In Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho Chapter 56:

Justin: I shall attempt to persuade you, since you have understood the Scriptures, [of the truth] of what I say, that there is, and that there is said to be, another God and Lord subject to the Maker of all things. -Dialogue with Trypho (Chapters 55-68)

What does he mean by "there is said to be, another God and Lord subject..." I assumed before that Justin Martyr was a Monotheist but it almost seems like he is implying Jesus is a second God.

3 Answers 3


Did Justin Martyr believe Jesus was a "second God"?

Justin: I shall attempt to persuade you, since you have understood the Scriptures, [of the truth] of what I say, that there is, and that there is said to be, another God and Lord subject to the Maker of all things; who is also called an Angel, because He announces to men whatsoever the Maker of all things— above whom there is no other God — wishes to announce to them. - Chapter 56. God who appeared to Moses is distinguished from God the Father

What does he mean by "there is said to be, another God and Lord subject...?

Justin Martyr was a Monotheist and a Trinitarian.

St. Justin is simply trying to explain that the Christian concept of God is different than that held in Judaism as understood in his days.

In his Dialogue with Trypho Justin himself attempting to convince a Jew named Trypho that Jesus is the Messiah by relying solely on the scriptures that Trypho accepts. It is hard to explain the Trinity to a non-believer not using the Scriptures of the New Testament. St. Justin tried his best. We must recall that the doctrine of the Trinity originated in 325 AD at Nicea and this was some 200 years prior to the formula of the Triniarrian belief of the Council of Nicea.

There are some who will try to admit that Justin Martyr was a non-trinitarian, but nothing is farther than the truth. Justin was one of the forerunners of postulating the idea of trinitarianism in his apologetics.

I always chuckle inside when I hear someone saying that the doctrine of the Trinity originated in 325 AD at Nicea. Sometimes they even suggest that it was only after Christianity fell under the sway of evil emperor Constantine that anyone ever thought that Jesus was God and that the whole thing was politically motivated. While it is true that some of the more developed Trinitarian language and technical distinctions were worked out much later, after centuries of careful reflection and debate, the basic outlines of Trinitarian doctrine are in the pages of the New Testament. Scripture set the axioms, and as Christians talked, the logical requirements of these axioms became clearer and the theological language necessary to express these requirements began to develop.

During a recent study of St. Justin Martyr, I was surprised at just how far this development had gone by the time Justin lived (100–165 AD). Our main source for his thought is his Dialogue with Trypho, in which he imagines himself attempting to convince a Jew named Trypho that Jesus is the Messiah by relying solely on the scriptures that Trypho accepts. Because of this goal, we do not hear much from the New Testament and very little about the Holy Spirit. Instead, the glimpses we get into Justin’s trinitarianism come when he attempts to demonstrate that several passages of the Hebrew scriptures speak of both God the Father and God the Son and that we should identify this latter person with Jesus Christ of Nazareth. While I appreciate Justin’s exegesis, we can set to one side the difficult questions that have to do with whether or not Justin is getting the Old Testament right. Instead, I want to simply draw attention to the clarity with which several core Trinitarian ideas are stated in the first half of the second century.

Jesus is God. At several points, Justin lists names that the scriptures, as he reads them, give to the Messiah. He is called an “angel,” for instance, because he is brings a message from God (ἄγγελος = messenger) and “Lord” because of his authority. Along with these titles, Justin insists that the Messiah is God: “Permit me, further, to show you from the book of Exodus how this same One, who is both Angel, and God, and Lord, and man…” (§59. Cf. §§60,61,127,129). We can notice throughout that Justin is not content to say that the Messiah is merely “divine,” but rather insists that he is the “Son who is God (Θεὸν ὄντα Ὑιόν)” (§127).

Father and Son are really distinct. Although Justin is a good monotheist, as we know from his On the Sole Government of God, and although we have just seen him maintain that Jesus is God, he nevertheless is careful to maintain a real distinction between God the Father and God the Son. He does this by pointing to a number of interesting passages in scripture where God appears conversing in such phrases as “let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26). Justin holds that here God “conversed with someone who was numerically distinct from Himself (ἀριθμῷ ὄντα ἕτερον), and also a rational Being (λογικὸν ὑπάρχοντα).” Phrases such as “Behold, Adam has become as one of us,” in Genesis 3:22 declare, according to Justin, that there is a certain “number of persons associated with one another (ἀριθμὸν τῶν ἀλλήλοις συνόντων), and that they are at least two” (§62). Similarly, when Abraham saw that “the Lord rained fire from the Lord out of heaven,” in Genesis 19:24, Justin explains that “the prophetic word indicates that there were two in number (δύο ὄντας ἀριθμῷ)” (§129). Notice in each of these instances the way that Justin uses ἀριθμός as a quasi-technical term for a real distinction between persons where later authors might use ὑπόστασις. Indeed he is careful to emphasize that the sense in which the Father and Son are distinct is the sense in which two persons must be distinct in order for them to converse (ὁμιλεῖν) or be in communion with (συνεἶναι) one another. Further, he consistently uses the language of “begotten” rather than “made” or “created” when he refers to the relationship between the Father and the Son. Instead, he is quite clear that the Son is with the Father before all creatures, and therefore the Son cannot be one of the creatures: “But this Offspring, which was truly brought forth from the Father, was with the Father before all the creatures, and the Father communed with Him” (§62).

Jesus is the Λόγος of God. Following John 1:1, Justin refers to Jesus as the Λόγος of God in several passages. Like other early Christian authors he identifies this Λόγος with God’s Wisdom in Proverbs 8 and the Beginning of Genesis 1:1: “God begat before all creatures a Beginning, [who was] a certain rational power [proceeding] from Himself, who is called by the Holy Spirit, now the Glory of the Lord, now the Son, again Wisdom, again an Angel, then God, and then Lord and Λόγος” (§61). He also develops this beyond a mere title, however, by speculating a bit about the analogy between the divine Λόγος and our ordinary human words: “For [Jesus] can be called by all those names, since He ministers to the Father’s will, and since He was begotten of the Father by an act of will; just as we see happening among ourselves: for when we give out some word, we beget the word; yet not by abscission, so as to lessen the word in us, when we give it out (οὐ κατὰ ἀποτομὴν, ὡς ἐλαττωθῆναι τὸν ἐν ἡμῖν λόγον προθαλλόμενοι)” (§61). Here we can see Justin reaching for the conceptual resources necessary to explain how God the Son, the Λόγος, can be begotten of the Father while nevertheless maintaining the integrity of the Godhead.

God from God, Light from Light. In the same passage, Justin employs another analogy which anticipates Nicea: “And just as we see also happening in the case of a fire, which is not lessened when it has kindled [another], but remains the same; and that which has been kindled by it likewise appears to exist by itself, not diminishing that from which it was kindled.” While Justin’s analogy and phrasing does not settle the dispute against homoiousianism, we can almost see his mind in action as he searches for a suitable way to make clear the data of the faith.

Jesus is the revelation of the Father. In several passages, Justin claims alongside the apostle John that “No one has ever seen God [the Father].” Nevertheless, we have received a revelation of God in pillar and in fire, in bush and in tabernacle because “the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18). Justin likes to use the word “ineffable” (ἄρρητος) to describe the Father, which puts the emphasis on his unapproachable mystery. He claims that “neither Abraham, nor Isaac, nor Jacob, nor any other man, saw the Father and ineffable Lord of all” since this Father “neither has come to any place, nor walks, nor sleeps, nor rises up, but remains in His own place.” Instead, the patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament encountered in theophanies like the pillar that led Israel “Him who was according to His will His Son, being God, and the Angel because He ministered to His will; whom also it pleases Him to be born man by the Virgin; who also was fire when He conversed with Moses from the bush” (§127).

I gathered up the juiciest passages from the Dialogue with Trypho along with links to the Greek if you are interested here.

  • So if Justin Martry believed Jesus and the Father were one God, how come he said "threre is another God" it seems like thats not even what he believes yet he says that is what he said and wants to persuade.
    – User880
    Jan 13 at 5:48
  • @User880 His way of trying to explain it to those who could not understand our concept of God. H is a terminology could have been more clear but maybe the Greek is better. This is not the best translation.
    – Ken Graham
    Jan 13 at 11:24
  • But what proof do we have that Justyn believed that Jesus was one God with the father and not wholly distinct
    – User880
    Jan 14 at 20:47
  • 1
    @User880 “Permit me, further, to show you from the book of Exodus how this same One, who is both Angel, and God, and Lord, and man…” (§59. Cf. §§60,61,127,129). - in reference to Jesus. Quoted in my answer.
    – Ken Graham
    Jan 14 at 21:10
  • I understood that justin knew Jesus is God, but i wasn't sure if he believed that Jesus is the same God as the Father. I have a feeling that its because he says "the Son is God" rather than "the Son who is a God" but i am not so sure. Does he say anywhere else that "there is only one God" or the like?
    – User880
    Jan 14 at 21:56

It is not uncommon for partial quotes from the early Church Fathers to be produced, either with a question-mark as to whether they believed Jesus to be fully God (as here), or, as with others, to misconstrue the partial quote to claim such ones did not.

This answer will show that Justin Martyr understood the respective roles of the Father and the Son in the Godhead, but that modern people who are not acquainted with much of the body of his work get thrown with a few words here, and a few words there. I will quote one example of the latter, followed by a lengthy quote from "The First Apology of Justin" to show that he believed the Word of God is God, but not a second or inferior deity.

Partial, modern quote: "Justin Martyr, who died about 165 C.E., called the prehuman Jesus a created angel who is "other than the God who made all things." He said that Jesus was inferior to God and "never did anything except what the Creator...willed him to do and say." Should You Believe in the Trinity? p.7, 1987

Note that only 21 words from some un-referenced writing of Justin are quoted. Nobody wishing to get the full quote, and its context, could even begin to know where to look to trace it. Thank-you for giving us the reference for your quote.

The refutation of the above claim about Justin comes from his Chapter LXIII - How God Appeared to Moses:

"And Jesus the Christ, because the Jews knew not what the Father was, and what the Son, in like manner accused them; and Himself said, "No one knoweth the Father, but the Son; nor the Son, but the Father, and they to whom the Son revealeth Him." Now the Word of God is His Son, as we have before said. And He is called Angel and Apostle; for He declares whatever we ought to know, and is sent forth to declare whatever is reveals; as our Lord Himself says, "He that heareth Me heareth Him that sent Me."

From the writings of Moses also this will be manifest; for thus it is written of them, "And the Angel of God spake to Moses, in a flame of fire out of the bush, and said, I am that I am..."

But so much is written for the sake of proving that Jesus the Christ is the Son of God, and His Apostle, being of old the Word, and appearing sometimes in the likeness of angels; but now, by the will of God, having become man for the human race...

The Jews, accordingly, being throughout of opinion that it was the Father of the universe who spake to Moses, though He who spake to him was indeed the Son of God, who is called both Angel and Apostle, are justly charged, both by the Spirit of prophecy and by Christ Himself, with knowing neither the Father nor the Son. For they who affirm that the Son is the Father, are proved neither to have become acquainted with the Father, nor to know that the Father of the universe has a Son; who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God. And of old he appeared in the shape of fire and in the likeness of an angel to Moses and to the other prophets." "The First Apology of Justin" Chapter LXIII - How God Appeared to Moses. [Some of the quote above also appears in a more accessible publication, The Faith of the Early Fathers, W.A. Jurgens, Vol.1 p.63, Collegevill, MN: Liturgical Press, 1979]

When the likes of Justin Martyr write of Christ as being called the Angel of God, and the Apostle of God, those who do not understand his beliefs can jump up and say, "Ah ha! He believed Christ to be a created Angel and just an Apostle!" False! They have inserted the word 'created' where Justin never had it, or ever said it of Christ. They also gloss over how he attributed Christ with being the I Am. This simply demonstrates the need to delve deeply into the writings of such ancient worthies, and not just pick out a few words here and there.

No, Justin Martyr never believed Christ to be "a second god", as shown by other fulsome quotations in other answers here. This quote proves that he declared Christ as "the first-begotten Word of God, is even God. And of old he appeared in the shape of fire and in the likeness of an angel to Moses and to the other prophets."

  • Excellent exposure of faulty reporting. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 19 at 23:33

The key here is found a bot earlier in the chapter:

He who appeared to Abraham under the oak in Mamre is God, sent with the two angels in His company to judge Sodom by Another who remains ever in the supercelestial places, invisible to all men,

Justin is here describing what has been called the "Two Powers in Heaven" doctrine of Second Temple Judaism, that there is a Yahweh Who appears on Earth to humans in the form of a man, and a Yahweh who remains in Heaven and is always unseen. This was a Jewish belief before Christ came and clearly pointed to, as Justin put it, that in Heaven there is "Maker and Father of all things".

So when he writes

"there is said to be, another God and Lord subject to the Maker of all things; who is also called an Angel"

Justin is referring to the Yahweh Who appeared on Earth as a man and who is often called "the Angel of the Lord".

Since Yahweh is God, and since Justin was writing in Greek to people who would not know what "Yahweh" meant, he uses "God" for both. His purpose at this point n the Dialogue is to establish that the Yahweh Who remains in Heaven is distinct from the Yahweh Who walks on the Earth as a man, i.e. that these are both God. He adds another example from Genesis:

the Lord rained on Sodom sulphur and fire from the Lord out of heaven,

This is very clumsy unless it is read as the first "the Lord" being distinct from the second "the Lord", and the second "the Lord" is in Heaven from which He sends fire. Backtracking into the previous chapter we find "the Lord" walking with and talking to Abraham as a man on Earth; this, then, is the first "the Lord". Thus Justin shows that there are two who are "the Lord", and since the Lord is God, then there are two Who are God -- or as he puts it:

He who is said to have appeared to Abraham, and to Jacob, and to Moses, and who is called God, is distinct from Him who made all things

Without the context of the Two Powers doctrine, Justin's argument seems strange, but knowing that context it's clear that Justin didn't count Jesus as a "second God" but was arguing to show that Jesus is God by nature.

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