Friday, August 26, 2005

Saint Justin Martyr- Apologist and Martyr

Justin Martyr was born circa 100 AD at at Nablus, Palestine (Samaria) of pagan parents. He was an early Christian Apologist (defender of the faith), and although he was most certainly not the first apologist, his writings which are still existent, are the earliest surviving apologies. Most of what we know of his life come from his writings, three of which the majority of scholars agree are attributable to him, and some later writings mentioning him and his writings from Eusebius, Saint Irenaeus, and Saint Jerome. There are some other works in which Saint Justin is identified as the author, but, most scholars attribute these to having been written by unknown sources one to three centuries or more after his death. The works most definitely agreed upon as being his are (the titles are clickable links to read the works) :

Justin calls himself a Samaritan, but, his father and grandfather were most likely Greek or Roman, and he was raised a pagan. He began searching for God, and he began studying philosophy as a means to help him understand God, and to bring him closer to God, as he felt that only philosophy could bring him true knowledge and understanding of God.

In the beginning of “The Dialogue with Trypho”, Justin relates his story of his vain search for the knowledge of God among the Stoics ( an originally Greek school of philosophy, founded by Zeno about 308 B.C., believing that God determined everything for the best and that virtue is sufficient for happiness. Its later Roman form advocated the calm acceptance of all occurrences as the unavoidable result of divine will or of the natural order), Peripatetics (followers of the philosophy of Aristotle), and Pythagoreans (philosophy expounded by Pythagoras, distinguished chiefly by its description of reality in terms of arithmetical relationships).

Among the Stoics, he found he had learned nothing about God,and that his teacher had nothing to teach him on God. The Peripatetic teacher welcomed him at first, yet later demanded a fee, proving to Justin that this “teacher” was not a philosopher. The Pythagorean teacher refused to accept him until he had learned music, astronomy, and geometry. He found what he thought was the most helpful philosophy for him in the ideas of Plato, yet even still he was not quite satisfied, not quite happy with what he was finding.

He was still infatuated with Platonist philosophy, when he went for a walk alone along the seashore one day, as he had done many times before, in an area where he never saw anyone else, and where he could think and consider what he had learned from the Platonist school of thought. This day however, he unexpectedly met an old man who was searching “for members of his household”. They began a discussion, and the old man convinced him, that there could be no understanding of God through human knowledge, and that only through the Prophets and the guidance of the Holy Spirit could man know God. He showed to Justin, how the Prophets told of the coming of Jesus Christ, and that Christ was the fulfillment of all that the Prophets had said, taught, and written. He convinced Justin, that Christianity was a far nobler philosophy than anything he had yet studied. Justin was never to see this man again, and he felt the urge to learn more about these Prophets and these Christians. He became convinced, that Christianity, was the true philosophy, and he converted and was baptized at the age of 30. Later in his “Second Apology”, he would write, "When I was a disciple of Plato, hearing the accusations made against the Christians and seeing them intrepid in the face of death and of all that men fear, I said to myself that it was impossible that they should be living in evil and in the love of pleasure" (Second Apology, Chapter 18).

Saint Justin continued to wear his philosophers gown, to indicate that he had attained to the truth. For Saint Justin knew he had now attained the true philosophy, and traveled widely where he would contend with pagans, and use his philosophical skills to explain and defend the Faith. He eventually made his way to Rome where he opened a school of public debate. In the year 165 AD, along with six others, Saint Justin Martyr (during the persecutions of the emperor Marcus Aurelius) was tried before the Roman Prefect Rusticus, and they were all condemned and were beheaded.

The account of the trial still exists (read it in entirety here: Martyrdom of Saint Justin), and some excerpts are included below. Along with six others (Chariton, Charito, Euelpistus, Hierax, Paeon, and Liberianus) he was brought before the Roman prefect, Rusticus:

And when they had been brought before his judgment-seat, said to Justin, “Obey the gods at once, and submit to the kings.” Justin said, “To obey the commandments of our Saviour Jesus Christ is worthy neither of blame nor of condemnation.” Rusticus the prefect said, “What kind of doctrines do you profess?” Justin said, “I have endeavoured to learn all doctrines; but I have acquiesced at last in the true doctrines, those namely of the Christians, even though they do not please those who hold false opinions.” Rusticus the prefect said, “Are those the doctrines that please you, you utterly wretched man?” Justin said, “Yes, since I adhere to them with right dogma.” Rusticus the prefect said, “What is the dogma?” Justin said, “That according to which we worship the God of the Christians, whom we reckon to be one from the beginning, the maker and fashioner of the whole creation, visible and invisible; and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who had also been preached beforehand by the prophets as about to be present with the race of men, the herald of salvation and teacher of good disciples. And I, being a man, think that what I can say is insignificant in comparison with His boundless divinity, acknowledging a certain prophetic power, since it was prophesied concerning Him of whom now I say that He is the Son of God. For I know that of old the prophets foretold His appearance among men.”

...Rusticus the prefect said, “Tell me where you assemble, or into what place do you collect your followers?” Justin said, “I live above one Martinus, at the Timiotinian Bath; and during the whole time (and I am now living in Rome for the second time) I am unaware of any other meeting than his. And if any one wished to come to me, I communicated to him the doctrines of truth.” Rusticus said, “Are you not, then, a Christian?” Justin said, “Yes, I am a Christian.”

The prefect says to Justin, “Hearken, you who are called learned, and think that you know true doctrines; if you are scourged and beheaded, do you believe you will ascend into heaven?” Justin said, “I hope that, if I endure these things, I shall have His gifts. For I know that, to all who have thus lived, there abides the divine favour until the completion of the whole world.” Rusticus the prefect said, “Do you suppose, then, that you will ascend into heaven to receive some recompense?” Justin said, “I do not suppose it, but I know and am fully persuaded of it.” Rusticus the prefect said, “Let us, then, now come to the matter in hand, and which presses. Having come together, offer sacrifice with one accord to the gods.” Justin said, “No right-thinking person falls away from piety to impiety.” Rusticus the prefect said, “Unless ye obey, ye shall be mercilessly punished.” Justin said, “Through prayer we can be saved on account of our Lord Jesus Christ, even when we have been punished, because this shall become to us salvation and confidence at the more fearful and universal judgment-seat of our Lord and Saviour.” Thus also said the other martyrs: “Do what you will, for we are Christians, and do not sacrifice to idols.”

Rusticus the prefect pronounced sentence, saying, “Let those who have refused to sacrifice to the gods and to yield to the command of the emperor be scourged, and led away to suffer the punishment of decapitation, according to the laws.” The holy martyrs having glorified God, and having gone forth to the accustomed place, were beheaded, and perfected their testimony in the confession of the Saviour. And some of the faithful having secretly removed their bodies, laid them in a suitable place, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ having wrought along with them, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.


This is from Saint Jerome's work, "Lives of Illustrious Men":
Justin the philosopher

Justin, a philosopher, and wearing the garb of philosopher, a citizen of Neapolis, a city of Palestine, and the son of Priscus Bacchius, laboured strenuously in behalf of the religion of Christ, insomuch that he delivered to Antoninus Pius and his sons and the senate, a work written Against the nations, and did not shun the ignominy of the cross. He addressed another book also to the successors of this Antoninus, Marcus Antoninus Verus and Lucius Aurelius Com-modus. Another volume of his Against the nations, is also extant, where he discusses the nature of demons, and a fourth against the nations which he entitled, Refutation and yet another On the sovereignty of God, and another book which be entitled, Psaltes, and another On the Soul, the Dialogue against the Jews, which he held against Trypho, the leader of the Jews, and also notable volumes Against Marcion, which Irenaeus also mentions in the fourth book Against heresies, also another book Against all heresies which he mentions in the Apology which is addressed to Antoninus Pius. He, when he had held diatribae in the city of Rome, and had convicted Crescens the cynic, who said many blasphemous things against the Christians, of gluttony and fear of death, and bad proved him devoted to luxury and lusts, at last, accused of being a Christian, through the efforts and wiles of Crescens, he shed his blood for Christ.

Copyright © 2005 - 2014 Steve Smith. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Saint Ignatius of Antioch

Saint, Apostolic Father, Martyr, And Bishop

Saint Ignatius of Antioch was born in Syria circa 35 AD and died circa 107 AD in Rome, martyred by being thrown to “the wild beasts” (lions). Saint Ignatius is probably best known by most Catholics for his being the first of the writings of the Early Church where the word Catholic is used in describing the Church.

Saint Ignatius, like Saint Polycarp of Smyrna, had been a disciple of Saint John the Apostle. Saint Ignatius was also known as Theophorous , meaning God-Bearer. One reason given for this name is that many of the early writers declared that Saint Ignatius was the infant that Jesus took in his arms and sat in the midst of His Disciples in Mark 9. With Saint Peter being the first Bishop of Antioch, Saint Ignatius was the third, having been appointed bishop by Saint Peter himself.

Saint Ignatius was a learned and courageous leader of his flock. During the persecutions under the emperor Domitian, Ignatius worked diligently to encourage the weaker members of his flock, and did all he could to protect and defend his flock of believers. With the death of Domitian, the persecutions ended for a brief while, and in truth, Saint Ignatius was disappointed that he had not been martyred for Christ. He did not have to wait long, as the persecutions soon began again under the emperor Trajan. According to “The Martyrdom of Ignatius”, Trajan “being lifted up [with pride], after the victory he had gained over the Scythians and Dacians, and many other nations”, saw the Christians as the only obstacle “to complete the subjugation of all things to himself". He then threatened to renew the persecutions against the Christians unless they began to worship and offer sacrifice to the gods of Rome. Trajan made his way to Antioch, and Saint Ignatius once again worked tirelessly to protect his flock, and in so doing brought attention to himself and his successful efforts from the emperor Trajan.

He was taken before Trajan, who called him wicked for refusing to obey the commands of the emperor and for encouraging others to disobey. According to “The Martyrdom of Ignatius”, Ignatius replied "No one ought to call Theophorus wicked; for all evil spirits have departed from the servants of God. But if, because I am an enemy to these [spirits], you call me wicked in respect to them, I quite agree with you; for inasmuch as I have Christ the King of heaven [within me], I destroy all the devices of these [evil spirits]." Trajan asked him many others things, and made other accusations against Saint Ignatius, and when Saint Ignatius proclaimed Christ in his heart, Trajan commanded that Ignatius be carried from Antioch to Rome to be fed to “the beasts” for the “gratification of the people”. The trip from Antioch in Syria to Rome, was a trip that would take months to complete.

How did Saint Ignatius react to this command from the emperor? Again, according to “The Martyrdom of Ignatius”, Ignatius cried out with much joy, "I thank thee, O Lord, that Thou hast vouchsafed to honor me with a perfect love towards Thee, and hast made me to be bound with iron chains, like Thy Apostle Paul."

Soon, the other Church's in Asia Minor heard of Ignatius, bound in chains being taken captive to Rome, and many of the Church's either went out en masse, or sent representatives, to encourage and talk to Saint Ignatius as he passed. Among those who came to encourage and strengthen him, was Saint Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna.

In response, Saint Ignatius wrote seven Epistles. To the Church's that came or sent delegates, he wrote five: Ephesians, Magnesians, Trallians, Philadelphians, and Smyrnaeans. He wrote one to Saint Polycarp, and one to the congregation that would meet him at the end of the journey, Romans. In his letter to the Romans he mentions the hardships of his journey and compares the ten soldiers accompanying him to leopards, "From Syria even to Rome I fight with wild beasts, by land and sea, by night and by day, being bound amidst ten leopards, even a company of soldiers, who only grow worse when they are kindly treated."

His letter to the Romans is probably the best known, and in it, he exhorts the Roman congregation not to make any efforts to secure his release, to not deny him this act of dying for God. He wrote:"I am writing to all the churches to let it be known that I will gladly die for God if only you do not stand in my way. I plead with you: show me no untimely kindness. Let me be food for the wild beasts, for they are my way to God. I am God's wheat and bread. Pray to Christ for me that the animals will be the means of making me a sacrificial victim for God...The prince of this world is determined to lay hold of me and to undermine my will which is intent on God. Let none of you here help him; instead show yourselves on my side, which is also God's side...Rather within me is the living water which says deep inside me: "Come to the Father."

As stated earlier, Saint Ignatius was the first to use the word “catholic” in describing the Church. In his seven Epistles, he speaks of Church Doctrine and teachings. He was the first writer to emphasize the virgin birth, and viewed the mystery of the Trinity as a doctrine of faith, he said the only way to fight heresy, is the Church united under a bishop. All the core beliefs of Christ's Church, the Roman Catholic Church, can be found in Saint Ignatius' seven epistles.

You may click on the title to read “The Epistles of Ignatius”online. Click on this title to read “The Martyrdom of Ignatius”.

Now below are some excerpts from various Saints and other sources on Saint Ignatius of Antioch.

From The Golden Legend: "It is read that Saint Ignatius in all his torments and all the pains of martyrdom that he suffered, that his tongue never ceased to name the name of Jesus, and when they that tormented him demanded him wherefore he named this name so oft, he answered: Know ye for certain that I have in my heart this name written, and therefore I may not leave to name this name oft. And because hereof, when he was dead, they that heard these words opened his body and drew out his heart and cut it open, and they found within the name of Jesus written with fair letters of gold, for which miracle many received the faith of Jesu Christ."

Homily of Saint John Chrysostom on Saint Ignatius of Antioch: “For that which Christ declared to be the highest standard and rule of the Episcopal office, did this man display by his deeds. For having heard Christ saying, the good shepherd layeth down his life for the sheep, with all courage he did lay it down for the sheep.”

Cardinal Newman said ("The Theology of the Seven Epistles of St. Ignatius", in "Historical Sketches", I, London, 1890): "the whole system of Catholic doctrine may be discovered, at least in outline, not to say in parts filled up, in the course of his seven epistles".


This is from Saint Jerome's work, "Lives of Illustrious Men":

Ignatius the bishop

Ignatius, third bishop of the church of Antioch after Peter the apostle, condemned to the wild beasts during the persecution of Trajan, was sent bound to Rome, and when he had come on his voyage as far as Smyrna, where Polycarp the pupil of John was bishop, he wrote one epistle To the Ephesians, another To the Magnesians, a third To the Trallians, a fourth To the Romans, and going thence, he wrote To the Philadelphians and To the Smyrneans, and especially To Polycarp, commending to him the church at Antioch. In this last he bore witness to the Gospel which I have recently translated, in respect of the person of Christ saying, "I indeed saw him in the flesh after the resurrection and I believe that he is," and when he came to Peter and those who were with Peter, he said to them, "Behold! touch me and see me bow that I am not an incorporeal spirit" and straightway they touched him and believed. Moreover it seems worth while inasmuch as we have made mention of such a man and of the Epistle which he wrote to the Romans, to give a few "quotations" : "From Syria even unto Rome I fight with wild beasts, by land and by sea, by night and by day, being bound amidst ten leopards, that is to say soldiers who guard me and who only become worse when they are well treated. Their wrong doing, however is my schoolmaster, but I am not thereby justified. May I have joy of the beasts that are prepared for me; and I pray that I may find them ready; I will even coax them to devour me quickly that they may not treat me as they have some whom they have refused to touch through fear. And if they are unwilling, I will compel them to devour me. Forgive me my children, I know what is expedient for me. Now do I begin to be a disciple, and desire none of the things visible that I may attain unto Jesus Christ. Let fire and cross and attacks of wild beasts, let wrenching of bones, cutting apart of limbs, crushing of the whole body, tortures of the devil, let all these come upon me if only I may attain unto the joy which is in Christ." When he had been condemned to the wild beasts and with zeal for martyrdom heard the lions roaring, he said "I am the grain of Christ. I am ground by the teeth of the wild beasts that I may be found the bread of the world." He was put to death the eleventh year of Trajan and the remains of his body lie in Antioch outside the Daphnitic gate in the cemetery.

Copyright © 2005 Steve Smith. All rights reserved.

Monday, August 08, 2005


Saint Polycarp

We have read so much from the writings of the Apostles in the Bible, the Early Church Fathers, and their writings, and oftentimes, their martyrdom for their Faith, and their refusal to deny that Faith. The martyred great Saint Polycarp of Smyrna, who, when taken into the stadium, found himself being urged by the proconsul to deny Christ. The proconsul said to Saint Polycarp such things as “Have respect to thy old age” and “swear by the fortune of Caesar; repent, and say, Away with the Atheists.”

Now Saint Polycarp, this holy, venerable Bishop of Smyrna (modern day Izmir, Turkey), was 86 years old, and had himself been a disciple of Saint John the Apostle. He had written an Epistle to the Philippians encouraging the Church there. For his entire life, he had followed Christ, and now here he was, taken before a hostile crowd who's thirst for the blood of the Faithful was virtually unquenchable. The crowd was eager to see him “torn by the wild beasts” as they had seen many of the Christians killed for their faith, but, they thirsted more for this great Saints blood, because they thought with his death, that this Christianity would be purged from among them.
Upon entering the stadium, Saint Polycarp and those “brethren with him”, heard “a voice from heaven, saying, 'Be strong, and show thyself a man, O Polycarp'!” None of those in the stands of the stadium, nor the proconsul or guards heard it. So, when the proconsul had uttered the words, “...say, Away with the Atheists”, Saint Polycarp “gazing with a stern countenance on all the multitude of the wicked heathen then in the stadium, and waving his hand towards them, while with groans he looked up to heaven, said, 'Away with the Atheists'.” Saint Polycarp had a vision three days before his capture, and in that vision “the pillow beneath his head seemed to him on fire”, and he knew he would be burnt alive. The fire was described as though the flames were a great sail that encircled him, but, never touched him. When the fire failed to kill him, he was stabbed by a guard with a dagger and he died. This great Saint, like all of the martyrs of the Church, died because he would not deny God! He truly believed, he truly trusted, he truly loved, and he truly had faith IN and FOR God!

The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians” is available online, as well as “The Epistle Concerning the Martyrdom of Polycarp”. Both are an interesting insight to the Early Church and one of its great Saints.


This is from the work of Saint Jerome, "Lives of Illustrious Men":
Polycarp the bishop

Polycarp disciple of the apostle John and by him ordained bishop of Smyrna was chief of all Asia, where he saw and had as teachers some of the apostles and of those who had seen the Lord. He, on account of certain questions concerning the day of the Passover, went to Rome in the time of the emperor Antoninus Pins while Anicetus ruled the church in that city. There he led back to the faith many of the believers who had been deceived through the persuasion of Marcion and Valentinus, and when. Marcion met him by chance and said, "Do you know us?" He replied, "I know the firstborn of the devil." Afterwards during the reign of Marcus Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus in the fourth persecution after Nero, in the presence of the proconsul holding court at Smyrna and all the people crying out against him in the Amphitheater, he was burned. He wrote a very valuable Epistle to the Philippians which is read to the present day in the meetings in Asia. 

Copyright © 2005 Steve Smith. All rights reserved.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Pope Saint Clement I- Early Church Father

Saint Pope Clement I is also known as Clement of Rome. There are differing views as to exactly when and where he was born. The general agreement is that he may have been a freed man from a Roman household. He is generally considered by the Roman Catholic Church to be one of the Greek Fathers and an Apostolic Father. He was the third successor to Peter as Pope, after Linus and Anacletus (Cletus), and writings from other Early Fathers including those of St. Irenaeus, Origen, and St. Jerome, to name a few, say that Clement was baptised by Peter. He was also a contemporary of Paul, and one of the early writers in speaking of Clement, said that "the preaching of the Apostles still rang in his ears".

The one thing that gives us more knowledge about Clement than the first two sucessors of Peter, is Clements "Epistle to the Corinthians", a letter he wrote to the "sojourning Church in Corinth from the sojourning Church in Rome", in regard to a schism happening there. The date of the letter is believed to have been around 96 A.D. His name does not appear in the letter nor did he direct the letter to a bishop at Corinth, but, the letter seems to have been generally intended for all in the Church at Corinth. Clements Epistle, is also the first evidence of papal correction to a Church outside of Rome. The letter he wrote was so highly regarded by the Church at Corinth, that a decade or so later, the bishop in Corinth in a letter to Rome, mentions that the letter from Clement was read at their assemblies. Indeed, this letter was also included in the early Bibles of many of the eastern Churches, before the canon was established in the Latin Vulgate.

He apologizes for sending the letter much later than he wanted, due to: "the suddenly bursting and rapidly succeeding calamities and untoward experiences that have befallen us, we have been somewhat tardy, we think, in giving our attention to the subjects of dispute in your community, beloved". The "calamities and untoward experiences" were due to the persecutions of the Christian community from the emperor Domitian.

He recalls the former reputation of the Church in Corinth, it's piety, obedience, and charity. He warns them that jealousy, in causing their divisions, was also the cause for the fall of Cain and Esau, Saul and others in the Old Testament, and was what led them into sin. He goes on to point out to them, that it was jealousy and envy that was the cause of martyrdom for the Apostles: "Let us take the noble examples of our own generation. It was due to jealousy and envy that the greatest and most holy pillars were persecuted and fought to the death... Peter, who through unmerited jealousy underwent not one or two, but many hardships and, after thus giving testimony, departed for the place of glory that was his due... Paul demonstrated how to win the prize of patient endurance: seven times he was imprisoned; he was forced to leave and stoned ... he won the splendid renown which his faith had earned".

Nevertheless, Clement himself soon began to attract attention, and he was exiled to Crimea. There he was put to work in the mines with other Christians and slaves, and he continued to teach and preach, and gained so many converts it is said, that 75 Churches had to be built. There is also told, how they had to go six miles to get water, and that Clement miraculously brought forth a spring near the mines. Once again (during the reign of the emperor Trajan), Clement began getting notice due to his success, and because of his "disruptions", an anchor was tied around his neck, and he was cast into the Black Sea. The tide went out two miles, and there was a marble tomb exposed, where Clement was "buried by angels". Some years later, Saint Cyril of Alexandria went to the Crimea, and there miraculously found a mound, and upon digging into the mound, found bones and an anchor, which were taken back to Rome as relics of Saint Pope Clement I, and placed in the Basilica of Saint Clement of Rome.

Clements letter is a true treasure in that it gives us insight to the early Church in Rome that we might not otherwise have. It is also obvious from reading his letter to Corinth, that Clements references to scripture, or events in scripture were almost entirely from the Old Testament. He does make mention of Saint Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians, and the Epistle to the Romans. This has led some to believe that Clement may have indeed been a Jewish convert to Christianity, due to his frequent use of the Old Testament in his epistle, although some also think he may have been Greek. Whether he was Jewish or Gentile matters not at all, because he was Roman. Regardless, what we have from Saint Pope Clement is valuable insight to the early Church, and his epistle is well worth the read, and can be read by clicking on the title, "The Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians".


This is from Saint Jerome's work, "Lives of Illustrious Men":

Clemens the bishop

Clement, of whom the apostle Paul writing to the Philippians says "With Clement and others of my fellow-workers whose names are written in the book of life," the fourth bishop of Rome after Peter, if indeed the second was Linus and the third Anacletus, although most of the Latins think that Clement was second after the apostle. He wrote, on the part of the church of Rome, an especially valuable Letter to the church of the Corinthians, which in some places is publicly read, and which seems to me to agree in style with the epistle to the Hebrews which passes under the name of Paul but it differs from this same epistle, not only in many of its ideas, but also in respect of the order of words, and its likeness in either respect is not very great. There is also a second Epistle under his name which is rejected by earlier writers, and a Disputation between Peter and Appion written out at length, which Eusebius in the third book of his Church history rejects. He died in the third year of Trajan and a church built at Rome preserves the memory of his name unto this day.

Copyright © 2005 Steve Smith. All rights reserved.

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