Scripture among the Apologists: Theophilus’s Christian Sources

Shepherd Early ChristianityTheophilus’ Ad Autolycum has an interesting claim to fame in its use of Christian sources: nowhere do these treatises mention or name the Historical Jesus of Nazareth.[i] While apologetic purposes may help explain this, some have taken this neglect to indicate that Theophilus represented a “Jesus-less” form of heretical Christianity or viewed Jesus as merely a human prophet.[ii] These responses, especially in view of the praise accorded Theophilus by Eusebius and Jerome, likely overstate problems with Theophilus’ theology. With Grant, then, it seems best to think that, “apologetic convention is probably responsible for his failure even to mention the name of Jesus…. But just here we might have expected a successor of Ignatius to escape from convention into religious reality.”[iii] Continue reading

Scripture among the Apologists: Theophilus’s Jewish Sources

Old BooksIn the Antiochene context, Jews and Christians existed quite comfortably alongside each other until the seventh century.[i] It is not surprising, then, to see that Theophilus’ thought was indebted to Judaism.[ii] The influence of Jewish Sources on Ad Autolycum may be categorized into four classes: Hellenistic Judaistic Thought, Prophetic Materials, Wisdom Literature, and the Cosmogony of Genesis. While Theophilus may have been in contact with the exegetical work of rabbinic schools, it appears more likely that the Jewish elements of his exegesis arise from an encounter with an intellectual form of Hellenistic Judaism. [iii] Theophilus himself notes his reliance on Josephus and he also appears to employ the interpretive practices of Philo at times.[iv] Continue reading

Scripture among the Apologists: Theophilus’ Greco-Roman Sources

Socrates and Plato

Socrates and Plato

At face value, Theophilus appears to have had extensive training in Greek philosophy and rhetoric, as he draws upon a host of classical sources including Homer, Plato, Euripides, Orpheus, and the Sibyl.[i] Though he presents a plethora of quotes from a variety of philosophical schools of thought, most of his sources and quotations appear reliant upon existing anthologies and handbooks.[ii] Continue reading

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