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Reading for Jan. 5, 2013

Author: Justin Martyr

Reading: Dialogue with Trypho, ch. 115–127

Pages: ANF 1:256–263


  1. I confess to being puzzled by a footnote in Section 123. The editor refers to a sentence about a “lengthy discussion” as an “Americanism.” Is he accusing Americans of being garrulous? Or is something else going on there?

    I was also amused by Justin’s comment in 125: “I do not think it right, when I know, not to speak.” I know some people like that. :-)

    I note that his style overall is very direct, even accusatory. In my culture, that would not be an effective way to carry on an argument, if the goal is to win the opponent’s assent. I doubt that Justin’s culture was much different in that regard. I wonder how successful his conversation with Trypho was–or whether it was pretty much just “preaching to the choir.”

  2. Most of these translations were originally published in series related to the Oxford Movement, a group of high church Anglicans, many of whom converted to Roman Catholicism. These American publications were meant to reclaim the fathers for Protestants. Volume 1 of ANF was a republication of an Edinburgh edition in three volumes of the same material. You can trace the tortuous history of the editions in the various headnotes, or in this book.

    In this case the footnote is on the word “lengthy,” which was a coinage originally used only in America. Here is the OED etymology: “Before the 19th cent. found only in American writers; in many of the early British instances it is referred to as an Americanism.” So the American editor seems to be pointing out that the Scottish editor had used an Americanism.

    The question about how assertive or aggressive Justin is is interesting. It depends on whether one thinks that the debate with Trypho is purely fictional, or whether one thinks that the Dialogue contains a transcript of an actual debate, however much was later added to the text. In its purely fictional, then it’s easier to see how Justin could be much too aggressive. If it’s not fictional, it’s plausible that the aggressiveness is still a later addition. Some scholars have suggested that there are moments in the text when Trypho scores some points against Justin, which makes me think that there probably was an actual debate.

    The larger question is about antisemitism in the fathers, but that’s not a question I can take up now.

  3. Very interesting. And very helpful. Thanks.


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