Justin And The Pure People Of

Listing, sorting, and defining various heresies (aip£a£i~ ) for the sake of comparison or refutation was an established tradition by the time Justin made the task his own.21 Epictetus, for example, offered the following advice to his students: "Observe yourselves thus in your actions and you will find out to what sect [hairesis] of the philosophers you belong. You will find that most of you are Epicureans, some few Peripatetics, but these without any backbone____ But as for a Stoic, show me one if you can!"22

Epictetus, a Stoic, challenges his students to live up to the "heresy" Stoicism, belittling the Epicurean and Peripatetic "heresies" as schools for the weak. Justin also mentions Epicurean, Pythagorean, Platonic, Stoic, Cynic, and Peripatetic philosophical "heresies"; to this list he adds Jewish "heresies," including the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Galileans, among others.23 To Justin, however, the existence of heresies indicates an adulteration of an original truth and, therefore, heresies could only have been a negative development. Justin therefore interprets the presence of diverse opinions—philosophical, Jewish, or Christian—as proof of others' error. Christian philosophy was not construed as the best "school" among comparatively less vigorous competitors but as the only philosophy that had achieved the fullness of truth.

All true philosophical insight has been given by God in the form of a "seed of the Logos," Justin claims in his apologies, but the philosophers preserved only an adulterated form of this divine "seed," if they managed to preserve truth at all (1 Apol. 56; 2 Apol. 8, 13). He explains: "For whatever either lawgivers or philosophers uttered well, they elaborated according to their share of Logos by invention and contemplation. But since they did not know all that concerns Logos, who is Christ, they often contradicted themselves" (2 Apol. 10.2-3; see also 2 Apol. 13).24 In other words, partial revelation led to contradictions and to the development of many schools of thought, transforming philosophy into a monstrous "hydra of many heads" as Justin put it elsewhere (Dial. 2.1-2). Christians, by contrast, received the entirety of the Logos, the "whole rational principle," which became Christ (2 Apol. 10.1); that is, they possessed "the thing itself' (2 Apol. 3).25 Hence, Christians are the best philosophers of all.26

Justin's argument regarding Jewish heresies is similar: anyone who "examines the matter rightly" recognizes that there can only be one Judaism; those who identify with various Jewish heresies are not properly Jews at all, but something else (Dial. 80.4). Justin goes on to assert that the Christians have become the "true Israel" since the Jews failed at being the "seed of Abraham," an argument he presented in great detail in his Dialogue with Trypho.27 The Jews, the "seed of Abraham," preserved the divine truth about Christ in their Scriptures, a "fact" they should have recognized. 28 Consequently, Justin declares, "we are the true, spiritual Israel, the genos of Judah, Jacob, Isaac and Abraham" (Dial. 11:4-5; see also 1 Apol. 63):

Some of your genos will be found children of Abraham, seeing as they are found in the portion of Christ. But others, though children of Abraham, are as the sand on the sea-shore which is unproductive and unfruitful, though great and innumerable, not producing any fruit at all but only drinking the water from the sea; of this the majority of your genos are accused, for you drink doctrines of bitterness and godlessness while you spurn the word (logos) of God. , ,9q

According to Justin, then, the Christians, by recognizing and embracing the "true" meaning of the Jewish scriptures, had become the "children of Abraham," the chosen genos, and the heirs to God's favor. The vast majority of Jews, however, had been cut off because by rejecting Christ, they "did not bear fruit." Justin then deploys familiar biblical tropes involving the sexual and religious misadventures of Israel in the wilderness to claim that the Jews had always been enslaved to desire, hard of heart, and prone to idolatry.30 In this way, Justin describes Christians and Jews as distinct peoples and offers biblical examples of Israel's apostasies as proof of Jewish intransigence.

As we have seen, the authors of Jude and 2 Peter employ biblical examples of the misbehavior of Israel in the wilderness, but they do so to characterize false insiders rather than a group of outsiders they then labeled "Jews." In these earlier writings, insider followers of Christ are warned to conform to particular definitions of in-Christ-ness or face the sort of punishment reserved for apostate Israel, fallen angels, and Sodom and Gomorrah. By contrast, Justin employs biblical tales of Israel's por-neiai (sexual misbehavior/apostasy) to distance Jews from the new and supposedly pure Christian genos. The Jews, he claims, "spurn the logos of God," investing the charge with a double meaning: they spurn Christ, who is the Logos, and the word of God contained in their own Scriptures since they misunderstand everything God had intended to teach them when they deny that Jesus was the Christ. In this way, Justin claims Jewish scriptures and even Jewish genealogy for the Christians—"we" are the spiritual genos of Judah, "we" are the house of Jacob—while simultaneously excising the Jews from God's community. 31 Justin no longer construes himself or his group as "Jewish" per se, therefore the misadventures of Israel apply neither to him nor to other Christians but to sinful Israel alone.32

Justin's method of eliminating Christian heresies from the family tree is slightly different. They never gained a share of God's "seed" at all, he argues, but were fashioned by demons to torment the church after Christ ascended into heaven.33 Simon "through the art of the demons" performed magic; Marcion, "with the aid of demons," caused people of every genos to speak blasphemy; heretics in general were animated by "spirits of error" to say and do things that are godless and blasphemous, or so Justin claims (1 Apol. 26; Dial. 35.1). Animated by "demons," they actually remained gentiles all along:

And they say that they are Christians, just as they who are among the Gentiles inscribe the name of God upon their idols made by hands and take part in lawless and godless rites. And some of them are called Marcionites, and some Valentinians, and some Basilidians, and some Saturnilians, and others by other names, each being named from the originator of the opinion, just as each of those who think they are philosophers ... think it is right to bear the name of the father of that system. , ^ ,

In other words, they, like the founders of philosophical schools, adulterated truth. Like the gentiles, they worshiped demons. As such, they have kept "those from every genos' who were invited to join the new Christian genos locked in a dark, degenerate world of "being gentile," even as they pretended to be Christian. Justin's message is clear: the Christian heretics and their followers could have no share in divine patrimony.

Justin's genealogical scheme, therefore, implies two points of exit or entry, both of which pivoted on Christ. The gentiles, though at a disadvantage because of their demonic gods, were invited by Christ to receive the full Logos and become "spiritual Israel." The Jews, advantaged by their ancestry and the God-given prophecies that were preserved by the Scriptures, were also invited but had largely rejected the invitation. The heretics never entered the family at all, but remained gentiles, and an especially pernicious sort of gentile at that. The Christians, by contrast, constituted God's own genos, the one pure race, and the true heirs to God's glory. Justin employed a variety of metaphors to make this argument: "The Christians are the one vine, planted by God" (Dial. 60.4). The Christians "as one person believe on God the Maker of the universe," and "are now the true high priestly genos of God" (Dial. 66.3). "Christians are a holy people [laos], chosen by God" (Dial. 69.3). Christians are the heirs to God's blessings, having been "begotten" (gennesantos) into God by Christ (Dial. 123.9). The Christians are "quarried from the bowels of Christ" (Dial. 135.3). Christ is "the head of another genos" that was begotten "by water and faith and wood [.e., the cross]" (Dial. 138.2). Whether because of their relationship to the "vine," their election as the "high priestly genos," their formation in the "bowels of Christ" (ek tes koilias tou Christou), their designation as a holy people, or their "birth" through baptism, faith, and the crucifixion, Christians had become a distinct people, destined to remain God's legitimate heirs.35

In contrast to the dispossessed Jews and the demon-inspired gentiles or heretics, the new Christian genos is described as pure in every way. Remarkably chaste, they avoided lust and married once if at all (1 Apol.15). Free from anger, they never quarreled and regarded everyone with patience and gentleness (1 Apol. 16). In fact, Justin claims, the Christians live in perfect harmony with one another and with the rest of the world:

And we who were filled full of war and slaughter one of another, and every kind of evil, have from out of the whole earth each changed our weapons of war, our swords into ploughshares and our spears into farming tools, and we farm piety, righteousness, the love of humanity, faith, and hope, which comes from the Father himself through him who was crucified

The empire claimed to promote concordialhomonoia ("harmony"), but to Justin it was the Christians who had actually achieved this goal, thanks to the intervention of Christ.37

Throughout the Dialogue, then, Justin presents his Christians as a distinct and holy people, separate from Jews and pre- or non-Christian gentiles. The Jews were the conduit of God's prophecies, but they had been largely cut off from divine guidance in punishment for their misbehavior and their rejection of Christ.38 The gentiles, people from every genos, could be included, but first they were required to transfer their loyalty from the demons to the one true God who then became their "father." Once they did, they were fully incorporated into a privileged group described as a genos, a laos (a people), or a household, a group of people with a common descent and shared expectations regarding hereditary privileges. Justin's language for this process was quite literal: the Christians received a "new inheritance" (8ia0hKh; Dial. 11.2, 119.5); they were "children of Abraham" because of their faith (Dial. 119.5); they had become the "seed of Judah" and the "house of Jacob" born of faith and spirit (Dial. 135.6).39 In this way, Justin places Christians within an ethnoracial hierarchy, linking his Christians, whatever their original genos, to the ancestors of the Jews while eliminating Jews, gentiles and heretics from the group.40 Alienation from Justin's God, however, had universal symptoms and universal consequences: he charges Jews with porneiai (illicit sexlapostasies), blood-thirstiness, demon worship, and child sacrifice (Dial. 16.2, 17.1, 19.9—22.11, 46.1-47.1, 110.5, 131.2—134.1, 151.4);41 he accuses gentiles of prostitution, incest, demon worship, bloodthirstiness, and human sacrifice (i Apol. 9, 21, 25, 54, 64; 2 Apol. 5, 12; Dial. 30.1, 34.7); he associates heretics with demon worship, error, cannibalism, and promiscuous sex (i Apol. 26; Dial. 35.4, 80.3). All of these outsiders will be destroyed by God if they do not repent (i Apol. 5; Dial. 35.7, 141.2). Those Justin wishes to denigrate and exclude—Jew, gentile, or heretic—are said to be guilty of almost identical forms of misbehavior and promised the same horrific "inheritance":

eternal punishment. In Justin's genealogical and moral scheme, therefore, Christians who adopt his authority and perspective are the only genos that can boast a proper lineage as well as the concomitant moral and religious purity. Everyone else is genetically, religiously, and morally corrupt.


Alluding to i Timothy 1:4, Irenaeus begins his refutation of Christian heresies by proposing that some Christians "reject the truth and introduce false narratives [pseudeis logous]," by developing "endless genealogies, seeking after questions" rather than preserving truth (Iren. Adv. Haer. Pr.i). He then proceeds to ridicule their "endless genealogies," distancing himself from the origin myths of the heretics while claiming that his own group preserved the truth about God and origins. To make the latter argument, Irenaeus is quite willing to engage in his own genealogical speculation: Christ Jesus is the one son of God; God is the Father who created all things; the prophets of the Jews received teachings about Christ from the holy spirit before he came; the apostles received the one faith and the one tradition from God through Christ; the church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, guards this true tradition and true faith "as [those] living in one house" (Adv. Haer. 1.10.1—2, 3.3.1-4.2). Father God, divine son, holy spirit, prophet, apostle, bishop, and church were said to form a legitimate chain of command: Christ appointed apostles, who appointed bishops, who in turn appointed (honorable male) successors, thereby safely guarding tradition and truth (Adv. Haer. 3^-3.3.1). Irenaeus places himself within this privileged patrilineage by way of the blessed martyr and bishop Polycarp, a true Christian who had been taught by the apostles: "We ourselves saw him in our early youth, for he lived long and was in extreme old age when he left this life in a most glorious and most noble martyrdom" (Adv. Haer. 3.3.1-4).42 Those who accepted Irenaeus' authority, therefore, could count themselves as members of the one true church and heirs to the divine patrimony (Adv. Haer. 5.28.4-29.1, 5.33.3-35.1). They were "mingled" with the Logos and had become God's own adopted sons (Adv. Haer. 3.19.1). Thus Irenaeus, like Justin before him, contrasted the legitimate genealogical line of Christians with the purportedly illegitimate line of the heretics. Refining Justin's theory of multiple heresies and multiple origins, Irenaeus further suggests that all the heresies had one "father" and therefore one origin: the heresies began with Simon the Samaritan.


Simon the Samaritan, the father of the heresies, was first mentioned by the author of Acts: "Now a certain man named Simon had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he was someone great. All of them, from the least to the greatest, listened to him eagerly, saying, 'This man is the power of God that is called Great' " (Acts 8:9—11, NRSV). Despite his propensity for magic, Simon heard the preaching of the apostle Philip and was convinced, becoming baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Still, after his baptism he sought to buy the power of the holy spirit, provoking a swift rebuke from Peter for his wickedness (Acts 8:14-23). The Simon of Acts, therefore, is accused of greed, but there is no mention of demonic inspiration, prostitutes, continuing magical practices, or a group founded in his name. Simon was next mentioned by Justin: "One certain Simon, a Samaritan from the village called Gitta, during the reign of Claudius Caesar, through the art of the demons who worked in him, did mighty works of magic in your imperial city of Rome and was thought to be a god" (Justin 1 Apol. 26). Justin adds a series of provocative details to the Simon story: Simon traveled with "a certain Helena" who had been a prostitute (proteron epi tegous statheisan), declaring that this former prostitute was his "first thought" and claiming that he and Helena were a god and goddess of sorts. Simon attracted a disciple named Menander who was also animated by demons, who performed magic tricks in Antioch, and who sought to lead the faithful astray (1 Apol. 26). Irenaeus further diverges from the text of Acts: Helena served as Mother of All in Simon's disgraceful creation myth, the members of his heresy venerated the images of their founders in the guise of Zeus (Jupiter) and Athena (Minerva), and their priests engaged in further debauchery and magic (Iren. Adv. Haer. 23.1-5):

The mystic priests of these people live licentious lives and practice magic, each one in whatever way he can. They make use of exorcisms and incantations, love-potions too and philters, and the so-called familiars, and dream-senders. They also have a statue of Simon patterned after Jupiter, and one of Helen patterned after Minerva. They worship these statues. They also have a name for themselves, the "Simonians" derived from Simon the author of this most impious doctrine, from whom the falsely so-called knowledge took its origin, as one can learn from their assertions.43

154 illicit sex, wicked desire, and the demonized heretic

Thus, in Irenaeus' rewriting, the greedy Simon of Acts becomes the founder of a full-fledged libertine heresy.44

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