Justin Martyr is hailed by the Roman Catholic Church as one of the great Church Fathers of the Catholic faith. His doctrinal ideas widely influenced the nascent Catholic Church, and Justin invented a Christology based strongly on the Hellenistic philosophers that he studied before his conversion. Ultimately, his dogma laid the foundation for Trinitarianism by segmenting the Godhead into persons and attempting to explain the Creator with vain and heathen philosophies.
Born to Greek parents in 100 AD, Justin studied Stoic, Peripatetic, Pythagorean, and Platonist philosophy in Ephesus (Chadwyck 93). He was converted to Christiantiy but retained a great respect for pagan philosophers. Justin believed that the ancient Greek philosophers had a partial revelation of scriptural truth through an impartation of the Logos: “And those who live according to the Logos are Christians, even though they may have been counted as atheists-such as Socrates and Heraclitus, and others like them, among the Greeks” (qtd. in McGrath 3).
Justin was a Platonist and subscribed to Plato’s theory of universal forms, or the idea that invisible ideals are the most supreme form of reality. Justin ultimately hailed Plato as a prophet, contriving a Christian interpretation of Plato’s writings, whom he believed to have a prefigured understanding of the Trinity of God and the redemptive Cross of Christ: “And the physiological discussing concerning the Son of God in the Timaeus of Plato, where he says, ‘He placed him crosswise in the universe,’ he borrowed in like manner from Moses.” Additionally, he locates in Plato his own idea concerning the numerical uniqueness of the Logos as separate from God, Plato’s Prime Mover: “Which things Plat reading, and not accurately understanding, and not apprehending that it was the figure of the cross, but taking it to be a placing crosswise, he said that the power next to the first God was placed crosswise in the universe” (qtd. in Roberts and Donaldson 58). Justin superimposes his false perceptions of the God of the Bible on the Platonic models of invisible principles to produce a distinction between the Father and Son, the invisible and the visible.
Justin’s “Logos Christology” is responsible for the extra-biblical notion of the pre-existent Son of God. Justin equated the Logos of St. John 1 with God the Son. He ascribed to God’s divine and redemptive plan, both personality and function, numerically separate from the impassable God: “For we worship and love, next to God, the Logos, who comes from the unbegotten and ineffable God, since it was for our sake that he became a human being” (qtd in McGrath 3).
In his First Apology, Justin pronounces a Trinitarian devotion to ” . . . the most true God, the Father of righteousness . . . and the Son (who came forth from Him and taught us these things, and the host of other good angels who follow and are made like to Him), and the Prophetic Spirit, we worship and adore . . . ” (qtd. in Placher 32). While the passage even seems to indicate the worshipfulness of angels, it certainly distinguishes between the Father, Son, and Spirit.
Further corrupting the original Apostolic teaching of the mighty God in Christ, Justin Martyr expanded the biblical baptismal formula to “in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit” (qtd. in Roberts and Donaldson 60). This is an obvious innovation and does not follow the traditional Trinitarian invocation of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” but attempts to retain the personal name of Christ, the proper New Testament rubric for Christian baptism, while exploding Justin’s tri-personal Godhead.
The connection between Justin Martyr’s Christological ideas and the vain philosophies of the Hellenistic heathen are indisputable. His clear reverence for Greek philosophers and his repeated appeals to their logic to produce his Trinitarian construct is perhaps the earliest example of pronounced apostasy in the post-Apostolic Church. This theological innovation further proves the fact that the Trinity is indeed completely foreign to the first generation of Christians, and later patristical writings (i.e. Tertullian’s Adversus Praxean III) confirm that the idea of a tripartite God was utterly foreign to the universal Catholic Church well into the third century. St. Paul’s Apostolic admonition completely discredits Justin and his demonic doctrine: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ: for in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2.8-9). Certainly, through the Spirit of prophecy, Paul was speaking to a generation who would forsake the simplicity of the doctrine of Christ for the foolishness of the world. Justin preached “another Jesus” and “another Gospel.” His Christ was not the Christ of God but was a lesser deity, a mere conduit of a God unknowable and unknown, the god of Plato. The dogma of the Trinity is, in fact, built upon the Justinian sand of such foolishness and will one day perish with all such prideful foolishness that obscures the glory of the One True & Living God, Jesus Christ, from the eyes of those fettered by tradition!
Chadwyck, H. “Justin Martyr, St.” New Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 8. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 93-95. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale. BALL STATE UNIV. 10 Mar. 2008 .
McGrath, Alister E. The Christian Theology Reader, 3rd. ed. Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishing, 2007.
Placher, William. Readings in the History of Christian Theology. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1988.
Roberts, Alexander Rev. and James Donaldson. Translations of the Writings of the Fathers Down to A.D. 325. Edinburgh: L & T Clark, 1867.