The First Apology of Justin Martyr


In the middle of the second century, a fearless philosopher, who later came to be known as Justin the Martyr, delivered a zealous apology of the Christian Faith to the emperor Antoninus Pius and the Roman Senate. St Justin the Martyr, a Roman of Samaria, became the earliest Christian Apologist, launching a rich tradition that flowed through early Christianity and aided in the formalisation of accepted Christian teaching.

On its surface, the First Apology (there were two) appears to be a petition to the emperor and Senate for the repeal of laws persecuting Christians on the basis only of their identification as Christians (“from a name neither praise nor punishment could reasonably spring”). However, as St Justin elaborates his arguments, it soon becomes clear that the petition is better characterised as convincing rhetoric on the truth of the Gospel. St Justin presents a complete defence of the Christian Faith and its members.

He takes his esteemed audience through the teachings of Christianity, the manner of Christian worship, the proofs of Christ’s teachings, the prophecies of the Old Testament, the compatibility of Greek philosophy with Christian teaching, the follies of heathen mythologies, and the power of the Sacraments. In so doing, he provides a summary of the Faith which would have been of interest but also tangible for his audience. He spoke to them about differences but also of similarities. One cannot help thinking that the approach adopted by St Justin would be just as suitable in the atmosphere within which 21st century Christians live.

Christians are having their faith tested by worldly norms every day, and in a manner not dissimilar to the tests faced by the Christians of the Roman world. The First Apology is an excellent read for those interested in reminding themselves about the fundamentals of our Faith and how it can be defended in the face of persecution. It is highly recommended.


Source: Lychnos June 2018 / July 2018