Feast Day : June 1
Patronage: apologists; philosophers
Justin Martyr was born about the beginning of the second century in Neopolis, the capital of Samaria, to heathen parents. As a young man, he was attracted to philosophy. The story is told that one day he was out in a solitary place to meditate when a mysterious old man appeared and told him that if he wished to have knowledge of the true God, he should cease studying philosophy and turn to the prophets of the Bible, who had announced the coming of Jesus, Son of God. In addition, the old man told him, pray to God to illuminate his mind. With that, the man disappeared. Inspired, Justin followed the old man’s guidance, and was baptized a Christian at about age 30. He was especially impressed with the sufferings and sacrifices of the martyrs. According to some accounts, Justin was ordained a priest; this is disputed by some historians. He preached extensively and worked to convert pagans. Justin went to Rome where he continued his preaching. Around the year 150, he wrote and presented to Emperor Antoninus Pius and the Roman Senate his first apology in defense of the Christian faith. The apology favorably impressed the emperor, but did not stop the persecution of Christians. When Marcus Aurelius succeeded Pius, the persecutions intensified. Justin did not hesitate to engage in public debates and controversy. Shortly after Justin issued a second apology to the emperor, he was arrested with several other Christians and brought before Rusticus, the prefect of Rome. Rusticus placed the six on trial and ordered them to obey the imperial edicts to recognize the pagan gods and Rusticus asked them whether, if they were scourged and beheaded, they believed that they would ascend to heaven. Justin said, “I hope that, if I endure these things, I shall have His gifts. For I know that, to all who have thus lived, there abides the divine favor until the completion of the whole world.” Rusticus ordered them to “offer sacrifice with one accord to the gods,” which they declined. The martyrs were sentenced to be scourged and beheaded. The bodies were carried away by other Christians for burial. Besides his first and second apologies, Justin’s other extant works include Dialogue with Trypho, Hortatory Address to the Greeks, On the Sole Government of God and Discourse to the Greeks, plus fragments of a work on the Resurrection, and other fragments.