Today we honor Justin, martyred in Rome in the year 167 (A.D.)
What is there about a martyr that makes him, or her, significant? How can any of the martyrs help us to grow in the Christian faith? One way is for us to be mindful of the witness of the martyrs. (cf. SSJE Rule. of Life, Ch. 38)
Justin was born early in the 2nd Century, near Shechem in Samaria in a pagan family. In his youth he began studying philosophy.
He searched for a philosophy that would be true to his view of life. After some searching he adopted Platonism. But a chance conversation with an older man at the sea shore convinced him of the truth of Christian teaching. He said of this encounter, “straightway a flame was kindled in my soul!” Soon after that he was baptized. As a Christian Philosopher, wearing the robe of a philosopher he taught Christianity.
At about the middle of that century he gathered some students and formed a school of Christian philosophy in the City of Rome. During this period he began writing in defense of Christian doctrine and beliefs. Three of these writings have survived.
One of these was a dialogue defending Christianity against the Jewish charge of distorting the Old Testament. The other two were Apologies for Christian Faith; against irrationality and disloyalty. Justin is honored as the first Christian thinker to enter into dialogue with other intellectual disciplines.
Eventually he got involved in a debate with Crescens, a philosopher of the Cynic school. Crescens became so angry at Justin for steadfastly holding to the truths of Christianity that he reported him as a teacher of ignorance and immorality. Justin and several of his students were arrested and brought before Rusticus, Prefect of the City of Rome.
They were given an opportunity to renounce their faith. This they refused to do. They were then led to the place of execution.
What was significant about Justin and his pupils? It was the steadfastness of their faith backed up by the sound teaching of Justin’s writings. Justin stands out among the martyrs because he had the strength of will to publish those apologies for the faith that he held and the faith that he taught to his pupils. In that faith he was steadfast unto death. By that faith he enabled the others to hold fast to their principles and their belief in our Lord Jesus Christ, and God the Father, Creator of heaven and earth. How strong is your faith? Consider the witness of the martyrs!
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