Justin Martyr: On Christian Worship


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(Written: 150 A.D.)

This is the earliest post Biblical description of Christian worship; containing very much detail; that we have.


Photo: of a lit candle.

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Justin Martyr was born in Flavia Neapolis circa 100 A.D., and converted to Christianity sometime around 130 A.D.   A Christian apologist, he taught and defended Christianity in Asia Minor and at Rome.  He suffered martyrdom in Rome about 165 A.D.

Justin Martyr's "First Apology" is the oldest (non-New Testament) record we have of how early Christian worship was conducted (Liturgy).

Excerpts from "First Apology" by Justin Martyr: 

Note: In Chapter 62. it is implied that Christians removed their footwear before worship.

Chapter 65. Administration of the sacraments.

Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands. 

And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen answers in the Hebrew language to γEνοιτο (so be it). 

And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.

Chapter 67. Weekly worship of the Christians.

And we afterwards continually remind each other of these things.

And the wealthy among us help the needy; and we always keep together; and for all things wherewith we are supplied, we bless the Maker of all through His Son Jesus Christ, and through the Holy Ghost.

And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things.

Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons.

And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president, who succours the orphans and widows and those who, through sickness or any other cause, are in want, and those who are in bonds and the strangers sojourning among us, and in a word takes care of all who are in need.

But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Saviour on the same day rose from the dead.

For He was crucified on the day before that of Saturn (Saturday); and on the day after that of Saturn, which is the day of the Sun, having appeared to His apostles and disciples, He taught them these things, which we have submitted to you also for your consideration. _________________________________________________________

Excerpt from the "Acts of the Martyrdom of Saint Justin and his Companions" 

The saints were seized and brought before the prefect of Rome, whose name was Rusticus. As they stood before the judgment seat, Rusticus the prefect said to Justin, "Above all, have faith in the gods and obey the emperors."

Justin replied, "We cannot be accused or condemned for obeying the commands of our Savior, Jesus Christ."

Rusticus said, "What system of teaching do you profess?"

Justin said, "I have tried to learn about every system, but I have accepted the true doctrines of the Christians, though these are not approved by those who are held fast by error."

The prefect Rusticus said, "Are those doctrines approved by you, wretch that you are?"

Justin said, "Yes, for I follow them with their correct teaching."

The prefect Rusticus said, "What sort of teaching is that?"

Justin said, "Worship the God of the Christians. We hold him to be from the beginning the one creator and maker of the whole creation, of things seen and things unseen. We worship also the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God."

Rusticus said, "You are a Christian, then?"

Justin said, "Yes, I am a Christian."

The prefect said to Justin, "You are called a learned man and think you know what is true teaching. Listen: if you were scourged and beheaded, are you convinced that you would go up to heaven?"

Justin said, "I hope that I shall enter God's house if I suffer in that way. For I know that God's favor is stored up until the end of the whole world for all who have lived good lives."

The prefect Rusticus said, "Do you have an idea that you will go up to heaven to receive some suitable rewards?"

Justin said, "It is not an idea that I have; it is something I know well and hold to be most certain."

The prefect Rusticus said, "Now let us come to the point at issue, which is necessary and urgent. Gather round then and with one accord offer sacrifice to the gods."

Justin said, "No one who is right-thinking stoops from true worship to false worship."

The prefect Rusticus said, "If you do not do as you are commanded you will be tortured without mercy."

Justin said, "We hope to suffer torment for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ, and so be saved."

In the same way the other martyrs also said, "Do what you will. We are Christians; we do not offer sacrifice to idols."

The prefect Rusticus pronounced sentence, saying, "Let those who have refused to sacrifice to the gods and to obey the command of the emperor be scourged and led away to suffer capital punishment according to the ruling of the laws." 

Glorifying God, the holy martyrs were beheaded, and so fulfilled their witness of martyrdom in confessing their faith in their Savior.

Text of Justin Martyr's "First Apology" is in the Public Domain.  Source: "Acts of the Martyrdom of Saint Justin and his Companions" (Text is in the Public Domain).

"Our Comments On the Text" and Layout: Copyright 2007 S.G.P. All Rights Reserved. 

  Photo of Skellig Michael Copyright Irish Tourist Board. __________________________________________________________

See Also:


Image: Icon of Justin Martyr. Justin Martyr

Ca. 100 - Ca. 165 A.D.

Our Comments On the Text:

Footwear was in former times removed before worship.  Out of doors, homes, and Catacombs were used as early places of Christian worship.  

Later, when Church buildings came into use for Christian worship, footwear was removed upon entering.  This was observed at least up through the beginning of Islamic times (632 A.D.).  

Islam still observes this practice, which they copied from the early Christians, who adopted it from Jewish Temple practice (which was based on the event of Moses at the burning bush).

Our  modern "peace" or "Greeting".  The kiss is still observed in Middle Eastern and European Orthodox worship services. 

Greek was the vernacular of the common people at this time, even in Rome, and worship services were held using it.

The Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Church officers at this time seem to consist of one Bishop/Pastor (President) and Deacons (see: Church Government: New Testament & After)

The Oldest Church buildings found to date are from 230 A.D. (about 80 years later).

Reading of the Holy Scriptures.

Christian Teaching.

"Then we all rise" Were all seated during the Sermon/Teaching?

All rise for standing prayer on Sunday. 

As in the New Testament, an offering is taken for the purpose of  helping fellow Christians: orphans and widows, the poor and needy, prisoners, and "strangers sojourning among us". _______________