Friday, December 04, 2009

Justin Martyr's Source of Apostolic Information - the Memoirs of the Apostles

Justin Martyr's biography is necessarily a bit uncertain. Nevertheless, according to our best guesses, Justin Martyr was born around the year of our Lord 100, only a few years after the last of the apostles, the Apostle John, died. Thus, one might imagine that Justin Martyr's knowledge of the Apostles' teachings would come primarily from oral sources. However, Justin actually appeals to the apostles' writings rather than an oral tradition when disputing with his Jewish opponent, Trypho.

For [Christ] called one of His disciples— previously known by the name of Simon—Peter; since he recognised Him to be Christ the Son of God, by the revelation of His Father: and since we find it recorded in the memoirs of His apostles that He is the Son of God, and since we call Him the Son, we have understood that He proceeded before all creatures from the Father by His power and will (for He is addressed in the writings of the prophets in one way or another as Wisdom, and the Day, and the East, and a Sword, and a Stone, and a Rod, and Jacob, and Israel); and that He became man by the Virgin, in order that the disobedience which proceeded from the serpent might receive its destruction in the same manner in which it derived its origin.
- Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 100 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted)

For they that saw Him crucified shook their heads each one of them, and distorted their lips, and twisting their noses to each other, they spake in mockery the words which are recorded in the memoirs of His apostles: ‘He said he was the Son of God: let him come down; let God save him.’
- Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 101 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted)

For the power of His strong word, by which He always confuted the Pharisees and Scribes, and, in short, all your nation’s teachers that questioned Him, had a cessation like a plentiful and strong spring, the waters of which have been turned off, when He kept silence, and chose to return no answer to any one in the presence of Pilate; as has been declared in the memoirs of His apostles, in order that what is recorded by Isaiah might have efficacious fruit, where it is written, ‘The Lord gives me a tongue, that I may know when I ought to speak.’
- Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 102 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted)

For this devil, when [Jesus] went up from the river Jordan, at the time when the voice spake to Him, ‘Thou art my Son: this day have I begotten Thee,’ is recorded in the memoirs of the apostles to have come to Him and tempted Him, even so far as to say to Him, ‘Worship me;’ and Christ answered him, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan: thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.’
- Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 103 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted)

Moreover, the statement, ‘All my bones are poured and dispersed like water; my heart has become like wax, melting in the midst of my belly,’ was a prediction of that which happened to Him on that night when men came out against Him to the Mount of Olives to seize Him. For in the memoirs which I say were drawn up by His apostles and those who followed them, [it is recorded] that His sweat fell down like drops of blood while He was praying, and saying, ‘If it be possible, let this cup pass:’ His heart and also His bones trembling; His heart being like wax melting in His belly: in order that we may perceive that the Father wished His Son really to undergo such sufferings for our sakes, and may not say that He, being the Son of God, did not feel what was happening to Him and inflicted on Him.
- Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 103 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted)

And the statement, ‘Thou hast brought me into the dust of death; for many dogs have surrounded me: the assembly of the wicked have beset me round. They pierced my hands and my feet. They did tell all my bones. They did look and stare upon me. They parted my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture,’—was a prediction, as I said before, of the death to which the synagogue of the wicked would condemn Him, whom He calls both dogs and hunters, declaring that those who hunted Him were both gathered together and assiduously striving to condemn Him. And this is recorded to have happened in the memoirs of His apostles. And I have shown that, after His crucifixion, they who crucified Him parted His garments among them.
- Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 104 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted)

For I have already proved that He was the only-begotten of the Father of all things, being begotten in a peculiar manner Word and Power by Him, and having afterwards become man through the Virgin, as we have learned from the memoirs.
- Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 105 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted)

The remainder of the Psalm makes it manifest that He knew His Father would grant to Him all things which He asked, and would raise Him from the dead; and that He urged all who fear God to praise Him because He had compassion on all races of believing men, through the mystery of Him who was crucified; and that He stood in the midst of His brethren the apostles (who repented of their flight from Him when He was crucified, after He rose from the dead, and after they were persuaded by Himself that, before His passion He had mentioned to them that He must suffer these things, and that they were announced beforehand by the prophets), and when living with them sang praises to God, as is made evident in the memoirs of the apostles.
- Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 106 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted)

And that He would rise again on the third day after the crucifixion, it is written in the memoirs that some of your nation, questioning Him, said, ‘Show us a sign;’ and He replied to them, ‘An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and no sign shall be given them, save the sign of Jonah.’
- Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 107 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted)

As you can see from the nine examples above, Justin was not shy about appealing to the gospels, even when dialoguing with a non-Christian. Furthermore, note especially item (7) above, where Justin indicates that he learned this information from the memoirs. Notice that he doesn't say, "as the older Christians remember," but instead indicates that the Gospels themselves are his source of knowledge on this subject.

This is not surprising when we read, in Justin First Apology, about the weekly worship in Justin's church:
And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.
- Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 57 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted)

Finally, note that Justin actually indicates that the specific way that the Apostles delivered the tradition of the Eucharist was in the memoirs composed by them:
For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them; that Jesus took bread, and when He had given thanks, said, “This do ye in remembrance of Me, this is My body;” and that, after the same manner, having taken the cup and given thanks, He said, “This is My blood;” and gave it to them alone.
- Justin Martyr, First Apology, Chapter 66 (emphasis added, footnotes omitted)

- TurretinFan


Kurt said...

That's fascinating; thanks for posting!

TurretinFan, has it been tracked down which of the gospels contain the quotations Justin uses? Does he use many of them, or primarily one? And does he use the phrase "memoirs of the apostles" for the gospels exclusively?

God bless,

Turretinfan said...

I'm speaking off the cuff, here, but I seem to recall a number of the allusions being to the synoptic gospels, perhaps especially to Matthew.

John said...

Errr, yeah, but he also mentions practices of the church which are not found in scripture, but are found in Orthodoxy.

Turretinfan said...


I don't recall him mentioning candles and icons in anything like an "Orthodox" sense. What did you have in mind?


John said...

Off the top of my head, he mentions the eucharist is wine mixed with water.

Kurt said...

Hmmm, so according to the quotes TFan posted, it looks like Justin drew upon the gospels (and the Old Testament) for historical use, often in proving the fulfillment in Christ of OT prophecy, referring to or using direct quotes from them (#1,2,3,4,5,6,8,9), as well as for establishing doctrinal or theological truths (#1,7).

John, what you mention sounds like a tradition of liturgical practice, one not derivable directly from scripture (or at least not scripture alone), rendering it subordinate to scripture. When Justin "mentions" these practices, does he seem to regard their sources as on par with the "memoirs"?

I it the case that Eastern Orthodox (and Roman Catholics?) believe the the practices of the liturgy were divinely inspired and revealed?