Justin martyr, saint and philosopher

Born at Shechem, Samaria (current day Nablus, Palestine), Justin was a philosopher who in his search for truth found Christianity. He finally set up a school as a Christian philosopher in Rome, where he was martyred in 165, during the reign of the philosopher emperor Marcus Aurelius. It would be interesting to contrast the Stoicism of Marcus Aurelius with Justin’s life and philosophy, which left a place for suffering and for the Cross and Resurrection.

Justin wrote two apologies, defenses of the faith, which have come down to us in which he reveals the life and thought of the early Christian community. In this passage from his First Apology he reveals the difference that being a Christian makes:

 “Those who once rejoiced in fornication now delight in continence alone; . . . we who once took pleasure in the means of increasing our wealth and property now bring what we have into a common fund and share with everyone in need; we who hated and killed one another and would not associate with people of different tribes because of [their different] customs, now after the manifestation of Christ live together and pray for our enemies and try to persuade those who unjustly hate us, so that they, living according to the fair commands of Christ, may share with us the good hope of receiving the same things [that we will] from God, the master of all.”

It is fitting that the feast of St. Justin, patron of philosophers, is also my birthday. May my thinking and my life reflect his commitment to Christ.


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