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Enslaved to demons: Sex, violence and the apologies of Justin Martyr

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Chapter Summary

Justin Martyr has often been grouped with other second-century “apologists” who composed reasoned defenses of the Christian faith. Justin adopted a friendly attitude toward the emperor and his empire, seeking to persuade educated elites to adopt a sympathetic view of the Christians by explaining their beliefs in a manner that outsiders could both understand and appreciate. This chapter explains Justin’s Apologies by reexamining the charges he lodged against his Roman rulers. To Justin, illicit sex and the worship of demons, that is, devotion to any god other than his own, served to demarcate outsiders from (allegedly) pure insiders. Roman, Greek or Jew, they were all associated with demons and πορνεία. In the contentious, competitive, diverse city of Rome, such an argument may have been read as both a sharp rebuke of imperial hypocrisy and as an attempt to wrest prestige and position away from more privileged groups.

Keywords: Apologies; Christians; demons; Justin Martyr; Roman Empire; sex



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