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The Oxford Illustrated History of the Bible A richly illustrated account of the story of the Bible written by leading scholars.

Early Apologetics: Justin Martyr

Justin (born about the turn of the second century; martyred 165), as a young Platonist was convinced by the Bible, understood as prophecy, of the superior truth of Christian faith compared with Gentile philosophy (cf. his Dialogue with Tryphon the Jew, 3–8). Later, in his own apologetics, he uses the same arguments for winning the unbelieving intellectuals. Of his two surviving treatises, written after 150, one is adressed to the emperor Antoninus Pius (138–61) and his sons (the ‘First Apology’), the other (in form of a dialogue—a literary convention since Plato—with a Jew) to wavering Christians and educated Hellenistic proselytes acquainted with Jewish traditions and the Bible. Persecution of the Christians by the state on one side, because they refuse to take part in the official cult of the emperor, and growing anti- Christian propaganda by the Jews since the sharp separation between synagogue and church on the other side, are the background. Justin's arguments in his writings mostly belong to the traditional arsenal of early Christian apologetics. In 1 Apology 30–60 all the passages of the Old Testament are listed which already were regarded as messianic by the Jews and by the Christians as fulfilled in Jesus as the Christ. The following points are predicted by the prophets (1 Apol. 31: 7):

  • (1) That he has come,

  • (2) that he has been borne by a virgin,

  • (3) and grown up to a man,

  • (4) that he cured every illness and disease and raised the dead,

  • (5) that he has been hated and misjudged and crucified…

  • (6) that he died and was raised from death and was carried up into heaven, being the son of God…

  • (7) and that he sent out some [disciples] to every kind of people to proclaim this,

  • (8) and that people among the Gentiles would believe him more [than the Jews].

All these themes are discussed in detail. Answering the question whether the scriptures can be used at all as a prophetic testimony for Jesus as the Messiah (1 Apol. 36–49), Justin points to the Holy Spirit as the real author of the Bible. Its inspiration guarantees its hidden unity in spite of the diversity of the voices speaking in it. Tryphon (whether a historic person or a fictitious dialogue-partner) reliably represents the objections of contemporary Judaism against the Christians: They have deserted God by trusting a man; they are obliged to keep the law in all its details to obtain God's mercy; the messiah, if ever born, remains unknown, even to himself, until Elijah comes to make him known (Dial. 8, 3f.). In the discussion (Dial. 33–67) on the birth from the virgin (Isa. 7: 14 ) Tryphon goes back to the Hebrew text: The ‘young woman’ giving birth to a child is the mother of the future king Hezekiah, whereas Justin uses the Septuagint form ‘virgin’ to prove the spiritual conception of Jesus.

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