Justin Martyr of Caesarea was an early Christian apologist who lived from about AD 100-165. His works represent the earliest surviving Christian apologies of notable size. Most of what is known about the life of Justin Martyr comes from his own writings. He was born at Flavia Neapolis (modern Nablus) in Palestine. The city had been founded by Vespasian in the aftermath of the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Justin suffered martyrdom at Rome under Marcus Aurelius when Rusticus was prefect of the city (between 162 and 168). He calls himself a Samaritan, but his father and grandfather were probably Greek or Roman, and he was brought up a pagan. It seems that he had property, studied philosophy, converted to Christianity, and devoted the rest of his life to teaching what he considered the true philosophy, still wearing his philosopher’s gown to indicate that he had attained the truth. He probably traveled widely and ultimately settled in Rome as a Christian teacher.
The earliest mention of Justin is found in the Oratio ad Graecos (“Oration Against to the Greeks”) by Tatian, who calls him “the most admirable Justin,” quotes a saying of his, and says that the Cynic Crescens laid snares for him. Irenaeus (Haer. I., xxviii. 1) speaks of his martyrdom, and of Tatian as his disciple; he quotes him twice (IV., vi. 2, V., xxvi. 2), and shows his influence in other places. Tertullian, in his Adversus Valentinianos, calls him a philosopher and martyr, and the earliest antagonist of heretics. Hippolytus and Methodius of Olympus also mention or quote him. Eusebius of Caesarea deals with him at some length (Ecclesiastical History, iv. 18).
The authenticity of Justin’s Apologies and the Dialogue with Trypho is universally accepted. They were known by Tatian, Methodius, and Eusebius, their influence is traceable in Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, the Pseudo-Melito, and especially Tertullian. The apologetic character of Justin’s thought appears again in the account of his martyrdom.
The purpose of the First Apology is to prove to the emperors, renowned as upright and philosophical men, the injustice of the persecution of the Christians, who are the representatives of true philosophy. In the Dialogue, after an introductory section (i.-ix.), Justin undertakes to show that Christianity is the new law for all men (x.-xxx.), and to prove from Scripture that Jesus is the Christ (xxxi.-cviii.). The concluding section (cix.-cxlii.) demonstrates that the Christians are the true people of God.
The fragments of the work “On the Resurrection” begin with the assertion that the truth, and God the author of truth, need no witness, but that as a concession to the weakness of men it is necessary to give arguments to convince those who gainsay it. It is then shown, after a denial of unfounded deductions, that the resurrection of the body is neither impossible nor unworthy of God, and that the evidence of prophecy is not lacking for it.
Interestingly, in the Dialogue, Justin also wrote, “For I choose to follow not men or men’s doctrines, but God and the doctrines [delivered] by Him. For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this [truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob ; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians.” – Dialogue, 80
Justin is extremely important in maintaining a continuity of the New Testament’s canonicity in the early years of Christian theology. Not less divine, however, is the teaching of the apostles. The word of the apostles is the teaching of the Divine Logos, and reproduces the sayings of Christ authentically. As a rule he uses the synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke — but has a few references to John. He quotes the Book of Revelation as inspired because prophetic, naming its author. In his opposition to Marcion, he quotes from several of Paul’s epistles. Distinct references are found to Romans, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians, and possible ones to Philippians, Titus, and 1 Timothy. It seems likely that he also knew Hebrews and 1 John.