Did Justin Martyr believe in the Trinity or not?


#1

I found this on Wikipedia (I’ve added bold text myself to highlight points):

Doctrine of the logos

Justin’s use of the idea of the logos has always attracted attention. It is probably too much to assume a direct connection with Philo in this particular. The idea of the Logos was widely familiar to educated men, and the designation of the Son of God as the Logos was not new to Christian theology. The significance is clear, however, of the manner in which Justin identifies the historical Christ with the rational force operative in the universe, which leads up to the claim of all truth and virtue for the Christians and to the demonstration of the adoration of Christ, which aroused so much opposition, as the only reasonable attitude. It is mainly for this justification of the worship of Christ that Justin employs the Logos-idea, though where he explicitly deals with the divinity of the Redeemer and his relation to the Father, he makes use of the Old Testament, not of the Logos-idea, which thus can not be said to form an essential part of his Christology.

**On the other hand, Justin sees the Logos as a separate being from God and subordinate to him:

“For next to God, we worship and love the Logos who is out of the unbegotten and ineffable God, since also He became man for our sakes, that, becoming a partaker of our sufferings, He might also bring us healing” (Second Apology, 13).

"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… I shall endeavour to persuade you, that He who is said to have appeared to Abraham, and to Jacob, and to Moses, and who is called God, is distinct from Him who made all things, I mean numerically, not in will. (Dialogue with Trypho, 56).

Justin speaks of the divine Logos as “another God” beside the Father, qualified by the gloss: ‘other, I mean, in number, not in will’. Justin actually finds fault with the view of hellenized Jews who held that the divine Logos is no more distinct from God than sunlight is from the sun and suggested, instead, that the Logos is more like a torch lit from another. He wanted to do justice to the independence of the Logos.**

The importance which he attaches to the evidence of prophecy shows his estimate of the Old Testament Scriptures, which are to Christians absolutely the word of God, spoken by the Holy Ghost, and confirmed by the fulfillment of the prophecies. Not less divine, however, is the teaching of the apostles, which is read in the assembly every Lord’s Day—though he can not use this in his “Dialogue” as he uses the Old Testament. The word of the apostles is the teaching of the Divine Logos, and reproduces the sayings of Christ authentically. As a rule he uses the synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – but has a few unmistakable references to John. He quotes the Book of Revelation as inspired because prophetic, naming its author. The opposition of Marcion prepares us for an attitude toward the Pauline epistles corresponding to that of the later Church. Distinct references are found to Romans, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians, and possible ones to Philippians, Titus, and 1 Timothy. It seems likely that he also knew Hebrews and 1 John. The apologetic character of Justin’s habit of thought appears again in the Acts of his martyrdom (ASB, Apr., ii. 108 sqq.; Thierry Ruinart, Acta martyrum, Regensburg, 1859, 105 sqq.), the genuineness of which is attested by internal evidence.


#2

Any theologian, like any philosopher or scientist, is limited by the words and concepts which he has available to work with. A physicist today would find it impossible to give what he would consider to be a complete description of the universe without using the language and the mathematics of quantum physics and general relativity. A scientific genius living in the time of Justin Martyr, for example, no matter how great his understanding of the universe, would not be able to fully describe it without having those concepts available.

Similarly, the language of theology has developed, allowing more complete (but never perfect) expressions of theological truth.

When Justin says “distinct, numerically, but not in will,” what is he trying to convey? The Thomistic concepts of person and nature had not yet been invented. I’m guessing that his use of the term “distinct” meant “distinct in person.“ Also, I think that his use of the term “being” did not at that time contain the distinction that later theologians would make between separate entities and distinct persons. It is difficult, even now, to realize that distinct persons need not necessarily be distinct entities or distinct beings.

But perhaps someone more familiar with the writings of Justin Martyr could give a more complete answer. It’s important to understand what is meant by an author, since the words he uses might not mean the same thing to him that they mean to us. The question is, what did the words mean to the writer?


#3

Hi Jim

I think your post makes a lot of sense. Justin was trying to conciliate Christian teaching with Greek philosophy, and was not particularly successful. Here from the Catholic Encyclopedia : newadvent.org/cathen/08580c.htm

**

The Logos

**

The Word is numerically distinct from the Father (Dial., cxxviii, cxxix; cf. lvi, lxii). He was born of the very substance of the Father, not that this substance was divided, but He proceeds from it as one fire does from another at which it is lit (cxxviii, lxi); this form of production (procession) is compared also with that of human speech (lxi). The Word (Logos) is therefore the Son: much more, He alone may properly be called Son (II Apol., vi, 3); He is the monogenes, the unigenitus (Dial., cv). Elsewhere, however, Justin, like St. Paul, calls Him the eldest Son, prototokos (I Apol., xxxiii; xlvi; lxiii; Dial., lxxxiv, lxxxv, cxxv). The Word is God (I Apol., lxiii; Dial., xxxiv, xxxvi, xxxvii, lvi, lxiii, lxxvi, lxxxvi, lxxxvii, cxiii, cxv, cxxv, cxxvi, cxviii). His Divinity, however, seems subordinate, as does the worship which is rendered to Him (I Apol., vi; cf. lxi, 13; Teder, “Justins des Märtyrers Lehre von Jesus Christus”, Freiburg im Br., 1906, 103-19). The Father engendered Him by a free and voluntary act (Dial., lxi, c, cxxvii, cxxviii; cf. Teder, op. cit., 104), at the beginning of all His works (Dial., lxi, lxii, II Apol., vi, 3); in this last text certain authors thought they distinguished in the Word two states of being, one intimate, the other outspoken, but this distinction, though found in some other apologists, is in Justin very doubtful. Through the Word God has made everything (II Apol., vi; Dial., cxiv). The Word is diffused through all humanity (I Apol., vi; II, viii; xiii); it was He who appeared to the patriarchs (I Apol., lxii; lxiii; Dial., lvi, lix, lx etc.). Two influences are plainly discernible in the aforesaid body of doctrine. It is, of course, to Christian revelation that Justin owes his concept of the distinct personality of the Word, His Divinity and Incarnation; but philosophic speculation is responsible for his unfortunate concepts of the temporal and voluntary generation of the Word, and for the subordinationism of Justin’s theology. It must be recognized, moreover, that the latter ideas stand out more boldly in the “Apology” than in the “Dialogue.”

As you intimate, Justin writes way before all these matters were treated by councils and theologians, and before a proper terminology was conceived.

Verbum


#4

Justin lived and wrote when the Church was in her infancy. She was still formulating the best ways, given the limits of language, in which to share the truth she had received. (Even in the rite for the Eucharist, Justin wrote of the predider as giving thanks as best he could, there being as yet no specific standardized liturgy.) And it’s virtually impossible to delve into one aspect of a mystery or of the infinite in a manner that avoids not doing justice to some other aspect of it.

The key is that Justin always “thought with the Church”, and we should read his writings in that light. He is, after all, Saint Justin, and the Church cannot make the error of cononizing a heretic – which a non-believer in the Trinity would be.

Blessings,

Gerry


#5

#6

The importance which he attaches to the evidence of prophecy shows his estimate of the Old Testament Scriptures, which are to Christians absolutely the word of God, spoken by the Holy Ghost, and confirmed by the fulfillment of the prophecies. Not less divine, however, is the teaching of the apostles, which is read in the assembly every Lord’s Day—though he can not use this in his “Dialogue” as he uses the Old Testament. The word of the apostles is the teaching of the Divine Logos, and reproduces the sayings of Christ authentically. As a rule he uses the synoptic Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke – but has a few unmistakable references to John.

This is because St. Justin was based in Ephesus, and John’s Gospel was only in use in Asia at the time. It was not yet widely accepted (or even necessarily known) throughout the rest of the universal Church, where the Synoptics were the liturgical norm. St. Polycarp, for example, whose very name (meaning “much fruit”) comes from Jesus’ expression in John 15:8, doesn’t quote the Gospel of John in his epistle to the European Philippians, but uses only the Synoptics. It is only in the time of St. Ireneaus, about 20 years after Justin, that John’s Gospel has gained universal acceptance on par with the Synoptics.

He quotes the Book of Revelation as inspired because prophetic, naming its author.

This, again, shows St. Justin’s preference for the traditions of the Asian Church, based on his long stay in Ephesus. Outside of Asia, John’s Revelation was not widely known.

The opposition of Marcion prepares us for an attitude toward the Pauline epistles corresponding to that of the later Church.

??? There was no problem with the Pauline epistles. Everyone, aside from some Judaizing Gnostics, accepted them in Justin’s day. Also, Justin’s opposition to Marcion should illustrate quite well that Justin only believed in one God.


#7

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