Justin Martyr: True saint or major apostate?

Artist’s Imagination on Justin Martyr’s Appearance


Justin, called Justin Martyr, is considered to have been an important religious leader and saint by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and even most Protestants. June 1st certain Catholics celebrate him as June 1st is considered to be his holiday:

The saint who was one of the earliest Fathers of the Church

St Justin Martyr (June 1) began his career as a pagan philosopher…

Justin Martyr (c 100-165) was one of the earliest Fathers of the Church. Yet he began his career as a pagan philosopher and did not convert to Christianity until he was about 30. Thenceforward he was much concerned with the relation between faith and reason, exploring the differences and similarities between his new religion and the speculative Hellenism in which he had been raised.

Justin was born to Greek parents at Shechem (modern Nablus) in Samaria, the hilly region to the north of Jerusalem. http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/spirituallife/saintoftheweek/2013/05/29/the-saint-who-was-one-of-the-earliest-fathers-of-the-church/

He is not considered to be a saint by those of us in the Continuing Church of God.


Because some of us have studied about him and considered the ramifications of several of his teachings. Catholics who closely study what he taught would likely not consider that he was one of their saints either, but most still do. Nor do we in the Continuing Church of God celebrate his holiday.

However, Justin, despite his heresies, does add information of use to those interested in early Church history.

In the second century, Justin was in Ephesus as were early Christians.

Ancient Ephesus
Photo of Ancient Ephesus taken June 2005

Perhaps one of the most important points that needs to be emphasized was that there were two main groups of professing Christians in Ephesus during Justin’s time (plus the various known gnostic and other heretical groups).

Justin (c. 135) taught that there were Christians in Asia Minor who had Jewish practices like the Holy Days and the Ten Commandments, but that he did not care to associate with them. Justin also seemed to accept the false “Gospel of Peter,” which the true Christians never did. Hence there were two groups in Asia Minor in the second century–one under the direction of faithful leaders such as Bishop Polycarp and others who were more independent like Justin. Apparently, the true Christians in Asia Minor (who were apparently the majority at that time) did not care to associate with those like Justin either, so Justin went to Rome.

Before the time of Justin, the Apostle Paul told those in Ephesus:

17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk… (Ephesians 4:17).

Yet certain ones like Justin did not heed this. In Ephesus, Justin Martyr wrote, in response to a Jew named Trypho,

But if, Trypho, some of your race, who say they believe in this Christ, compel those Gentiles who believe in this Christ to live in all respects according to the law given by Moses, or choose not to associate so intimately with them, I in like manner do not approve of them (Justin. Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 47. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

Thus, Justin admits that there were two groups in Ephesus, one that kept all the law and the other that did not. He also admits that he did not approve of those who kept the law.

Justin Martyr records this accusation from Trypho,

But this is what we are most at a loss about: that you, professing to be pious, and supposing yourselves better than others, are not in any particular separated from them, and do not alter your mode of living from the nations, in that you observe no festivals or Sabbaths…you do not obey His commandments (Justin Martyr. Dialogue with Trypho. Chapter 10. Translated by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Excerpted from Volume I of The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, editors); American Edition copyright © 1885. Electronic version copyright © 1997 by New Advent, Inc.).

While the Ephesians were told to live differently than the other Gentiles in whose nation they co-existed with, those with Justin Martyr could not be distinguished. It is interesting to note that Trypho expected that Justin would have kept the Sabbath–this is because that was the common practice of those that professed Christ in Asia Minor.

It is believed that the discourse between Trypho and Justin Martyr took place in Ephesus, though Justin Martyr later ended up in Rome (Lebreton J. St. Justin Martyr)–which may have been when he adopted Sunday.

Thus, there would have had to be two very different professing Christian groups in Ephesus. Justin Martyr specifically claimed his group did not observe the Sabbath, keep the Feasts, or eat unleavened bread (Dialogue with Trypho. Chapter 18)—yet, according to the Catholic historian Eusebius, Polycrates later confirmed that Passover was continually kept on the 14th and unleavened bread was still eaten annually by the Christians who were the followers of Polycarp and John in Ephesus (Eusebius. Church History. Book V, Chapter 24). Yet, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox claim both Polycarp and Justin as saints–the two were too different for both to have been saints. To determine which of the two could have been, please read this article completely and also read the article Polycarp of Smyrna.

It is possible that the reason that Justin Martyr decided to leave Ephesus and go to Rome was because the true Christians in Ephesus (and nearby Smyrna) would not accept him or his teachings.

Although the Catholics of Rome keep Sunday, there are many teachings that Justin had, however, that even Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and even most Protestants would find troublesome.


Was Christ Cursed?

One concern that Trypho had was,

But whether Christ should be so shamefully crucified, this we are in doubt about. For whosoever is crucified is said in the law to be accursed, so that I am exceedingly incredulous on this point (Dialogue. Chapter 89).

Ultimately, Justin responded with,

Therefore our suffering and crucified Christ was not cursed by the law, but made it manifest that He alone would save those who do not depart from His faith (Dialogue. Chapter 111).

This seems to conflict with what Paul wrote in Galatians 3:13,

Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”).

Thus, it appears that Justin somewhat contradicted this scripture. Instead, Justin perhaps should have simply quoted the entire section in Galatians 2:10-14 where Paul appears to address this particular concern.

Who is the Supreme Pontiff and the Father? Is the Roman Senate Sacred?

Justin addressed his First Apology to the Emperor and “to the sacred Senate” (The First Apology. Chapter I).

And in his conclusion mentioned,

The Emperor Caesar Titus AElius Adrianus Antoninus Augustus Pius, Supreme Pontiff, in the fifteenth year of his tribuneship, Consul for the third time, Father of the fatherland, to the Common Assembly of Asia, greeting (The First Apology. Chapter LXVIII).

The ultimate “Father of the fatherland” would seem to be God the Father, though it is likely that Justin is simply trying a bit too hard to be polite here.

Catholics may have been surprised to learn that when addressing the Supreme Pontiff in Rome, Justin was referring to the Emperor (the bishop of Rome did not take this title to himself until the late 4th Century). Pontiff is a term that seems to mean bridge builder and has historically, in a religious context, has suggested being the bridge between the Chief God (Jupiter for the Romans, or the Father for the Catholics) and man. Or essentially, a mediator.

The Bible teaches this, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). It is also not likely that God would consider that the assembly of the Roman Senate was sacred (e.g. Amos 5:21).

Justin also stated,

For I choose to follow not men or men’s doctrines, but God and the doctrines [delivered] by Him. For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this [truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians (Dialogue. Chapter 80).

While those in the CCOG would agree that souls die (Ezekiel 18:4) and are not taken to heaven upon death (Job:14:14; John 3:13), those in the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches would seem to disagree with Justin here.

Justin is clearly stating that those who believe that souls are taken to heaven when they die are not Christians. Therefore, it is surprising that any in Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches would consider Justin to be a saint, since he teaches that none of them can be.

An article of related interest may be Did the Early Church Teach Human Immortality?

Justin was not a saint. Yes, he had some belief in a compromised form of Christianity, but simply refused to live as a Christian. Though he had some correct doctrinal points, he also took a variety of positions that were typical of apostates.

Justin tends to be revered by many because of one of his comments about the day of the Sun god Helios (now called Sunday), but in my view that showed that he held apostate, not saintly views, of such matters. He was not a real saint, nor should his ‘day’ be celebrated.

More on Justin, some of his doctrines, and church history can be found in the articles:

Justin Martyr: Saint, Heretic, or Apostate? Justin is considered one of the first Christian theologians and scholars. But did he support a Gnostic version of Christianity? Do you know what he taught about souls going to heaven upon death? This article shows from his own writings, what Justin really taught.
Sunday and Christianity Was Sunday observed by the apostolic and true post-apostolic Christians? Who clearly endorsed Sunday? What relevance is the first or the “eighth” day?
Did Early Christians Teach They Were Going to Heaven? What do the Bible and scholars teach? What about ‘near-death experiences’? Here is a link to a related sermon: Heaven and Christianity.
What Happens After Death? Is death like sleep, or is that a cultic idea? Can you speak to the dead? Here is a link to a related sermon: What really happens after death?
Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome What actually happened to the primitive Church? And did the Bible tell about this in advance?
Early Church History: Who Were the Two Major Groups Professed Christ in the Second and Third Centuries? Did you know that many in the second and third centuries felt that there were two major, and separate, professing Christian groups in the second century, but that those in the majority churches tend to now blend the groups together and claim “saints” from both? “Saints” that condemn some of their current beliefs. Who are the two groups?
Where is the True Christian Church Today? This free online pdf booklet answers that question and includes 18 proofs, clues, and signs to identify the true vs. false Christian church. Plus 7 proofs, clues, and signs to help identify Laodicean churches. A related sermon is also available: Where is the True Christian Church? Here is a link to the booklet in the Spanish language: ¿Dónde está la verdadera Iglesia cristiana de hoy? Here is a link in the German language: WO IST DIE WAHRE CHRISTLICHE KIRCHE HEUTE? Here is a link in the French language: Où est la vraie Église Chrétienne aujourd’hui?
Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from Acts 2 to the 21st century. Related sermon links include Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D. and Continuing History of the Church of God: 4th-16th Centuries. The booklet is available in Spanish: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios, German: Kontinuierliche Geschichte der Kirche Gottes, and Ekegusii Omogano Bw’ekanisa Ya Nyasae Egendererete.
What Was the Original Apostles’ Creed? What is the Nicene Creed? Did the original apostles write a creed? When was the first creed written? Are the creeds commonly used by the Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholics original?
Do You Practice Mithraism? Many practices and doctrines that mainstream so-called Christian groups have are the same or similar to those of the sun-god Mithras. December 25th was celebrated as his birthday. Do you follow Mithraism combined with the Bible or original Christianity?
Living as a Christian: How and Why? In what ways do Christians live differently than others. What about praying, fasting, tithing, holy days, and the world? There is also a YouTube video related to that also called: Living as a Christian: How and Why?
Did Early Christians Believe that Humans Possessed Immortality?
What does John 3:16, and other writings, tell us? Did a doctrine kept adopted from paganism? Here is a YouTube video titled Are humans immortal?

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