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St. Justin: Bridged Pagan Philosophy with Christian Teachings

by Russell Fleur F. Gallego

Justin was born near ancient Sichem at the beginning of the 2nd century. During his studies, he consulted various philosophies – Stoic, Peripateric, Pythagorean and Platonic – but a wise man whom he met in Ephesus directed him to the study of the Old Testament. He was told by the wise man that he was a lover of beautiful speech but not a friend of the truth or action. He was converted to Christianity around 130AD and went to Rome, wherein he opened a school. Many of the early Christians were uneducated, but Justin believed that if the Christian teachings were properly explained, many more persons would embrace the faith.

Justin’s defence of the Christian teachings was not based on a philosophical argument supported by reason but on the moral implications. He was the first person to build a bridge between pagan philosophy and the Christian teachings. By means of his writings, he was able to dialogue with the pagans and the Jews, showing the incarnation of the Word. He is among the first to describe in detail the rite of baptism and the liturgy. He not only defended them but also explained in detail to stop those who are spreading false rumours about the Christians since they celebrated the liturgy in secret. Among the books that he has written were Apologies and Dialogue with Trypho the Jew.

During his trial, when asked which system of teaching he followed, he replied, “I have tried to learn about every system, but I have accepted the true doctrines of the Christians.” When he was threatened with torture, he replied: “We hope to supper torment for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so to be saved.” At his execution, six other Christians were martyred with him, five men and one woman. His martyrdom is commemorated every 1st of June.

On the Second Vatican Council document on evangelization, Justin is mentioned on how he used his writings to evangelize:

Preface: In the early days of our Church, you chose Justin the Martyr so that by his writings he could expound to Jews and pagans the mysteries of the prophets and the teaching of the Apostles. Fearlessly he defended the gospel of Christ before the rulers. He faithfully completed his ministry, after bearing witness to you before the people, and you gave him the privilege of shedding his blood in order to receive the crown of eternal glory in the luminous company of martyrs.

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