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The First Apology | Justin Martyr | 3

31. Of the Hebrew prophets

There were, then, among the Jews certain men who were prophets of God, through whom the prophetic Spirit published beforehand things that were to come to pass, ere ever they happened.

And their prophecies, as they were spoken and when they were uttered, the kings who happened to be reigning among the Jews at the several times carefully preserved in their possession, when they had been arranged in books by the prophets themselves in their own Hebrew language.

And when Ptolemy king of Egypt formed a library, and endeavoured to collect the writings of all men, he heard also of these prophets, and sent to Herod, who was at that time king of the Jews, requesting that the books of the prophets be sent to him.

And Herod the king did indeed send them, written, as they were, in the foresaid Hebrew language.

And when their contents were found to be unintelligible to the Egyptians, he again sent and requested that men be commissioned to translate them into the Greek language. And when this was done, the books remained with the Egyptians, where they are until now.

They are also in the possession of all Jews throughout the world; but they, though they read, do not understand what is said, but count us foes and enemies; and, like yourselves, they kill and punish us whenever they have the power, as you can well believe.

For in the Jewish war which lately raged, Barchochebas, the leader of the revolt of the Jews, gave orders that Christians alone should be led to cruel punishments, unless they would deny Jesus Christ and utter blasphemy.

In these books, then, of the prophets we found Jesus our Christ foretold as coming, born of a virgin, growing up to man's estate, and healing every disease and every sickness,

and raising the dead, and being hated, and unrecognised, and crucified, and dying, and rising again, and ascending into heaven, and being, and being called, the Son of God.

We find it also predicted that certain persons should be sent by Him into every nation to publish these things, and that rather among the Gentiles [than among the Jews] men should believe in Him.

And He was predicted before He appeared, first 5000 years before, and again 3000, then 2000, then 1000, and yet again 800; for in the succession of generations prophets after prophets arose.

32. Christ predicted by Moses

Moses then, who was the first of the prophets, spoke in these very words:

"The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until He come for whom it is reserved; and He shall be the desire of the nations, binding His foal to the vine, washing His robe in the blood of the grape." Genesis 49:10

It is yours to make accurate inquiry, and ascertain up to whose time the Jews had a lawgiver and king of their own:

Up to the time of Jesus Christ, who taught us, and interpreted the prophecies which were not yet understood, [they had a lawgiver] as was foretold by the holy and divine Spirit of prophecy through Moses,

"that a ruler would not fail the Jews until He should come for whom the kingdom was reserved" (for Judah was the forefather of the Jews, from whom also they have their name of Jews);

and after He (i.e., Christ) appeared, you began to rule the Jews, and gained possession of all their territory.

And the prophecy, "He shall be the expectation of the nations," signified that there would be some of all nations who should look for Him to come again. And this indeed you can see for yourselves, and be convinced of by fact:

For of all races of men there are some who look for Him who was crucified in Judæa, and after whose crucifixion the land was straightway surrendered to you as spoil of war.

And the prophecy, "binding His foal to the vine, and washing His robe in the blood of the grape," was a significant symbol of the things that were to happen to Christ, and of what He was to do:

For the foal of an ass stood bound to a vine at the entrance of a village, and He ordered His acquaintances to bring it to Him then;

and when it was brought, He mounted and sat upon it, and entered Jerusalem, where was the vast temple of the Jews which was afterwards destroyed by you.

And after this He was crucified, that the rest of the prophecy might be fulfilled. For this "washing His robe in the blood of the grape" was predictive of the passion He was to endure, cleansing by His blood those who believe in Him.

For what is called by the Divine Spirit through the prophet "His robe," are those men who believe in Him in whom abides the seed of God, the Word.

And what is spoken of as "the blood of the grape," signifies that He who should appear would have blood, though not of the seed of man, but of the power of God.

And the first power after God the Father and Lord of all is the Word, who is also the Son; and of Him we will, in what follows, relate how He took flesh and became man.

For as man did not make the blood of the vine, but God, so it was hereby intimated that the blood should not be of human seed, but of divine power, as we have said above.

And Isaiah, another prophet, foretelling the same things in other words, spoke thus:

A star shall rise out of Jacob, and a flower shall spring from the root of Jesse; and His arm shall the nations trust. Isaiah 11:1

And a star of light has arisen, and a flower has sprung from the root of Jesse— this Christ.

For by the power of God He was conceived by a virgin of the seed of Jacob, who was the father of Judah, who, as we have shown, was the father of the Jews; and Jesse was His forefather according to the oracle, and He was the son of Jacob and Judah according to lineal descent.

33. Manner of Christ's birth predicted

And hear again how Isaiah in express words foretold that He should be born of a virgin; for he spoke thus: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bring forth a son, and they shall say for His name, 'God with us.'" Isaiah 7:14

For things which were incredible and seemed impossible with men, these God predicted by the Spirit of prophecy as about to come to pass, in order that, when they came to pass, there might be no unbelief, but faith, because of their prediction.

But lest some, not understanding the prophecy now cited, should charge us with the very things we have been laying to the charge of the poets who say that Jupiter went in to women through lust, let us try to explain the words.

This, then, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive," signifies that a virgin should conceive without intercourse:

For if she had had intercourse with any one whatever, she was no longer a virgin; but the power of God having come upon the virgin, overshadowed her, and caused her while yet a virgin to conceive.

And the angel of God who was sent to the same virgin at that time brought her good news, saying:

"Behold, you shall conceive of the Holy Ghost, and shall bear a Son, and He shall be called the Son of the Highest, and you shall call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins," Luke 1:32; Matthew 1:21 —

as they who have recorded all that concerns our Saviour Jesus Christ have taught, whom we believed, since by Isaiah also, whom we have now adduced, the Spirit of prophecy declared that He should be born as we intimated before.

It is wrong, therefore, to understand the Spirit and the power of God as anything else than the Word, who is also the first-born of God, as the foresaid prophet Moses declared;

and it was this which, when it came upon the virgin and overshadowed her, caused her to conceive, not by intercourse, but by power. And the name Jesus in the Hebrew language means Σωτήρ (Saviour) in the Greek tongue.

Wherefore, too, the angel said to the virgin, "You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins."

And that the prophets are inspired by no other than the Divine Word, even you, as I fancy, will grant.

34. Place of Christ's birth foretold

And hear what part of earth He was to be born in, as another prophet, Micah, foretold. He spoke thus:

"And you, Bethlehem, the land of Judah, are not the least among the princes of Judah; for out of you shall come forth a Governor, who shall feed My people." Micah 5:2

Now there is a village in the land of the Jews, thirty-five stadia from Jerusalem, in which Jesus Christ was born, as you can ascertain also from the registers of the taxing made under Cyrenius, your first procurator in Judæa.

35. Other fulfilled prophecies

And how Christ after He was born was to escape the notice of other men until He grew to man's estate, which also came to pass, hear what was foretold regarding this. There are the following predictions: —

"Unto us a child is born, and unto us a young man is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders;" Isaiah 9:6

which is significant of the power of the cross, for to it, when He was crucified, He applied His shoulders, as shall be more clearly made out in the ensuing discourse.

And again the same prophet Isaiah, being inspired by the prophetic Spirit, said:

"I have spread out my hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people, to those who walk in a way that is not good. They now ask of me judgment, and dare to draw near to God." Isaiah 65:2, Isaiah 58:2

And again in other words, through another prophet, He says: "They pierced My hands and My feet, and for My vesture they cast lots."

And indeed David, the king and prophet, who uttered these things, suffered none of them; but Jesus Christ stretched forth His hands, being crucified by the Jews speaking against Him, and denying that He was the Christ.

And as the prophet spoke, they tormented Him, and set Him on the judgment-seat, and said, Judge us.

And the expression, "They pierced my hands and my feet," was used in reference to the nails of the cross which were fixed in His hands and feet. And after He was crucified they cast lots upon His vesture, and they that crucified Him parted it among them.

And that these things did happen, you can ascertain from the Acts of Pontius Pilate.

And we will cite the prophetic utterances of another prophet, Zephaniah, to the effect that He was foretold expressly as to sit upon the foal of an ass and to enter Jerusalem. The words are these:

"Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, your King comes unto you; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass." Zechariah 9:9

36. Different modes of prophecy

But when you hear the utterances of the prophets spoken as it were personally, you must not suppose that they are spoken by the inspired themselves, but by the Divine Word who moves them.

For sometimes He declares things that are to come to pass, in the manner of one who foretells the future; sometimes He speaks as from the person of God the Lord and Father of all;

sometimes as from the person of Christ; sometimes as from the person of the people answering the Lord or His Father, just as you can see even in your own writers, one man being the writer of the whole, but introducing the persons who converse.

And this the Jews who possessed the books of the prophets did not understand, and therefore did not recognise Christ even when He came, but even hate us who say that He has come, and who prove that, as was predicted, He was crucified by them.

37. Utterances of the Father

And that this too may be clear to you, there were spoken from the person of the Father through Isaiah the prophet, the following words:

"The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master's crib; but Israel does not know, and My people has not understood. Woe, sinful nation, a people full of sins, a wicked seed, children that are transgressors, you have forsaken the Lord."

And again elsewhere, when the same prophet speaks in like manner from the person of the Father,

"What is the house that you will build for Me? Says the Lord: The heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool." Isaiah 66:1

And again, in another place:

"Your new moons and your sabbaths My soul hates; and the great day of the fast and of ceasing from labour I cannot away with; nor, if you come to be seen of Me, will I hear you:

your hands are full of blood; and if you bring fine flour, incense, it is abomination unto Me: the fat of lambs and the blood of bulls I do not desire. For who has required this at your hands?

But loose every bond of wickedness, tear asunder the tight knots of violent contracts, cover the houseless and naked, deal your bread to the hungry." Isaiah 1:14, Isaiah 58:6

What kind of things are taught through the prophets from [the person of] God, you can now perceive.

38. Utterances of the Son

And when the Spirit of prophecy speaks from the person of Christ, the utterances are of this sort:

"I have spread out My hands to a disobedient and gainsaying people, to those who walk in a way that is not good." Isaiah 65:2

And again: "I gave My back to the scourges, and My cheeks to the buffetings; I turned not away My face from the shame of spitting; and the Lord was My helper:

therefore was I not confounded: but I set My face as a firm rock; and I knew that I should not be ashamed, for He is near that justifies Me." Isaiah 50:6

And again, when He says, "They cast lots upon My vesture, and pierced My hands and My feet. And I lay down and slept, and rose again, because the Lord sustained Me."

And again, when He says, "They spoke with their lips, they wagged the head, saying, Let Him deliver Himself."

And that all these things happened to Christ at the hands of the Jews, you can ascertain.

For when He was crucified, they did shoot out the lip, and wagged their heads, saying, "Let Him who raised the dead save Himself." Matthew 27:39

39. Direct predictions by the Spirit

And when the Spirit of prophecy speaks as predicting things that are to come to pass, He speaks in this way:

"For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people;

and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning-hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." Isaiah 2:3

And that it did so come to pass, we can convince you. For from Jerusalem there went out into the world, men, twelve in number, and these illiterate, of no ability in speaking:

but by the power of God they proclaimed to every race of men that they were sent by Christ to teach to all the word of God;

and we who formerly used to murder one another do not only now refrain from making war upon our enemies, but also, that we may not lie nor deceive our examiners, willingly die confessing Christ.

For that saying, "The tongue has sworn but the mind is unsworn," might be imitated by us in this matter.

But if the soldiers enrolled by you, and who have taken the military oath, prefer their allegiance to their own life, and parents, and country, and all kindred, though you can offer them nothing incorruptible,

it were verily ridiculous if we, who earnestly long for incorruption, should not endure all things, in order to obtain what we desire from Him who is able to grant it.

40. Christ's advent foretold

And hear how it was foretold concerning those who published His doctrine and proclaimed His appearance, the above-mentioned prophet and king speaking thus by the Spirit of prophecy:

"Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night shows knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.

Their voice has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world. In the sun has He set His tabernacle, and he as a bridegroom going out of his chamber shall rejoice as a giant to run his course."

And we have thought it right and relevant to mention some other prophetic utterances of David besides these; from which you may learn

how the Spirit of prophecy exhorts men to live, and how He foretold the conspiracy which was formed against Christ by Herod the king of the Jews, and the Jews themselves, and Pilate, who was your governor among them, with his soldiers;

and how He should be believed on by men of every race; and how God calls Him His Son, and has declared that He will subdue all His enemies under Him;

and how the devils, as much as they can, strive to escape the power of God the Father and Lord of all, and the power of Christ Himself; and how God calls all to repentance before the day of judgment comes.

These things were uttered thus:

"Blessed is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seat of the scornful: but his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His law will he meditate day and night.

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of waters, which shall give his fruit in his season; and his leaf shall not wither, and whatsoever he does shall prosper.

The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away from the face of the earth.

Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the council of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous; but the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Why do the heathen rage and the people imagine new things?

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against His Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast their yoke from us.

He that dwells in the heavens shall laugh at them, and the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak to them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure.

Yet have I been set by Him a King on Zion His holy hill, declaring the decree of the Lord:

The Lord said to Me, You are My Son; this day have I begotten You. Ask of Me, and I shall give You the heathen for Your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth as Your possession.

You shall herd them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall You dash them in pieces. Be wise now, therefore, O you kings; be instructed, all you judges of the earth.

Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Embrace instruction, lest at any time the Lord be angry, and you perish from the right way, when His wrath has been suddenly kindled. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him."

41. The crucifixion predicted

And again, in another prophecy, the Spirit of prophecy, through the same David, intimated that Christ, after He had been crucified, should reign, and spoke as follows:

"Sing to the Lord, all the earth, and day by day declare His salvation. For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, to be feared above all the gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols of devils; but God made the heavens.

Glory and praise are before His face, strength and glorying are in the habitation of His holiness. Give Glory to the Lord, the Father everlasting. Receive grace, and enter His presence, and worship in His holy courts.

Let all the earth fear before His face; let it be established, and not shaken. Let them rejoice among the nations. The Lord has reigned from the tree."

42. Prophecy using the past tense

But when the Spirit of prophecy speaks of things that are about to come to pass as if they had already taken place, — as may be observed even in the passages already cited by me, — that this circumstance may afford no excuse to readers [for misinterpreting them], we will make even this also quite plain.

The things which He absolutely knows will take place, He predicts as if already they had taken place. And that the utterances must be thus received, you will perceive, if you give your attention to them.

The words cited above, David uttered 1500 years before Christ became a man and was crucified; and no one of those who lived before Him, nor yet of His contemporaries, afforded joy to the Gentiles by being crucified.

But our Jesus Christ, being crucified and dead, rose again, and having ascended to heaven, reigned; and by those things which were published in His name among all nations by the apostles, there is joy afforded to those who expect the immortality promised by Him.

43. Responsibility asserted

But lest some suppose, from what has been said by us, that we say that whatever happens, happens by a fatal necessity, because it is foretold as known beforehand, this too we explain.

We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, and chastisements, and good rewards, are rendered according to the merit of each man's actions.

Since if it be not so, but all things happen by fate, neither is anything at all in our own power. For if it be fated that this man, e.g., be good, and this other evil, neither is the former meritorious nor the latter to be blamed.

And again, unless the human race have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions, of whatever kind they be.

But that it is by free choice they both walk uprightly and stumble, we thus demonstrate. We see the same man making a transition to opposite things.

Now, if it had been fated that he were to be either good or bad, he could never have been capable of both the opposites, nor of so many transitions.

But not even would some be good and others bad, since we thus make fate the cause of evil, and exhibit her as acting in opposition to herself;

or that which has been already stated would seem to be true, that neither virtue nor vice is anything, but that things are only reckoned good or evil by opinion; which, as the true word shows, is the greatest impiety and wickedness.

But this we assert is inevitable fate that they who choose the good have worthy rewards, and they who choose the opposite have their merited awards.

For not like other things, as trees and quadrupeds, which cannot act by choice, did God make man:

for neither would he be worthy of reward or praise did he not of himself choose the good, but were created for this end; nor, if he were evil, would he be worthy of punishment, not being evil of himself, but being able to be nothing else than what he was made.

44. Not nullified by prophecy

And the holy Spirit of prophecy taught us this, telling us by Moses that God spoke thus to the man first created: "Behold, before your face are good and evil: choose the good."

And again, by the other prophet Isaiah, that the following utterance was made as if from God the Father and Lord of all:

"Wash you, make you clean; put away evils from your souls; learn to do well; judge the orphan, and plead for the widow: and come and let us reason together, says the Lord:

And if your sins be as scarlet, I will make them white as wool; and if they be red like as crimson, I will make them white as snow.

And if you be willing and obey Me, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you do not obey Me, the sword shall devour you: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it." Isaiah 1:16, etc.

And that expression, "The sword shall devour you," does not mean that the disobedient shall be slain by the sword, but the sword of God is fire, of which they who choose to do wickedly become the fuel.

Wherefore He says, "The sword shall devour you: for the mouth of the Lord has spoken it." And if He had spoken concerning a sword that cuts and at once dispatches, He would not have said, shall devour.

And so, too, Plato, when he says, "The blame is his who chooses, and God is blameless," took this from the prophet Moses and uttered it. For Moses is more ancient than all the Greek writers.

And whatever both philosophers and poets have said concerning the immortality of the soul, or punishments after death, or contemplation of things heavenly, or doctrines of the like kind, they have received such suggestions from the prophets as have enabled them to understand and interpret these things.

And hence there seem to be seeds of truth among all men; but they are charged with not accurately understanding [the truth] when they assert contradictories.

So that what we say about future events being foretold, we do not say it as if they came about by a fatal necessity;

but God foreknowing all that shall be done by all men, and it being His decree that the future actions of men shall all be recompensed according to their several value,

He foretells by the Spirit of prophecy that He will bestow meet rewards according to the merit of the actions done, always urging the human race to effort and recollection, showing that He cares and provides for men.

But by the agency of the devils death has been decreed against those who read the books of Hystaspes, or of the Sibyl, or of the prophets,

that through fear they may prevent men who read them from receiving the knowledge of the good, and may retain them in slavery to themselves; which, however, they could not always effect.

For not only do we fearlessly read them, but, as you see, bring them for your inspection, knowing that their contents will be pleasing to all. And if we persuade even a few, our gain will be very great; for, as good husbandmen, we shall receive the reward from the Master.

45. Christ's session in heaven foretold

And that God the Father of all would bring Christ to heaven after He had raised Him from the dead, and would keep Him there until He has subdued His enemies the devils,

and until the number of those who are foreknown by Him as good and virtuous is complete, on whose account He has still delayed the consummation— hear what was said by the prophet David. These are his words:

"The Lord said unto My Lord, Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies Your footstool. The Lord shall send to You the rod of power out of Jerusalem; and rule You in the midst of Your enemies. With You is the government in the day of Your power, in the beauties of Your saints: from the womb of morning have I begotten You."

That which he says, "He shall send to You the rod of power out of Jerusalem," is predictive of the mighty word, which His apostles, going forth from Jerusalem, preached everywhere; and though death is decreed against those who teach or at all confess the name of Christ, we everywhere both embrace and teach it.

And if you also read these words in a hostile spirit, you can do no more, as I said before, than kill us; which indeed does no harm to us, but to you and all who unjustly hate us, and do not repent, brings eternal punishment by fire.