St. Justin Martyr & Sola Scriptura


St. Justin Martyr, also called “the Philosopher,” was a follower of Greek pagan philosophies who converted to Christianity. He used his training in rhetoric, logic, and philosophical thought to write several outstanding defenses of the Christian Faith, addressing both Jews and pagans.

After winning a debate against a pagan philosopher, he was exposed by his opponent as a Christian to the authorities and martyred in Rome.

His writings are a strong witness to the Faith and practice of the early Church. One of the most interesting passages in his writings is an outline of Christian worship, which outline is the same as the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church today:

“And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.” – St. Justin Martyr, First Apology, 67

Justin’s position on anything like Sola Scriptura seems to have been very similar to that we saw previously exhibited by Ignatius, namely, that the Scripture-only position of some Jews was antithetical to a true understanding of the Scriptures (at that time, only what we now call the Old Testament), which must be understood in the light of the Gospel, which existed almost entirely in oral Tradition at that time. Here’s a relevant quote:

“For these words have neither been prepared by me, nor embellished by the art of man; but David sung them, Isaiah preached them, Zechariah proclaimed them, and Moses wrote them. Are you acquainted with them, Trypho? They are contained in your Scriptures, or rather not yours, but ours. For we believe them; but you, though you read them, do not catch the spirit that is in them.” – St. Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, 29

To read more of the writings of St. Justin Martyr, click here.

Father Not Sola Scriptura Sola Scriptura
Didache
St. Clement of Rome
St. Ignatius of Antioch
St. Papias of Hierapolis
St. Polycarp of Smyrna
St. Justin Martyr
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2 comments

  1. Well… he definitely wasn't Orthodox… and here's why:

    (1).

    … then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, …

    The Orthodox don't sit while the Apostle [and the Gospel] is being read.

    (2).

    the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read

    We don't read from the OT during the Liturgy.

    (3).

    what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need

    Our priests don't do that: they keep it all for themselves, and for their families: wives and children, to buy themselves condos and cars and clothes.

    (He was probably a Baptist, if you ask me…)

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