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Justin Martyr, Trypho, and the Resurrection

The following quotation is taken from a conversation between Justin Martyr and Trypho that can be found in Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, a Jew chapter 80. But before I give it to you, allow me to set the stage for it.

Trypho has a problem with Justin. He wants to know if Justin really believes that the Christians would be gathered together in Jerusalem with the patriarchs, prophets, Israel, and Christ for one thousand years. In Justin’s response, he says that this is his opinion but there are others who think otherwise.

I admitted to you formerly, that I and many others are of this opinion, and [believe] that such will take place, as you assuredly are aware; but, on the other hand, I signified to you that many who belong to the pure and pious faith, and are true Christians, think otherwise.

Justin Martyr. “Dialogue of Justin with Trypho, a Jew.” The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. Vol. 1. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885. 239. Print. The Ante-Nicene Fathers. Chapter 80

Justin then goes on to mention a very peculiar group of people who he calls “godless.”

For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this [truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians

Chapter 80

Why is Justin so appalled by these Christians who believe they go directly to Heaven when they die? Read carefully:

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, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged, [as] the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare.

Chapter 80

Justin is so set on there being a psychical resurrection of all the dead because his concept of the land promises were physical. Since he believed that the saints would literally reign in a rebuilt Jerusalem for a thousand years, he had to similarly affirm a physical resurrection.

This reveals an important point: however you interpret the land promises that were made to Abraham, you must interpret the resurrection in the same way.

For example, Ezekiel 37 serves as one of the many Old Testament sources for the resurrection and the return to the land. If one interprets the return to the land as literal, then physical resurrection is obviously what the New Testament writers would have in mind when citing from this chapter. However, if there is a sense in which this passage is talking about the church, then the “coming up out of the graves” would be interpreted as spiritual.

Justin’ insistence upon a physical return to the land for a literal thousand years demands a biological resurrection. If one could show that the return to the land is spiritual, then the accompanying resurrection would be spiritual.

For an in depth study on the relationship between land and resurrection, see my audio study below:

I first learned of the above quotation from Krister Stendahl’s book Paul Among Jews and Gentiles (page 73).

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