Coyle's Reviews > Dialogue with Trypho

Dialogue with Trypho by Justin Martyr
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May 27, 11


One of the early church classics, Dialogue with Trypho is written in the Platonic style (which is appropriate, given that Justin started out as a Platonist) as a letter to a friend of his relating a dialogue he had with a Jew named Trypho. In the course of the dialogue, we see
1) Justin's conversion narrative (which is one of the best from the ancient world).
2) Justin's thoughts on philosophy and the relationship between faith and reason.
3) The early church's apologetic attempt to reach out to the Jews.
4) The early church's doctrine of Scripture.
5) The early church's Christology.
6) And probably several other things that I'm missing, since I read it fairly quickly.
This book definitely makes me want to find copies of Justin's Apologies and read those (though of course a lot of the enjoyment of reading any ancient text comes from its being well translated, which this work is).

Most important, however, is the theme that runs through the dialogue: Christianity is truth. That is why philosophy provides the context for the dialogue, then, as well as now, philosophy has been the primary place of the search for truth. As Justin says (echoing Plato)
But what greater deed... could one perform than to prove that reason rules all, and that one who rules reason and is sustained by it can look down upon the errors and undertakings of others, and see that they do nothing reasonable or pleasing to God. Man cannot have prudence without philosophy and straight thinking. Thus, every man should be devoted to philosophy and should consider it the greatest adn most noble pursuit; all other pursuits are only of second- or third-rate value, unless they are connected with philosophy. Then they are of some value and should be a pproved; if they are devoid of philosophy and not connected with it in any way, they then become base and coarse pursuits to those who practice them."
Dialogue with Trypho is Justin's attempt to prove to the Jews that Christ is the truth, just as his Apologies are his attempts to prove the same to the Greeks. Thus, Justin concludes the dialogue
I can wish you no greater blessing than this, gentlemen, that, realizing that wisdom is given to every man through this way [the Gospel], you also may one day come to believe entirely as we do that Jesus is the Christ of God.
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