Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Justin Martyr on the Resurrection and Millennium

In Dial. Tryph. 80, Justin writes:

Then I answered, "I am not so miserable a fellow, Trypho, as to say one thing and think another. I admitted to you formerly, that I and many others are of this opinion, and[believe] that such will take place, as you assuredly are aware; but, on the other hand, I signified to you that many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise. Moreover, I pointed out to you that some who are called Christians, but are godless, impious heretics, teach doctrines that are in every way blasphemous, atheistical, and foolish. But that you may know that I do not say this before you alone, I shall draw up a statement, so far as I can, of all the arguments which have passed between us; in which I shall record myself as admitting the very same things which I admit to you. 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, even as one, if he would rightly consider it, would not admit that the Sadducees, or similar sects of Genist , Meristae,Gelilaeans, Hellenists, Pharisees, Baptists, are Jews(do not hear me impatiently when I tell you what I think), but are[only] called Jews and children of Abraham, worshipping God with the lips, as God Himself declared, but the heart was far from Him. But I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged, the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare.
What jumps out at me here is:
1. Not all 'Christians' believed in a resurrection and some held to the immortality of the soul (which I think describes a lot of contemporary Christians too).
2. I wonder if Justin's reading of resurrection + millennium is based on his reading of Revelation 20 or is it an independent tradition?
3. For Justin, belief in the resurrection is a non-negotiable item in his belief matrix.


Matt said...


I have been lurking here for some time. I love the blog--keep it up.

"1. Not all 'Christians' believed in a resurrection and some held to the immortality of the soul (which I think describes a lot of contemporary Christians too)."

For clarity's sake, did you mean to suggest that belief in the immortality of the soul is not compatible with Christianity (believing in it earns one the scare quotes)? It seems you include those who hold to the immortality of the soul with those who reject the resurrection.

I don't think Justin, with all his Platonic sympathies, would be very uncomfortable with the notion of an immortal soul--just the idea which suggests that soul flies straight to heaven.

Michael F. Bird said...

1. I don't think believing in the immortality of the soul is going to put you on the first boat to hell! Voting republican on the other hand ... hmm, maybe ;-) . So it's not incompatible in that sense. Justin (and myself) would say that it is inaccurate and not the testimony of the Scriptures would points to resurrection.
2. I don't see much of a difference between what Justin is condemning and the soul flying to heaven, esp. since Justin probably has gnostics in mind and gnosticism (if Harnack is right) comes down to an acute Hellenization in a Christian garb.

Gary said...

Justin Martyr makes known in his First Apology, at Chapter 21:

"And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter."

In making claims regarding Christ's virgin birth, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension into heaven, Justin is saying nothing different than what the Romans had maintained of their gods.

The vast bulk of the Jews rejected the notion of Jesus being god incarnate and all the attendant mythological paraphernalia...right to this very day.

The stories of a Virgin Birth and a Resurrection, which appear in four anonymous late first century Christian works of literature, are based on Roman mythology, folks. Let's just accept the obvious: The Gospel stories are myths. Even one of the earliest Church Fathers admits it.