The Trinity Delusion An examination of the doctrine of the Trinity

Justin Martyr

(ca. 150 A.D.)


Justin was born at Flavia Neapolis near Mount Gerazim in Samaritan Palestine about 100 A.D. He was first a Stoic and then a student of Plato before his conversion and this Platonism marks his writings. He converted to Christianity about 130 A.D. and was martyred under Marcus Aurelius.

Justin Martyr and Philosophy

"Philosophy" means "love of wisdom" and a philsopher is a "lover of wisdom." In Christianity, our wisdom is not a belief system we know even if that belief system is about Christ. Our wisdom is a person we know, Jesus Christ. One of the serious problems with Justin Martyr is that spends much time speaking in terms of Greek philiosophy to the point that he seems to think that Christianity is itself a philosophy, that philosophy is the greatest work of a Christian and that philsophy alone results in happiness.

I will tell you what seems to me; for philosophy is, in fact, the greatest possession, and most honourable before God, to whom it leads us and alone commends us; and these are truly holy men who have bestowed attention on philosophy. Trypho, 2.

To the question, "Are you, then, a philologian, but no lover of works or of truth? (cf. 1 John 3:18) And do you not aim at being a practical man as much as being a sophist?", Justin answers:

What greater work could one accomplish than this, to show the reason which governs all, and having laid hold of it, and being mounted upon it, to look down on the errors of others.... it is necessary for every man to philosophize, and to esteem this the greatest and most honourable work but other things only of second-rate or third-rate importance, though, indeed, if they be made to depend on philosophy, they are of moderate value, and worthy of acceptance; but deprived of it, and not accompanying it, they are vulgar and coarse to those who pursue them. (Trypho 3). Trypho 3.

And to the question, "Does philosophy, then, make happiness?", Justin answers:

Assuredly, and it alone. (Trypho 3.)

Given the above mindset, it should not surprise anyone that Justin's disciple, Tatian, became a Gnostic shortly after Justin's death.


Justin Martyr and the Identity of God and Jesus

Justin readily refers to Jesus as "God," and even "Yahweh of Hosts", in his writings. However, he also refers to Jesus as "another god" who is subject to the "most true God" whom he identifes as the Father of Jesus. Justin also identifies Jesus as the Holy Spirit. None of these ideas would be acceptable in Trinitarian theology.


First Apology

For not only among the Greeks did the Word prevail to condemn these things through Socrates, but also among the barbarians were they condemned by the Word Himself, who took shape, and became man, and was called Jesus Christ, and in obedience to him, we not only deny that those who did such things as these are gods, but assert that they are wicked and ungodly demons, whose actions will not bear comparison with those even of men desirous of virtue. (5).

Hence are we called atheists. And we confess that we are atheists, so far as gods of this kind are concerned, but not concerning the most true God, the Father of righteousness and temperance and the other virtues, who is free from all impurity. But both Him, and the Son who came forth from Him, and taught us these things, and the host of the other good angels who follow and are made like to him, and the prophetic Spirit, we worship and adore, knowing them in reason and truth, and declaring without grudging to every one who wishes to learn, as we have been taught. (6)

And that you will not succeed is declared by the Word, than whom, after God who begat him, we know there is no ruler more kingly and righteous. For as all shrink from succeeding to the poverty or sufferings or obscurity of their fathers, so whatever the Word forbids us to choose, the sensible man will not choose. That all these things should come to pass, I say, our Teacher foretold, he who is both Son and Apostle of God the Father of all and the Ruler, Jesus Christ, from whom also we have the name of Christians. (12).

Our Teacher of these things is Jesus Christ, who also was born for this purpose, and was crucified under Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judaea, in the times of Tiberius Caesar, and that we reasonably worship him, having learned that he is the Son of the true God Himself, and holding him in the second place, and the prophetic Spirit in the third, we will prove. For they proclaim our madness to consist in this, that we give to a crucified man a place second to the unchangeable and eternal God, the Creator of all. (13).

And when we say also that the Word, who is the firstborn of God, was brought forth without sexual union, and that he, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven... (21).

Jesus Christ is the only proper Son who has been begotten by God, being His Word and first-begotten. (23).

For what is called by the Divine Spirit through the prophet "his robe," are those men who believe in him in whom abides the seed of God, the Word. And what is spoken of as "the blood of the grape," signifies that he who should appear would have blood, though not of the seed of man, but of the power of God. And the first power after God the Father and Lord of all is the Word, who is also the Son; and of Him we will, in what follows, relate how He took flesh and became man. (32).

Therefore, it is wrong to understand the Spirit and the power of God as anything else than the Word, who is also the first-born of God, as the foresaid prophet Moses declared, and it was this which, when it came upon the virgin and overshadowed her, caused her to conceive, not by intercourse, but by power. And the name Jesus in the Hebrew language means Savior in the Greek tongue. Wherefore, too, the angel said to the virgin, "Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins." And that the prophets are inspired by no other than the Divine Word, even you, as I fancy, will grant. (33).

We have been taught that Christ is the firstborn of God (46).

We believe in a crucified man, that he is the firstbegotten of the unbegotten God, and himself will pass judgment on the whole human race, unless we had found testimonies concerning him heralded before he came and was born as man. (53).

And, as we said before, the devils put forward Marcion of Pontus, who is even now teaching men to deny that God is the maker of all things in heaven and on earth, and that the Christ predicted by the prophets is His Son, and preaches another god besides the Creator of all, and likewise another son. (58).

And the physiological discussion concerning the Son of God in the TimŠus of Plato, where he says, He placed him crosswise in the universe, he borrowed in like manner from Moses; for in the writings of Moses it is related how at that time, when the Israelites went out of Egypt and were in the wilderness, they fell in with poisonous beasts, both vipers and asps, and every kind of serpent, which slew the people; and that Moses, by the inspiration and influence of God, took brass, and made it into the figure of a cross, and set it in the holy tabernacle, and said to the people, If you look to this figure, and believe, you shall be saved thereby. And when this was done, it is recorded that the serpents died, and it is handed down that the people thus escaped death. Which things Plato 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. And as to his speaking of a third, he did this because he read, as we said above, that which was spoken by Moses, that the Spirit of God moved over the waters. For he gives the second place to the Logos which is with God, who he said was placed crosswise in the universe; and the third place to the Spirit who was said to be borne upon the water, saying, And the third around the third. And hear how the Spirit of prophecy signified through Moses that there should be a conflagration. He spoke thus: Everlasting fire shall descend, and shall devour to the pit beneath. It is not, then, that we hold the same opinions as others, but that all speak in imitation of ours. Among us these things can be heard and learned from persons who do not even know the forms of the letters, who are uneducated and barbarous in speech, though wise and believing in mind; some, indeed, even maimed and deprived of eyesight; so that you may understand that these things are not the effect of human wisdom, but are uttered by the power of God. (60).

Now the Word of God is His Son, as we have before said. And He is called Angel and Apostle. For He declares whatever we ought to know, and is sent forth to declare whatever is revealed; as our Lord Himself says, He that hears Me, hears Him that sent Me.... But so much is written for the sake of proving that Jesus the Christ is the Son of God and His Apostle, being of old the Word, and appearing sometimes in the form of fire, and sometimes in the likeness of angels; but now, by the will of God, having become man for the human race.... the Son of God, who is called both Angel and Apostle.... to know that the Father of the universe has a Son; who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God. And of old He appeared in the shape of fire and in the likeness of an angel to Moses and to the other prophets; but now in the times of your reign, having, as we before said, become Man by a virgin, according to the counsel of the Father, for the salvation of those who believe on Him. (63).


Second Apology

But to the Father of all, who is unbegotten, there is no name given. For by whatever name He be called, He has as His elder the person who gives Him the name. But these words, Father, and God, and Creator, and Lord, and Master, are not names, but appellations derived from His good deeds and functions. And His Son, who alone is properly called Son, the Word, who also was with Him and was begotten before the works, when at first He created and arranged all things by Him, is called Christ, in reference to His being anointed and God's ordering all things through Him; this name itself also containing an unknown significance; as also the appellation "God" is not a name, but an opinion implanted in the nature of men of a thing that can hardly be explained. (6).

For next to God, we worship and love the Word who is out of the unbegotten and ineffable God, since also He became man for our sakes, that, becoming a partaker of our sufferings, He might also bring us healing. (13).


Dialogue with Trypho

Christ is called both God and Lord of hosts. (36).

There is, and that there is said to be, another God and Lord subject to the Maker of all things who is also called an Angel, because He announces to men whatsoever the Maker of all things, above whom there is no other God, wishes to announce to them.... I shall endeavour to persuade you, that He who is said to have appeared to Abraham, and to Jacob, and to Moses, and who is called God, is distinct from Him who made all things, I mean numerically, not in will. For I affirm that He has never at any time done anything which He who made the world--above whom there is no other God--has not wished Him both to do and to engage Himself with...it must be admitted absolutely that some other one is called Lord by the Holy Spirit besides Him who is considered Maker of all things; not solely[for what is said] by Moses, but also[for what is said] by David. For there is written by him: 'The Lord says to my Lord, Sit on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool,' as I have already quoted. (56).

God begat before all creatures a Beginning, a certain Reasonable Power from Himself, who is called by the Holy Spirit, now the Glory of the Lord, now the Son, again Wisdom, again an Angel, then God, and then Lord and Logos; and on another occasion He calls himself Captain, when He appeared in human form to Joshua the son of Nave. For he can be called by all those names, since he ministers to the will of the Father, and since he was begotten out of the Father by an act of will, just as we see happening among ourselves: for when we give out some word, we beget the word, yet not by abscission, so as to lessen the word in us, when we give it out, and just as we see also happening in the case of a fire, which is not lessened when it has kindled, but remains the same, and that which has been kindled by it likewise appears to exist by itself, not diminishing that from which it was kindled. The Word of Wisdom, who is himself this God begotten of the Father of all things, and Word, and Wisdom, and Power, and the Glory of the Begetter. (61).

But this Offspring, which was truly brought forth from the Father, was with the Father before all the creatures, and the Father communed with Him; even as the Scripture by Solomon has made clear, that He whom Solomon calls Wisdom, was begotten as a Beginning before all His creatures and as Offspring by God. (62).

Therefore these words testify explicitly that He is witnessed to by Him who established these things, as deserving to be worshipped, as God and as Christ. (63).

[Trypho]: You endeavour to prove an incredible and well-nigh impossible thing, that God endured to be born and become man... [Justin]: Do you think that any other one is said to be worthy of worship and called Lord and God in the Scriptures, except the Maker of all, and Christ, who by so many Scriptures was proved to you to have become man?.... that some Scriptures which we mention to them, and which expressly prove that Christ was to suffer, to be worshipped, and God, and which I have already recited to you, do refer indeed to Christ, but they venture to assert that this man is not Christ. But they admit that He will come to suffer, and to reign, and to be worshipped, and to be God; and this opinion I shall in like manner show to be ridiculous and silly. But since I am pressed to answer first to what was said by you in jest, I shall make answer to it, and shall afterwards give replies to what follows. (68).

For if you had understood what has been written by the prophets, you would not have denied that He was God, Son of the only, unbegotten, unutterable God. (126).


Other

And God, the Father of the cosmos, who is the perfect intelligence, the truth. And the Word, being His Son, came to us, having put on flesh, revealing both himself and the Father, giving to us in himself resurrection from the dead, and eternal life afterwards. And this is Jesus Christ, our Saviour and Lord. (On the Resurrection, 1).

From the one God, who both made this world and formed us.... there came to us the only-begotten Son. (Fragments, II).

[Justin's Confession of faith on Trial]: "That according to which we worship the God of the Christians, whom we reckon to be One from the beginning, the Maker and Fashioner of all creation, visible and invisible, and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Martyrdom of Justin, 1).

Last Update: July 7, 2011
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