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Intellect ordered: an allusion to Plato in Dialogue with Trypho and its significance for Justin’s Christian epistemology

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This article examines a previously unidentified allusion to Plato in the ‘old man’s’ final question to the still pre-Christian and Platonist Justin in Dialogue 4.1: ‘Or will the human mind (ἀνθρώπον νοῦς) ever see God if it has not been ordered (κϵκοσμημένος) by a holy spirit?’ I amplify this allusion in order to show how Justin, in the character of the old man, evokes Platonic language and ideas, and yet, at the same time, superimposes on them a Christian framework. By Christianizing this Platonic idiom he thus subverts his own erstwhile Platonic epistemology. I next relate this passage to a long-standing debate in scholarship on the Dialogue regarding the Christian epistemology that is being developed by Justin and, more specifically, to his oft-disputed descriptions of Christians as privileged recipients of a divinely granted ‘grace to understand’. I consider how the epistemological corollaries that ensue from the old man’s question in 4.1 sit alongside appeals to rational argument elsewhere in the Dialogue and Justin’s depictions of divine and human agency more generally.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-96
JournalJournal of Theological Studies
Issue number1
Early online date11 May 2016
StatePublished - 2016

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