TESTIMONY OF JUSTIN MARTYR
Justin’s “Apology” was written at Rome about the year 140 A. D. His “Dialogue with Trypho the Jew” was written some years later. In searching his works, we shall see how much greater progress apostasy had made at Rome than in the countries where those lived whose writings we have been examining. And yet nearly all these writings were composed at least a century later than those of Justin, though we have quoted them before quoting his, because of their asserted apostolic origin, or of their asserted origin within a few years of the times of the apostles.
It does not appear that Justin, and those at Rome who held with him in doctrine, paid the slightest regard to the ancient Sabbath. He speaks of it as abolished, and treats it with contempt. Unlike some whose writings have been examined, he denies that it originated at creation, and asserts that it was made in the days of Moses. He also differs with some already quoted in that he denies the perpetuity of the law of ten commandments. In his estimation, the Sabbath was a Jewish institution, absolutely unknown to good men before the time of Moses, and of no authority whatever since the death of Christ. The idea of the change of the Sabbath from the seventh day of the week to the first, is not only never found in his writings, but is absolutely irreconcilable with such statements as the foregoing, which abound therein. And yet Justin Martyr is prominently and constantly cited in behalf of the so-called Christian Sabbath.
The Roman people observed a festival on the first day of the week in honor of the sun. And so Justin in his Apology, addressed to the emperor of Rome, tells that monarch that the Christians met on “the day of the sun,” for worship. He gives the day no sacred title, and does not even intimate that it was a day of abstinence from labor, only as they spent a portion of it in worship. Here are the words of his Apology on the Sunday festival:
Not one word of this indicates that Justin considered the Sunday festival as a continuation of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. On the contrary, he shows clearly that no such idea was cherished by him. For whereas the fourth commandment enjoins the observance of the seventh day because God rested on that day from the work of creation, Justin urges in behalf of the Sunday festival that it is the day on which he began his work. The honor paid to that festival was not therefore in Justin’s estimation in any sense an act of obedience to the fourth commandment. He mentions as his other reason for the celebration by Christians of “the day of the sun,” that the Saviour arose that day. But he claims no divine or apostolic precept for this celebration; the things which he says Christ taught his apostles being the doctrines which he had embodied in this Apology for the information of the emperor. And it is worthy of notice that though first-day writers assert that “Lord’s day” was the familiar title of the first day of the week in the time of the Apocalypse, yet Justin, who is the first person after the sacred writers that mentions the first day, and this at a distance of only 44 years from the date of John’s vision upon Patmos, does not call it by that title, but by the name which it bore as a heathen festival! If it be said that the term was omitted because he was addressing a heathen emperor, there still remains the fact that he mentions the day quite a number of times in his “Dialogue with Trypho,"” and yet never calls it “Lord’s day,” nor indeed does he call it by any name implying sacredness.
Now we present the statements concerning the Sabbath and first-day found in his “Dialogue with Trypho the Jew.” The impropriety, not to say dishonesty, of quoting Justin in behalf of the modern doctrine of the change of the Sabbath, will be obvious to all. He was a most decided no-law, no-Sabbath writer, who used the day commonly honored as a festival by the Romans as the most suitable, or most convenient, day for public worship, a position identical with that of modern no-Sabbath men. Justin may be called a law man in this sense, however, that while he abolishes the ten commandments, he calls the gospel, “the new law.” He is therefore really one who believes in the gospel and denies the law. But let us hear his own words. Trypho, having in chapter eight advised Justin to observe the Sabbath, and “do all things which have been written in the law,” in chapter ten says to him, “You observe no festivals or Sabbaths.”
This was exactly adapted to bring out from Justin the answer that though he did not observe the seventh day as the Sabbath, he did thus rest on the first day, if it were true that that day was with him a day of abstinence from Labor. And now observe Justin’s answer given in chapter twelve:
This language plainly implies that Justin held all days to be alike, and did not observe any one day as a day of abstinence from labor. But in chapter eighteen, Justin asserts that the Sabbaths - and he doubtless includes the weekly with the annual - were enjoined upon the Jews for their wickedness:
Not only does he declare that the Jews were commanded to keep the Sabbath because of their wickedness, but in chapter nineteen he denies that any Sabbath existed before Moses. Thus, after naming Adam, Abel, Enoch, Lot, and Melchizedek, he says:
But though he thus denies the Sabbatic institution before the time of Moses he presently makes this statement concerning the Jews:
The Sabbath is indeed the memorial of the God that made the heavens and the earth. And what an absurdity to deny that that memorial was set up when the creative work was done, and to affirm that twenty-five hundred years intervened between the work and the memorial!
In chapter twenty-one, Justin asserts “that God enjoined you [the Jews] to keep the Sabbath, and imposed on you other precepts for a sign, as I have already said, on account of your unrighteousness, and that of your fathers,” &c., and quotes Ezekiel 20 to prove it. Yet that chapter declares that it was in order that they might know who was that being who sanctified them, i.e., that they might know that their God was the Creator, that the Sabbath was made to them a sign.
In chapter xxiii., he again asserts that “in the times of Enoch” no one “observed Sabbaths.” He then protests against Sabbatic observances as follows:
That is to say, there was no Sabbatic institution before Moses, and neither is there any since Christ. But in chapter xxiv., Justin undertakes to bring in an argument for Sunday, not as a Sabbath, but as having greater mystery in it, and as being more honorable than the seventh day. Thus, alluding to circumcision on the eighth day of a child’s life as an argument for the first-day festival, he says:
That is to say, because God commanded the Hebrews to circumcise their children when they were eight days old, therefore all men should now esteem the first day of the week more honorable than the seventh day, which he commanded in the moral law, and which Justin himself, in chapter six, terms “the memorial of God.” In Chapter xxvi., Justin says to Trypho that -
And in proof of this, he quotes from Isa. 42, and 62, and 63, respecting the call of the Gentiles. Upon this (chapter xxvii.), Trypho the Jew very pertinently asks:
These are bitter words from a Gentile who had been a pagan philosopher, and they are in no sense a just answer unless it can be shown that the law was given to the Jews because they were so wicked, and was withheld from the Gentiles because they were so righteous. The truth is just the reverse of this. Eph. 2. But to say something against the Sabbath, Justin asks:
What Justin says concerning circumcision and sacrifices is absolutely without weight as an objection to the Sabbath, inasmuch as the commandment forbids, not the performance of religious duties, but our own work. Ex.20:8-11. And his often repeated declaration that good men before the time of Moses did not keep the Sabbath, is mere assertion, inasmuch as God appointed it to a holy use in the time of Adam, and we do know of some in the patriarchal age who kept God’s commandments, and were perfect before him.
In chapter xxix., Justin sneers at Sabbatic observance by saying, “Think it not strange that we drink hot water on the Sabbaths.” And as arguments against the Sabbath he says that God “directs the government of the universe on this day equally as on all others,” as though this were inconsistent with the present sacredness of the Sabbath, when it was also true that God thus governed the world in the period when Justin acknowledges the Sabbath to have been obligatory. And he again refers to the sacrifices and to those who lived in the patriarchal age.
In chapter xii, Justin again brings forward his argument for Sunday from circumcision:
Sunday-keeping must be closely related to infant baptism, inasmuch as one of the chief arguments in modern times for the baptism of infants is drawn from the fact that God commanded the Hebrews to circumcise their male children; and Justin found his scriptural authority for first-day observance in the fact that this rite was to be performed when the child was eight days old! Yet this eighth day did not come on one day of the week, only, but on every day, and when it came on the seventh day it furnished Justin with an argument against the sacredness of the Sabbath! But let it come on what day of the week it might (and it came on all alike), it was an argument for Sunday! O wonderful eighth day, that can thrive on that which is positively fatal to the seventh, and that can come every week on the first day thereof, though there be only seven days in each week!
In chapters xliii, and xlvi., and xcii., Justin reiterates the assertion that those who lived in the patriarchal age did not hallow the Sabbath. But as he adds no new thought to what has been already quoted from him, these need not be copied.
But in chapter xlvii., we have something of interest. Trypho asks Justin whether those who believe in Christ, and obey him, but who wish to “observe these [institutions] will be saved?” Justin answers: “In my opinion, Trypho, such an one will be saved, if he does not strive in every way to persuade other men . . . to observe the same things as himself, telling them that they will not be saved unless they do so.” Trypho replied, “Why then have you said, `In my opinion, such an one will be saved,’ unless there are some who affirm that such will not be saved?”
In reply, Justin tells Trypho that there were those who would have no intercourse with, nor even extend hospitality to, such Christians as observed the law. And for himself he says:
Justin’s language shows that there were Sabbath-keeping Christians in his time. Such of them as were of Jewish descent no doubt generally retained circumcision. But it is very unjust in him to represent the Gentile Sabbath-keepers as observing this rite. That there were many of these is evident from the so-called Apostolical Constitutions, and even from the Ignatian Epistles. One good thing, however, Justin does say. The keeping of the commandments he terms the performance “of the eternal and natural acts of righteousness.” He would consent to fellowship those who do these things provided they made them no test for others. He well knew in such case that the Sabbath would die out in a little time. Himself and the more popular party at Rome honored as their festival the day observed by heathen Romans, as he reminds the emperor in his apology, and he was willing to fellowship the Sabbath-keepers if they would not test him by the commandments, i.e., if they would fellowship him in violating them.
That Justin held to the abrogation of the ten commandments is also manifest. Trypho, in the tenth chapter of the Dialogue, having said to Justin, “You do not obey his commandments,” and again, “You do not observe the law,” Justin answers in chapter eleven as follows:
We must, therefore, pronounce Justin a man who held to the abrogation of the ten commandments, and that the Sabbath was a Jewish institution which was unknown before Moses, and of no authority since Christ. He held Sunday to be the most suitable day for public worship, but not upon the ground that the Sabbath had been changed to it, for he cuts up the Sabbatic institution by the roots; and so far is he from calling this day the Christian Sabbath that he gives to it the name which it bore as a heathen festival.