The Early Church Fathers and the Foundations of Dispensationalism
Part 4: Dispensational Concepts in the Apologists: Justin Martyr
Conservative Theological Journal [CTJ 02:7 (Dec 98) pp. 375-404]
Larry V. Crutchfield

Prof. Early Christian History and Culture
Columbia Evangelical Seminary, Longview, WA

Video Planned


    In our last two articles, we presented evidences of the earliest signs of elementary dispensational concepts from the meager writings of the apostolic fathers. Mostly epistolary in nature, limited in scope, and primarily of local interest, these works serve principally as a literary bridge between the writings of the apostles and those of the apologists[1] and others who followed. With growing attacks upon Christianity from both Judaism and the pagan Roman world, it fell first to the apologists to “demand that the charges against the Christians be investigated…”[2] Out of this situation came a defense of the faith by converts to Christianity who had originally been educated in philosophy and rhetoric. The result was a body of Christian literature more precise in language and systematic in presentation than that of the preceding generation of church leaders.

The Apologists

The Nature of Their Writings

    Schooled in the methods of Greek rhetoric, the apologists naturally employed the dialectic approach in their defense of Christianity. In language and methodology, it is obvious that they were children of the Hellenistic world. But in the Christian religion, they felt that they had found a philosophy far superior to any the Greeks had to offer.
    According to Johannes Quasten, the apologists had three primary objectives.[3] The first was to counter the false and malicious statements then being circulated about the church. Particularly troublesome was the allegation that it posed a threat to the Roman state. The apologists attempted to refute the charge by showing that the ethical and chaste lives produced by this religion were a positive force for the good, not only for the Roman empire, but for the world in general.
    Secondly, the apologists sought to expose the absurd and immoral nature of paganism and to demonstrate that only in the Christian religion can one find a correct understanding of the cosmos and the Divine. And finally, these early defenders of the faith endeavored to convince their detractors that while pagan philosophy at best could only attain fragments of truth interspersed with error, the Christian has absolute truth available to him through the Logos Himself. Quasten concludes that, “In making this demonstration of the faith the apologists laid the foundation of the science of God. They are therefore the Church’s first theologians—a fact that adds to their importance.”[4]

The Substance of Their Views

Justin Martyr (c.100–165)

    Without question the most important figure among the early apologists for Christianity was Justin Martyr. Born in Flavia Neapolis in Samaria in a.d.. 100, Justin was a trained professional philosopher. But while walking in a field near the sea one day, he met “a certain old man” who convinced him that Platonic philosophy could not compete with the utterances of that ancient class of men called prophets, who “alone both saw and announced the truth to men …”[5] After the old man had spoken these things, wrote Justin,

"…straightway a flame was kindled in my soul; and a love of the prophets, and of those men who are friends of Christ, possessed me; and whilst revolving his words in my mind, I found this philosophy alone to be safe and profitable. Thus, and for this reason, I am a philosopher."[6]

    The strong premillennial position found in the Dialogue with Trypho,[7] but absent in Justin’s other works, raises some important questions about his communication with other venerable “old men,” like Polycarp (bishop of Smyrna) and Papias (bishop of Hierapolis). It is assumed on the strength of Eusebius’ testimony[8] that Justin’s dialogue with Trypho on “the Xystus”[9] or broad avenue, took place in Ephesus. The time of this dialogue seems to have been shortly after the Bar Kocheba rebellion in Palestine.[10] Thus it must have taken place roughly between a.d. 138 and 140. From Ephesus, a distance of only 41.5 Roman miles to Polycarp’s see at Smyrna[11] (a two and a half day journey),[12] “a visit to this renowned disciple of the Apostles residing in a neighbouring city,” as J. B. Lightfoot points out, “would naturally form part of his programme.”[13]
    But whether Justin’s program also included a visit to Papias, an undisputed premillenarian[14] and leader of the church at Hierapolis, is open to question. Hierapolis was located some 113 Roman miles from Ephesus, a six and a half day journey.[15] How long Justin remained in Ephesus is unknown. The dialogue with Trypho took two days, at the end of which, Justin was “‘on the eve of departure, and expect[ing] daily to set sail…’”[16] Whether he had been in Ephesus for some days or even weeks before this and thus had opportunity to visit Papias, cannot be determined. While it was both chronologically and geographically possible for Justin to have visited both Polycarp and Papias, neither man is mentioned by name in the apologist’s extant writings. But this fact means little when one realizes that of the twelve apostles, only John and Peter are individually named.
    Even though Justin was a prolific writer, only three of his works have survived. These include two Apologies which were composed at Rome and directed to the emperor Antoninus Pius (138–161), and the Dialogue with a Jew named Trypho. The latter work is “the oldest Christian apology against the Jews which is extant.”[17] A number of spurious works have been ascribed to Justin, but only fragments of other genuine writings remain.
    The value of Justin’s contribution to Christian thought is summed up well in the New International Dictionary of the Christian Church. Here we read that, “[Justin] is the first Christian thinker after Paul to grasp the universalistic implications of Christianity. With his own distinctive understanding of the Logos concept, he sums up in one bold stroke the whole history of mankind as finding its consummation in Christ.”[18]


Justin’s Christology, particularly his Logos doctrine, may indeed be the great pearl among his contributions to Christian thought. But when seen in the light of his exegesis of the Old Testament, it proves at times to be a pearl of fluctuating worth. As Philip Schaff observes:

    "Justin’s exegesis of the Old Testament is apologetic, typological and allegorical throughout. He finds everywhere references to Christ, and turned it into a text book of Christian theology. He carried the whole New Testament into the Old without discrimination, and thus obliterated the differences."[19]

    Nevertheless, while there is a mostly implied belief in the literal interpretation of prophecy in the apostolic fathers, in Justin we have the earliest direct statements of belief in and forceful argument for the practice. With regard to the future destiny of man, for example, Justin stated that it is “the work of God, to tell of a thing before it happens, and as it was foretold so to show it happening.”[20] Justin argued too that we have “the strongest and truest evidence” for the authenticity of Christ’s ministry because “with our own eyes we behold things that have happened and are happening just as they were predicted…”[21] And prophecies related to the person and work of the coming Messiah, “published beforehand…ere ever they happened,” said Justin, are in the possession of not only rulers like Ptolemy and Herod, but “They are also in the possession of all Jews throughout the world …”[22]
    Justin goes on to explain that the reason for giving the prophecies concerning Christ, prophecies which seemed incredible and impossible for men to believe (i.e., the virgin birth, etc.), was so that “when they come to pass, there might be no unbelief, but faith, because of their prediction.”[23] Justin maintained that the utterances of the “Spirit of prophecy” were so certain of fulfillment that they were stated as if they had already come to pass.[24] Justin explained elsewhere that this reality should affect our view of prophecy yet unfulfilled. He said, “Since, then, we prove that all things which have already happened had been predicted by the prophets before they came to pass, we must necessarily believe also that those things which are in like manner predicted, but are yet to come to pass, shall certainly happen.” Those things yet to come, explained Justin, are the second advent, resurrection of the dead, and recompense of all mankind for deeds done in their mortal bodies.[25]
    Charles C. Ryrie mentions three specific reasons for the dispensationalist’s belief in the hermeneutical principle of literal interpretation of Scripture. Of the second or “biblical” reason, Ryrie says, “the prophecies in the Old Testament concerning the first coming of Christ—His birth, His rearing, His ministry, His death, His resurrection—were all fulfilled literally. That argues strongly for the literal method.”[26]
    Whatever else may be said about Justin’s hermeneutical approach to Scripture in general, when it came to prophecy, the literal method was his primary principle of interpretation. He in no way envisioned the nonliteral fulfillment of the prophecies made to Abraham and David in the church in his day. On the contrary, he expected a literal fulfillment of covenant promises in the coming millennial age. This belief in “the literal fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies,” says Ryrie, “is the basic tenet of premillennial eschatology.”[27] But to whom, according to Justin, were the covenant promises directed and on whose behalf will they be fulfilled—Israel or the church?

Israel and the Church

    As stated in the first article of this series, the relationship between Israel and the church in the ante-Nicene period was cast primarily in terms of Abraham’s seed and faith in Christ. In his explanation of the promises of earthly blessing through the seed of Isaac (Genesis 26:4) and then Jacob (28:14), Justin maintained that there was a twofold division in that seed. On the one hand were those physically descended from Jacob “through Judah, and Phares, and Jesse, and David,” who would also “be found children of Abraham, and found, too, in the lot of Christ.” On the other hand, there were those who, while indeed the physical descendants of Abraham also, “would be like the sand on the sea-shore, barren and fruitless…imbibing doctrines of bitterness and godlessness, but spurning the word of God.”[28]
    So Justin marked off two groups of people: 1. The physical seed of Abraham who are believers in Christ, and 2. The physical seed of Abraham who are rejecters of Christ.[29] But elsewhere, in his analysis of “the seed out of Jacob” spoken of in Isaiah 65:9–12, Justin made a further emphatic distinction between the physical and spiritual seed of Jacob. He said,

"…the seed of Jacob now referred to is something else, and not, as may be supposed, spoken of your people. For it is not possible for the seed of Jacob to leave an entrance for the descendants of Jacob, or for [God] to have accepted the very same persons whom He had reproached with unfitness for the inheritance, and promise it to them again … even so it is necessary for us here to observe that there are two seeds of Judah, and two races, as there are two houses of Jacob: the one begotten by blood and flesh, the other by faith and the Spirit."[30]

    At this point, Justin introduced a third group of people into the discussion—a non-physical (i.e., Gentile), spiritual seed of Judah (or race of Jacob). It is these “who have been quarried out of the bowels of Christ,” wrote Justin, “[who] are the true Israelitic race.”[31] Justin had earlier declared to Trypho that God has blessed this people, called them Israel, and made them His inheritance. He maintained further that Christ, in parable form, was called Jacob and Israel in Isaiah 62:1–4, and thus we “are called and are the true sons of God …”[32]
    Justin’s conclusion, then, was that the nation Israel—the non-believing physical descendants of Abraham and Jacob—had been cut off. Thus the Jews are no longer the recipients of covenant promise and have no inheritance to look forward. Speaking to Trypho of the hope of the Jews, Justin said,

"…you deceive yourselves while you fancy that, because you are the seed of Abraham after the flesh, therefore you shall fully inherit the good things announced to be bestowed by God through Christ. For no one, not even of them [Abraham’s seed], has anything to look for, but only those who in mind are assimilated to the faith of Abraham…. So that it becomes you to eradicate this hope from your souls, and hasten to know in what way forgiveness of sins, and a hope of inheriting the promised good things, shall be yours."[33]

    If national Israel has been disinherited, then to whom will the inheritance go? At one point, when questioned by Trypho as to who will have an inheritance on the holy mountain of God, Justin informed him that,

"…the Gentiles, who have believed on [Christ], and have repented of the sins which they have committed, they shall receive the inheritance along with the patriarchs and the prophets, and the just men who are descended from Jacob, even though they neither keep the Sabbath, nor are circumcised, nor observe the feasts. Assuredly, they shall receive the holy inheritance of God."[34]

    Thus those deemed worthy of such an honor, Justin maintained, shall be raised “to the everlasting kingdom along with the holy patriarchs and prophets …”[35] and just as Abraham left his home for a new land which God would show him, we too have left the old way of living for the new. So, continued Justin,

"…along with Abraham we shall inherit the holy land when we shall receive the inheritance for an endless eternity, being children, of Abraham through the like faith…. Accordingly, He promises to him a nation of similar faith, God-fearing, righteous, and delighting the Father; but it is not you [the Jews], 'in whom is no faith.'”[36]

    Speaking further about the inheritance of the land, Justin disclosed the meaning of what he called “another mystery” which was predicted in Noah’s time. He interpreted Genesis 9:24–27, in which Noah both pronounced blessings upon Shem and Japheth and a curse upon Canaan following the episode of his drunken nakedness, as predictive of the possession of the land of Canaan (and domination of the Canaanites) first by the Semites, and then the Japhethites. Justin concluded the matter by saying that Christ has come and,

"…has promised…that there shall be a future possession for all the saints in this same land. And hence all men everywhere, whether bond or free, who believe in Christ, and recognise the truth in His own words and those of His prophets, know that they shall be with Him in that land, and inherit everlasting and incorruptible good."[37]

    What emerges from all of this is that Justin firmly believed in the literal fulfillment of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants in the coming kingdom age, and this through Christ the promised seed. But Justin clearly believed that it is those who are justified by faith who will receive the covenant promises and not national Israel. He maintained a distinct separation between the church and Israel throughout his writings.
    What also becomes clear is the fact that Justin maintained a separation of peoples within the framework of inheritance and covenant promise. Those identified as inheritors are believers of the church age—the spiritual, non-physical descendants of Abraham. But also included as inheritors are believing Jews, who are presumably a spiritual seed of Abraham, and are of course the physical descendants of the patriarch. And although never expressly stated, we may safely assume that pre-Abrahamic saints, in Justin’s estimation, are also included as recipients of covenant promises to be fulfilled in the millennial kingdom. Thus they may be called a spiritual seed of Abraham in a prototypical sense as foreshadowing the type of Abraham’s faith.
    For Justin, and others who followed, national Israel was permanently cut off because of its faithlessness and rejection of Christ. Thus believers of the church age now constitute the new Israel in a figurative sense as God’s chosen people. And according to Justin, as the redeemed of God and the true spiritual seed of Abraham, they, along with saints of other ages, are heirs of promise. This raises the question of Justin’s understanding of the various ages in which the faithful have lived and the various programs for each.

Year-day or Sex-/Septa-millennialism

    The concept of ages in the year-day or sex-/septa-millennial tradition is not as direct in Justin as it is in the Epistle of Barnabas.[38] There are only tantalizing references and secondhand quotations of uncertain origin or context. However, when it comes to dispensational distinctions, the situation is quite different.
    Daniel T. Taylor quotes Justin, supposedly from the Dialogue with Trypho, as saying, “We may conjecture from many places in Scripture that those are in the right who say six thousand years is the time fixed for the duration of the present frame of the world.”[39] We must say that we have been unable to find this passage in the Dialogue. If genuine, however, it certainly places Justin within the mainstream of this tradition. In any case, there are other oblique references to the year-day theory in Justin to suggest that he was a proponent of the view and that the above citation is not antagonistic to his beliefs.
    At one point in the Dialogue, Justin quoted Isaiah 65:17–25 “concerning the millennium” and came to the following conclusion:

    "Now, by the words, 'For as the days of the tree of life, so shall be the days of My people, and the works of their hands shall be multiplied,' we understand that a period of one thousand years is indicated in symbolic language. When it was said of Adam that 'in the day that he eateth of the tree, in that he shall die [Gen. 2:17],' we knew he was not a thousand years old. We also believe that the words, 'The day of the Lord is as a thousand years [Ps. 90:4; II Pet. 3:8],' also led to the same conclusion."[40]

    Although not a direct statement, here Justin used the language and biblical texts of the year-day concept.
    In a fragment attributed to Anastasius,[41] the reader is told that the seventh day in the account of creation represents “the culmination which is to take place,” as declared by Clement, Irenaeus and Justin. Speaking further of Justin’s teaching, Anastasius said that he,

"…comment[ed] with exceeding wisdom on the number six of the sixth day, affirm[ing] that the intelligent soul of man and his five susceptible senses were the six works of the sixth day. Whence also, having discoursed at length on the number six, he declares that all things which have been framed by God are divided into six classes …"[42]

    Again, we have no direct affirmation of the year-day theory here, but the language is suggestive of the type of reasoning out of which that concept grew.

Dispensational distinctions

    Although the data for Justin’s position on the year-day concept is meager, that by which to reconstruct his doctrine of dispensations is abundant—albeit presented in an unsystematic fashion. Nevertheless, we have in Justin the basis for a substantial dispensational system. It is a system, moreover, based not upon a mere division of human history into chronological ages, as C. Norman Kraus charges,[43] but upon God’s program for dealing with mankind within the context of die Heilsgeschichte.
    With regard to the question of whether or not God always taught the same righteousness, Justin remarked:

    "For if one should wish to ask you why, since Enoch, Noah with his sons, and all others in similar circumstances, who neither were circumcised nor kept the Sabbath, pleased God, God demanded by other leaders, and by the giving of the law after the lapse of so many generations, that those who lived between the times of Abraham and of Moses be justified by circumcision, and that those who lived after Moses be justified by circumcision and the other ordinances—to wit, the Sabbath, and sacrifices, and libations, and offerings…"[44]

    Elsewhere, Justin makes three things clear in this regard: 1) God is always the same; 2) The righteous actions [righteousness] that He expects are always the same;[45] but that 3) The manner in which they are expressed or that man is to respond to God, changes from dispensation to dispensation, and that that change is precipitated by man’s sin and failure. He warns of,

"…fall[ing] into foolish opinions, as if it were not the same God who existed in the times of Enoch and all the rest, who neither were circumcised after the flesh, nor observed Sabbaths, nor any other rites, seeing that Moses enjoined such observances; or that God has not wished each race of mankind continually to perform the same righteous actions [obedience to the will of God]: to admit which, seems to be ridiculous and absurd. Therefore we must confess that He, who is ever the same, has commanded these and such like institutions on account of sinful men…"[46]

    Justin sets forth four distinct phases[47] through which the human race passes in God’s progressive, revelatory program of salvation: 1) the first, from Adam to Abraham; 2) the second, from Abraham to Moses; 3) the third, from Moses to Christ; and 4) the fourth, from Christ, presumably to the eternal state. Each phase, or dispensation, has: 1) one or more chief representatives; 2) distinct characteristics marking it off from all other dispensations; 3) a specific reason for which change is instituted; and 4) a clear basis upon which salvation rests.
    Justin identified Enoch and Noah as the chief representatives of the first dispensation extending from Adam to Abraham. He spoke of “Enoch, Noah with his sons, and all others in similar circumstances”[48] and of “Enoch and those like him…”[49] Elsewhere, Justin named Adam, Abel, Lot, and Melchizedek as also belonging to that dispensation.[50] Overall, he set the parameters of the first dispensation as including all those “righteous and pleasing to Him, who lived before Moses and Abraham.” Justin distinctly marked off the next dispensation with the words, “after them Abraham with all his descendants until Moses…”[51] and spoke of “those who lived between the times of Abraham and of Moses…”[52]
    The chief dispensational characteristic during the second period, as presented by Justin, was the non-observance of rites. He observed that, “all these righteous men already mentioned,”[53] “neither were circumcised, nor kept the Sabbath,”[54] “nor any other rites…”[55] Yet the means of their salvation, as is the case in all dispensations by Justin’s reckoning, is the individual righteousness which comes through faith in God, as evidenced by the keeping of His commands. Those from Adam to Noah, though observing no rites, were declared righteous and pleasing to God[56] on account of their possession of the true circumcision—the circumcision of the heart. As stated by Justin, “though a man be a Scythian or a Persian, if he has the knowledge of God and of his Christ, and keeps the everlasting righteous decrees, he is circumcised with the good and useful circumcision, and is a friend of God, and God rejoices in his gifts and offerings.”[57] And again he said, “we, who have approached God through Him [Christ], have received not carnal, but spiritual circumcision, which Enoch and those like him observed… and all men may equally obtain it.”[58]
    The dispensation of non-observance of rites came to an end. But since Justin’s focus was upon Israel as the people of God, he said nothing directly about the personal failure of those between Adam and Abraham. He spoke only in general terms of the need for new “institutions on account of sinful men”[59] and “the hardness of your people’s heart…”[60] This he said with reference to the two dispensations which followed. Failure in each of those periods was presented by Justin primarily in terms of God’s chosen people, the Jews, while the Gentiles and those who preceded Abraham were mainly ignored. As was the custom of the early fathers, the canvas of theological debate was covered only in broad strokes with little attention given to detail.
    In the second dispensation, from Abraham to Moses, Abraham came to the fore as the chief representative. Justin pointed out that, “circumcision began with Abraham.”[61] And he consistently pointed to Abraham as representative of those who followed him, until the time of Moses.[62]
    The primary identifying mark of this dispensation was the rite of circumcision. Justin explained to Trypho that the rite was unnecessary before Abraham’s time, but because of the foreseen sin of Israel it became a necessary sign.[63] It would seem that, according to Justin, as a type of the true circumcision to come, circumcision of the flesh also served as the means of approach to God and as a symbol of Abraham’s obedience in faith.[64]
    Justin explained the reason for the change in dispensational arrangement in the following way. On the basis of God’s foreknowledge of Israel’s sin, the rite of circumcision (“of the flesh”) was given as a sign.[65] The sign was given, said Justin, in order that Israel might be distinguished from all other nations “and that you alone may suffer that which you now justly suffer…”[66] He maintained further that “these things [various sufferings of the Jews] have happened to you in fairness and justice, for you have slain the Just One, and His prophets before Him; and now you reject those who hope in Him, and in Him who sent Him… cursing in your synagogues those that believe on Christ.”[67] But in another place, Justin suggested also that this circumcision of the flesh “was a type of the true circumcision by which we are circumcised from deceit and iniquity through Him who rose from the dead on the first day after the Sabbath, [namely through] our Lord Jesus Christ.”[68]
    As in all dispensations, justification in this period between Abraham and Moses is by faith. And faith results in individual righteousness which is manifested by obedience to the revealed will of God. “For when Abraham himself was in uncircumcision,” says Justin, “he was justified and blessed by reason of the faith which he reposed in God, as the Scripture tells.”[69] And again he says, “For Abraham was declared by God to be righteous, not on account of circumcision, but on account of faith [Gen. 15:6].”[70]
    The chief representative of the third dispensation, that from Moses to Christ, is Moses himself. This is the “legal dispensation;”[71] the dispensation of Law. Again, as Justin explains, certain rites “were enjoined on account of the hardness of your people’s heart…”[72] Those rites, which constituted the chief characteristics of this dispensation, included the continuation of circumcision, with the addition of Sabbaths, sacrifices, offerings, libations (or ashes), and feasts.[73]
    As was true with circumcision, Justin held that these new rites were intended as signs and not as works of righteousness. At the same time, however, he viewed the rites as a means of approach to God; as a prod toward piety and away from idolatry. Concerning the significance of the rites as signs, Justin wrote:

    "Moreover, that God enjoined you to keep the Sabbath, and impose on you other precepts for a sign, as I have already said, on account of your unrighteousness, and that of your fathers,—as He declares that for the sake of the nations, lest His name be profaned among them, therefore He permitted some of you to remain alive … [Ezek. 20:19–26 then quoted]."[74]

But while Justin maintained that these rites were given as signs on account of Israel’s hardness of heart, he also insisted that they were given to lead the Jews into obedience to God and away from idolatry. With regard to sacrifices, for example, he said “that it was for the sins of your own nation, for their idolatries, and not because there was any necessity for such sacrifices, that they were likewise enjoined…” (Amos 5:18–6:7; Jer. 7:21, 22; Psalm 1, quoted in support).[75] Then he went on to say, “For indeed the temple…in Jerusalem, He admitted to be His house or court, not as though He needed it, but in order that you, in this view of it, giving yourselves to Him, might not worship idols” (Isa. 66:1 quoted).[76] Elsewhere, commenting on the same theme, Justin said, “you were commanded to observe the Sabbath, and to present offerings, and that the Lord submitted to have a place called by the name of God, in order that, as has been said, you might not become impious and godless by worshipping idols and forgetting God, as indeed you do always appear to have been.”[77] The Sabbath itself was to serve as “a memorial of God.”[78]
    In another place, Justin stated that the Jews did indeed forget God and once again demonstrated their disobedience. And this was despite God’s efforts to encourage them in righteous conduct. Justin taught that under Moses, all those descended from Abraham “appeared unrighteous and ungrateful to God, making a calf in the wilderness: wherefore God, accommodating Himself to that nation, enjoined them also to offer sacrifices, as if to His name, in order that you might not serve idols. Which precept, however, you have not observed…”[79] Justin indicted Israel further by saying, “you were commanded to abstain from certain kinds of food, in order that you might keep God before your eyes while you ate and drank, seeing that you were prone and very ready to depart from His knowledge…”[80]
    Justin made it clear that those who lived under the Mosaic dispensation were saved as all men are by individual righteousness through faith in God on the basis of Christ’s atoning work. Trypho asked Justin, “Tell me, then, shall those who lived according to the law given by Moses, live in the same manner with Jacob, Enoch, and Noah, in the resurrection of the dead, or not?” Justin replied:

"…each one…shall be saved by his own righteousness…. those who regulated their lives by the law of Moses would in like manner be saved. For what in the law of Moses is naturally good, and pious, and righteous, and has been prescribed to be done by those who obey it; and what was appointed to be performed by reason of the hardness of the people’s hearts; was similarly recorded, and done also by those who were under the law. Since those who did that which is universally, naturally, and eternally good are pleasing to God, they shall be saved through this Christ in the resurrection equally with those righteous men who were before them, namely Noah, and Enoch, and Jacob, and who ever else there be, along with those who have known this Christ, Son of God…"[81]

    The fourth and final dispensation in Justin’s outline of human history is the period from Christ, to presumably the eternal state. While it is certain that Justin looked for a distinct thousand-year millennial reign of Christ on earth, he did not discuss it in dispensational terms. He seems rather to have simply included it under the dispensation of Christ.[82]
    However, Justin does speak pointedly about the end of the dispensation under Moses, and the beginning of that under Christ. Because of Israel’s sin, said Justin, “it was necessary, in accordance with the Father’s will, that they [all rites] should have an end in Him who was born of a virgin, of the family of Abraham and tribe of Judah, and of David; in Christ the Son of God…”[83] Elsewhere, in response to Trypho’s questioning, Justin admitted that Christ “was both circumcised, and observed the other legal ceremonies ordained by Moses,” but he hastened to add that “He endured all these not as if He were justified by them, but completing the dispensation which His Father…wished Him [to complete]…”[84] It is obvious from the foregoing that for Justin, Christ is the chief representative of the present dispensation.
    Justin characterized the dispensation under Christ as one in which the rite of circumcision instituted with Abraham, and those of Sabbath keeping, sacrifices, offerings, and feasts, which came in under Moses, have ceased.[85] Now we have spiritual circumcision of heart[86] and gifts of the Holy Spirit.[87] In this last instance, Justin averred that the prophets of old received “some one or two powers from God,” by which they were enabled to speak that which has been set down in Scripture. After citing several instances of this as evidence, Justin said:

    "Accordingly He [the Holy Spirit] rested, i.e., ceased, when He [Christ] came, after whom, in the times of this dispensation wrought out by Him amongst men, it was requisite that such gifts should cease from you; and having received their rest in Him, should again, as had been predicted, become gifts which, from the grace of His Spirit’s power, He imparts to those who believe in Him, according as he deems each man worthy thereof."[88]

    The reason given by Justin for the change in God’s arrangement of things among men, is that with the advent of a sinless Christ, there is no longer any need for the former rites.[89] The blood of that former circumcision, asserted Justin, is obsolete. For now “we trust in the blood of salvation; there is now another covenant, and another law has gone forth from Zion. Jesus Christ circumcises all who will…with knives of stone; that they may be a righteous nation, a people keeping faith, holding to the truth, and maintaining peace.”[90] According to Justin, in Christ we have “the everlasting law and the everlasting covenant …”[91]
    Concerning the promised new covenant and its relation to the old, Justin made a significant statement about God’s methods of dealing with mankind. To Trypho, Justin said:

"…did not the Scriptures predict that God promised to dispense a new covenant besides that which [was dispensed] in the mountain Horeb?…Was not the old covenant laid on your fathers with fear and trembling, so that they could not give ear to God?…God promised that there would be another covenant, not like that old one, and said that it would be laid on them without fear, and trembling, and lightnings, and that it would be such as to show what kind of commands and deeds God knows to be eternal and suited to every nation, and what commandments He has given, suiting them to the hardness of your people’s hearts, as he exclaims also by the prophets."[92]

    The means of salvation in this dispensation, as in the previous ones according to Justin, is individual righteousness. In every instance it is obedience to the decrees of God which results in salvation through Christ.[93] Justin believed that those of us who have approached God in this dispensation, have received the same spiritual circumcision received by Enoch and others like him. “And we have received it through baptism since we were sinners, by God’s mercy; and all men may equally obtain it.”[94] It seems clear that Justin would agree with Ryrie’s statement that, “The basis of salvation is always the death of Christ; the means is always faith; the object is always God … but the content of faith depends on the particular revelation God was pleased to give at a certain time.”[95]


    The explicit declarations of Justin’s premillennialism are numerous. He argued that just as surely as the prophecies concerning Christ’s first coming were fulfilled, we may expect precise fulfillment of those surrounding His second advent.[96] In his discourse with Trypho, he insisted that Christ will come again, raise the righteous, and inaugurate the earthly millennial kingdom. After remarking that Justin “keep[s] close to the Scriptures in all [his] statements,” Trypho asked him,

"…do you really believe that this place Jerusalem shall be rebuilt, and do you actually expect that you Christians will one day congregate there to live joyfully with Christ, together with the patriarchs, the prophets, the saints of our people and those who became proselytes before your Christ arrived?"[97]

    Justin replied,

"…I am not such a wretch as to say one thing and to think another. I have declared to you earlier that I, with many others, feel that such an event will take place. However, I did point out that there are many pure and pious Christians who do not share our opinion…But I and every other completely orthodox Christian feel certain that there will be a resurrection of the flesh, followed by a thousand years in the rebuilt, embellished, and enlarged city of Jerusalem, as was announced by the Prophets Ezechiel, Isaias and the others."[98]

    Justin went on to support his position on the millennium from a collective understanding of Isaiah 65:17–25, Genesis 2:17, II Peter 3:8 (cf. Ps. 90:4), and John’s explicit statements in Revelation 20:4–6.[99] In this last instance, with all of the controversy over the Johannine authorship of the Apocalypse, it is interesting to note that Justin mentioned only the apostles John (once) and Peter (twice) by name in his writings, and the former he expressly identified here as the author of the book of Revelation.
    Of special interest also, is Justin’s comment that these views here expressed were the orthodox faith of the church. This doctrine of the millennium, J. N. D. Kelly points out, “counts in [Justin’s] eyes as an unquestioned article of orthodoxy.”[100] The amillenarian, Millard J. Erickson, is even more pointed in his assessment of Justin’s claim. He says,

    "[Justin] regarded belief in the resurrection as indispensable to Christian faith. Those who do not hold this view are not entitled to be called Christians. He noted two subclasses of Christians: those who expect an earthly reign of Christ, centering in a new Jerusalem that is located on the topographical site of the old; and those who expect no millennium. He considered the former to be orthodox and the latter to be flawed in their faith."[101]

    One facet of Justin’s “orthodox faith” which was seen only in germinal form in the Didache, but was brought out in bolder relief in Justin’s writing, is a belief in the twofold nature of the resurrection. Justin’s understanding of the millennial age included the following order of events: 1) the second coming of Christ; 2) the first resurrection—of the righteous dead; 3) the millennial kingdom; and then 4) the general resurrection—of the wicked dead.
    In a passage already cited, Justin wrote, “But I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem …”[102] Elsewhere, Justin called this “the holy resurrection…”[103] He went on to say that after this thousand years in Jerusalem, “the general, and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place.”[104] The context suggests that Justin’s belief in the twofold resurrection was based on Revelation 20.
    If Justin believed in a twofold resurrection, the critic may ask, why then did he speak of the resurrection in the First Apology as if it were a singular event? We observe that Kelly, a patristic scholar of some repute, inexplicably cites only the Didache (XVI, 6) in support of the double resurrection, and then states “but the normal teaching was that good and bad would alike rise.”[105] Kelly later quotes the Dialogue (Chaps. LXXX and LXXXI) to suggest that Justin believed there would be only one general resurrection prior to the millennial age.[106]
    The disparity between the accounts of the resurrection in the First Apology and the Dialogue must be explained in terms of the persons to whom the respective works were directed and the reasons for which they were written. In the Dialogue, as a polemic intended for a Jewish audience, Justin would naturally quote extensively from Scripture and give a rather detailed outline of God’s program for Christians over against that for the Jews. This outline would of course include a more precise explanation of the place and nature of the resurrection in end-time events. For the Romans, on the other hand, Justin’s focus was understandably not upon the details of eschatological revelation. His purpose in the Apologies, moreover, was to dispel false notions held among the uninitiated by presenting the basic truths of the Christian faith. It was not to interpret the Scriptures for Jewish readers.


    An understanding of the audience and objectives of Justin’s respective works is again important when considering his position on Christ’s second coming, the tribulation, and the church. It is a position which is clearly intratribulational,[107] but without an expressly stated emphasis upon the imminency of Christ’s return. Justin did, however, believe that the Antichrist “is even already at the door…”[108] That point does suggest a possible belief also in the imminent return of Christ.
    Justin was preoccupied with proving to the Jewish Trypho—and to a lesser extent the Romans—that two advents of Christ had been predicted. The promised Messiah came the first time, observed Justin, “as suffering, inglorious, dishonoured, and crucified.”[109] But in His second coming, “He shall come from heaven with glory, accompanied by His angelic host …”[110] It is the fact of Christ’s future coming that Justin was most interested in conveying to an unbelieving Jew (Trypho) and to a pagan Roman emperor, not the imminence of that coming. Had he been discoursing with Christians, Justin’s focus no doubt would have been different and may well have included this element.
In any case, it is evident that Justin expected the church to suffer at the hands of the Antichrist before Christ comes at the end of the age. Justin said, “He [Christ] shall come from heaven with glory, when the man of apostasy [II Thess. 2:3], who speaks strange things against the Most High, shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against us the Christians…”[111] But it is evident also that Justin viewed the tribulation under Antichrist as but an extension of persecution already suffered. He declared:

    "Now it is evident that no one can terrify or subdue us who have believed in Jesus over all the world. For it is plain that, though beheaded, and crucified, and thrown to wild beasts, and chains, and fire, and all other kinds of torture, we do not give up our confession; but the more such things happen, the more do others and in larger numbers become faithful, and worshippers of God through the name of Jesus."[112]

    Thus, like Barnabas and Hermas, Justin believed the coming persecution under Antichrist would be a continuation of the persecutions then being endured by the church. Furthermore, he seemed to view the impending persecution as being no more severe in its intensity than those which had already been inflicted upon the faithful. But when would the persecution under Antichrist begin and how long would it last?
In his discussion of Daniel’s reference to “a time, and times, and an half” (Daniel 7:25; 12:7), Justin said that “he whom Daniel foretells would have dominion” for this length of time, “is even already at the door, about to speak blasphemous and daring things against the Most High.”[113] Justin then chided Trypho (representing Jews in general) for not only misunderstanding this point, but assuming that Daniel’s prophecy implied that “the man of sin must, at the shortest, reign three hundred and fifty years…”[114] Justin thus interpreted Daniel’s prophecy of “a time, and times, and an half” in a mixed and confused way as referring both to the imminent revelation of the Antichrist and to the duration of his reign. Ryrie believes Justin was suggesting that Antichrist’s reign will be for three and a half years.[115] While this is not specifically stated by Justin, it may well be true. But if true, does it mean Antichrist will appear and then reign for three and a half years; or will he reign for three and a half years anonymously, and then be revealed? In other words, did Justin believe a Roman emperor was in fact the Antichrist, but not yet revealed as such?
    Note that in Justin’s discussion with Trypho about the “time, and times, and a half,” that his emphasis was not actually upon the duration of Antichrist’s reign, but upon his imminent appearing “to speak blasphemous and daring things against the Most High.” Justin did not give his readers a clue about his views on the Antichrist’s identity. But if he believed the evil one was in some way associated with the Roman empire (and ongoing persecution), that would account for Justin’s objection to the Jews’ supposition of a three hundred and fifty year reign for the Antichrist.
    It would also account for Justin’s seemingly abrupt transition from an emphasis on Antichrist’s imminent appearing, “[he] is even already at the door”, to the duration of his reign, “But you, being ignorant of how long he will have dominion… .” Antichrist, if associated with the Roman empire (a Roman emperor or the empire itself), could have already ruled for three and a half years, and thus be on the verge of appearing in order “to speak blasphemous and daring things against the Most High.” If, on the other hand, it were necessary for him to reign for three hundred and fifty years before his revelation, this could hardly be possible. The Roman Empire had scarcely been in existence for one and a quarter centuries at the time of Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho.
    This scenario fits in well with the question of the second advent of Christ and the persecution of the saints by the Antichrist. As stated previously, Justin held that Christ will come “when the man of apostasy, who speaks strange things against the Most High, shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against us the Christians…”[116] That the state was already committing unreasonable and unlawful acts against Christians, Justin made clear in his Apologies. He spoke of “those of all nations who are unjustly hated and wantonly abused, myself being one of them.”[117] Concerning the resulting persecutions, Justin went on to say that Rome “can kill, but not hurt us.”[118]
    What emerges from all of this is that Justin expected the Antichrist to appear soon, speak blasphemous things against God, and continue the persecution of the saints begun by the Roman state. While the details of the commencement and duration of Antichrist’s reign with relation to his appearing are not made clear by Justin, he certainly believed that it was in the context of ongoing persecution that Christ would come to rescue those who trust in Him. If Justin did in fact conclude that Antichrist’s reign had essentially run its course—within the context of the Roman Empire—and that his appearance to blaspheme God could occur at any time, then Justin must also have believed that the coming of Christ for the saints was imminent.
    We cannot say with confidence, as does Ladd, that Justin’s reference to Antichrist in the Dialogue, chapter CX, “proves that Justin expected the Church to go through the Tribulation…”[119] He expected the church to go through part of it, yes. But that he expected the church to go through a still future period of time called “the tribulation,” cannot be proved on the basis of the available evidence.
    It cannot be stated emphatically that this was Justin’s position on the appearance and reign of Antichrist and the imminency of Christ’s return. But the suggested scenario does provide a possible solution to certain difficulties in Justin’s statements on the subject. It is also consonant with the imminent intratribulational teachings of some of Justin’s predecessors.

Eschatological outline

    The essentials of Justin’s outline of end-time events have already been given above. So here we present only a summary outline without commentary: 1) Appearance of the man of apostasy; 2) Second advent of Christ; 3) Battle of Armageddon; 4) First resurrection; 5) Millennium; 6) Second resurrection; 7) General judgment of all; and 8) The eternal state, preceded by conflagration, then renewal. For a graphic presentation of Justin’s eschatological outline, with full documentation, the reader is directed to the appendix.

Melito of Sardis (second century)

     Melito, bishop of Sardis and one of the early apologists, flourished during Marcus Aurelius’s reign (a.d. 161-180), and died circa a.d. 190. Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus (c.125-c.195), said Melito was a “Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit.”[120] And Tertullian, according to Jerome, made mention of Melito’s “fine oratorical genius,” and the fact that “he was considered a prophet by many of us.”[121] Melito most probably knew Polycarp,[122] Papias, and Irenaeus. He certainly would have had frequent communication with his contemporaries, Apollinaris, bishop of Hierapolis (c.175), and Polycrates, and may even have met Ignatius.
     In keeping with the trend of his place and time, Melito was a prolific writer. Schaff observes that, “There must have been an uncommon literary fertility in Asia Minor after the middle of the second century.”[123] Eusebius listed some twenty works as coming from Melito’s hand.[124] Of these, until the recent discovery of a complete Homily on the Passion, all that remained of his writings were fragments. Schaff includes in those works, the loss of which is “perhaps to be regretted most,”[125] that On the Apocalypse of John. We would add the work entitled, On Prophecy.
    We include Melito in our present study only because he is frequently listed as a second century proponent of premillennialism.[126] The support usually given for the supposition is that “Jerome [Comm. on Ezek. 36] and Gennadius [De Dogm. Eccl., Ch. 52] both affirm that he was a decided millenarian.”[127] In the absence of direct statements from Melito himself, it is impossible to be dogmatic on the subject. However, such testimony, especially when given by one like Jerome who was no friend of the millenarians, cannot be minimized. That testimony plus Melito’s proximity in time and place to men whose millennialism cannot be questioned, tasks those who deny his adherence to the doctrine with the greater burden of proof.

Theophilus of Antioch (A.D.. 115–181)

    Both Eusebius and Jerome identified the apologist Theophilus as the sixth bishop of Antioch after the apostles.[128] Both also mentioned among his major writings, Against Marcion, To Autolycus (in three volumes), and Against the Heresy of Hermogenes,[129] plus “other short and elegant treatises.”[130] Of these works, only the apology to his non-Christian friend Autolycus has survived.
    To our knowledge, no premillenarian names Theophilus among second-century proponents of that doctrine. However, Silver does claim him as a supporter of the year-day theory. He says, “According to Theophilus the expiration of 6,000 years was comparatively near, and the Christians looked for the days to be shortened.”[131] We have been unable to find this assertion or an approximation of it in the writings of Theophilus.
Interestingly enough, Jean Danielou suggests not only that Theophilus was a believer in the year-day concept, but that he was a millenarian as well. He maintains that Theophilus of Antioch,

"…was one of the first Christian writers to take an interest in the theology of history, and was to influence Irenaeus in this direction. In his recapitulation of the chronology of world history he fixes the birth of Christ in the year 5,500. He makes no direct allusion either to the seven millennia nor to millenarianism; but this figure shows quite definitely that in his view Christ was born in the middle of the sixth millennium, and this implies that the year 6,000 will begin the messianic reign which is to fill the seventh millennium, and that the year 7,000 will be the end of the world and the founding of the heavenly city."[132]

    Based upon the evidence, such as it is, Danielou’s assessment is probably correct. Theophilus’ chronology reflects that of others (e.g., Hippolytus) who were proponents of both the year-day and millenarian concepts. At the very least it may be said that there is nothing in Theophilus which is contrary to the year-day and millenarian beliefs of his day and of those preceding.

Apollinaris of Hierapolis (c.175)

    The apologist Apollinaris, bishop of Hierapolis, wrote Eusebius, “enjoyed great distinction” in his day (along with Melito, bishop of Sardis).[133] The works assigned to him by Eusebius and Jerome include, a discourse to Marcus Aurelius, Against the Greeks (in five books), two books On Truth, and a treatise against the Phrygians (Montanists). Quasten also mentions two books Against the Jews and one entitled On Easter.[134] Only a single fragment remains from an unknown book and two from the work, On Easter.
    Because of the close proximity of Sardis and Hierapolis, all of the associations assumed for Melito would of course apply to Apollinaris as well. But it should be kept in mind that Apollinaris’ bishopric was that which had earlier belonged to the undisputed millenarian, Papias. Thus we may reasonably assume that the influence upon him by that father was substantial.
    Apollinaris is indeed claimed by the premillenarian camp,[135] though direct statements regarding that doctrine are lacking in his works. Nevertheless, his residency and ministry in Asia Minor, along with the undoubted Papian influence upon his doctrinal views, present a strong presumption in favor of that opinion. In any case, in his chapter on Papias, Jerome explicitly named Apollinaris, among others, as one “who say[s] that after the resurrection the Lord will reign in the flesh with the saints …”[136]
    In our next study we will examine the dispensational concepts presented by the polemicists. Most noteable among these were Irenaeus (c.120–202), and his pupil Hippolytus (died c.236). Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp who was a disciple of the Apostle John, was a third-generation church leader and premillenarian. Without question, he was the greatest of the Asiatic fathers.

Justin Martyr

[1] Of the eight to ten men usually termed “apologist,” only four have significance for this study: Justin Martyr, Melito of Sardis, Theophilus of Antioch, and Apollinaris of Hierapolis. For a definition of the term “apologist,” see the first article in this series.
[2] Justin Martyr First Apology III. Unless otherwise stated, all quotations from and references to the fathers in this study are from: Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10 vols. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., n.d.).
[3] Johannes Quasten, Patrology, 3 vols. (Westminster, Md.: Newman Press, 1950–60; reprint ed., Westminster, Md.: Christian Classics, Inc., 1983), 1:186–7.
[4] Ibid., p. 187.
[5] Justin Martyr Dialogue with Trypho VII. For the full account of the discourse with the old man and the story of Justin’s conversion, see chapters III-VIII.
[6] Justin Martyr Dialogue VII.
[7] Ibid, Chap. VIII.
[8] Eusebius Church History IV, XVIII, p. 6.
[9] Justin Martyr Dialogue I and IX.
[10] Ibid. Here are found references to “the war [lately] waged in Judaea.”
[11] William H. Ramsay, The Historical Geography of Asia Minor (London: John Murray, 1890), p. 164.
[12] Charles F. Pfeiffer and Howard F. Vos, eds., The Wycliffe Historical Geography of Bible Lands (Chicago: Moody Press, 1968), p. 455. It is estimated here that a traveler could cover 17 Roman miles per day on foot.
[13] J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers: Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp, 5 vols. (London: Macmillan and Co., 1889–1890; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981), Pt. 2, Ignatius and Polycarp, Vol. 1, p. 444.
[14] For Papias’ premillenarian views see Larry V. Crutchfield, “Papias,” in Dictionary of Premillennial Theology, gen. ed. Mal Couch (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1996), pp. 293.
[15] See Ramsay, p. 168, and Pfeiffer and Vos, p. 379, for total distance from Ephesus to Laodicea to Hierapolis.
[16] Justin Martyr Dialogue CXLII.
[17] Quasten, Patrology, 1:202.
[18] J. D. Douglas, ed., The New International Dictionary of the Christian Church (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1974), p. 558.
[19] Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 8 vols. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1960), 2:721.
[20] Justin Martyr First Apology XII. In chapters XLIII and XLIV, Justin expands this theme by saying that rewards and punishments are predicted by the prophets. On this basis he urges “the human race to effort and recollection …”
[21] Justin Martyr First Apology XXX.
[22] Ibid., Chap. XXXI. In the Dialogue with Trypho, in reference to the prophets who “alone both saw and announced the truth to men” and spoke by the divine Spirit, the old man tells Justin that the prophets’ “writings are still extant, and he who has read them is very much helped in his knowledge of the beginning and end of things, and of those things which the philosopher ought to know, provided he has believed them.”
[23] Justin Martyr First Apology XXXIII.
[24] Ibid., Chap. XLII.
[25] Ibid., Chap. LII.
[26] Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), p. 81.
[27] Ibid., p. 147.
[28] Justin Martyr Dialogue CXX.
[29] This twofold division of the physical seed of Abraham is further supported in an interesting discussion between Justin and Trypho over the relationship between faith in Christ and keeping of the Law. Justin explains to Trypho that there may be certain weak minded people who believe that there is some virtue in the observance of the Mosaic legislation and may thus wish to keep that Law while exercising faith in Christ. These, according to Justin, are saved individuals and therefore we ought to have fellowship with them. The references to circumcision, the Sabbath, and other observances, and the prohibition against efforts to draw Gentiles into this dual observance of Law and faith in Christ, make it clear that these are Jews here spoken of. But Justin goes on to indicate that both those Jews who confess faith in Christ then turn back completely to the “legal dispensation,” and “those of the seed of Abraham who live according to the law” and “do anathematize this very Christ in the synagogues,” are totally without hope of salvation (Dialogue XLVII). In the total discussion, it is a question of the physical, believing descendants of Abraham being saved on the one hand, and of the physical, unbelieving descendants of Abraham being lost on the other.
[30] Justin Martyr Dialogue CXXXV (Italics added).
[31] Ibid.
[32] Ibid., Chap. CXXIII.
[33] Ibid., Chap. XLIV.
[34] Ibid., Chaps. XXV-XXVI (Italics added).
[35] Ibid., Chap. CXX (Italics added).
[36] Ibid., Chap. CXIX (Italics added).
[37] Ibid., Chap. CXXXIX.
[38] See the third article in this series for Barnabas’ year-day or sex-/septa-millennial views.
[39] Daniel T. Taylor, The Reign of Christ on Earth or the Voice of the Church in all Ages, Concerning the Coming and Kingdom of the Redeemer (Boston: Scriptural Tract Repository, 1882), p. 59.
[40] Justin Martyr Dialogue LXXXI. For this quotation see: Hermigild Dressler, et al., eds., The Fathers of the Church: A New Translation (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 1948), vol. 6: Writings of Saint Justin Martyr, trans. by Thomas B. Falls, pp. 277–78.
[41] Anastasius Bibliothecarius (c.810-c.880).
[42] Justin Martyr Fragments from the Lost Writings of Justin XV. See Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds., The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 1:302.
[43] C. Norman Kraus, Dispensationalism in America (Richmond: John Knox Press, 1958), p. 25.
[44] Justin Martyr Dialogue XCII. The reader is reminded that some of these same themes were introduced by Barnabas (see Epistle of Barnabas II). See also Irenaeus Against Heresies IV, XVI, 1–2 and Tertullian An Answer to the Jews II-VI, where these matters receiver further treatment within the context of God’s dispensational dealings with mankind.
[45] Ibid., Chaps. XXIII and XCII; cf. Chap. LXVII, for reference to “deeds God knows to be eternal and suited to every nation …”
[46] Justin Martyr Dialogue XXIII.
[47] For certain of the ante-Nicene fathers, the number four had special significance. The dispensations were spoken of by Irenaeus, for example, in terms of “four covenants” (Against Heresies III, XI, 8; IV, IX, 3); by Victorinus of Petau as “four generations of people” (On the Creation of the World, no divisions); and by Methodius as “four trees” or “four laws” (Banquet of the Ten Virgins X, II). As we shall see in Irenaeus, the reasons given for a fourfold division were many and diverse.
[48] Justin Martyr Dialogue XCII.
[49] Ibid., Chap. XLIII.
[50] Ibid., Chap. XIX.
[51] Ibid.
[52] Ibid., Chap. XCII.
[53] Ibid. In Chap. XXVII.
[54] Ibid., Chap. XCII; cf. Chaps. XXVII, XIX, and XXIII.
[55] Ibid., Chap. XXIII.
[56] Ibid., Chaps. XIX, XXVII, XLVI, and XCII.
[57] Ibid., Chap. XXVIII (cf. Chap. XLVI). Justin never spells out what the “everlasting decrees” of God are. But he speaks of God’s rejoicing in the “gifts and offerings” of the one who keeps them. Elsewhere, he points out that though uncircumcised, God “had respect to the gifts of Abel,” translated Enoch, “saved [Lot] from Sodom,” and spared Noah and his family in the ark (Chap. XIX). These seem to express the more positive aspects of the means of approach to God during this period. The keeping of the everlasting decrees appears to involve simple obedience to the commands of God in the varied circumstances of life. Chapter XLV seems to place this within the context of the universal law of God which has existed for all men. Here Justin speaks of that which is “naturally good, and pious, and righteous” and of “that which is universally, naturally, and eternally good” and thus “pleasing to God.” In his discussion of the new covenant brought in by Christ, as contrasted with the old covenant under Moses, Justin says that “it would be such as to show what kind of commands and deeds God knows to be eternal and suited to every nation, and what commandments He has given, suiting them to the hardness of your people’s heart …” (Chap. LXVII).
[58] Justin Martyr Dialogue XLIII. Here we see Justin’s Christological focus. All justification by faith and thus the true or spiritual circumcision of the heart must point forward to the incarnate Christ, in whom all rites “have an end …”
For additional information on Justin’s perception of the process of salvation from age to age, see footnote 92 below.
[59] Justin Martyr Dialogue XXIII.
[60] Ibid., Chaps. XLIII and LXVII. Cf. Chaps. XVI and XCII.
[61] Ibid., Chaps. XLIII and XVI. Cf. Chaps. XXIII and XLVI.
[62] Ibid., Chaps. XIX and XCII.
[63] Ibid., Chaps. XXIII, XLIII.
[64] Ibid., Chaps. XLI and XCII. Justin’s position here is not completely clear. He certainly believed that all men of all ages are justified by faith. He believes also that circumcision of the flesh was instituted on account of Israel’s foreknown sin and failure. But he seems to imply that all rites, while being brought in because of sin and in and of themselves unable to bring justification to the individual, when observed, are nevertheless in some sense symbols of faith and obedience to God’s everlasting decrees. In chapter XCII, Justin thus speaks of “those who lived between the times of Abraham and of Moses be[ing] justified by circumcision” and in chapter XLI, of circumcision of the flesh as a type of the true circumcision to come. Nevertheless, points out Justin, even the difference in the sexual anatomy of men and women suggests that righteousness itself cannot be based merely upon the physical act of circumcision. For while women cannot receive the physical sign, God has given them “the ability to observe all things which are righteous and virtuous …” Thus, concludes Justin, “we know that neither of them [male or female] is righteous or unrighteous merely for this cause [circumcision], but [is considered righteous] by reason of piety and righteousness” (Chap. XXIII).
    We have something of an expression of this twofold nature of the rites in chapter XLIV of the Dialogue. Here Justin says, “some injunctions were laid on you in reference to the worship of God and practice of righteousness; but some injunctions and acts were likewise mentioned in reference to the mystery of Christ, on account of the hardness of your people’s hearts.” This twofold character of the rites, both as signs and as a means of approach in obedience to God, will be brought out in greater detail in the discussion of the next dispensation, that under Moses.
[65] Justin Martyr Dialogue XVI, XXIII, and XCII. Cf. Chap. XXVIII.
[66] Ibid., Chaps. XVI and XIX.
[67] Ibid., Chap. XVI.
[68] Ibid, Chap. XLI.
[69] Ibid, Chap. XXIII.
[70] Ibid, Chap. XCII. As we shall see, this is a faith which, according to Justin, must have its fulfillment in the coming Christ.
[71] Justin Martyr Dialogue XLVII. Here the term “legal dispensation” was used twice in the course of Justin’s discussion with Trypho over the status of those who confess faith in Christ yet either choose to observe “the legal dispensation” or to deny Christ altogether and then go back to “the legal dispensation.”
[72] Justin Martyr Dialogue XLIII. Cf. Chaps. XXIII, XLIV, XLVI and LXVII.
[73] Ibid, Chaps. XLIII and XCII.
[74] Ibid., Chap. XXI.
[75] Ibid., Chap. XXII.
[76] Ibid.
[77] Ibid., Chap. XCII.
[78] Ibid., Chap. XIX.
[79] Ibid., Chap. XIX.
[80] Ibid., Chap. XX.
[81] Ibid., Chap. XLV. See chapter XLVII for a discussion of the salvation of those who kept the Law but at the same time confessed faith in Christ.
[82] In chapter XLV, in the context of successive arrangements of God among men, Justin speaks of the two advents of Christ as the means by which Satan and his angelic followers will be destroyed, and death eliminated. He speaks here also of final judgment and of the benefits and prospects of immortality for the faithful. All of these events are rather compressed together in terms of incarnation-second coming-immortality (church age + millennium + eternal state = dispensation of Christ?).
[83] Justin Martyr Dialogue XLIII. Cf. Chap. XXIII.
[84] Ibid., Chap. LXVII.
[85] Ibid., Chaps. XXIII and XLIII.
[86] Ibid., Chap. XLIII
[87] Ibid., Chap. LXXXVII.
[88] Ibid.
[89] Ibid., Chap. XXIII.
[90] Ibid., Chap. XXIV.
[91] Ibid., Chap. XLIII.
[92] Ibid., Chap. LXVII.
[93] Ibid., Chap. XLV.
[94] Ibid., Chap. XLIII.
[95] Ryrie, Dispensationalism, p. 121, cf. p. 115. In chapter XLV of the Dialogue, it is clear from the context that when Justin said “each one…shall be saved by his own righteousness,” he was speaking of those of all ages who demonstrate a faithful obedience to God which results in salvation “through this Christ …” For Justin, the process of salvation from Adam to the second advent was Christological throughout. He told Trypho, that “only those who in mind are assimilated to the faith of Abraham” may expect an inheritance in the coming kingdom. And further, that “there is no other [way] [of salvation] than this,—to become acquainted with this Christ, to be washed in the fountain spoken of by Isaiah for the remission of sins …” (Dialogue XLIV).
[96] Justin Martyr First Apology LII. Much has been made by the critics of premillennialism of the absence of millennial references in the Apologies of Justin. Harnack even goes so far as to suggest that Justin denies “chiliastic hopes” in the First Apology XI, but affirms them as orthodoxy in the Dialogue [Adolph von Harnack, History of Dogma (Boston: Roberts Brothers, 1897), p. 296]. The simple charge of silence on the subject in the Apologies is easy enough to answer. To speak to a Roman emperor of a future kingdom beyond the grave was one thing, to speak of a rival earthly theocracy was quite another. To have emphasized the violent overthrow of the existing imperial monarchy by One who would rule from the throne of David in Jerusalem, could only have done severe and unnecessary damage to the cause championed by the apologists. Thus it is not surprising that not only Justin was silent on the subject, but no trace of it is to be found in the extant writings of any of the other apologists.
    Harnack’s claim that Justin actually denied belief in the millennium can be disposed of with the same lack of difficulty. The most that Justin can be charged with here is cleaver evasion through a careful choice of words. He twice insisted that Christians are not looking for “a human kingdom.” Note that he did not say that Christians are not looking for an earthly kingdom. Later, he made a point of telling Trypho that we expect to dwell “a thousand years in Jerusalem” (Dialogue LXXX and LXXXI). In point of fact, Christian’s look not for a successor to a merely human kingdom after the species of the Roman empire. Rather, they look for one distinct in time, which will be ruled over by the Son of God Himself, not a mere mortal. The reader is directed to Justin’s discourse with Trypho where he says, “For, my friends, there are some of our race, who acknowledge that Jesus is the Christ, but claim that He has a merely human origin. I naturally disagree with such persons …” (Dialogue 48 in The Fathers of the Church translation, pp. 220–1).
[97] Justin Martyr Dialogue LXXX, as translated in Hermigild Dressler, et al., eds., The Fathers of the Church, 6:275.
[98] Ibid., Dressler, pp. 275-77.
[99] Justin Martyr Dialogue LXXXI. The reader is directed to the section on the year-day tradition for a more detailed discussion of these references and the thousand years. We note in passing that as is his custom, Jean Danielou looks to some work from apocalyptic literature (here it is the Book of Jubilees) as the primary source of Justin’s millennialism. He maintains that “Since the Asiatics, following the lead of apocalyptic, regarded the messianic reign as a return to Paradise, it was natural that in it the length of life should be the same as Adam’s ought to have been (cf. Jubilees XXIII, 27)” [Jean Danielou, The Development of Christian Doctrine Before the Council of Nicaea, vol. 1: The Theology of Jewish Christianity (London: Darton, Longman, and Todd, 1964), p. 392, cf. p. 393]. In reply we point out that while Justin expressly quoted Isaiah and the Apostle John in support of the millennial expectation, and alluded to the Psalm 90:4/II Peter 3:8 passages so closely related to the year-day theory, he nowhere mentioned the Book of Jubilees. That his remarks here concerning the duration of Adam’s life, etc., may very well be based upon that apocalyptic source we do not deny. But Justin no more based his belief in the millennium chiefly upon this work than Clement based his belief in the resurrection primarily upon the legend of the Phoenix (see I Clement XXV). For Justin, it was merely one more piece of evidence among many others for the truth of the millenarian doctrine.
[100] J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, rev. ed. (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1978), p. 466. In light of Justin’s explicit statements that this doctrine passed for orthodoxy in the early church, it is incredible to learn that there are still those who question both Justin’s adherence to the doctrine and the prevalence of the view in his time. On the basis of Jerome’s omission of Justin’s name from his three lists of early millenarians (see his Lives of Illustrious Men XVIII, Comm. on Isaiah 65, and Comm. on Ezek. 36), Briggs asserts that “Surely this threefold omission is significant, in view of the leading position of Justin among the apologists” [C. A. Briggs, “Origin and History of Premillenarianism,” Lutheran Quarterly 9 (April 1879): 227]. Schaff’s quick rebuttal to such claims—along with the attendant notions that millenarian passages in the Dialogue must be corruptions of the text or interpolations—is that such charges are simply without warrant. Furthermore, says Schaff, “The omission of Justin in Jerome’s lists of Chiliasts can prove nothing against the testimony of all the manuscripts” (Schaff, 2:617).
    Perhaps even more incredible is an assertion made in a note in The Fathers of the Church series in which the writer seems to claim for himself a certain measure of omniscience. He states that “The belief in the millennium was not as general as Justin’s words imply. The only other early supporters of this doctrine were Papias of Hierapolis and Irenaeus. Many other Christian writers then opposed this belief of a thousand year’s earthly happiness with Christ at Jerusalem after the resurrection from the dead” [Dressler, et al., eds., The Fathers of the Church, 6:277, note 5]. In the first place, it hardly needs to be said that our catalog of the writings of the fathers of this early period is extremely small. And thus their views on this subject and many others are either available to us only in fragments and inferences or lost altogether. From the ten or so apologists alone we have but a few extant manuscripts and several fragments. The situation among the apostolic fathers is no better. In the second place, it is the height of presumption to suppose that we in the twentieth century are in a better position to know what Justin’s contemporaries believed than he was. In this regard we quote Peters with hearty approval: “We only add that Justin is far more competent (in view of the time he lived, his scholarship, his pre-eminence as an Apologist, his consistent Christian life sealed by martyrdom for the truth) to tell us what was ‘the orthodox’ view in his day than ‘Westminster’ [Briggs], with his heart filled with enmity and prejudice, is to-day” [George N. H. Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom of Our Lord Jesus, the Christ, 3 vols. (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publishing House, 1958), 1:481].
[101] Millard J. Erickson, Contemporary Options in Eschatology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977), p. 94. For a useful summary of who these “flawed” or “unorthodox” Christians might be, see E. Bickersteth, The Restoration of the Jews to Their Own Land (London: Seeleys, 1852), pp. 412–13.
[102] Justin Martyr Dialogue LXXX.
[103] Ibid., Chap. CXIII.
[104] Ibid., Chap. LXXXI.
[105] Kelly, p. 464. Irenaeus (Against Heresies V, XXXV, 1) and many others who followed also held to the twofold nature of the resurrection.
[106] Kelly, p. 465.
[107] For a definition of this term, see section “Imminent Intratribulationism” in the first article in this series.
[108] Justin Martyr Dialogue XXXII.
[109] Ibid., Chap. CX. Cf. Chaps. XXXII, XLIX, and CXXI; First Apology LII.
[110] Justin Martyr First Apology LII. Cf. Dialogue XXXII, XLV, XLIX, LII, CX, and CXXI.
[111] Justin Martyr Dialogue CX.
[112] Ibid.
[113] Ibid., Chap. XXXII.
[114] Ibid.
[115] Charles C. Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith (Neptune, N.J.: Loizeaux Brothers, 1953), p. 22.
[116] Justin Martyr, Dialogue CX.
[117] Ibid., First Apology I.
[118] Ibid., Chap. II.
[119] George Eldon Ladd, The Blessed Hope (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1956), p. 24 (Italics added).
[120] See Eusebius, Church History V, XXIV, p. 5.
[121] Jerome, Lives XXIV.
[122] Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, Pt. 2, Ignatius and Polycarp, Vol. 1, p. 444. Here Lightfoot says of Melito, Apollinaris, and Polycrates (bishop of Ephesus, fl. c.190), that they “would all probably have come under his [Polycarp’s] personal influence; for they lived at no great distance from Smyrna and must have grown into full manhood, or even attained middle age, before he died.”
[123] Schaff, 2:737.
[124] Eusebius, Church History IV, XXVI.
[125] Schaff, 2:739. Schaff suggests that the reason Melito’s writings “fell into oblivion,” was the fact that he was one of the main supporters of Quartodecimanism, a practice later condemned as heretical (Schaff, 2:737). With regard to the disfavor into which Melito’s writings fell, there is an informative note in the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers series. There we learn that while Melito opposed the teachings of the Montanists, he nevertheless held views that were very much in agreement with the spirit of that movement. “To this may be added the fact that Melito was a chiliast,” the note continues, “and the teachings of the Montanists brought such disrepute upon chiliasm that the Fathers of the third and following centuries did not show much fondness for those who held or had held these views. Very few notices of Melito’s works are found among the Fathers, and none of those works is to-day extant. Eusebius is the first to give us an idea of the number and variety of his writings, and he does little more than mention the titles, a fact to be explained only by his lack of sympathy with Melito’s views” (see Philip Schaff, and Henry Wace, eds. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, second series, 14 vols. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., n.d.), vol. 1: The Church History of Eusebius, p. 203, note 1).
[126] See Taylor, Voice of the Church, P. 66; Peters, Theocratic Kingdom, 1:495; Walvoord, Millennial Kingdom, p. 120; et al.
[127] Richard Cunningham Shimeall, Christ’s Second Coming: Is it Pre-Millennial or Post-Millennial? (New York: John F. Trow, 1865), p. 67. See also, Taylor, p. 66; Peters, 1:495; Jesse Forest Silver, The Lord’s Return (New York, et al.: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1914), p. 66; W. Chillingworth, The Works of W. Chillingworth, 12th ed. (London: B. Blake, 1836), p.714; et al.
[128] Eusebius, Church History IV, XX; Jerome, Lives XXV.
[129] In light of the controversy stirred up by Eusebius over the question of the apostolic authorship of the book of Revelation, his comment that in this work, Melito “makes use of testimony from the Apocalypse of John …” (Ch. Hist. IV, XX, 1), has some interest.
[130] Jerome, Lives XXV.
[131] Silver, p. 62.
[132] Danielou, p. 401. We are not sure where Danielou got the 5,500 year calculation from creation to the birth of Christ. What Theophilus actually said in the passage to which Danielou makes reference, is that “All the years from the creation of the world amount to a total of 5698 years, and the odd months and days” (To Autolycus III, XXVIII). It is Hippolytus who reckoned that “the first appearance of our Lord in the flesh took place in Bethlehem, under Augustus, in the year 5500 …” (Frags. from Comm., On Daniel II, 4–6). So too, Julius Africanus mentioned the calculations of the Jews as suggesting “the number of 5, 500 years as the period up to the advent of the Word of salvation …” Africanus himself held that “The period … to the advent of the Lord from Adam and the creation is 5531 years …” (see Julius Africanus Fragments of the Chronography I and XVIII, 4).
[133] Eusebius, Church History IV, XXVI, p. 1. Serapion, bishop of Antioch (c.190–211), called him “the most blessed Claudius Apollinarius, who was made bishop of Hierapolis in Asia” (Fragment 1).
[134] Quasten, Patrology, 1:228–29.
[135] See Peters, 1:496; Walvoord, Millennial Kingdom, pp. 43, 120; et al. This Apollinaris should not be confused with the bishop of Laodicea in Syria (c.310-c.390) of the same name, who was one of the last to hold to millenarian views in the east.
[136] Jerome Lives XVIII. Here, in addition to Apollinaris, Jerome identified Irenaeus, Tertullian, Victorinus of Petau, and Lactantius as millenarians.