Sunday, 3 May 2015

Micah Miller: What's in a Name?: Justin Martyr's Use of Names of Christ

Justin Martyr's use of names to describe Christ is well-documented in the secondary literature. In his classic study, E.R. Goodenough concludes that Justin's use of names demonstrates Philonic influence (The Theology of Justin Martyr, 168-175). L. Barnard would later refute Goodenough's argument and assert that Christian exegesis of the Old Testament was responsible for Justin's use of names to describe Christ (Justin Martyr, 92-96). In their respective works, Goodenough and Barnard have examined only the individual names Justin uses; they, as well as other scholars, have not addressed whether or not Justin has a general theory of names that explains how he uses names to describe Christ. In this paper, I will re-examine Justin's use of names through an exegesis of 2 Apol. 6, which contains Justin's fullest explanation of the purpose of names. This passage reveals that Justin has a theory of names with three points: (1) Justin provides a brief explanation of the origin of names (also established in Dial. 86.3); (2) he explains that names reveal the nature of their bearers; and (3) he allows for unknown meanings with respect to divine names, signifying that he believes names are both natural and conventional. A discussion of these three points within their philosophical and grammatical framework will better demonstrate how Justin uses his theory to reveal Christ's person and work (e.g., in 1 Apol. 63.5 and Dial. 125.3), show the eclectic nature of his influences, and situate him within the tradition of philosophical and Christian theories of names.

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