dianoigo blog
Showing posts with label Dialogue with Trypho. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dialogue with Trypho. Show all posts

Monday 20 June 2022

Reading Isaiah like an Early Christian (6): "I stretched out my hands all day long towards a disobedient people" (Isaiah 65:2)

The opening verses of Isaiah 65 introduce a speech by Yahweh about the rebelliousness of his people Israel:
1 I was ready to be sought out by those who did not ask,
    to be found by those who did not seek me.
I said, “Here I am, here I am,”
    to a nation that did not call on my name.
2 I held out my hands all day long
    to a rebellious people,
who walk in a way that is not good,
    following their own devices...  
6 See, it is written before me:
   I will not keep silent, but I will repay;
I will indeed repay into their laps 
7 their iniquities and their ancestors’ iniquities together, 
   says the Lord [Heb. YHWH]; 
because they offered incense on the mountains 
   and reviled me on the hills, 
I will measure into their laps 
   full payment for their actions. (Isaiah 65:1-2, 6-7 NRSV)
Our main interest in this article lies with early Christian interpretation of the first line of v. 2. The Hebrew verb pāraś normally refers to spreading out one's hands in prayer, so the picture of YHWH with his hands spread out in supplication to Israel represents a paradoxical reversal, reflecting the extent of God's efforts to win over his people.1

The Septuagint Greek translation of Isaiah 65:2a follows the Hebrew closely, except that it adds a second adjective describing Israel: "I stretched out my hands all day long towards a disobedient and contrary people" (exepetasa tas cheiras mou holēn tēn hēmeran pros laon apeithounta kai antilegonta).2 The Hebrew verb pāraś has been suitably rendered with the Greek verb ekpetannumi, meaning to spread out, hold out, or stretch out, and with tas cheiras (the hands) likewise suggesting "an imploring gesture";3 it is used in Exodus 9:29, 33 LXX of Moses' intercessory prayer.

In its original context in the Hebrew Bible, Isaiah 65 verses 1-2 are synonymous, both concerning Israel and referring to "the efforts to which God has made to win the faithless back."4 The sense of v. 1 is, "Although I was present and would have responded had they beckoned Me, they did not seek Me."5 Most interpreters thus take the Niphal forms here as permissive, reflecting God's readiness to be found by his disinterested people. The LXX, however, translates them with an effective sense: "I became visible to those who were not seeking me; I was found by those who were not inquiring about me,"6

Paul quotes Isaiah 65:1 and 65:2 in Romans 10:20-21 as part of his extended discourse in Romans 9-11 on Israel's unbelief in the Gospel message
20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say, “I have been found by [or, among] those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me [Isaiah 65:1].” 21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people [Isaiah 65:2].” (NRSV)
Paul's wording follows the Septuagint, despite some minor changes,7 the most significant of which for our purposes is that the words holēn tēn hēmeran ("all day long") have been brought to the beginning of the clause for emphasis. Like the Septuagint, Paul has understood Isaiah 65:1 in an effective sense. This allows him to set Isaiah 65:1 and 65:2 in contrast,8 with 65:1 referring to the gracious finding of the message of salvation by those who had never sought it (particularly Gentiles), and 65:2 referring to the rejection of that message by most of Israel.9

Paul offers minimal comment on Isaiah 65:1-2, and since he simply attributes the words to "Isaiah," it is not clear whom he understands the speaker to be in this oracle. Commentators on Romans are in seemingly unanimous agreement that Paul understands the speaker to be God,10 which is understandable given that YHWH is the speaker of this oracle in Isaiah MT. However, I would like to explore the possibility—which admittedly cannot be proven conclusively—that Paul has understood Christ to be the Kyrios (Isaiah 65:7 LXX) who speaks these words.

Firstly, although Paul says almost nothing about the text beyond quoting it, it is already certain from what he does say that he is offering an early Christian reinterpretation of this prophetic text—either his own or one that was in circulation.11 This reinterpretation has divided vv. 1-2 into two parts fulfilled by two present-day events related to the message about Christ: "the Jews' general refusal of the gospel" (65:2) and "the Gentiles' eager acceptance of it" (65:1).12 Thus, it cannot be ruled out this reinterpretation had particularised other aspects of the oracle's meaning to the early Christian setting (including who the speaker is).

Secondly, it is generally recognised by Pauline scholars that Paul makes considerable use of the rabbinic exegetical principle known as gezerah shavah.13 This principle entails that two biblical texts that use the same word or phrase can be interpreted jointly, with the meaning of the term in one text informed by the other.14 A widely recognised Pauline use of gezerah shavah occurs in Romans 4:1-8, where Paul uses the occurrence of the verb logizomai ("count"; "impute") in Genesis 15:6 and Psalm 31(32):1-2 LXX to infer that both passages are about forensic justification.15 So, what does gezerah shavah have to do with Romans 10:20-21? If we look at Paul's Scripture quotations in Romans 10:5-21 (and even the rest of the book) as a catena—a connected series—we will notice that important terminology recurs in multiple passages. Let us note a couple of interesting parallels.

(i) In Romans 10:6-8, Paul quotes from Deuteronomy 30:12 LXX and interprets the generic reference to "the word" (to rhēma) there to mean "the word of faith that we proclaim," i.e. the gospel. Similarly, Septuagintal references to "bringing good news" (euangelizō, Isa. 52:7) and "our report" (ho akoē hēmōn, Isa. 53:1) are understood to refer to "the word of Christ" (rhēma Christou) in Romans 10:15-17, which—per Isaiah 53:1—some have rejected. Given that we know Paul followed a Christianised reinterpretation of Isaiah 65, would he not have likewise understood words such as "because I called you and you did not answer, I spoke and you misheard" (Isaiah 65:12 LXX) to refer to Israel's rejection of the Christian message?16

(ii) Another biblical phrase that is key to Paul's argument in Romans 10 is drawn from Joel 2:32(3:5): "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved". Although Paul does not quote the entire verse, it uses the verb euangelizō ("bring good news"), which links it via gezerah shavah to Isaiah 52:7. What is fascinating is that, while in the Hebrew Bible, Joel 2:32 refers to calling on the name of YHWH, Paul understands this "Lord" (kyrios in the LXX) to be Christ, as his interpretation in vv. 9-12, 14-17 makes clear.17 But the speaker of Isaiah 65:1 LXX says, "I was found by those who were not inquiring about me. I said, 'Here I am,' to the nation that did not call my name." We know that Paul understood these words to refer to the Gentiles' belief in Christ, and by connecting Joel 2:32 with Isaiah 65:1 (gezerah shavah), Paul could have concluded that both prophetic texts are referring to calling on the name of the same "Lord."18 Since we know that Paul understood this "Lord" to be Christ in Joel 2:32, it is possible, indeed likely, that Paul also understood Christ to be the "Lord" in Isaiah 65:1-7.

Having established the possibility—indeed, likelihood—that Paul identified the Kyrios who speaks in Isaiah 65:1-7 to be Christ, we will be "bold" like Isaiah (Rom. 10:20) and ask further how Paul might have understood the words, "All day long I stretched out my hands," if understood as spoken by Christ. There is admittedly an element of speculation here, but I think some intriguing observations can be made. 

Now, we already established that for the Lord (whether God or Christ) to "spread out his hands" to his people (Isa. 65:2) was an act of self-humiliation, since this was a reversal of the proper order whereby his people ought to "spread out their hands" to him in supplication. Now, Seifrid comments:
In contrast with the LXX, Paul fronts the adverbial expression 'all the day,' stressing God's abiding love for his people. The anthropomorphic language of Isaiah is dramatic and poignant, preparing Paul's readers for his following discussion of Israel's salvation: 'All the day I have stretched out my hands...'19
But if Christ is the speaker, then Paul is stressing Christ's love for his people, and the language need not be understood as anthropomorphic, since Christ had literal hands. Of course, the "day" when Christ most definitively spread out his hands was the day of his Passion, when in the ultimate act of divine self-humiliation, the One "existing in the form of God" "humbled himself" even to "death on a cross" (Phil. 2:6-8).

Still more can be said. Seifrid adds that 
The expression ["all day long I have stretched out my hands"] indirectly also recalls the suffering to which believers in Christ are exposed according to Paul's citation of Ps. [43:22(44:23)] in 8:36 ('On account of you, we are put to death all the day').
Indeed, the quotation of Isaiah 65:2 in Romans 10:21 and the quotation of Psalm 43:22(44:23) in Romans 8:36 use the same Greek phrase, holēn tēn hēmeran ("all day long"), and Paul brings it to the front of his quotation of Isaiah 65:2 for emphasis. By gezerah shavah, Paul might well have connected these two passages. The full quotation in Romans 8:36 is, "For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered" (NRSV), which is interpreted as referring to, inter alia, the "persecution" and "sword" to which believers in Christ are exposed. But the comparison to "sheep to be slaughtered" obviously likens the suffering of believers to the suffering of Christ, who likewise "like a sheep... was led to the slaughter" (Isa. 53:7 NETS).20 And this comparison is not lost on Paul, who earlier in the chapter stated, "we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him" (Rom. 8:17 NRSV).

So we have the following hypothetical analogy between believers' suffering and Christ's:
Believers go as sheep to the slaughter [Romans 8:36/Ps. 43:22] //
  just as Christ went as a sheep to the slaughter [Isaiah 53:7] 
Believers are killed all day long [Romans 8:36/Ps. 43:22] //
   just as Christ stretched out his hands all day long (on the cross) [Romans 10:21/Isaiah 65:2]
Lastly, although less relevant to interpreting Paul, it is worth noting that the Gospel of John contains some significant parallels. In John, Jesus' death is described as his being "lifted up" (lemma: hupsoō, John 3:14; 8:28; 12:32-34) and "glorified" (lemma: doxazō, John 12:23; 13:31). These two verbs correspond to Isaiah 52:13 LXX, which says of the Servant figure that "he shall be exalted (lemma: hupsoō) and glorified (lemma: doxazō) exceedingly". It is well established in biblical scholarship both that John is alluding to Isaiah 52:13 and that he is using the verb hupsoō with a double meaning, by which Jesus' physical "lifting up" on the cross was also his "lifting up" in the sense of exaltation.21 This use of Isaiah 52:13 LXX by John closely parallels how we are suggesting Paul may have understood Isaiah 65:2 LXX. John has taken a verb from Isaiah 52:13 that originally had a metaphorical meaning (the Servant was "lifted up" in exaltation) and added a second meaning by extending it physically to Christ's crucifixion (being "lifted up" on a cross). In like manner, my suggestion is that Paul may have taken the phrase "All day long I stretched out my hands" in Isaiah 65:2, which originally had a metaphorical meaning ("I patiently implored") and added a second meaning by extending it physically to Christ's crucifixion (stretching out one's hands on a cross all day long). Furthermore, just as stretching out one's hands is a gesture (of imploring), so John also understands Christ's crucifixion as a gesture (of "drawing," perhaps as fish into a net, John 12:32). Finally, just as Paul drew a comparison between Christ's suffering and that of his followers, so John draws an implicit comparison between Christ's being "glorified" in his death (and God in him), and Peter's "death by which he would glorify God"—which, coincidentally, is said to involve Peter stretching out his hands (John 21:18).22

We have made the case at some length that Paul likely understood Christ as the Lord who speaks the words of Isaiah 65:2 and possibly understood the words "All day long I stretched out my hands towards a disobedient and contrary people" with reference to Christ's crucifixion. Again, neither of these claims can be proven conclusively; Paul simply does not give us enough information about his understanding of Isaiah 65:2 to verify them or rule them out. However, there is enough circumstantial evidence to make them an intriguing possibility.

What is certain is that the next-earliest Christian interpretation of Isaiah 65:2 that is on record does interpret it as a prophecy about the cross, and that this interpretation was widely held in the early patristic period. To this witness we now turn.

The Epistle of Barnabas is a homiletic text dating to the early second century A.D., probably c. 130, written either in Alexandria or Syro-Palestine.23 It was not written by Paul's associate Barnabas, and indeed does not claim to have been—it is anonymous. In surveying the Jewish Scriptures for testimony about baptism and the cross, the writer says,
But we should look closely to see if the Lord was concerned to reveal anything in advance about the water and the cross … In a similar way he makes another declaration about the cross in another prophet [cites 4 Ezra 4.33, 5.5, Exodus 17:8-13] … And again in another prophet he says, ‘All day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient people that opposes my upright path.’ ... [continues by citing Numbers 21:4-9] (Barn. 11.1, 12.1, 12.4)24
It is clear from the way the quotation of Isaiah 65:2 is introduced that the writer has understood it to be a "declaration about the cross." Interestingly, Barnabas follows the same word order in the quotation as Paul in Romans 10:21, with holēn tēn hēmeran fronted for emphasis. This may indicate that Barnabas is following Romans,25 or that Barnabas and Romans are following a shared early Christian tradition concerning this text.

In his Dialogue with Trypho, writing about three decades after Barnabas (but with some material perhaps contemporaneous with it),26 Justin follows the same interpretation:
Isaiah likewise foretold the manner of his [the Lord’s] death in these words: 'I have stretched out my hands to an unbelieving and contradicting people, who walk in a way that is not good.' (Dialogue 97.2)27

Another two decades or so after Justin, the Bishop of Lugdunum (Lyons) writes, 
And again, concerning His Cross, Isaias says as follows: 'I have stretched forth my hands all the day to a stubborn and contrary people'; for this is a figure of the Cross. (Proof of the Apostolic Preaching 79)28

The prolific Carthaginian polemicist wrote his work Against the Jews around the beginning of the third century, another two decades or so after Irenaeus. Once again, he interprets it as one of several biblical prophecies about Christ's Passion: 
From this it is also clear that the city was due to be destroyed at the same time as when its leader was having to suffer in it, in accordance with the writings of the prophets who say, ‘I have stretched out my hands for the whole day to a people who are stubborn and speaking against me and who walk not in a way that is good but after their own sins.’ Likewise in the psalms, ‘They have destroyed my hands and my feet. They have counted all my bones. Moreover, they themselves have seen and considered me’, and ‘in my thirst they have given me vinegar to drink.’ (Against the Jews 13.10)29

The Didascalia Apostolorum is a pseudepigraphic church order document, originally written in Greek but surviving only in Syriac. It is usually dated around the beginning of the third century with a Syrian provenance.30 The text says the following about our passage:
For when our Lord came to the People, they did not believe Him when He taught them, but put away His teaching from their ears. Therefore, because this People was not obedient, He received you, the brethren who are of the Gentiles… But concerning the People, who believed not in Him, He said thus: 'I spread forth my hands all the day long to a people that obey not and resist, and walk in a way that is not good, and go after their sins: a people that is provoking before me.' (Didascalia Apostolorum 21.15)31
It is certain that the author understood Isaiah 65:2 to have been spoken by "our Lord," Christ, concerning his rejection by the Jews. It is not clear whether "I spread forth my hands all the day long" is taken to refer to the cross or to his imploration of the Jews more generally.

Another early third-century work is Hippolytus of Rome's Blessings of Moses, which survives in Armenian and Georgian versions. No English translation has been published, to my knowledge; what follows is my translation of a French translation:
It is possible to hear this also of the future coming of the Lord. For he who on Mount Sinai appeared to Moses, he, with the Angels, will come and save the saints from their persecuting and oppressing enemies, thus sparing those who have hoped in him. For he says: 'All the sanctified ones (are) under your hands' [Deut. 33:3]. For cover and shelter for all, who could it be but the Lord who has stretched out his hands and sanctified all who run to him, as the hen (does) to cover her chicks? [Matt. 23.37] And Ezra, in a prophetic voice, said the same thing: 'Blessed is the Lord who has stretched out his hands and revived Jerusalem!' [4 Ezra 7.27] And, through Isaiah, He rails against the rebels and says, 'All day long have I stretched out my hands to the rebellious people.' And here Moses says, 'All the sanctified ones (are) under your hands, even these are under you.' (Blessings of Moses 320)32

It seems clear from the reference to the Lord's future coming with the angels and the likely allusion to Matthew 23:37 that "the Lord" here refers to Christ. It is not certain whether Hippolytus has understood Christ to have "stretched out his hands" on the cross or in a more general imploring sense.

Writing in the mid-third century, Novatian clearly interprets our text with reference to the cross.
(6) For Divine Scripture often mentions things that have not yet been done as already done, because they are eventually going to be done; and it foretells things which are certainly about to happen, not as though they are going to happen in the future, but rather as though they had already happened. (7) In fact, though Christ had not yet been born in the time of Isaiah the prophet, Isaiah stated: ‘For a child is born to us.’ And although Mary had not yet been approached, he said: ‘And I went to the prophetess and she conceived and bore a son.’ (8) Though Christ had not yet made known the divine secrets of the Father, Isaiah stated: ‘And His name will be called the Angel of Great Counsel.’ (9) He had not yet suffered, and the prophet declared: ‘He was led as a sheep to the throat-cutter.’ (10) As yet there had been no Cross, and he stated: ‘All the day long I have stretched out My hands to an unbelieving people.’ (On the Trinity 28.6-10)33
Novatian writes in Latin, but like the second-century Epistle of Barnabas and like Hippolytus (if the Armenian word order is true to the Greek), his word order in the quotation matches that of Paul in Romans 10:21.

Novatian's contemporary in North Africa quotes Isaiah 65:2 in a list of proof texts adduced to prove "That the Jews would fasten Christ to the Cross" (Ad Quirinum 2.20).34

The view that "I stretched out my hands all day long towards a disobedient and contrary people" (Isaiah 65:2) was a prophecy spoken by Christ was widely held in the second and third centuries, from Alexandria/Syro-Palestine in the East to Carthage, Rome, and Gaul in the West. Most of these writers are, furthermore, clear that they understand the prophecy to refer to Christ's crucifixion, the stretching out of his hands on the cross.

We cannot be certain about the origin of this exegetical tradition. It could stem from reflection directly on Isaiah 65:2 LXX, or indirectly via Romans 10:21. However, given what we argued in the first part of this article—that Paul himself likely understood it as a prophecy spoken by Christ and possibly even about the cross—the possibility cannot be discounted that the crucifixion interpretation of Isaiah 65:2 goes back to the Apostle to the Gentiles himself.

  • 1 Cp. Isa. 1:15; 1 Kings 8:22, 38; Ps. 143:6; Lam. 1:17. "However, in marked contrast with the other verses, which speak of human supplication vis-à-vis the Deity, here, paradoxically, the Deity is begging for the attention of inattentive humans" (Shalom M. Paul, Isaiah 40-66: Translation & Commentary [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2012], 592); similarly, J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction & Commentary (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1993), 524.
  • 2 The translation follows Moisés Silva's, except that I have translated πρὸς with "towards" rather than "to" ("Esaias," in New English Translation of the Septuagint, ed. Albert Pietersma and Benjamin G. Wright [New York: Oxford University Press, 2007], 874). Both are within the semantic range of pros + accusative. Greek text is taken from Septuaginta, ed. Joseph Ziegler (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1983), 14:355.
  • 3 BDAG 307; cf. J. Lust, E. Eynikel, & K. Hauspie, A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint, 2 vols. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1992), 1:139.
  • 4 Claus Westermann, Isaiah 40-66: A Commentary (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1969), 400); "Admittedly, Isa. 65:1 speaks in the first instance of Israel's disobedience" (Mark A. Seifrid, "Romans," in Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, ed. G. K. Beale & D. A. Carson [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2007], 665).
  • 5 Paul, Isaiah 40-66, 592.
  • 6 Silva, "Esaias," 14:355. The Greek terms are emphanēs egenomēn and eurethēn.
  • 7 In quoting Isaiah 65:1, the verbal expressions emphanēs egenomēn and eurethēn beginning vv. 1a and 1b have been inverted. The preposition en seems to have been inserted between eurethēn and tois, changing "by those" to "among those," although this is text-critically uncertain. "Among those" would imply that only some Gentiles had found God, not the Gentiles in general.
  • 8 "In their original context these words from Isaiah 65:1 (‘I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me …’) seem to refer to rebellious Israel; but, as in his application of the Hosea prophecy, Paul recognizes here a principle which in the situation of his day is applicable to Gentiles, and the LXX wording...lent support to this application"  (F. F. Bruce, Romans: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1985), 207–208).
  • 9 "The prepositional phrase πρὸς τὸν Ἰσραὴλ that introduces the final citation in this pericope should be taken as 'in reference to Israel' rather than as a direct address, 'to Israel.' The particle δέ appears again with the sense of 'but,' indicating that the address to the Gentiles in v. 20 shifts to Israel in v. 21" (Robert Jewett and Roy David Kotansky, Romans: A Commentary [Minneapolis: Fortress, 2006], 648–649); "πρὸς δὲ τὸν Ἰσραὴλ λέγει, 'but concerning Israel he says'... Paul specifies Israel as the target, thereby making still clearer the point that v 20 referred to Gentiles" (James D. G. Dunn, Romans 9–16 [Dallas: Word, 1988], 626–627).
  • 10 E.g., Dunn, Romans 9-16, 626-27; Jewett and Kotansky, Romans, 626-67; Seifrid, "Isaiah," 667; Joseph A. Fitzmyer S.J., Romans: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, (New Haven; Yale University Press, 2008), 600; James R. Edwards, Romans (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011), 257–258; Richard N. Longenecker, The Epistle to the Romans: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016), 858–860; Douglas J. Moo, The Letter to the Romans (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2018), 687–688.
  • 11 "The historical question of when Isa 65:1–2 was first divided into two parts—the first verse speaking about Gentiles who have responded positively to God; the second verse speaking about the people of Israel who have been 'disobedient and obstinate'—will probably never be answered. It may have been done by Paul himself here in Rom 10:20–21—or, perhaps more likely, by some earlier Christian apostle or teacher in the Jerusalem church or in the congregations of Syrian Antioch" (Longenecker, The Epistle to the Romans, 858–860).
  • 12 France, Romans, 208. Similarly, "Paul cites the text typologically in precisely this sense: God's dealings with Israel in the past have been recapitulated in the present" (Seifrid, "Romans," 666).
  • 13 "Traces of the apostle's Jewish identity can be seen in... the reception of manifold requirements and methods of Jewish biblical exegesis at the time (Qal Wa-homer in Rom 5.9f. and elsewhere; Gezerah shavah in Rom. 4.1-12 and elsewhere, Midrash-exegesis in Gal. 3.6-14 and Rom. 4; typology in 1 Cor. 10.1-13; allegory in Gal. 4.21-31)" (Oda Wischmeyer, Paul: Life, Setting, Work, Letters, trans. Helen S. Heron with revisions by Dieter T. Roth [London: T&T Clark, 2012], 77); "there can be no doubt that Paul does at times employ a Stichwort approach in adducing Old Testament citations (e.g. gezerah shavah)" (James M. Scott, "'For as Many as are of Works of the Law are under a Curse' (Galatians 3.10)," in Paul and the Scriptures of Israel, ed. Craig A. Evans and James A. Sanders [London: Bloomsbury, 1993/2015], 191).
  • 14 David Instone Brewer explains that gezerah shavah encompasses two rules. The first is "the definition of an ill-defined word or phrase in one text by its use in another text where its meaning is clearer. It does not attempt to survey all the possible uses of the word or phrase throughout the Scripture but it assumes that the meaning of a word in one text is always the same as its meaning in another." The second is "the interpretation of one text in the light of another text to which it is related by a shared word or phrase. The two texts are often concerned with the same subject, but the existence of the same word or phrase in two texts can suggest a relationship between them even if they are concerned with completely unrelated subjects" (Techniques and Assumptions in Jewish Exegesis before 70 CE [Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 1992], 17-18).
  • 15 "in Rom. 4:1-8 Paul combines Gen. 15:6 with Ps. 32:1-2 on the basis of the verb logizomai, which both texts have in common. This is an application of the rule called 'analogy' (gezerah shavah) by the Rabbis." (Klaus Haacker, The Theology of Paul's Letter to the Romans [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003], 102).
  • 16 "The LXX rendering [of Isaiah 65:2] may pick up the concrete expression of Israel's rebellion as it is portrayed in context, which includes dismissal of the 'word of the LORD' (Isa. 65:3-7, 12; 66:3-5; also 59:1-15)" (Seifrid, "Isaiah," 667).
  • 17 "if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord... you will be saved...the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him" (vv. 10, 12). Paul pairs the quotation from Joel with one from Isaiah 28:16 about the precious stone of which "the one who believes in him will not be put to shame". This can only be Christ in Paul's understanding; yet Paul identifies the referent of Isaiah 28:16 and Joel 2:32 as the same: "But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard?" (v. 14)
  • 18 "The nation refuses to 'call on the name of the (risen) Lord' (10:3-4, 13)—the very charge that the Lord brings in Isaiah (Isa. 65:1b; cf. 64:7)" (Seifrid, "Isaiah," 667).
  • 19 "Romans," 667.
  • 20 That is, according to the early Christian interpretation of the Servant Song of Isaiah 52:13-53:12, which we know that Paul followed, based on his quotation of Isaiah 53:1 in Romans 10:16 and his quotation of Isaiah 52:15 in Romans 15:21.
  • 21 See, e.g., Richard Bauckham, God Crucified: Monotheism and Christology in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), 63-67; James M. Hamilton, Jr., God's Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 414f; Bruce R. Reichenbach, "Soteriology in the Gospel of John," Themelios 46 (2021): 578-81.
  • 22 The verb is a different one, ekteinō, meaning "extend" (e.g., to receive irons) rather than "spread out" as ekpetannumi in Isaiah 65:2. So the verbal parallel is not compelling, but it is interesting nonetheless that, for John, an action of extending the hands was suitable language to describe an apostle's death that glorifies God like Christ's did.
  • 23 So Bart D. Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers, 2 vols. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003), 2:7-8.
  • 24 Trans. Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers, 2:53, 57.
  • 25 An early 20th century work on the use of the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers rates it as "B" (highly probable) on a scale from A to D that the author of Barnabas knew Romans (A Committee of the Oxford Society of Historical Theology, The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers (Oxford: Clarendon, 1905).
  • 26 c. 160 is the usual date for the Dialogue, but Timothy J. Horner argues that the Dialogue was a redacted version of an earlier "Trypho Text," an account of a real dialogue with Trypho, which he dates to c. 135 A.D. (Listening to Trypho: Justin Martyr's Dialogue Reconsidered [Leuven: Peeters, 2001]).
  • 27 St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, ed. Michael Slusser, trans. Thomas B. Falls, rev. Thomas P. Halton (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 2003), 148; see also Dialogue 114.2; 1 Apology 38.1.
  • 28 St. Irenaeus, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching, trans. Joseph P. Smith (Westminster: Newman, 1952), 97.
  • 29 Trans. Geoffrey D. Dunn, Tertullian (London: Routledge, 2004), 68-69.
  • 30 Joel Marcus, "The 'Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs' and 'Didascalia Apostolorum': A Common Jewish Christian Milieu?", Journal of Theological Studies 61 (2010): 600-602.
  • 31 Trans. R. Hugh Connolly, Didascalia Apostolorum (Oxford: Clarendon, 1929), 185.
  • 32 French original: "Il est possible d'entendre aussi ceci de la venue future du Seigneur. Car, celui qui, sur le Mont Sinaï, est apparu à Moïse, celui-là, avec des Anges, viendra et sauvera les Saints de leurs ennemis persécuteurs et oppresseurs, épargnant ainsi (à) ceux qui auront espéré en Lui, (la défaite). Car il dit: «Tous les sanctifies (sont) sous tes mains». Car couverture et abri pour tous, qui peut l’être, sinon le Seigneur qui a étendu ses mains et sanctifié tous ceux qui courent à Lui, comme la poule (fait) pour couvrir ses poussins? Et Esdras, d’une voix prophétique, a dit la même chose: «Béni est le Seigneur qui a étendu ses mains et fait revivre Jérusalem!» Et, par Isaïe, Il vitupère les rebelles et dit: «J’ai étendu mes mains tout le jour vers le people rebelle». Et ici, Moïse dit: «Tous les sanctifies (sont) sous tes mains, et ceux-ci sont sous toi»." (Maurice Brière, Louis Mariès & B.-Ch. Mercier, "Bénédictions de Moïse," in Patrologia Orientalis 27.1-2 [Paris: Firmin-Didot, 1954], 130-31).
  • 33 Novatian, The Trinity, The Spectacles, Jewish Foods, In Praise of Purity, Letters, trans. Russell J. deSimone (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1974), 96.
  • 34 Trans. A Library of the Fathers of the Holy Catholic Church (Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1840), 3:56.

Thursday 11 August 2016

Justin Martyr, the soul, and Christadelphian apologetics

In the previous article, we discussed how Christadelphian apologetic discourse has seldom engaged with the classical Christian position on the afterlife, focusing its attack instead on popular folk theology. In particular, Christadelphians have regarded resurrection of the body and immortality of the soul as mutually exclusive doctrines, and have often assumed that orthodox Christians affirm the latter and not the former. We pointed out in the previous article that traditional Christian teaching affirms both.

The 'resurrection vs. immortal soulism' paradigm has affected the way Christadelphians read ancient texts. Specifically, a writer who expresses belief in bodily resurrection is assumed not to believe that the soul survives death, and vice versa. In this article, we will see how this assumption has led Christadelphians to misunderstand the theology of one early Christian writer, Justin Martyr, even as they appeal to him as a witness to the antiquity of Christadelphian doctrine.

Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho

The Dialogue with Trypho is an account of a theological dialogue between Justin Martyr, a Christian apologist, and Trypho, a non-Christian Diaspora Jew, written by Justin in the mid-second century. While many scholars have concluded that Trypho was a fictional, stereotyped Jew invented by Justin for rhetorical purposes, Horner has recently made the case that he was a real person and that the extant Dialogue is a sort of revised and expanded second edition of an earlier account of an authentic dialogue.1 Boyarin, a Jewish scholar, is impressed by Justin's detailed knowledge of Judaism,2 while Skarsaune argues that Justin's thought is 'very Jewish' and that he probably took his Christological arguments from earlier, Jewish Christian tradition.3 In any case, the Dialogue is an important historical source for reconstructing early Christianity - indeed, 'far and away the longest Christian document we have from the second century.'4 (I've written previously about Justin's use of Greek philosophy here.)

Dialogue with Trypho 80.4 in Christadelphian apologetics

Since the days of their founder, Dr. John Thomas, Christadelphian apologists have periodically enlisted Justin to prove that, as late as the mid-second century, the Christadelphian view of the afterlife was still current while what later became established as orthodoxy (the immortality of the soul and heaven-going) was regarded as heretical. The passage from Justin Martyr's writings that is usually quoted is this:
If you have ever encountered any nominal Christians who do not admit this doctrine [i.e. the doctrine of God], but dare to blaspheme the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob by asserting that there is no resurrection of the dead, but that their souls are taken up to heaven at the very moment of their death, do not consider them to be real Christians, just as one, after careful examination, would not acknowledge as Jews the Sadducees or similar sects' (Dialogue with Trypho 80.4, emphasis added)5
It is not difficult to see why this passage has proven popular in Christadelphian apologetics: it sounds like it could have been written by a Christadelphian. It upholds resurrection as the Christian hope over against heaven-going of the soul at death. This passage is quoted repeatedly by Dr. John Thomas,6 by Thomas Williams,7 by C.C. Walker,8 and now in the Internet age by Paul Billington, Matt Daviesinstructional material of the Dawn Christadelphians,9 and Dave Burke. (One prominent Christadelphian who appears not to have had much use for Justin Martyr is Robert Roberts, who referred to him as an 'ecclesiastical driveller'.)10

Some of these writers quote the passage virtually without comment, as though its meaning and implications were self-evident. I think most have simply assumed that if Justin believed in resurrection rather than heaven-going, he must have been a mortalist.11

Let us look at the inferences that Christadelphian writers have explicitly drawn from Dialogue 80.4.
From this we learn, that what is orthodox now concerning souls going to heaven was regarded by the contemporaries of the Apostle as sufficiently pestilential to consign the men that held it to eternal reprobation12
Here you see that Justin Martyr, 150 years after Christ, is proving the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead by the fact that men have not gone to heaven or to hell, but that they were dead and needed a resurrection for a future life.13
He rejected the immortality of the soul in unambiguous terms.14
The way Christadelphian apologists have used this passage from Justin Martyr leaves their readers with the impression that (1) Justin's views on the afterlife were compatible with Christadelphian teaching, while (2) the views he attacked as non-Christian were compatible with later orthodox teaching. As it turns out, both (1) and (2) are mistaken.

Before turning to the evidence for this claim, I want to emphasize that I am not accusing Christadelphian apologists of knowingly withholding information about Justin's beliefs in order to misrepresent him for apologetic ends. I presume that the use of Dialogue with Trypho 80.4 in Christadelphian apologetics has, in good faith, tried to accurately represent Justin's beliefs but failed to take account of all of the evidence. Accordingly, I undertake to show from Justin's writings that Christadelphians have widely misunderstood his views on the afterlife, in the hope that this passage will be handled differently by Christadelphians in the future.

Happily, at least one Christadelphian apologist has already warned against interpreting Justin's views on the afterlife as proto-Christadelphian. Jonathan Burke writes:
A number of early Christian writers, such as Justin Martyr, Tatian, Irenaeus, Theophilus of Antioch, Arnobius, and Lactantius, held that the soul was not independently immortal, and could die. However, they must be understood as arguing specifically against the Platonic teachings of the Greeks that the soul was immortal of itself. Other than Arnobius, they do not appear to be arguing that the soul ceases to exist at death.15
This qualification is of crucial importance, and if it were heeded by Christadelphians, there would not be much need for this article. However, Jonathan does not interact with Justin's writings directly, citing only secondary sources. Nor does he provide detailed information about Justin's beliefs concerning the afterlife, or the beliefs he was attacking as heretical. I aim, therefore, to elaborate on Jonathan's observations by filling in the details from Justin's own testimony.

In the remainder of this article, I hope to demonstrate from Justin's writings that the following are true:
(1') Justin's position on the state of the dead was incompatible with Christadelphian doctrine, and much closer to orthodox doctrine;
(2') The position that Justin was attacking as non-Christian is one that is also considered heretical by orthodox Christians
Justin's beliefs about the afterlife 

It is clear from Dialogue 80.4, quoted above, that Justin believed in the resurrection of the dead. As he writes elsewhere:
Receive us, at least like these, since we believe in God not less, but rather more, than they do: we who expect even to receive our own bodies again, after they have died and been put in the earth, since we say that nothing is impossible for God. (1 Apology 18.6)16
But what did Justin believe happened to people between death and resurrection? Did he teach, as Christadelphians do, that when we die we cease to exist? Did he 'reject the doctrine - that man consciously exists in death'?17 The following quotations from his First Apology make his position clear:
1 Consider what happened to each of the kings that have been. They died just like everybody else. Which, if death led to unconsciousness, would have been a godsend to all the unjust. 2 But, since consciousness endures for all those who have existed, and eternal punishment lies in store, take care to be persuaded and to believe that these things are true. 3 For conjurings of the dead – both visions obtained through uncorrupted children, and the summoning of human souls – and those whom magicians call “dream-senders” or “attendants” – and the things done by those who know these things – let these persuade you that even after death souls remain in consciousness. (1 Apology 18.1-3, emphasis added)
And in our saying that the souls of the wicked are punished after death, remaining in consciousness, and that the souls of the virtuous remain free from punishment and live happily, we will seem to say the same things as the poets and philosophers. (1 Apology 20.4, emphasis added)
In case it might be claimed that the views expressed in the First Apology differ from those in the Dialogue with Trypho, consider the following passage from the Dialogue. This is from the account of Justin's conversation with an old man by the sea that led to his conversion to Christianity. 'He' is the old man and 'I' is Justin. The positions expressed by the old man are thus being construed by Justin as Christian teaching.
4.7. “Therefore,” he concluded, “souls do not see God, nor do they transmigrate into other bodies”… 5.1. “Nor should we call the soul immortal, for, if it were, we would certainly have to call it unbegotten.”… 5.2. “Souls, then, are not immortal.” “No,” I said, “since it appears that the world itself was generated.” “3. On the other hand,” he continued, “I do not claim that any soul ever perishes, for this would certainly be a benefit to sinners. What happens to them? The souls of the devout dwell in a better place, whereas the souls of the unjust and the evil abide in a worse place, and there they await the judgment day. Those, therefore, who are deemed worthy to see God will never perish, but the others will be subjected to punishment as long as God allows them to exist and as long as he wants them to be punished.” (Dialogue with Trypho 4.7-5.3, emphasis added)
In this passage, the old man is trying to persuade Justin of the truth of Christianity by attacking Platonism, which regarded souls as unbegotten, intrinsically immortal, and capable of transmigrating into other bodies. However, the Christian alternative reflected here is not mortalism. It regards souls neither as predisposed to mortality nor as intrinsically immortal but as existing continuously unless God should decide to annihilate them. Moreover, this passage reflects the same belief as the First Apology in a conscious intermediate state for the soul between death and resurrection.

The difference between Justin's views on the intermediate state and those of later orthodoxy are mainly geographical: Justin appears not to have believed that the souls of the righteous ascend to heaven at death (given his antipathy toward this idea in Dialogue 80.4), but that they reside 'happily' in 'a better place'. However, in his Second Apology,18 Justin appears to countenance the idea of heaven-going at death, at least for martyrs. Recounting the interrogation of a Christian who was subsequently martyred, Justin writes:
Another Christian, a man called Lucius, on seeing the judgement given in this irrational way, said to Urbicus: "Why did you order this  man to be punished when he is not convicted of... any evil deed at all...? Your judgement does not befit a pioius emperor..." His only reply was similarly to say to Lucius: "I think you also are one of them." And when Lucius said, "Certainly", Urbicus ordered that he too be led away. Lucius further confessed that he was thankful to have been set free from evil masters such as these and that he was going to the father and king of all. (Second Apology 2.15-19, emphasis added)
If Justin could attribute such a belief to one he regarded as a faithful Christian martyr, it follows that Justin probably affirmed the same idea himself.19 It is plausible that Justin believed that heaven-going at death is a privilege reserved only for martyrs, while the rest of the righteous dead spend the intermediate state in Abraham's bosom, understood as a compartment within Hades.20

Hence, we can summarize Justin's individual eschatology as follows:
  • After death, all souls continue to exist consciously
  • The souls of the righteous go to a better place and the souls of the wicked to a worse place (both in Hades?), where they await resurrection and the final judgment
  • The souls of martyrs ascend to heaven

The afterlife beliefs that Justin regarded as heretical

What is the position that Justin regards as blasphemous and non-Christian in Dialogue 80.4? It is 'that there is no resurrection of the dead, but that their souls are taken up to heaven at the very moment of their death'. Contra Dr. Thomas, this is not a description of any doctrine ever held by orthodoxy, which has always maintained the resurrection of the dead as an article of the faith. Rather, this is a description of Platonist belief as taken up by the Gnostics, who regarded the body as a prison to be vacated and thus rejected the idea of resurrection. It is this denial of resurrection that Justin considers offensive, not the idea of the souls of the righteous going somewhere after death until the resurrection. Justin himself believed the latter!  Moreover, while it appears Justin restricted heaven-going to martyrs, it is unlikely that he regarded as heretical those Christians who believed in a heavenly intermediate state for all the righteous, followed by resurrection.21


Christadelphians have, over the past 150 years, frequently used a passage from Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho in their apologetics to prove that the early church repudiated the immortality of the soul and affirmed the resurrection of the dead. However, when this passage is understood in the wider context of Justin's thought, it is clear that his beliefs were much closer to traditional orthodoxy than Christadelphian mortalism. Like all orthodox Christians (and Christadelphians), Justin believed in the resurrection of the dead and repudiated those who did not share this doctrine. However, like most orthodox Christians but unlike Christadelphians, Justin also believed in a conscious intermediate state for the soul between death and resurrection. His only point of apparent disagreement with later orthodoxy concerned the 'geography' of the intermediate state.22

Accordingly, I call on Christadelphian apologists to provide their hearers and readers with a full account of Justin Martyr's beliefs concerning the soul and the afterlife when the subject comes up in their discourse, to avoid giving the impression that Justin's beliefs were proto-Christadelphian in this respect.


  • 1 Horner, Timothy J. (2001). Listening to Trypho: Justin's Dialogue Reconsidered. Leuven: Peeters.
  • 2 He comments on 'the authenticity of Justin's information and its richness of detail' concerning Jewish beliefs about heresy (Boyarin, Daniel (2001). Justin Martyr Invents Judaism. Church History, 70(3), 427-461; here p. 451)
  • 3 Skarsaune, Oskar (2002). In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press. He says the second-century Apologists 'think in very Jewish ways and carry on important Jewish concerns vis-à-vis paganism' (In the Shadow of the Temple, p. 231). He also ascribes to Justin a 'remarkably "Jewish" definition of philosophy' and emphasizes that 'in defining Christianity as a "philosophy," in this sense of the word, he is certainly not "Hellenizing" Christianity away from its Jewish roots.' (p. 240) Concerning Justin's biblical arguments for Christ's pre-existent divinity, he says, 'We have every reason to believe that this kind of argument was developed among Judeo-Christians with a knowledge of Hebrew' (p. 273).
  • 4 Horner, op. cit., p. 7.
  • 5 Quotations from the Dialogue with Trypho are taken from Slusser, Michael and Halton, Thomas P. (Ed). (2003). Justin Martyr: Dialogue with Trypho. (Thomas B. Falls, trans.). Washington: Catholic University of America Press.
  • 6 Thomas, John (1855). Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, 5, p. 174; Thomas, John (1857) Herald of the Kingdom and Age to Come, 7, p. 244; Carter, John (1949). The Faith in the Last Days: A Selection from the Writings of John Thomas. Birmingham: The Christadelphian.
  • 7 Williams, Thomas (1898). The World's Redemption. Chicago: Advocate Publishing House; Williams, Thomas (1898). The Hall-Williams Debate on The Kingdom of Heaven, the State of the Dead, Resurrection and the Punishment of the Wicked. Chicago: Advocate Publishing House, pp. 156-157.
  • 8 Walker, C.C. (1926). A Declaration of the Truth Revealed in the Bible as Distinguishable from the Theology of Christendom. Birmingham: Published by author, pp. 36-37.
  • 9 The material quotes our passage and comments, 'The doctrine of the immortality of the soul is an ancient teaching of pagan religions which was incorporated into a Christianity which was rapidly becoming corrupted. It is a false doctrine which must be rejected.'
  • 10 Roberts, Robert (n.d.) My Days and My Ways: An Autobiography. Sussex: R.J. Acford, p. 44.
  • 11 i.e. believed, like Christadelphians, that the dead are unconscious or do not exist until the resurrection.
  • 12 Dr. Thomas, The Faith in the Last Days.
  • 13 Williams, Hall-Williams Debate, p. 157, emphasis added. This was a debate held between Thomas Williams and the editor of a Baptist periodical, J.N. Hall, in Kentucky in 1898 before an audience of two thousand. Mr. Hall responded as follows: 'Justin Martyr don't say it is not all right to talk about souls being in heaven, but he argues that if you are going to make the presence of souls in heaven destroy the doctrine of the resurrection, and do not believe the resurrection is true, anybody who teaches such a thing would be just like those Justin Martyr warns us against. Justin Martyr did not pretend to say there were no souls in heaven; that is only the conclusion of my brother; that is another "peculiarity" of the Christadelphians. Justin Martyr does not himself take a position against the idea of the existence of departed souls.' (op. cit., p. 162)
  • 14 Dave Burke, profiling Justin Martyr's beliefs on his Christian History Facebook page
  • 15 Burke, Jonathan (2012). Sleeping in the Dust: The Biblical View of Death. Lively Stones Publishing, p. 30, emphasis added.
  • 16 Quotations from Justin's Apologies are taken from Minns, Denis & Parvis, Paul (Eds.) (2009). Justin, Philosopher and Martyr, Apologies. Edited with an Introduction, Translation, and Commentary on the Text. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • 17 Birmingham Amended Statement of Faith, Doctrines to be Rejected, No. 8.
  • 18 Various theories have been proposed by scholars on the relationship between Justin's First and Second Apologies. Some regard the Second as an appendix to the first. Minns and Parvis (op. cit.) offer the intriguing hypothesis that the Second Apology consists of unpublished material from the 'cutting-room floor' that Justin's friends published after his martyrdom.
  • 19 Indeed, according to The Acts of Justin,  an account of Justin's martyrdom, this is exactly what Justin believed at the time of his death: 'The prefect said to Justin, "If you are beaten and beheaded, do you believe you are going to ascend into the sky?" Justin said, "I hope for reward for endurance if I endure. For I know that for those who live rightly, the divine gift of grace is waiting until the final conflagration." Rusticus the prefect said, "So you suppose you will ascend?" Justin said, "I do not suppose so, I am certain of it."' (The Acts of Justin, Recension A, trans. Grant, R.M. (2003). Second-century Christianity: A Collection of Fragments (2nd ed.). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, p. 52)
  • 20 This view was expressed explicitly a few decades later by Tertullian (see De Resurrectione Carnis 43; De Anima 55). Two other possibilities are mentioned by Hill, C.E. (1992). Regnum Caelorum: Patterns of Future Hope in Early Christianity. Oxford: Clarendon Press, p. 20f. These are (a) that Justin didn't have a coherent cosmology of the intermediate state but was an heir of different traditions; (b) that Justin's cosmology of the intermediate state changed over time, with the heaven-going of the Second Apology reflecting a later position than the apparent Hades-going of the Dialogue and First Apology.
  • 21 How could Justin regard the idea of heaven-going as intrinsically heretical when he affirmed it himself, at least for martyrs? In Dialogue 80.1-2, Justin affirms his belief in a future, earthly, millennial kingdom in Jerusalem, but notes 'that there are many pure and pious Christians who do not share our opinion', whom he then distinguishes from the 'godless and impious heretics, whose doctrines are entirely blasphemous, atheistic, and senseless'. Where do the pure and pious but amillennial Christians believe souls go at death? Justin does not say, but Hill, op. cit., argues at length that in the early church, premillennialism (chiliasm) correlated with belief in a subterranean intermediate state while amillennialism (non-chiliasm) correlated with belief in a celestial intermediate state. If he is correct, the amillennial Christians mentioned by Justin probably believed in a celestial intermediate state - and yet were still considered 'pure and pious' by Justin, because unlike the Gnostic heretics they affirmed the resurrection of the body.
  • 22 If Justin's view of the intermediate state matched Tertullian's - i.e. heaven for martyrs and Hades (divided into good and bad compartments) for the rest, then it may be worth noting the similarities between his view and the purgatorial model of the intermediate state that was ultimately defined by the Western church.

Monday 1 September 2014

Justin Martyr and the 'Man of Men' Christology (Part 3)

This is the final installment of a three-part series on the 'man of men' Christology mentioned by Justin Martyr in his Dialogue with Trypho 48.4. In the first post we looked at the content of this Christology and that it regarded Jesus as the Christ but denied his virgin birth and pre-existent divinity. In the second post we looked at Justin's view toward the proponents of this doctrine. This was more difficult to determine. He has nothing positive to say about them, and describes it as a human doctrine as opposed to the teachings of the prophets and Christ himself. On the other hand he does not use the kind of strong language with which he denounces heresies elsewhere in the Dialogue. This leaves open the possibility that he regarded the proponents of the doctrine as fellow Christians in spite of their error.

We now turn to the third question we posed at the beginning of the series: how did Justin view the age and popularity of the ‘man of men’ Christology relative to his own Christology?

a.      Which does Justin regard as the older belief?

In Dave Burke's talk about second century Christianity (which was the impetus for this series), he tells his audience that "crucially, [Justin] admits that [the man of men Christology] is the older belief, which is very interesting." However, there is simply no evidence to support this claim. Furthermore, there is considerable evidence against it. Right in Dialogue 48.4 we see that Justin regards his own Christology (which affirms pre-existent divinity and the virgin birth) as something which had been taught by the prophets and Christ himself.

Justin Martyr elsewhere refers to the pre-existence of Christ as something "we have been taught" (First Apology 46).1 References to what "we" have been taught are used frequently by Justin to earlier Christian tradition, including even the words of Jesus (First Apology 4; 6; 10; 12; 13; 14; 15; 17; 19; 23; 27; 32; 33; 44; 46; 67; Second Apology 4; Dialogue 18.1; 96.2-3; 118.3; 133.6). It is likely then that Justin has here preserved an earlier tradition (probably dependent on Colossians 1:15 or Hebrews 1:6) which takes πρωτότοκος (first-born) as an indication of Christ's pre-existence.

As to the virgin birth, Justin refers in First Apology 33 to traditional material which is probably dependent on both the Matthean and Lukan birth narratives.

We can also note here that within a generation of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus could assert that the doctrine that the Son of God "became incarnate for our salvation" was part of the faith "received from the apostles and their disciples" (Against Heresies 1.10.1). So the Christians at this time regarded the doctrine of incarnation as a tradition they had received.

There is no indication that Justin regarded himself as an innovator of Christian doctrine. Dave’s statement that Justin admitted the ‘man of men’ Christology is older than his own is without any basis.

b.      Which does Justin regard as the more popular belief?

Dave does not comment on the relative popularity of Justin's Christology versus the 'man of men' Christology. There is, however, an intriguing (albeit difficult) statement which may be an acknowledgment of the popularity of the latter view in Justin's day. The Greek clause in 48.4 following Justin's expression of disagreement with the 'man of men' doctrine (οἷς οὐ συντίθεμαι, οὐδ' ἂν πλεῖστοι ταὐτά μοι δοξάσαντες εἴποιεν) is ambiguous and could be translated in two different ways, expressed by Bobichon as follows:

1) Avis que je ne partage pas avec eux, et ne partagerais pas davantage, quand bien même le plus grand nombre, qui pense comme moi, affirmerait la même chose2
2) Je ne suis pas de leur avis, et un très grand nombre qui pense comme moi ne consentirait pas à le dire.3

Here is an English translation of the above (with thanks to my friend Bernard Kengni for his assistance with the translation):

1) An opinion that I do not share with them, and would never share either, even though the largest number of people who think like me should affirm the same thing.
2) I do not agree with them, and a very large number of people who think like me would not agree to say so.

The matter largely hinges on whether we take οὐδε to mean 'nor' or 'even if', both of which are syntactically possible. Importantly, the syntax ἂν...εἴποιεν can be recognized as a potential optative. This means we have here a fourth class condition, which "indicates a possible condition in the future, usually a remote possibility."4 This suggests that, under either translation, ‘affirm the same thing’ or ‘agree to say so’ is viewed as a future possibility (perhaps an unlikely future possibility) rather than a present reality.

Hence, under the first translation, Justin would seem to be saying that in the event that the majority of Christians adopted this doctrine, he himself would not. Under the second translation, Justin would seem to be saying that the majority of Christians, if presented with this doctrine, would not agree with it. In neither case is Justin making an explicit statement about the present popularity of the ‘man of men’ Christology.

Having said that, if the first translation is correct, one might ask why Justin would concern himself even with the possibility of the ‘man of men’ Christology being the majority view unless it was already very popular. Bobichon comments that the second translation suggests that Justin’s view was more popular. Of the first translation, however, which he prefers, he writes:

“Elle laisse entendre au contraire que cette certitude [que le Christ était Dieu, et préexistant] n'était pas partagée par la majorité des chrétiens” (It suggests instead that this view [that Christ was God, and pre-existent] was not shared by the majority of Christians)5 (my translation)

In support of this reading, Bobichon observes that Justin proceeds to offer a justification for his admittedly ‘paradoxical’ view of Christ’s origin. Paget, on the other hand, suggests that since Justin does not devote much space in the Dialogue to these Jewish Christians (whom he equates with the law-following Christians of chapter 47) they were “very much a minority within the church.”6 He does allow that Justin’s attitude of compromise, “particularly in relation to law-observing gentile Christians, might imply a greater presence.”

Freyne likewise argues that “In Justin’s day, the Gentile Christian movement initiated by Paul had become the dominant force” and the Jewish Christian wing of the movement was in the process of being marginalized.7

I do not find Bobichon’s conclusion persuasive for several reasons. Firstly, as noted above a fourth class condition denotes a future possibility (often a remote one) and not a current reality. Secondly, Bobichon’s interpretation requires us to believe that Justin regarded not only the divinity and pre-existence of Christ but also the virgin birth as minority views in the second century church. However, Justin was very familiar with Matthew's Gospel8 and probably Luke's,9 both of which plainly declare the virgin birth. Justin's quotation concerning the virgin birth from the Gospel traditions in First Apology 33 is probably dependent on both Matthew and Luke. How likely is it that he could imagine the majority of Christians to be in ignorance or rejection of these traditions?

Thirdly, while Justin does offer a justification for his own view (an appeal to Scripture and the teachings of Jesus), he does the same when upholding his own position against opposing views elsewhere (Dialogue 35; 80). This cannot be regarded as evidence for the popularity of the position he opposes.

Fourthly, Justin's assertion that "There are some of your race..." (following the Parisinus manuscript reading as discussed in the previous post) suggests that this belief was limited to some of the Jewish Christians, who were a minority in the church by this time.10

Fifthly, Bobichon’s interpretation is only plausible if his translation of the clause is correct, which is uncertain. He himself acknowledges that both translations are possible. He cites three other scholars who fully agree with him, and another two who agree less completely, on the first translation. He also cites five scholars who favour the second translation.11

In summary, it is possible to interpret Justin as holding the 'man of men' Christology to be the majority view, and there is some scholarly support for such a reading. However, there are also reasons to doubt it and it must be judged at most uncertain, given the ambiguity of the Greek and the hypothetical nature of the fourth class condition.


To conclude, we can set Dave’s interpretation of Dialogue 48.4 in contrast to a balanced view of the matter as follows.

·      Whereas Dave depicts the ‘man of men’ Christology simply as an affirmation of Jesus’ literal flesh-and-blood humanity over against his pre-existent divinity, it in fact entailed rejection or ignorance of the virgin birth, which he does not mention. Moreover, Dave implies that Justin himself denied Jesus’ literal flesh-and-blood mortal humanity, which he did not.
·       Whereas Dave states without qualification that Justin accepted those who held the ‘man of men’ Christology as Christians, Justin in fact expressed sharp disagreement with them and accused them of teaching doctrines of men rather than those of the prophets and of Christ himself. It is difficult to determine whether Justin regarded them as heretical or not.
·       Whereas Dave states without qualification that Justin acknowledges the ‘man of men’ Christology as older than his own, there is in fact no evidence in Justin’s writings to support this. While it is possible that Justin acknowledges the ‘man of men’ Christology as more popular than his own, this is again disputed.

I commend Dave on his efforts to educate young Christadelphians about the history of the patristic church. However, I hope that he will exercise greater objectivity in future lectures than he has shown in his treatment of this particular subject.

1 The specific statement is "We have been taught that Christ is the first-born of God", but this is clearly made in contrast to the idea "that Christ was born one hundred and fifty years ago" and thus indicates pre-existence.
2 Bobichon, P. (2003). Dialogue avec Tryphon: Introduction, Texte Grec, Traduction, Vol. 1. Universite de Fribourg, p. 305.
3 Bobichon, P. (2003). Dialogue avec Tryphon: Introduction, Texte Grec, Traduction, Vol. 2. Universite de Fribourg, p. 718 n. 11.
4 Wallace, D.B. (1996). Greek Grammar beyond the basics: an exegetical syntax of the New Testament. Zondervan, p. 699; cf. pp. 483-484. For lack of a grammar covering the second century specifically, I assume the function of the optative had not changed in the preceding century.
5 Bobichon, op. cit., Vol. 2, p. 718 n. 11.
6 Paget, J.C. (1999). Jewish Christianity. In W.D. Davies et al (Eds.), The Cambridge History of Judaism, Vol. 3 (731-775). Cambridge University Press, p. 750.
7 Freyne, S. (2014). The Jesus Movement and Its Expansion: Meaning and Mission. Eerdmans, p. 339.
8 Skarsaune, O. (1987). The Proof from Prophecy: A Study in Justin Martyr's Proof-text Tradition: Text-type, Provenance, Theological Profile. BRILL, p. 100.
9 Skarsaune, O. op. cit., p. 386; Barnard, L.W. (1967). Justin Martyr: His Life and Thought. Cambridge University Press, p. 63.
10 Bobichon, op. cit., Vol. 2, p. 718 n. 11.
11 "By the turn of the [first] century the majority of Roman Christians were probably of Gentile background." (Kesich, V. (2007). Formation and Struggles: The Church, A.D. 33-450, Part 1. St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, p. 120. "By the time the deutero-Pauline Ephesians was written, the Jewish community was in the minority and was at risk of being marginalized by a powerful Gentile majority." (Roetzel, C.J. (2003). Paul, a Jew on the Margins. Westminster John Knox Press, p. 87).

Tuesday 26 August 2014

Justin Martyr and the 'Man of Men' Christology (Part 2)

We now turn our attention to the second question posed in the previous post:  did Justin Martyr accept those who held the 'man of men' Christology as Christians? More broadly, how did Justin view them? The answer to this question is not obvious. As we shall see, there are radically different viewpoints among scholars. In Dave's talk, he states that Justin "acknowledges these other Christians, and he still accepts them as Christians." There is some evidence to support this statement. However, it should not have been stated as an unqualified fact, since there is also evidence suggesting Justin held a very negative view of this doctrine.

I was able to find a a comment Dave posted on the web (relating to his debate on the Trinity with Evangelical theologian Rob Bowman) which provides the reasoning behind the above-mentioned assertion.

Martyr therefore acknowledges the existence of Christians who do not believe that Christ pre-existed; who believe that he was a “man of men.” Yet he refers to them as “of our race” and “my friends.” So although he disagrees with their Christology, he does not consider them heretics.1

Of the two pieces of evidence Dave adduces here to show that Justin did not regard the man of men Christology as heretical, one is plainly wrong, and the other is doubtful.

a.      ‘My Friends’

Firstly, Dave says that Justin refers to these people as ‘my friends.’ In fact, he does not. ‘My friends’ is a term of direct address for the Jews with whom he is engaging in dialogue: “‘For there are some, my friends,’ I said…” This term of address occurs more than a dozen times throughout the dialogue. In the Greek it is unmistakably a term of direct address: ὦ φίλοι, which would literally translate, 'O friends'.

This expression thus has nothing to do with Justin's view of the man of men Christology.

b.      ‘Of our race’ or ‘of your race’?

The Roberts-Donaldson translation renders the beginning of Dialogue 48.4, "For there are some, my friends," I said, "of our race, who admit that He is Christ, while holding Him to be man of men". Dave infers from the expression "of our race" that Justin regards these people as Christians. However, there is a text-critical issue here. In fact, there are only two extant manuscripts of the Dialogue: the Parisinus (1364 AD), and another written in 1541 AD which is a copy of the Parisinus.3 There is thus only one manuscript which is of value for textual criticism. And the Parisinus does not read ἀπὸ τοῦ ἡμετέρου γένους (‘of our race’), but rather, ἀπὸ τοῦ ὑμετέρου γένους (‘of your race’).4

Machen explains that the ‘of our race’ reading found its way into the early critical texts due to a copying error by the first publisher.5 The error remained uncorrected until discovered by Harnack in the early 20th century, though even before that scholars such as Bull argued on contextual grounds for emending the text to read ‘of your race.’6

The error seems to have died a slow death; as late as 1948, Falls still prefers the reading ‘of our race’ on the basis that “most critics” hold this view.7 At least one critic cited by Bobichon favours emending the text to read ‘of our race.’ However, Bobichon’s recent critical text holds ‘of your race’ to be the original.8

There is no external evidence for the reading ‘of our race,’ and there are no good internal reasons for overturning the manuscript reading. ‘Of your race’ would mean that those who hold the ‘man of men’ Christology are Jewish. Later patristic writers do refer to a Jewish Christian sect called the Ebionites who denied the virgin birth (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.21.1; Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.27.1-2), so they are the probable referent.9

If, then, Justin was referring to Ebionites, it would not be surprising for him to describe them as “of your race,” that is, Jewish. Indeed, Justin had just previously (Dialogue 47.3) used the expression ‘of your race’ to refer to other Jewish Christians of whom he disapproved because they compelled Gentiles to observe the Law of Moses.

In fact, if the manuscript reading 'of your race' is original, this may actually be evidence that Justin viewed the Ebionites negatively. For there indications elsewhere in the Dialogue that Justin understands non-Christian Jews and Christians to be two separate races. Of the Jews, Justin writes (again, just prior to our passage), “of your race, who are ever unwilling to understand or to perform the [requirements] of God” (Dialogue 48.2). He later states, “God has withheld from you [i.e. the Jewish race] the ability to discern the wisdom of His Scriptures; yet [there are] some exceptions” (Dialogue 55.3).

That Justin views the Christians as a race distinct from natural Jews is evident from Dialogue 116.3: “we, who through the name of Jesus have believed as one man in God the Maker of all…are the true high priestly race of God.” Again,
“As, therefore, Christ is the Israel and the Jacob, even so we, who have been quarried out from the bowels of Christ, are the true Israelitic race…it is necessary for us here to observe that there are two seeds of Judah, and two races, as there are two houses of Jacob: the one begotten by blood and flesh, the other by faith and the Spirit” (Dialogue 135.3-6; see also 119.4-5; 138.2.)
By describing these ‘Ebionites’ as “of your race,” Justin may simply be stating that they are ethnically Jewish. However, he may also be implying that he regards them as belonging to the race of Israel according to the flesh as opposed to the race of Israel by faith and the Spirit (i.e. the Christians).

Hence, the second piece of evidence that Dave cited in support of his view may actually support an opposite conclusion. There is, however, other evidence that may suggest that Justin held a tolerant view of the Ebionites.

c.       The argument for a ‘tolerant’ interpretation

On the same website on which Dave commented, philosophy professor Dale Tuggy added some additional comments on this text:

There are a couple of interesting things here. First, Justin concedes that Jesus can be the Messiah without his being divine or pre-existent – those points are independent of each other, and nothing about being Messiah logically implies being divine or pre-existing. So he insists that his arguments that Jesus is the Jewish messiah will work even if he can’t show Jesus to have pre-existed, or to be anything but a “man of men”, i.e. not Virgin-born, but with two human parents.  Second, Justin seems willing to concede that people who deny his logos theory may yet be Christians – catholic Christians, we assume.2

Dale does not give any reasons for his claim that Justin seems willing to regard the Ebionites as catholic Christians. However, this view has attracted scholarly support for several reasons.

In the first place, Justin does not denounce the proponents of the ‘man of men’ Christology with the same vitriol that is found in his references to heretics elsewhere in the Dialogue. In chapter 35.2-6, Justin refers to schisms and heresies and cites Jesus’ teachings about wolves in sheep’s clothing and false Christs. He describes these false teachers as teaching “both to speak and to act impious and blasphemous things”. He states further that these heretics call themselves Christians, but that they are called by us (the disciples of the true and pure doctrine of Jesus Christ) by the name of the men from whom each doctrine and opinion had its origin. Later, he refers to “godless, impious heretics” who “teach doctrines that are in every way blasphemous, atheistical, and foolish” (Dialogue 80.3). He goes on to say that of those 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” (80.4).

Justin’s tone in chapter 48 is nowhere near as rancorous. Rather, it is closer to the tone he uses for the Law-observing Christians mentioned in chapter 47 (also referred to as ‘of your race’). There, Trypho asks Justin, “But if someone, knowing that this is so, after he recognises that this man is Christ, and has believed in and obeys Him, wishes, however, to observe these [Mosaic rites], will he be saved?” (Dialogue 47.1) Justin responds,

"In my opinion, Trypho, such an one will be saved, if he does not strive in every way to persuade other men – I mean those Gentiles who have been circumcised from error by Christ, to observe the same things as himself, telling them that they will not be saved unless they do so." (Dialogue 47.1)

Trypho then asks whether there are those who hold such a position. Justin responds that there are, “but I do not agree with them” (47.2). He groups them into three classes.

i.             There are those ‘weak-minded’ Jews who wish to observe Mosaic institutions along with their hope in Christ; however they do not compel other Christians to do the same. Justin states, “I hold that we ought to join ourselves to such, and associate with them in all things as kinsmen and brethren” (47.2).
ii.                   There are some Jews who “say they believe in Christ” but “compel those Gentiles who believe in this Christ to live in all respects according to the law given by Moses.” Justin does "not approve of them" (47.3).
iii.                 Those Gentiles who are persuaded by the second group above “to observe the legal dispensation along with their confession of God in Christ, shall probably be saved”, provided they maintain their confession that Jesus is the Christ (47.4).

It can probably be inferred from the above that Justin thinks the first and third groups above will be saved, but not the second group – those who compel Gentile Christians to observe the Law. In simply stating that he “does not agree” with these Jewish Christians Justin’s tone is close to that of 48.4. It may be, then, that his view of the 'man of men' Christology issue was similar to his view of the law observance issue.

Secondly, it is possible (as will be discussed in the final post in this series) to understand ‘those who have the same opinions as myself’ in 48.4 to refer to all those who believe Jesus is the Christ, inclusive of Ebionites. This would then implicitly classify them as Christians, albeit not necessarily catholic Christians. Hence Bobichon notes,

“Il ne s’agit pas seulement des chrétiens orthodoxes, mais de tous ceux qui reconnaissent le Christ en Jésus et portent le nom de Chrétiens (MARAN)”10

That is, ‘It refers not only to orthodox Christians, but to all those who recognize Jesus as Christ and bear the name of Christians.’ (my translation)

Thirdly, Tuggy observes that Justin concedes Jesus can be the Messiah without his being pre-existent or divine, which he takes to imply that Jesus' pre-existence and divinity are for Justin non-essential points of doctrine.

In spite of the above, an argument can also be made that Justin does not accept the proponents of the ‘man of men’ Christology as catholic Christians.

d.      The argument for a ‘heretical’ interpretation

Firstly, while (as noted above) his criticism of this group is not as vitriolic as his denunciation of heretics in chapters 35 and 80, his description of the source of their doctrine is similar:

Source of wrong belief
Source of correct belief
Dialogue 35 (heretical Christians)
The spirits of error; doctrines which originated from men
The doctrines of Jesus; the words he taught; the prophecies announced concerning him
Dialogue 27 (unbelieving Jews)
Teaching doctrines that are your own
Doctrines that are His (God’s)
Dialogue 38 (unbelieving Jews)
The traditions of [Jewish] teachers who teach their own doctrines
Truths taught by God
Dialogue 78 (unbelieving Jews)
Strive in every way to maintain their own doctrines; teach the doctrines of men
The doctrines of God
Dialogue 80 (heretical Christians)
Men’s doctrines
God and the doctrines delivered by Him; the prophets declare it
Dialogue 48 (‘man of men’ Christology)
Human doctrines
The prophets; the teachings of Jesus himself

Like the heretics of chapters 35 and 80 and the unbelieving Jews of chapters 27, 38 and 78, the proponents of the ‘man of men’ Christology in 48.4 stand accused of putting their faith in human doctrines rather than “those proclaimed by the blessed prophets and taught by [Jesus] Himself.”11 The accusation of following human doctrines instead of the teachings of the prophets and Jesus is a very serious one, probably drawn from Isaiah 29:13 via Matthew 15:9. Every other viewpoint described in these terms in the Dialogue is clearly regarded as a threat to salvation.

Secondly, in the only other place in Justin’s writings where he refers to a denial of Christ’s pre-existence (First Apology 46), he states that if someone were to maintain “that we say that Christ was born one hundred and fifty years ago”, this would be “a perversion of what we teach.”12

Thirdly, Justin’s ‘concession’ about Jesus’ Messiahship being provable apart from the virgin birth and pre-existence should probably be understood as a rhetorical technique rather than an concession of uncertainty. Inducing Trypho to admit that Jesus is the merely human Christ is a rhetorical stepping-stone to his argument for this Christ's pre-existence and incarnation. Far from ‘nothing about being Messiah logically implies being divine or pre-existing’ (as Tuggy claims), Justin's argument may well presuppose the opposite. If he can only persuade Trypho that Jesus is the Messiah, he will then be able to persuade him that this Messiah is pre-existent and virgin-born. Hence, Justin’s ‘concession’ here does not imply that he regarded a ‘man of men’ Christology as sufficient.

In support of this, we note that later in the Dialogue, Trypho concedes the existence of a second being called God (Dialogue 60.3).13 He is also willing to concede that Jesus as a ‘man of men’ might have become the Christ by election (Dialogue 67.1). However, he continues to challenge the virgin birth and incarnation (Dialogue 63.1; 67.1), as well as the crucifixion and ascension. Justin shows no hint of being satisfied with Trypho's concessions but instead redoubles his efforts to prove the virgin birth and pre-existent deity of Christ from the Scriptures.

Fourthly, later Christian writers regarded the Ebionites (who seem to have held the Christology described in Dialogue 48.4) as heretics. These include Irenaeus, who wrote within a generation of Justin, and probably used Justin’s lost work on heresies, Syntagma, as a source.14

e.      Scholarly views

What do scholars say? There is a range of views. Segal states that Justin “strongly disagrees with Christians who held this adoptionist christology.”15

Pritz comments on Dialogue 48.4 that

“This strongly worded statement should be contrasted with the tolerance of the previous ones” (of chapter 47). In his view, Justin “recognizes two kinds of Christians of the Jewish race whom he differentiates on christological grounds. One group, whom Justin condemns [chapter 48], holds doctrines which line up well with what is known to us of Ebionite teaching. The other group [chapter 47] differs from Justin’s orthodoxy only in its continued adherence to the Mosaic Law.”16

On the other hand, Hakkinen argues that

“Justin did not consider Jewish Christians to be heretics, even though they obeyed the Torah and practiced circumcision (46-47), and confessed Jesus to be the Messiah without believing in his divine origins (48)…For Justin, they were an acceptable part of Christianity as long as they did not demand that Gentile Christians become Jews.”17

Paget states that

“Justin does not seem to regard Ebionite-like people as heretical, a conclusion based upon Dialogue 47-48 where Jewish Christians are mentioned together with christological opinions akin to those of the Ebionites but are not held to be outside the church.”18

On the other hand, Paget suggests that Justin’s lost work Syntagma might well have held Ebionite-like people to be heretical due to their “errant christological views.”

In light of the evidence and the scholarly debate, perhaps a balanced conclusion would be that Justin views those who hold the ‘man of men’ Christology with considerable suspicion, but has not made up his mind as to whether or not it is heretical. He refrains from calling them Christians or brethren, and describes their doctrines in language he uses elsewhere only for heretics and non-Christian Jews. On the other hand, he also refrains from calling them heretics or blasphemers and does not deny that they are Christians. Since his tone of ‘not agreeing with them’ is similar to that in chapter 47, it may be that, like the law-observing Jewish Christians of chapter 47, he thought that they might be saved under certain conditions.

In our third and final post in this series we will look at what Justin says about the age and popularity of the man of men Christology.

1 See http://trinities.org/blog/archives/1704/comment-page-1
2 See http://trinities.org/blog/archives/1981
3 Koester, H. (2002). Introduction to the New Testament, Volume 2. Walter de Gruyter, p. 344.
4 Lincoln, A.T. (2013). Born of a Virgin? Reconceiving Jesus in the Bible, Tradition, and Theology. Eerdmans. p. 170 n. 3.
5 Machen, J.G. (1932). The Virgin Birth of Christ. James Clarke & Co., p. 16 n. 50.
6 Bull, G. (1855). The Judgment of the Catholic Church on the Necessity of Believing that Our Lord Jesus Christ is Very God. J.H. Parker, p. 172.
7 Falls, T.B. (1948). The First Apology; the Second Apology; Dialogue with Trypho; Exhortation to the Greeks. Christian Heritage Incorporated, p. 220 n. 2.
8 Bobichon, P. (2003). Dialogue avec Tryphon: Introduction, Texte Grec, Traduction, Vol. 1. Universite de Fribourg, pp. 304-305; Bobichon, P. (2003). Dialogue avec Tryphon: Introduction, Texte Grec, Traduction, Vol. 2. Universite de Fribourg, pp. 717-718 n. 9.
9 So Pritz, R. (1988). Nazarene Jewish Christianity. BRILL, p. 19ff; Paget, J.C. (2010). Jews, Christians and Jewish Christians in Antiquity. Mohr Siebeck, p. 327; Freyne, S. 2014. The Jesus Movement and Its Expansion: Meaning and Mission. Eerdmans, p. 339. Hengel would also include Cerinthus as a possible referent along with the Ebionites (Hengel, M. (1992). The Septuagint as a Collection of Writings Claimed by Christians: Justin and the Church Fathers before Origen. In J.D.G. Dunn (Ed.), Jews and Christians: The Parting of the Ways, A.D. 70 to 135 (39-84). Eerdmans, p. 52 n. 55).
10 Bobichon, op. cit., Vol. 2, p. 717 n. 10.
11 Inasmuch as Justin in Dialogue 18 refers to Trypho having “read” the doctrines taught by Jesus, we probably have here a reference to the Old Testament and at least some of the Gospels.
12 In context, he is not here discussing different Christologies among professing Christians, but rather is responding to the charge that Christianity is a recent development and that those born before Christ would thus in effect have been atheists. (Of course, Justin means ‘born’ here in the sense of coming into existence, since he does go on to affirm that Christ was born of a virgin as a man). This language shows that Justin viewed the pre-existence of Christ as an important aspect of his worldview.
13 Choi, M.J. (2010). What is Christian orthodoxy according to Justin’s Dialogue? Scottish Journal of Theology 63(4): 398-413. p. 406.
14 Myllykoski, M. 2008. Cerinthus. In A. Marjanen & P. Luomanen (Eds.), A Companion to Second-Century Christian ‘Heretics’ (213-246). BRILL, p. 227.
15 Segal, A.F. 1992. Jewish Christianity, In H.W. Attridge and G. Hata (Eds.), Eusebius, Christianity, and Judaism. Wayne State University Press, pp. 340-341.
16 Pritz, op. cit., p. 21.
17 Hakkinen, S. (2008). Ebionites. In A. Marjanen & P. Luomanen (Eds.), A Companion to Second-Century Christian ‘Heretics’ (247-278). BRILL, p. 249. Hakkinen suggests that Justin’s work on heresies, Syntagma, did not originally include the Ebionites, but had been updated by Irenaeus’ time to include them (op. cit., pp. 250-251).
18 Paget, op. cit., p. 327.