He was sort of the Jay Sekulow of his day, although “his day” was almost two thousand years ago. His name was Justin, and all we know about him are the pieces of his history he shared in the three main works he wrote which are preserved for us today. He was born in Palestine, a Greek with a good education. Following the discipline of a philosopher, he studied various schools of thought in
Alexandria and Ephesus looking for answers to his questions.
One day, he had a chance encounter with an old man at the beach who told him the story of Jesus. Justin was enthralled, and gave his life to Christ. Interestingly, he didn’t abandon his ‘philosopher’s robe’, but continued to identify himself as a philosopher and teacher, just that his truth was now found in Christ. He even took a different track concerning the accepted philosophies of his day, saying that they weren’t wholly wrong, but only partially right. Philosophy was a grasp for truth, in his mind, and could serve as a “schoolmaster to bring us to Christ”.
Justin was killed for his faith, somewhere around 160-165 AD. During the intense persecutions that broke out against Christians in the
Roman Empire, Justin became the first recorded voice of those who would try to defend the Christian faith against attacks. He is our first “apologist”.
I’m fascinated with Justin. I’ve been reading his works lately, asking the question, “What can Justin say to us today?” For that reason, I’ve taken up a little project: to paraphrase Justin Martyr’s “First Apology”. It was his first defense written to the Roman Emperor as an appeal to reason during a terrible persecution which had been stirred up by the Cynic Crescens. In this work, we find the voice and heart of the early church… or, at least, of one outspoken man of the early church. To know that I’m connected to him through two millennia is stirring. I’ve come to love Justin. I can’t wait to meet him.
Following are the first few sections of Justin’s First Apology. I don’t know if it will interest you, but I’ll put it up in sections over the next few weeks. Let me know if it is interesting or helpful to you. I’d love to talk about Justin with someone.
To: His Majesty, Emperor Titus Aelius Adrianus Antonius Pius Augustus Ceaser,
CC to: Verissimus the Philosopher and son of Caesar, Lucius the Philosopher and natural son of Caesar, adopted son of Pius, who is also an avid student.
CC to: the Sacred Senate, and the Roman people et al.
Let me introduce myself, I am Justin, son of Priscus and grandson of Bacchius, who were natives of Flavia Neapolis in Palestine. I’m presenting this petition and address on behalf of myself, and all oppressed people of every nation who are being targeted during this time of unwarranted hatred.
Chapter II.-Justice Demanded.
You are all reasonable men, and I know you have the intellectual honesty to seek the truth and abandon traditional opinion if it’s proven to be faulty. Reason dictates that if someone is trying to persuade you to accept an ideology that is proven false, you’d refuse to be influenced by that person. Those who have a high regard for what’s right would die before they would advance a lie instead of truth.
Since you men are so adamant about doing what’s right and learning the truth, I ask you to pay special attention to my case. You will prove yourselves to be true philosophers and scholars if you do so.
I didn’t set out to stroke your egos or try to manipulate you into siding with us. I’ve written to sincerely beg you to thoroughly investigate our case, don’t be quick in passing judgment. It won’t be easy, given the current climate of prejudice against us, but I ask you to be objective in your assessments, not buying every rumor or bit of hearsay that floats around.As far as we’re concerned, the charges and judgments against us are unlawful, unless someone can prove that we’ve actually broken the laws of the Empire. Yet regardless of your response, our view is, though you may have the power to kill us, you have no power to hurt us.
Chapter III.-Claim of Judicial Investigation.
Our demand is not unreasonable, and we are not promoting anarchy. We submit, rather demand, that a full investigation be made of all who have been accused of wrong-doing. If the charges against an individual can be substantiated, we agree that he or she should be punished as the law requires (in fact, we feel so strongly about this, we’ll punish them if you’d like). But is it justice to convict innocent people simply on hearsay or unsubstantiated rumors? You would do yourself an injustice by ruling the affairs of Rome based on the current hysteria, rather than an examination of the facts.
Any reasonable person would consider it only fair to let those accused give their side of the story. And it’s only reasonable that those who judge these matters would come to their conclusions based on the facts of the case, not the prevailing emotional state of the mob. In that way everyone is kept safe, both prosecutor and prosecuted. There’s an old quote, I forget who said it, “Unless both rulers and citizens decide a matter according to the facts, peace is impossible to achieve.”
Our goal is to set all the facts before you, give a full disclosure of who we are and what we believe so it can counter all the rumors spread by those who know virtually nothing about us. All we ask is that you give us a fair hearing, and judge us according to what is lawful and reasonable. If you hear our case and still find fault in us, I’ll have to leave that between you and God.