Scripture among the Apologists: Theophilus of Antioch

theophilus-of-antiochTheophilus of Antioch remains an underappreciated figure among the Christian writers of the second century. Born along the banks of the Euphrates River in Syria sometime in the early second century, Theophilus was raised in a pagan household and received a Greek education.[i] He converted to Christianity as an adult, became familiar with the Jewish Scriptures, and eventually became the sixth Bishop of Antioch, likely around 168-9 CE.[ii] The date of Theophilus’ death is unknown, although his successor Maximinus was made bishop in 188 CE.[iii] Continue reading

Scripture among the Apologists: Justin’s Views on Scripture

BibleBefore turning to Theophilus of Antioch, it is worth pausing for a moment to reflect on why Justin’s use of scripture does not come across more clearly in his writings. First, there is the possibility that Justin cited some, if not many, of his sources from memory. This does not seem likely for his longer quotations, but remains a distinct possibility for some of his shorter citations where his communal practice may have significantly impacted his memory of texts.[i] Continue reading

Scripture among the Apologists: Justin, Logos, and Paul

The Gospel of JohnOn Justin’s conception of the logos, much has also been written. Perhaps most important is that prior to the Apology, only in Johannine literature is Jesus identified with the logos.[i] On this Pryor writes that, “Outside the Johannine tradition there is no evidence of an explicit Logos Christology in the first century. Indeed, even here the explicit evidence is narrowed to three places: John 1:1-14, Rev. 19:3, and 1 John 1:1.”[ii] While Justin never explicitly quotes from the prologue of John, there are numerous allusions to language from that passage, as well as multiple theological connections.[iii] Contextually, it is imperative to recall that Justin would receive no assistance from naming his sources, for the Emperor would not have granted any sort of authority to John’s Gospel.[iv] Justin’s reliance on Logos theology pervades his Apology. To again cite Pryor, “There simply is no evidence that the apologists derived their initial impetus for developing a Logos Christology from any other source except Johannine Christianity.”[v] Thus, it seems very likely that Justin found the Fourth Gospel and its Logos doctrine a formative source for his Apology. Continue reading

Scripture among the Apologists: Justin’s Use of John

apostle-johnDiscussions surrounding Justin’s knowledge of the Fourth Gospel typically take place apart from considerations of the Synoptic tradition and catechetical materials.[i] Few have suggested the Apology’s total independence from Johannine thought, primarily due to the intensity of attention which Justin assigns to the logos and his general historical context.[ii] Regarding Justin’s knowledge of the text of John’s Gospel, however, divergent opinions abound. Some, such as Bellinzoni and Bousset, reject any sort of textual relationship between Justin and the Fourth Gospel.[iii] Others, such as Metzger and Skarskaune, locate several specific instances wherein it appears John has influenced Justin, such as the quotation of Psalm 22.16b/18b in Apology 35.5-8, which contains details about the nails in Jesus’ hands (but not feet) only mentioned in John 20:25;[iv] or the Johannine idea that Christ is the only-begotten Son in Apology 64.2.[v] Still others, such as Massaux and Thoma, argue for numerous allusions to the Fourth Gospel throughout the Apology.[vi] Continue reading

Scripture among the Apologists: Justin’s Christian Sources

JesusFor Justin, the most important source of authority resided in the words and actions of the Incarnate Logos, Jesus Christ.[i] Christ’s teaching revealed most fully what his action as the Logos had set in motion before time, and his authority reigned supreme over any claim made by Greek philosophy or the Jewish Scriptures.[ii] Among scholars, the question of Justin’s use of Christian sources concerns not so much which writings had authority but how the authority of Jesus was mediated. There are effectively two possible options, either catechetical sources or Gospel accounts.[iii] The two major realms of debate on this issue are the contents of Apology 15-17 and Justin’s description of the “memoirs of the apostles” (απομνημονεθματα ) in Apology 66.3 and 67.3. Continue reading

Scripture among the Apologists: Justin’s Jewish Sources

hebrew-bibleAs important as Greek philosophy was for Justin, the Jewish mind may have been even more influential. Broadly speaking, Justin was indebted to the Philonic interpretive tradition,[i] Jewish haggadah,[ii] and Hebraic monotheism.[iii] More specifically, though, Justin relied upon the Jewish Scriptures as an important foundation for his theology and exegesis.[iv] Continue reading

Scripture among the Apologists: Justin’s Greco-Roman Sources

Socrates and Plato

Socrates and Plato

Greek philosophy plays an unquestionably important role in the thought of Justin Martyr and in the presentation of his Apology. While some scholars have suggested that Justin merely styled himself as a philosopher and was not seriously involved in that enterprise, the number and quality of the Greco-Roman sources employed in the Apology suggests Justin’s intimate knowledge of philosophical thought.[i] Though he rejected certain features of contemporary philosophical thought, such as imperial ascension and creation myths,[ii] Justin was deeply influenced by Platonism.[iii] His contrast between Socrates and Christ,[iv] allegorical interpretation,[v] and the philosophy of the logos[vi] demonstrate the value which Justin saw in the Greek philosophical tradition. Continue reading

Scripture among the Apologists: Justin Martyr

justin-martyr1Justin Martyr is sometimes called the most important Christian of the second century. Born to a man named Priscus in a pagan family between 100 and 110 CE in Flavia Neapolis in Syrian Palestine, Justin eventually became one of the most prominent and influential early Christian writers and defenders of the faith.[i] Justin’s family moved from Palestine to Ephesus early in his life, and it was at Ephesus that he became acquainted with the philosophy of Stoics, Peripatetics, Pythagoreans, and Platonists.[ii] However, he was unsatisfied with this learning until he encountered the Hebrew prophets and converted to Christianity around 130 CE.[iii] He then opened a school in Rome, as a philosopher teaching Christianity as the only true and pure philosophy.[iv] His engagement with the life of the mind exhibited significant influence on subsequent Christian apologists and theologians, as did the sources and rhetoric he employed in his writings.[v] For unknown reasons, Justin was arrested along with six others (presumably his students) by the urban prefect Quintus Junius Rusticus and sentenced to death by the Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, around 165 CE.[vi] Continue reading

Scripture among the Apologists: Method II

apostle-paul-preaching-on-mars-hillSimplicity of Attribution: The criteria of attribution simplicity states that when the wording of any reference may be explained on the basis of a known source, attribution to that source remains preferable to claiming oral tradition or unknown sources.[i] This does not mean a rejection of the possibility of attributing a citation to oral tradition or lost sources, but rather that the possibility of literary sources—those extant or known but lost—should be exhausted before attribution to non-extant traditions.[ii] In the words of Bruce Metzger, “It is generally preferable, in estimating doubtful cases, to regard variation from a canonical text as a free quotation from a document known to us than to suppose it to be a quotation from a hitherto unknown document, or the persistence of primitive tradition.”[iii] Continue reading

Reflections on Communion

These reflections originally appeared as part of a Round Table discussion at Conciliar Post.

CommunionWhat is communion and how does it impact my faith? For me, Communion is the sacramental participation in the body and blood of our Lord Jesus, a visible and real “joining together” with our Lord that, among other things, is a foreshadowing of our eventual union with Him in the new Heaven and new Earth. I think a good explication of this are the three English terms that are often used to describe this Christian meal: Communion, the Lord’s Supper, and the Eucharist. Continue reading