Justin Martyr’s Plea to Roman Emperor To Take Honest Look At Christianity

A fascinating read is Justin Martyr’s First Apology (considered the first Christian Apologist after the apostles) written to Roman Emperor Antonius Pius in AD 150. Before you think this is a boring historical read, place yourself in Justin’s shoes (or sandals). Imagine writing a letter on behalf of millions of Christians to the most powerful person in the world at that time. This Emperor, who holds in his hand the power to stop the immense persecution taking place towards Christians at this time. Imagine the effort, the tears, the blood, the prayer you would put into this letter. Now read what the Emperor read from the pen of Justin Martyr:

Since you are called pious and philosophers, guardians of justice and lovers of learning, pay attention and listen to my address. If you are indeed followers of learning, it will be clear. We have not come to flatter you by this writing nor please you by our address, but to beg that you pass judgment after an accurate and searching investigation. . . . As for us, no evil can be done to us unless we are convicted as evildoers or proved to be wicked men. You can kill us. But you cannot hurt us.
To avoid anyone thinking that this is an unreasonable and reckless declaration, we demand that the charges against the Christians be investigated. If these are substantiated, we should be justly punished. But if no one can convict us of anything, true reason forbids you to wrong blameless men because of evil rumors. If you did so, you would be harming yourselves in governing affairs by emotions rather than by intelligence. . . . It is our task, therefore, to provide to all an opportunity of inspecting our life and teachings. . . . It is your business, when you hear us, to be good judges, as reason demands. If, when you have learned the truth, you do not do what is just, you will be without excuse before God.

You see quickly that Justin Martyr wanted to remind the Emperor who was really in charge. You don’t sense a desperate plea but a calm spirit. That is a sign of great trust in God. Justin writes his letter to the Emperor without fear or worry. He leaves the rest up to God.

Justin Martyr was eventually beheaded in the reign of Marcus Aurelius. Justin had refused to sacrifice to the Roman gods. He told the Prefect to do as he wished. Christians do not sacrifice to idols

2 thoughts on “Justin Martyr’s Plea to Roman Emperor To Take Honest Look At Christianity

  1. Good stuff, Dax. Those early church fathers really knew how to write to get their point across.

    I’m looking forward to reading what you write next.

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