Once again, we see the sharp contrast between our Western world and the world Justin lived (and argued) in. He was presenting a worldview that was moving opposite the currents of mainstream orthodoxy. His writings still translate to us though, because we walk counter to a new orthodoxy…one of Western invention. Our orthodoxy maintains that there is no more mystery, no more wilderness for the mind. There is a scientific orthodoxy, that states without reservation the age of the world and the origin of the species. Real science (not this new religion we see today) allows for possibilities and seeks to probe for answers. Not any more. Have you listened to the debates about teaching “intelligent design” in the classroom? Those opposed do everything but put on robes and cry “heretic!”. (by the way…I have no vested interest in that debate…parents have the responsibilty to offer their faith to their children….it’s not the school’s responsibility, IMHO….I’m just intrigued with the debate itself, in what it reveals about our culture’s mindset)
Justin squared off against the false gods of his day….we do the same. There are no “new” gods….just new names.
Chapter XXI.-Analogies to the History of Christ.
It is our claim that Jesus Christ is God’s word to us, that He was born into this world by a virgin, that He taught us about God, was arrested, crucified, and buried; that He rose back to life from the grave and now has ascended back up to heaven. Yet this claim is not any more far fetched than the claims you make concerning the sons of Jupiter in your religion. You know well the stories that have been accepted and written for posterity; you know how many sons Jupiter is supposed to have had. Mercury, the one who teaches and interprets all things; Aesculapius, who was the great physician, but was struck by lightening and ascended into heaven; Bacchus is said to have ascended too, though only after he had been torn apart, limb from limb; Hercules escaped his struggles here on earth by throwing himself into a fire and ascending.
There are the sons of Leda, and Dioscuri, and Persus, son of Danae, and Bellerophon, all of whom were mortals but ascended to heaven riding on the horse Pegasus. What about Ariadne and those like her who are said to have ascended and live among the stars in the sky?
There are also the emperors who upon death are said to ascend to a deified state when their bodies are burned on a pyre. Some swear they’ve seen the deified spirit of Caesar rise in the flames and ascend.
You recount the stories of the sons of Jupiter; you even write their deeds down to inspire our youth to live in a way that imitates the gods. Yet when we look at those deeds, are they really what we want our young people to copy? Jupiter, the one who supposedly governs all things he created is said to have killed his parents in overthrowing them, as his father before him had done. He’s described as being consumed by his lust, violating Ganymede and other women at will, just as his sons did also. Such noble gods our young are taught to imitate.
As we’ve stated already, we believe dark spiritual forces are behind the perpetuation of these stories and the imitation of their actions.
We believe that there will be those who ascend, who will be made like God; but only those who have followed Him in this life, seeking to live in harmony with His goodness and virtue. Those who live for themselves, who only serve their own will, face the eternal punishment of forever-fire.
Chapter XXII. Analogies to the History of Christ.
We call Jesus “the Son of God”. Even if He was a mere mortal who was a wise teacher, you’d still have to allow us the right to call Him “Son of God”, because it is the view of all accepted writers that God is the father of all men.
When we say that He is the Word of God to mankind, and was born amidst supernatural circumstances, it shouldn’t be strange to you who call Mercury the “word of god”. His death by crucifixion perplexes you, but it shouldn’t. It puts Him on par with those you call the sons of Jupiter who also suffered and died on this earth (as we mentioned above). They are said to have all suffered in different ways, and died by various means. Our declaration of Christ dying on a cross doesn’t make His death shameful. On the contrary, as we said in the beginning of this discourse, we hope to show that His death as a sacrifice makes it far superior to the sufferings of the sons of Jupiter. If we proclaim that Jesus was born to a woman who had never known sexual intercourse, you can accept this same way you accept the stories of Perseus who is said to have been born in a similar way. When we tell how Christ made sick people well, restoring limbs and giving sight to those who were born blind; our proclamation is similar to the stories of Aesculpius, your god of healing.
2 thoughts on “Justin’s Apology, ch 21-22”
It’s funny (in not a “ha ha” kind of way) to compare Justin’s defense to those of the modern, Western, self-proclaimed defenders of the faith.
Justin was actually facing legitimate persecution – martyrdom and the sort of things Westerners such as myself only see in the fogs of our imagination. Despite this, Justin comes across much cooler and intellectual in his defense than too many of our contemporaries. Nor does he bow to the mainstream perceptions – as too many modern “men of faith” are quick to bow to scientific ideologues – nor does just give a “yaw!” and a call to arms – as we in the American south are in habit of.
He’s uncompromising in his doctrine, yet not oppressive or smothering in his defense. And, quite frankly, he’s making us look silly.
Justin was not writing from a position of power and it seems that he has respect for the ability to reason and respect for law of the Roman authorities.
Americans may have almost always reacted to a call to arms, when threatened or under attack. Americans for the most part have felt it in their power to fight. Jim Webb’s book, “Born Fighting” to back this and note his claim it especially applies to the South.
But fighting may not always be the best way to defend Christ. Perhaps learning not to fight is part of growth. Justin must have had some power of persuasion if his writings survived for so long. Remarkable in comparison to words that disappear into ones and zeros of an archived tape drive. And thus, probably the cause of humanism and the scientific ideologues will end up with all the other lost and trivial data as well.
I don’t think too many people are thinking about how men decended from apes on their deathbeds.