Justin Martyr

Welcome everyone to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’ve been looking at the booklet of the Jehovah’s Witnesses lately called “Should You Believe In The Trinity?” We’re not going to look at the heading of if the early Christians taught it as all that can be said is “More quoting out of context.” Instead, I’d prefer to jump ahead to the church fathers and we’re going to do a father a day starting with Justin Martyr. Keep in mind also as always, that the Watchtower tells which father said a quote, they don’t tell where that quote is. Thus, we cannot even be sure if the quote is accurate.

For the reference to Jesus as an angel, this is quite simple. This is referring to Jesus as the Angel of the Lord. The Angel of the Lord is a Trinitarian Precursor in the Bible and one I believe to be the pre-incarnate Christ. I would have no problem with Jesus being created so long as that creation is not temporal.

The closest I can find however to the references in the Watchtower about the Son being a created angel “other than the God who made all things” is in the Dialogue with Trypho. I will include a link to the dialogue at the end of the blog so you can all see the source I am referencing. Interestingly, one of these is at the start of chapter Fifty. (L for those who need help with Roman Numerals) This is Trypho, Justin’s opponent, speaking:

Answer me then, first, how you can show that there is another God besides the Maker of all things; and then you will show,[further], that He submitted to be born of the Virgin.”

Notice immediately that Trypho’s understanding of this being is that he is deity as he is another God. Trypho is seeing this as polytheism. Justin does not however deny that Jesus is fully God. Let’s keep going and see some statements of Justin. In Chapter 56 (LVI) we have the following:

“I shall attempt to persuade you, since you have understood the Scriptures,[of the truth] of what I say, that there is, and that there is said to be, another God and Lord subject to the Maker of all things; who is also called an Angel, because He announces to men whatsoever the Maker of all things–above whom there is no other God–wishes to announce to them.”

In this, while not using full Trinitarian language, we see the seeds of the Trinity. Justin is talking about the appearance of the three men to Abraham in Genesis 18. Note what he says later in this same chapter.

“If I could not have proved to you from the Scriptures that one of those three is God, and is called Angel, because, as I already said, He brings messages to those to whom God the Maker of all things wishes[messages to be brought], then in regard to Him who appeared to Abraham on earth in human form in like manner as the two angels who came with Him, and who was God even before the creation of the world, it were reasonable for you to entertain the same belief as is entertained by the whole of your nation.”

Note this, that Justin says this one is called Angel, not that He IS an angel, and that this one was God before the creation of the world.

In Chapter 57, Trypho responds with

And Trypho said, “It is possible that[the question] about the mode of eating may be thus explained:[the mode, that is to say,] in which it is written, they took and ate what had been prepared by Abraham: so that you may now proceed to explain to us how this God who appeared to Abraham, and is minister to God the Maker of all things, being born of the Virgin, became man, of like passions with all, as you said previously.”

Trypho has no problem with two different persona being called God and he is understanding the early Christian claim that yes, Jesus is indeed God.

Justin says more on his identity in chapter 60:

Now assuredly, Trypho, I shall show that, in the vision of Moses, this same One alone who is called an Angel, and who is God, appeared to and communed with Moses. For the Scripture says thus:’The Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the bush; and he sees that the bush bums with fire, but the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will turn aside and see this great sight, for the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he is turning aside to behold, the Lord called to him out of the bush.’ In the same manner, therefore, in which the Scripture calls Him who appeared to Jacob in the dream an Angel, then[says] that the same Angel who appeared in the dream spoke to him, saying,’I am the God that appeared to thee when thou didst flee from the face of Esau thy brother;’and[again] says that, in the judgment which befell Sodom in the days of Abraham, the Lord had inflicted the punishment of the Lord who[dwells] in the heavens;–even so here, the Scripture, in announcing that the Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses, and in afterwards declaring him to be Lord and God, speaks of the same One, whom it declares by the many testimonies already quoted to be minister to God, who is above the world, above whom there is no other[God].

Note that he says the one who is called an angel and who is God. He is using the Angel of the Lord reference and the very reference where God reveals his divine name to Moses. Observe chapter 61:

“I shall give you another testimony, my friends,” said I, “from the Scriptures, that God begat before all creatures a Beginning,[who was] a certain rational power[proceeding] from Himself, who is called by the Holy Spirit, now the Glory of the Lord, now the Son, again Wisdom, again an Angel, then God, and then Lord and Logos; and on another occasion He calls Himself Captain, when He appeared in human form to Joshua the son of Nave(Nun). For He can be called by all those names, since He ministers to the Father’s will, and since He was begotten of the Father by an act of will; just as we see happening among ourselves: for when we give out some word, we beget the word; yet not by abscission, so as to lessen the word[which remains] in us, when we give it out: and just as we see also happening in the case of a fire, which is not lessened when it has kindled[another], but remains the same; and that which has been kindled by it likewise appears to exist by itself, not diminishing that from which it was kindled.

Notice all the titles that can be given to Jesus. Check also how Joshua responded to this figure when he appeared to him. Joshua knew who this was.

Note also chapter 63 with the heading “It is proved that this God was incarnate.” What do we see in there?

Therefore these words testify explicitly that He is witnessed to by Him who established these things, as deserving to be worshipped, as God and as Christ.

And the start of chapter 68:

And Trypho said, “You endeavour to prove an incredible and well-nigh impossible thing;[namely], that God endured to be born and become man.”

“If I undertook,” said I, “to prove this by doctrines or arguments of man, you should not bear with me. But if I quote frequently Scriptures, and so many of them, referring to this point, and ask you to comprehend them, you are hard-hearted in the recognition of the mind and will of God. But if you wish to remain for ever so, I would not be injured at all; and for ever retaining the same[opinions] which I had before I met with you, I shall leave you.”

This is just one work of Justin Martyr. What about others?

Chapter 63 of the First Apology:

For they who affirm that the Son is the Father, are proved neither to have become acquainted with the Father, nor to know that the Father of the universe has a Son; who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God. And of old He appeared in the shape of fire and in the likeness of an angel to Moses and to the other prophets; but now in the times of your reign, having, as we before said, become Man by a virgin, according to the counsel of the Father, for the salvation of those who believe on Him, He endured both to be set at nought and to suffer, that by dying and rising again He might conquer death.

Chapter 10 of the Fragments:

By the two birds Christ is denoted, both dead as man, and living as God. He is likened to a bird, because He is understood and declared to be from above, and from heaven. And the living bird, having been dipped in the blood of the dead one, was afterwards let go. For the living and divine Word was in the crucified and dead temple [of the body], as being a partaker of the passion, and yet impossible to God.

From Chapter 10 on the Resurrection:

But if our physician Christ, God, having rescued us from our desires, regulates our flesh with His own wise and temperate rule, it is evident that He guards it from sins because it possesses a hope of salvation, as physicians do not suffer men whom they hope to save to indulge in what pleasures they please.

Now while we don’t have Nicea here yet, we do have nothing that contradicts it and much that contradicts Watchtower teaching. Most informative is the dialogue with Trypho. I recommend Witnesses to start reading the works of the Fathers without the blinders of the Watchtower and see what the early Christians really taught.

All references come from the dialogues which can be located on the following page:

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/justin.html

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2 Responses to “Justin Martyr”

  1. Jason Says:

    It’s pretty clear from this that Justin had what could be understood as a hypostatic view of Jesus as God’s Angel. It may not prove that he was correct, but it does show that the JW’s are incorrect to try to use him as a weapon against trinitarian doctrine.

  2. How much fun Says:

    Another Title…

    I saw this really great post today. Was very interesting….

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