The Holy Martyr Justin the Philosopher was born at Sykhem – an ancient city of Samaria. Justin’s parents, being Greeks, were pagan. From the time of his childhood the saint displayed profundity of mind, love for knowledge, and a fervent devotion to the cognition of Truth. When he came of age he studied the various schools of Greek philosophy: the Stoics, the Peripatetics (Aristotelians), the Pythagoreans, the Platonists – and he concluded that none of these pagan teachings revealed the way to the knowledge of the True God.
Once, when he was strolling in a solitary place beyond the city and pondering about where to seek out the way to the knowledge of Truth, he met an old man, who in the ensuing conversation revealed to Justin the essential essence of the Christian teaching and advised him to seek out the solutions to all the questions of life in the books of Holy Scripture. “But before anything else,” said the holy elder, “pray diligently to God, so that He might open to thee the doors of Light. No one is able to comprehend Truth, unless it be given him in understanding by God Himself, Who revealeth it to each that seeketh Him in prayer and in love.”
In his thirtieth year of life, Justin accepted holy Baptism (between the years 133 and 137). From this time Saint Justin devoted his talents and vast philosophical knowledge to preaching the Gospel among the pagans. He began to journey about throughout the Roman empire, everywhere sowing the seeds of the faith of salvation. “Whosoever is able to proclaim Truth and does not proclaim, that one will be condemned by God,” he wrote.
Justin opened up a school where he preached Christian philosophy. Saint Justin subsequently defended the veracity and the salvificity of the Christian teaching, persuasively confuting pagan sophistry (thus, for example, in a debate with the Cynic philosopher Crescentius) and heretical distortions of Christianity (in particular, he spoke out against the teachings of the Gnostic, Marcian).
In about the year 155, when the emperor Antoninus Pius (138-161) started a persecution against Christians, Saint Justin personally gave him an “Apologia” in defense of Christians innocently condemned to execution – Ptolemy and Lucias, the name of a third remaining unknown. In the “Apologia” he demonstrated the falseness of the slander against Christians accused “unjustly for the mere name as loathsome and transgressive Christians.” The “Apologia” made such a favourable effect upon the emperor that he ceased with the persecution. Saint Justin journeyed with the decision of the emperor to Asia Minor, where they were persecuting Christians with particular severity, and he himself distributed the joyous message about the imperial edict throughout the surrounding cities and countryside.
At Ephesus occurred the debate of Saint Justin with the Rabbi Trypho. The Orthodox philosopher on the basis of the Old Testament prophetic writings demonstrated the truth of the Christian teaching of faith. Saint Justin gave an account of this debate in his work “Dialogue with Trypho the Jew.”
A second “Apologia” of Saint Justin was addressed to the Roman Senate. It was written in the year 161, soon after Marcus Aurelius (161-180) ascended the throne.
Having returned to Italy, Saint Justin, like the Apostles, preached everywhere the Gospel and by his Divinely-inspired words he converted many to the Christian faith. When the saint arrived at Rome, the envious Crescentius, whom Justin always defeated in debate, brought against him many false accusations before the Roman court. Saint Justin was put under guard, subjected to torture and accepted a martyr’s death (+ 166).
In addition to the above-mentioned works, the following array of compositions belong to the holy martyr Justin the Philosopher: “Observations about the Soul,” “Demonstration against the Hellenes,” “Speech against the Hellenes.” Saint John Damascene preserved a significant part of a non-surviving work of Saint Justin “About the Resurrection.” The church historian Eusebius asserts that by Saint Justin were written books entitled “The Singer,” “Denunciation of all Existing Heresies,” and “Against Marcian.”
The relics of Saint Justin the Philosopher rest in Rome, and in the Russian Church the memory of the martyr is particularly glorified in temples of his name.