Saint Justin Martyr lived in the 100’s, in a generation of Christians remembered as the Apologists.
Apologetics is the discipline of defending and arguing for something. Christian apologetics deals with explaining the faith to non-believers, defending its historical and intellectual credibility, and clarifying the coherence of the Bible. Because Christianity has found itself in various cultural and religious contexts over the centuries, the method and content of our Apologetics has changed also. Nevertheless, some aspects remain fairly constant.
One of the surviving works of Justin Martyr is his First Apology, or defense of the Christian Faith. In it he argues for the origin of Christianity in Judaism and the general quest for god, he highlights the fulfillment of biblical prophecy in Christ, and he explains several worship practices to pagan critics. Aspects of his apologetic method have become popular again in the 20th and 21st centuries as Christianity once again contends with a combination of new-and-popular pagan-like beliefs who belittle Christianity’s antiquity and syntheses of ancient beliefs that belittle Christianity’s newness.
For most Christians, however, Justin’s First Apology’s description of the worship service is one of its most remarkable and instructive features. The order of service he describes – Scripture readings, a sermon, prayers, and the sequence of celebrating Communion – is remarkably similar to the Communion liturgy used to this day in various forms throughout the world. This flies in the face of some critics who erroneously claim that the Church only became “corrupted” by liturgical forms after the intervention of the Emperor Constantine in the 300’s.
Like many early prominent Christians, Justin was martyred by the Roman authorities. A document entitled The Martyrdom of Justin outlines his final moments, in the mid 160’s:
The Prefect Rusticus says: Approach and sacrifice, all of you, to the gods.
Justin says: No one in his right mind gives up piety for impiety.
The Prefect Rusticus says: If you do not obey, you will be tortured without mercy.
Justin replies: That is our desire, to be tortured for Our Lord, Jesus Christ, and so to be saved, for that will give us salvation and firm confidence at the more terrible universal tribunal of Our Lord and Saviour.
And all the martyrs said: Do as you wish; for we are Christians, and we do not sacrifice to idols.
He was summarily beheaded, with the others. He is commemorated on June 1st.