JUSTIN and MARY

by Bertrand Buby, SM

(Mary of Galilee Vol.III, The Marian Heritage of the Early Church)

With Permission form the Author

The works which remain from Justin are his two Apo!ogies and his Dialogue with Trypho the Jew. These works were written between 150-160 CE.

It is within the scriptural context and apologetic purpose of these writings that his Marian doctrine is illuminated.

Justin continued to develop a theological theme already found in Ignatius. There is a divine creative and saving plan (oikonomia) which is realized in and through Christ's word and life as Logos (the Word made flesh). All true wisdom from the past both in Scripture and from the ancient philosophers is a participation in the wisdom that Christ as Word has brought to fulfillment. Jesus Christ also is the center of all history for Justin.

In the overall scheme of Justin, Mary is seen to be participating actively as a new Eve in the history of salvation.justin goes beyond the Christocentric appreciation of Mary found in Ignatius to the soteriological importance Christ and Mary have in the history of humankind as a new Adam and a new Eve. His contribution to Mariology is especially apparent in the Dialogue with Trypho:

...and have proved that it is not in the blessing of Joseph and Judah alone that what relates to Him was proclaimed mysteriously, but also in the Gospel it is written that He said: "All things have been handed over to me by My Father; " and, "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him'". Accordingly He revealed to us all that we have perceived by His grace out of the Scriptures, so that we know Him to be the first-begotten of God, and to be before all creatures; likewise to be the Son of the patriarchs, since He assumed flesh by the Virgin of their family, and submitted to become a man without comeliness, dishonored, and subject to suffering. Hence, also, among His words He said, when He was discoursing about His future sufferings: "The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the scribes and Pharisees, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again." He said then that He was the Son of man, either because of His birth by the Virgin, who was, as I said, of the family of David, and Jacob, and Isaac, and Abraham; or because Adam was the father both of Himself and of those who have been first enumerated from whom Mary derives her descent....

He became man by the Virgin, in order that the disobedience which proceeded from the serpent might receive its destruction in the same manner in which it derived its origin. For Eve, who was a virgin and undefiled, having conceived by the word of the serpent, brought forth disobedience and death. But the Virgin Mary received faith and joy, when the angel Cabriel announced the good tidings to her that the Spirit of the Lord would come upon her, and the power of the Most High would overshadow her: wherefore also the Holy One begotten of her is the Son of God; and she replied "Be it done unto me according to your word" And by her has He been born, to whom we have proved so many Scriptures refer, and by whom God destroys both the serpent and those angels and men who are like him; but works deliverance from death to those who repent of their wickedness and believe in Him (Dialogue with Trypho)

Though the theme of contrast between Mary/Gabriel and Eve/serpent appears for the first time in Christian literature, it is but a beginning of such a typological use of the Genesis 3 story reread in the light of the Annunciation to Mary (Lk 1:26-38).

Justin's originality in Marian thought is his discovery of a parallel between Mary and Eve. His comparison and contrast of both virgins-become-mothers are the foundation for Marian theology. Cardinal John Henry Newman, an expert in patristics, was convinced that Justin's insight into Mary as a new Eve constituted a rudimentary teaching of great importance which is connected to the earliest understanding of Mary in Christianity (Letter to Rev. Pusey concerning Mary and the Christian life). Justin carefully focuses on the person of Jesus Christ, but attaches a role of cooperation on the part of the Virgin Mary through her "yes" to Gabriel, the angelic messenger of God's revelation in Luke 1:26-38.

Justin surpassed the Marian teaching of Ignatius by adding the soteriological dimension of the Incarnation and Mary's role within it as a virgin mother. As a philosopher he is able to confront, explain, and dialogue with both the Gentiles and the Jews. His primary sources are the texts of the Old Testament and the Gospels (the "Memoirs of the Apostles"). It is this use of specific texts from Isaiah, the Psalms, Zechariah, and Genesis that formed a linking of testimonial texts which succeeding generations of Christian theologians and pastors would use in their discourses, sermons, arid homilies on the Incarnation and Mary's role in it. Justin's method of using the Scriptures can be summarized in five clear principles:

1. He uses Scripture to prove Scripture.

2. He develops and uses typologies taking the Old Testament as a type setting for Christ.

3. For him both the Old Testament and New Testament (especially the Memoirs of the Apostles) are inspired.

4. He continually relies on the allegorical and typological method already used in Judaism.

5. He attaches great importance to the argument from prophecy and its fulfillment in the DiaIogue.

Justin's understanding of the Virgin Mary is taken exclusively from the Scriptures. He relied primarily on the Gospel of Matthew and the text of Isaiah 7:14 which is cited in Matthew 1:23. In fact, he takes his interest in the messialiship by way of reflections on the descent of Jesus through Abraham and the Patriarchs - especially Jacob and Judah. The Davidic descent is strongly argued, but always in connection with the ancient Patriarchs. This interest in the descent of Jesus was stimulated by Matthew's genealogy and the manner in which it was predicted.

And hear again how Isaiah in express words foretold that He should be born of a virgin for he spoke thus: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bring forth a son, and they shall say for His name, 'God with us"' (Is 7:14). For things which were incredible and seemed impossible with men, these God predicted by the Spirit of prophecy as about to come to pass, in order that when they came to pass, there might be no unbelief, but faith, because of their prediction. But lest some, not understanding the prophecy now cited, should charge us with the very things we have been laying to the charge of the poets who say that Jupiter went in to women through lust, let us try to explain tIne words. This, then, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive," signifies that a virgin should conceive without intercourse. For if she had had intercourse with anyone whatever, she was no longer a virgin; but the power of God having come upon the virgin, overshadowed her, and caused her while yet a virgin to conceive. And the angel of God who was sent to the same virgin at that time brought her good news, saying, "Behold, you shall conceive of the Holy Spirit, and shall bear a Son, and He shall be called the Son of the Highest, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins," (Lk 1:23; Mt 1:21) - as they who have recorded all that concerns our Savior Jesus Christ have taught, whom we believed, and since Isaiah also, whom we have now adduced, the Spirit of prophecy declared that He should be born as we intimated before. It is wrong, therefore, to understand the Spirit and the power of God as anything other than the Word, who is also the first-born of God, as the foresaid prophet Moses declared; and it was this which, when it came upon the virgin and overshadowed her, caused her to conceive, not by intercourse, but by power. And the name Jesus in the Hebrew language means [Soter] (Savior) in the Greek tongue. Wherefore, too, the angel said to the virgin, "You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins." And that the prophets are inspired by no other than the Divine Word, even you, as I fancy, will grant (The First Apology of Justin XXXIII).

Justin continually returns to Isaiah 7:14 as the text which prophetically announced the virginal conception of Jesus. He relies on the Septuagint to explain this text to Trypho the Jew. He searches the Hebrew Scriptures to argue in favor of the sign given to Ahaz, that of a virgin conceiving. Another text he has summoned to speak of the origins of Christ is Isaiah 53:8, but interpreted in the light of the following translation, "Who shall declare His generation?" More recent translations emphasize a meaning that speaks of the future or destiny of the one referred to. Both Isaiah 7:14 and lsaiah 53:8 will be taken up by the theologians and pastors of the fourth and fifth centuries. Such uses of specific texts formed links with others and were employed as an apology for Christian beliefs about the origins and birth of Christ. The text of Isaiah 7:1 4, however, has always been the favored passage for speaking of the virginal conception in early Christianity:

Then again I, "Since you certainly admit these things, and since Scripture says, Who shall declare His generation?' ought you not now to suppose that He is not the seed of a human race?"... And I said, "Trypho, if the prophecy which Isaiah uttered, 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive' is said not to the house of David, but to another house of the twelve tribes, perhaps the matter would have some difficulty; but since this prophecy refers to the house of David, Isaiah has explained how that which was spoken by God to David in mystery would take place... " (Dialogue wiih Trypho LXVIll).

In the extant works of Justin there are 29 different passages of varying length which speak of the virginity of Mary. The passages are at the heart of the methodology of Justin which is seen in the fulfillment of the Hebrew Scriptures in the person of Christ as Word of God. Prophecy is directly connected with the Spirit by Justin. The texts are the argument and discursive method that Justin uses to demonstrate his Christian beliefs about Christ and the virginal conception. Again and again the same books of the Old Testament are used and certain "Memoirs of the Apostles" by which he means the Gospels. Genesis, Isaiah, Zechariah, and the Psalms are his chief Sources, in the New Testament the Gospel of Matthew predominates with Luke's Infancy Narrative. His theological thought about the human Jesus stems from a hint from Mark's Gospel that Jesus was a carpenter like Joseph, his foster-father. His theology of the Word as preexistent stems from John. 1

Though Justin explicitly uses the Gospels of Matthew and Luke to speak about the origins, conception, and birth of Christ, he certainly is familiar with Johannine thought. His insistence on the preexistence of Christ as \Vord could only emanate from the Prologue of John. From my perspective, based on past research, there may be some incipient Marian reflection on John 1:13 in his writings (see pp.115-117 of Volume I).

In The First Apology of Justin the following citation is similar in thought to the Prologue of John, chapter 1, verse I 3, more specifical ly:

But who through the powerof the Word, according to the will of God the Father and Lord of all, was born of a virgin as a man, and was named Jesus, and was crucified, and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven... (The First Apology of Justin XLVI)

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" (Dialogue with Trypho LIV, also, all of Dialogue with Trypho XLVIII).

Though this passage may reflect a docetic tendency and deny the human blood from Mary, Justin goes further, near the end of the Dialogue, in explaining what he means:

For I have already proved that He was the only-begotten of the Father of all things, being begotten in a peculiar manner, Word and Power by Him, and having afterwards become man through the Virgin, as we have learned from the Memoirs. Moreover, it is similarly foretold that He would die by crucifixion (Dialogue with Trypho CV).

The expression "blood of the grape" found in Genesis 49:11 fascinates Justin. He repeats the text several times.

And what is spoken of as "the blood of the grape" signifies that He who should appear would have blood, though not of the seed of man, but of the power of God. And the first power after God the Father and Lord of all is the Word, who is also the Son; and of Him, we will, in what follows, relate how He took flesh and became man. For as man did not make the blood of the vine, but God, so it was hereby intimated that the blood should not be of human seed, but of divine power, as we have said above. And Isaiah, another prophet, foretelling the same thing in other words, spoke thus: "And a star shall rise out of Jacob, and a flower shall spring from the root ofJesse; and His arm shall the nations trust." And a star of light has arisen, and a flower has sprung from the root of Jesse - this Christ. For by the power of God He was conceived by a virgin of the seed of Jacob, who was the father of Judah, who, as we have shown, was the father of the Jews, and Jesse was His forefather according to the oracle, and He was the son of Jacob and Judah according to lineal descent (The First Apology ofJusiin XXXI I).

Justin, in summary, sees Mary in the plan of God as the virgin who gave birth to the Messiah. As a Samaritan, Justin was familiar with the Fourth Gospel realizing that "salvation is from theJews" (Jn 4:22). As "salvation" is the popular etymology of the name of Jesus, Justin read the whole of the Scriptures in the light of Christ as Word and as the promised Messiah. As Word, the presence of the Christ was from all eternity. It was for Justin a logical step to reread Christ into the Hebrew Scriptures. justin3.htm

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