I don’t often do apologetics on this blog, except in the course of commenting on various passages. But occasionally, I come across a post that has that right combination of ignorance and an audience to require a response. The following comes from a post arguing that the Gospels must have been written in the Second Century because Justin Martyr doesn’t seem to quote from them:
But when we read two different works by the prominent church father of the mid-second century, Justin Martyr, we find that he says that the disciples deserted Jesus after he was crucified! And Justin makes perfect sense of this, because he also quotes the same prophecy in Zechariah but more aptly applies the striking of the shepherd to the crucifixion of Jesus, not his preliminary arrest.
How is it possible for anyone familiar with the Gospel narrative of Jesus that we know from the Gospels get confused on this pivotal dramatic detail? The desertion at the moment of the betrayal of Jesus is one of the iconic moments in the narrative across all four Gospels. Betrayal by Judas and desertion by the other eleven all happen at the same point of time to mark the moment of the collective failure, leaving Jesus from that moment to face his ordeal of unjust trials, beatings and crucifixion alone.
Because, after all, a summary statement proves that a person doesn’t know the facts behind the summary. There’s no possible way that Justin Martyr was simply including the arrest and trials in “the crucifixion” in order to keep things simple.
As far as the lack of direct quotes or attestation by Justin Martyr, that just seems to be part of his writing style. He does quote from the Gospels quite often, as it turns out, but sometimes he favors eloquence over precision. Other Church Fathers contemporary or even prior to him–like Ignatius (c. 98-117), Polycarp (c 69- ca. 155), the Didache (early 2nd Century), and Irenaeus (late 2nd Century)–do quote extensively and directly from the Gospel accounts. Moreover, we know from Irenaeus that by the late 2nd Century, it was considered axiomatic that there were exactly four Gospel accounts:
The Gospels could not possibly be either more or less in number than they are. Since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds, while the Church is spread over all the earth, and the pillar and foundation of the Church is the gospel, and the Spirit of life, it fittingly has four pillars, everywhere breathing out incorruption and revivifying men. From this it is clear that the Word, the artificer of all things, being manifested to men gave us the gospel, fourfold in form but held together by one Spirit. (Against Heresies 3.11.8)
Someone clearly needs to do their homework. Trying to prove that the Gospels didn’t exist until someone else quoted them is like trying to prove that J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings wasn’t written until Peter Jackson decided to make movies about them. It’s a nonsensical argument, hardly worth addressing except to expose the foolishness of the Christ-mythers.