Thursday, October 10, 2019

Eusebius, EH.4.16-18: Justin Martyr

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical HistoryHere is Book 4, chapters 16-18. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

The focus of these chapters is the life, martyrdom, and writings of Justin, now better known at Justin Martyr.

Chapter 16 notes how Justin’s martyrdom was hastened by his conflict with the Cynic philosopher Crescens and how Justin had anticipated or prophesied this end in his First Apology. Justin’s martyrdom is dated to AD 165 (see Lake, l).

Whereas Justin was a “in truth a supreme philosopher,” Eusebius cites Justin’s description of Crescens as “not worthy to be called a ‘philosopher’” but as a man who either did not understand the Christian faith or who purposely misrepresented it, by relentlessly attacking Christians, falsely accusing them of being “atheists and impious.”

Eusebius also cites Tatian’s reference to Crescens’s ill character, painting him as a hypocrite and a “lover of money,” and also noting his persecution of Justin to death.

Chapter 17 describes a report in Justin’s First Apology of a Christian woman married to a “dissipated” husband who brought accusations against her as a Christian. Having been granted a divorce from her husband by the emperor, the man turned his animus against her Christian teacher Ptolemy and brought charges against him of being a Christian before a magistrate named Urbicius. When Urbicius ordered the execution of Ptolemy another Christian named Lucius objected and was also condemned. An unnamed third Christian man also objected and received the same punishment. From such an incident, Justin anticipated his own death.

Chapter 18 lists the literary works of Justin, which are described as marked by “educated intelligence” and “helpfulness.”

They include:

A First Apology to the emperor Antoninus Pius.

A Second Apology to the Roman senate, during the time of Antoninus Verus (Marcus Aurelius).

An Apology to the Greeks (Oratio Contra Graecos), that included a discussion of demons.

A Confutation (Cohortatio Contra Graecos), a treatise against the Greeks.

A work on the Sole Sovereignty of God (De Monarchia), from Scripture and Greek writings.


On the Soul (a first book outlining the Greek view and a second giving a Christian response)

A Diaologue with Trypho the Jew in Ephesus

Lake notes in the introduction to the EH that Eusebius listed ten books of Justin [the nine listed above and a work against Marcion noted below), but that only two are extant: the First Apology to Antoninus Pius and The Dialogue with Trypho (see l-li).

Eusebius adds that Justin said “prophetic gifts” “illuminated” the church up to his time. Of course, that implies cessation thereafter.

He says Justin said Revelation was the work of the Apostle John, and that he charged Trypho with having “cut out” passages from Scripture.

He notes that Irenaeus cites a treatise by Justin against Marcion in Against Heresies, as well as a statement about Satan not being allowed to blaspheme before Christ’s coming.


These chapters offer an admiring presentation of Justin as a great Christian philosopher, apologist, and martyr who defended the faith by word and writing in the early years of the Christian movement.


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