How Justin Martyr Defined ‘Christian’ with Afterlife Theology

I have long known of this rather interesting quote tucked away in Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho. I later reengaged this passage in some detail when I read a former professor’s dissertation which examined the development of the doctrine of immortality in the Church Fathers. Justin, who lived from 106-165 CE, was a highly trained philosopher who later became a prominent Christian teacher in Rome. He was later beheaded for his profession to Christianity.

Concerning the subject regarding what happens at death and the role of the future resurrection, Justin says this:

For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this [truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians. –Dialogue with Trypho, 80:9 

This statement is rather striking, considering Justin was a Greek philosopher by training before converting to Christianity. Justin argues that those who downplay the future resurrection by saying that souls go to heaven when they die are not to be considered as Christians.

Of course, there is no mention of immortal souls going to heaven anywhere in the Bible, despite the fact that this doctrine is taken for granted by the vast majority of Christians.

One wonders if Justin, the prominent Church Father, would be accepted in most churches today…

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2 thoughts on “How Justin Martyr Defined ‘Christian’ with Afterlife Theology

  1. Justin of course was not inspired of God, never the less, I do agree that downplaying the importance of the resurrection of the dead is a sad if not a “grave” error.
    Notice he referred to those who say “there is no resurrection of the dead.” The would include those who say it has already happened.
    What is strange is that many modern day churches believe in both. I read one recently who basically said we are incomplete without our body.
    That is partly true. Fact is, we are our body!
    Many miss the clear truth “IT is sown a natural body, IT is raised a spiritual body. Many read it as it is sown a body and raised a spirit. Yet it is clear that there will be a physical body. Jesus was(Luke 24:37-39) and we shall be like him. 1 John 3:2; Romans 6:5

  2. I believe he was writing against the Gnostics and Platonists who claimed, if I’m not mistaken, that one is taken into heaven immediately as he/she dies. The Bible teaches that we go into the grave, when we die, either in Abraham’s bossom or the bad side of sheol and that we will be resurrected at judgment day, to live forever with God on earth (if you are on the saved side)

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