Thursday, September 20, 2007

Justin Martyr: A Letter of Defense

A.D. 153, Justin Martyr, often referred to as our first Christian Apologist, believed that it was time for him to prepare a letter for the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius. Of course, an interview would be his death sentence, so Justin decided to pick up his pen, and prepare one of his greatest works for the emperor. His letter would set the record straight about Christians, and refute all the slanders and lies of Christianity. This letter would assure the emperor that he had nothing to fear from the followers of Jesus and appealing for peace. Of course, Justin knew it was a long shot, he didn’t really imagine that anything might actually change in response. But of course, that’s our flesh that speaks that way, not the Spirit. Is not our God still the God of miracles, who holds the hearts of kings in His hand?

And so, sometime in A.D. 153, Justin Martyr composed the work that is known to us today as his Apologia – his First Apology. Now, I’m not going to share the entire letter with you, but I want to share Justin’s account on the ordinary weekly meetings among Christians. So enjoy his letter, and don’t be surprised if some of you find it very, very familiar. :)

Justin Martyr to the Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius. A.D. 153

“And on the day called Sunday all who live in cities or in the country gather together in one place, and the memoirs of the Apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits. .

Then when the reader has finished, the Ruler (of the Brethren) in a discourse instructs and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all stand up together and offer prayers. .

Then there is brought to the Ruler of the Brethren bread and a cup of water and (a cup of) wine mixed with water, and he taking them sends up praise and glory to the Father of the Universe through the name of the Son and the Holy Spirit, and offers thanksgiving at some length for our being accounted worthy to receive these things for Him.”

How familiar is this to some of us! Notice that the Gospels are still new enough to be referred to, rather charmingly, as “the memoirs of the Apostles,” and that even the Old Testament books are still a loose collection of sacred scrolls. Even though, the final authoritative Christian Bible will not before formed for nearly 250 more years. (remember this is A.D. 153). Nevertheless, the Scriptures still play a vital part here in Justin’s Church, and of course, ours.

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