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June 1 Saint of the Day – Justin Martyr

On this date in 1974, the Heimlich maneuver for rescuing choking victims was published in the journal Emergency Medicine. Prior to this it had been known only in the oral tradition.

Justin MartyrJustin Martyr (ca. 100 – ca. 165) was born in Flavia Neapolis, which maps onto Nablus in modern Palestine. He slyly tells us he came of pagan, not Jewish, stock by specifying the configuration of his configurable.

Justin first studied under a Stoic philosopher, until he realized he had learned nothing about God, and that his teacher had nothing to teach him on that subject. (“Hey, wait a minute….”) He then fell in with a Peripatetic, but realized the guy wasn’t a real philosopher when the invoice came (that, and he sat down a lot). He then turned to a Pythagorean, but the Pythagorean refused to teach him about God until he first learned music, astronomy, and geometry (seems reasonable to me), and Justin wasn’t interested in those things (Philistine!). His last attempt to learn from the philosophers came in the form of a Platonist, who delighted Justin, for a time. Something must still have been lacking, though. Around age 30, Justin was visiting Ephesus when he fell into a chance seaside discussion with an old Palestinian Christian (as one does). The old man averred that God could not be approached through mere human knowledge such as the teachings of the philosophers, but must be revealed by the prophets. This kindled a love of Christ in Justin’s heart, and witnessing (or remembering witnessing) some Christians go fearlessly to their martyrdom — which, he reasoned, they could not do if they were living for sinful pleasure — sealed the deal. He was baptized shortly thereafter, and began teaching and writing. He eventually ended up in Rome (all roads…), where he opened a school.

Especially notable among his works are his apologetics — explanations and defenses of Christian teachings. When the emperor (Antoninus Pius) cranked the persecution knob to 11, Justin wrote an apology (now called the “First Apology” to distinguish it from a different one) in defense of certain Christians who were condemned to die. In it, he argued that they were being slandered merely for calling themselves Christians (for values of “being slandered” equaling to “being condemned to death” and not “being insulted on Facebook”), and that people shouldn’t be killed unless they, like, broke a law or something. The emperor relented, and sent Justin to Asia Minor to call off the persecution there as well.

The First Apology (ca. 155) is an important source for our knowledge of Christian practice and belief in the mid-second century. Justin defends Christianity as a rational philosophy, equating Jesus with the Logos of the Greek philosophers. For him the Logos is reason itself, and he holds that people before Christ who spoke with reason were in some sense Christian. Their truth, he says, is nevertheless only partial truth, whereas Christianity represents the fullness of truth. (No, it does not add, “So there!”)

Of the Holy Eucharist, he says, “the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word, and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.” He describes the thanksgiving of “considerable length” said over the bread and “cup of wine mixed with water,” and how the blessed Food is distributed to the people by the deacons. He witnesses to the practice of fasting in preparation for baptism, and to Christian worship being on Sundays (it being the day on which Christ rose from the dead). He refers to Gospels in the plural, and describes them as “memoirs of the apostles.”

After trouncing the Cynic philosopher (and sore loser) Crescens in debate for the umpteenth time, Justin was falsely accused (of what I could not discover) to the emperor (Marcus Aurelius). He and six others were then tortured and beheaded. His relics reside in the church of John the Baptist in Sacrofano, just a couple of miles north of Rome on the SP35b. He is, of course, the patron saint of philosophers.


Copyright © 2013 Alex Riggle. All Rights Reserved.


Bibliography
June 1 (Wikipedia)
Justin Martyr (Wikipedia) – Main source
St. Justin Martyr (Catholic Encyclopedia)
Martyr Justin the Philosopher and those with him at Rome (OCA)
Saint Justin Martyr (SQPN)
The First Apology of Justin (Crossroads Initiative) – Read this! Or at least chapters LXV — LXVII.
First Apology of Justin Martyr (Wikipedia)

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About Your Intrepid Blogger

I live in the Tacoma area. When not writing things some people think are funny, I teach technology to 7th and 8th graders at a local middle school.

One comment on “June 1 Saint of the Day – Justin Martyr

  1. I absolutely love St Justin. His work, particularly the First Apology, was one of the things that “sealed the deal” for me to join the Orthodox Church. When learning about Orthodoxy, I decided to read many of the writings of the church fathers through the first couple of centuries to see if the Orthodox Church was really who they claimed to be.

    I was a bit envious of him as well when I read Dialogue with Trypho. Justin did an incredible job proving Christ as the messiah and his divinity as well without even cracking open letters from the New Testament. A few years back, I struggled in a several discussions with Jehovah’s Witnesses and I was using the whole Bible!

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