Justin Martyr the Inerrantist

I was quite surprised when I came across this passage in Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho:

And Trypho said, “Being shaken by so many Scriptures, I know not what to say about the Scripture which Isaiah writes, in which God says that He gives not His glory to another, speaking thus ‘I am the Lord God; this is my name; my glory will I not give to another, nor my virtues.’ ”

And I answered, “If you spoke these words, Trypho, and then kept silence in simplicity and with no ill intent, neither repeating what goes before nor adding what comes after, you must be forgiven; but if [you have done so] because you imagined that you could throw doubt on the passage, in order that I might say the Scriptures contradicted each other, you have erred. But I shall not venture to suppose or to say such a thing; and if a Scripture which appears to be of such a kind be brought forward, and if there be a pretext [for saying] that it is contrary [to some other], since I am entirely convinced that no Scripture contradicts another, I shall admit rather that I do not understand what is recorded, and shall strive to persuade those who imagine that the Scriptures are contradictory, to be rather of the same opinion as myself. With what intent, then, you have brought forward the difficulty, God knows. (Dialogue with Trypho 65, in ANF 1:230)

The Chicago Statement it ain’t, but it’s as close as you’ll get in the ancient world to a modern-day doctrine of inerrancy. 


9 thoughts on “Justin Martyr the Inerrantist

  1. Someday I’ve got to read them early church fathers because that’s fascinating.

    How much better is this than academic gobbledy-gook? Or at least more creative and thought provoking.

    Were you reading this through or did you just happen to come across the quote?

    Thanks for posting it.

  2. Jeff: I came across it in an essay in the book The Canon Debate and then I opened up BibleWorks8 to check it out in context, and finally pulled my hard copy off the shelf to make sure BW8 got the page number and footnotes correct (they did).

  3. Your quotation reminded of this text from St. Augustine:

    “On my part I confess to your charity that it is only to those Books of Scripture which are now called canonical that I have learned to pay such honour and reverence as to believe most firmly that none of their writers has fallen into any error. And if in these Books I meet anything which seems contrary to truth, I shall not hesitate to conclude either that the text is faulty, or that the translator has not expressed the meaning of the passage, or that I myself do not understand.” (Letter 82)

  4. Great quote…teaches us to look a little deeper than the surface…and reinforces that Christianity is a matter of the heart not just knowledge…for with the heart one believes…

  5. I’m looking around in BibleWorks and can’t find this. Could you tell me where to look? Thanks.

    I’m gradually going through the help files and videos getting ready for my review.

  6. Ilyas: Thanks for the Augustine reference, I hadn’t come across it before. My reading of Augustine has been limited to De Trinitate, City of God, and De Doctrina Christiana.

    Nancy: Yup.

    Jeff: Go to “resources” and then “backgrounds” and it’s right there labeled “Schaff, Early Church Fathers”.

  7. Justin’s view on the OT (which, by the way, was presuppositional for a debate with a Jew) needs to be understood in contradistinction to his view of the NT writings. That view is well summarized by Helmut Koester (didn’t I quote this recently?):

    “Justin . . . introduced written documents, which he usually called the ‘Remembrances of the Apostles’ and sometimes also ‘Gospel,’ as the proof for the truth of the Christian kerygma. For Justin these writings were reliable because they presented a historical record that was written by firsthand witnesses. These books recorded the exact fulfillment of the prophecies of the books of Moses and of the prophets of Israel. Indeed, as these writings were taking the place of the Christian proclamation, they could themselves be called ‘Gospels.’ He may have learned this designation from Marcion. That these Gospels could be inspired writings never occurred to Justin. Inspiration properly characterized prophetic books. The Gospels were historical records, not inspired writings.” [*Paul and His World: Interpreting the New Testament in Its Context* (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007) 217-18.]

    This is what I’ve been saying in responses to other posts, and it is, I think, exactly the view taken in the New Testament itself.

  8. John: I don’t have the Koester book you’ve referenced so I can’t check to see if he cites any examples from Justin. Does he? If so where should I look to check out his claim?

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