Justin Martyr is a well-known Christian apologist from the second century who interpreted the theory of the Logos, or Christ. Only a few of his works have survived over time, but within those works, Justin defended the Christian life and advocated for the end of Christian persecution by the Roman Emperor. His works also include several historical references to Jesus. Justin was martyred in 166 AD and considered a saint by several branches of the Christian church.
Justin spent a great deal of his early education exploring various philosophical views. He was left frustrated and dissatisfied by each philosopher. However, one Christian man spoke with him about God and the prophets, and this changed his path forever. Justin left his former religious and philosophical views behind and was devoted to God. He even became a teacher and established religious schools in Rome.
In Justin’s “First Apology,” written around 150 AD, he record several historical facts about Jesus, including that He was born of a virgin in the village of Bethlehem. In other works, Justin referred to Jesus performing miracles and raising the dead, which he said was confirmed in a report written by Pontius Pilate (“Acts of Pontius Pilate”).
In writing about this same “Acts of Pontius Pilate,” Justin talked about Jesus’s crucifixion, that he was nailed to the cross through his hands and feet and that onlookers took his clothing. He stated,“But the words, ‘They pierced my hands and feet,’ refer to the nails which were fixed in Jesus’ hands and feet on the cross; and after he was crucified his executioners cast lots for his garments, and divided them among themselves. That these things happened you may learn from the ‘Acts’ which were recorded under Pilate.”
Justin also wrote about what happened after Jesus’s death: “Accordingly, after He was crucified, even all His acquaintances forsook Him, having denied Him; and afterwards, when He had risen from the dead and appeared to them, and had taught them to read the prophecies in which all these things were foretold as coming to pass, and when they had seen Him ascending into heaven, and had believed, and had received power sent thence by Him upon them, and went to every race of men, they taught these things, and were called apostles.”
Justin also wrote, “But His Son, who alone is properly called Son, the Word, Who was with Him before the creation, and begotten when in the beginning He created and adorned all things by Him, is called Christ.” Justin later continues, “And we bring those Scriptures before them which prove clearly that Christ was both liable to suffering, and was to be worshipped, and was God.” Justin states that Jesus was God, He was present in the beginning and the source of creation, He was called to suffering for His people, as the Bible says, and He is also to still be worshiped as God.
Justin did not waver in his faith. The court examination of Justin’s and his companions’ martyrdom is as follows: “The Prefect Rusticus says: Approach and sacrifice, all of you, to the gods. Justin says: No one in his right mind gives up piety for impiety. The Prefect Rusticus says: If you do not obey, you will be tortured without mercy. Justin replies: That is our desire, to be tortured for Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and so to be saved, for that will give us salvation and firm confidence at the more terrible universal tribunal of Our Lord and Saviour.”