Justin Martyr: Pioneer Apologist -- By: Kristin Davis

Journal: Bible and Spade (Second Run)
Volume: BSPADE 26:1 (Winter 2013)
Article: Justin Martyr: Pioneer Apologist
Author: Kristin Davis

Justin Martyr: Pioneer Apologist

Kristin Davis

Justin the Martyr was the pioneer of Christian Apologetics, setting the pattern for those who would follow in his footsteps. His strategy was to frame the Christian message in conformity with the thought and culture of his time, yet without compromising Gospel truth. In a period when Christian persecution was rampant due to ignorance and incorrect information, Justin sought to inform the masses, and correct inaccurate assumptions. His primary desire was for Christianity to find tolerance within the Roman Empire, yet his hopes also extended to the salvation of his readers. As a result, there is much that can be gleaned from the writings of Justin. This article will analyze a few of Justin’s apologetic methods and show how modern apologists can learn from the founder of Christian Apologetics.

Method 1: Target A Specific Audience

One of Justin’s many important methods was his attention to his audience. He writes with a specific audience in mind, and does not write to such an open-ended audience that his message becomes broad and ambiguous. This can be seen in both of his Apologies, which address educated men in a position of influence.

By being specific in his audience, he is able to best present his case. His desire was for peace for Christianity. In order to accomplish this, he had to reach those of influence. He recognizes that influence has a trickle-down effect. In order to change the landscape of the land, one must start at the highest rungs of the societal ladder and allow that change to trickle down to the common man. By addressing those with political and scholastic authority in Rome, Justin hoped to revolutionize the way the Roman Empire, as a whole, viewed and dealt with adherents of Christianity.

This is of particular importance for the modern apologist. One must be certain to select a specific audience to address, but one should also be certain to choose an audience that will engage the address. Justin did not address his Apologies to fellow Christians, because they were quite aware of the injustices of the Roman Empire against Christians, as they were also aware of the misrepresentation of their doctrines. Only by addressing the Roman officials and intellectuals could Justin aid his fellow Christians by attempting to end persecution through education.

Method 2: Find Common Ground

Following in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul, Justin sought to find a common ground from which to address the Romans. This common ground happened to be philosophy, from which Justin argued that Christianity was the true philosophy, a culmination of all the best the Greek philosophers had to offer. His writings addressed not merely the refution o...

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