Last week’s schedule for the group “Read the Fathers” includes the fragments of Papias’ writings that have survived in the writings of Eusebius. Papias has been discussed quite a bit in recent years, primarily due to the work of Richard Bauckham. I share these observations as a novice who is not all that familiar with Papias. Let me know your thoughts.
– Eusebius makes the statement (Hist. eccl. 3.39.1-7 ) that according to Irenaeus Papias was a “hearer” (ἀκουστής) of John, but not a hearer of a public speaker (ἀκροατὴν) or an eyewitness (αὐτόπτην) as related to the apostles. Does this disqualify “John” from being the Apostle John (Eusebius argues “yes” below)? Or is there a different between ἀκουστής and ἀκροατὴν that I need to consider? I’m not sure how Papias might have “heard” the Apostle John other than hearing him give a public discourse though.
– There are “five treatises” of Papias in circulation at the time of Eusebius titled An Exposition of the Lord’s Oracles (λογίων κυριακῶν ἐξηγήσεως). Is this a study of the Gospels in circulation, or other logia?
– Papias advocates an oral tradition that assists in explaining the sayings of Jesus. He received his interpretations from the “elders” (πρεσβυτέρων). These elders are distinct from personalities such as Andrew, Peter, Philip, Thomas, James, John, Matthew, “or any other of the disciples of the Lord” (ἢ τις ἕτερος τῶν τοῦ κυρίου μαθητῶν). Aristion is mentioned (we’ll see him again below) and “the elder John” (ὁ πρεσβύτερος Ἰωάννης). This seems to present us with a John who is a disciple of Jesus (an apostle) and another John who is an elder. Eusebius himself will makes a distinction between the first John and the second John. The first John is included with Peter, James, and Matthew, a.k.a. apostles. The later John is included with the list “outside the apostles” (ἕτέροις παρὰ τὸν τῶν ἀποστόλων ἀριθμὸν κατάτασσει). Aristion and John are described as disciples as well, but there is difference between Aristion and John and the others.
– Papias is not as confident in what he read in “books” (βιβλίων) as he is in the “living and lasting voice” (τὰ παρὰ ζώσης φωνῆς καὶ μενούσης). The “living and lasting” seems to refer to witness that remain, rather than reports in books. Maybe Papias has copies of the early written Gospels, but he wants to talk with people who were witnesses of Jesus or who know and who have spoken to those who were witnesses of Jesus.
– In Hist. eccl. 3.39.14-17 Papias hands down tradition from Aristion (Ἀριστίωνος, who?) who received the traditions from the “Elder John” (πρεσβύτερου Ἰωάννου). Who is this elder?
– Mark is said to have been Peter’s “interpreter” (ἑρμηνευτὴς). Does this mean Peter needed someone to translate from his Aramaic/Hebrew (?) to Greek? Is this in speech and writing, or writing alone? Does this tell us anything about 1 and 2 Peter, both attributed to the Apostle, but very problematic in that the two epistles are quite different.
– Mark’s interpreting of Peter was “not in order” (οὐ…τάξει). Mark never heard Jesus, nor was he a follower of Jesus, but he took notes on Peter’s teaching. Mark aimed to avoid omitting or falsifying what he heard.
– Matthew’s report was compiled in “a Hebrew manner of speech” (Ἑβραΐδι διαλέκτῳ). I know there is some debate over whether this means Matthew wrote a Gospel in Hebrew (or Aramaic) or if he ordered and presented it in a Hebraic way (e.g., the teaching discourses, the form of the genealogy, etc).
– Matthew is said to have used the first epistle from John (ἀπὸ τῆς Ἰωάννου πρότερας ἐπιστολῆς) and a similar one from Peter (καὶ ἀπὸ τῆς Πέτρου ὁμοίως). I have never sat down to compare 1 John or 1 Peter with the Gospel of Matthew, but this seems like a strange claim.
– The pericope adulterae seems to be referenced when it is written that Matthew (?) used “another story about a woman who was accused of many sins before the Lord”. This would be John 7, no? This story is said to be found in “the Gospel according to the Hebrews” (Ἐβραίους εὐαγγέλιον).
– In Hist. eccl. 2.15.2 Eusebius references Papias in stating that Mark is mentioned by Peter (1 Peter 5:17) in an epistle written by Peter in Rome. I know Eusebius had some questions regarding the authenticity of 2 Peter.
– In Jerome’s Illustrious Lives 18 mentions the five volumes of Papias’ work, as well as his statement about hearing the “living” words rather than the books. Jerome’s commentary seems to be familiar with Eusebius. He adds some thoughts about 2 and 3 John being written by the elder rather than the apostle. There is mention of the elder John holding to a view of the millenium, which Jerome calls a “Jewish tradition”.
– The 5th century Hist. eccl. of Philip of Side summarizes this discussion, mentioning that 2 and 3 John are often attributed to the elder, and that some think he wrote the Apocalypse (but are “mislead”). Then he says Papias and Irenaeus were wrong about the millenium. He mentioned Papias saying that John and James were killed by the Jews. There are some other reports included here as well.
– Papias is mentioned in other documents that can be read here.