Re-Appropriating "Marvellous Fables": Justin Martyr’s Strategic Retrieval of Myth in 1 Apology

By Noël Wayne Pretila

An appraisal of Justin Martyr’s approach to Classical mythology, showing his skill in co-opting pagan literature for Christian apologetics.

ISBN: 9780227174586


Edwin Hatch provided a colourful portrait of the religious world to which Justin Martyr belonged: “The main subject-matter of … literary education [amongst the pagans] was the poets … They were read as we read the Bible. They were committed to memory. The minds of men were saturated with them. A quotation from Homer or from a tragic poet was apposite on all occasions and in every kind of society.” (The Influence of Greek Ideas on Christianity, 1957). So when some of these pagans converted to Christianity in Justin’s day, is it reasonable to assume that they simply “forgot” these mythical narratives in which they had been reared from childhood?

Re-Appropriating “Marvellous Fables” sets out to argue that this was hardly the case. Rather, Justin in 1 Apology can be seen taking full advantage of this mythical framework that still loomed large in the minds of fledgling Christian believers and students in his care – masterfully re-appropriating this popular form of religious discourse for the purpose of solidifying their newfound faith.

Additional information

Dimensions229 × 153 mm


Trade InformationJPOD

About the Author

Noël Wayne Pretila is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Theological Studies at Saint Louis University, Missouri. He teaches Historical Theology courses at Saint Louis University such as Early Church Survey, Teachers in Early Christianity, and History of Christian Apologetics.


List of Tables
List of Figures
Foreword by Fr David Vincent Meconi SJ

1. Introduction
2. Shifting The Paradigm
3. Incorporation of Myth
4. Separation from Myth
5. Other Applications of Poetic Material in Justin
6. Conclusion



Endorsements and Reviews

Noël Wayne Pretila offers readers a careful re-examination of the presence of myth in Re-Appropriating "Marvellous Fables". Pretila challenges one-sided scholarly assessments of the function of myth in this treatise, and correspondingly enriches our appreciation of the critical and constructive roles of myth in second-century Christian intellectual discourse.
Peter Martens, Saint Louis University, Missouri

Too often today it is said that the church has only recently learned of religious pluralism and that we need to develop new strategies for understanding Jesus Christ amidst a world of competing religions. Noël Wayne Pretila reminds us that the early Greek theologians did much of this work long ago, in a world that was no less pluralistic than ours.
Gerald R. McDermott, Roanoke College, Virginia