Reassessing Justin Martyr’s Binitarian Orientation In 1 Apology 33

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Abstract

Many scholars argue that Justin is either inconsistent or confused in his view of the Spirit in relation to the Logos. The most decisive section in this discussion is 1Apol. 33, where Justin appears to confuse the titles and unify the functions of the Logos and the Spirit. This essay argues that this apparent confusion is conditioned by Justin’s particular christological reading of Isaiah 7:14 in order to meet the demands of his own understanding of the apostolic faith. The interpretation of Isaiah 7:14 is a unique case with multiple external hermeneutical pressures imposing upon his exegesis, including those coming from competing Jewish exegesis, Greco-Roman mythology, and Marcionite interpretations. At the same time, Justin reads scripture within his own Christian community. Justin’s exegesis of Isaiah 7:14 attempts to account for these external pressures by focusing upon the particular Lukan terminology of ‘Power’ rather than ‘Spirit’ in Luke 1:35, which downplays the function of the Spirit in the incarnation in order to demonstrate that the Logos has come in power. This exegetical move exposes him to binitarian allegations, but does not suggest that Justin is, in fact, a binitarian. What this suggests, however, is that in 1Apol. 33 Justin actually resists confusing the Logos and the Spirit even when a text uses the language of ‘Spirit’, because his exegetical concern is focused on the Logos coming in power. Justin’s exegetical treatment of Isaiah 7:14 and Luke 1:35 reflects the way he is reasoning through the textual and theological complexities of the christological interpretation of scripture and does not suggest that he confuses the functions of the Logos and the Spirit.

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