Justin Martyr’s Diabolic Mimicry argument – Condensed:

I have previously written many, many words on the subject of Justin Martyr’s diabolical mimicry argument. In recognition that my two previous articles on the topic[i] were very, very long (and hence likely to end up in the “Too long – didn’t read” basket for many people), I thought perhaps it would be helpful for me to put up a short, condensed, point-form article on the topic, minus all the polemic back-and-forth that I did with Albert McIlhenny.

I spent quite some time researching for those articles and I believe I can do a good job of summarizing all the information that anyone should need to know on the topic. Hopefully this article will be more useful (and far more readable than the other two). I will concede that it is a common amateur mistake to make articles (and even books) way too long, and hence unreadable. I have certainly been guilty of this through the learning process.

So, let’s get into it:

–           In all three of his (undisputed) surviving works, Justin makes use of an argument in which he claims that the devil attempted to imitate Christ in advance, by reading into prophecies of the coming of Christ as (Christians believe) are found in the Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament).

–           Critics of Christianity (particularly mythicists) have cited Justin as showing that early Christians were well aware of the similarities between Jesus and pagan gods, that they were being accused (by pagans and Jews) of copying from pagan gods, and that they had to resort to a ridiculous argument in attempting to respond. Some have gone as far as to quote Justin as saying that Christianity and paganism were in fact the same.

–           Some Christian apologists have accused mythicists of misquoting Justin on this issue. Such claims are true in some cases, but not in others. That is, critics of Christianity have at times misquoted or misunderstood Justin. However, there are legitimate ways for mythicists to quote Justin in ways that are certainly embarrassing for orthodox Christianity.

–           Justin Martyr did not say that Christianity was the same as paganism. In fact he explicitly argued that Christianity was completely different from paganism. He argued that Christianity was the one true religion, and that paganism was simply the worship of demons, and was hence completely opposite to Christianity.

–           Justin Martyr did however concede that Christians and pagans believed many of the same things about their gods.

Now this is the important bit, which shows where Christian apologists have been trying to twist the data to support their contentions:

–           In his two Apologies to the Greeks, Justin used the diabolical mimicry argument to attempt to persuade the Romans to cease persecuting Christians. Justin was seeking to justify Christian refusals to worship the pagan gods (and the Emperor) and to explain to the Romans that Christians didn’t merely worship a mere mortal man, a criminal that was crucified. Rather, Justin was attempting to explain to the Romans that Christians believed that Jesus was God Himself, incarnate in the flesh.

–           Christian apologists hence argue that Justin was not responding to accusations against Christians that they had copied from pagan gods. Rather, apologists argue that Justin was actually the one trying to convince the Romans of similarities between Jesus and Greek and Roman gods (in order to persuade them to stop persecuting Christians), and that the Romans did not (or had not) seen such similarities themselves.

–           Furthermore, Christian apologists point out that many of the parallels that Justin drew were actually quite strained, as if he was trying to make a point that wasn’t actually there. Hence, some apologists may concede that it wasn’t a very good argument by Justin, but not for the same reasons as mythicists claim.

–           Hence, Christian apologists argue that mythicists have been misquoting Justin in trying to present his use of the diabolical mimicry argument to support the mythicist case for parallels between Jesus and pagan gods.

Now, the above is the standard, textbook Christian response to this issue, and if you were to rely only on Christian sources this is likely to be all you would hear about it. The problem for orthodox Christianity is that this isn’t a complete and accurate portrayal of the relevant facts.

–           In fact Justin Martyr also made use of his diabolical mimicry argument in his Dialogue with Trypho. In this case Justin uses the argument to attempt to counter the accusation that Christians had copied the virgin birth motif from the Greek god Perseus.

Now, as far as I am aware, most scholars believe that Justin wrote his Dialogue with Trypho after writing his apologies to the Greeks. Some apologists might therefore attempt to save the situation by arguing that Justin was therefore adapting an argument that he had originally composed in his Apologies to the purpose of countering the accusations of Trypho. The problem with this is that Justin himself (at the beginning of the Dialogue with Trypho) claims that the conversation between himself and Trypho actually took place shortly after his conversion to Christianity (and thus, before he wrote his Apologies).

Now, it is indeed true that many scholars believe that the Dialogue is merely a literary device for his apologetic work against Judaism (that is, either the conversation between himself and Trypho never took place, or it was largely embellished for the sake of the apologetic work). Nevertheless, we have Justin’s word that he first used the diabolical mimicry argument against Trypho, in attempting to counter the accusation that Christians had plagiarised a pagan god.

It is perhaps then up for debate as to whether mythicists should only quote from the Dialogue in seeking to cite Justin’s diabolical mimicry argument for their case, or whether it is justified to also quote from the Apologies, as Justin’s use of the argument there is put into context by its use in the Dialogue? I personally would argue that the actual content of the relevant passages in his Apologies shows that Justin was there also seeking to counter accusations of plagiarism, as Justin states that the aim of Satan’s mimicry was to attempt to convince people that the things said about Christ “were mere marvellous tales, like those told by the poets”[ii]. Either way, the point is made. Mythicists can indeed cite Justin as showing that Christians were indeed accused of plagiarism by Jews (and later by pagans, as we will see shortly), and Justin did indeed resort to a ridiculous argument in his attempt to counter the accusation.

So, this in itself should settle the score, once and for all. There are however a few more minor details to be aware of.

–           Now, we don’t really know what pagans (Romans, Greeks etc.) thought of Christians or their stories about Jesus back in the time of Justin and earlier. That is, not much at all (if anything) really survives. There are of course the brief (and somewhat controversial) references as found in Tacitus, Suetonius and Pliny the Younger, but these are just really references to Christians, with only brief mention of a Jesus who was said to have been crucified in Judea under Pilate. There are no surviving records of pagan responses to Christian claims about the virgin birth, miracles or resurrection and ascension of Christ from the time of Justin or earlier.

There is however the case of the pagan philosopher Celsus and his work “The True Word” (or “True Doctrine”), written approx. 180CE. No copies of this work survive, however we do have access to significant portions of it thanks to the response of Origen approx. 250CE. From what we read in Origen, it seems that Celsus did indeed accuse Christians of plagiarising from pagan gods.

It is here disputable as to whether or not this is valid evidence in supporting the case for pagan parallels, as a very plausible case has been made that Celsus was himself familiar with the work of Justin. Hence, Celsus may have encountered the argument via Justin, in which case he would not be an independent source, but would rather simply be dependent upon what we have already encountered. Nevertheless, this is not concrete, we do not know for certain whether or not Celsus was familiar with Justin’s works and arguments. Likewise, whether or not Celsus had encountered the idea of pagan parallels from Justin, he still clearly found it agreeable, as he considered the evidence to be there.

Hence, I am of the opinion that Celsus is worth quoting on this subject, but that we should not attempt to draw any concrete conclusions from his work. However, Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho very clearly makes the case for mythicists to both point out that Christians were indeed accused of plagiarism by Jews, and that Justin did indeed resort to a ridiculous argument in his attempt to respond.

–           Regarding the actual parallels claimed by Trypho and the parallels presented by Justin in his Apologies, there are distinct differences in the stronger and weaker examples. It is indeed true that amongst the parallels that Justin drew, some of them were really quite a stretch. However the fact remains that some of the parallels were quite clear, such as in the case of Dionysus. Likewise, the example of Perseus (as given by Trypho) is likewise quite clear.

I would argue that the strained parallels are all generally found when Justin is trying to connect prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures to pagan gods. Hence, this doesn’t weaken the case for parallels between Jesus and pagan gods, but rather simply shows the strained lengths that Justin went to in order to try and counter the fact that the pagan parallels were older than the story of Jesus.

–           Regarding the actual diabolical mimicry argument itself, by its very nature it concedes that the pagan examples in the parallels are older. Likewise, it naturally recognises that the obvious conclusion one would draw from this is that it was Christians who had copied pagans, and not the other way around. Hence, it attempts to reverse the natural implication by arguing that Satan had attempted to imitate Christ in advance, by copying from prophetic passages in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Justin’s very words recognise that the natural implications of parallels between Christ and pagan gods would be that people would naturally think that the things said about Christ weren’t literarily true. Hence, Justin’s convoluted argument about the pagan gods being precognitive imitations was a desperate attempt to avoid the obvious conclusion that Christians had indeed plagiarised from pagan gods, and that at least some of the things (if not all) said about Christ were made up.

–           Whilst Christian apologists will not go out of their way to tell you about Justin’s use of the diabolical mimicry argument in his Dialogue (and the text which states that this was prior to his Apologies), they still will not accept that this shows that Justin originally conceived the argument in self-defence. I have attempted to engage two Christian apologists in discussion about this previously (J.P. Holding and Albert McIlhenny), and both have attempted to dismiss the passages from Justin’s Dialogue and only make use of the Apologies. Holding responded by stating that I don’t understand Jewish exegesis, whilst McIlhenny argued that Jews naturally created a dichotomy between Jewish and pagan religion (and mythology), and hence as they didn’t consider Christianity to be Jewish, they naturally argued that it was pagan.

Obviously McIlhenny’s point about Jews creating a dichotomy between Jewish and pagan religion is true, and other exclusive faiths (such as orthodox Christianity or Islam) do it too. McIlhenny was however trying to argue that without this exclusive dichotomy, Jews would not have accused Christians of plagiarising pagans. McIlhenny was therefore arguing that the parallels weren’t actually there, but that Trypho (or the Jews being represented by Trypho) had strained in making this argument to match their bias. On this matter McIlhenny was himself straining, in trying to get vital evidence that rebuts his case thrown out on a technicality. Christian apologists are quite fond of the courtroom analogy, and I think it is quite fitting in this case. Christian apologists have attempted here to get damning evidence against their client thrown out of court, after the judge and jury have already seen the evidence. The fact is that we can’t un-see it.

We can speculate about whether or not the Jewish critics in Justin’s time were driven by some particular motivation to argue that Christians had plagiarised from pagans, but the fact remains that Justin attests that they did make the argument, one way or another. Hence, Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho absolutely refutes the Christian apologetic case and absolutely makes the critical, mythicist case on this matter. Case closed!

Obviously Christian apologists have lots of other arguments about pagan parallels, that there are no actual sources for the claims of pagan gods being resurrected (false), that there is no evidence that Jews/Christians in Judea had heard of any pagan dying and rising gods (false), that pagans actually copied Christians (false – and everything in this article adds towards that), that the differences outweigh the similarities and hence any apparent similarities are merely superficial (false) etc., all of which I have dealt with before[iii], as have many others.

And that my friends should be all you need to know specifically on this topic. The evidence is clear; the question is simply whether you are open to accepting it.


[i] See the following for my original piece on the topic: https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/the-whole-truth-on-justin-martyrs-diabolical-mimicry-argument/ , and the following for my response to Albert McIlhenny (who had responded to the above piece with a series of short articles): https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2014/11/19/diabolical-mimicry-part-2-response-to-alberts-mcllhenny-back-in-the-ring/.

[ii] Justin Martyr, 1st Apology to the Greeks, Chapter 54.

[iii] https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2015/08/22/the-pagan-parallel-thesis-and-why-practically-every-single-major-objection-to-it-is-false/.


38 thoughts on “Justin Martyr’s Diabolic Mimicry argument – Condensed:

  1. Hi James,

    My name is John MacDonald from over at the “Palpatine’s Way” blog.

    James said:

    Regarding the actual parallels claimed by Trypho and the parallels presented by Justin in his Apologies, there are distinct differences in the stronger and weaker examples. It is indeed true that amongst the parallels that Justin drew, some of them were really quite a stretch. However the fact remains that some of the parallels were quite clear, such as in the case of Dionysus. Likewise, the example of Perseus (as given by Trypho) is likewise quite clear.

    I have actually done quite a bit of research about the relationship between Dionysus (especially as he is portrayed in Euripides “Bacchae”) and Jesus. Dr. Dennis MacDonald has written a few books about it.

    If you are interested, I have written a blog post about the relationship between Jesus and Dionysus here: http://palpatinesway.blogspot.com/2017/10/


  2. Hi John, thanks for visiting and commenting. I had a quick look at the link you presented, which had a couple of paragraphs on Jesus and Dionysus. Have you written more on the subject elsewhere? If you are interested, the endnotes above contain links to a few of my other articles (which are much longer, particularly the original post on Diabolical Mimicry) that discuss the parallels between Dionysus and Jesus in some depth, including direct citations from a number of relevant texts.



    • Hi James,

      There are a lot of good resources about the relationship between the New Testament and Dionysus (and the Dionysus of Euripides’ “Bacchae” in particular). In my opinion the two best texts are by Dr. Dennis MacDonald: “The Dionysian Gospel (2017),” and “Luke and Vergil (2015).” But there are many other resources too:

      To begin with, Freke and Gandy in “The Jesus Mysteries” write:

      According to the gospels, Jesus is an innocent and just man who, at the instigation of the Jewish high priests, is hauled before the Roman Governor Pilate and condemned to die on spurious charges. Exactly the same mythological motif is found five centuries earlier in Euripides’ play The Bacchae, about Dionysus. Like Jesus in Jerusalem, Dionysus is a quiet stranger with long hair and a beard who brings a new religion. In the gospels, the Jewish high priests don’t believe in Jesus and allege that ‘His teachings are causing disaffections amongst the people.’ They plot to bring about his death. In The Bacchae, King Pentheus is a tyrannical ruler who does not believe in Dionysus. He berates him for bringing ‘this new disease to the land’ and sends out his men to capture the innocent godman …

      Like the Jewish high priests who are appalled at Jesus’ blasphemous claim to be the Son of God, King Pentheus rants in anger at stories of Dionysus’ divine parentage … Like Jesus, Dionysus passively allows himself to be caught and imprisoned …

      The guard relates the wondrous things he had witnessed Dionysus perform and warns King Pentheus: ‘Master, this man has come here with a load of miracles.’ The king, however, proceeds to interrogate Dionysus who, like Jesus before Pilate, will not bow to his authority. When Pilate reminds Jesus that he has the power to crucify him, Jesus replies, ‘You would have no authority at all over me, had it not been granted you from above.’ Likewise Dionysus answers the threats of Pentheus with: ‘Nothing can touch me that is not ordained.’ Like Jesus, who said of his persecutors, ‘They know not what they are doing,’ Dionysus tells Pentheus, ‘You know not what you are doing, nor what you are saying, nor who you are.’ …
      As Jesus is led away to crucifixion, he warns the crowd not to weep for him, but for themselves and their children, who will suffer for the crime of his execution (cf. Luke 23 v 28-30) … As he is led away, Dionysus, likewise, threatens divine vengeance. (pp. 45-46)

      .Before his death, Jesus celebrates a symbolic ‘Last supper’ of bread and wine. . . . In The Bacchae, Euripides calls bread and wine the ‘two powers which are supreme in human affairs,’ the one substantial and preserving the body, the other liquid and intoxicating the mind. The ancients credited the Mystery godman with bringing to humanity the arts of cultivating grain and the vine to produce bread and wine. (p. 48)

      .As [Joseph Campbell] writes, ‘To drink wine in the rites of Dionysus is to commune with the god and take his power and physical presence into one’s body.’ In the Christian rites of the Eucharist Jesus is said to symbolically become the wine drunk by the participant in the ritual. Likewise, Euripides tells us that Dionysus becomes the wine and is himself ‘poured out’ as an offering. In some vase representations, bread and wine are shown before the idol of Dionysus. Just as in the Eucharist a Christian is given ‘redemption’ in the symbolic form of a wafer biscuit, in the Mysteries of Dionysus the initiate was presented with makaria (‘blessedness’) in the form of a cake. (p. 50)

      .In Euripides’ The Bacchae, King Pentheus tries to insult Dionysus by describing him as ‘the god who frees his worshipers from every law [cf. St. Paul],’ but Dionysus replies, ‘Your insult to Dionysus is a compliment.’ (p. 107)

      .A Letter To Philip explains that although from the time of the incarnation Jesus suffered, yet he suffered as one who was ‘a stanger to this suffering.’ This teaches that the incarnate Higher Self (represented by Jesus) seems to suffer when the eidolon suffers, but in reality is always the untouched witness. In The Acts of John Jesus explains

      ‘You heard that I suffered, but I suffered not.
      An unsuffering one was I, yet suffered.
      One pierced was I, yet I was not abused.
      One hanged was I, yet not hanged.
      Blood flowed from me, yet did not flow.’ … (p. 119)

      Five hundred years previously Euripides portrayed King Pentheus as binding Dionysus, while actually he was not. As Dionysus says: …

      ‘He thought he was binding me; But he neither held nor touched me, save in his deluded mind.’ (p. 120)

      We also find striking parallels to ‘The Bacchae’ indicated in Robert Price’s article New Testament Narrative As Old Testament Midrash (2004). In terms of Dionysus in general, we read from Price

      Water into Wine (John 2:1-11)

      Though the central feature of this miracle story, the transformation of one liquid into another, no doubt comes from the lore of Dionysus, the basic outline of the story owes much to the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 17:8-24 LXX. The widow of Zarephath, whose son has just died, upbraids the prophet: “What have I to do with you, O man of God?” (Ti emoi kai soi, 17:18). John has transferred this brusque address to the mouth of Jesus, rebuking his mother (2:4, Ti emoi kai soi, gunai). Jesus and Elijah both tell people in need of provisions to take empty pitchers (udria in 1 Kings 17:12, udriai in John 2:6-7), from which sustenance miraculously emerges. And just as this feat causes the woman to declare her faith in Elijah (“I know that you are a man of God,” v. 24), so does Jesus’ wine miracle cause his disciples to put their faith in him (v. 11).

      In terms of The Bacchae, Price writes

      Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4ff)

      The whole scene comes, obviously, from the descent of the Mosaic spirit upon the seventy elders in Numbers 11:16-17, 24-25, with an assist from Euripides’ The Bacchae, where we read “Flames flickered in their curls and did not burn them” (757-758), just as tongues of fire blazed harmlessly above the heads of the apostles (Acts 2:3). Ecstatic speech caused some bystanders to question the sobriety of the disciples, but Peter defends them (“These are not drunk as you suppose” Acts 2:15a), as does Pentheus’ messenger: “Not, as you think, drunk with wine” (686-687).

      Paul’s Conversion (Acts 9:1-21)

      As the great Tübingen critics already saw, the story of Paul’s visionary encounter with the risen Jesus not only has no real basis in the Pauline epistles but has been derived by Luke more or less directly from 2 Maccabees 3’s story of Heliodorus. In it one Benjaminite named Simon (3:4) tells Apollonius of Tarsus, governor of Coele-Syria and Phoenicia (3:5), that the Jerusalem Temple houses unimaginable wealth that the Seleucid king might want to appropriate for himself. Once the king learns of this, he sends his agent Heliodorus to confiscate the loot. The prospect of such a violation of the Temple causes universal wailing and praying among the Jews. But Heliodorus is miraculously turned back when a shining warrior angel appears on horseback. The stallion’s hooves knock Heliodorus to the ground, where two more angels lash him with whips (25-26). He is blinded and is unable to help himself, carried to safety on a stretcher. Pious Jews pray for his recovery, lest the people be held responsible for his condition. The angels reappear to Heliodorus, in answer to these prayers, and they announce God’s grace to him: Heliodorus will live and must henceforth proclaim the majesty of the true God. Heliodorus offers sacrifice to his Saviour (3:35) and departs again for Syria, where he reports all this to the king. In Acts the plunder of the Temple has become the persecution of the church by Saul (also called Paulus, an abbreviated form of Apollonius), a Benjaminite from Tarsus. Heliodorus’ appointed journey to Jerusalem from Syria has become Saul’s journey from Jerusalem to Syria. Saul is stopped in his tracks by a heavenly visitant, goes blind and must be taken into the city, where the prayers of his former enemies avail to raise him up. Just as Heliodorus offers sacrifice, Saul undergoes baptism. Then he is told henceforth to proclaim the risen Christ, which he does. Luke has again added details from Euripides. In The Bacchae, in a sequence Luke has elsewhere rewritten into the story of Paul in Philippi, Dionysus has appeared in Thebes as an apparently mortal missionary for his own sect. He runs afoul of his cousin, King Pentheus who wants the licentious cult (as he views it) to be driven out of the country. He arrests and threatens Dionysus, only to find him freed from prison by an earthquake. Dionysus determines revenge against the proud and foolish king by magically compelling Pentheus to undergo conversion to faith in him (“Though hostile formerly, he now declares a truce and goes with us. You see what you could not when you were blind,” 922-924) and sending Pentheus, in woman’s guise, to spy upon the Maenads, his female revelers. He does so, is discovered, and is torn limb from limb by the women, led by his own mother. As the hapless Pentheus leaves, unwittingly, to meet his doom, Dionysus comments, “Punish this man. But first distract his wits; bewilder him with madness… After those threats with which he was so fierce, I want him made the laughingstock of Thebes” (850-851, 854-855). “He shall come to know Dionysus, son of Zeus, consummate god, most terrible, and yet most gentle, to mankind” (859-861). Pentheus must be made an example, as must poor Saul, despite himself. His conversion is a punishment, meting out to the persecutor his own medicine. Do we not detect a hint of ironic malice in Christ’s words to Ananias about Saul? “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:16).

      – “Have you understood me? Dionysus against the Crucified.” (Nietzsche, Ecce Homo, Why I am a Destiny).




      • Thanks for that John. Yes, I read “The Jesus Mysteries” about half a dozen times, I got a lot out of it. Richard Carrier doesn’t think much of it though, and I understand why. Freke and Gandy are certainly imprecise in their method, and their referencing is sloppy at best. Still, I liked the book and I think most of their conclusions are correct. I’d actually really like to read some of their other books as well (especially “The Laughing Jesus”).

        That article from Price is a ripper, I’ve referenced it myself a number of times. I would like to read the book of MacDonald you cited before. I haven’t read any of his work directly, but rather I have only read a number of summary’s of his Homer-Mark thesis (which is obviously very solid).

        Thanks again for taking the time to visit and comment. I will have to have a look at your blog when I get the time. The “pious fraud” idea is certainly plausible, though certainly there is a great deal of evidence to show that people were genuinely having visions (whatever the source) that they believed were legitimate divine revelations.



      • Also John, as I said before, you might be interested to read the much longer, original post on the topic (https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/the-whole-truth-on-justin-martyrs-diabolical-mimicry-argument/), if you haven’t done so already. I included the following on Dionysus:

        In the case of Dionysus, we can indeed match up every single feature that Justin claimed was parallel with Christ; that being miraculous (but perhaps not virgin) birth, death and resurrection, along with a final ascension to heaven. For those unfamiliar with the mythos of Dionysus, I shall give a quick explanation as to the relevant myths and their sources, and it would be wise to briefly discuss the definition of resurrection and summarize the contention surrounding it amongst critics, scholars and apologists. Starting with his birth, one common story of the birth of Dionysus had him born by Semele, conceived through non-sexual means of a bolt of lightning by the Supreme God Zeus. One source for this account comes from Euripides in the 5th century BCE:

        “I am Dionysus, the son of Zeus, come back to Thebes, this land where I was born. My mother was (the king) Cadmus’ daughter, Semele by name, midwifed by fire, delivered by the lightning’s blast. And here I stand, a god incognito, disguised as a man.” Euripides, The Bacchae, verses 1-5.

        One may certainly argue that the bolt of lighting was a divine seed, however it is still a miraculous birth (as with Perseus, kind of a non-sexual, miraculous intercourse), conceived by the union of the supreme God and a mortal female. There are several different stories of Dionysus being “twice born”, one of which is as follows:

        “In the compulsion of birth pains, the thunder of Zeus flying upon her, his (Dionysus’) mother (Semele) cast from her womb, leaving life by the stroke of a thunderbolt. Immediately Zeus Kronides received him in a chamber fit for birth, and having covered him in his thigh shut him up with golden clasps, hidden from Hera.” Euripides, The Bacchae 90 ff.

        In this example Semele is killed, and Dionysus is then given a second birth through the thigh of Zeus. Hence Dionysus here could be said to be reborn but he does not really die first though, hence it is not resurrection. There is another version of the “twice-born” motif that is related by Diodorus Siculus in the 1st century BCE:

        “And though the writers of myths have handed down the account of a third birth (of Dionysus) as well, at which, as they say, the sons of Gaia tore to pieces the god, who was a son of Zeus and Demeter, and boiled him, but his members were brought together again by Demeter and he experienced a new birth as if for the first time, such accounts as this they trace back to certain causes found in nature.” Diodorus Siculus, The Library of History, Book 3, 62:6.

        This passage gives us pre-Christian verification for the myth of Dionysus being torn to pieces and brought back to life by being reborn. In contrast to the previous rebirth narrative, this version explicitly contains a death and hence the rebirth is also a resurrection. If this wasn’t already enough, there are also the myths about Dionysus descending to the underworld and returning to the land of the living. Diodorus again wrote the following in the 1st century BCE:

        “The myths relate that Dionysus brought up his mother Semele from Hades, and that sharing with her his own immortality, he changed her name to Thyone.” Ibid, Book 4, 25:4.

        A more detailed version can be found in the writing of Pseudo-Hyginus, generally thought to have been written somewhere between the 1st century BCE and the 2nd century CE:

        “When Liber (Dionysus) received permission from his father (Zeus) to bring back his mother Semele from the lower world, and in seeking a place of descent had come to the land of the Argives, a certain Hypolipnus met him, a man worthy of that generation, who was to show the entrance to Liber in answer to his request. However, when Hypolipnus saw him, a mere boy in years, excelling all others in remarkable beauty of form, he asked from him the reward that could be given without loss. Liber, however, eager for his mother, swore that if he brought her back, he would do as he wished, on terms, though, that a god could swear to a shameless man. At this, Hypolipnus showed the entrance. So then, Liber came to that place and was about to descend, he left the crown, which he had received as a gift from Venus (Aphrodite), at that place which in consequence is called Stephanos, for he was unwilling to take it with him for fear the immortal gift of the gods would be contaminated by contact with the dead. When he brought his mother back unharmed, he is said to have placed the crown in the stars as an everlasting memorial.” Pseudo-Hyginus, Astronomica, 2.5.

        Ancient people held a variety of opinions in regard to the natural course of the body and/or soul after death. Likewise, there were different conflicting views on whether one could pass to the underworld alive, or whether simply entering the underworld was naturally indicative of death. In the case of the Sumerian god Tammuz, women wept at his passing into the underworld, even though he did not necessarily die in doing so. The ritual mourning for him entering the underworld is very similar to what we encounter in the later Hellenistic mysteries, which we will discuss briefly in a moment. Another closely related example is that of Tammuz’ consort Inanna, who passed into the underworld alive, was killed and brought back to life in the underworld, and then returned to the land of the living. In this case Dionysus descends into the land of the dead and then returns to the land of the living. In doing so there is an allusion to death and resurrection, although he passes into the underworld voluntarily. Anyways, the point is that this story of his descent to the underworld could potentially be seen as related to death and resurrection, and could be used as the inspiration for death-resurrection rites. There is also another source for Dionysus’ descent to the underworld, and that is of course Aristophanes comedy “The Frogs” from the late 5th century BCE. In this play Dionysus descends to the underworld to bring back a famous writer of tragedies. Hence, we have another example of Dionysus descending to the underworld and returning which is again well and truly pre-Christian. Then we have the ascension of Dionysus to heaven, which has been associated by some with resurrection, as the normal course of a person after death would be to descend to the underworld. In this case almost all the explicit written descriptions of Dionysus’ ascension are post-Christian, for example:

        “There are paintings here (in the temple of Dionysus at Athens) – Dionysus bringing Hephaistos up to heaven…”. Pausanias, Description of Greece, Book 1, 20:2.

        We do however have another mention of the above story from Pseudo-Hyginus (Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 166) somewhere between the 1st and 2nd century CE, which claims to have quoted Corastae of Epicharmus from the 5th century BCE. We also possess multiple vases paintings which depict the myth and which date from as early as the 6th century BCE. There are however also a number of written allusions to Dionysus’ ascension from around the turn of the Common Era. For example:

        “Dionysus, conqueror of India, worshipped in the new-built shrines of Greece…was placed among the gods of heaven.” Ovid, Metamorphoses, 4. 605ff.

        And also:

        “Not alone has Bacchus himself or the mother of Bacchus attained the skies…”. Seneca, Hercules Furens 16ff.

        And in the same work:

        “Nor will he (Herakles) come to the stars by a peaceful journey as Bacchus did”. Seneca, Hercules Furens 65ff, ibid.

        Given the testimony of Seneca and Ovid, along with the citation from pseudo-Hyginus as to the work of Corastae and the corresponding vase paintings, there is no question that this narrative is pre-Christian. Christian apologists often claim that the word resurrection has explicit Judeo-Christian meanings and that it is not appropriate to use it for pagan gods who were brought back to life after being killed. Such an argument falls apart however when we realize that the New Testament texts used exactly the same Greek words for resurrection as did pagan texts describing their gods coming back to life. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the exact understanding of how these pagan gods were thought to have come back to life was identical to that of Jesus in the New Testament, only that the claim to there being a special word for rising from the dead in the Judeo-Christian tradition is a false claim. The word resurrection is simply an English word for bringing something back to life that was formerly dead, and we use it for all manner of circumstances from saving a dying business from going under, to a football team winning again after struggling for a period of time. Hence, we should not necessarily expect the ancient Greek conception of resurrection to be identical to that of the Judeo-Christian tradition, but neither is it necessary for it to be to use the same word for both examples.

        We should not that Albert attempted to conflate the resurrection and ascension motifs for Dionysus, and there is indeed some truth to what he says. However, to imply that there was no specific concept of resurrection in the Dionysus mythos is greatly mistaken as already shown, and ignores quite a number of facts that clearly point out that Dionysus was indeed seen as both reborn and resurrected. We have the narrative of Dionysus going into the underworld to rescue his mother from Hades, which is attested in pre-Christian times. We have the play “The Frogs” which parodies this, and dates to the 5th century BCE. Finally we have the story of him being torn apart by the titans and being reborn/resurrected/cloned from his heart. On top of all this, we have numerous ancient writers telling of him being identical to Osiris, the resurrected god par excellence, as well as telling us that his rites were the same as of Osiris. For those unaware I will cite a few examples to make this point, before giving a very brief overview of Osiris. Writing in the 5th century BCE, Herodotus wrote:

        “…for Egyptians do not worship the same Gods in the same way. Only the Gods Isis and Osiris (the latter of whom they say is Dionysus) are worshipped in the same manner by all Egyptians.”

        “…from Egypt, introduced many different rites to the Hellenes, among them those of Dionysus”

        “… I would certainly not claim it is by chance that the rite performed for the God in Egypt resembles so closely that carried out in Hellas.” Herodotus, The Histories, Book 2 (all three above passages).

        Also, writing in the 1st century BCE, Diodorus wrote the following:

        “The Egyptians, for example, say that the god who among them bears the name Osiris is the one whom the Greeks call Dionysus”. Diodorus, The Antiquities of Egypt, Book 4, 1:6.

        As well as these key passages:

        “After he (Erechtheus) had secured the throne he instituted the initiatory rites of Demeter in Eleusis and established the mysteries, transferring their ritual from Egypt”. Ibid, Book 1, 29:2.

        As well as:

        “For the rite of Osiris is the same as that of Dionysus and that of Isis very similar to that of Demeter, the names alone having been interchanged; and the punishment in Hades of the unrighteous, the fields of the righteous, and the fantastic conceptions, current among the many, which are figments of the imagination – all these were introduced by Orpheus in imitation of the Egyptian funeral customs.” Ibid, Book 1, 96:5.

        Here we have several pre-Christian Greek historians telling us that Dionysus was the same god as Osiris, and that his myths and rites were identical. We are also told that the Greek mysteries were derived from Egyptian funerary customs…



      • Hi James,

        James said:

        Thanks again for taking the time to visit and comment. I will have to have a look at your blog when I get the time. The “pious fraud” idea is certainly plausible, though certainly there is a great deal of evidence to show that people were genuinely having visions (whatever the source) that they believed were legitimate divine revelations.

        People hallucinating was present in the early Christian church, as it is today, but this doesn’t mean the founders’ belief was also based on such hallucinations. The could have just been saying that. And, as Carrier writes:

        Of course, a case can be made for the apostles dying even for a hoax: all they needed was to believe that the teachings attached to their fabricated claim would make the world a better place, and that making the world a better place was worth dying for. Even godless Marxists voluntarily died by the millions for such a motive. So the notion that no one would, is simply false. See: https://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/12263

        Anyway, what lies behind the pre Pauline Corinthian creed could be hallucinations, or deception, or perhaps they actually saw the Risen Christ. Who is to say?



      • Hi James,

        It will be interesting to hear your take on what I wrote. There is certainly historical analogy for religions being based on deception. For instance, Joseph Smith lied about finding golden plates from heaven. But it gets worse than that. Smith produced witnesses who described the plates as weighing from 30 to 60 pounds (14 to 27 kg), being golden in color and being composed of thin metallic pages engraved on both sides and bound with three D-shaped rings!


      • Hello again John, sorry for the time taken to respond. I just wanted to say that the example of Joseph Smith is perhaps one of the very clearest examples of deliberate fraud in the tangled history of religion. In this case we most certainly can conclude that Smith was simply a conman, and not necessarily even a pious one at that. I myself am a believer in the objective reality of spirituality and the supernatural, but even I must concede that the history of religion (and related topics) is filled with countless examples of madmen and conmen.



      • Hi James,

        I’m fascinated by examples of Noble Lies in the ancient world. Plato’s Republic was one of the most famous books in antiquity, and it advocated Noble Lies. For some reason, I have always been fascinated by these words by Cadmus in Euripides’ Bacchae:

        “Even if this man (Dionysus) be no God, as you think, still say that he is. Be guilty of a splendid fraud, declaring him to be the son of Semele, for this will make it seem she is the mother of a God, and will confer honor on all our race.”

        I’ve always wondered if these words by Euripides inspired the first Christians to invent the miracle/resurrection stories about Jesus, such as what we see in the Pre Pauline Corinthian Creed?


  3. To: Jameshiscoxblogs
    Per: “Biblioblogging From Around the Web” by Nicholas Covington • Feb 5, 2018 • Comments @ https://www.skepticink.com/humesapprentice/2018/02/05/biblioblogging-around-web/#comments

    I have posted some comments about Justin Martyr’s “Second God”, the Creator (πoιητής, δηµιoυργός). I suspect that some of Justin’s arguments are related to his idiosyncratic terms: “Every Father”, poet (composer), creator, care, desire, etc. derived from Middle Platonism and Numenius.


      • FYI:
        I double posted a comment with Justin Martyr, Apologia I.21 (in Greek) text. Neither duplicate post are displayed in my “Google Chrome” browser, whereas comments awaiting moderation do usually appear.

        Per the humesapprentice website, the “comments” are currently offline. Previously a similar offline status took over a week until returning online.

        Good luck.


      • There is something weird about posting comments with Greek text. They do not display after posting. However if I delete the Greek text and post with just the remaining English text then it displays—as awaiting moderation—as expected.


  4. Hi again DB, you might like to have a read of the much longer, original article on this topic (https://jameshiscoxblogs.wordpress.com/2014/09/20/the-whole-truth-on-justin-martyrs-diabolical-mimicry-argument/) in which I cite all the relevant passages in full and discuss their implications. Here are some of the most important passages (along with the citations about where you can find them):

    “And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter…” Justin Martyr, 1st Apology to the Greeks, Chapter 21.

    And also:

    “But those who hand down the myths, which the poets have made, adduce no proof to the youths who learn them; and we proceed to demonstrate that they have been uttered by the influence of the wicked demons, to deceive and lead astray the human race. For having heard it proclaimed through the prophets that the Christ was to come, and that the ungodly among men were to be punished by fire, under the impression that they would be able to produce in men the idea that the things which were said with regard to Christ were mere marvelous tales, like the things which were said by the poets. And these things were said both among the Greeks and among all nations where they (the demons) heard the prophets foretelling that Christ would specially be believed in; but that in hearing what was said by the prophets they did not accurately understand it, but imitated what was said of our Christ, like men who are in error, we will make plain.” Ibid, Chapter 54.

    There are two similar quotes from Justin relating to Dionysus, the first of which is also in chapter 54 of his 1st apology:

    “The devils, accordingly, when they heard these prophetic words, said that Bacchus was the son of Jupiter, and gave out that he was the discover of the vine, and they number wine (or, the ass) among his mysteries; and they taught that, having been torn in pieces, he ascended into heaven. Ibid.

    Elsewhere in his other work “Dialogue with Trypho”, noting that many writers have used a paraphrase of this passage rather than quoting it in full, Justin had this to say in regards to Dionysus:

    “For when they tell that Bacchus, son of Jupiter, was begotten by (Jupiter’s) intercourse with Semele, and that he was the discoverer of the vine; and when they relate, that being torn in pieces, and having died, he rose again, and ascended to heaven; and when they introduce wine into his mysteries, do I not perceive that (the devil) has imitated the prophecy announced by the patriarch Jacob, and recorded by Moses?” Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 69.

    Some of the most important material is found in “Dialogue with Trypho”, chapter 67-70:
    “And Trypho answered, ‘The Scripture has not, ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son’, but, ‘Behold, the young woman shall conceive, and bear a son’, and so on, as you quoted. But the whole prophecy refers to Hezekiah, and it is proved that it was fulfilled in him, according to the terms of the prophecy. Moreover, in the fables of those who are called Greeks, it is written that Perseus was begotten of Danae, who was a virgin; he who was called among them Zeus having descended on her in the form of a golden shower. And you ought to feel ashamed when you make assertions similar to theirs, and rather (should) say that this Jesus was born man of men. And if you prove from the Scriptures that He is the Christ, and that on account of having led a life conformed to the law, and perfect, He deserved the honor of being elected to be Christ, (it is well); but do not venture to tell monstrous phenomena, lest you be convicted of talking foolishly like the Greeks.” Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 67.

    To which Justin responds:

    “Trypho, I wish to persuade you, and all men in short, of this, that even though you talk worse things in ridicule and in jest, you will not move me from my fixed design…” Ibid.

    To which he then goes on in chapter 68 to justify his reading of the Scriptures, arguing that Isaiah did indeed refer to Christ and not Hezekiah as Trypho had argued. He then gets back in chapter 69 to the topic of Trypho’s allegation of plagiarizing the Greeks:

    “‘Be well assured, then, Trypho,’ I continued, ‘that I am established in the knowledge of and faith in the Scriptures by those counterfeits which he who is called the devil is said to have performed among the Greeks; just as some were wrought by the Magi in Egypt, and others by the false prophets in Elijah’s days. For when they tell that Bacchus, son of Jupiter, was begotten by (Jupiter’s) intercourse with Semele, and that he was the discoverer of the vine; and when they relate, that being torn in pieces, and having died, he rose again, and ascended to heaven; and when they introduce wine into his mysteries, do I not perceive that (the devil) has imitated the prophecy announced by the patriarch Jacob, and recorded by Moses? And when they tell that Hercules was strong, and travelled over all the world, and was begotten by Jove of Alcmene, and ascended to heaven when he died, do I not perceive that the Scripture which speaks of Christ, ‘strong as a giant to run his race’, has been in like manner imitated? And when he (the devil) brings forward Asclepius as the raiser of the dead and healer of diseases, may I not say that in this matter likewise he has imitated the prophecies about Christ?” Chapter 69.

    He then goes in chapter 70 to make the argument that the Mithraic mysteries plagiarized the prophecies of Daniel and Isaiah, to which he finishes with the following comment that make it absolutely explicit that his above comments were written as a response to Trypho’s allegation:

    “…And when I hear, Trypho, said I, that Perseus was begotten of a virgin, I understand that the deceiving serpent counterfeited also this.” Ibid, Chapter 70.

    I hope this helps.



    • Iustinus – Apologia Prima, p.359 @ http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/04z/z_0100-0160__Iustinus__Apologia_Prima_(MPG_006_0327_0440)__GM.pdf.html

      21. Τῷ δὲ καὶ τὸν Αόγον, ὅ ἐστι πρῶτον γέννημα τοῦ θεοῦ, ἄνευ ἐπιμιξίας φάσκειν ἡμᾶς γεγενῆσθαι (7) Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν τὸν Διδάσκαλον ἡμῶν, καὶ τοῦτον σταυρωθέντα καὶ ἀποθανόντα καὶ ἀναστάντα ἀνεληλυθέναι εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν, οὐ παρὰ τοὺς παρ᾿ ὑμῖν λεγομένους υἱοὺς τῷ Διὶ καινόν τι φέρομεν. Πόσους γὰρ υἱοὺς [huious, “sons”] φάσκουσι τοῦ Διὸς [Diós, “Zeus”] οἱ παρ᾿ ὑμῖν τιμώμενοι συγγραφεῖς ἐπίστασθε, Ἑρμῆν μέν, λόγον τὸν ἑρμηνευτικὸν (8) καὶ πάντων διδάσκαλον : Ἀσκληπιὸν [Asklēpión]

      21. Dum autem Verbum, quae prima est Dei progenies, sine mistione genitum dicimus, Jesum Christum Magistrum nostrum, eumdemque crucifixum et mortuum et redivivum ascendisse in coelum; nihil ab iis, qui apud vos dicuntur, Jovis filiis alienum et novum afferimus. Seitis enim guot Jovis filios commemorent spectati apud vos scriptores : Mercurium

      Plato (1902). “521 C]”. In Adam, James. The Republic of Plato: Books VI-X and indexes. 7. Cambridge University Press. pp. 105, n. 19. @ http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0094%3Abook%3D7%3Asection%3D521C

      It is worthy of remark that Justin Martyr in a remarkable passage of his Apologia pro Christianis speaks of the ascent of Asclepius and others into Heaven as Pagan parallels to the Christian doctrine of the Ascension: Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν—σταυρωθέντα καὶ ἀποθανόντα καὶ ἀναστάντα ἀνεληλυθέναι εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν, οὐ παρὰ τοὺς παρ᾽ ὑμῖν λεγομένους υἱοὺς τῷ Διῒ καινόν τι φέρομεν. πόσους γὰρ υἱοὺς φάσκουσι τοῦ Διὸς οἱ παρ᾽ ὑμῖν τιμώμενοι συγγραφεῖς ἐπίστασθε, Ἑρμῆν μὲν λόγον τὸν ἑρμηνευτικὸν καὶ πάντων διδάσκαλον: Ἀσκληπιὸν δὲ καὶ θεραπευτὴν γενόμενον, κεραυνωθέντα, ἀνεληλυθέναι εἰς οὐρανόν: Διόνυσον δὲ διασπαραχθέντα κτλ. (l.c. I 21: cf. also Dialogus cum Tryphone 69).


  5. Lanzillotta, Lautaro Roig (2010). “Christian Apologists and Greek Gods”. In Bremmer, Jan N.; Erskine, Andrew. The Gods of Ancient Greece: Identities and Transformations. Edinburgh University Press. p. 453. ISBN 978-0-7486-4289-2.

    [Per Justin Martyr] If divine figures, whether or not originally divine, such as Asklepios, Dionysos, Herakles, the Dioskouroi, Perseus, Bellerophon and Ariadne, were also transported to heaven after death, he [Justin Martyr] seems to argue, there is no need to ridicule Christian beliefs. Having done this, he proceeds, in the second part of the same chapter, to deny all moral authority to Greek gods. He wonders how it is possible to believe in a god like Zeus,

    […] the governor and creator of all things, [who] was both a parricide and the son of a parricide, and that being overcome by the love of base and shameful pleasures, he came in to Ganymede and those many women whom he had violated and that his sons did like actions. [First Apology, 21.22-37]

    His answer to this question appears in his theory that Greek mythology was in fact a forgery of Moses’ prophecies committed by demons in order to prevent people from coming to know the truth.


    • Plato (1902). “521 C]”. In Adam, James. The Republic of Plato: Books VI-X and indexes. 7. Cambridge University Press. pp. 105, n. 19. @ http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0094%3Abook%3D7%3Asection%3D521C

      It is worthy of remark that Justin Martyr in a remarkable passage of his Apologia pro Christianis speaks of the ascent of Asclepius and others into Heaven as Pagan parallels to the Christian doctrine of the Ascension: Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν—σταυρωθέντα καὶ ἀποθανόντα καὶ ἀναστάντα ἀνεληλυθέναι εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν, οὐ παρὰ τοὺς παρ᾽ ὑμῖν λεγομένους υἱοὺς τῷ Διῒ καινόν τι φέρομεν. πόσους γὰρ υἱοὺς φάσκουσι τοῦ Διὸς οἱ παρ᾽ ὑμῖν τιμώμενοι συγγραφεῖς ἐπίστασθε, Ἑρμῆν μὲν λόγον τὸν ἑρμηνευτικὸν καὶ πάντων διδάσκαλον: Ἀσκληπιὸν δὲ καὶ θεραπευτὴν γενόμενον, κεραυνωθέντα, ἀνεληλυθέναι εἰς οὐρανόν: Διόνυσον δὲ διασπαραχθέντα κτλ. (l.c. I 21: cf. also Dialogus cum Tryphone 69).


    • Plato (1902). “521 C]”. In Adam, James. The Republic of Plato: Books VI-X and indexes. 7. Cambridge University Press. pp. 105, n. 19. @ http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0094%3Abook%3D7%3Asection%3D521C

      It is worthy of remark that Justin Martyr in a remarkable passage of his Apologia pro Christianis speaks of the ascent of Asclepius and others into Heaven as Pagan parallels to the Christian doctrine of the Ascension: […] (l.c. I 21: cf. also Dialogus cum Tryphone 69).


  6. My translation of Justin Martyr, First Apology 21:

    21. Τῷ δὲ καὶ τὸν Αόγον, ὅ ἐστι πρῶτον γέννημα τοῦ θεοῦ, ἄνευ ἐπιμιξίας φάσκειν ἡμᾶς γεγενῆσθαι (7) Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν τὸν Διδάσκαλον ἡμῶν, καὶ τοῦτον σταυρωθέντα καὶ ἀποθανόντα καὶ ἀναστάντα ἀνεληλυθέναι εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν, οὐ παρὰ τοὺς παρ᾿ ὑμῖν λεγομένους υἱοὺς τῷ Διὶ καινόν τι φέρομεν.

    21. And as for our Logos (second-god), the firstborn of first-god, born incarnate from a women as (7) Jesus Christ our master/teacher, the “Crucified One” who died and rose again then ascended into heaven.


    • Boyarin, Daniel (2010) [now bolded]. Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 119. ISBN 0-8122-0384-4.

      I think, that worship in the incarnate Logos [λόγος] is a novum, a “mutation,” …introduced by Jesus people, but the belief in an intermediary, a deuteros theos [second-god], and even perhaps binitarian worship was common to them [Jesus people] and other Jews.

      Ahearne-Kroll, Stephen P. (2007). The Psalms of Lament in Mark’s Passion: Jesus’ Davidic Suffering. Cambridge University Press. p. 225. ISBN 978-0-521-88191-3.

      [Per Mark 16:6] even though Jesus has been raised he is still “the crucified one.” This last epithet is most telling, because the Greek term used is ἐσταυρωμένον [estaurōmenon]…

      Hillar, Marian. Numenius and Greek Sources of Justin’s Theology. Invited paper for the Annual Meeting of American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature, Nashville, TN, November 18-21, 2000. @ http://www.socinian.org/philosophy.html

      [Per the theological system of Numenius of Apamea and Justin Martyr] There is a complete correlation between the two systems, that of Justin and that of Numenius. The major difference is in the identification by Justin of the historical Jesus with the Second and subordinate Divinity, and his transformation into a cosmic being: Christ, Logos or Son of God.


  7. My translation of Justin Martyr, First Apology 21:

    21. And as for our Logos (second-god), the firstborn of first-god, born incarnate from a women as Jesus Christ our master/teacher, the “Crucified One” who died and rose again then ascended into heaven.


    • Thanks again DB for leaving your thoughts. Do you know of any passages where Justin explicitly speaks regarding the singular or plural nature of God? When I read the Apologies and the Dialogue (some time ago now) I was looking for passages relevant to Diabolical Mimicry, and can’t recall his discussion of this matter. I would have thought it was relevant to his apologetic discourses both with pagans and Jews, as both may have accused Christians of polytheism (though I recall a big part of both the Apologies and the Dialogue was his response to the idea that Jesus was merely a man, a criminal, and Justin’s insistence that he was actually God)?



      • I do not know if Justin explicitly says first-god, second-god. However it is clear that for Justin, Jesus is the incarnation of the divine Logos, the creator of the world, against Marcionism’s creator i.e. the god Yahweh.

        Given that you can not trust the English or Latin translations, you would have to compile Justin’s idiomatic Greek terms, e.g. Hillar gives πoιητής (poiétés) and δηµιoυργός (demiourgós) as Justin’s terms for Second God (the Creator). [see http://www.socinian.org/files/Numenius_GreekSources.pdf%5D

        I assert that Justin’s παντὸς πατέρα (every father) implies the same concept as Paul’s πατὴρ πάντων (father of all) i.e. the Greek view of a supreme god as the cosmic father of all.

        Arendzen, John P. (1913). “Demiurge”. In Herbermann, Charles G. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Universal Knowledge Foundation.

        […] demiourgós became the technical term for the Maker of heaven and earth. In this sense it is used frequently by Plato in his “Timæus”. […] [In] Greek philosophy the world-maker is not necessarily identical with God, as first and supreme source of all things […]

        Per Justin Martyr, First Apology 41:

        Marcion of Pontus […] teaches his disciples to believe in some other god greater than the Creator
        [against] ἀρνεῖσθαι τὸν ποιητὴν τοῦδε τοῦ παντὸς πατέρα εἶναι τοῦ Χριστοῦ [the Creator is the Christ]


      • Please add a space to the Hillar link above per suffix …pdf%5D the character “]”, is inadvertently concatenated to the URL link.

        Hillar, Marian. Numenius and Greek Sources of Justin’s Theology. Invited paper for the Annual Meeting of American Academy of Religion/Society of Biblical Literature, Nashville, TN, November 18-21, 2000.

        PDF file @ http://www.socinian.org/files/Numenius_GreekSources.pdf


      • Hayes, Andrew (2017). “Repetition of Themes in the Dialogue – The Number of Gods”. Justin against Marcion: Defining the Christian Philosophy. National Book Network. p. 141f. ISBN 978-1-5064-2040-0.
        “The issue of the number of gods Justin believes in as a “Christian” continually arises in the Dialogue. On no less than four occasions Trypho directly asks Justin to justify his belief in another god, and on eight occasions Justin declares directly his belief in the one true god. Clearly the number of gods followers of Christ believe in and Christ’s relationship to the Father is at issue. Given that Marcion truly professed another god, greater than the creator and another Christ from this greater god, as Justin says in 1 Apol. 26.5 and 58.1, Trypho’s repeated requests and Justin’s assertions are a convenient means of clarification. Every time Trypho claims to be unconvinced by Justin’s arguments for Christ, Justin is afforded the Opportunity to clarify what he means, though he does not always do so immediately, and uses scripture to do so.”


      • Hannah, Darrell D. (1999). Michael and Christ: Michael Traditions and Angel Christology in Early Christianity. Mohr Siebeck. p. 203f. ISBN 978-3-16-147054-7.

        [F]or Justin the Logos remains intrinsically tied to Christian revelation: The Logos became incarnate in Jesus. […] he can call the Logos ”another God and Lord” (Θεὸς καὶ κύριος ἕτερος; Dial. 56.4).


  8. Justin’s usage of scripture may of affected his Platonic model.

    Stephen L. Huebscher (21 August 2017). “Heavenly Worship in Second Temple Judaism, Early Christianity, and Gnostic Sects: Part 5”. Dr. Michael Heiser – NakedBible Blog. @ http://drmsh.com/heavenly-worship-in-second-temple-judaism-early-christianity-and-gnostic-sects-part-5/

    [Per] biblical cosmology, not only is God in heaven, but there is a core group of the heavenly host that works closely with God. The core group in the biblical model is known as the divine council (DC) or divine assembly, and is found in many places throughout Scripture. “One of the central cosmological symbols of the Old Testament is the imagery of the divine council and . . . the issues of order in Israel and in the cosmos are rooted in and understood as under the aegis of the divine council” (P. Miller, 423) It is not an exaggeration to say that the DC may be the most important hermeneutical guide for understanding celestial worship, whether in ancient Jewish or early Christian theologies. Even some Gnostic texts adopted an eclectic approach and incorporated a heavenly assembly into their doctrine, while still relying primarily on the Platonic model. In the original Platonic model, there is no such core group of “helpers.” Instead, there are the Ideals.

    Cf. Rawson, Frederick L. (1920). “App. VII. Plato’s Ideal Theory”. Life Understood from a Scientific and Religious Point of View. Crystal Press. p. 486. @ https://books.google.com/books/content?id=RcxCAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA486&img=1&zoom=3&hl=en&sig=ACfU3U2c8fANHkDqKPLKJ6XueMDYys3siA&ci=100%2C260%2C850%2C530&edge=0

    Cf. Theory of forms @ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theory_of_forms


    • Gieschen, Charles A. (1998). Angelomorphic Christology: Antecedents and Early Evidence. BRILL. p. 189f. ISBN 90-04-10840-8.

      Justin, whose writings date from ca. 140-160 CE, is often viewed as the starting point for the clear expression of Angelomorphic Chris­tology. Based upon the messianic “Angel of Great Counsel” in Isa 9.6 (LXX), he uses the designation “Angel” as one of the primary titles given to the Messiah by the prophets. (See Dial. Trypho 76.3; 86.3; 93.2; 116.1; 126.6; 127.4; 128.1, 2, 4.)
      [Unlike Philo] Justin was not limited to exegesis of Pentateuchal theophanies, as we see in this text:

      [Dial. Trypho 61.1] God begat before all creatures a Beginning, [who was] a certain rational Power [proceeding] from Himself, who is called by the Holy Spirit, now the Glory of the Lord, now the Son, again Wisdom, again an Angel, then God, and then Lord and Word; and on another occasion He calls Himself Captain, when he appeared in human form to Joshua the son of Nave.

      Aquilina, Mike (2009). “Chapter One: What is an Angel”. Angels of God: The Bible, the Church and the Heavenly Hosts. St Anthony Messenger Press. ISBN 978-1-61636-215-7.

      Justin wasn’t saying that Jesus is an angel as Michael and Gabriel and Raphael are angels. He made the distinction abundantly clear: Jesus “is called God, and He is and shall be God.” The other angels are pure spirits, and in that sense they are like God; and they are messengers, and in that sense they are like Jesus. But they are creatures, and Christ is their creator.


    • Rokeah, David (2002). Justin Martyr and the Jews. BRILL. p. 24f. ISBN 90-04-12310-5.
      “In the Septuagint, the term Logos is often used to denote the word of God in the act of Creation […] The Sages presented the Torah as equal to the divine hokhmah; it was described in personified terms, and given a cosmological and soteriological/redemptive role. Philo was the first to introduce the Stoic-Platonic Logos to Judaism. The essence of Philo’s view of the Logos apparently derives from Greek thought—particularly that of Plato in the Timaeus as it was interpreted by the middle Platonists of Philo’s day—combined with the biblical Logos of the Septuagint. Justin gave the Logos of God, which he identified with Jesus, many functions: from the most ancient times all peoples, Greeks and barbarians alike, had a part in it (First Apology 5: 3-4; 46: 2-3); the Logos is the tool that God designed and made for the Creation (First Apology 64: 5; Second Apology 6: 3); it is the messenger and servant of the Father (First Apology 63: 5; Dialogue 60: 2, among others). However, Justin’s theology is distinct from that of Philo and the Sages on two levels: in his attempts to prove, with the aid of his idiosyncratic interpretation of the theophanies (God’s revelations) described in the Hebrew Bible, that another, second God was the one who appeared to the Patriarchs, to Moses, and to others (Dialogue 56-60); and in his claim that, at a certain stage in human history, the God-Logos became flesh.”

      Wendel, Susan (2011). Scriptural Interpretation and Community Self-Definition in Luke-Acts and the Writings of Justin Martyr. BRILL. pp. 120–121, n. 97. ISBN 90-04-18920-3.
      “In the Apologies, Justin adapts the Middle Platonist idea of the logos as an immanent expression of the transcendent God in order to portray Christ, the pre-existent Logos, as the source of all noble philosophy and knowledge (1 Apol. 5.3-4; 462-5; 2 Apol. 8.1-3; 9.2; 10.4-8; 13.1-6). (The terminology that Justin uses in these passages has fueled considerable discussion regarding the extent to which he relied on Middle Platonism for his understanding of the human acquisition of truth. […])”


    • Bauckham, Richard (2008) [now bolded]. Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity. Eerdmans Young Readers. p. 148. ISBN 978-0-8028-4559-7.

      [Justin Martyr] defends Christians against the charge of atheism by claiming that, in fact, they worship a number of divine beings: not only God, but also ‘the Son who came from him…, and the host of other good angels who follow him and are made like him, and the prophetic Spirit, we worship and adore (sebometha kai proskunoumen)’ (1 Apol. 6). The inclusion of the angels represents an attempt to assimilate the Christian view of the divine world as closely as possible to the Platonic hierarchy of divinity: first God, second God, and a multitude of lesser divine beings (cf. also Athenagoras, Leg. 10.5; Origen, Cels. 8.13).

      Garrett, Susan R. (2008). No Ordinary Angel: Celestial Spirits and Christian Claims about Jesus. Yale University Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-300-14095-8.

      Many Jews before and during the time of Jesus were deeply interested in angels. Some understood the angel of the LORD as a being completely separate from God—a sort of angelic vizier or righthand angel, who served as head of the heavenly host and in other important capacities, including as a mediator between God and humans. Further, some Jews routinely appropriated language used in Scripture to describe the angel of the LORD and used it to characterize certain of God’s attributes, including God’s word, glory, wisdom, spirit, power, and name—almost as if these aspects of the Deity were themselves independent angels. In other words, quite apart from Christianity there was talk among ancient Jews of God’s word, God’s glory, and so forth in terms highly reminiscent of the angel of the LORD.

      Tripolitis, Antonia (2002) [now bolded]. Religions of the Hellenistic-Roman Age. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 41f. ISBN 978-0-8028-4913-7.

      Middle Platonism postulates a hierarchy of three divine primary beings, at the head of which is the Divine Mind […] the aim in life is to free oneself from the world of matter and to return to the Divine [Mind].
      [Numenius of Apamea] adopted a synthesis of Platonic and Pythagorean doctrine. In agreement with Middle Platonic thought, Numenius posits a divine triad, a supreme Mind or God whom he calls Father or the Good, a second Mind or demiurge, and the created third God or the World Soul.


      • Droge, Arthur J. (1989). Homer Or Moses?: Early Christian Interpretations of the History of Culture. Mohr Siebeck. pp. 1–2. ISBN 978-3-16-145354-0 :

        Who came first, Homer or Moses? That question was a point of dispute between Christian and pagan intellectuals in the early centuries of the present era. More often than not the question assumed a harsher tone: Who plagiarized from whom? As an anonymous Christian apologist of the third century declared,

        I think that some of you [sc. Greeks], when you read even carelessly the history of Diodorus, . . . cannot fail to see that Orpheus, Homer, and Solon, who wrote the laws of the Athenians, and Pythagoras, Plato, and some others, when they had been in Egypt and taken advantage of the history of Moses, afterwards were able to take a position against those who had previously held false ideas about the gods.

        at least one pagan philosopher seems to have accepted the Jewish and Christian claim without hesitation. The Pythagorean-Platonist Numenius of Apamea, a contemporary of Justin [Martyr], acknowledged this theory of dependence when he asked, “What is Plato but Moses speaking Attic Greek?” It seems therefore that few in antiquity would have thought it a preposterous idea that Homer had “read” Moses, even if they did not happen to think it likely.


  9. I think Dr. Dennis MacDonald is very important for the question of the imitation of the Greeks by the early Christians {such as in his books “The Gospels and Homer (2015),” “Luke and Vergil (2015),” “Mythologizing Jesus (2015),” and [he has more] “The Dionysian Gospel: The Fourth Gospel and Euripides (2017).”}

    In “Mythologizing Jesus (2015),” Dr. MacDonald writes

    “The importance of the Homeric epics in antiquity is undisputed. A contemporary of Mark and Luke praised them as follows:

    From the earliest age, children beginning their studies are nursed on Homer’s teaching. One might say that while we were still in swathing bands we sucked from his epics as from fresh milk. He assists the beginner and later the adult in his prime. In no stage of life, from boyhood to old age, do we ever cease to drink from him (Ps.~Heraclitus, Homeric Questions 1.5-6).”

    Since the Gospel writers and Paul wrote in Greek, they would be familiar with this.


  10. I’ve been thinking a lot about the resurrection appearances referred to in the pre-Pauline Corinthian creed, and how they might be thought of in the context of Dr. Dennis R MacDonald’s mimesis work on the New Testament. Perhaps the resurrection appearance claims were Noble Lies (a la Plato, Euripides, etc.) meant to lend divine clout to (and help the disciples carry on) Jesus’ message of love of God, neighbor, and enemy after Jesus died (a cause the disciples may have been willing to die for)?

    In “Mythologizing Jesus (2015, pg. 3),” Dr. Dennis MacDonald writes

    “The importance of the Homeric epics in antiquity is undisputed. A contemporary of Mark and Luke praised them as follows: ‘From the earliest age, children beginning their studies are nursed on Homer’s teaching. One might say that while we were still in swathing bands we sucked from his epics as from fresh milk. He assists the beginner and later the adult in his prime. In no stage of life, from boyhood to old age, do we ever cease to drink from him (Ps.~Heraclitus, Homeric Questions 1.5-6, cited in MacDonald, Mythologizing Jesus, pg. 3).’ ”

    Since the Gospel writers and Paul wrote in Greek, one would assume they would be they would be familiar with this. Continuing on, Dr Dennis R MacDonald argues:

    Greek education largely involved imitation of the epics, what Greeks called mimesis; Romans called it imitatio. Homeric influence thus appears in many genres of ancient composition: poetry, of course, but also histories, biographies and novels. One must not confuse such imitations with plagiarism, willful misrepresentation, or pitiful gullibility. Rather, by evoking literary antecedents, authors sought to impress the reader with the superiority of the imitation in literary style, philosophical insights, or ethical values. Literary mimesis often promoted a sophisticated rivalry between the esteemed models and their innovating successors (MacDonald, Mythologizing Jesus, pg. 3).

    Maybe, in the resurrection appearance claims present in the pre-Pauline Corinthian Creed, the first Christians were inventing these appearance accounts to present Jesus as greater than the Roman emperors. In this regard, Justin Martyr writes:

    “What about your dead emperors, whom you always esteem as being rescued from death and set forth someone who swears to have seen the cremated Caesar [Augustus] ascending from the pyre into the sky?” (Justin Martyr, First Apology, 21.3).”

    It seems impossible to pull back the veil in front of the pre-Pauline Corinthian Creed to discover whether the resurrection appearance claims therein were Lies, Legendary Accumulation (although they may be too early to be Legendary), Hallucinations, or whether the apostles actually did encounter the risen Jesus?

    And there may be good reason to suppose the early Christians were directly concerned with establishing that Jesus was greater than the Caesars. The syncretic flavor of Mark is at once evident from his reproduction of a piece of Augustan imperial propaganda and his setting it beside a tailored scripture quote. “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God” closely matches the formula found on a monument erected by the Provincial Assembly in Asia Minor (1st century BCE): “Whereas… Providence… has… brought our life to the peak of perfection in giving us Augustus Caesar… who, being sent to us and to our descendants as a savior…, and whereas… the birthday of the god has been for the whole world the beginning of the gospel (euaggelion) concerning him, let all reckon a new era beginning from the date of his birth.” Mark 12:17 also seems to establish that only trivial things are to be rendered unto Caesar, whereas the true esteem is to be given to God.

    And we know the Jews of that time engaged in mimesis, just as the Greeks and Romans did, such with the material Matthew invented to portray Jesus as the new and greater Moses.

    One last thought on the possible portrayal of Jesus as greater than the Caesars:

    Craig Koester’s Revelation commentary says:

    “The section climaxes by noting that [Jesus] holds seven stars in his right hand (Rev 1:16). This cosmic imagery conveys sovereignty. An analogy appears on a coin from Domitian’s reign that depicts the emperor’s deceased son as young Jupiter, sitting on the globe in a posture of world dominion. The coin’s inscription calls him “divine Caesar, son of the emperor Domitian,” and the imagery shows him extending his hands to seven stars in a display of divinity and power. John has already identified Jesus as the ruler of kings on earth (1:5), and the imagery of the seven stars fits the book’s larger context, which contrasts the reign of Christ with that of imperial Rome. (p. 253).”

    Brandon D. Smith comments on Koester’s Revelation commentary here that:

    Koester is referring to the coin in the image used in Rome around AD 88-96 during the reign of the brutal Caesar Domitian. Koester’s insights here give us an interesting look at the background of John’s writing during hostile Roman persecution. It also helps us think about the later date of Revelation’s writing (the end of the first century) versus a potential earlier dating (some say it might’ve been written closer to AD 65). This is enough to chew on a little bit.

    But it offers us more than that. This information helps shed light on the theology of Revelation. First, it shows us that much of Revelation’s imagery (beasts, numbers, etc.) are direct shots at the Roman empire. Many believe (and I could be convinced) that Revelation is written during intense Roman persecution and this letter was first written to encourage the Church during that time. However, as a non-preterist, I believe portions of the letter are speaking of future events—i,e., Jesus hasn’t come back yet; the New Jerusalem isn’t here yet; etc. In any event, this note might help us better understand the anti-imperial leanings of John.

    Second, it shows us how high John’s Christology was. He’s not merely putting Jesus on par with some exalted or glorified person. Rather, he’s portraying Jesus as divine—specifically pitting Jesus’s true divine sovereignty against the supposed divine sovereignty of the Roman emperorship. Roman caesars liked to pretend to be gods, but John is reminding them and us that there’s only one true God. Jupiter is seated on the world with stars hovering around him? Ha—Jesus created the world and clutches the stars in his hand. As I argue in my thesis, John explicitly and purposely ties Jesus into the divine identity of YHWH, and this little note only adds to the case.

    Perhaps Jesus understood as surpassing Caesar is more pervasive in the NT than originally thought.


  11. Boyarin, Daniel (28 July 2009). “Justin Martyr Invents Judaism”. Church History. 70 (03): 427. doi:10.2307/3654497

    [n. 114] Barnard’s conclusion that “the Dialogue is proof that, in certain circles, there was a close intercourse between Christians and Jews” (Barnard, Justin, 52). This would also seem to be the position of Rokéah, Justin Martyr and the Jews, 17–20, who agrees with Theodore Stylianopoulos, Justin Martyr and the Mosaic Law, Society of Biblical Literature Dissertation Series 20 (Missoula: Scholars, 1975), 10, 14, that the Dialogue was written for the purpose of proselytizing Jews.


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