Justin, Trypho, and Spiritual Gifts

Posted: February 2, 2010 by Rick Hogaboam in Church Fathers, History, Pentecostal/Charismatic Interests
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Here are some quotes from Ronald Kydd’s volume, “Charismatic Gifts in the Early Church”:

Kydd (1997:27) notes that Justin Martyr (100-168? A.D.), in his dialogues with Trypho, actually taught that Spiritual gifts existed, not due to some “apostolic” pre-canon ad hoc intent, but as part of the ongoing ministry of Christ to His people:

…Justin hurried on to point out that even in the present, some 50 or 60 years after John’s death, there were Christians who prophesied. He also told Trypho very plainly that these gifts had been transferred to the Christians from the Jews.

Kydd (1997:27) notes that Justin understood the transfer from Jew to Christian of the Spiritual gifts to take place through Christ as part of God’s plan, and not because of some lack of divinity in Christ:

What Trypho wanted to know was if Christ needed these gifts of the Spirit, how could he be regarded as preexistent. An absence of these abilities or characteristics would imply that Jesus was something less than fully divine. The answer Justin gives is noteworthy. Christ did not receive these gifts because He needed them but rather because His having them was part of God’s intention to remove all gifts from the Jews, and He carried this out by giving them all to Christ.

Kydd (1997:27-28) continues, “Then, in fulfillment of prophecy (Justin cites Ps 68:16 and Joel 2:18f.), Christ began to dispense these among Christians.”

Kydd (1997:28) thinks that the rationale provided in Justin’s thought on Spiritual gifts presumes that they continued in the Church and would continue in the Church as related to her endowment with the gifts in the first place:

The obvious goals of this material are to show why Christ received the gifts of the Holy Spirit and to explain what he then did with them. This is the first attempt in early Christian literature to account for the presence of the spiritual gifts in the Church. In the process of developing his thinking on this question, Justin, almost incidentally, provides evidence supporting the idea that spiritual gifts were still to be found among Christians of his day….He thought they were still part of Christian experience.

This is an excerpt of the referenced material from Justin’s dialogue with Trypho:

Now, that [you may know that] your prophets, each receiving some one or two powers from God, did and spoke the things which we have learned from the Scriptures, attend to the following remarks of mine. Solomon possessed the spirit of wisdom, Daniel that of understanding and counsel, Moses that of might and piety, Elijah that of fear, and Isaiah that of knowledge; and so with the others: each possessed one power, or one joined alternately with another; also Jeremiah, and the twelve [prophets], and David, and, in short, the rest who existed amongst you. Accordingly He346 rested, i.e., ceased, when He came, after whom, in the times of this dispensation wrought out by Him amongst men,347 it was requisite that such gifts should cease from you; and having received their rest in Him, should again, as had been predicted, become gifts which, from the grace of His Spirit’s power, He imparts to those who believe in Him, according as He deems each man worthy thereof. I have already said, and do again say, that it had been prophesied that this would be done by Him after His ascension to heaven. It is accordingly said,348 ‘He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, He gave gifts unto the sons of men.’ And again, in another prophecy it is said: ‘And it shall come to pass after this, I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh, and on My servants, and on My handmaids, and they shall prophesy.’[1]

[1] Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. (1997). The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol.I : Translations of the writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325 (243). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems.

  1. […] Martyr on spiritual gifts Posted on February 11, 2010 by Scott Kistler My friend Rick at Endued posted Justin’s explanation to his Jewish friend Trypho about why spiritual gifts were […]

  2. Scott Kistler says:

    Thanks for this, Rick. I hadn’t thought about charismata in the OT before.

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