Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Premillennialism of Justin Martyr [A.D. 110-165.]

Justin was a Christian apologist who battled the Judiast Heresy and Greek Philosophy. He was martyred in Rome in 165 AD. Justin was a chiliast, and probably a premillennialist. He did believe in a literal 1,000 year reign, and believed that dead saints would be resurrected and take part in the millennium.

"I admitted to you formerly, that I and many others are of this opinion (temporal 1000 year reign), and [believe] that such will take place, as you assuredly are aware; but, on the other hand, I signified to you that many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise." (Dialogue with Trypho, CHAPTER LXXX -- THE OPINION OF JUSTIN WITH REGARD TO THE REIGN OF A THOUSAND YEARS. SEVERAL CATHOLICS REJECT IT.)

Contrary to the claim that premillennialism was the predominant view of the early church, we have chiliast Justin Martyr’s own words that there were many true Christians during his day that thought otherwise. Apparently, Trypho himself had serious doubts about this doctrine. This truth can be see in previous posts on this blog, wherein Papias has been the only premillennialist so far.

Justin adopted Barnabus “day is a thousand years” theory, which seemed to become popular in the Second Century, but has since proven to be flawed. Justin also bases his millennial beliefs on some sloppy exegesis of Scripture, particularly Revelation 20:4-6.

"For Isaiah spake thus concerning this space of a thousand years: 'For there shall be the new heaven and the new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, or come into their heart; but they shall find joy and gladness in it, which things I create. For, Behold, I make Jerusalem a rejoicing, and My people a joy; and I shall rejoice over Jerusalem, and be glad over My I people. And the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, or the voice of crying. And there shall be no more there a person of immature years, or an old man who shall not fulfil his days. For the young man shall be an hundred years old; but the sinner who dies an hundred years old, he shall be accursed. And they shall build houses, and shall themselves inhabit them; and they shall plant vines, and shall themselves eat the produce of them, and drink the wine. They shall not build, and others inhabit; they shall not plant, and others eat. For according to the days of the tree of life shall be the days of my people; the works of their toil shall abound. Mine elect shall not toil fruitlessly, or beget children to be cursed; for they shall be a seed righteous and blessed by the Lord, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call I will hear; while they are still speaking, I shall say, What is it? Then shall the wolves and the lambs feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; but the serpent[shall eat] earth as bread. They shall not hurt or maltreat each other on the holy mountain, i saith the Lord.' Now we have understood that the expression used among these words, 'According to the days of the tree[of life] shall be the days of my people; the works of their toil shall abound' obscurely predicts a thousand years. For as Adam was told that in the nay fie ate of the tree he would die, we know that he did not complete a thousand years. We have perceived, moreover, that the expression, 'The day of the Lord is as a thousand years,' is connected with this subject. And further, there was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that thereafter the general, and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place. Just as our Lord also said, 'They shall neither marry nor be given in marriage, but shall be equal to the angels, the children of the God of the resurrection.'” (Dialogue with Trypho, CHAPTER LXXXI -- HE ENDEAVOURS TO PROVE THIS OPINION FROM ISAIAH AND THE APOCALYPSE.)

Contrary to Justin’s statements concerning the Scriptures…

1.) Isaiah makes no mention of a thousand years.
2.) The Apostle John does not say that “Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem”. (Read Revelation 20:1-15 for yourself and see).
3.) A literal reading of the Apocalypse has the “new heavens and the new earth” after the millennium, not during it (Revelation 21:1).

There are a few aspects of Justin’s Millennium that differ from that of modern premillennialism, most notably Justin’s “replacement theology”. In fact, Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho is full of replacement theology. Citing just one example:

“Then I said again, "Would you suppose, sirs, that we could ever have understood these matters in the Scriptures, if we had not received grace to discern by the will of Him whose pleasure it was? in order that the saying of Moses might come to pass, 'They provoked me with strange [gods], they provoked me to anger with their abominations. They sacrificed to demons whom they knew not; new gods that came newly up, whom their fathers knew not. Thou hast forsaken God that begat thee, and forgotten God that brought thee up. And the Lord saw, and was jealous, and was provoked to anger by reason of the rage of His sons and daughters: and He said, I will turn My face away from them, and I will show what shall come on them at the last; for it is a very froward generation, children in whom is no faith. They have moved Me to jealousy with that which is not God, they have provoked Me to anger with their idols; and I will move them to jealousy with that which is not a nation, I will provoke them to anger with a foolish people. For a fire is kindled from Mine anger, and it shall burn to Hades. It shall consume the earth and her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains; I will heap mischief on them.' And after that Righteous One was put to death, we flourished as another people, and shot forth as new and prosperous corn; as the prophets said, 'And many nations shall betake themselves to the Lord in that day for a people: and they shall dwell in the midst of all the earth.' But we are not only a people, but also a holy people, as we have shown already. 'And they shall call them the holy people, redeemed by the Lord.' Therefore we are not a people to be despised, nor a barbarous race, nor such as the Carian and Phrygian nations; but God has even chosen us and He has become manifest to those who asked not after Him. 'Behold, I am God,' He says, 'to the nation which called not on My name.' For this is that nation which God of old promised to Abraham, when He declared that He would make him a father of many nations; not meaning, however, the Arabians, or Egyptians, or Idumaeans, since Ishmael became the father of a mighty nation, and so did Esau; and there is now a great multitude of Ammonites. Noah, moreover, was the father of Abraham, and in fact of all men; and others were the progenitors of others. What larger measure of grace, then, did Christ bestow on Abraham? This, namely, that He called him with His voice by the like calling, telling him to quit the land wherein he dwelt. And He has called all of us by that voice, and we have left already the way of living in which we used to spend our days, passing our time in evil after the fashions of the other inhabitants of the earth; and along with Abraham we shall inherit the holy land, when we shall receive the inheritance for an endless eternity, being children of Abraham through the like faith. For as he believed the voice of God, and it was imputed to him for righteousness, in like manner we having believed God's voice spoken by the apostles of Christ, and promulgated to us by the prophets, have renounced even to death all the things of the world. Accordingly, He promises to him a nation of similar faith, God-fearing, righteous, and delighting the Father; but it is not you, 'in whom is no faith.'” (Dialogue with Trypho, CHAPTER CXIX -- CHRISTIANS ARE THE HOLY PEOPLE PROMISED TO ABRAHAM. THEY HAVE BEEN CALLED LIKE ABRAHAM.)

In conclusion, Justin is the second of our church fathers who can be fairly labeled a premillennialist (Papias the other), though merely through assertion, not sound exegesis. I would ask, however, if one can adopt Justin as an authority on the millennium and reject his views of Judaism.


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Gary said...

Justin Martyr makes known in his First Apology, at Chapter 21:

"And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter."

In making claims regarding Christ's virgin birth, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension into heaven, Justin is saying nothing different than what the Romans had maintained of their gods.

The vast bulk of the Jews rejected the notion of Jesus being god incarnate and all the attendant mythological paraphernalia...right to this very day.

The stories of a Virgin Birth and a Resurrection, which appear in four anonymous late first century Christian works of literature, are based on Roman mythology, folks. Let's just accept the obvious: The Gospel stories are myths. Even one of the earliest Church Fathers admits it.

Puritan Lad said...


A couple of points:

1.) The truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ is not contingent upon what the Romans believed about their Gods, and Justin does not claim such.

2.) We are well aware of what "vast bulk of the Jews" believed. So what? Argumentum ad Populum.

3.) I'm granting a little leeway here, but this is an eschatology post, not one for debating the resurrection. Please stay on topic.