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Justin Martyr's Eschatology

L. W. Barnard, 26,
Studies in Church History and Patristics,
1978, . 107- 118

This study has been prompted by an article by Professor C. F. D. Moule of Cambridge on the Influence of Circumstances on the Use of Eschatological Terms (1) . Briefly Professor Moule's thesis is that it is an error to seek for a sequence of development or evolution in eschatological formulations within the New Testament as the hope in the Parousia weakened: my point is not only that these (i. e. New Testament statements about the last things) are incapable of being built into a single system, but also that they have, intrinsically, no logical sequence or successive order of evolution, but may arrive on the scene at any moment, and in almost any order, whether to 'peg' two opposite ends of a paradox or to defend different aspects of the truth as they chance to come under attack. They are produced (to use Papias' celebrated phrase) to meet each need as it arises (2) . Professor Moule has no difficulty in showing that the language of realized eschatology is used more when the individual believer is in mind; futurist eschatology when the group destiny is being emphasized; the mythical and quasi - physical language of apocalyptic when the future of the entire cosmos is in view. So Paul can use realized eschatology, apocalyptic and non - apocalyptic language according to his theme, not according to the stage of his theological development (3) . The question of the delay in the Parousia was hardly in view in the New Testament and did not affect the shaping of theological thought (4) .

Professor Moule ' s conclusions (and he is dealing only with the New Testament) are I believe of importance for the understanding of Justin Martyr's eschatology. Justin has a vivid belief in the Second Advent of Christ, yet it is remarkable how little the delay in the Parousia seems to have worried him. The 'time scale' type of argument is hardly found in his writings. E. R. Goodenough's explanation of this is that Justin was a simple type of Christian 'to whom the written and oral traditions of early Christianity...have meant more than the attempts of thoughtful men to reconcile them with the facts of life' (5) . This is, I believe, to underestimate Justin who after all was a philosopher who had come to Christianity from a mid - Platonist milieu (6) . My thesis is that Justin, writing in the mid - second century, was still dominated by the tension between the already and the not yet; by what had happened in the coming of Christ, the whole Word, rather than by problems of the delay of the Parousia. His eschatological language varies according to circumstance, as with the New Testament writers, and this is the cause of his apparent contradictions. Goodenough's judgement that Justin's is an inferior mind and that one of the chief values of a study of his eschatology is the testimony it bears to the completely uncritical character of his thinking (7) could equally well be applied to Paul or John. We now pass to consider Justin's eschatology in detail:

 

I The Two Advents

Again and again in both the Dialogue and the Apology Justin states his belief in the two advents of Christ (8) . The first has already happened in the Incarnation when he came as a dishonored and suffering man without glory - the second coming will reveal him in glory with the angelic host. Justin uses the word no fewer than 29 times while the only other occurrence of the word in the Greek Apologists is found in Tatian, Oratio ad Graecos xxxix. 3. The two comings - the first in lowliness, the second in exaltation - have been, for Justin, prophesied in the Old Testament and he adduces a succession of proof texts in support of his view, some not found in the New Testament Thus Ps. ex. 7, 'Of a brook in the way shall he drink, therefore shall he lift up his head', describes the humility and the glory of Christ (9) . In the first advent Christ was pierced, in the second they will recognise the one whom they have pierced and bitterly mourn (10) . Even the events associated with Moses and Joshua are brought in to support Justin's view (11) : Moses stretched out his hands as he sat on the hill and continued until evening while Joshua was the leader in battle enabling Israel to prevail - the former symbolizing by his outstretched arms the first coming and the cross while Joshua (Jesus) symbolizes the second coming when the power of the name will prevail over the daemonic hosts. Likewise the two goats offered on the Day of Atonement represent the two advents - the scapegoat symbolizing Christ's suffering and death and the other goat his second coming which Justin seems to imply will take place in Jerusalem (12) .

This belief in the two advents of Christ is found consistently in the New Testament and Justin's linking of it with the status of Christ as humiliated and glorified is also thoroughly biblical. The fact that he overlays and supports this belief with much fanciful exegesis and quotes proof texts which sometimes appear to have been picked at random should not blind us to his fundamentally New Testament outlook. What is significant is that Justin preserves the tension found in the New Testament between the already and the not yet, i. e. between realized and futurist eschatology. While many of his references to the second advent are, as might be expected, collective, i. e. Christ comes as the arrival of a king to a community, some are individualistic. Thus in Dial, xxviii. 2 - 3 Justin says to Trypho:

'It is but a short time that is left you for coming over to us, if Christ comes suddenly, you will repent in vain, you will lament in vain; for he will not hear you. "Break up fallow ground for yourselves", Jeremiah has cried to the people, "and do not sow over thorns. Circumcise to the Lord, and be ye circumcised in the uncircumcision of your heart". Do not therefore sow in thorns and unploughed land whence you have no fruit. Know Christ, and behold there is fair fallow, fair and rich in your heart'.

This is the language, not of apocalyptic, but of realized eschatology: 'Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh (13) .

 

II. The Delay in the Parousia

In Justin's day the Church had existed for more than a century. Generations of Christians had lived on earth and had, no doubt, believed in a second coming of Christ. The Church in Rome had survived the fires of the Neronian persecution and the lesser assault of Domitian. What is surprising is that anxiety over the delay in the Parousia seems to have left but little trace in early Christian literature. The following references comprise the sum total of references to a 'delay' before the time of Justin: II Peter iii. 4; I Clem, xxiii. 3; Barn. xix. 5; Hermas Vis. III. 4, 3; II Clem. xi. 2 (14) , and most of these refer to the 'double-minded' who are disputing 'whether these things are so or not' (15) . In view of the paucity of references to the 'delay' in the Parousia as constituting a difficulty it is all the more surprising that scholars have surmised that the non - occurrence of the second advent was the cause of a radical re - formulation of Christian doctrine and practice (16) . Justin, as a good re-presentative of second - century thought, was little troubled by the non - arrival of the second advent. There are but three passages in his writings which bear on this question. In Dial, xxxii. 3 he quotes Dan. vii. 25 that the Man of Iniquity is to reign for season, seasons and half a season. Trypho and his friends, says Justin, explain a season as a hundred years in which case if and seasons refers to two seasons, the Man of Iniquity will reign for at least 350 years before the End comes. Justin rejects this and holds that, since the time of the Ascension, the Man of Iniquity is at the door, i. e. the last times are about to appear. What is significant is that Justin nowhere suggests that Christians have been querying the non - arrival of the End - it is only a question of proving to Jews that their interpretation of Dan. vii is wrong.

In two passages in his Apologies Justin explains to the non - Christian world why the destruction of the world has been postponed. According to II Apol. vii. 1 God has delayed the destruction of the world (and of the daemons and men) 'because of the seed of the Christians, who know that they are the cause of preservation in nature' ( ῶ ῶ , ὅ ἐ ῇ ὅ ἴ ἐ . In I Apol. xxviii. 2 Justin says that 'God delays doing this (i. e. destroying the world) for the sake of the human race for he foreknows that there are some yet to be saved by repentance, even perhaps some not yet born'.

The first passage seems to have in mind the Old Testament idea that the destruction of a city by God will be postponed if there is a seed or small remnant of righteous people in (17) . Yet the context makes it clear that Justin has in mind the Spermatic Logos conception (18) . The researches of C. Andresen (19) have shed new light on the antecedents of this idea. Andresen shows how Cicero, who depends on Antiochus of Askalon, speaks of the semina justitiae which have been present since the earliest generations of man. Cicero links the seed forces of the Stoa with the seeds of Justice, i. e. he gives an ethical rather than a metaphysical interpretation of them. The same development is found in Arius Didymus in his exposition of the Peripatetic ethics. He reads the idea of 'seed forces' into Aristotle in an exclusively ethical interpretation. Men, for Arius, possess by nature the 'beginnings' and 'seeds' of the virtues which are brought to perfection by morals and right behaviour. Arius is the first to give a purely ethical interpretation of the . In Andresen's view Arius is the link between the philosophy of Antiochus of Askalon and Cicero and Middle Platonism (as exemplified by Albinus) (20) . He believes that Justin ' s ideas are best explained by reference to Middle Platonism where the 'seed forces' are given a moral and ethical interpretation and are not connected with the Stoic World Reason. It was after all from this type of Platonism that Justin passed into Christianity (21) .

The intricacies of Andresen's argument need not detain us. What J s significant is that Justin, in II Apol. viii, after giving his view that God delays the destruction of the world because the seed of Christians are the cause of preservation in nature, states that men have embedded in them the faculty of knowing good and evil: 'But neither do we affirm that it is by fate that men do what they do, or suffer what they suffer, but that each man by free choice acts rightly or sins'...'this is the nature of all that is made, to be capable of vice and virtue'. This is similar to the Middle Platonist use of the Stoic general concepts (communes notitiae; koinai or physikai ennoiai). Justin however closely connects these general concepts with the seed forces'. This is shown by his terminology when he speaks in this passage of the seed of the Christians who are the cause of preservation in nature and the seed of the Logos implanted in the whole human race (22) ; and in another context of'the intuition of God implanted in the nature of man' (23) .

In the second passage from I Apol. xxviii. 2 Justin states that God delays the end in order that future generations (some perhaps unborn) may have the opportunity of repentance. This is the nearest we get in Justin to the 'time scale' type of argument.

There is no suggestion in these two passages from the Apologies that Justin is troubled by the non-arrival of the second advent or that it has affected his innermost thought. His ideas vary according to a change of circumstance. He is no longer confronting a Jew who was familiar with the LXX but is seeking to demonstrate, to the educated world, the rationality of the Christian position. Accordingly he places the emphasis on individual choice, as did the prevailing Middle Platonist philosophy, and seeks to show that Christianity is in harmony with nature. In a sense this is a type of realized eschatology although transmuted into a philosophical key. Apocalypticism can thus be relegated into the background and the emphasis placed on individual responsibility in choosing good or evil. Elsewhere Justin represents Christians as looking forward to the end of the present order of things and the destruction of the world. These two beliefs should not be considered mutually contradictory. Justin can use apocalyptic and non - apocalyptic language according to his theme, not according to the stages of his development as a Christian Philosopher, much as Paul did.

 

III. The Resurrection and the Millennium

Justin, in common with traditional Christian eschatology, held that Christ and his angels will suddenly appear on the clouds of heaven (24) . Then will come the resurrection in which the souls of men will be re - united with the bodies discarded at death. Justin says that his opponents ought not to object to the idea of survival after death since they have much the same in their own traditions (25 ) : 'Treat us at least like these; we believe in God not less than they do, but rather more, since we look forward to receiving again our own bodies, though they be dead and buried in the earth, declaring that nothing is impossible to God' (26) .

In the Dialogue the collective nature of the Parousia is emphasized. The resurrection of the saints occurs at this time, a renewing of heaven and earth takes place and Christians inherit an eternal Jerusalem. Justin likens this to the entry into the promised land under Joshua:

'And just as he (i. e. Joshua), not Moses, led the people into the Holy land, and as he divided it by lot to them that entered with him, so also will Jesus the Christ turn the dispersion of the people, and will distribute the good land to each, though not again in the same manner. For the one (Joshua) gave them the inheritance for a time, for he was not Christ our God, nor Son of God, but the other (Jesus) will, after the holy resurrection, give us our possession forever... This is he who is to shine in Jerusalem as an everlasting light' (27) .

Cf. Dial, cxxxix. 5:

'Wherefore men from every quarter, whether bond or free, believing on Christ, and knowing the truth that lies in his words and those of his prophets, are aware that they will be together with him in that, land, and will inherit the incorruptible things of eternity' .

 

It is possible to infer from this that the general resurrection and judgment, the renewing of heaven and earth, and the establishment of an eternal kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital all occur together. Justin's language is certainly capable of a spiritual interpretation and is in line with much New Testament eschatology.

However in the Dialogue another view is found. Justin introduces the idea of the millennium or 1000 year reign of the Saints in Jerusalem which is inaugurated by a resurrection of the righteous and closed by a resurrection of the righteous and wicked after which follows the final judgment. There is no doubt that Justin held that Jerusalem would be physically re - built. In answer to Trypho's question he replies:

have acknowledged to you earlier that I and many others do hold this opinion, even as you also know well that this is to take place. But I also informed you (28) that even many Christians of pure and godly mind do not accept it (29) '....'But I, and all other entirely orthodox Christians, know that there will be a resurrection of the flesh, and also a thousand years in a Jerusalem built up and adorned and enlarged, as the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah, and all the rest, acknowledge' (30) .

In Dial Ixxxi Justin quotes Isa. Ixv. 17 - 25 and Ps. xc. 4 ('a day of the Lord is as a thousand years') and then goes on:

'And, further, a man among us named John, one of the apostles of Christ, prophesied in a Revelation made to him that they who have believed our Christ will spend a thousand years in Jerusalem, and that afterwards the universal, and, in one word, eternal resurrection of all at once, will take place, and also the judgement. And this too our Lord said: "They shall neither marry, nor be given in marriage, but shall be equal to angels, being children of God (that is) of the resurrection" (31) '.

As Justin only applies the verba Christi to conditions after the general resurrection it is likely that he is referring the prophecy of Isa. Ixv to actual conditions which would come to pass in Jerusalem, although, unlike Papias, he does not emphasize the sensuous element of the millennium.

It is a hopeless task to reconcile this belief in an earthly millennium in Jerusalem with Justin's other opinion that the new Jerusalem will be an immediate, spiritual, eternal land or inheritance. The argument that there is no mention of the millennium in the two Apologies and that therefore this belief was of no real significance to Justin will hardly bear examination as to have stated boldly the collapse of all earthly power and the rule of Christians under Christ in a rebuilt Jerusalem would have been very untactful, to say the least, in an apologia intended primarily for the non-Christian world. Rather both views were held by Justin and I wish to suggest that this is another example of how circumstance has affected his eschatology. In stating the doctrine of the eternal Jerusalem Justin is following New Testament tradition about the spiritual destiny of mankind. In holding to an earthly millennium in a rebuilt Jerusalem Justin, I suggest, was strongly influenced by the events of the great Jewish war of 132 - 5 A. D. and the Messianic pretensions of Bar-Chochba or Bar-Cosiba (32) . It is not without significance that in the Dialogue Justin refers to the war as still in progress. Thus in Dial. i. 3. Trypho says that he has recently fled from the war to Greece and Corinth; cf. ix. 3. Dial. xvi. 3 seems to refer to Hadrian's edict after the destruction of Jerusalem forbidding Jews from visiting the city, cf. xl. 2, xc. 2, I Apol. xlvii, liii. In Dial, cviii. 3 the city has been taken. This war set in motion large numbers of refugees fleeig from Palestine who came to many of the larger cities in the Roman world. Discussion, with a Jew, could hardly avoid the question'What is to become of the ruined Jerusalem?' Justin claims the city for Christians by drawing on an earlier strand of millennial teaching found in Rev. xx. 4, 6 and in Jewish speculation (33) . Both views, the spiritual and the millennial Jerusalem, are held by Justin (not because he was simple minded and incapable of logical thoughtthe whole tenor of his philosophy is against this) but because circumstances affected his eschatology. He can use the mythical and quasi physical language of apocalyptic according to his theme-although he admits that many Christians do not subscribe to his quasi-physical views (34) .

 

IV. The Judgment and World Conflagration

Justin puts the judgment, when men will be judged before the throne of God according to their deeds, immediately after the second advent or at the close of the millennium. Every man the living and the dead reaching as far back as Adam 'will appear before the great assize: We are in fact of all men your best helpers and allies in securing good order, convinced as we are that no wicked man, no covetous man or conspirator, or virtuous man either, can be hidden from God, and that everyone goes to eternal punishment or salvation in accordance with the character of his actions' (35) . As Isaiah was sawn asunder so will Christ divide the human race at the judgment, some being destined for his everlasting Kingdom and some for unquenchable fire (36) . Justin associated the angels with men in the judgment as both have been given free will (37) . The daemons will be finally and totally conquered and sent to the eternal fires (38) while Christ will reign as eternal King and Priest (39) .

The general impression Justin gives is that men and angels who have done evil and misused their free will be condemned to eternal fire suffering forever. However he also states that in the eternal fire every man will suffer in proportion to his deeds: 'If you pay no attention to our prayers and our frank statements about everything, it will not injure us, since we believe, or rather are firmly convinced, that every man will suffer in eternal fire in accordance with the quality of his actions, and similarly will be required to give account for the abilities which he has received from God, as Christ told us when he said 'To whom God has given more, from him more will be required' (40) . The wicked are only punished so long as God wills them to exist and be punished (41) . Good enough says that Justin is here retaining distinct traditions and it is idle to speculate as to which he regarded as the true one (42) . Would it not be more true to say that Justin's ideas vary with change of circumstance? The imagery of the great Assize is taken over from the NT and is used when a personal decision - for or against - is at issue while in his apologia to the non - Christian world Justin emphasizes more the rationality of the Christian position and action in accordance with reason. The quality of actions are thus all important and punishment varies according to this quality.

Justin's views on the subject of a world conflagration after the Judgment are again diverse. In a remarkable passage in II Apol. vii. he criticizes the Stoic identification of God with matter which is ever changing and destructible. Christians believe, Justin says, that the end of the world will come when the fire of judgment descends and utterly dissolves everything as in the days of Noah. At this destruction evil angels, daemons and men will cease to exist. How this is to be reconciled with the doctrine of the eternal rule of Christ from the new Jerusalem, found in the Dialogue, is not stated. A significant clue lies in the fact, rarely noticed, that only the Apologies speak of a final conflagration while only the Dialogue knows of the eternal Jerusalem. I suggest that again Justin's views vary according to circumstance for in the second Apology he is concerned to refute the Stoic view (as understood by Middle Platonism) that the deity is periodically destroyed in changeable matter. In the Dialogue Justin is more concerned with refuting Jewish beliefs and asserting the fact of Christ as the light of an eternal Kingdom the capital of which is Jerusalem.

Professor Moule, in his study of New Testament eschatology in the article already mentioned, says: 'different formulations have to be enlisted in the service of different affirmations, all of which may prove to be simultaneous aspects of a single great conviction too large to be expressed coherently or singly' (43) . Our investigation has shown that this statement is an apt description of Justin Martyr's eschatology. The assertion that he is a simple - minded, uncritical, muddled Christian, is I believe, wide of the mark. He is, in fact, no more confused than Paul or John. Justin's language varies according to his theme, not according to his stage of development as a Christian philosopher. There is little in his writings to suggest that the delay in the Parousia caused him concern or that time - scale calculations of the end had any significant influence on his theology. His fundamental interest is the Whole Word (44) incarnate in Christ - in other words with what has happened - and he preserves the tension between this 'already' and the 'not yet' found in the New Testament. In Justin's extensive writings we can trace no evolutionary sequence of eschatological formulations. Rather affirmations of individual realized eschatology (leading to the call to repentance), futurist eschatology bound up with the destiny of the group, the language of Apocalyptic both mystical and quasi - physical are used according to the theme under discussion. It is arguable that Justin allowed the biblical basis of his theology to be modified to too great an extent by his philosophical presuppositions - this is perhaps particularly true of his Logos doctrine, But this is not a charge which, I think, can legitimately be brought against his eschatology.


 NOTES

(1) Journal Theological Studies XV, 1964, pp. 1-15

(2) Op. cit. p. 5

(3) Op. cit. p. 11

(4) II Peter iii is unique in this respect.

(5) The Theology of Justin Martyr, Jena 1923 p. 279. Note his remark. 'It is one of the marvels of history that Christianity did not collapse when its eschatological hope had to be indefinitely postponed' ( op. cit. p. 279).

(6) Dial, ii 6

(7) Op.cit. p.291
(8)
Apol. lii ; Dial, xxxii, xxxiii, xl, xlv, xlix, cx, cxi inter alia.

(9) Dial, xxxiii. 2

(10) Dial, xxxii. 2; cf. Zech. xii. 10 -14

(11) Dial. cxi

(12) Dial. xl. 4-5. Justin apparently knows the Jewish traditions preserved in Mishna Tractate Yoma iii - vi. In its present form this tractate dates from c. 200 A. D. but it may well reflect genuine earlier traditions of the Temple Ritual. According to Yoma iii. 9 the two goats used in the ritual were solemnly chosen by lot in the Temple area, Justin seems to allude to this. See p. 114.

(13) Mt. xxv. 13.

(14) Moule op. cit. p. 15 quoting Dr. E. Bammel who did not intend this as an exhaustive list. But I have been unable to find any further references.

(15) Hermas Vis. III. 4. 3

(16) The classic position of M. Werner, The Formation of Christian Dogma, 1957.

(17) Gen. xviii, 16-33.

(18) See below and II. Apol. viii and xiii.

(19) "Justin und der mittlere Platonismus": Zeitschrift fur Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft 44 (1952-3) pp. 157- 195. Andresen' s thesis has however been challenged by R. Holte, Stud. Theol. 12 (1958) pp. 109-168 and J. H. Waszink, Festschrift Theodor Klauser (Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum), Ergänzungsband 1 (1964) pp. 380-390.

(20) Full references in Andresen op. cit. pp. 171- 6.

(21) Dial ii. 6

(22) II Apol. viii

(23) II Apol. v i.

(24) I Apol. li. 8 - 9, lii. 3; Dial. xxxi. 1.

(25) Note the argumentum ad hominem in I Apol. xviii referring to Odyssey xi. 25 seq.

(26) I Apol. xviii. 16.

(27 ) Dial, cxiii. 3 - 5. Cf. Tert Adv. Jud. ix.

(28) This is however nowhere to be found in the Dialogue.

(29) Dial. lxxx. 2.

(30) Dial. lxxx. 5.

(31) Dial. Ixxxi. 4. The reference appears to be to Luke xx. 35 seq.

(32) Recent discoveries suggest that this was his real name, pp. 22-34.

(33) Bohairic Death of Joseph (T. S. iv. 2. 142); cf. Apoc. Bar. xxix. 5 seq; Enoch x. 19. In Christian teaching in Papias ( Iren. Adv. Haer. v. 33); Barn, xv; Tert. Adv. Marc. iii. 24; Lact. Div. Inst. vii. 20 seq. inter alia. Also found among the Ebionites and Montanists.

(34) Dial. lxxx. 2. If the above suggestion is correct then there is reason to believe that Justin preserves the tenor of an actual discussion with Trypho in the period 132 - 5 A. D. This however need not exclude the possibility that he has made additions at a later period.

(35) I Apol. xii. 1.

(36) Dial. cxx. 5.

(37) Dial. cxli. 1 - 2.

(38) I Apol. xxviii. 1, Iii. 3.

(39) Dial, xxxvi. 1.

(40) I Apol. xviii. 4; Lk. xii. 48.

(41) Dial. v. 3. This is a philosophical context.

(42) Op. cit. p. 288.

(43) Op. cit. p. 9.

(44) II Apol. viii.

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