Justin Martyr’s Use Of The Old Testament -- By: David E. Aune

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 09:4 (Fall 1966)
Article: Justin Martyr’s Use Of The Old Testament
Author: David E. Aune


Justin Martyr’s Use Of The Old Testament

David E. Aune, M.A.

I. Introduction

Justin Martyr (d. A.D. 165), in addition to being the first great apologist of the Church, also has the honor of being the first comprehensive Christian interpreter of the Old Testament. 1 In spite of the extensive use of the Old Testament in the I Apology and the Dialogue with Trypho, no thorough study of Justin’s exegetical method had been published until Willis A. Shotwell’s book, The Biblical Exegesis of Justin Martyr, appeared in the spring of 1965. 2 The last word on Justin’s exegetical procedures, however, remains to be spoken. The present article is an attempt at a fresh appraisal of Justin’s use of the Old Testament through the use of the most recent literature on the subject. The study of various phases of early patristic exegesis reveals, among other things, the qualitative line which must be drawn between the canonical literature of the New Testament and later writings of the Church. 3 Justin’s own use of early Christian exegetical traditions may be subsumed under three categories: 1. Justin sometimes uses the New Testament exegesis of the Old—whether literal or typological—without alteration. 2. At other times he uses the New Testament exegetical tradition as a basis for his own investigation of Old Testament passages. In these instances his own contributions are liable to lean in the direction of allegory. 3. Frequently Justin attempts his own interpretation of the Old Testament, or relies on earlier non-canonical exegetical tradition such as that embodied in the writings of Clement of Rome or Pseudo-Barnabas. It is here that allegory has free rein.

A. Controlling Factor: Received Tradition

The chief factor which determined the results of Justin’s exegesis of the Old Testament was that body of Christian tradition which he inherited from his Christian predecessors and which he maintained virtually without alteration. This Christological concern plays the same essential

role in Justin’s exegesis as does the regula fidei in that of Irenaeus and Tertullian. 4 Since his philosophic terminology was a cloak for practical and apologetic purposes, 5 his doctrinal understanding of Christianity was not modified by an attempt to unite it organically with his “philosophy.” 6 His alignment with tradition precluded the possibility of his develop...

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