Introductory Note to the Martyrdom of Justin Martyr.
Crescens, a cynic, has the ill-renown of stirring up the persecution in which Justin and his friends suffered for Christ. The story that he died by the hemlock seems to have originated among the Greeks, who naturally gave this turn to the sufferings of a philosopher.
The following Introductory Notice of the translator supplies all that need be added.
Though nothing is known as to the date or authorship of the following narrative, it is generally reckoned among the most trustworthy of the Martyria. An absurd addition was in some copies made to it, to the effect that Justin died by means of hemlock. Some have thought it necessary, on account of this story, to conceive of two Justins, one of whom, the celebrated defender of the Christian faith whose writings are given in this volume, died through poison, while the other suffered in the way here described, along with several of his friends. But the description of Justin given in the following account, is evidently such as compels us to refer it to the famous apologist and martyr of the second century.1 305
1 [See Cave, Lives of the Fathers, i. 243. Epiphanius, by fixing the martyrdom under the prefecture of Rusticus, seems to identify this history; but, then, he also connects it with the reign of Hadrian. Ed. Oëhler, tom. ii. 709. Berlin, 1859.]
The Martyrdom of the Holy Martyrs.
Justin, Chariton, Charites, Paeon, and Liberianus, Who Suffered at Rome.
Chap. I. — Examination of Justin by the Prefect.
In the time of the lawless partisans of idolatry, wicked decrees were passed against the godly Christians in town and country, to force them to offer libations to vain idols; and accordingly the holy men, having been apprehended, were brought before the prefect of Rome, Rusticus by name. And when they had been brought before his judgment-seat, Rusticus the prefect said to Justin, “Obey the gods at once, and submit to the kings.”1 Justin said, “To obey the commandments of our Saviour Jesus Christ is worthy neither of blame nor of condemnation.” Rusticus the prefect said, “What kind of doctrines do you profess?” Justin said, “I have endeavoured to learn all doctrines; but I have acquiesced at last in the true doctrines, those namely of the Christians, even though they do not please those who hold false opinions.” Rusticus the prefect said, “Are those the doctrines that please you, you utterly wretched man?” Justin said, “Yes, since I adhere to them with right dogma.”2 Rusticus the prefect said, “What is the dogma?” Justin said, “That according to which we worship the God of the Christians, whom we reckon to be one from the beginning, the maker and fashioner of the whole creation, visible and invisible; and the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who had also been preached beforehand by the prophets as about to be present with the race of men, the herald of salvation and teacher of good disciples. And I, being a man, think that what I can say is insignificant in comparison with His boundless divinity, acknowledging a Certain prophetic power,3 since it was prophesied concerning Him of whom now I say that He is the Son of God. For I know that of old the prophets foretold His appearance among men.”
Chap. II. — Examination of Justin Continued.
Rusticus the prefect said, “Where do you assemble?” Justin said, “Where each one chooses and can: for do you fancy that we all meet in the very same place? Not so; because the God of the Christians is not circumscribed by place; but being invisible, fills heaven and earth, and everywhere is worshipped and glorified by the faithful.” Rusticus the prefect said, “Tell me where you assemble, or into what place do you collect your followers?” Justin said, “I live above one Martinus, at the Timiotinian Bath; and during the whole time (and I am now living in Rome for the second time) I am unaware of any other meeting than his. And if any one wished to come to me, I communicated to him the doctrines of truth.” Rusticus said, “Are you not, then, a Christian?” Justin said, “Yes, I am a Christian.”
Chap. III. — Examination of Chariton and Others.
Then said the prefect Rusticus to Chariton, “Tell me further, Chariton, are you also a Christian?” Chariton said, “I am a Christian by the command of God.” Rusticus the prefect asked the woman Charito, “What say you, Charito?” Charito said, “I am a Christian by the grace of God.” Rusticus said to Euelpistus, “And what are you?” Euelpistus, a servant of Caesar, answered, “I too am a Christian, having been freed by Christ; and by the grace of Christ I partake of the same hope.” Rusticus the prefect said to Hierax, “And you, are you a Christian?” Hierax said, “Yes, I am a Christian, for I revere and worship the same God.” Rusticus the 306 prefect said, “Did Justin make you Christians?” Hierax said, “I was a Christian, and will be a Christian.” And Paeon stood up and said, “I too am a Christian.” Rusticus the prefect said, “Who taught you?” Paeon said, “From our parents we received this good confession.” Euelpistus said, “I willingly heard the words of Justin. But from my parents also I learned to be a Christian.” Rusticus the prefect said, “Where are your parents?” Euelpistus said, “In Cappadocia.” Rusticus says to Hierax, “Where are your parents?” And he answered, and said, “Christ is our true father, and faith in Him is our mother; and my earthly parents died; and I, when I was driven from Iconium in Phrygia, came here.” Rusticus the prefect said to Liberianus, “And what say you? Are you a Christian, and unwilling to worship [the gods]?” Liberianus said, “I too am a Christian, for I worship and reverence the only true God.”
Chap. IV. — Rusticus Threatens the Christians with Death.
The prefect says to Justin, “Hearken, you who are called learned, and think that you know true doctrines; if you are scourged and beheaded, do you believe you will ascend into heaven?” Justin said, “I hope that, if I endure these things, I shall have His gifts.4 For I know that, to all who have thus lived, there abides the divine favour until the completion of the whole world.” Rusticus the prefect said, “Do you suppose, then, that you will ascend into heaven to receive some recompense?” Justin said, “I do not suppose it, but I know and am fully persuaded of it.” Rusticus the prefect said, “Let us, then, now come to the matter in hand, and which presses. Having come together, offer sacrifice with one accord to the gods.” Justin said, “No right-thinking person falls away from piety to impiety.” Rusticus the prefect said, “Unless ye obey, ye shall be mercilessly punished.” Justin said, “Through prayer we can be saved on account of our Lord Jesus Christ, even when we have been punished,5 because this shall become to us salvation and confidence at the more fearful and universal judgment-seat of our Lord and Saviour.” Thus also said the other martyrs: “Do what you will, for we are Christians, and do not sacrifice to idols.”
Chap. V. — Sentence Pronounced and Executed.
Rusticus the prefect pronounced sentence, saying, “Let those who have refused to sacrifice to the gods and to yield to the command of the emperor be scourged,6 and led away to suffer the punishment of decapitation, according to the laws.” The holy martyrs having glorified God, and having gone forth to the accustomed place, were beheaded, and perfected their testimony in the confession of the Saviour. And some of the faithful having secretly removed their bodies, laid them in a suitable place, the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ having wrought along with them, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
1 i.e., the emperors.
2 Μετὰ δόγματος ὀρθοῦ, orthodoxy.
3 That is, that a prophetic inspiration is required to speak worthily of Christ.
4 Another reading is δόγματα, which may be translated, “I shall have what He teaches [us to expect].”
5 This passage admits of another rendering. Lord Hailes, following the common Latin version, thus translates: “It was our chief wish to endure tortures for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so to be saved.”
6 [This wholesale sentence implies a great indifference to the probable Roman citizenship of some of them, if not of our heroic martyr himself; but Act_22:25-29 seems to allow that the condemned were not protected by the law.]