The Trinity: Comparing Numenius and Justin

Justin Martyrin the Philosopher's Pallium

Justin was one of the most learned men to ever take upon himself the name of Christian, of that there is no doubt – yet Justin has not fared well in later scholarship, due to his drive to combine Christianity with Platonist thought.

In the West he is known as the Martyr; in the East, he is known as the Philosopher – indeed, in his icons, he is always pictured with his philosopher’s pallium. In Rome, during the last years of his life, he opened up his own philosopher’s school, akin to those around him in learning the Greek Sophists.

There is little doubt that Justin had made himself known to the philosophers around him of his day – indeed, he progressed through each school before finding the Church. One of those he no doubt had some sort of contact with was Numenius of Apamea, who was a forefunner of the Neoplatonists.Origen as well as , Theodoret and Eusebius of Caesarea preserves his interaction with Christianity. Each of these can trace their doctrine of the Godhead directly to Justin, and perhaps past him to Valens. Numenius sought to restore the doctrines of Plato and to show that Plato did not stand at odds with Brahmins, Jews, Magi and Egyptians. He regularly called Plato the ‘Hellenized Moses.’ He even ventured an interpretation of Genesis.

Numenius stands as a forerunner to the semi-Arian trinity more fully developed by the Eusebian Party. But, how does Numenius and Justin compare? (For a brief analysis of G. Reale’s connection, see here.)

Numenius and Justin used the language of the philosopher’s – God was a Triad. In the Neoplatonic Writings of Numenius (Selene Books, 1917), we find language shared among Justin and the Neoplatonists of his day, including Justin’s ‘True God’ (which for both groups was transcendental that He had to create another, the Logos) and the ‘Another God’ which just used the hospitality of Abraham to demonstrate.

Justin did not use Numenius alone – but spoke of Philo (three times in his dialogues with Trypho) and can be associated with Xenocrates of Chalcedon (d.314 b.c.), Plato’s successor. It was Numenius, however, who had the most direct influence on Justin, and thus on Christianity. It was Numenius who had invented, rather redefined and introduced into the theological system, such terms as One, Demiurge, Father, Logos, World Soul. It seems that the first and major breaking point between Justin and Numenius was that Justin declared Christ to be the Second God and the Incarnation, the Logos.

Attached is a chart of the comparisons between Justin and Numenius. I have had a difficult time in attaching a table – so it is in pdf format.

Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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