The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great

By Henry Chadwick | Go to book overview

12 Justin

Marcion's rejection of the unity and coherence of Old and New Testaments entailed abandonment of the contention that ancient prophecies were fulfilled in Christ and his Church. That contention was important in the conversion of Justin. He was born to Gentile parents in Samaritan territory at Nablus (Neapolis), and travelled in search of philosophical education. He claimed to have sat at the feet of a Stoic, a Peripatetic who disappointed him by concern for his fee (this was a cliché about Aristotelian tutors), and a Pythagorean who expected him to have mastered arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy so as to grasp immaterial truths. It was a search for truth in the soul, and of the various schools of philosophy the Platonists had most to offer by way of a religious quest. Plato's Phaedrus held up the goal of a celestial vision of God. But Justin was persuaded to abandon Platonism by a seashore conversation with an old man who told him about the Hebrew prophets and the fulfilment of their predictions in Jesus' virgin birth, incarnation, passion, descent to Hades, ascension and 'Son of God' title. Since a substantial part of New Testament Christology was formulated in terms derived from the Old Testament, the argument had force. The old man also deployed Aristotle's arguments against Platonism.

Justin remained positive towards Platonism, 'not radically different from Christianity but not quite the same' (Apol. II 13). He believed the thesis of earlier Jewish argument that Plato had studied the writings of Moses, especially Genesis 1, in composing his Timaeus. Moreover the Platonic theodicy which attributed responsibility for evil to free choices by rational beings Justin welcomed as derived from Moses (Apol. I 44). Greek philosophers derived from the prophets their true ideas of the soul's immortality and judgement hereafter, A foreshadowing of the insight that in God there is a threeness is evident in Plato's second letter. In classical philosophical schools there are 'seeds of truth, sent down to humanity' (Dial. 2. 1; Apol. II 8), but not in the hedonism of Epicurus. Socrates, Heraclitus, and the Stoic Musonius Rufus exiled under Nero were martyrs for truth. Jesus's parable of the sower could be applied to the seeds of philosophical truth scattered along the wayside by providence.

Of the superiority of Christ's ethical teaching Justin was confident,

-93-

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The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Church in Ancient Society iii
  • Prefatory Note vi
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The First Followers of Jesus 5
  • 2: The Jewish Matrix 13
  • 3: Jews and Christians Survive Rome's Crushing of Revolts 21
  • 4: The Hebrew Scriptures in the Church 27
  • 5: Interpreting Scripture 32
  • 6: Apostles and Evangelists 43
  • 7: Women Among Jesus' Followers 53
  • 8: 'Barnabas', Jewish Christianity, Trouble at Corinth 56
  • 9: Ignatius of Antioch 65
  • 10: Didache 84
  • 11: Marcion 89
  • 12: Justin 93
  • 13: Irenaeus of Lyon 100
  • 14: The New Testament Text 108
  • 15: Celsus: A Platonist Attack 110
  • 16: Montanism: Perpetua 114
  • 17: Tertullian, Minucius Felix 118
  • 18: Clement of Alexandria 124
  • 19: Julius Africanus 130
  • 20: Hippolytus and Liturgy 132
  • 21: Origen 135
  • 22: Cyprian of Carthage 145
  • 23: Dionysius of Alexandria 161
  • 24: Paul of Samosata 166
  • 25: Mani 170
  • 26: Plotinus, Porphyry 173
  • 27: Diocletian and the Great Persecution; Rise of Constantine 176
  • 28: Constantine 190
  • 29: The Seeds of Reaction 201
  • 30: The Church at Prayer 212
  • 31: Athanasius, Marcellus, and the Gathering Storm 226
  • 32: A Fiasco at Serdica 240
  • 33: Religious Division 254
  • 34: Athanasius' Return 260
  • 35: Constantius' Double Council of Unity 279
  • 36: Julian and the Church 295
  • 37: Damasus, Siricius, Papal Authority, Synesius of Cyrene 314
  • 38: Basil of Caesarea (Cappadocia) 331
  • 39: Ambrose 348
  • 40: Ambrosiaster 379
  • 41: Donatism 382
  • 42: Monks: The Ascetic Life 394
  • 43: Messalians 411
  • 44: Schism at Antioch 415
  • 45: Jerome and Rufinus 433
  • 46: Pelagius, Caelestius, and the Roman See in Gaul and North Africa 446
  • 47: Julian of Eclanum 464
  • 48: Augustine 473
  • 49: John Chrysostom 479
  • 50: Innocent I and John Chrysostom's Honour 499
  • 51: The Christological Debate, I 515
  • 52: The Christological Debate, Ii 538
  • 53: The Christological Debate, Iii 557
  • 54: The Aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon 592
  • 55: Justinian, Origen, and the 'Three Chapters' 612
  • 56: The Ancient Oriental Churches 628
  • 57: The Church and the Barbarian Invasions in the West 633
  • 58: Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) 658
  • 59: Worship After Constantine 675
  • 60: Pilgrims 684
  • 61: Penance 688
  • Further Reading 694
  • Dates of Roman Emperors 714
  • Index 721
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