Those Who Fell Short

I have not spoken in secret,
    from somewhere in a land of darkness;
I have not said to Jacob’s descendants,
    ‘Seek me in vain.’
I, the Lord, speak the truth;
    I declare what is right.

  • Isaiah 45:19

“Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city.

  • Jeremiah 5:1

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

  • John 8:31-32

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

  • Hebrews 13:8

“Justin spent his last years in Rome, where he taught. In the 160s he was arrested, with others, and put on trial for being a Christian. He refused to renounce his faith by offering sacrifice to the gods and went to his death confident of his salvation in Christ.
I and II Apology is on a considerably higher plane than the writings of the ’Apostolic Fathers.’ It is a masterly presentation of the Christian faith. Justin was resolutely opposed to paganism and had no time for syncretism. He gave his life rather than offer sacrifice to the gods. He was also very critical of Greek philosophy in places. But, at the same time, he portrayed Christ not as a complete outsider but as the fulfilment of the best in Greek thought. He did this by exploiting the Greek concept of the Logos or Word in which all people participate. He also held that Plato and other philosophers had borrowed some of their ideas from the Old Testament. …
“l both boast and strive with all my strength to be found a Christian. Not because the teachings of Plato are different from those of Christ, but because they are not totally identical. The same applies to the Stoics, poets and historians. For each man spoke well. in proportion to the share that he had of the seminal Word, seeing what was related to it. … Whatever things were rightly said by any man, belong to us Christians. For next to God we worship and love the Word, who is from the unbegotten and ineffable God, since he also became man for our sakes, that by sharing in our sufferings he might also bring us healing. For all those writers were able to see reality darkly, through the seed of the implanted Word within them. (
[Justin Martyr,] II Apology)

  • Tony Lane, A Concise History of Christian Thought

Justin Martyr (100?-165?) provides a very intellectual argument here in the quote from II Apology.  Yet, in trusting in God to the point of death, it seems the heart knowledge was there also.

While many ancient philosophers missed the mark entirely, at least falling short of finding God, many, as I have noted, were very close to the teachings of Jesus.  The pity is that they lived a few hundred years before Jesus arrived on the scene.

These ancient philosophers, whether they were searching for truth or whether they were searching for a moral common ground, they were in essence searching for Jesus Christ without knowing it.  I have also written that the Apostle Paul took advantage of this philosophical bent when he presented the Gospel to the Gentiles.  Followers of Plato and Aristotle, for example, still existed hundreds of years after the deaths of those great philosophers.  They still argued over the same territory as the great philosophers had hundreds of years before.  And the Apostle Paul explained that Jesus Christ was the culmination of that search.

Justin Martyr takes this argument a step further.  He thought that the ancient philosophers had been influenced by the Old Testament, probably for Justin, still the Scriptures.  While the New Testament was available in the time of Justin, in its entirety, the canon of Scriptures including all 66 books was not established until about the year 400AD.  Until then, the New Testament was a group of books copied and sent to new churches as the Word of God was being spread.  Yet, Justin made the distinction that the ancient Greek philosophers might have studied the Hebrew Scriptures.

In David K. Stabnow’s book, churchfails, he claims that Justin Martyr accused the Greek philosophers of plagiarizing the Old Testament, and then Justin Martyr plagiarized the Stoic philosophy of the “seminal word.” Anything “seminal” within Stoic philosophy is what God inserted in that being when initially created. Even in this case, the Scriptures may not use the term, but Genesis talks of mankind coming into existence when God breathed life into Adam. And how can you illustrate that the Stoic philosophers were seeking the one true God, unless you take their principles and relate them to how God is revealed in Holy Scripture? Maybe Stabnow overreached his definition of plagiarism in order to include Justin Martyr in his book. These days not doing attributes correctly when making a quote might be considered plagiarism, but only due to countless revisions and details within our giant tomes of laws, as to avoid legal loopholes. Thus, can we state categorically that Justin Martyr worked within the same legal boundaries 1900 years ago? I can cut Justin some slack here.

Another interpretation for the ancient philosophers making a moral judgment similar to the Hebrew Scripture is that the imprint of God is in each human (the Stoic philosophy of “seminal word,” but we can either choose to follow that inner voice or choose our own path.  Without God working within us, sadly, it is the most expedient thing that is chosen, sometimes knowing that we are doing wrong.

Justin Martyr’s early life is interesting, and it explains his intellectual argument.  He followed the teaching of the Stoic philosophers.  That did not explain things adequately, especially relating to God, and he turned to Aristotle, a follower of Aristotle.  He felt Aristotle shrewd, but not quite hitting the mark.  He then turned to a Pythagorean philosopher who insisted Justin study astronomy and geometry before studying philosophy.  Justin was impatient and turned to a follower of Plato.  He felt he was making great progress, but something was missing.  He then met an old man by the sea who pointed to the Old Testament Scriptures and told him how Jesus fulfilled the Messianic prophecies.  Justin Martyr had finally reached the end of his search.

All the philosophers that he had studied to that point had fallen short. Those who fell short were not worth following, but Jesus was worth martyrdom.

So many people today are looking for the answer.  So many exclude Christianity, thinking it old and out of date, but Christianity is timeless in that Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Nothing can fill that void in your life except for Jesus.

If you like these Tuesday morning essays about philosophy and other “heavy topics,” but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Tuesday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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