copyright 2008 Stephan Huller
We have identified Marcus Agrippa’s war buddy, mother, uncle, and sister at the deepest strata of the gospel. Now we move on to his secretary Justus. Catholic Church Fathers claim that a prominent “believer” named "Justin" lived at the middle of the second century CE. He was, of course Justim Martyr, Samaritan philosopher, convert to Christianity, and defender of his new faith. He champoined it against the Jew Trypho and against Marcion himself, among others. But what if all this is, like so much else, a domesticating co-optation by later tradition of an uncongenial figure who must have been turning in his grave at the posthumous “honor” thus accorded him?
First, whence the mid-second centry date for Justin? The only reason Marcion is assigned to the Antonine period is: that’s when Polycarp managed to develop a strategy against him. The same thing obtains with regards to “Justin,” only in reverse. Polycarp embraced Justus because he was remembered as one of the earliest and most prominent dissenters from Marcus Agrippa’s rule (and was an “anti-Marcionite” in that sense). My guess is that Justin was originally one Justus of Tiberius, mentioned by Josephus as an imcompetent and tendentious rival historian of their common period. The parallels between “Justus of Tiberias” and “Justin of Neapolis” are too great and irrefutable to deny. But that is not his only alter ego: Justus called Joseph bar Saba (Acts 1:23) is another. Here are the parallels:
a) Jerome identifies "Justin" as "Justus" in some manuscripts
b) Justus is called "son of Pistis" in Josephus; Justin is "son of Priscus" in the Catholic tradition
c) Justus is brought into the Flavian house by Marcus Julius Agrippa; Justin's full name is "Flavius Justinius" (compare his opponent’s renaming as “Flavius Josephus”)
d) Justus is a philosopher who comments on scripture (Jerome, Lives); Justin is called “ the first philosophic theologian" (Schaff 2, p 712) who had "acquired considerable classical and philosophical culture before his conversion" (ibid p. 715)
e) Justus is a Galilean i.e. a resident of Tiberias and a participant in the new syncretic religion there; Justin is a Galilean (i.e. the early term for Christians; see Galen)
f) Justin’s Dialogue was originally directed against R. Tarphon (and not an otherwise unknown Jewish rabbi named “Trypho”) who lived at the time of Justus (i.e. late first century/early second century CE.) making it impossible to ascribe it to the time Catholics now claim, i.e. 150 CE. Tarphon really lived at the time of Justus bar Pistis.
One might add to the list the obvious Samaritan undercurrent to both men. Justus’ religious affiliation is unclear, but he uses Samaritan lines of proof for his master Marcus Agrippa (see below), and the testimony of Abul Fath seems to identify him as “Justus Saba.” Justin, on the other hand, was known in Catholic circles as a Samaritan who recognized the Christ who appeared at the destruction of Jerusalem (and it is with this event, remember, that the rabbis linked Agrippa’s messiahsip).
copyright 2008 Stephan Huller