I am participating in the group Read the Fathers, so in order to help me maintain this discipline I will be sharing my favorite quotes and observations every Saturday:

This week’s reading included Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho.


– Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho is a Christian-Jewish “dialogue”. Many debate whether Trypho was a real person or a literary invention. Justin describes the value of philosophy and tells of his own intellectual journey. He discusses with Trypho matters related to the human soul, the essence of truth, the doctrines of Christianity, and so forth.

– Trypho’s words in VIII present an interesting depiction of how some Christians like Justin understood contemporary Jews as concerns the Jewish response to emerging Christianity (or, Synagogue v. Church). Trypho is depicted as saying:

“If, then, you are willing to listen to me (for I have already considered you a friend), first be circumcised, then observe what ordinances have been enacted with respect to the Sabbath, and the feasts, and the new moons of God; and, in a word, do all things which have been written in the law: and then perhaps you shall obtain mercy from God. But Christ —if He has indeed been born, and exists anywhere—is unknown, and does not even know Himself, and has no power until Elias come to anoint Him, and make Him manifest to all. And you, having accepted a groundless report, invent a Christ for yourselves, and for his sake are inconsiderately perishing.”

Trypho says that if Justin wants to know God he must (1) be circumcised, (2) obey particular ordinances of the Law (e.g., Sabbath, feasts, new moons), and (3) even obey all the Law. The Messiah is not Jesus. That is a Messiah Justin and the Christians invented. The true Messiah if he is born will be useless until Elias anoints him and reveals him (Christians argued that this is the role of John the Baptist).

Trypho says that Christians have standards no one can meet (in X), yet fail to do simple things like obey the commandments of the covenant (the old covenant). Again, actions such as circumcision, Sabbath keeping, and so forth define the people of God. Typho mocks the idea of following a crucified man. Justin argues that the old covenant pointed toward a future new covenant(in XI-XIV), one that would include the nations, and that Jesus is the one who brings this new covenant and new Law.

Jews are presented as those who killed the prophets and the Messiah. The inter-Jewish debate found in the Gospels has been recontextualized. Now a Gentile Christian uses the language of the Gospels against Jews, all Jews.

Jesus as the coming Son of Man is a topic debated between Justin and Trypho. Justin argues that the Jews have rejected this Son of Man (XXXI). Trypho’s rebuttal is that Jesus died in a fashion that disqualifies him from being the Son of Man (XXXII, see also LXXXIX). Justin responds that the Son of Man is the Suffering Servant as well and explains this through the paradigm of a First and Second Advent (XXXII). Justin follow the argument of the Epistle to the Hebrews saying that Jesus is a High Priest like Melchizedek (XXXIII). He presents Jesus as the rightful Davidic heir, not Solomon (XXXIV). Justin says that the one born of a virgin is Jesus, not Hezekiah (showing that there was some Jewish tradition that it was Hezekiah, XLIII). Justin’s argument uses a lot of symbolism/typology: the Pasche Lamb is Christ; flour offerings are the Eucharist; circumcision is the circumcision of the heart; the “twelve bells” on the garments of the High Priest are the twelve Apostles; and so forth and so on.

– Trypho expresses concern that most Christians eat meat offered to idols. Justin responds that it is true that there are those who claim to follow Jesus, but who are not his disciples. He names the Marcians, Valentinians, the Basilidians, and the Saturnilians. He doesn’t seem concerns with Gentile Christians who do not obey the finer points of the Law. He does seem concerned with heretical groups that call themselves “Christians”.

– In XLV there begins an interesting discussion between Justin and Trypho over the role of Law observance. Trypho asks if Justin thinks Law observance will lead to the resurrection of the dead. Justin says that observing elements of the Law that are universal or “naturally” good and pious will receive the resurrection, but so might any Gentile who does the same. Other aspects of the Law–Sabbaths, circumcision, etc–those were because of the hardness of the hearts of Israel. In other words, Justin sees these aspects of the Law as being created to prevent Israel from further corruption.

In XLVI Trypho asks if someone who affirms Jesus as Christ might obey the Law (though he considers them to be “weak minded”). Justin argues that righteous people came before Moses, so in XLVII Trypho restates the questions, and Justin argues that yes, he might, as long as he doesn’t try to persuade others to do so.

– Justin and Trypho debate the deity of Christ beginning in XLVIII. Trypho cannot understand how Jesus existed as God prior to being man. Justin agrees that it is hard to prove this. He mentions the virgin birth. He affirms that some Gentiles interpret him to be one of the greatest of all humans (but not God) and says he disagrees with this (Justin affirms he is God). This debate resumes in L (where Justin uses the phrase “New Testament”) where Trypho inquires into how there can be one God, yet a God beside God. Justin tries to answer Trypho by quoting passages he finds applicable to Israel’s God fulfilled by Jesus. In LV Trypho appears unimpressed (don’t blame him) with Justin’s argument. The debate shifts to the appearance of the three angels to Abraham in Genesis (is this God? which angel?). Then he cites the Lord in heaven to the Lord on earth passage in Genesis 19:23ff (LVI). Then Psalm 110:1 is cited (Lord to Lord). Other “proofs” include the angel of the Lord motif beginning with the angel wrestling with Jacob (LVIII), the appearance in fire (LIX), the “Let Us make humans” statement of Genesis 1:27 and the plurality in 3:22 (LXII), and Justin deducts that this shows God can be in heaven while appearing at the same time on a little place on earth. Justin seems to be binitarian equating Jesus with Wisdom, the Spirit, the Logos, the Glory, the Angels of the Lord, etc (LXI).

– There is some discussion over messianic expectations. Trypho emphasizes the appearance of Elijah redivivus. Justin says in XLIX that this can be explained by (1) Jesus’ second Advent where Elijah will come and (2) Elijah’s appearance “in John” the Baptist. John is depicted as he is presented in the Gospels as the forerunner of Jesus, killed by Herod. John points to Jesus as the Spirit-Giver while he is the water baptizer. Typho is confused by this double coming of Elijah, so Justin uses the analogy of the spirit on Moses being on Joshua as well to argue the spirit on Elijah was on John too. In L Jesus comes, ending John’s baptizing and prophesying (not quite how the Gospels present it). In LXXX Justin says there is a sect of the “Baptists” (in Gk. Baptiston). Is this a remaining movement of John? John receives mention in LXXXVIII as well.

– Justin’s use of Scripture can be quite annoying at times. I struggled to follow his argument. He begs the question, a lot. Some passages seem like quite a stretch and he uses a lot of anti-semitic rhetoric or the rhetoric of impending judgment when Trypho disagrees with him. Unlike Paul, for example, it is hard to see how he uses the broader context of the passages he is quoting (though, I admit, I am not doing an in-depth study on this and I have spent far more time trying to understand Paul). There are some aspects of his Christocentric hermeneutic that make sense when read from the presupposition of being a Christian seeking Christ in the OT. Where it gets messy is when Justin acts as if his reading is objective and obvious, especially when it isn’t in most cases. Justin seems quite familiar with the Synoptic Gospels. I don’t see much influence from Paul.

– Justin’s eschatology included a millenium long reign of Christ (LXXX).

– I will include more notes from the end Chapters 106-142 in next week’s post along with the other scheduled readings.


The Primacy of Philosophy:

“Wherefore it is necessary for every man to philosophize, and to esteem this the greatest and most honorable work; but other things only of second-rate or third-rate importance, though, indeed, if they be made to depend on philosophy, they are of moderate value, and worthy of acceptance; but deprived of it, and not accompanying it, they are vulgar and coarse to those who pursue them.’” (Dialogue with Trypho III)

The Witness of the New Covenant:

“If, therefore, God proclaimed a new covenant which was to be instituted, and this for a light of the nations, we see and are persuaded that men approach God, leaving their idols and other unrighteousness, through the name of Him who was crucified, Jesus Christ, and abide by their confession even unto death, and maintain piety. Moreover, by the works and by the attendant miracles, it is possible for all to understand that He is the new law, and the new covenant, and the expectation of those who out of every people wait for the good things of God. For the true spiritual Israel, and descendants of Judah, Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham (who in uncircumcision was approved of and blessed by God on account of his faith, and called the father of many nations), are we who have been led to God through this crucified Christ, as shall be demonstrated while we proceed.” (Dialogue with Trypho XI)

Circumcision Unnecessary:

“This circumcision is not, however, necessary for all men, but for you alone, in order that, as I have already said, you may suffer these things which you now justly suffer. Nor do we receive that useless baptism of cisterns, for it has nothing to do with this baptism of life. Wherefore also God has announced that you have forsaken Him, the living fountain, and digged for yourselves broken cisterns which can hold no water. Even you, who are the circumcised according to the flesh, have need of our circumcision; but we, having the latter, do not require the former. For if it were necessary, as you suppose, God would not have made Adam uncircumcised; would not have had respect to the gifts of Abel when, being uncircumcised, he offered sacrifice and would not have been pleased with the uncircumcision of Enoch, who was not found, because God had translated him. Lot, being uncircumcised, was saved from Sodom, the angels themselves and the Lord sending him out. Noah was the beginning of our race; yet, uncircumcised, along with his children he went into the ark. Melchizedek, the priest of the Most High, was uncircumcised; to whom also Abraham the first who received circumcision after the flesh, gave tithes, and he blessed him: after whose order God declared, by the mouth of David, that He would establish the everlasting priest. Therefore to you alone this circumcision was necessary, in order that the people may be no people, and the nation no nation…” (Dialogue with Trypho XIX)

The Temple in Place of Idols?

“Accordingly He neither takes sacrifices from you nor commanded them at first to be offered because they are needful to Him, but because of your sins. For indeed the temple, which is called the temple in Jerusalem, He admitted to be His house or court, not as though He needed it, but in order that you, in this view of it, giving yourselves to Him, might not worship idols. And that this is so, Isaiah says: ‘What house have ye built Me? says the Lord. Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool.’” (Dialogue with Trypho XXII)

The Power of Christ:

“For we call Him Helper and Redeemer, the power of whose name even the demons do fear; and at this day, when they are exorcised in the name of Jesus Christ, crucified under Pontius Pilate, governor of Judæa, they are overcome. And thus it is manifest to all, that His Father has given Him so great power, by virtue of which demons are subdued to His name, and to the dispensation of His suffering.”  (Dialogue with Trypho XXX)

A Type of Eucharist; A Type of the Circumcision of the Heart:

““And the offering of fine flour, sirs,” I said, “which was prescribed to be presented on behalf of those purified from leprosy, was a type of the bread of the Eucharist, the celebration of which our Lord Jesus Christ prescribed, in remembrance of the suffering which He endured on behalf of those who are purified in soul from all iniquity, in order that we may at the same time thank God for having created the world, with all things therein, for the sake of man, and for delivering us from the evil in which we were, and for utterly overthrowing principalities and powers by Him who suffered according to His will. Hence God speaks by the mouth of Malachi, one of the twelve [prophets], as I said before,about the sacrifices at that time presented by you: ‘I have no pleasure in you, says the Lord; and I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands: for, from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, My name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to My name, and a pure offering: for My name is great among the Gentiles, says the Lord: but ye profane it.’ [So] He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us, who in every place offer sacrifices to Him, i.e., the bread of the Eucharist, and also the cup of the Eucharist, affirming both that we glorify His name, and that you profane [it]. The command of circumcision, again, bidding [them] always circumcise the children on the eighth day, was a type of the true circumcision, by which we are circumcised from deceit and iniquity through Him who rose from the dead on the first day after the Sabbath, [namely through] our Lord Jesus Christ. For the first day after the Sabbath, remaining the first of all the days, is called, however, the eighth, according to the number of all the days of the cycle, and [yet] remains the first.” (Dialogue with Trypho XLI)

Children of Abraham (Echo of Romans 5)?

““For thus, so far as you are concerned, I shall be found in all respects innocent, if I strive earnestly to persuade you by bringing forward demonstrations. But if you remain hard-hearted, or weak in [forming] a resolution, on account of death, which is the lot of the Christians, and are unwilling to assent to the truth, you shall appear as the authors of your own [evils]. And you deceive yourselves while you fancy that, because you are the seed of Abraham after the flesh, therefore you shall fully inherit the good things announced to be bestowed by God through Christ. For no one, not even of them, has anything to look for, but only those who in mind are assimilated to the faith of Abraham, and who have recognized all the mysteries: for I say, that some injunctions were laid on you in reference to the worship of God and practice of righteousness; but some injunctions and acts were likewise mentioned in reference to the mystery of Christ, on account ofthe hardness of your people’s hearts.”  (Dialogue with Trypho XLIV)

Debating Isaiah 7:14:

“And I, resuming the discourse where I had left off at a previous stage, when proving that He was born of a virgin, and that His birth of a virgin had been predicted by Isaiah, quoted again the same prophecy. It is as follows ‘And the Lord spoke again to Ahaz, saying, Ask for thyself a sign from the Lord thy God, in the depth or in the height. And Ahaz said I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord. And Isaiah said, Hear then, O house of David; Is it no small thing for you to contend with men? And how do you contend with the Lord? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign; Behold, the virgin shall conceive, and shall bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat; before he knows or prefers the evil he will choose out the good. For before the child knows ill or good, he rejects evil by choosing out the good. For before the child knows how to call father or mother, he shall receive the power of Damascus, and the spoil of Samaria, in presence of the king of Assyria. And the land shall be forsaken, whichthou shalt with difficulty endure in consequence of the presence of its two kings. But God shall bring on thee, and on thy people, and on the house of thy father, days which have not yet come upon thee since the day in which Ephraim took away from Judah the king of Assyria.’ ” And I continued: “Now it is evident to all, that in the race of Abraham according to the flesh no one has been born of a virgin, or is said to have been born [of a virgin], save this our Christ.”

“And Trypho answered, “The Scripture has not, ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,’ but, ‘Behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son,’ and so on, as you quoted. But the whole prophecy refers to Hezekiah, and it is proved that it was fulfilled in him, according to the terms of this prophecy. Moreover, in the fables of those who are called Greeks, it is written that Perseus was begotten of Danae, who was a virgin; he who was called among them Zeus having descended on her in the form of a golden shower. And you ought to feel ashamed when you make assertions similar to theirs, and rather [should] say that this Jesus was born man of men. And if you prove from the Scriptures that He is the Christ, and that on account of having led a life conformed to the law, and perfect, He deserved the honour of being elected to be Christ, [it is well]; but do not venture to tell monstrous phenomena, lest you be convicted of talking foolishly like the Greeks.”” (Dialogue with Trypho LXVI-LXVII)

The Charismatic Justin Martyr:

“For the prophetical gifts remain with us, even to the present time. And hence you ought to understand that [the gifts] formerly among your nation have been transferred to us. And just as there were false prophets contemporaneous with your holy prophets, so are there now many false teachers amongst us, of whom our Lord forewarned us to beware; so that in no respect are we deficient, since we know that He foreknew all that would happen to us after His resurrection from the dead and ascension to heaven. For He said we would be put to death, and hated for His name’s sake; and that many false prophets and false Christs would appear in His name, and deceive many: and so has it come about. For many have taught godless, blasphemous, and unholy doctrines, forging them in His name; have taught, too, and even yet are teaching, those things which proceed from the unclean spirit of the devil, and which were put into their hearts. Therefore we are most anxious that you be persuaded not to be misled by such persons, since we know that every one who can speak the truth, and yet speaks it not, shall be judged by God…” (Dialogue with Trypho LXXXII)

“Now, it is possible to see amongst us women and men who possess gifts of the Spirit of God…” (Dialogue with Trypho LXXXVIII)

Exorcism in the Name of Jesus: 

“For every demon, when exorcised in the name of this very Son of God —who is the First-born of every creature, who became man by the Virgin, who suffered, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate by your nation, who died, who rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven —is overcome and subdued. But though you exorcise any demon in the name of any of those who were amongst you—either kings, or righteous men, or prophets, or patriarchs—it will not be subject to you. But if any of you exorcise it in [the name of] the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, it will perhaps be subject to you. Now assuredly your exorcists, I have said, make use of craft when they exorcise, even as the Gentiles do, and employ fumigations and incantations.But that they are angels and powers whom the word of prophecy by David [commands] to lift up the gates, that He who rose from the dead, Jesus Christ, the Lord of hosts, according to the will of the Father, might enter, the word of David has likewise showed; which I shall again recall to your attention for the sake of those who were not with us yesterday, for whose benefit, moreover, I sum up many things I said yesterday.” (Dialogue with Trypho LXXXV)


“If, indeed, you repent of your sins, and recognise Him to be Christ, and observe His commandments, then you may assert this; for, as I have said before, remission of sins shall be yours. But if you curse Him and them that believe on Him, and, when you have the power, put them to death, how is it possible that requisition shall not be made of you, as of unrighteous and sinful men, altogether hard-hearted and without understanding, because you laid your hands on Him?” (Dialogue with Trypho XCV)

Free Will:

“Could not God have cut off in the beginning the serpent, so that he exist not, rather than have said, ‘And I will put enmity between him and the woman, and between his seed and her seed?’Could He not have at once created a multitude of men? But yet, since He knew that it would be good, He created both angels and men free to do that which is righteous, and He appointed periods of time during which He knew it would be good for them to have the exercise of free-will; and because He likewise knew it would be good, He made general and particular judgments; each one’s freedom of will, however, being guarded.” (Dialogue with Trypho CII)