Was Justin Martyr a Mormon?

What I mean to ask is whether the early church father’s beliefs about who Jesus Christ is had more in common with what modern Mormons believe than what modern Catholics believe. I ask the question, because this popular website provides quotes supporting the idea that the Martyr believed the Son of God was a different God from the Father God:

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)

In chapter 129 of his Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew, Justin makes a clear distinction, indicating that the “God” he refers to as Christ, is numerically distinct, but ‘…not (different) in will…’, from another, who is “Lord of the Lord”, and causes the “God” Christ to have his power and authority. This would seem to indicate emphatically that Justin’s use of the term “God” when referring to Christ is not the same usage when referring to the Father – the Creator, and only true God, as Justin calls him in other chapters of his writings.

“And now I shall again recite the words which I have spoken in proof of this point. When Scripture says, ‘The Lord rained fire from the Lord out of heaven,’ the prophetic word indicates that there were two in number: One upon the earth, who, it says, descended to behold the cry of Sodom; Another in heaven, who also is Lord of the Lord on earth, as He is Father and God; the cause of His power and of His being Lord and God."

(Dialogue with Trypho, 129)

Justin very clearly distinguishes the Son, or Logos, as being an Angel and an Apostle of God, but not the one true God himself, the Maker of all things, as Justin calls him. Justin confers the title of Creator only to the Father in all of his writings. There is no indication of the trinitarian doctrine, or of Christ being the “one true God”, as Justin gives this title only to the Father.


erm… I would definitely never use wikipedia as a source of scholarly or factual information… :shrug:

I think we need to be careful about places that cherry pick quotes and read into them a meaning that is not at all in the original.

St. Justin Martyr’s writings are all available online. I would look at these quotes in context and in the context of all his work. St. Justin Martyr did not have a Mormon-esque Christology.

Not all articles on Wikipedia have the same reliability. This article, or at least the “Doctrine of the Logos” section, appears to have been written by a Mormon apologist who cherry picked quotes out of context. I don’t know any about Justin Martyr, so I can’t explain the context for the quotes selected, but be cautious.

Some flags to look out for are the lack of citations within the “Doctrine of the Logos” section. There are only references to the writings themselves, explaining where quotes came from. However the commentary explaining these quotes should come from a reliable researcher, not the author of the Wikipedia article himself.

This is the full catholic position:

[quote=Quicunque Vult (Athanasian Creed):]If anybody wants to be saved, first of all it is necessary that they hold the Catholic Faith.
Because unless everyone keeps this Faith completely and purely, without doubt they shall not be saved.
And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity, neither mixing up the Persons, nor dividing the Substance.
For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.
But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is all one, the Glory equal, the Majesty co-eternal.
What the Father is, that is what the Son is, and also what the Holy Spirit is.
The Father was not created by anyone, the Son was not created by anyone, and the Holy Spirit was not created by anyone.
The Father is beyond our understanding, the Son is beyond our understanding, and the Holy Spirit is beyond our understanding.
The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, and the Holy Spirit is eternal.
And yet they are not three who are eternal, but one who is eternal.
And they are not three who are beyond our understanding, nor three who were not created by anyone, but one uncreated, and one beyond our understanding.
So in the same way the Father is Almighty, the Son is Almighty, and the Holy Spirit is Almighty.
And yet they are not three Almighties, but one Almighty.
So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.
And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.
So in the same way the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord.
And yet they are not three Lords, but one Lord.
For just as the Christian Truth forces us to acknowledge each Person in and of himself to be both God and Lord, so the Catholic Religion forbids us to say there are three Gods, or three Lords.
The Father is from no one, neither created, nor begotten.
The Son comes from the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten.
The Holy Spirit is from the Father, neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.
And in this Trinity none is before or after another; none is greater or less than another;
So that in all things, as was said before, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.
Whoever wants to be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation also to believe correctly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Human;
God, of the Substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Human, of the Substance of his Mother, born in the world;
Perfect God and perfect Human, continually existing as a rational soul and human flesh together;
Equal to the Father, as God; and inferior to the Father, as human.
Who although he is God and Human, yet he is not two, but one Christ;
One, not be changing the Godhead into flesh, but by taking the Humanity into God;
One altogether; not by mixing up the Substance of God and Human, but by uniting them in one person.
For as the rational soul and flesh together in one person is one human, so God and Human together in one person is one Christ;
Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead.
He ascended into heaven, he sits at the right hands of the Father, God Almighty, from whence he shall come to judge the living and the dead.
At whose coming all persons shall rise again with their bodies and shall give account for their own works.
And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.
This is the Catholic Faith, without which there is no salvation.

Any questions?
(BTW this prayer is where I truly learned the place of mary, as it makes clear that he is of one substance with the father in his divine nature, and in a similar manner of one substance with his mother in his human nature.)

P.S. Also you can read the writings of Saint Justin Martyr here:newadvent.org/fathers/

I see nothing in his writings that contradict Catholic teaching as laid out in the Athenasian Creed except perhaps confusion on the matter of right terminology.

You have to be careful with how you read very early Fathers. They tried to imitate the writings of the Septuagint, Evangelists, and Apostles in their work. In most of the Bible, even in the NT, the Father is referred to as God. This does not mean that the Father is a separate God from Jesus, just that the language around how the two cohere had not been codified yet. Furthermore, Justin is an apologist, so taking his writings as catechetical treatises is problematic. Good missionaries and apologists first introduce Christian teaching to non-believers in the simplest way possible, often using the non-believer’s terms and categories as a place to begin preaching the Gospel to them. In all likelihood, Justin is employing this strategy in his apologetic writings. Hope this helps.

No problem. Do you have a more reliable source that explains the true meaning of the saint’s quotes?

Thanks for the link. When I read Martyr’s words, if I find I agree with the premise that Martyr mistakenly thought Jesus a different god from the Father, will you explain to me why I’m wrong?

It sounds like you are saying the Wikipedia author took the early church father out of context. Would you be willing to look at the context with me to discern the true meaning of the quoted texts.

Are you thinking the revered saint’s position on who Jesus is differs from the Catholic Church’s position?

Yes, but the passages not only suggest that Martyr believed Jesus was a separate god; they also appear to try to defend the idea.

“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)

Martyr writes that the Son of God, “is another god…who is distinct from him who made all things…numerically, not in will.” What else could these words mean, but that there is numerically more than one God?

Please, read all of the dialogue. Justin Martyr makes one of the best arguments for One God in three persons. Snippity snipping pieces out to support the errors of Mormonism isn’t any sort of truth. It’s just more of Mormon make-believe.

There Persons of the Trinity are distinct. There are three. But there is not three Gods.

“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.

Justin: I have discussed briefly in what has gone before; when I asserted that this power was begotten from the Father, by His power and will, but not by abscission, as if the essence of the Father were divided; as all other things partitioned and divided are not the same after as before they were divided: and, for the sake of example, I took the case of fires kindled from a fire, which we see to be distinct from it, and yet that from which many can be kindled is by no means made less, but remains the same.

Dialogue with Trypho Chapter 128, which comes right before the wikipedia quote of chapter 129 shows very clearly that Justin does not believe that Christ has a different essence from the Father. Same substance, different person. His main points in this section are to show Christ’s pre-existence using OT appearances of the Word, and also to demonstrate that the Word is numerically distinct (which we would say “different person”).

Also, just because Justin is a saint does not mean his theology was perfect or every part of his writing entirely coherent. As the author of the OCE entry for Justin notes, some of Justin’s arguments owe more to the philosophy of his time, which does not at all diminish his witness as a martyr and saint:

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.


"Another God "?

There is, and that there is said to be…” St. Justin here seems to be trying to express the fact that the Word [or Logos or the Son] is also fully, truly, wholly and entirely God in His own right/respect; hence St. Justin says “there is said to be…” Today we would probably express this more like: ‘there is another [from the Father, i.e. either Christ or the Holy Ghost] Who is called God and, indeed, is God.’

The Catechism explains:

[quote=CCC 253]The dogma of the Holy Trinity

253 The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the “consubstantial Trinity”.83 The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire: "The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, i.e. by nature one God."84 In the words of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), "Each of the persons is that supreme reality, viz., the divine substance, essence or nature."85

83 Council of Constantinople II (553): DS 421.
84 Council of Toledo XI (675): DS 530:26.
85 Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 804.


"Numerically Distinct "?

Now when St. Justin speaks of a numerical difference, he seems to be confessing (especially in context) an extremely important truth, which is related to the above teachings from the Catechism: he means, I suspect, that -in spite of their profound unity- each Person of the Trinity is, notwithstanding, really and truly distinct : i.e., in this case, that the Son truly is distinct from the Father. Moreover, this difference is expressed even today “numerically” : the Son is the Second Person of the Most of Trinity; the Holy Spirit, likewise, is the Third, etc. To deny this could easily result in confusing the Persons of the Trinity, and so denying a fundamental truth of the faith.

Again, the Catechism explains:

[quote=CCC 254, Dogma of the Holy Trinity]254 The divine persons are really distinct from one another. . . . “Father”, “Son”, “Holy Spirit” are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: "He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son."87

87 Council of Toledo XI (675): DS 530:25.

St. Justin Martyr’s Service to the Church

St. Justin was writing in a time before the Church had formulated these things in an (as it were) standardized way or manner. Indeed, as the filioque controversy bears witness, it can still be difficult to confess the Holy Trinity in a way that all can readily agree upon; notwithstanding, St. Justin does here the Church the service of adamantly testifying to the Church’s belief in the Trinity in the earliest age of the Church (after the Apostles).

I hope this helps!

St. Justin the Martyr was the first to give us a most clear picture of how the Mass was said. The Roman Emperor asked him to describe what happened at Mass.

The basic structure, spirit and tone is the same as that what we witness of the Mass today.

His treatise was written around 155 AD.

There is a movement now among Mormon teachers that are discovering the writings of the Early Church Fathers, but unfortunately misinterpretating them and saying that they are proving Joseph Smith right.

St. Justin the Martyr made reference to us becoming as gods when we partake of the Eucharist…but he did not mean at all that we become gods in the literal sense, but only in receiving the Eucharist, as St. Thomas Aquinas later did in CCC460.

The Mormons use Catholic Church Catechism 460 to prove that they are right and we are merely deflecting from their idea that we become gods…entities of our own.

Remember, they believe that God was once a man and has become God through progression.

It is just very sad how they misread and project their beliefs onto ours, claim them as theirs, and miss the point of the passage.

Yes, cherry picking indeed.

The danger (from both sides) is that when we read these texts we will put our own understanding on to them and this might not neccesarily be the case, even for the early patristics, which is why we need to be extra careful and read the entire context of their works. I haven’t read all of Justin’s apology but considering that definition of God as a trinity was something which developed over time this may simply express an imperfect phraising of things.

“For next to God” seems to definetly refer to God the father. But when describing the word we are told he is unbegotten and ineffeble, eternally existent perhaps? That justin feels the need to express that the word and God are seperate tells me he thought of them as different persons as he being a Christian understood there was one God and it would make no sense to suggest Jesus was an eternal entity besides the one true God.

But thats just my reading of him. I could be wrong.

I agree with you, and will only add the teaching where Justin describes the Word of God as the same a the your own word. When you give it, it is not separate from you, but is part of yourself. I’ve used this same method of teaching the Trinity to non-Christian catechumens, some who are unfamiliar with the Trinity all together, and have a difficulty grasping WHO the Christian God is: three Persons, One God.

In the end, of course, God is God, and humans cannot grasp fully the Mystery. We accept by faith (informed by reason) what God has revealed about Himself. Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Hey Rebecca. Please explain why the quote you cited shows Martyr believed the one God is both the Son and the Father.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.