I sometimes get concerns about 1 of the most fascinating but least identified Christian authors of the early twond century, a man named Papias (writing in 120 CE? 140 CE). A lot of readers take into consideration him especially essential mainly because he claims to have identified and interviewed the companions of disciples of Jesus’ personal apostles (it is a bit confusing: but Jesus had his apostles right after his death they themselves had disciples Papias knew people today who knew these disciples of the apostles) furthermore, Papias is the 1st author to mention a Gospel of Matthew and a Gospel of Mark. Quite essential.
Sadly, we do not have his writings – only a handful of quotations of them, right here and there, amongst the writings of later church fathers. But these quotations are very fascinating.
There has never ever been a definitive, complete-length study of Papias till now. (Properly, till the close to future.) My buddy and former student and Stephen Carlson has been functioning for years on the Papias fragments. Stephen did his PhD in New Testament at Duke and is now a Senior Investigation Fellow at the Institute for Religion and Vital Inquiry at the Australian Catholic University. I asked him if he’d be prepared to create a couple of guest posts on what he’s coming up with for his book, to titillate our interest, and he was. So will have two posts, 1 right now, and 1 tomorrow. He will be content to respond to comments/concerns.
Papias in Fragments
I am thankful for the chance that Prof. Ehrman has provided me to preview a bit of my forthcoming operate in the Oxford Early Christian Texts series on Papias of Hierapolis. This early second-century commentator in Asia Minor wrote 5 books of Exposition of Dominical Oracles that has survived only in the type of scattered quotations by his readers. Now, 1 may possibly feel from this that he would be but a further obscure writer from the 1st centuries of early Christianity like Athenagoras, Dionysius of Corinth, or Apelles. That is not accurate. Scholars and laypersons alike are fascinated by this character. In truth, according to a search I produced of this really weblog, his name seems in the physique or comments of 123 various posts more than the years. That is a lot of mentions for an individual whose operate has practically completely vanished!
The explanation for this is that, the handful of instances Papias was quoted, it was for seriously fascinating factors. He was quoted by Irenaeus of Lyons in Gaul (c. 185) for a tradition about the afterlife supposedly from Jesus himself. He was quoted by Eusebius of Caesarea in Palestine (c. 325) for comments about some books that would ultimately grow to be aspect of the New Testament as nicely as his personal relation to oral tradition. He was quoted by Apollinaris of Laodicea in Asia Minor (c. 375) for the gruesome instance of the traitor Judas. And he was quoted by Andrew of Caesarea in Cappadocia, also in Asia Minor, (c. 625) on the fate of the fallen angels. However, out of all that has survived of his operate, it is his statements on the writing of Mark and Matthew that have attracted the most consideration. They are not just the earliest surviving statement of any type outdoors of the New Testament on the origins of these two gospels, but they are also the most detailed ahead of the fourth century.
Sadly, Papias’s statements do not come down to us intact and in context. Papias’s operate is lost, right after all. Rather, they have been preserved for us mainly because Eusebius quoted them in his Church History like this:
14 . . . We now have to have to add to these statements of his a tradition which he set forth about Mark who wrote the gospel as follows: 15 And this is what the elder would say: Mark, who had certainly been Peter’s interpreter, wrote down accurately but not in order as a lot as he remembered about what was either mentioned or carried out by the Lord. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but later, as I mentioned, Peter, who would give his teachings as necessary, but not, as it had been, producing a compilation of the dominical oracles, so that Mark did not fail at all by writing some of them as he recalled. For he took care of 1 factor, to omit nothing at all of what he heard or falsify something amongst them. 16 So then these factors had been reported by Papias about Mark, but about Matthew these factors had been mentioned: So then Matthew compiled the oracles in the Hebrew language, but every single interpreted them as they could. (Church History three.39.14-16).
The length and detail of this passage make it practically irresistible for critics to bypass the layers of embedded discourse and treat this comment about the Gospels of Mark and Mathew as if they had been a self-contained block of a tradition. It is not. The elder’s comment about Mark was presumably uttered not out of the blue but inside some bigger discourse context. This context is lost to us. Certainly, what the elder mentioned is not by any indicates intact, but extracted, edited, and embedded by Papias into a various context of his personal creation. Moreover, Papias’s presentation of these remarks also does not come down to us intact, but only as preserved by Eusebius—and Eusebius’s agenda is various from Papias’s. Eusebius as well extracted, edited, and embedded this statement into a context of his personal producing. We have to be cautious in interpreting it. As 1 scholar place it, “Papias says only what Eusebius desires him to say.” As a outcome, the most well-known statement in antiquity about the origins of Mark and Matthew is a joint production of 3 various people today, living at 3 various instances, with 3 various purposes: the elder, Papias, and Eusebius. All of them have contributed to this passage in their various methods, and all of them had various purposes for discussing their writings. If we are to make sense of this, we will have do what scholars of fragmentary functions have lengthy identified. We should deal with the basic challenge of context.