As I mentioned about a month ago I received a review copy of Early Christian Thinkers: The Lives and Legacies of Twelve Key Figures edited by Paul Foster from IVP Academic. Each chapter is an individual essay on an individual figure, so instead of an overview book review I am going to write a short reflection on how each scholar portrays each figure. I am a novice in this area, so don’t expect much critical feedback. These will be reflections.
The first chapter is on Justin Martyr by Paul Parvis, an honorary fellow in the School of Divinity at the University of Edinburgh. Parvis discusses “the holy Justin, philosopher and martyr” (as he was remembered) beginning with a biography organized around geographical locations, namely Flavia Neapolis, Ephesus, and Rome. Justin was a man on a “spiritual journey” as we might say. He considered the Stoics and Pythagorean worldviews before meeting “a myserious old man” who spoke of the Hebrew prophets (pp. 2-3). Justin became a Christian and then “came to package himself as a philosopher”.
Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho is his apologetic in favor of Christianity against a Jew named Trypho. Some think Trypho is a character created by Justin; others do not. Justin’s broader apologetic career began when he wrote a defense of Christianity to the Emperor in Rome in support of an unnamed Christian woman who was being falsely accused. Justin made opportunity of his right to write a petition in her support that he made into an apology.
Parvis examines these writings, some of Justin’s views on the logos and how that may have shaped later logos Christologies, the pupils of Justin, and his broad influence (pp. 5-13). I came away with the impression of a man who was not the greatest philosopher, but like some modern apologist was willing to go ‘in over his head’ to proclaim the gospel through the vehicle of philosophy. He used his social standing to defend his fellow Christians and train a future generation.
The next chapter is on Tatian.