As I mentioned about a month ago I received a review copy of Early Christian Thinkers: The Lives and Legacies of Twelve Key Figures edited by Paul Foster from IVP Academic. Each chapter is an individual essay on an individual figure, so instead of an overview book review I am going to write a short reflection on how each scholar portrays each figure. I am a novice in this area, so don’t expect much critical feedback. These will be reflections.
The first chapter is on Justin Martyr by Paul Parvis, an honorary fellow in the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh. Parvis discusses “the holy Justin, philosopher and martyr” (as he was remembered) beginning with a biography organized around geographical locations, namely Flavia Neapolis, Ephesus, and Rome. Justin was a man on a “spiritual journey” as we might say. He considered the Stoics and Pythagorean worldviews before meeting “a myserious old man” who spoke of the Hebrew prophets (pp. 2-3). Justin became a Christian and then “came to package himself as a philosopher”.
Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho is his apologetic in favor of Christianity against a Jew named Trypho. Some think Trypho is a character created by Justin; others do not. Justin’s broader apologetic career began when he wrote a defense of Christianity to the Emperor in Rome in support of an unnamed Christian woman who was being falsely accused. Justin made opportunity of his right to write a petition in her support that he made into an apology.
Parvis examines these writings, some of Justin’s views on the logos and how that may have shaped later logos Christologies, the pupils of Justin, and his broad influence (pp. 5-13). I came away with the impression of a man who was not the greatest philosopher, but like some modern apologist was willing to go ‘in over his head’ to proclaim the gospel through the vehicle of philosophy. He used his social standing to defend his fellow Christians and train a future generation.
The next chapter is on Tatian.
I like this book so far, but haven’t been able to delve into it as deeply as you have yet. So glad that I was on Twitter at the right time.
@Brian: I’d enjoy reading your thoughts on the essays as you read the book. You have more to say to this subject than I do.
Thanks, BLP (I think that’s going to be my new moniker for you so as to avoid confusing myself). I began reading the book a few weeks ago, and remember really enjoying the essay on Justin Martyr, but had to put it down for a few weeks (I’m trying to get through Kuhn’s ‘Structure’, Nietzche’s ‘Twilight’ and ‘Anti-Christ’, and Brent Shaw’s new ‘Sacred Violence’ before Feb. 1).
As for its content, you and I probably share a similar amount of expertise concerning it. As I recall, many of the subjects are before the era within which I spend most of my time (4th-6th c.).
Hi, Just wanted to say thank you so much for your really helpful reviews of each of the chapters of the book. I’m currently doing an MA in Spirituality, and as part of my studies, have to do a book review of this book and your concise summaries have been really helpful in giving me a broad outline of what each chapter covers; it’s saved me a huge amount of time so thanks again. I’ve found the book itself has been really helpful for me but your comments have certainly helped me in reading the book.
Glad to hear they’ve been helpful!
Comments are closed.