Justin Martyr, First Apology, Ch. 16-22


In Chapter 16 and 17 Justin continued to quote scripture, first from the Sermon on the Mount (as in Chapter 15) and then from elsewhere in Matthew and also Mark and Luke, including one or two sentences that are not in the Bible, which last has been important to some commentators.  The quotations are intended to explain why Christians behave as they do; Justin seems to believe that the behavior of Christians is more important than doctrine in persuading non-Christians to convert.  So far, so good.  Then he switches to comparing Christianity to other religions, arguing that every miracle attributed to Christ or God can be found in the Roman state religion, often attributed to Jupiter.  Justin’s basic argument is that Christians should not be persecuted for what they believe, but should be held responsible for what they do – what Christians believe isn’t unique to them.  But at the same time he doesn’t think much of the behavior of the gods (especially Jupiter, who was the chief Roman god and was not celebrated for monogamy), and he seems rather scornful of the evidence that emperors are resurrected, and rise to heaven from their funeral pyre.  His attitude and language can hardly have appealed to Antoninus Pius, who forced a reluctant Senate to deify his predecessor.

-- John Weicher