Hilary of Poitiers: Commentary on Psalm 53

Translation of Hilary of Poitiers’s Commentary on Psalm 53 (LXX 52)

In the end; according to Maeleth; understandings to David. The fool said in his heart: There is no God and the rest.

The present psalm is almost harmonious with the thirtieth psalm, but it does have in this a little understanding, not a likeness of words, first in the power of the inscription itself. For the thirtieth (psalm) is thus written: In the end of that David, by which title it is being indicated that the psalm was by the prophet David. This/here truly: In the end; according to Maeleth ; understandings to David. For wherever there is: in the end understandings, there is the signal of exhortation and of admonition, the end of which was ordered to apply knowledge to our understanding of judgment, in order that we understand to be announced in the psalm that which will be accomplished in the end according to the apostle: Then is the end, when he will hand the kingdom to Good the Father; when he will empty all principalities and powers and strength, and then he will place under himself all those having been placed under him. But death is the last enemy he will empty. This, therefore, is the end, which is being understood in the psalm. Those, however, which are being titled the psalm of that David, are all being revealed to be prophesied about Christ, who is the real David, because where of that is being inscribed, there shows him who will speak; truly where to that is, there reveals him to whom it is being said.

The fool says in his heart: there is no God. Shameful eloquence is (that) of human fault with the words of the mouth, not to intend to bring together, but, the urgent instinct of interior wickedness (that within the heart speaking) is the necessity of desire struggling against public decency with unevenness, provided that anything makes ashamed to say (but) not ashamed to be thought. And on that account the fool says in his heart: there is no God, because, unless he desires to speak this by the words of the mouth (to be a fool, as he is), he would prove the judgment of public belief.  For who does not believe that God is looking at the universe? But it frequently happens that, although the necessity of truth compels us to confession of God, the fool nevertheless is persuaded that our God is not delighting, and because we believe against confidence, we nevertheless speak out from the heart concerning wicked counsel. About which that (word) of God was spoken through the prophet: This people honor me with their lips, but their heart is far from me, because they do not desire to believe that which they are not able to deny.

He reveals the true cause of the most foolish speech in his heart, speaking: They are corrupt and they are detestable in their iniquities. Unjust is whatever is beyond the law. And they are first exceeding the law of God in the corruption of subordination, then in abomination, because iniquity brings corruption, while corruption merits abomination. For when anyone will transgress the law of God, then he will deny God, and corruption is to deny God. For to drive out corruption, our Lord became the fleshy word. Indeed, according to the apostle it is right (that) corruption be clothed in incorruption. But whatever is unjust and whoever does not believe that the Word is God become flesh, because he will say in his heart God does not exist, he will remain corrupt and abominable. Insofar as the thirtieth psalm (says) They were made detestable in iniquity, so it says They were made detestable in his invention. He neither puts off sense and guilt, because pursuing men (those who themselves are pleasing) transgressed the establishment of divine law.

Then follows this complaint: There is none who does good. We will treat this verse in its own place, because it was exposed below also (together with the approach). Now, however, everyone was suitably and properly (increased), all parts having been corrupted and detestable, no one to have learned in good works, because, although we are in the habit to speak of things which are good, nevertheless he persists in the same difficult things which are good.

And lest the will of God consider to be careless toward men, he adds: The Lord looks out from heaven upon the sons of men, in order to see if there is one understanding or seeking God. With the Lord gazing down from heaven, much was being known, often the agitation of the sins of the human race, the cause of our salvation. He chose Noah before the flood, justified Abraham through faith, promised the heir Isaac of the solemn promise, shaped the birthright of the people in the posterity of Jacob, put the prophet and leader Moses in charge and instituted the mover of the law, and inspired the prophetic law in all time. Therefore, through these thing of his own power and influence of that manner He look out upon the sons of men, in order to see if there was one understanding or seeing God.

Ammonius of Alexandria on the Psalms

Ammonius of Alexandria

Commentaries on the Old and New Testament which Remain

Relatively little is known about Ammonius of Alexandria (5th-6th century CE) apart from his service as presbyter in the Alexandrian and church and his brief literary fragments. This being the case, he has often been confused with an earlier Ammonius from Alexandria, the neoplatonic philosopher Ammonius Saccas (3rd century CE). According to Minge, around the year 458 CE Ammonius may have written letters for the bishops of Egypt to Pope Leo concerning the Council of Chalcedon. He did, however, have a penchant for writing Biblical commentaries, as fragments from his works on the Psalms, Daniel, John, Luke, Acts, I Corinthians, and I Peter remain extant.[1]

Translations from Fragments of Ammonius on the Psalms[2]

PSALM 3.4 “You, however, Lord, are my guardian, my glory, and you exalt my head.” First indeed it is said that God is his guardian, then his glory, and afterward the one exalting his head. Certainly he is a guardian, in order that he may liberate him from many tribulations and surroundings. Truly, then, after guardianship is glory: for first God guards, then he glorifies, and finally he exalts the head of him whom he has glorified.

PSALM 3.7 “I will not fear the thousands of people who have surrounded me.” For just as you all supply those to whom you are favorably inclined, the favorable Savior and King considers the well-being of his very own.

PSALM 3.8 “Because you struck all my adversaries without cause.” He certainly stuck his adversaries; he truly destroyed the animosity of sins. Indeed that he may heal those again: For I strike and I will heal again. Moreover, he crushes the bitterness of sins, that is, perverse things, gossips, and carnivorous actions, desiring to thoroughly destroy them. Truly, perhaps, he crushes even the same accused adversaries and sinners. For in Christ all are against sinners, but especially that infidelity of the Jews, of whom animosity was exhausted. Truly, this is the ill will of those about whom in another Psalm it is said: Whoever devours my people in the food of bread, God will not pray for. For this animosity—that is, the sly words of the Jews—he thoroughly crushed, when he rose from the dead.

PSALM 3.9 “The Lord is salvation, and your blessing is above your people.” On account of this, there was the name, and this event: And you will call his name Jesus.

[1] CPG III, 5500-5509. PG 85: 1361-1610; 1823-1826.

[2] PG 85: 1361-1364.

Paul and Justin: Conclusions and Bibliography

This post marks the end of our series on Paul and Pneuma, Justin and Judaism.

In this series I have argued that the reception of Paul’s letters in Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho demonstrates a transformation of Pauline concepts. Although Paul and Justin shared certain foundations—such as the authority of the scriptures of Judaism and ancestry of Abraham for the people of God—they worked from different contexts and divergent philosophical trajectories. The different theological grammars and cosmologies of Paul and Justin led them to conceive of pneuma differently, which caused Justin to misread Paul on the relationship between the Judaism and the Christian community. This “parting of the ways”[1] advocated by Justin would only deepen in the decades and centuries following his Dialogue. By the mid-second century, “Christian and Jew were clearly distinct and separate.”[2] By the fourth century, the model for Gentile inclusion had been transformed into an argument for Jewish exclusion.[3]

Justin’s theology thus marks a seminal moment in the history of Jewish-Christian interactions, a moment influenced by the shift from Paul’s Stoic conceptions of reality to Justin’s Platonic ideals. It is not that Justin failed in his reading of Paul or purposely misread the Apostle. Rather, we may more properly think of Justin as attempting faithfully work out the implications from Paul’s theology, and (unwittingly) finding himself operating under a different set of interpretive lenses. Although he was not the sole perpetrator of this misreading (which the pseudepigraphal Third Corinthians also employs), the Dialogue proved to be a considerable influence for later Christian understandings of the separation between the Way and Judaism.[4] Justin’s Platonically-informed misreading did effectively finalize early Christian grammar concerning the relationship of the Church to Judaism. The migration from Paul’s arguments for Gentile inclusion within the covenant promises of God to Justin’s arguments for Jewish exclusion from Gods purposes offered a new understanding of the distinctions between Jews and Gentiles, now rooted in faithfulness and ontology rather than ethnicity and genealogy. One can only wonder at how Paul would respond to the reception and transformation of his theology.


Primary Sources

Aeschylus. The Suppliant Maidens. Translated by Richmond Lattimore. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1953-56.

Cicero. On the Nature of the Gods. Translated by H. Rackman. LCL 268. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1933.

Diogenes Laertius. Lives of Eminent Philosophers. Translated by Robert D. Hicks and Herbert Strainge Long. LCL 185. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972.

Eusebius of Caesarea. Ecclesiastical History. Translated by G.A. Williamson. Edited by Andrew Louth. London: Penguin Books, 1989.

Justin Martyr. Apologie pour les christiens: Introduction, Texte Critique, Traduction et Notes par Charles Munier. Edited by Charles Munier. Paris: Cerf, 2006.

—–. Dialogue avec le Tryphon: Edition Critique. Two Volumes. Edited by Philippe Bobichon. Fribourg: Academic Press Fribourg, 2003.

—–. Dialogue with Trypho. Translated by Thomas B. Falls. Edited by Michael Slusser. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2003.

New Revised Standard Version: Harper Collins Study Bible Revised Edition. Edited by Harold W. Attridge. San Francisco: Harper Collins, 2006.

Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 28. Online: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2015. http://www.nestle-aland.com/en/home/

Secondary Sources

Adair, John A. Paul and Orthodoxy in Justin Martyr. Ph.D. dissertation. Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 2008.

Allert, Craig D. Revelation, Truth, Canon and Interpretation: Studies in Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho. Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 64. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2002.

Andresen, Carl. “Justin und der mittlere Platonismus.” ZNW 44 (1952-3): 157-95.

Bauckham, Richard. “The Parting of the Ways: What Happened and Why.” Studia Theologica 47 (1993): 135-151.

Bauer, Walter. Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity. Translated by R. Kraft and G. Krodel. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971.

Baur, F.C. Das Christenthum und die christliche Kirche der drei ersten Jahrhunderte. Tubingen: Fues, 1860. Reprint edited by Klaus Scholder. Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann, 1966.

Binyam, Yontan. “Depends on Whom You Ask: The ‘Parting of the Ways’ in the Didache, Epistle of Barnabas, and Dialogue with Trypho the Jew.” MA Thesis. Wheaton, I.L.: Wheaton College Graduate School, 2012.

Bird, Michael F. and Joseph R. Dodson. Paul and the Second Century. Library of New Testament Studies 412. London: Bloomsbury, 2011.

Bobichon, Philippe. Justin Martyr. Dialogue avec Tryphon, edition critique, traduction, commentaire. Paradosis 47/1-2. Fribourg: Academic Press, 2003.

—–. “Justin martyr: ‘etude stylistique du Dialogue avec Tryphon, suivie d’une comparaison avec l’Apologie et le De resurrection.” Researches augustiniennes et patristiques 34 (2005): 1-61.

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Boyarin, Daniel. Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.

—–. Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999.

—–. “Justin Martyr Invents Judaism.” Church History 70.3 (2001): 427-61.

Bucur, Bogdan C. “Justin Martyr’s Exegesis of Biblical Theophanies and the Parting of the Ways between Judaism and Christianity.” Theological Studies 75 (2014): 34-51.

Buell, Denise Kimber. “Constructing Early Christian Identities Using Ethnic Reasoning.” ASE 24 (2007): 87-101.

—–. Why This New Race: Ethnic Reasoning in Early Christianity. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.

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—–. Paul and the Creation of Christian Identity. London: T&T Clark, 2008.

Chilton, Bruce. “Justin and Israelite Prophecy.” Pages 77- 87 in Justin Martyr and His Worlds. Edited by Sara Parvis and Paul Foster. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007.

Choi, Michael J. “What is Christian orthodoxy according to Justin’s Dialogue?” Scottish Journal of Theology 63.4 (2010): 398-413.

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de Beer, Vladimir. “The Patristic Reception of Hellenic Philosophy.” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 55.4 (2012): 373-98.

Dillon, John M. “Platonism.” Pages 378-381 in The Anchor Bible Dictionary: Volume 5 (O-Sh). Edited by David Noel Freedman. New York and London: Doubleday, 1992.

Dodson, Joseph R. “Introduction.” Pages 1-17 in Paul and the Second Century. Edited by Michael F. Bird and Joseph R. Dodson. Library of New Testament Studies 412. London: Bloomsbury, 2011.

Droge, Arthur J. “Justin Martyr and the Restoration of Philosophy.” Church History 9.1 (1987): 303-19.

Dunn, James D.G. The New Perspective on Paul. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2008.

—–. The Parting of the Ways: Between Christianity and Judaism and their Significance for the Character of Christianity: Second Edition. London: SCM Press, 2000.

Engberg-Pedersen, Troels. “Paul’s Body: A Response to Barclay and Levison.” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 33.4 (2011): 433-43.

Foster, Paul. “Justin and Paul.” 108-125 in Paul and the Second Century. Edited by Michael F. Bird and Joseph R. Dodson. Library of New Testament Studies 412. London: Bloomsbury, 2011.

Gaston, Lloyd. Paul and the Torah. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1987.

Georges, Tobias. “Justin’s School in Rome—Reflections on Early Christian ‘Schools.’” Zeitschrift für antikes Christentum 16 (2012): 75-87.

Goodenough, Erwin R. The Theology of Justin Martyr: An Investigation into the Conceptions of Early Christian Literature and Its Hellenistic and Judaistic Influences. Amsterdam: Philo Press, 1968.

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Higgins, A.J.B. “Jewish messianic belief in Justin Martyr’s ‘Dialogue with Trypho.’” Novum Testamentum 9 (1967): 298-305.

Hughes, Kyle R. “The Spirit Speaks: Pneumatological Innovation in the Scriptural Exegesis of Justin and Tertullian.” Vigiliae Christianae 69 (2015): 463-83.

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Hvalvik, Reider. “Jewish Believers and Jewish Influence in the Roman Church until the Early Second Century.” Pages 179-216 in Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries. Edited by Oskar Skarsaune and Reider Hvalvik. Peabody, M.A.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007.

Jacobs, Andrew S. Christ Circumcised: A Study in Early Christian History and Difference. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012.

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Johnson Hodge, Caroline. “Apostle to the Gentiles: Constructions of Paul’s Identity.” Biblical Interpretation 13.3 (2005): 270-88.

—–. If Sons, Then Heirs: A Study of Kinship and Ethnicity in the Letters of Paul. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Kelhoffer, James A. “The Apostle Paul and Justin Martyr on the Miraculous: A Comparison of Appeals to Authority.” Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Studies 42 (2001): 163-84.

Laato, Antti. “Justin Martyr Encounters Judaism.” Pages 97-123 in Encounters of the Children of Abraham from Ancient to Modern Times. Edited by Antti Laato and Pekka Lindqvist. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2010.

Lee, Michelle. Paul, the Stoics, and the Body of Christ. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

Levine, Lee I. “Jewish Identities in Antiquity: An Introductory Essay.” Pages 12-40 in Jewish Identities in Antiquity: Studies in Memory of Menahem Stern. Edited by Lee I. Levine and Daniel R. Schwartz. Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2009.

Levison, John R. “Paul in the Stoa Poecile: A Response to Troels Engberg-Pedersen, Cosmology and the Self in the Apostle Paul: The Material Spirit (Oxford, 2010).” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 33.4 (2011): 415-32.

Lieu, Judith M. “Accusations of Jewish Persecution in Early Christian Sources, with particular reference to Justin Martyr and the ‘Martyrdom of Polycarp.’” Pages 279-95 in , Tolerance and Intolerance in Early Judaism and Christianity. Edited by G.N. Stanton and G.G. Stroumsa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

—–. “The Battle for Paul in the Second Century.” Irish Theological Quarterly 75 (2010): 3-14.

—–. Image and Reality: The Jews in the World of the Christians in the Second Century. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1996.

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—–. “Theological Identity Making: Justin’s Use of Circumcision to Create Jews and Christians.” Journal of Early Christian Studies 18 (2010): 51-79.

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—–. The Mystery of Romans: The Jewish Context of Paul’s Letter. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996.

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Parvis, Sara and Paul Foster. “Introduction: Justin Martyr and His Worlds.” Pages 1-10 in Justin Martyr and His Worlds. Edited by Sara Parvis and Paul Foster. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007.

Piscini, Gianluca. “L’apologiste Justin et Usbek: une possible citation patristique dans les Lettres Persanes.ASE 32 (2015): 169-82.

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—–. “Jewish Christian Sources Used by Justin Martyr and Some Other Greek and Latin Fathers.” Pages 379-416 in Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries. Edited by Oskar Skarsaune and Reider Hvalvik. Peabody, M.A.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007.

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Wilson, Stephen G. Leaving the Fold: Apostates and Defectors in Antiquity. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004.

—–. Related Strangeness: Jews and Christians 70-170 CE. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995.

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[1] On the parting of the ways, see Richard Bauckham’s Middle Judaism model (Richard Bauckham, “The Parting of the Ways: What Happened and Why,” Studia Theologica 47 [1993]: 136-8), James D.G. Dunn’s broad stream analogy (James D.G. Dunn, The Parting of the Ways: Between Christianity and Judaism and their Significance for the Character of Christianity: Second Edition [London: SCM Press, 2000], 301-11), James McGrath’s pushback against Dunn (James F. McGrath, The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context [Urbana: UI Press, 2009], 90), Alan Segal’s two powers heresy thesis (Alan Segal, Two Powers in Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism [Leiden: Brill, 1977], x.), Judith Lieu’s work on the influence of perceived persecution (Judith M. Lieu, “Accusations of Jewish Persecution in Early Christian Sources, with particular reference to Justin Martyr and the ‘Martyrdom of Polycarp’” in Tolerance and Intolerance in Early Judaism and Christianity [ed. G.N. Stanton and G.G. Stroumsa, Cambridge: CUP, 1998], 284.), Stephen Wilson’s divergent times and places model (Stephen G. Wilson, Leaving the Fold: Apostates and Defectors in Antiquity [Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004].), and Daniel Boyarin’s siblings model of Judaism and Christianity (Daniel Boyarin, Dying for God: Martyrdom and the Making of Christianity and Judaism [Stanford: Stanford Press, 1999].).

[2] Dunn, Parting of the Ways, 318.

[3] See Christine C. Shepardson, Anti-Judaism and Christian Orthodoxy: Ephrem’s Hymns in Fourth-Century Syria (Washington, D.C.: CUA Press, 2008).

[4] Livesay, “Theological,” 79. Segal, “History Boy,” 234. Laato, 122.

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


  • 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


  • 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]


  • 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


  • 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


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.


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.”


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