and their salvation must be articulated in terms of their identity, not apart from it.[9] This is why circumcision became such a sticking point for Paul and the early Church, for it inappropriately blurred Jewish and Gentile identity.[10] Indeed, the only correct way to establish veritable identity in the people of God comes through Christ, who brings Gentiles into the genealogy of Abraham and faithful relationship with God.[11] In the letters of Paul, the Christ event inaugurated the inclusion of the Gentiles within the People of God, though not at the expense of Israel. Faithfulness to Christ means faithfulness to God and—if you are a Jew—faithfulness to the covenant of Israel. This concept of the boundaries of the Jesus community would not be translated into the thinking of many later Christians.


[1] For an outline of the history and parameters of Jews and Judaism in Late Antiquity, see Lee I. Levine, “Jewish Identities in Antiquity: An Introductory Essay” in Jewish Identities in Antiquity: Studies in Memory of Menahem Stern (ed. L.I. Levine and D.R. Schwartz, Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009).

[2] Matthew Thiessen, Paul and the Gentile Problem (Oxford: OUP, 2016), 115.

[3] Caroline Johnson Hodge, If Sons, Then Heirs: A Study of Kinship and Ethnicity in the Letters of Paul (Oxford: OUP, 2007), 3.

[4] Johnson Hodge, 7. Joel Willitts, “Paul and Jewish Christians in the Second Century” in Paul and the Second Century (ed. M.F. Bird and J.R. Dodson, LNTS 412, London: Bloomsbury, 2011), 140, 167. Building from F.C. Baur, this school often posited a radical divergence between Jewish Christianity and Pauline Christianity, a dichotomy in which to be a Jewish Christian was to be anti-Paul and (by extension) anti-grace.

[5] E.P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977). Krister Stendhal, Paul Among Jews and Gentiles and Other Essays (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979). James D.G. Dunn, The New Perspective on Paul (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008). N.T. Wright, Paul: In Fresh Perspective (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2005).

[6] Johnson Hodge, 5. Caroline Johnson Hodge, “Apostle to the Gentiles: Constructions of Paul’s Identity,” Biblical Interpretation 13.3 (2005): 276. Lloyd Gaston, Paul and the Torah (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1987), 23f. William S. Campbell, “Gentile Identity and Transformation in Christ According to Paul” in The Making of Christianity: Conflicts, Contacts, and Constructions: Essays in Honor of Bengt Holmberg (ed. M. Zetterholm and S. Byrskog, Winona Lake, I.N.: Eisenbrauns, 2012), 38-9. (here and throughout: don’t separate secondary sources by periods – use commas or semi-colons)

[7] The Messiah has come!

[8] Gal. 2.15, Rom. 11.1-2, 26. Johnson Hodge 4, 9, 43. Johnson Hodge, “Apostle,” 271. See also Gal. 1.16, 2.7-9; Rom. 1.5-6, 13, 11.13, 15.1-6. “Followers of Christ are not a new creation in the sense that their past is entirely annulled or negated, and that there are multiple identities in Christ.” See William S. Campbell, Paul and the Creation of Christian Identity (London: T&T Clark, 2008), 14.

[9] Johnson Hodge, 9.

[10] Gal. 5.2-15. Rom. 2.25-29. Mark D. Nanos, The Mystery of Romans: The Jewish Context of Paul’s Letter (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996), 337-71. Mark D. Nanos, The Irony of Galatians: Paul’s Letter in First-Century Context (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002), 152-4.

[11] Johnson Hodge, 5, 151. Campbell, “Gentile Identity,” 38-9.

Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho

This post is part of an ongoing series on Paul and Pneuma, Justin and Judaism.

Although numerous writings have been attributed to Justin throughout the years, only three extant works are believed to be authentic: the First and Second Apologies[1] and the Dialogue with Trypho the Jew.[2] While some scholars have questioned if Justin could have written apologies and a dialogue, the general consensus holds his authorship of all three.[3] The earliest manuscript of the Dialogue is Codex Parisinus Graecus 450, dated to 11 September 1363 CE.[4] As for when the Dialogue was originally written no one can say for sure. Although internal evidence suggests that the dialogue was held over two days and at a time shortly after the bar Kokhba revolt (c. 135 CE).[5] Justin’s use of sources offers no further delimitations for the date of composition,[6] a further indication that the Dialogue could have been written any time between c.135 and 165 CE.

The Dialogue was addressed to an otherwise unknown Marcus Pompeius (Dial. 141) and Justin’s chief interlocutor was Trypho, a learned “Hebrew of the circumcision and a fugitive from the war that has just ended” (Dial. 1.3).[7] But apart from these obvious addressees, for whom was the Dialogue written? Scholars have argued for three audiences. First, the Dialogue was composed for a Jewish audience, an apology for a Christian reading of the Jewish scriptures.[8] Second, the Dialogue was composed for a pagan and primarily Gentile audience, seeking to prevent their conversion to Judaism.[9] Third, Justin wrote the Dialogue for Christians, either using a liturgical style or composing for an educational setting.[10] The theory which makes the most sense of internal and external evidence posits that the Dialogue was written for a Diaspora Jewish audience in the context of Christian missions and (somewhat quickly) found wider circulation among Christians opposed to Judaism.[11]

Justin employed a four-part structure in his Dialogue with the Jews, each of which spoke to his overarching theme of “how do we know what we know,” especially about the scriptures?[12] Chapters 1-9 describe Justin’s personal search for truth and his encounter with the Hebrew prophets. Chapters 10-30 explain the Christian interpretation of the Mosaic Law.[13] Chapters 31-108 discuss the person of Jesus, the divine messiah spoken of by the prophets. Finally, chapters 109-142 offers his thesis on the fact that Gentiles in Christ are the new spiritual Israel. Throughout this work Justin reveals his concern for properly Christocentric soteriology: since the old law has become obsolete and can no longer save, all must turn to the new law of Jesus the Christ.[14] Justin’s context in hand, this paper now considers Paul, particularly the facets of his theology on the Jewish-Gentile problem with which Justin interacted.


[1] The relationship of the First and Second Apology remains debated, with some suggesting both are part of a single work, see Parvis, 57. For a general introduction to the Apologies see Parvis, 56-9.

[2] Allert, 32. Piscini, 172. In all subsequent footnotes, I recommend using an abbreviated form of the title of a previously cited work.

[3] Philippe Bobichon, “Justin martyr: ‘etude stylistique du Dialogue avec Tryphon, suivie d’une comparaison avec l’Apologie et le De resurrectione,” Researches augustiniennes et patristiques 34 (2005): 1-61. Philippe Bobichon, Justin Martyr. Dialogue avec Tryphon, edition critique, traduction, commentaire (Paradosis 47/1-2, Fribourg: Academic Press, 2003), 23-40. Slusser, 15-7.

[4] Sylvain Jean Gabriel Sanchez, “Le Manuscrit du Dialogue avec Tryphon de Justin Martyr,” BLE 103 (2002): 371. Juan Pablo Sena Pera, The Polemic Construction of Judaism at the origins of Christianity: from Paul to Justin Martyr (Ph.D. diss., Bologna: Universita di Bologna, 2015), 166. Slusser, 14. For a discussion of the manuscript history and some noteworthy text critical concerns with the Dialogue, see Sanchez, 377-82.

[5] Allert, 32-4.

[6] Justin employs both the LXX and another Greek version in his citation of the Jewish scriptures. He also knows and uses Matthew, Romans, and Galatians. Scholars have posited his use of two other sources: a “testimony source” for Jewish writings and a “kerygma source” for Christian teaching. See? Dial. 121.1. Oskar Skarsaune, The Proof from Prophecy: A Study in Justin Martyr’s Proof-Text Tradition: Text-Type, Provenance, Theological Profile (SuppNT 56, Leiden: Brill, 1987); idem, “The Development of Scriptural Interpretation in the Second and Third Centuries—except Clement and Origen” in Hebrew Bible, Old Testament: The History of Its Interpretation I/1: Antiquity (ed. M. Saebø, Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1996), 373–442; idem, “Justin and His Bible,” in Justin Martyr and His Worlds (ed. S. Parvis and P. Foster, Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007), 53–76; idem, “Jewish Christian Sources Used by Justin Martyr and Some Other Greek and Latin Fathers” in Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries (ed. O. Skarsaune and R. Hvalvik, Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007), 380-401; and Antti Laato, “Justin Martyr Encounters Judaism” in Encounters of the Children of Abraham from Ancient to Modern Times (ed. A. Laato and P. Lindqvist, Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2010), 103. See also Eusebius Eccl. Hist. 4.26.13-14.

[7] Dial. 1.3, 38.2, 120.5. Parvis, 53-4. Laato, 103. Trypho may be the R. Tarphon of Mishnaic fame.

[8] Dial. 32.2, 55.3, 64.2-3. Theodore Stylianopoulos, Justin Martyr and the Mosaic Law (SBLDS 20, Missoula, M.T.: SBL and Scholars Press, 1975), 39. Stephen G. Wilson, Related Strangers: Jews and Christians 70–170 C.E. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995), 264. Allert, 37-8, 57-60. Nina E. Livesay, “Theological Identity Making: Justin’s Use of Circumcision to Create Jews and Christians,” JECS 18 (2010): 51.

[9] Dial. 1-9, 23.3, 24.3, 29.1, 32.5, 64.2, 119.4, 141. Livesay, “Theological,” 52. David Rokéah, “Ancient Jewish Proselytism in Theory and in Practice,” Theologische Zeitschrift 52 (1996): 8. Claudia J. Setzer, Jewish Responses to Early Christians: History and Polemics, 30–150 C.E.. (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1994), 136. Allert, 38-53.

[10] Dial. 24.3, 29.1. Georges, 83. Livesay, “Theological,” 53. Tessa Rajak, “Talking at Trypho: Christian Apologetic as Anti Judaism in Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho the Jew,’” in Apologetics in the Roman Empire: Pagans, Jews, and Christians, ed. Mark Edwards et al. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1999), 78. Judith M. Lieu, Image and Reality: The Jews in the World of the Christians in the Second Century (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996), 105. Allert, 54-7.

[11] This conclusion, of course, should raise awareness to the fact that Justin and Paul were likely writing to different ethnic audiences: Justin to Jews and Paul to Gentiles. Allert, 61. Laato, 117. See also Daniel Rebecca Sangeetha, “The Theme of ‘Exclusion’ in Rabbinic Literature, Its Interpretation and Impact of the Separation of Judaism and Christianity,” Bangalore Theological Forum 43.2 (2011): 84-5, and Alan F. Segal, “The History Boy: The Importance of Perspective in the Study of Early Judaism and Christianity” in Identity and Interaction in the Ancient Mediterranean: Jews, Christians, and Others: Essays in Honour of Stephen G. Wilson (ed. Z.A. Crook and P.A. Harland, Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2007), 220.

[12] Sena Pera, 167-8. For an extensive outline of the Dialogue, see Michael J. Choi, “What is Christian orthodoxy according to Justin’s Dialogue?,” SJT 63.4 (2010): 400-1.

[13] This theme is revisited in chapters 40-47, 67, and 92-93.

[14] Allert, 169-171. Choi, 399.