Thursday, October 10, 2013

Justin's Dialogue with Trypho

So far, I have read two apologies by Justin Martyr and loved them.  Now that I'm reading his dialogue with a Jewish man named Trypho, I'm liking it even more.  First, Justin meets Trypho who asks him about God and philosophy.

Justin first says, "Philosophy is, in fact, the greatest possession, and most honourable before God, to whom it leads us and alone commends u; and these are truly holy men who have bestowed attention on philosophy."  He goes on to say that the first people to handle philosophy passed down their art to people who made no investigation concerning the truth.  They simply followed their leaders without question, not making sure they believe the teachings for themselves.

Then, Justin relates the story of when he converted to Christ.  He was in a field seeking solitude, when the man who lived there came and talked to him.  The man asks him what is philosophy, and what is happiness?

Justin replied, "Philosophy is the knowledge of that which really exists and a clear perception of the truth.  Happiness is the reward of such knowledge and wisdom."

What do you call God?

"That which always maintains the same nature, and in the same manner, and is the cause of all other things."

The anonymous man then asks that if there was an animal described in another country, and people who have never seen it describe it, do they really know the animal?  In the same way, how can philosophers judge correctly about God or speak any truth, when they have no knowledge of him having neither seen him at any time nor hear him?

Justin was still following Plato who says that the Deity can only be discerned with the mind.

The men keep talking and soon discuss if the soul can see God.  Can our inner beings see God on their own?  The man concludes that souls neither see God nor transmigrate into other bodies for they would know that they are so punished and they would be afraid to commit even the most trivial sin afterwards.  But they can perceive that God exists.  But no, they cannot see God in all his glory.

Furthermore, the soul is not immortal because it was begotten.  It had a beginning.  Platonists think that the soul is immortal and unbegotten.  They say the same thing about the world, but even Justin agrees that it is not so.

"For to live is not the soul's attribute as it is God's."

Finally, Justin breaks down and says, "should anyone then employ a teacher or whence may one be helped if not even in them there is truth?"  The man assures him that before this time, ancient men, both righteous and beloved by God who spoke to them by the Divine Spirit.  Apart from God's revelation they would not know the exact truth of God.  They would only know of him.  "These things cannot be perceived or understood by all but only by the man to whom God and his Christ have imparted wisdom."

At that, Justin believed in Jesus and followed him since.  Trypho's friends laugh at Justin, and even Trypho still wants to stick the the Jewish beliefs and rituals, believing that Christ didn't even know Christ.  Justin forgives the guy and says, "You know not what you say and have been persuaded by teachers who do not understand the Scriptures."  Soon, Justin walks away as Trypho's friends keep laughing, but Trypho follows, so they go off by themselves.  Trypho asks him why he does not get circumcised and follow the feasts and rites?  Justin will answer in the next post about this.

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