Sunday, April 4, 2021

An interesting assessment of Justin Martyr's Christology

My continuing studies into Justin Martyr’s Christology are providing some interesting assessments. Note the following from the Reformed author, Harry R. Boer:

With the Apologists, Greek philosophy became associated with Christianity. The best known of them was Justin Martyr, a man from Samaria whose parents were Roman. He was a student and teacher of philosophy before his conversion. He remained a philosopher, regarding Christianity as the highest philosophy. He died a martyr for the faith between 163 and 167. Justin taught that before the creation of the world God was alone and that there was no Son. Within God, however, there was Reason, or Mind (Logos). When God desired to create the world, he needed an agent to do this for him. This necessity arose out of the Greek view that God cannot concern himself with matter. Therefore, he begot another divine being to create the world for him. This divine being was called the Logos or Son of God. He was called Son because he was born; he was called Logos because he was taken from the Reason or Mind of God. However, the Father does not lose anything when he gives independent existence to the Logos. The Logos that is taken out of him to become the Son is like a flame taken from a fire to make a new fire. The new fire does not lessen the older fire.

Justin and the other Apologists therefore taught that the Son is a creature. He is a high creature, a creature powerful enough to create the world but, nevertheless, a creature. In theology this relationship of the Son to the Father is called subordinationism. The Son is subordinate, that is, secondary to, dependent upon, and caused by the Father. The Apologists were subordinationists. (A Short History of the Early Church, p. 110 – Google Books link.)

Boer’s take on Justin’s Christology is an interesting one; it contains two important aspects that are rarely combined in the Christological evaluations of Justin's thought I have read. First, the preexistent Jesus Christ is created by God the Father, and as such is a “creature”. Second, this creative act by the Father is from Himself, and not ex nihilo.

Now, I suspect some folk are going to be quite eager to critique Boer’s assessment; but before doing so, I think it is very important to keep in mind that Justin on two occasions approvingly cites the LXX translation of Proverbs 8:22 which states that Wisdom was ‘created’ (ἔκτισέ), and then applies this verse to the preexistent Jesus Christ. (For the two quotations, see Dialogue With Trypho, chapters 61 and 129—both are provided in English and Greek in THIS THREAD.)

Back to my studies…

Grace and peace,