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Does Justin Argue with Jews? Reconsidering the Relevance of Philo

In: Vigiliae Christianae
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  • 1 Department of Religion, Baylor University14643, Waco, TX, USA
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Abstract

Several recent studies on Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho the Jew have argued that the Dialogue should not be read as a witness to the state of theological debate between Jews and Christ-followers in the second century. Such arguments conclude that Justin does not engage with actual Jewish perspectives, but rather reconstructs a hypothetical Judaism from second-hand, polemical sources, or merely uses Trypho’s “Judaism” as a stand-in for what are actually (in Justin’s view) heterodox Christian interpretations. This article challenges this claim by returning to an older debate in Justin scholarship: the question of his relationship with Philo of Alexandria. By attending particularly to the role of the Logos in each author’s exegesis of Pentateuchal theophanic texts, the article argues that Justin’s interpretations in the Dialogue carefully avoid a kind of Logos theology that is well represented in the writings of Philo. This rhetorical distancing supports the conclusion that, in the Dialogue, Justin is in fact responding to exegetical traditions which he knows from the writings of Hellenized Judaism.

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