March 20, 2011 – “Socrates the Christian”



Justin Martyr, First Apology, Ch. 44-50


In chapters 44-50 Justin continues to quote Isaiah, ten times from various chapters including the first and last, prophesying the coming of the Messiah.   By this time he has out-Matthewed Matthew in culling fulfilled prophecies from the Hebrew Bible.  Matthew has a dozen, possibly one or two more; Justin has more than twice that many.  One has to wonder yet again why he thinks the Roman Emperor would be persuaded by Jewish scripture.


He then invites the emperor to worry about the loyalty of the Christians with a reference to the oracles of Hystaspes, foretelling the fall of the Roman Empire, the return of rule to the east, and the coming of the Savior.  Hystaspes was borrowed from Zoroastrianism, where his name was Vashtaspa; his name was attached to a set of prophecies dating apparently from the first century BC; the book was banned in Rome, but Justin knows what’s in it.  So we have a Christian protesting his loyalty to the emperor about 20 years after Bar Kochba’s rebellion, and dragging in a reference to subversive writings. 


In chapter 46 he refers to Socrates and Heraclitus as Christians because they “lived reasonably,” and adds Abraham, Elijah, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego on the same basis.  This calls to mind C.S. Lewis’ comments in Reflections on the Psalms concerning Vergil as very nearly anticipating Christianity and perhaps coming to know the full truth after his death