Justin, the son of Priscus, was a Greek by race, and was born at Nablus in Palestine. He passed his youth in the study of letters. When he grew to manhood he was so taken with the love of philosophy and the desire of truth, that he became a student of philosophy and examined the teaching of all the philosophers. He found in them only deceitful wisdom and error. He received the light of heaven from a venerable old man, who was a stranger to him, and embraced the philosophy of the true Christian faith. Henceforth he had the books of Holy Scripture in his hands by day and night, and his soul was filled with the divine fire enkindled by his meditations. Having thus acquired the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ, he devoted his learning to the composition of many books explaining and propagating the Christian faith.
Among the most famous of the works of Justin are his two Apologies or Defenses of the Christian faith. These he offered in the Senate to the Emperor Antoninus Pius and his sons, together with Marcus Antoninus Verus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, who were cruelly persecuting the followers of Christ. By these Apologies and his vigorous disputations in defense of the faith he obtained a public edict from the government to stay the slaughter of the Christians. But Justin himself did not escape. He had blamed the wicked life led by Crescens the Cynic, who caused him to be accused and arrested. He was brought before Rusticus, the Prefect of Rome, and questioned concerning the doctrine of the Christians. Whereupon he made this good confession in the presence of many witnesses: “The right doctrine which we Christian men do keep with godliness is this: that we believe that there is one God, the maker and creator of all things, both those which are seen and those which bodily eyes do not see; and that we confess the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was of old foretold by the Prophets, and who is to come to judge all mankind.”
In his first Apology Justin had given, in order to rebut the slanders of the heathen, an open account of the Christian assemblies and of the holy Mysteries there celebrated. The prefect asked him in what place he and Christ’s other faithful servants in the city were accustomed to meet. But Justin, fearing to betray the holy mysteries and his brethren, mentioned only his own dwelling near the famous church in the house of Pudens, where he lived and taught his disciples. The prefect then bade him choose whether he would sacrifice to the gods or suffer a cruel scourging. The unconquered champion of the faith answered that he had always desired to suffer for the Lord Jesus Christ, from whom he hoped to receive a great reward in heaven. The prefect thereupon sentenced him to death, and thus this excellent philosopher, giving praise to God, suffered the pain of scourging, and then shed his blood for Christ, and was crowned with martyrdom. Some of the faithful stole away his body and buried it in a fitting place.
Excerpted from The Liturgical Year, Abbot Gueranger O.S.B.