Justin Martyr: Refutation of Idols and Divine Thcophanics
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ki i;! iln- ii'.i:irv..iU- statues of ,*agajT gods was used \-\<>-. lung IviniL' Minocius Felix wrote his dialogue. Justin Martyr, who lived a century Ih-I'^il1 Minucius Fdix, similarly regarded honoring images ol 11 ■. gods as fotilisli, mi lie also believed them to be ^lively dungt-muK.
A "ding I« Justin, these senseless, fabricated items actual!) had the names and forms ol wicked demurs who deceive gullible humans irto wot illipioj* thtiO and offering religious ¡h.t in.' Kj corruptible (and a>r-rupted) human-made objects Instead, the true deity that Christians worship, he proclaims, has an ineflable appearance and glory, which uannot imii.i:l-lI or represented This nameless God, the source and prti\ ider of all ihings, has no need of constant caretaking and requires human virtue rather than matt rial oft'ei ings.
I ike many of ihe i hristian apologists and writers who followed him (i nt lu d i ilg \ 1 inuci ll- I dix), lusli n .l'_ know] l-lH ^ ih al Oh risl i. i n - i^ree i n teriain respt\ ts wiih the leaching? of pagan poets ard philosophers, he idiiHiiiles ¡-mil-, (bat he and his audience may hold in common, and he appeals both to the tellectual sophislK aiioo .¡is well as i" their . uin mon sense: ! >u why need tell you. ^Iio already know, into what forms tht- ra:\ ■,men, ca rvi ng ail d cutl ingh casti ng an d h a m ni e r i: j;, fash -ion tb4: uiaierials? And oi'ien >n.\ <*!'vessels of dishonor, by merely changing the form, and making an image ■ >f tht requisite shapt\ Lkey-make whal iliey tall a i'.ivR " All irlelligent persons, he asserts, shun the idols of ihi- gods as mere "works of mortal hands11 and,as such, inferior to the trlisan-* who made them.' And although philo&opheri and poets have already said this, Justin argues thai Christians teach nuch truihs more fully and olier proof of their assertions. In this way, lustin elabo rj'ftI [be leacbings u| this new religion in opposition (o pagan Idolatry and by 1 positive) coinpariion .ill philosophy.
I luisf despite his < haractcriziition of ihe popular culture as making and ■.Miiiliipiiig idols, Justin maintained chat Christian profession of the invisibility and incomprehensibility f>( i iod compatible with Lerta.i: tenets of ihe p.i;!-i11 philosophers—an sr^unnem that may have been inlended to make the new faith seem more intellectually and culturally J accepfyhlc to an educated pagan audience At the same time, iIil-< hr -tian assertion thai Ciud i.s ullerly Irsnscendenl of human vision and without de.se r i ha :>le fea 111res seems contradicted by cerl a in Scripture passages, ,ind ill ii run] ui red Home esplaininjq. fust in u.k acutdv aware of and probably somewhat embarrassed bj the frequent biblical portrayals i^l t Sol] ap|varing wiih human characteristics and habits. Fo" example, ^dani and tve "heard the sound of the Loatj * ioii walking in cbe garden m lhe limi' i-I i hi" evening breeze" .^f1'. God smells the pleasing odor Noah's burnt offering ien 8 21). The I ord appears ,uw\ speaks in Ahram in several places :C Ilti 15:1 ,.i \ i-.nn-; ind 18;] ), appears to
Isaac (Gen 26:24), and (apparently) wrestles with Jacob at Petiiel (Gen 32:24-30). God called to Moses out of a burning bush> and 11 Moses hid his face for he was afraid to look at God'1 (Exod 3:2-6). Although the elders of Israel are allowed to see God (Exod 24:9-11), when Moses asks to see God's glory he is denied, since no one may sec God's face and live. Instead, God puts Moses in a rock cleft, covers him with his l<hand:> while God passes by, and allows Moses to have a look at God's 11 back" (Exod 33:18-23). God has heaven as a throne and earth as a footstool (Isa 66:1), gathers the lambs in "his arms," carries them in "his bosom" and measures the waters in the "hollow of his hand" (Isa 40:11 -12).
The prophets Ezekiel and Daniel both describe visions of a divine being with the "likeness of a human form" (Ezek 1:26) or the Ancient One with white raiment and hair like pure wool (Dan 7:9), Jtistin, who repudiated the polytheists1 material and anthropomorphic images of the pagan gods and proclaimed instead that God was beyond human conception or form, was challenged by these texts. He claimed continuity with certain teachings of ancient philosophers, which were (rather safely) critical of certain pagan religious practices. However, so long as his community retained the holy books of the Jews as their own, he needed to resolve these awlcward manifestations of God in their Bible. At the same time, he elaborated the differences between Christian teachings from beliefs he attributed to Tews, in order to demonstrate the unique and salviñc character of Christian faith.
For example, in his first Apology Justin asserts that "all the Jews" understand that it was the "nameless God" or "Father of the Universe" who appeared or spoke to the patriarchs or prophets in Holy Scripture. This belief, he claims, clearly demonstrates that Jews are both ignorant of God as well as of the fact that God s Divine Word (logos) is also God. Furthermore, Justin continues, the Logos appeared to and spoke with Moses and the others, sometimes as fire, but also sometimes in the guise of an angel or apostle. And when the voice out of the bush said to Moses, "i am weio i am" . . . "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Exod 3:14-15), it signified that all of these departed patriarchs now belong to Christ (the Word who has come in the present age as a human being)*' Justin thereby explains all the Old Testament theophanies as chistological events.
In his debate with Lhe Jew Trypho, Justin further elaborates his argument that the attributes ascribed to God jii the Scriptures actually describe the Divine Logos, and the Being that the patriarchs and prophets heard or saw actually was the Divine Word rather than the Supreme God. To this end, Justin cites the story of Abraham and his three visitors at Mam re (Genesis IS). Believing Moses to be the author of Genesis, he notes that the prophet declares that the one who appeared to Abraham under the oak in Mam re is God, "sent with the two angels in his company to judge Sodom by another who remains ever in the
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