Wednesday, June 01, 2011

St. Justin Martyr

 Today is the feast day of St. Justin Martyr (ca. 100-ca. 166),  the patron saint of philosophers. James Keifer gives a brief biography here, while the Orthodox Church of America gives a fuller discussion here.

The son of a Greek couple in Samaria, Justin went on to become the first gentile Christian apologist. As a young man searching for truth, he encountered representatives of various schools of philosophy: Stoics, Cynics, a greedy Peripatetic, Pythagoreans  who insisted he first study music, astronomy and gometry, and finally Platonists.  But one day, he met an old man on the seashore who told him about Christ: the Logos, the Way, the Truth, the Life.
Justin came to faith, was baptized at age 30 and thereafter became a sort of intellectual missionary to pagans.  Justin wrote agianst Marcion, and rejected gnosticism and sophistry. He composed two Apologies, one to Emperor Antonius Pius and one to the Roman senate. He debated Rabbi Trypho in Ephesus. His Assyrian pupil,  Tatian, went on to compose the first harmony of the gospels.

Justin's genius was to see the gospel as the "true philosophy." In the question of the relation of faith and reason, Justin stands firmly in the middle. Pagan thought is unable to save us; but Christians do not have to reject all pagan thought. Reason is necessary, but not sufficient. All truth is God's truth.  Faith in Jesus Christ takes us on to the complete Truth we long for, but does not contradict the truth that is given to us through  natural revelation. 

St. Justin is honored by both Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians. The latter remember him in song:

Troparion (Tone 4)

O Justin, teacher of divine knowledge,
You shone with the radiance of true philosophy.
You were wisely armed against the enemy.
Confessing the truth you contended alongside the martyrs,
With them, ever entreat Christ our God to save our souls!

Kontakion (Tone 2)

The whole Church of God is adorned with the wisdom of your divine words, O Justin;
The world is enlightened by the radiance of your life.
By the shedding of your blood, you have received a crown.
As you stand before Christ with the angels, pray unceasingly for us all!

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