Justin Martyr and his Apologies

(The following is from the introduction to my edition of Justin Martyr’s First and Second Apologies, available at Amazon)


Justin Martyr (also known as Justinus) was a mid-second century Christian writer.  A Greek-speaking Gentile, he was born in Flavia Neapolis (present day Nablus) in Samaria and was martyred around 165 AD in Rome.  He was familiar with Greek philosophy and shows an affinity for Socrates and Plato for reasons which he will explain in his Apologies.

He wrote his First and Second Apologies in approximately 150 AD.  They are meant to be defenses (i.e. apologies in the classic sense of the term) of the Christian faith.  It was likely that the two Apologies were actually one text, with the Second appended to the First.  Justin addressed the First Apology to the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius and his sons Lucius and Verissimus (better known as Marcus Aurelius); the Second Apology was addressed to the Roman Senate.  In both Apologies, Justin seeks to defend the Christian faith from the misrepresentations that were current in that day and to demonstrate that persecutions of Christians were unjust.  Christians were loyal citizens, heirs of the best of philosophical tradition, and virtuous people.  They ought therefore to be praised, rather than killed for their faith.  Justin also prays that his readers will repent and turn to the truth which Christians proclaim.  To assist with this goal, Justin expends much effort in describing what Christians believe and how they worship.

This present book reproduces both of Justin’s Apologies, which were originally written in Greek.  The English translation used here is the one provided by Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (known as the Roberts-Donaldson English Translation) as part of the Ante-Nicene Fathers book series from the 19th century and is in the public domain.  However, in a very few places I have selected more modern words than used in the original translation (given that the original translation is almost 200 years old).  In addition, following each chapter of Justin’s text, I have included notes and a brief commentary or summary in order to provide greater context to the thrust of Justin’s argument and additional information where needed.

I have also included some tables as reference.  These include a list of Roman emperors up to the fifth century, as well as a list of notable early Christian Church writers.  One important note about the Roman emperors is that many times, particularly in the third and fourth centuries, there were co-emperors ruling somewhat concurrently, as well as usurpers to the throne.  In addition, many times emperors ruled for less than a year before being murdered by a faction who wished to install their own emperor (particularly in 68/69 AD and 238 AD).  Thus, there will be overlaps of the dates in the table.

My purpose in providing this edition of Justin’s Apologies of the Christian Faith is to allow modern readers access to one of the great works of the early New Testament Church.  Justin argues with a philosophical mind and provides early evidence of Christian belief and practice.  I hope the reader enjoys this edition of Justin’s magnum opus.

(The cover image of the book which is included in this post is of the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina in Rome.  Antoninus was the emperor to whom Justin wrote his Apology.)