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Home > Fathers of the Church > Dialogue with Trypho (Justin Martyr) > Chapters 48-54

Dialogue with Trypho (Chapters 48-54)

Chapter 48. Before the divinity of Christ is proved, he [Trypho] demands that it be settled that He is Christ

Trypho: We have heard what you think of these matters. Resume the discourse where you left off, and bring it to an end. For some of it appears to me to be paradoxical, and wholly incapable of proof. For when you say that this Christ existed as God before the ages, then that He submitted to be born and become man, yet that He is not man of man, this [assertion] appears to me to be not merely paradoxical, but also foolish.

Justin: I know that the statement does appear to be paradoxical, especially to those of your race, who are ever unwilling to understand or to perform the [requirements] of God, but [ready to perform] those of your teachers, as God Himself declares. Isaiah 29:13 Now assuredly, Trypho, [the proof] that this man is the Christ of God does not fail, though I be unable to prove that He existed formerly as Son of the Maker of all things, being God, and was born a man by the Virgin. But since I have certainly proved that this man is the Christ of God, whoever He be, even if I do not prove that He pre-existed, and submitted to be born a man of like passions with us, having a body, according to the Father's will; in this last matter alone is it just to say that I have erred, and not to deny that He is the Christ, though it should appear that He was born man of men, and [nothing more] is proved [than this], that He has become Christ by election. For there are some, my friends, of our race, who admit that He is Christ, while holding Him to be man of men; with whom I do not agree, nor would I, even though most of those who have [now] the same opinions as myself should say so; since we were enjoined by Christ Himself to put no faith in human doctrines, but in those proclaimed by the blessed prophets and taught by Himself.

Chapter 49. To those who object that Elijah has not yet come, he replies that he is the precursor of the first advent

Trypho: Those who affirm him to have been a man, and to have been anointed by election, and then to have become Christ, appear to me to speak more plausibly than you who hold those opinions which you express. For we all expect that Christ will be a man [born] of men, and that Elijah when he comes will anoint him. But if this man appear to be Christ, he must certainly be known as man [born] of men; but from the circumstance that Elijah has not yet come, I infer that this man is not He [the Christ].

Justin: Does not Scripture, in the book of Zechariah, Malachi 4:5 say that Elijah shall come before the great and terrible day of the Lord?

Trypho: Certainly.

Justin: If therefore Scripture compels you to admit that two advents of Christ were predicted to take place—one in which He would appear suffering, and dishonoured, and without comeliness; but the other in which He would come glorious and Judge of all, as has been made manifest in many of the fore-cited passages—shall we not suppose that the word of God has proclaimed that Elijah shall be the precursor of the great and terrible day, that is, of His second advent?

Trypho: Certainly.

Justin: And, accordingly, our Lord in His teaching proclaimed that this very thing would take place, saying that Elijah would also come. And we know that this shall take place when our Lord Jesus Christ shall come in glory from heaven; whose first manifestation the Spirit of God who was in Elijah preceded as herald in [the person of] John, a prophet among your nation; after whom no other prophet appeared among you. He cried, as he sat by the river Jordan: 'I baptize you with water to repentance; but He that is stronger than I shall come, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and will gather the wheat into the barn; but the chaff He will burn up with unquenchable fire.' Matthew 3:11-12 And this very prophet your king Herod had shut up in prison; and when his birthday was celebrated, and the niece of the same Herod by her dancing had pleased him, he told her to ask whatever she pleased. Then the mother of the maiden instigated her to ask the head of John, who was in prison; and having asked it, [Herod] sent and ordered the head of John to be brought in on a charger. Wherefore also our Christ said, [when He was] on earth, to those who were affirming that Elijah must come before Christ: 'Elijah shall come, and restore all things; but I say unto you, that Elijah has already come, and they knew him not, but have done to him whatsoever they chose.' Matthew 17:12 And it is written, 'Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them about John the Baptist.'

Trypho: This statement also seems to me paradoxical; namely, that the prophetic Spirit of God, who was in Elijah, was also in John.

Justin: Do you not think that the same thing happened in the case of Joshua the son of Nave (Nun), who succeeded to the command of the people after Moses, when Moses was commanded to lay his hands on Joshua, and God said to him, 'I will take of the spirit which is in you, and put it on him?'

Trypho: Certainly.

Justin: As therefore, while Moses was still among men, God took of the spirit which was in Moses and put it on Joshua, even so God was able to cause [the spirit] of Elijah to come upon John; in order that, as Christ at His first coming appeared inglorious, even so the first coming of the spirit, which remained always pure in Elijah like that of Christ, might be perceived to be inglorious. For the Lord said He would wage war against Amalek with concealed hand; and you will not deny that Amalek fell. But if it is said that only in the glorious advent of Christ war will be waged with Amalek, how great will the fulfilment of Scripture be which says, 'God will wage war against Amalek with concealed hand!' You can perceive that the concealed power of God was in Christ the crucified, before whom demons, and all the principalities and powers of the earth, tremble.

Chapter 50. It is proved from Isaiah that John is the precursor of Christ

Trypho: You seem to me to have come out of a great conflict with many persons about all the points we have been searching into, and therefore quite ready to return answers to all questions put to you. Answer me then, first, how you can show that there is another God besides the Maker of all things; and then you will show, [further], that He submitted to be born of the Virgin.

Justin: Give me permission first of all to quote certain passages from the prophecy of Isaiah, which refer to the office of forerunner discharged by John the Baptist and prophet before this our Lord Jesus Christ.

Trypho: I grant it.

Justin: Isaiah thus foretold John's forerunning: 'And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, Good is the word of the Lord which He spoke: Let there be peace and righteousness in my days.' Isaiah 39:8 And, 'Encourage the people; you priests, speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and encourage her, because her humiliation is accomplished. Her sin is annulled; for she has received of the Lord's hand double for her sins. A voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the ways of the Lord; make straight the paths of our God. Every valley shall be filled up, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough way shall be plain ways; and the glory of the Lord shall be seen, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God: for the Lord has spoken it. A voice of one saying, Cry; and I said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass has withered, and the flower of it has fallen away; but the word of the Lord endures for ever. You that bringest good tidings to Zion, go up to the high mountain; you that bringest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with strength. Lift up, be not afraid; tell the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the Lord comes with strength, and [His] arm comes with authority. Behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. As a shepherd He will tend His flock, and will gather the lambs with [His] arm, and cheer on her that is with young. Who has measured the water with [his] hand, and the heaven with a span, and all the earth with [his] fist? Who has weighed the mountains, and [put] the valleys into a balance? Who has known the mind of the Lord? And who has been His counsellor, and who shall advise Him? Or with whom did He take counsel, and he instructed Him? Or who showed Him judgment? Or who made Him to know the way of understanding? All the nations are reckoned as a drop of a bucket, and as a turning of a balance, and shall be reckoned as spittle. But Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor the beasts sufficient for a burnt-offering; and all the nations are considered nothing, and for nothing.' Isaiah 40:1-17

Chapter 51. It is proved that this prophecy has been fulfilled

Trypho: All the words of the prophecy you repeat, sir, are ambiguous, and have no force in proving what you wish to prove.

Justin: If the prophets had not ceased, so that there were no more in your nation, Trypho, after this John, it is evident that what I say in reference to Jesus Christ might be regarded perhaps as ambiguous. But if John came first calling on men to repent, and Christ, while [John] still sat by the river Jordan, having come, put an end to his prophesying and baptizing, and preached also Himself, saying that the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and that He must suffer many things from the Scribes and Pharisees, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again, and would appear again in Jerusalem, and would again eat and drink with His disciples; and foretold that in the interval between His [first and second] advent, as I previously said, priests and false prophets would arise in His name, which things do actually appear; then how can they be ambiguous, when you may be persuaded by the facts? Moreover, He referred to the fact that there would be no longer in your nation any prophet, and to the fact that men recognised how that the New Testament, which God formerly announced [His intention of] promulgating, was then present, i.e., Christ Himself; and in the following terms: 'The law and the prophets were until John the Baptist; from that time the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. And if you can receive it, he is Elijah, who was to come. He that has ears to hear, let him hear.' Matthew 11:12-15

Chapter 52. Jacob predicted two advents of Christ

Justin: And it was prophesied by Jacob the patriarch that there would be two advents of Christ, and that in the first He would suffer, and that after He came there would be neither prophet nor king in your nation (I proceeded), and that the nations who believed in the suffering Christ would look for His future appearance. And for this reason the Holy Spirit had uttered these truths in a parable, and obscurely: for it is said, 'Judah, your brethren have praised you: your hands [shall be] on the neck of your enemies; the sons of your father shall worship you. Judah is a lion's cub; from the germ, my son, you are sprung up. Reclining, he lay down like a lion, and like [a lion's] cub: who shall raise him up? A ruler shall not depart from Judah, or a leader from his thighs, until that which is laid up in store for him shall come; and he shall be the desire of nations, binding his foal to the vine, and the foal of his ass to the tendril of the vine. He shall wash his garments in wine, and his vesture in the blood of the grape. His eyes shall be bright with wine, and his teeth white like milk.' Genesis 49:8-12 Moreover, that in your nation there never failed either prophet or ruler, from the time when they began until the time when this Jesus Christ appeared and suffered, you will not venture shamelessly to assert, nor can you prove it. For though you affirm that Herod, after whose [reign] He suffered, was an Ashkelonite, nevertheless you admit that there was a high priest in your nation; so that you then had one who presented offerings according to the law of Moses, and observed the other legal ceremonies; also [you had] prophets in succession until John, (even then, too, when your nation was carried captive to Babylon, when your land was ravaged by war, and the sacred vessels carried off); there never failed to be a prophet among you, who was lord, and leader, and ruler of your nation. For the Spirit which was in the prophets anointed your kings, and established them. But after the manifestation and death of our Jesus Christ in your nation, there was and is nowhere any prophet: nay, further, you ceased to exist under your own king, your land was laid waste, and forsaken like a lodge in a vineyard; and the statement of Scripture, in the mouth of Jacob, 'And He shall be the desire of nations,' meant symbolically His two advents, and that the nations would believe in Him; which facts you may now at length discern. For those out of all the nations who are pious and righteous through the faith of Christ, look for His future appearance.

Chapter 53. Jacob predicted that Christ would ride on an ass, and Zechariah confirms it

Justin: And that expression, 'binding his foal to the vine, and the ass's foal to the vine tendril,' was a declaring beforehand both of the works wrought by Him at His first advent, and also of that belief in Him which the nations would repose. For they were like an unharnessed foal, which was not bearing a yoke on its neck, until this Christ came, and sent His disciples to instruct them; and they bore the yoke of His word, and yielded the neck to endure all [hardships], for the sake of the good things promised by Himself, and expected by them. And truly our Lord Jesus Christ, when He intended to go into Jerusalem, requested His disciples to bring Him a certain ass, along with its foal, which was bound in an entrance of a village called Bethphage; and having seated Himself on it, He entered into Jerusalem. And as this was done by Him in the manner in which it was prophesied in precise terms that it would be done by the Christ, and as the fulfilment was recognised, it became a clear proof that He was the Christ. And though all this happened and is proved from Scripture, you are still hard-hearted. Nay, it was prophesied by Zechariah, one of the twelve [prophets], that such would take place, in the following words: 'Rejoice greatly, daughter of Zion; shout, and declare, daughter of Jerusalem; behold, your King shall come to you, righteous, bringing salvation, meek, and lowly, riding on an ass, and the foal of an ass.' Zechariah 9:9 Now, that the Spirit of prophecy, as well as the patriarch Jacob, mentioned both an ass and its foal, which would be used by Him; and, further, that He, as I previously said, requested His disciples to bring both beasts; [this fact] was a prediction that you of the synagogue, along with the Gentiles, would believe in Him. For as the unharnessed colt was a symbol of the Gentiles even so the harnessed ass was a symbol of your nation. For you possess the law which was imposed [upon you] by the prophets. Moreover, the prophet Zechariah foretold that this same Christ would be smitten, and His disciples scattered: which also took place. For after His crucifixion, the disciples that accompanied Him were dispersed, until He rose from the dead, and persuaded them that so it had been prophesied concerning Him, that He would suffer; and being thus persuaded, they went into all the world, and taught these truths. Hence also we are strong in His faith and doctrine, since we have [this our] persuasion both from the prophets, and from those who throughout the world are seen to be worshippers of God in the name of that crucified One. The following is said, too, by Zechariah: 'O sword, rise up against My Shepherd, and against the man of My people, says the Lord of hosts. Smite the Shepherd, and His flock shall be scattered.' Zechariah 13:7

Chapter 54. What the blood of the grape signifies

Justin: And that expression which was committed to writing by Moses, and prophesied by the patriarch Jacob, namely, 'He shall wash His garments with wine, and His vesture with the blood of the grape,' signified that He would wash those that believe in Him with His own blood. For the Holy Spirit called those who receive remission of sins through Him, His garments; among whom He is always present in power, but will be manifestly present at His second coming. That the Scripture mentions the blood of the grape has been evidently designed, because Christ derives blood not from the seed of man, but from the power of God. For as God, and not man, has produced the blood of the vine, so also [the Scripture] has predicted that the blood of Christ would be not of the seed of man, but of the power of God. But this prophecy, sirs, which I repeated, proves that Christ is not man of men, begotten in the ordinary course of humanity.

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Source. Translated by Marcus Dods and George Reith. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/01284.htm>.

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