Jump to content

Dialogue with Trypho

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Justin Martyr

The Dialogue with Trypho, along with the First and Second Apologies, is a second-century Christian apologetic text, usually agreed to be dated in between AD 155-160. It is seen as documenting the attempts by theologian Justin Martyr to show that Christianity is the new law for all men, and to prove from Scripture that Jesus is the Messiah.[1]

The Dialogue utilizes the literary device of an intellectual conversation between Justin and Trypho, a Jew. The concluding section propounds that the Christians are the "true" people of God.

Identity of Trypho[edit]

The identity of Trypho as rabbi Tarfon - has been proposed, but many Jewish scholars do not accept the notion that Justin Martyr's Trypho is Tarfon.[2] They instead consider Trypho a fictional character invented by Justin for his literary purposes.[2][3]

Setting and structure[edit]

The setting is presented as a chance meeting between Justin and Trypho in Ephesus. Justin had just converted to Christianity from a philosophical background and Trypho had just fled the disturbances in Judea.[1]

When Justin suggests to Trypho to convert to Christianity, the dialogue becomes animated. Trypho criticizes Christians on a number of grounds, and Justin provides answers to each criticism.[1]

In the opening of the Dialogue, Justin relates his vain search among the Stoics, Peripatetics, and Pythagoreans for a satisfying knowledge of God; his finding in the ideas of Plato wings for his soul, by the aid of which he hoped to attain the contemplation of the God-head; and his meeting on the sea-shore with an aged man who told him that by no human endeavor but only by divine revelation could this blessedness be attained, that the prophets had conveyed this revelation to man, and that their words had been fulfilled. Of the truth of this he assured himself by his own investigation; and the daily life of the Christians and the courage of the martyrs convinced him that the charges against them were unfounded. So he sought to spread the knowledge of Christianity as the true philosophy.

Justin also accuses Jews of being blind, fleshly beings who cannot see beyond the text of religious law: "'For your ears are closed, your eyes are blinded, and the heart is hardened,' Jeremiah has cried; yet not even then do you listen. The Lawgiver is present, yet you do not see Him; to the poor the Gospel is preached, the blind see, yet you do not understand. You have now need of a second circumcision, though you glory greatly in the flesh."[4] This concept finds its origin in the New Testament: Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:13-15 that "to this very day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed."[5]

In the Dialogue, Justin also wrote, "For I choose to follow not men or men's doctrines, but God and the doctrines [delivered] by Him. For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this [truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians."[6] This passage is sometimes cited as evidence that the early church subscribed to the doctrine of soul sleep, though some claim that Justin's emphasis is on saying that denial of the resurrection of the dead is what makes them non-Christian, especially considering that he claims that "even after death souls are in a state of sensation" in Chapter 18 of his First Apology.[7]

In his critical edition (with French translation), Philippe Bobichon demonstrates the particular nature of this text, equally influenced by Greek and Rabbinic thought.[8]


Because the text mentions Justin Martyr's First Apology, which was written sometime between AD 150-155, Dialogue with Trypho must have been written after it. The date of authorship has been suggested to have been written anywhere between 155-167,[9] with some scholars favoring 155–160,[10][11] or even a more specific date, c. 160.[12]


The Dialogue with Trypho and the two Apologies are universally accepted by scholars as authentic works of Justin. Though they are preserved only in the Sacra parallela, they were known to Tatian, Methodius of Olympus, and Eusebius and their influence is traceable in Athenagoras, Theophilus of Antioch, the Pseudo-Melito, and especially Tertullian. Eusebius speaks of two Apologies, but he quotes them both as one, which indeed they are in substance. The identity of authorship is backed up not only by the reference in chapter 120 of the Dialogue to the Apology, but by the unity of treatment. Zahn showed that the Dialogue was originally divided into two books, that there is a considerable lacuna in chapter 74, as well as at the beginning, and that it is probably based on an actual occurrence at Ephesus, the personality of the Rabbi Tarfon being employed, though in a Hellenized form.



  • Justin Martyr (1885). "Dialogue with Trypho" . In Roberts, Alexander; Donaldson, James (eds.). Ante-Nicene Christian Library. Vol. II. Translated by Reith, George. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark..
  • Justin Martyr (22 July 1995). Dialogue with Trypho, a Jew (PDF). Translated by Spade, Paul Vincent. Bloomington, Indiana, USA: Paul Vincent Spade. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-05-11., from the Greek text in van Winden 1971.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Reading the Old Testament with the Ancient Church: Exploring the Formation of Early Christian Thought; by Ronald E. Heine (Sep 1, 2007) pages 48-52
  2. ^ a b Claudia Setzer, Jewish Responses to Early Christians (Nov 1, 1994) ISBN 080062680X, p. 215
  3. ^ Larry R. Helyer, Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period (Jul 5, 2002) ISBN 0830826785, p. 493
  4. ^ Martyr, Justin (1867). Donaldson, Alexander Roberts & James (ed.). Dialogue with Trypho. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark.
  5. ^ "Bible Gateway passage: 2 Corinthians 3:13-15 - New International Version". Bible Gateway. Retrieved 2022-10-12.
  6. ^ Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 80
  7. ^ First Apology, Chapter 18
  8. ^ Philippe Bobichon (ed.), Justin Martyr, Dialogue avec Tryphon, édition critique, introduction, texte grec, traduction, commentaires, appendices, indices, (Coll. Paradosis nos. 47, vol. I-II.) Editions Universitaires de Fribourg Suisse, (1125 pp.), 2003; Philippe Bobichon, "L'enseignement juif, païen, hérétique et chrétien dans l'œuvre de Justin Martyr", Revue des Études Augustiniennes 45/2 (1999), pp. 233-259 text online
  9. ^ Allert, Craig D. (2002). Revelation, Truth, Canon and Interpretation: Studies in Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho. Brill. p. 34. If 1 Apology lies between 151–154, and because the Dialogue mentions the Apology it is certain that the Dialogue was composed after that date. Any conjecture regarding a more exact date than 155–167 is only that. We must, therefore, be satisfied with an imprecise date for the Dialogue with Trypho.
  10. ^ Wendel, Susan J (2011). Scriptural Interpretation and Community Self-Definition in Luke-Acts and the Writings of Justin Martyr. Brill. p. 11. Scholars generally agree that Justin wrote the Apologies around 150–155 CE and produced the final form of the Dialogue with Trypho at a slightly later date (~155–160 CE).
  11. ^ Osborn, Eric Francis (1973). Justin Martyr. Tübingen. p. 8. The apologies were written shortly after 150 and the Dialogue was written between 155 and 160.
  12. ^ Barnard, Leslie W. (December 4, 2008). Justin Martyr: His Life and Thought. Cambridge University Press. p. 23. The date of the Dialogue cannot be determined with accuracy. It is certainly later than the First Apology, which we have dated c. A.D. 151-5, which it quotes. Many scholars are of the opinion that a date c. A.D. 160 best fits the background of the Dialogue.

Further reading[edit]

  • Rokeah, David (2002). Justin Martyr and the Jews. Brill.
  • Bobichon, Philippe (2003). Dialogue avec Tryphon: Notes de la traduction, appendices, indices (in French). Vol. 2. University of Fribourg. ISBN 9782827109586. volume 1 online volume 2 online
  • Bobichon, Philippe, "Œuvres de Justin Martyr : Le manuscrit de Londres (Musei Britannici Loan 36/13) apographon du manuscrit de Paris (Parisinus Graecus 450)" , Scriptorium 57/2 (2004), pp. 157–172 online
  • Bobichon, Philippe, "Justin Martyr : étude stylistique du Dialogue avec Tryphon suivie d’une comparaison avec l’Apologie et le De resurrectione", Recherches augustiniennes et patristiques 34 (2005), pp. 1–61 online
  • Bobichon, Philippe, "Comment Justin a-t-il acquis sa connaissance exceptionnelle des exégèses juives (contenus et méthodes) ?", Revue de Théologie et de Philosophie, 139, 2007, pp. 101–126 article online