Justin compares Jesus to Socrates, who was accused of the same crimes as the Christians, being accused of atheism and impiety, and of corrupting the youth. The Greeks accused Socrates “of introducing new divinities, and did not consider those to be gods that the state recognized. In the Republic he cast out from the state both Homer and the rest of the poets, and taught men to reject the wicked demons and those who did the things which the poet related.” The early Church Fathers, including Justin, did not deny the existence of the pagan gods, rather they saw them as demons active in the world. But Jesus was mightier than Socrates, whereas “no one trusted in Socrates so as to die for his doctrine,” many willingly believes and are martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ. […]
Justin opens his apology, “Reason directs those who are truly pious and philosophical to honor and love only what is true, declining to follow the opinions of the ancients if these be worthless,” a surprising argument, given the weight that the Romans placed on the ancient traditions. Right belief matters, “the lover of truth should choose to do and say what is right, by all means, and if threatened with death,” be willing to lay down his own life.
Justin quotes Plato, “unless both the rulers and the ruled philosophize, it is impossible to make states blessed.” The ancients believed that to pursue philosophy was to seek to live a godly life. Justin also echoes Plato when he says “rulers should rule in obedience, not to violence and tyranny, but to piety and philosophy,” a somewhat ironic wish since under the rule of the philosopher emperor Marcus Aurelius he would suffer a martyr’s death. […]
Seneca tells us that “we Stoics believe that pleasure is a vice.” Like the Church Fathers, Seneca reminds us that we need to overcome many years past of bad habits with many future years of living a godly life. “We are fettered and weakened by many vices; we have wallowed in them for a long time and it is hard for us to be cleansed.”
Seneca asks, “Why does folly hold us with such an insistent grasp? Primarily because we do not combat our vices strongly enough, we do not struggle towards salvation with all our might, we do not trust and drink in the words of the wise with open hearts,” we are not serious in our struggle against our vices, our efforts at living a godly life are but trifles. […]
Seneca warns us not “to trust the countenances of those whom we meet.” Men may appear to be kind smiling kind in their appearances but often men possess souls of brutal beasts in their hearts. The difference is beasts may attack you when they first encounter you from fear or hunger, but once your paths depart beasts will usually not pursue you further. Men, however, scheme and often delight in destroying one another, making each other’s lives miserable. […]