St. Justin Martyr was born around 120 AD in Palestine into a pagan Gentile family. He studied the wisdom of Plato, Aristotle, and other great Greek thinkers and became a professional philosopher. One day, while reading philosophy by the seashore, he was noticed by an old man who took the time to strike up a conversation about philosophy and religion. The elderly gentleman was a Christian and taught Justin about the life of Jesus and how he had fulfilled the prophecies of the holy books.
Justin felt fulfilled and enlightened, in his new found wisdom, and he became a Christian teacher. He wrote and spoke openly about Christ, addressing two “apologies” or defenses of the Christian faith to the emperor of Rome, Marcus Aurelias, who was known for being one of the worst persecutors of Christians in history. Justin Martyr became one of the most influential teachers of the 2nd century.
A rival philosopher turned Justin in to the authorities for his Christian faith, and Justin was martyred around the year 165 AD. An eyewitness account of his interrogation and martyrdom at the hands of the Roman authorities has been preserved for us and is read each year in the Church’s office of Readings on June 1, St. Justin’s feast day.