Exerpted from: Eusebius, History of the Church, (c. 300 A.D.)
Last Updated: Feb 15, 2009
"Papias lived either in the early going or toward the middle of the second century. I have seen dates ranging from circa 110 to 150. He is one of our most important witnesses for the origins of the canonical gospels, and is reckoned among the apostolic fathers. He is only known to have written five books, called the Exegesis of the Oracles of the Lord, which have unfortunately been lost except for patristic quotations. Papias was a contemporary of Ignatius and Polycarp."
Little is really known of Papias, as is the case other very early writers. Our knowledge of Papias comes mainly from Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History (c. 300 A.D.), who quotes him briefly, and discusses his books and teachings.
"...some scholars have faulted Eusebius for stringing together long citations with very little historiography of his own.
...As it happened however, it is most fortunate that Eusebius did quote his sources extensively, since many of them have been lost and would not have survived, even in fragments, had Eusebius not incorporated them into his history.
This is not true for Josephus, whom we have virtually intact, or for some of the words of the two Clements, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin, Irenaeus, or Tertullian.
But it is true for the important testimony of Papias, Quadratus, Melito, Hegesippus, Rhodo, Apolinarius, and other early authors, as well as for important edicts and documents that would otherwise have been lost."
- Paul Maier, Eusebius the Church History (1999) p. 131
Greek Text for Papias
All we know of Papias (c. 90-120 A.D.) comes from Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History (c. 310 A.D.) Book 3, ¶ 39, vv.1 - 17. Here we give the Greek text, which is in harmony with Migne's edition also.
3.38.5b ... ἡ μὲν οὖν τοῦ Κλήμεντος ὁμολογουμένη γραφὴ πρόδηλος, εἴρηται δὲ καὶ τὰ Ἰγνατίου καὶ Πολυκάρπου·
3.39.1 τοῦ δὲ Παπία συγγράμματα πέντε τὸν ἀριθμὸν φέρεται, ἃ καὶ ἐπιγέγραπται Λογίων κυριακῶν ἐξηγήσεως. τούτων καὶ Εἰρηναῖος ὡς μόνων αὐτῷ γραφέντων μνημονεύει, ὧδέ πως λέγων·
«ταῦτα δὲ καὶ Παπίας ὁ Ἰωάννου μὲν ἀκουστής, Πολυκάρπου δὲ ἑταῖρος γεγονώς, ἀρχαῖος ἀνήρ, ἐγγράφως ἐπιμαρτυρεῖ ἐν τῇ τετάρτῃ τῶν ἑαυτοῦ βιβλίων. ἔστιν γὰρ αὐτῷ πέντε βιβλία συντεταγμένα».
3.39.2 καὶ ὁ μὲν Εἰρηναῖος ταῦτα· αὐτός γε μὴν ὁ Παπίας κατὰ τὸ προοίμιον τῶν αὐτοῦ λόγων ἀκροατὴν μὲν καὶ αὐτόπτην οὐδαμῶς ἑαυτὸν γενέσθαι τῶν ἱερῶν ἀποστόλων ἐμφαίνει, παρειληφέναι δὲ τὰ τῆς πίστεως παρὰ τῶν ἐκείνοις γνωρίμων διδάσκει δι' ὧν φησιν λέξεων·
3.39.3 «οὐκ ὀκνήσω δέ σοι καὶ ὅσα ποτὲ παρὰ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων καλῶς ἔμαθον καὶ καλῶς ἐμνημόνευσα, συγκατατάξαι ταῖς ἑρμηνείαις, διαβεβαιούμενος ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν ἀλήθειαν. οὐ γὰρ τοῖς τὰ πολλὰ λέγουσιν ἔχαιρον ὥσπερ οἱ πολλοί, ἀλλὰ τοῖς τἀληθῆ διδάσκουσιν, οὐδὲ τοῖς τὰς ἀλλοτρίας ἐντολὰς μνημονεύουσιν, ἀλλὰ τοῖς τὰς παρὰ τοῦ κυρίου τῇ πίστει δεδομένας
3.39.4 καὶ ἀπ' αὐτῆς παραγινομένας τῆς ἀληθείας· εἰ δέ που καὶ παρηκολουθηκώς τις τοῖς πρεσβυτέροις ἔλθοι, τοὺς τῶν πρεσβυτέρων ἀνέκρινον λόγους, τί Ἀνδρέας ἢ τί Πέτρος εἶπεν ἢ τί Φίλιππος ἢ τί Θωμᾶς ἢ Ἰάκωβος ἢ τί Ἰωάννης ἢ Ματθαῖος ἤτις ἕτερος τῶν τοῦ κυρίου μαθητῶν ἅ τε Ἀριστίων καὶ ὁ πρεσβύτερος Ἰωάννης, τοῦ κυρίου μαθηταὶ, λέγουσιν. οὐ γὰρ τὰ ἐκ τῶν βιβλίων τοσοῦτόν με ὠφελεῖν ὑπελάμβανον ὅσον τὰ παρὰ ζώσης φωνῆς καὶ μενούσης».
3.39.5 ἔνθα καὶ ἐπιστῆσαι ἄξιον δὶς καταριθμοῦντι αὐτῷ τὸ Ἰωάννου ὄνομα, ὧν τὸν μὲν πρότερον Πέτρῳ καὶ Ἰακώβῳ καὶ Ματθαίῳ καὶ τοῖς λοιποῖς ἀποστόλοις συγκαταλέγει, σαφῶς δηλῶν τὸν εὐαγγελιστήν, τὸν δ' ἕτερον Ἰωάννην, διαστείλας τὸν λόγον, ἑτέροις παρὰ τὸν τῶν ἀποστόλων ἀριθμὸν κατατάσσει, προτάξας
3.39.6 αὐτοῦ τὸν Ἀριστίωνα, σαφῶς τε αὐτὸν πρεσβύτερον ὀνομάζει· ὡς καὶ διὰ τούτων ἀποδείκνυσθαι τὴν ἱστορίαν ἀληθῆ τῶν δύο κατὰ τὴν Ἀσίαν ὁμωνυμίᾳ κεχρῆσθαι εἰρηκότων δύο τε ἐν Ἐφέσῳ γενέσθαι μνήματα καὶ ἑκάτερον Ἰωάννου ἔτι νῦν λέγεσθαι· οἷς καὶ ἀναγκαῖον προσέχειν τὸν νοῦν, εἰκὸς γὰρ τὸν δεύτερον, εἰ μή τις ἐθέλοι τὸν πρῶτον, τὴν ἐπ' ὀνόματος φερομένην Ἰωάννου
3.39.7 ἀποκάλυψιν ἑορακέναι. καὶ ὁ νῦν δὲ ἡμῖν δηλούμενος Παπίας τοὺς μὲν τῶν ἀποστόλων λόγους παρὰ τῶν αὐτοῖς παρηκολουθηκότων ὁμολογεῖ παρειληφέναι, Ἀριστίωνος δὲ καὶ τοῦ πρεσβυτέρου Ἰωάννου αὐτήκοον ἑαυτόν φησι γενέσθαι· ὀνομαστὶ γοῦν πολλάκις αὐτῶν μνημονεύσας ἐν τοῖς αὐτοῦ συγγράμμασιν
3.39.8 τίθησιν αὐτῶν παραδόσεις. καὶ ταῦτα δ' ἡμῖν οὐκ εἰς τὸ ἄχρηστον εἰρήσθω· ἄξιον δὲ ταῖς ἀποδοθείσαις τοῦ Παπία φωναῖς προσάψαι λέξεις ἑτέρας αὐτοῦ, δι' ὧν παράδοξά τινα ἱστορεῖ καὶ
3.39.9 ἄλλα ὡς ἂν ἐκ παραδόσεως εἰς αὐτὸν ἐλθόντα. τὸ μὲν οὖν κατὰ τὴν Ἱεράπολιν Φίλιππον τὸν ἀπόστολον ἅμα ταῖς θυγατράσιν διατρῖψαι διὰ τῶν πρόσθεν δεδήλωται· ὡς δὲ κατὰ τοὺς αὐτοὺς ὁ Παπίας γενόμενος, διήγησιν παρειληφέναι θαυμασίαν ὑπὸ τῶν τοῦ Φιλίππου θυγατέρων μνημονεύει, τὰ νῦν σημειωτέον· νεκροῦ γὰρ ἀνάστασιν κατ' αὐτὸν γεγονυῖαν ἱστορεῖ καὶ αὖ πάλιν ἕτερον παράδοξον περὶ Ἰοῦστον τὸν ἐπικληθέντα Βαρσαβᾶν γεγονός, ὡς δηλητήριον φάρμακον ἐμπιόντος καὶ μηδὲν ἀηδὲς
3.39.10 διὰ τὴν τοῦ κυρίου χάριν ὑπομείναντος. τοῦτον δὲ τὸν Ἰοῦστον μετὰ τὴν τοῦ σωτῆρος ἀνάληψιν τοὺς ἱεροὺς ἀποστόλους μετὰ Ματθία στῆσαί τε καὶ ἐπεύξασθαι ἀντὶ τοῦ προδότου Ἰούδα ἐπὶ τὸν κλῆρον τῆς ἀναπληρώσεως τοῦ αὐτῶν ἀριθμοῦ ἡ τῶν Πράξεων ὧδέ πως ἱστορεῖ γραφή·
«καὶ ἔστησαν δύο, Ἰωσὴφ τὸν καλούμενον Βαρσαβᾶν, ὃς ἐπεκλήθη Ἰοῦστος, καὶ Ματθίαν· καὶ προσευξάμενοι εἶπαν».
3.39.11 καὶ ἄλλα δὲ ὁ αὐτὸς ὡς ἐκ παραδόσεως ἀγράφου εἰς αὐτὸν ἥκοντα παρατέθειται ξένας τέ τινας παραβολὰς τοῦ σωτῆρος
3.39.12 καὶ διδασκαλίας αὐτοῦ καί τινα ἄλλα μυθικώτερα· ἐν οἷς καὶ χιλιάδα τινά φησιν ἐτῶν ἔσεσθαι μετὰ τὴν ἐκ νεκρῶν ἀνάστασιν, σωματικῶς τῆς Χριστοῦ βασιλείας ἐπὶ ταυτησὶ τῆς γῆς ὑποστησομένης· ἃ καὶ ἡγοῦμαι τὰς ἀποστολικὰς παρεκδεξάμενον διηγήσεις ὑπολαβεῖν, τὰ ἐν ὑποδείγμασι πρὸς αὐτῶν μυστικῶς εἰρη
3.39.13 μένα μὴ συνεορακότα. σφόδρα γάρ τοι σμικρὸς ὢν τὸν νοῦν, ὡς ἂν ἐκ τῶν αὐτοῦ λόγων τεκμηράμενον εἰπεῖν, φαίνεται, πλὴν καὶ τοῖς μετ' αὐτὸν πλείστοις ὅσοις τῶν ἐκκλησιαστικῶν τῆς ὁμοίας αὐτῷ δόξης παραίτιος γέγονεν τὴν ἀρχαιότητα τἀνδρὸς προβεβλημένοις, ὥσπερ οὖν Εἰρηναίῳ καὶ εἴ τις ἄλλος τὰ ὅμοια
3.39.14 φρονῶν ἀναπέφηνεν. καὶ ἄλλας δὲ τῇ ἰδίᾳ γραφῇ παραδίδωσιν Ἀριστίωνος τοῦ πρόσθεν δεδηλωμένου τῶν τοῦ κυρίου λόγων διηγήσεις καὶ τοῦ πρεσβυτέρου Ἰωάννου παραδόσεις· ἐφ' ἃς τοὺς φιλομαθεῖς ἀναπέμψαντες, ἀναγκαίως νῦν προσθήσομεν ταῖς προεκτεθείσαις αὐτοῦ φωναῖς παράδοσιν ἣν περὶ Μάρκου τοῦ τὸ εὐαγγέλιον γεγραφότος ἐκτέθειται διὰ τούτων·
3.39.15 «καὶ τοῦθ' ὁ πρεσβύτερος ἔλεγεν· Μάρκος μὲν ἑρμηνευτὴς Πέτρου γενόμενος, ὅσα ἐμνημόνευσεν, ἀκριβῶς ἔγραψεν, οὐ μέντοι τάξει τὰ ὑπὸ τοῦ κυρίου ἢ λεχθέντα ἢ πραχθέντα. οὔτε γὰρ ἤκουσεν τοῦ κυρίου οὔτε παρηκολούθησεν αὐτῷ, ὕστε ρον δὲ, ὡς ἔφην, Πέτρῳ· ὃς πρὸς τὰς χρείας ἐποιεῖτο τὰς διδασκαλίας, ἀλλ' οὐχ ὥσπερ σύνταξιν τῶν κυριακῶν ποιούμενος λογίων, ὥστε οὐδὲν ἥμαρτεν Μάρκος οὕτως ἔνια γράψας ὡς ἀπεμνημόνευσεν. ἑνὸς γὰρ ἐποιήσατο πρόνοιαν, τοῦ μηδὲν ὧν ἤκουσεν παραλιπεῖν ἢ ψεύσασθαί τι ἐν αὐτοῖς».
3.39.16 ταῦτα μὲν οὖν ἱστόρηται τῷ Παπίᾳ περὶ τοῦ Μάρκου· περὶ δὲ τοῦ Ματθαίου ταῦτ' εἴρηται·
«Ματθαῖος μὲν οὖν Ἑβραΐδι διαλέκτῳ τὰ λόγια συνετάξατο, ἡρμήνευσεν δ' αὐτὰ ὡς ἦν δυνατὸς ἕκαστος».
3.39.17 κέχρηται δ' ὁ αὐτὸς μαρτυρίαις ἀπὸ τῆς Ἰωάννου προτέρας ἐπιστολῆς καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς Πέτρου ὁμοίως,
ἐκτέθειται δὲ καὶ ἄλλην ἱστορίαν περὶ γυναικὸς ἐπὶ πολλαῖς ἁμαρτίαις διαβληθείσης ἐπὶ τοῦ κυρίου, ἣν τὸ καθ' Ἑβραίους εὐαγγέλιον περιέχει.
καὶ ταῦτα δ' ἡμῖν ἀναγκαίως πρὸς τοῖς ἐκτεθεῖσιν ἐπιτετηρήσθω.
The Writings of Papias.
“These things are attested by Papias, an ancient man who was a hearer of John and a companion of Polycarp, in his fourth book. For five books have been written by him.”
These are the words of Irenæus.
2. But Papias himself in the preface to his discourses by no means declares that he was himself a hearer and eye-witness of the holy apostles, but he shows by the words which he uses that he received the doctrines of the faith from those who were their friends. 4
3. He says:
“But I shall not hesitate also to put down for you along with my interpretations 5 whatsoever things I have at any time learned carefully from the elders 6 and carefully remembered, guaranteeing their truth. For I did not, like the multitude, take pleasure in those that speak much, but in those that teach the truth; not in those that relate strange commandments, but in those that deliver 7 the commandments given by the Lord to faith, 8 and springing from the truth itself.
4. If, then, any one came, who had been a follower of the elders, I questioned him in regard to the words of the elders,—what Andrew or what Peter said, or what was said by Philip, or by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the disciples of the Lord, and what things Aristion 9 and the presbyter John, 10 the disciples of the Lord, say. For I did not think that what was to be gotten from the books 11 would profit me as much as what came from the living and abiding voice.”
5. It is worth while observing here that the name John is twice enumerated by him. 12 The first one he mentions in connection with Peter and James and Matthew and the rest of the apostles, clearly meaning the evangelist; but the other John he mentions after an interval, and places him among others outside of the number of the apostles, putting Aristion before him, and he distinctly calls him a presbyter.
6. This shows that the statement of those is true, who say that there were two persons in Asia that bore the same name, and that there were two tombs in Ephesus, each of which, even to the present day, is called John’s. 13 It is important to notice this. For it is probable that it was the second, if one is not willing to admit that it was the first that saw the Revelation, which is ascribed by name to John. 14
7. And Papias, of whom we are now speaking, confesses that he received the words of the apostles from those that followed them, but says that he was himself a hearer of Aristion and the presbyter John. At least he mentions them frequently by name, and gives their traditions in his writings. These things we hope, have not been uselessly adduced by us.
8. But it is fitting to subjoin to the words of Papias which have been quoted, other passages from his works in which he relates some other wonderful events which he claims to have received from tradition.
9. That Philip the apostle dwelt at Hierapolis with his daughters has been already stated. 15 But it must be noted here that Papias, their contemporary, says that he heard a wonderful tale from the daughters of Philip. For he relates that in his time 16 one rose from the dead. And he tells another wonderful story of Justus, surnamed Barsabbas: that he drank a deadly poison, and yet, by the grace of the Lord, suffered no harm.
10. The Book of Acts records that the holy apostles after the ascension of the Saviour, put forward this Justus, together with Matthias, and prayed that one might be chosen in place of the traitor Judas, to fill up their number. The account is as follows:
“And they put forward two, Joseph, called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias; and they prayed and said.” 17
11. The same writer gives also other accounts which he says came to him through unwritten tradition, certain strange parables and teachings of the Saviour, and some other more mythical things. 18
12. To these belong his statement that there will be a period of some thousand years after the resurrection of the dead, and that the kingdom of Christ will be set up in material form on this very earth. 19 I suppose he got these ideas through a misunderstanding of the apostolic accounts, not perceiving that the things said by them were spoken mystically in figures.
13. For he appears to have been of very limited understanding, 20 as one can see from his discourses. But it was due to him that so many of the Church Fathers after him adopted a like opinion, urging in their own support the antiquity of the man; as for instance Irenæus and any one else that may have proclaimed similar views. 21
14. Papias gives also in his own work other accounts of the words of the Lord on the authority of Aristion who was mentioned above, and traditions as handed down by the presbyter John; to which we refer those who are fond of learning. But now we must add to the words of his which we have already quoted the tradition which he gives in regard to Mark, the author of the Gospel.
15. “This also the presbyter 22 said: Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not in order, whatsoever he remembered of the things said or done by Christ. 23 For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterward, as I said, he followed Peter, who adapted his teaching to the needs of his hearers, but with no intention of giving a connected account of the Lord’s discourses, 24 so that Mark committed no error while he thus wrote some things as he remembered them. For he was careful of one thing, not to omit any of the things which he had heard, and not to state any of them falsely.”
These things are related by Papias concerning Mark.
16. But concerning Matthew he writes as follows:
“So then 25 Matthew wrote the oracles in the Hebrew language, and every one interpreted them as he was able.”
And he relates another story of a woman, who was accused of many sins before the Lord, which is contained in the Gospel according to the Hebrews. 29
These things we have thought it necessary to observe in addition to what has been already stated.
from Schaff's Translation
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1. (170:939) λογίων κυριακῶν ἐξηγήσεις. This work is no longer extant, but a number of fragments of it have been preserved by Irenæus, Eusebius, and others, which are published in the various editions of the Apostolic Fathers (see especially Gebhardt, Harnack and Zahn’s edition, Vol. I. Appendix), and by Routh in his Rel. Sacræ, I. p. 3–16. English translation in the Ante-Nicene Fathers (Am. ed.), Vol. I. p. 151 sq. The exact character of the work has been long and sharply disputed. Some contend that it was a record of oral traditions in regard to the Lord which Papias had gathered, together with a commentary upon these traditions, others that it was a complete Gospel, others that it was a commentary upon an already existing Gospel or Gospels. The last is the view which accords best with the language of Eusebius, and it is widely accepted, though there is controversy among those who accept it as to whether the Gospel or Gospels which he used are to be identified with either of our canonical Gospels. But upon this question we cannot dwell at this point. Lightfoot, who believes that a written text lay at the base of Papias’ work, concludes that the work contained, first, the text; secondly, “the interpretations which explained the text, and which were the main object of the work”; and thirdly, the oral traditions, which “were subordinate to the interpretation” (Contemporary Review, 1875, II. p. 389). This is probably as good a description of the plan of Papias’ work as can be given, whatever decision may be reached as to the identity of the text which he used with any one of our Gospels. Lightfoot has adduced strong arguments for his view, and has discussed at length various other views which it is not necessary to repeat here. On the significance of the word λόγια, see below, note 26. As remarked there, λόγια cannot be confined to words or discourses only, and therefore the “oracles” which Papias expounded in his work may well have included, so far as the title is concerned, a complete Gospel or Gospels. In the absence of the work itself, however, we are left entirely to conjecture, though it must be remarked that in the time of Papias at least some of our Gospels were certainly in existence and already widely accepted. It is difficult, therefore, to suppose that if written documents lay at the basis of Papias’ work, as we have concluded that they did, that they can have been other than one or more of the commonly accepted Gospels. But see Lightfoot’s article already referred to for a discussion of this question. The date of the composition of Papias’ work is now commonly fixed at about the middle of the second century, probably nearer 130 than 150 a.d. The books and articles that have been written upon this work are far too numerous to mention. Besides the article by Lightfoot in the Contemporary Review, which has been already referred to, we should mention also Salmon’s article in the Dict. of Christian Biography, Schleiermacher’s essay in the Studien und Kritiken, 1832, p. 735 sq.,—the first critical discussion of Papias’ testimony in regard to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, and still valuable,—dissertations by Weiffenbach, 1874 and 1878, and by Leimbach, 1875, with reviews of the last two in various periodicals, notably the articles by Hilgenfeld in his Zeitschrift für wiss. Theol. 1875, 1877, 1879. See also p. 389, note, below. On the life of Papias, see above, chap. 36, note 2.
2. (170:940) ὡς μόνων αὐτῷ γραφέντων. Irenæus does not expressly say that these were the only works written by Papias. He simply says, “For five books have been written by him” (žστι γὰρ αὐτῷ πέντε βιβλία συντεταγμένα). Eusebius’ interpretation of Irenæus’ words is not, however, at all unnatural, and probably expresses Irenæus’ meaning.
3. (170:941) Irenæus, Adv. Hær. V. 33. 4.
4. (170:942) The justice of this criticism, passed by Eusebius upon the statement of Irenæus, has been questioned by many, who have held that, in the passage quoted just below from Papias, the same John is meant in both cases. See the note of Schaff in his Church History, II. p. 697 sq. A careful exegesis of the passage from Papias quoted by Eusebius seems, however, to lead necessarily to the conclusion which Eusebius draws, that Papias refers to two different persons bearing the same name,—John. In fact, no other conclusion can be reached, unless we accuse Papias of the most stupid and illogical method of writing. Certainly, if he knew of but one John, there is no possible excuse for mentioning him twice in the one passage. On the other hand, if we accept Eusebius’ interpretation, we are met by a serious difficulty in the fact that we are obliged to assume that there lived in Asia Minor, early in the second century a man to whom Papias appeals as possessing exceptional authority, but who is mentioned by no other Father; who is, in fact, otherwise an entirely unknown personage. And still further, no reader of Papias’ work, before the time of Eusebius, gathered from that work, so far as we know, a single hint that the John with whom he was acquainted was any other than the apostle John. These difficulties are so serious that they have led many to deny that Papias meant to refer to a second John, in spite of his apparently clear reference to such a person. Among those who deny this second John’s existence are such scholars as Zahn and Salmon. (Compare, for instance, the latter’s able article on Joannes the Presbyter, in the Dict. of Christian Biography.) In reply to their arguments, it may be said that the silence of all other early writers does not necessarily disprove the existence of a second John; for it is quite conceivable that all trace of him should be swallowed up in the reputation of his greater namesake who lived in the same place. Moreover, it is quite conceivable that Papias, writing for those who were well acquainted with both Johns, may have had no suspicion that any one would confound the presbyter with the apostle, and would imagine that he was referring to the latter when he was speaking of his personal friend John; and therefore he would have no reason for stating expressly that there were two Johns, and for expressly distinguishing the one from the other. It was, then, quite natural that Irenæus, a whole generation later, knowing that Polycarp was a disciple of the apostle John, and finding constant mention of a John in Papias’ works, should simply take for granted that the same John was meant; for by his time the lesser John may easily, in the minds of most people, have become lost in the tradition of his greater namesake. In view of these possibilities, it cannot be said that the silence of other Fathers in regard to this John is fatal to his existence; and if this is so, we are hardly justified in doing such violence to Papias’ language as is required to identify the two Johns mentioned by him in the passage quoted below. Among those who accept Eusebius’ conclusion, that Papias refers to two different persons, are such scholars as Tischendorf, Donaldson, Westcott and Lightfoot. If Eusebius has recovered for us from the ancient history of the Church an otherwise unknown personage, it will not be the only time that he has corrected an error committed by all his predecessors. In this case, as in a number of other cases, I believe Eusebius’ wide information, sharp-sightedness, and superiority to the trammels of traditionalism receive triumphant vindication and we may accept his conclusion that Papias was personally acquainted with a second John, who was familiarly known as “the Presbyter,” and thus distinguished from the apostle John, who could be called a presbyter or elder only in the general sense in which all the leading men of his generation were elders (see below, note 6), and could not be designated emphatically as “the presbyter.” In regard to the connection of this “presbyter John” with the Apocalypse, see below, note 14. But although Papias distinguishes, as we may conclude, between two Johns in the passage referred to, and elsewhere, according to Eusebius, pronounces himself a hearer of the second John, it does not necessarily follow that Irenæus was mistaken in saying that he was a hearer of the apostle John; for Irenæus may have based his statement upon information received from his teacher, Polycarp, the friend of Papias, and not upon the passage quoted by Eusebius, and hence Papias may have been a hearer of both Johns. At the same time, it must be said that if Papias had been a disciple of the apostle John, he could scarcely have failed to state the fact expressly somewhere in his works; and if he had stated it anywhere, Eusebius could hardly have overlooked it. The conclusion, therefore, seems most probable that Eusebius is right in correcting Irenæus’ statement, and that the latter based his report upon a misinterpretation of Papias’ own words. In that case, we have no authority for speaking of Papias as a disciple of John the apostle.
5. (171:943) This sentence gives strong support to the view that oral traditions did not form the basis of Papias’ work, but that the basis consisted of written documents, which he interpreted, and to which he then added the oral traditions which he refers to here. See Contemporary Review, 1885, II. p. 388 sq. The words ταῖς ἑρμηνείαις have been translated by some scholars, “the interpretations of them,” thus making the book consist only of these oral traditions with interpretations of them. But this translation is not warranted by the Greek, and the also at the beginning of the sentence shows that the work must have contained other matter which preceded these oral traditions and to which the “interpretations” belong.
6. (171:944) As Lightfoot points out (Contemp. Rev. ibid. p. 379 sq.), Papias uses the term “elders” in a general sense to denote the Fathers of the Church in the generations preceding his own. It thus includes both the apostles and their immediate disciples. The term was thus used in a general sense by later Fathers to denote all earlier Fathers of the Church; that is, those leaders of the Church belonging to generations earlier than the writers themselves. The term, therefore, cannot be confined to the apostles alone, nor can it be confined, as some have thought (e.g. Weiffenbach in his Das Papias Fragment), to ecclesiastical officers, presbyters in the official sense. Where the word πρεσβύτερος is used in connection with the second John (at the close of this extract from Papias), it is apparently employed in its official sense. At least we cannot otherwise easily understand how it could be used as a peculiar designation of this John, which should distinguish him from the other John. For in the general sense of the word, in which Papias commonly uses it, both Johns were elders. Compare Lightfoot’s words in the passage referred to above.
7. (171:945) παραγινομένοις, instead of παραγινομένας, agreeing with ἐντολ€ς. The latter is the common reading, but is not so well supported by manuscript authority, and, as the easier reading, is to be rejected in favor of the former. See the note of Heinichen in loco.
8. (171:946) That is, “to those that believe, to those that are possessed of faith.”
9. (171:947) Of this Aristion we know only what we can gather from this mention of him by Papias.
10. (171:948) See above, note 6.
11. (171:949) ἐκ τῶν βιβλίων. These words have been interpreted by many critics as implying that Papias considered the written Gospel accounts, which were extant in his time, of small value, and preferred to them the oral traditions which he picked up from “the elders.” But as Lightfoot has shown (ibid. p. 390 sq.), this is not the natural interpretation of Papias’ words, and makes him practically stultify and contradict himself. He cannot have considered the written documents which he laid at the base of his work as of little value, nor can he have regarded the writings of Matthew and Mark, which he refers to in this chapter as extant in his time, and the latter of which he praises for its accuracy, as inferior to the oral traditions, which came to him at best only at second hand. It is necessary to refer the τῶν βιβλίων, as Lightfoot does, to “interpretations” of the Gospel accounts, which had been made by others, and to which Papias prefers the interpretations or expositions which he has received from the disciples of the apostles. This interpretation of the word alone saves us from difficulties and Papias from self-stultification.
12. (171:950) See above, note 4.
13. (171:951) The existence of two tombs in Ephesus bearing the name of John is attested also by Dionysius of Alexandria (quoted in Bk. VII. chap. 25, below) and by Jerome (de vir. ill. c. 9). The latter, however, says that some regard them both as memorials of the one John, the apostle; and Zahn, in his Acta Joannis, p. cliv. sq., endeavors to prove that a church stood outside of the walls of Ephesus, on the spot where John was buried, and another inside of the walls, on the site of the house in which he had resided, and that thus two spots were consecrated to the memory of a single John. The proof which he brings in support of this may not lead many persons to adopt his conclusions, and yet after reading his discussion of the matter one must admit that the existence of two memorials in Ephesus, such as Dionysius, Eusebius, and Jerome refer to, by no means proves that more than one John was buried there.
14. (171:952) A similar suggestion had been already made by Dionysius in the passage quoted by Eusebius in Bk. VII. chap. 25, and Eusebius was undoubtedly thinking of it when he wrote these words. The suggestion is a very clever one, and yet it is only a guess, and does not pretend to be more. Dionysius concludes that the Apocalypse must have been written by some person named John, because it testifies to that fact itself; but the style, and other internal indications, lead him to think that it cannot have been written by the author of the fourth Gospel, whom he assumes to be John the apostle. He is therefore led to suppose that the Apocalypse was written by some other John. He does not pretend to say who that John was, but thinks it must have been some John that resided in Asia; and he then adds that there were said to be two tombs in Ephesus bearing the name of John,—evidently implying, though he does not say it, that he is inclined to think that this second John thus commemorated was the author of the Apocalypse. It is plain from this that he had no tradition whatever in favor of this theory, that it was solely an hypothesis arising from critical difficulties standing in the way of the ascription of the book to the apostle John. Eusebius sees in this suggestion a very welcome solution of the difficulties with which he feels the acceptance of the book to be beset, and at once states it as a possibility that this “presbyter John,” whom he has discovered in the writings of Papias, may have been the author of the book. But the authenticity of the Apocalypse was too firmly established to be shaken by such critical and theological difficulties as influenced Dionysius, Eusebius, and a few others, and in consequence nothing came of the suggestion made here by Eusebius. In the present century, however, the “presbyter John” has again played an important part among some critics as the possible author of certain of the Johannine writings, though the authenticity of the Apocalypse has (until very recently) been so commonly accepted even by the most negative critics that the “presbyter John” has not figured at all as the author of it; nor indeed is he likely to in the future.
15. (172:953) In chap. 31, above. On the confusion of the evangelist with the apostle Philip, see that chapter, note 6.
16. (172:954) That is, in the time of Philip.
17. (172:955) Acts i. 23.
18. (172:956) Compare the extract from Papias given by Irenæus (Adv. Hær. V. 32), in which is contained a famous parable in regard to the fertility of the millennium, which is exceedingly materialistic in its nature, and evidently apocryphal. “The days will come when vines shall grow, each having ten thousand branches, and in each branch ten thousand twigs, and in each twig ten thousand shoots, and in every one of the shoots ten thousand grapes, and every grape when pressed will give five and twenty measures of wine,” &c.
19. (172:957) Chiliasm, or millennarianism,—that is, the belief in a visible reign of Christ on earth for a thousand years before the general judgment,—was very widespread in the early Church. Jewish chiliasm was very common at about the beginning of the Christian era, and is represented in the voluminous apocalyptic literature of that day. Christian chiliasm was an outgrowth of the Jewish, but spiritualized it, and fixed it upon the second, instead of the first, coming of Christ. The chief Biblical support for this doctrine is found in Rev. xx. 1-6, and the fact that this book was appealed to so constantly by chiliasts in support of their views was the reason why Dionysius, Eusebius, and others were anxious to disprove its apostolic authorship. Chief among the chiliasts of the ante-Nicene age were the author of the epistle of Barnabas, Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenæus, and Tertullian; while the principal opponents of the doctrine were Caius, Origen, Dionysius of Alexandria, and Eusebius. After the time of Constantine, chiliasm was more and more widely regarded as a heresy, and received its worst blow from Augustine, who framed in its stead the doctrine, which from his time on was commonly accepted in the Church, that the millennium is the present reign of Christ, which began with his resurrection. See Schaff’s Church History, II. p. 613 sq., for the history of the doctrine in the ante-Nicene Church and for the literature of the subject.
20. (172:958) σφόδρα σμικρὸς τὸν νοῦν. Eusebius’ judgment of Papias may have been unfavorably influenced by his hostility to the strong chiliasm of the latter; and yet a perusal of the extant fragments of Papias’ writings will lead any one to think that Eusebius was not far wrong in his estimate of the man. On the genuineness of the words in his praise, given by some mss., in chap. 36, §2, see note 3 on that chapter.
21. (172:959) See above, note 19.
22. (172:960) We cannot, in the absence of the context, say with certainty that the presbyter here referred to is the “presbyter John,” of whom Papias has so much to say, and who is mentioned in the previous paragraph, and yet this seems quite probable. Compare Weiffenbach’s Die Papias Fragmente über Marcus und Matthaeus, p. 26 sq.
23. (172:961) Papias is the first one to connect the Gospel of Mark with Peter, but the tradition recorded by him was universally accepted by those who came after him (see above, Bk. II. chap. 15, note 4). The relation of this Gospel of Mark to our canonical gospel has been a very sharply disputed point, but there is no good reason for distinguishing the Gospel referred to here from our second Gospel which corresponds excellently to the description given by Papias. Compare the remarks of Lightfoot, ibid. p. 393 sq. We know from other sources (e.g. Justin Martyr’s Dial. c. 106) that our second Gospel was in existence in any case before the middle of the second century, and therefore there is no reason to suppose that Papias was thinking of any other Gospel when he spoke of the Gospel written by Mark as the interpreter of Peter. Of course it does not follow from this that it was actually our second Gospel which Mark wrote, and of whose composition Papias here speaks. He may have written a Gospel which afterward formed the basis of our present Gospel, or was one of the sources of the synoptic tradition as a whole; that is, he may have written what is commonly known as the “Ur-Marcus” (see above, Bk. II. chap. 15, note 4). As to that, we cannot decide with absolute certainty, but we may say that Papias certainly understood the tradition which he gives to refer to our Gospel of Mark. The exact significance of the word ἑρμηνευτής as used in this sentence has been much disputed. It seems best to give it its usual significance,—the significance which we attach to the English word “interpreter.” See Weiffenbach, ibid. p. 37 sq. It may be, supposing the report to be correct, that Peter found it advantageous to have some one more familiar than himself with the language of the people among whom he labored to assist him in his preaching. What language it was for which he needed an interpreter we cannot say. We might think naturally of Latin, but it is not impossible that Greek or that both languages were meant; for Peter, although of course possessed of some acquaintance with Greek, might not have been familiar enough with it to preach in it with perfect ease. The words “though not indeed in order” (οὐ μέντοι τ€ξει) have also caused considerable controversy. But they seem to refer chiefly to a lack of chronological arrangement, perhaps to a lack of logical arrangement also. The implication is that Mark wrote down without regard to order of any kind the words and deeds of Christ which he remembered. Lightfoot and most other critics have supposed that this accusation of a “lack of order” implies the existence of another written Gospel, exhibiting a different order, with which Papias compares it (e.g. with the Gospel of Matthew, as Weiss, Bleck, Holtzmann, and others think; or with John, as Lightfoot, Zahn, Renan, and others suppose). This is a natural supposition, but it is quite possible that Papias in speaking of this lack of order is not thinking at all of another written Gospel, but merely of the order of events which he had received from tradition as the true one.
24. (173:962) λόγων, “discourses,” or λογίων, “oracles.” The two words are about equally supported by ms. authority. The latter is adopted by the majority of the editors; but it is more likely that it arose from λόγων under the influence of the λογίων, which occurred in the title of Papias’ work, than that it was changed into λόγων. The matter, however, cannot be decided, and the alternative reading must in either case be allowed to stand. See the notes of Burton and Heinichen, in loco.
25. (173:963) μὲν οὖν. These words show plainly enough that this sentence in regard to Matthew did not in the work of Papias immediately follow the passage in regard to Mark, quoted above. Both passages are evidently torn out of their context; and the latter apparently stood at the close of a description of the origin of Matthew’s Gospel. That this statement in regard to Matthew rests upon the authority of “the presbyter” we are consequently not at liberty to assert.
26. (173:964) On the tradition that Matthew wrote a Hebrew gospel, see above, chap. 24, note 5. Our Greek Gospel of Matthew was certainly in existence at the time Papias wrote, for it is quoted in the epistle of Barnabas, which was written not later than the first quarter of the second century. There is, therefore, no reason for assuming that the Gospel of Matthew which Papias was acquainted with was a different Gospel from our own. This, however, does not prove that the λόγια which Matthew wrote (supposing Papias’ report to be correct) were identical with, or even of the same nature as our Gospel of Matthew. It is urged by many that the word λόγια could be used only to describe a collection of the words or discourses of the Lord, and hence it is assumed that Matthew wrote a work of this kind, which of course is quite a different thing from our first Gospel. But Lightfoot has shown (ibid. p. 399 sq.) that the word λόγια, “oracles,” is not necessarily confined to a collection of discourses merely, but that it may be used to describe a work containing also a narrative of events. This being the case, it cannot be said that Matthew’s λόγια must necessarily have been something different from our present Gospel. Still our Greek Matthew is certainly not a translation of a Hebrew original, and hence there may be a long step between Matthew’s Hebrew λόγια and our Greek Gospel. But if our Greek Matthew was known to Papias, and if it is not a translation of a Hebrews original, then one of two alternatives follows: either he could not accept the Greek Matthew, which was in current use (that is, our canonical Matthew), or else he was not acquainted with the Hebrew Matthew. Of the former alternative we have no hint in the fragments preserved to us, while the latter, from the way in which Papias speaks of these Hebrew λόγια, seems highly probable. It may, therefore, be said to be probable that Papias, the first one that mentions a Hebrew Matthew, speaks not from personal knowledge, but upon the authority of tradition only.
27. (173:965) Since the first Epistle of John and the fourth Gospel are indisputably from the same hand (see above, chap. 24, note 18), Papias’ testimony to the apostolic authorship of the Epistle, which is what his use of it implies, is indirect testimony to the apostolic authorship of the Gospel also.
28. (173:966) On the authenticity of the first Epistle of Peter, see above, chap. 3, note 1.
29. (173:967) It is very likely that the story referred to here is identical with the story of the woman taken in adultery, given in some mss., at the close of the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel.
The story was clearly not contained in the original Gospel of John, 1 but we do not know from what source it crept into that Gospel, possibly from the Gospel according to the Hebrews, where Eusebius says the story related by Papias was found.
It must be noticed that Eusebius does not say that Papias took the story from the Gospel according to the Hebrews, but only that it was contained in that Gospel. We are consequently not justified in claiming this statement of Eusebius as proving that Papias himself was acquainted with the Gospel according to the Hebrews (see above, chap. 25, note 24). He may have taken it thence, or he may, on the other hand, have taken it simply from oral tradition, the source whence he derived so many of his accounts, or, possibly, from the lost original Gospel, the “Ur-Matthæus.”
Footnotes courtesy of Nazaroo:
Evidence of Inauthenticity Lacking
The commentators/translators here simply repeat the status quo position on the authenticity of John 8:1-11. No real evidence from Eusebius' short quotation of Papias can be adduced that bears directly on the question of the authorship of the passage, or that can speak to the question of whether or not it belonged originally to the Gospel of John.
As the following statement reveals, even the fact that the story may (also) be contained in some version of a "Hebrew gospel" is really report from Eusebius (c. 300 A.D.) in passing, not a statement by Papias (c. 100 A.D.) about where he himself learned of the story.
Only Modest Conclusions are Reachable
The evaluation of the evidence of Papias provided second hand by Eusebius is complex and holds many ambiguities. However, one thing can be reasonably established on a tentative basis from what is known:
Papias must have referred to a story like that found in John 8:1-11 in one of his (five) works, which Eusebius then later found ( Five of Papias' books were still available in 300 A.D.). However, Eusebius never actually quotes either Papias on this text or the text itself directly, so we cannot establish more with certainty on this evidence alone.
Theories of 'Evolution'
Modern scholars seem about equally divided on whether or not Papias is referring to our story (the terseness and vagueness of Eusebius' reference is difficult to evaluate). Some have suggested that Papias is referring to another story, or a story which later "evolved" into the version we now have in John.
But any theory of the "evolution" of a story into John 8:1-11, which was then later 'adopted' into the text is completely conjectural, and neither Papias nor Eusebius provide any support for such a theory or process.
Evidence Leans toward Authenticity and a Later Omission
Current knowledge from other sources actually mitigates against such a fantastic happenstance:
(1) The story could never have been 'accidentally' copied into the text of John from the margin by an ordinary scribe; the bridging text (John 7:53-8:1) was obviously consciously composed to integrate the story into the text. This would require real organized editorial activity and creative skill, and implies a knowledgeable editor, not a copyist's activity.
(2) The internal evidence closely connecting the passage with the rest of John makes any 'accidental' or naive insertion of the story practically impossible. John would have to have been partly rewritten to entrench the story. Unfortunately, the copies of John omitting the story are identical in their text for all practical purposes as those containing the text. So whatever the origin of the variant readings, those copies of John without the passage, such as P66, P75, Aleph (01) and B (02), cannot be the original text of John. This suggests that the copies including John are more credible as witnesses to the original text.
(3) The acceptance of the insertion of such a large and significant story into the Gospel of John is also an almost insurmountable obstacle to any theory of 'interpolation'. There would surely have been loud protests about such a shocking case of tampering, and the later in time this occurred, the more difficult would become such an insertion. To date, there is no evidence of a 'plot to insert' the passage in John.
(4) The 'evolution' of a story (a pericope) like this has never occurred in any other part of the NT. The most significant variations in passages between for instance the Synoptic gospels shows that such changes, even when drastic occurred VERY rapidly and stopped when the Gospels were written. Subsequent attempts to 'harmonize' the gospels were utterly rejected by the early Christians, and instead they preserved their texts as they received them, even when the texts diverged drastically.
Summary of the Evidence of Papias
Many scholars find it quite reasonable to believe that Papias did in fact refer to our story, or at least a version of it that circulated in his time and locale. The vagueness of Eusebius does not provide evidence against this so much as evidence of Eusebius' own lack of knowledge regarding this passage and its history.
Any negative conclusions regarding this very modest and vague reference must be based upon an assessment of Eusebius and his historical reliability, rather than that of Papias.
Definitive and final evaluation of the testimony of Papias will have to await the (re-)discovery of his five books, and an examination of Papias himself.
No discussion of the mention of Papias by Eusebius could be complete without discussing the alteration in Eusebius' text introduced by Rufinus, who translated Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History into Latin.
The significance of Rufinus' translation was first noted by Dr. Routh, according to Tregelles, but was best explained by Nicolson, and its lasting importance confirmed by Dean Burgon:
Nicolson on Rufinus
Rufinus tightens up the Language of Eusebius
And it is impossible to escape 7 from the fact that Rufinus, in his translation of Eusebius [Eccl. Hist.] paraphrased his author's words so as to make him say that Papias published,
'...aliam historiam de muliere adultera quae accusata est a Iudaeis apud Dominum'
'...another relation concerning an [or 'the' ] adulterous woman who was accused by the Jews before the Lord',
- Rufinus, translator/editor,
Eusebius' Hist. Eccl. iii.39
Now if it can be said confidently of any man but Jerome that he must have read through the Gospel According to the Hebrews that man is Rufinus. 8
The fellow-student of Jerome at Aquileia, he went with him to the East in 371 A.D., he was in Palestine between 377 and 397, upt to 393 hye was on the most cordial terms with Jerome, and for the last seven years of that time the two were living a little more than an hour's walk from each other, Jerome at Bethlehem, Rufinus at Jerusalem.
Now it is almost certain that Jerome had copied the Nazarene Gospel not later than 379 A.D., he began to quote it in his commentaries in 387, and in 392 he speaks of having lately rendered it into Greek and Latin.
It is to be credited that he should render it into two languages for the reading of all the civilized world, and that neither of these translations should have been read by his intimate friend living some half-a-dozen miles off?
Mr. McClellan himself would not say so, and putting together the evidence of Eusebius and Rufinus (who translated Eusebius about 408 A.D.) I must regard it as absolutely certain that the Gospel According to the Hebrews contained a story of an adulteress accused before Jesus.
- Nicolson, Gospel According to the Hebrews
Dean John Burgon concurred with Nicolson, and confirmed that Rufinus' actions showed that he knew of the Pericope de Adultera (John 8:1-11) as Holy Scripture, and found it in its usual place in John. Rufinus' association with Jerome and his knowledge of Jerome's Latin Vulgate also strongly support this view.
For more information on Rufinus, see our article here:
Rufinus on John 8:1-11 < - - Click here.