Justin was an ardent student of philosophy (mainly Stoicism and Platonism) and taught philosophy. In his early thirties he met an elderly man on a seashore who impressed upon Justin the trustworthiness of the gospel.Justin investigated the faith and became convinced. He continued to wear his philosopher’s gown and teach philosophy, but now advocating the only true philosophy to be Christianity. Justin is mainly known through his writings:
- The Apologies – a set of discourses propounding the supremacy of the Christian faith. The first Apology is addressed to the emperor Antoninus Pius (ruled 138-161) and to his son, Marcus Aurelius (ruled 161-180), who himself was something of a philosopher. Justin appeals to these emperors and their sense of decency, arguing against the persecution directed at Christians.
- Dialogue with Trypho – a treatise again proposing the primacy of the Christian faith, but with more emphasis on how the followers of Jesus represent the “new” people of God. Trypho was an educated Jew and also a student of philosophy.
Justin is often criticized for leaning too heavily on his Greek philosophy, but he must have stood out as an intellectual giant among his peers and perhaps dulled some of the sharp attacks coming from the critics of the faith.
Justin is also quite important for the role his writings play in the development of the NT canon. He quotes from, or alludes to, each of the four gospels and to many of Paul’s letters. Many early fathers cite Justin as an important early Christian voice. He was arrested and beheaded in Rome and thus receives his name as Justin Martyr.