Monday, May 02, 2011

Justin Martyr on the Anonymous God of Christianity and Judaism

The ancient writer Justin Martyr contends that
God does not have a personal name. He is not
alone in his belief that God is anonymous.

Justin Martyr's comments are probably rhetorical or
somewhat hyperbolic. However, he still thought that
it was quite grave to name the (putatively) ineffable
and anonymous God. C. C. Richardson writes concerning
the Martyr's attitude toward the nameless God:

"Justin was aware that the Old Testament divine name
was used for magical purposes (as Iao and the like),
and hence his vigorous condemnation of a practice he
considers not only wrong (as all Jews would) but

See C. C. Richardson, Fathers, 283.

Justin himself writes: "And all the Jews even now
teach that the nameless
God spoke to Moses" (Apology 1.63).

For the Martyr, the only expression that fittingly
describes deity is hO WN:

"For God cannot be called by any proper name, for
names are given to mark out and distinguish their
subject-matters, because these are many and diverse;
but neither did any one exist before God who could
give Him a name, nor did He Himself think it right to
name himself, seeing that he is one and unique, as he
himself also by His own prophets testifies, when He
says, 'I God am the first,' and after this, 'And
beside me there is no other God.' On this account,
then, as I before said, God did not, when He sent
Moses to the Hebrews, mention any name, but by a
participle he mystically teaches them that he is the
one and only God. 'For,' says he; 'I am the Being,'
manifestly contrasting Himself, 'the Being,' with
those who are not, that those who had hitherto been
deceived might see that they were attaching
themselves, not to beings, but to those who had no
being" (Hortatory Address to the Greeks, 21).