How Justin Martyr Rescued the Old Testament for Christians

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We are so very blessed to be able to go to the local Catholic or Christian store and pick up a copy of the Word of God. Unfortunately, not all of the generations were so lucky.

The stories written in the Torah were only available in the Temple during Jesus’ life, and as the stories of Jesus’ life were written down and the letters passed throughout the new Christian towns, the people had to only hear about the miracles, life and Resurrection of Jesus through the telling of these stories from the disciples. Rod Bennett tells us the story of how our Bible came to be in Scripture Wars: How Justin Martyr Rescued the Old Testament for Christians. Here are three of the many fascinating facts of our Catholic Bible.

The problem didn’t start with Jesus

Even before the disagreement began with what books in the Bible should or should not be included, every Jewish synagogue had jars filled with different scrolls of writings accepted by the particular group. For example, the Sadducee’s only accepted the five books of the Torah while the Pharisees included the prophets and wisdom literature.

Of course, both groups rejected the ‘new’ writings of Christians, but there were those Hellenized Jews that would read the early Christian writings. With so many separated writings, and new stories written new languages like Greek, and questions like “should the Christians even include the old Jewish laws and traditions and only include the teachings of Jesus?” were being considered. It is only by the grace of God that worked to resolve what is true Sacred Scripture and what should not be included.

Three men and a book

Around the time of A.D. 100, Aquila and Marcion grew up in the same area of what is now modern day Turkey. They lived in an area that was a mix of Jews and Greeks. They would have most likely studied out of the Septuagint. This is Scripture that “according to legend, seventy independent scholars, working two hundred years before Christ at the behest of King Ptolemy of Egypt, produced Greek translations of the original Hebrew books that agreed so completely with one another that this was taken as a sign of divine intervention.” Justin, a self-proclaimed Samaritan, became a believer based upon the Old Testament writings and became a believer in Jesus when he realized how the whole Bible was Christocentric. While all three knew the Old Testament and heard the new Christian writings, all had to battle to defend and decide what was divinely inspired and what was not.

The Bible isn’t just the merging of the books, but the whole story

In completing the new Christian Bible, these men had to dive deep into the scripture and balance all of the stories and make sure they all integrated together to give us the complete story of Salvation History. They deciphered word by word, book by book, and argued and justified each line of Old Testament scripture balanced with it’s counterpart in what is the New Testament.

In this way, we can say that St. Justin’s work was an unqualified success. Not only did he and his school succeed in driving both the Judaizing and Marcionizing errors out of the Catholic Church, but he also showed that it is actually the unity of God’s plan that explains its surface discontinuities.

To get the full picture of what all went into the Bible, we must study the complete picture of what was happening at that time in history, how the writers came to prove what should and should not be included in the complete Bible. Just as the Apostles argued about the faith of the new Christians and should they be held to the old Jewish law, St. Justin had to also understand the true meaning of what it meant to be a Christ-follower, even when his faith was still very young. Scripture Wars: How Justin Martyr Rescued the Old Testament for Christians by Rod Bennett, explains how this all comes to be, and how St. Justin gave us the Sacred Scripture we hold true today.

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