Icon of Justin Martyr

This week we read Justin, Martyr and Philospher, Apologies and began the Dialogue with Trypho

In this week-in-review, I wish to highlight two famous and important pieces of the Apologies — Justin’s Logos theology and his description of Christian worship.

The Logos spermatikos

As Henry Chadwick notes in his book Early Christian Thought and the Classical Tradition,  Justin is one of the most receptive to Greek thought of the early Christian writers. His Logos theology highlights the similarities between Greek and Judeo-Christian thought. One of his elegant ideas that has stuck with me since I first read Justin doing my MTh is the idea that the Word is seeded in men’s minds and hearts.

The Greek is logos spermatikos, and there is no good English translation, if you ask me. The seed of the Word? The Word as seed? The seed-version of the Word?

Drawing from John 1, ‘In the beginning was the Word,’ and the various resonances and ideas surrounding logos in Greek usage, Justin essentially argues that the similarities between Greek and Christian thought exist because the Word has been seeded in all human hearts. All good reasoning, all truths, all accurate observation of the world, all mindful activity that corresponds with what is right — this is the result of the Word of God active in the world.

This is why Greek philosophers are able to come up with so much truth.

It is an idea worth holding onto in today’s pluralistic age — not that I think anyone needs to abandon their own religious convictions. Just that all, Christian and otherwise, should be open to the possibility of truth outside of their own tradition and philosophy.

Early Christian worship

People read Justin and, if they are already Roman Catholic, say, ‘Hey, the Mass!’ Others claim his description of the weekly Christian worship service of Eucharist has been influential in their conversion to Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy, seeing the historic worship of those churches as in direct continuity with the worship of second-century Rome.

When we read the Didache, we’ll see more evidence that, while what scholars call ‘the canon of the Mass’ or the ‘Anaphora’ does not seem to have fixed words yet, the weekly celebration of Holy Communion was conducted in an order of service very similar to that of the historic liturgical churches (including also Anglicans, the Oriental Orthodox, the so-called ‘Nestorian’ Church of the East, and Lutherans).

Whether that means Baptists and Presbyterians should change their order of service and frequency of receiving the Lord’s Supper is not my place to say. But it is noteworthy, and so we have here some of our earliest evidence for Christian worship.

We’ll look at the Dialogue more next week.