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Oct 16, 2010

Koke on Papias

Excerpt for Review: M. Koke, The Golden Rule, Blog Articles on Papias, (Internet, 2010)

Page Index

Papias: Mike Koke
    (1) Papias: Date of Writing
    (2) Did Papias Know John
    (3) Papias, Matthew and “Q”

As Mike Koke has regretfully announced he will not be posting very often in the future on his Blogsite The Golden Rule (Here), It seemed wise to grab his excellent information summaries on Papias and repost them here.

Papias, Matthew and “Q” September 30, 2010

Posted by Mike Koke

One of the most notorious problems is trying to figure out what in the world Papias means by Matthew being compiled in the Hebrew (Aramaic?) language (Ἑβραΐδι διαλέκτῳ). Now, since Matthew has struck many readers as the most Jewish of the four Gospels with its constant theme of the fulfillment of scripture and Jesus presented as something of a new Moses with the infancy narratives or the Sermon on the Mount or the seemingly divided into five sections, so it seems a natural assumption to make that Matthew was also a translation of a Hebrew original. Yet scholars note that our text of Matthew is in Greek, its sources such as Mark (and perhaps “Q”?) are in Greek and that it is unlikely that the apostle Matthew would allow the non-apostolic authorship of the Gospel of Mark determine its framework (even Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses is skeptical of the traditional authorship of the apostle Matthew, arguing from the study of Palestinian Jewish names that it is unlikely for a Palestinian Jew to bear two common Semitic personal names, Levi and Matthew, and therefore the evangelist altered the story of the conversion of Levi the tax collector to the conversion of Matthew because he wanted to associate it with the Apostle Matthew). So how are we to explain this tradition of the Apostle Matthew and the original Hebrew Gospel?

One solution provided by Kürzinger (Papias von Hierapolis), who has done a complete rereading of the Papian fragments using rhetorical categories, argues that Papias meant Matthew was written in a Semitic style. However, while some of Kürzinger new interpretations have achieved some wide acceptance (e.g. the idea that Mark composed the Gospel out of different chrieiai in Peter’s preaching but didn’t seek an ordered arrangement), most scholars continue to think that the more natural interpretation of Papias is that Matthew was composed in Hebrew and each interpreted (hermeneusen) i.e. translated as best they could. Allison and Davies, in their famous Commentary on Matthew, point out that many patristic commentators including great scholars like Clement of Alexandria and Origen all accepted that Matthew was translated from a Semitic original, so it was not always easy to tell when a book was translated and was an easy enough mistake to make. However, some scholars have made a case that Papias (or if Papias misunderstood, John the Elder before him) were referring to something like “Q”, a document of sayings (Papias’ ta logia) that may have originally been in Hebrew or Aramaic before its Greek recessions (Davies/Allison, Matthew 1-7; cf. Matthew Black, “The Use of Rhetorical Terminology in Papias on Mark and Matthew”). Others argue against the hypothesis that Papias/Elder John meant to refer to something like Q, noting that Papias also identifies Mark as composed of logia (sayings) but also mentions that Mark includes both the things said and done by the Lord (τὰ ὐπὸ τοῦ κυρίου η λεχθέντα ἢ πραχθέντα) (cf. Kloppenborg, Formation of Q, who also defends that Matthew/Luke used a single document of sayings in Greek and doubts any earlier Aramaic recessions). But to those who doubt the existence of Q either by arguing that Luke used Matthew or those who propose a more chaotic model of Synoptic origins (ahem, Steph), is it possible that Papias (or John the Elder) simply made a mistaken assumption about the Gospel of Matthew or was referring to some other ”Matthew” that could be some source in Hebrew/Aramaic along with the Greek sources that may underlie the Synoptic Tradition?

  • Black, Matthew “The Use of Rhetorical Terminology in Papias on Mark and Matthew,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 37 (1989): 31-41.
  • Davies, W.D. and Allison, Dale. Matthew 1-7. International Critical Commentary. T&T Clark: London and New York, 1988.
  • Kloppenborg, John. The Formation of Q: Trajectories in Ancient Wisdom Collections. The Institute for Antiquity and Christianity, 1987.
  • Kürzinger, J. Papias von Hierapolis und die Evangelien des Neuen Testaments. Regensberg: Verlag Friedrich Pustet, 1983.
  • Sim, David H. “The Gospel of Matthew, John the Elder and the Papias Tradition: A Response to R.H. Gundry.” Harvard Theological Studies 63 (2007): 283-299.

Did Papias Know the Apostle John

September 28, 2010

When Papias explains how he learned about the apostolic traditions, he says that when those who knew the elders came to him, he inquired about the elders’ words, what (ti) Andrew or Peter or Philip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew or some other disciples of the Lord said (eipen), or what Aristion and the elder John, disciples of the Lord, are saying (legousin) (Eusebius, Hist Eccl. 3.39.4). So who is this latter John: the son of Zebedee, the Apostle (cf. C Blomberg, Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel, RH Gundry, Apology for the Cross (note a critique of Gundry’s position also available online by D Sim, “A Response to RH Gundry“), or A Köstenberger & S Snout, “‘The Disciple Jesus Loved’ – Witness, Author, Apostle“). Although the passage does not even make clear that Papias had a direct connection with Aristion and John, the best reasons given for an identification of John the Elder with the Apostle John are:

  1. Irenaeus identifies Papias as a “hearer of John [the Apostle?]” (Adv. Haer. 5.33.4; Eusebius Hist. Eccl. 3.39.1).
  2. The ti (what) could be an appositive, meaning Papias inquired about the words of the elders whom are Andrew, Peter, etc.
  3. The reason that the name John is found twice may be to include him once as among the apostles (who have by Papias time pretty much all died) and with Aristion as two of the last living survivors of the first generation disciples of the Lord.
  4. Eusebius may claim that there were two Johns, based on his interpretation of Papias’ prologue and two tombs of John in Ephesus, for tendentious reasons. Eusebius asserts Papias had little intelligence due to Eusebius’ distaste for Papias’ belief in a literal millennium (Hist. Eccl. 3.39.13).

However, there are other reasons for affirming that Papias really does refer to two separate figures, John the Apostle (who died with the rest of the apostolic figure) and John the Elder as a known leader in Ephesus. Such reasons include:

  1. The explicit interpretation of Eusebius who, unlike modern scholars, actually had access to Papias’ five-volume work. While Eusebius may have alterior motives for discrediting Papias’ link with the apostles, he may simply be emphasing what was already present in Papias’ books, namely that Papias gleaned his information from those who heard the elders (who in turn heard the apostles).
  2. A distinction between the elders and disciples seems to be the natural way to read the text. Otherwise, why does Papias use a single term to describe the elders/disciples if he was referring not to two but one distinct group and why is John alone singled out with the title Elder? Is it not at least reduntant to mention John twice?
  3. Contra Gundry, the ti could be read as an accusative of general reference, that is, Papias inquired about the elders words concerning what the disciples of the Lord said or the content of their message (cf. C. Hill, “Papias of Hierapolis”). I think Bauckham in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses correctly identifies four categories of people: those who had been in attendance of the elders and heard their teachings, the elders themselves, the Lord’s disciples (Peter, Andrew, Phillip, etc), Aristion and elder John.
  4. Who is Aristion? If John the Elder is identified with the Apostle, it should be a problem that Aristion goes unmentioned in any Gospel sources or in any early Christian literature. This actually poses a bit of a problem for Bauckham’s thesis that the Elder John was the Beloved Disciple and witness to Jesus, since Papias identifies both the Elder John and Aristion as “disciples of the Lord” and it is not clear that Aristion was present during Jesus’ historical ministry. Granted Jesus had more disciples than just the Twelve, but it is suprising that Aristion would go unmentioned and the idea that Aristion may have been one of the 72 disciples in Luke 10 (cf. A.C. Perumalil, “Are not Papias and Irenaeus Competent to Report on the Gospels) seems to be simply speculation (and also misses the symbolic resonances of the Lukan passage). Moreover, if one judges that Aristion and John were still alive at Papias writing, whether 110 or later, what are the odds two disciples of Jesus lived to the second century (but Bauckham argues Papias is reporting about an earlier time around 80 CE, so that takes care of the latter problem).
  5. A.C. Perumalil does make the interesting (though not sure if convincing) argument that Irenaeus also distinguishes a second John, arguing that Irenaeus consistently identifies the Apostle as John “the disciple of the Lord” or with a quotation from the Johannine corpus or at least a mention of the “other apostles”, but his mention of Papias as a “hearer of John” lacks that further identification.

Thus, I would conclude that in Papias we have two Johns, one was among the Apostles and the other was a later Elder in Asia Minor and a transition figure between first and second generation Christ followers. The further argument made by some that John the Elder is to be connected with the author of the canonical Fourth Gospel I am not so sure. There has been strong arguments that Papias is aware of the Johannine tradition (e.g. Papias apparent use of 1 John, his millenialism, sectarianism, the list of disciples with John 1:35-51, etc.) (cf. D. Deeks, “Papias Revisited”, Hengel, Die johanneische Frage, Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses), but there have been so many candidates proposed for the “Beloved Disciple” and actually Mark Goodacre makes a good case for the traditional identification with John the son of Zebedee at least at the literary level in this podcast. So what do you think: who is John the Elder and does he have any association with the Johannine tradition?

  • Bauckham, Richard. Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006.
  • Deeks, David G. “Papias Revisited.” Expository Times 88 (1977): 296-301, 324-329.
  • Gundry, Robert H. Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993.
  • Hengel, Martin. Die johanneische Frage. Mohr/Siebeck: Tübingen, 1993.
  • Hill, Charles E. “Papias of Hierapolis.” The Expository Times 117 (2006): 309-315.
  • Köstenberger, Andreas and Snout, Stephen O. “‘The Disciple Jesus Loved’ – Witness, Author, Apostle: A Response to Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Bulletin for Biblical Research 18.2 (2008): 209-231.
  • Munck, Johannes. “Presbyters and Disciples of the Lord in Papias.” Harvard Theological Review 52 (1959): 223-243.
  • Perumalil, A.C. “Are not Papias and Irenaeus Competent to Report on the Gospels?” Expository Times 91 (1980): 332-337.
  • Sim, David H. “The Gospel of Matthew, John the Elder and the Papias Tradition: A Response to R.H. Gundry.” Harvard Theological Studies 63 (2007): 283-299.

Papias: the Date of Writing

September 18, 2010

I always find the issue of dating our sources to be so important in reconstructing Christian history – here are some of my past posts on dating and/or authorship issues regarding Acts, Barnabas, 1 Peter, “Secret Mark“, etc. So when do scholars think that Papias wrote his famous five-volume “Interpretation of the Logia of the Lord” (Logiwn Kuriakvn exhghseiV), the fragments of which form the basis for the church tradition regarding the authorship of the Gospels of “Mark” and “Matthew”? Scholars have generally dated this work to some time in the first half of the second century CE. Some of the information that has been used in the past to date Papias’ work, such as the 7th century Paschal Chronicle which recorded his martyrdom around 164 CE (Lightfoot’s Essays 0n Supernatural Religion showed this to be a copyist mistake putting “Papias” instead of “Papylas”) or the remark by the 5th century Phillip of Side (fragment V in Lightfoot and Harmer) that Papias records that those who were raised from the dead by Christ lived until the reign of Hadrian (117-138 CE), may be unreliable. A growing scholarly trend has been to move back the dating of Papias’ work to around 110 CE or earlier (Bartlet, Gundry, Körtner, Schoedel, Yarbrough). Annand has assigned Papias’ work an even earlier date to 80 CE, contending in part that Papias influenced Luke’s prologue (but I am not sure the influence needs to go either way, but both could rely on common rhetorical tropes). Some of the reasons for early dating:

  1. Irenaeus refers to Papias as an “ancient man” (archaios aner) (Adv Haer. 5.33.4)
  2. Eusebius groups Papias with figures such as Polycarp, Ignatius and even Clement of Alexandria (Hist. Eccl. 3.36.1-2; 3.39.1) in the reign of Trajan (98-117 CE). Eusebius Chronicon has the order Apostle John, Papias, Polycarp, and Ignatius.
  3. Papias seems to differentiate between what Andrew or Peter… or the other disciples “said” (eipen) versus what Aristion and the Elder John, also called disciples of the Lord, are “saying” (legousin), implying that the latter may still be alive when Papias wrote. Papias also had an acquantance with Phillip’s daughters (cf. Acts 21:9). Also worth considering is Irenaeus’ remark that Papias was a “hearer of John” (the apostle?) (Adv. Haer. 5.33.4; quoted in Eusebius Hist. Eccl. 3.39.1), which Eusebius seeks to correct by arguing that Papias refers to two different Johns (the reasons for this will be discussed later in this series).
  4. Neither Irenaeus nor Eusebius quote Papias in their polemic against Marcionites or Gnostics, assuming these developments took place after Papias wrote.

The arguments seem pretty convincing, though there may be counter arguments. Some might question whether Phillip the Side should be judged as so completely unreliable in comparison to Eusebius, or if Papias recognition of the status of Matthew and Mark (and possibly Luke and John, if C.E. Hill is correct) requires a bit later dating than the first decade of the second century, or whether behind Papias’ contrast between the the commandments of the Lord and the truth against those who say many things or who teach “alien commandments” (allotrias entolas) (Eusebius Hist. Eccl. 3.39.3) might be a reference to Marcion (cf. R.P. Martin) or to some variety of Gnostics (cf. Lightfoot) (unless one sees perhaps a reference to Paul or a polemic against some unknown figure(s)?). Where would you date Papias?

  • Annand, Rupert. “Papias and the Four Gospels.” Scottish Journal of Theology 9 (1956): 46-62.
  • Bartlet, Vernon. “Papias’s ‘Exposition’: Its Date and Contents.” Pages 15-44 in Amicitiae Corolla: A Volume of Essays Presented to James Rendel Harris, D. Litt. on the Occasion of his Eightieth Birthday. Edited by H. G. Wood; London: University of London Press, 1933.
  • Gundry, Robert H. Mark: A Commentary on His Apology for the Cross. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993.
  • Hill, C.E. “What Papias Said about John (and Luke): A ‘New’ Papian Fragment.” Journal of Theological Studies 49 (1998): 582-629.
  • Lightfoot, J.B. Essays on the Work Entitled Supernatural Religion: Reprinted from the Contemporary Review. London and New York: Macmillan, 1893.
  • Körtner, U.H.J. Papias von Hierapolis. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1983.
  • Martin, R.P. Mark: Evangelist and Theologian. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978.
  • Nielsen, Charles M. “Papias: Polemicist Against Whom?” Theological Studies 35.3 (1974): 529-535.
  • Schoedel, William R. “Papias.” ANRW. Berlin and New York: De Gruyter 2.27.1 (1993): 235-270.
  • Yarbrough, R. W. “The Date of Papias: A Reassessment.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 26 (1983): 181-91.

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