For whatever it may be worth, I think that the earliest Christian authors had to find suitable labels for their authoritative writings, particularly the gospels. Papias calls authoritative preachings and writings logia
; later on, Justin will call certain gospel texts memoirs
; other authors would refer to them with formulae such as "it is written." At some point everybody agreed to call them gospels, and four of these gospels were considered by Catholics to be scripture, on a par with the books of Moses and the prophets and so on.
But it appears that there was a period of time during which the terminology was far from settled. Papias falls during this period of time, and it seems to me that his solution was to call these writings logia
, which is a synonym for the scriptures. No one has been impressed yet with my examples of the use of the term in this way, so here is another:
Philo, On Flight and Finding 11: "But the dead," as it is also said in the Psalms, "shall not praise the Lord" [Psalm 113.25], for that is the work of the living; but Cain, that shameless man, that fratricide, is no where spoken of in the law as dying; but there is an oracle [λόγιον] delivered respecting him in such words as these: "The Lord God put a mark upon Cain, as a sign that no one who found him should kill Him" [Genesis 4.15b].
This is not the part of the verse in Genesis which has God speaking; this is a narrative statement about
God: not about his words, but about his deeds. Another couple from Philo:
Philo, On Mating 24: Therefore he, in requital, bestows himself as their inheritance upon those who do cleave unto him, and who serve him without intermission; and the sacred scripture bears its testimony in behalf of the oracle [λόγιον], where it says, "The Lord himself is his Inheritance" [Deuteronomy 10.9].
Philo, Life of Moses 2.10: At a later time, when the race sprung from the remnant had again increased and become very populous, since the descendants did not take the fate of their forefathers as a lesson in wisdom, but turned to deeds of licence and followed eagerly still more grievous practices, He determined to destroy them with fire. Then, as the oracles [τὰ λόγια] declare, the lightnings poured from heaven and consumed the impious and their cities, and to the present day the memorials to the awful disaster are shewn in Syria, ruins and cinders and brimstone and smoke, and the dusky flame still arises as though fire were smoldering within.
These latter oracles are narrative descriptions of the fates of godless cities.
One from Irenaeus:
Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.8.1: Such, then, is their system, which neither the prophets announced, nor the Lord taught, nor the apostles delivered, but of which they boast that beyond all others they have a perfect knowledge. They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures; and, to use a common proverb, they strive to weave ropes of sand, while they endeavour to adapt with an air of probability to their own peculiar assertions the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the apostles, in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support. In doing so, however, they disregard the order [τάξιν] and the connection of the Scriptures [τῶν γραφῶν], and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked art in adapting the lordly oracles [κυριακῶν λογιῶν] to their opinions.
This usage may be compared to Against Heresies
5.20.2, in which Irenaeus writes of the "lordly scriptures" (scriptura dominica
). Dionysius of Corinth uses the same expression (τῶν κυριακῶν... γραφῶν, "the lordly scriptures"), according to Eusebius, History of the Church
The longer recension of the epistle of Ignatius to the Smyraeans has:
Smyrnaeans 3.4: φασὶν γὰρ τὰ λόγια· Oὗτος ὁ Ἰησοῦς ὁ ἀναληφθεὶς ἀφ' ὑμῶν εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν οὕτως ἐλεύσεται, ὃν τρόπον ἐθεάσασθε αὐτὸν πορευόμενον εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν. / For, say the oracles, "This same Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come, in like manner as ye have seen Him go unto heaven."
This one applies the term logia
to narration from the New Testament.
Philippians 7.1: 1 For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is antichrist; and whosoever does not confess the testimony of the cross, is of the devil; and whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord [τὰ λόγια τοῦ κυρίου] to his own lusts, and says that there is neither a resurrection nor a judgment, he is the first-born of Satan.
Is it only the exact words of the Lord here with which Polycarp is concerned? Or is it the scriptures overall?
One from Clement:
Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 1.21: At that time Zerubbabel, having by his wisdom overcome his opponents, and obtained leave from Darius for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, returned with Ezra to his native land; and by him the redemption of the people and the revisal and restoration of the inspired oracles [λογίων] were effected; and the Passover of deliverance celebrated, and marriage with aliens dissolved.
Did Ezra restore only the actual spoken words of God from the scriptures? Or did he restore the entire scriptural corpus?
Another from Clement, with an assist from the epistle to the Hebrews:
Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 5.10: For there were certainly, among the Hebrews, some things delivered unwritten. "For when you ought to be teachers for the time," it is said, as if they had grown old in the Old Testament, "you have again need that one teach you which be the first principles of the oracles [λογίων] of God."
Clement seems to equate the Old Testament with the logia
Another, in which oracles are in parallel with scriptures:
Origen, On Matthew 10.6: And at this point you will inquire, whether the kingdom of heaven is likened only to the treasure hidden in the field, so that we are to think of the field as different from the kingdom, or is likened to the whole of this treasure hidden in the field, so that the kingdom of heaven contains according to the similitude both the field and the treasure hidden in the field. Now a man who comes to the field, whether to the Scriptures or to the Christ who is constituted both from things manifest and from things hidden, finds the hidden treasure of wisdom whether in Christ or in the Scriptures. For, going round to visit the field and searching the Scriptures and seeking to understand the Christ, he finds the treasure in it; and, having found it, he hides it, thinking that it is not without danger to reveal to everybody the secret meanings of the Scriptures, or the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ. And, having hidden it, he goes away, working and devising how he shall buy the field, or the Scriptures, that he may make them his own possession, receiving from the people of God the oracles of God [τὰ λόγια τοῦ θεοῦ] with which the Jews were first entrusted [Romans 3.2]. And when the man taught by Christ has bought the field, the kingdom of God which, according to another parable, is a vineyard, is taken from them and is given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof [Matthew 21.43] — to him who in faith has bought the field, as the fruit of his having sold all that he had, and no longer keeping by him anything that was formerly his; for they were a source of evil to him. And you will give the same application, if the field containing the hidden treasure be Christ, for those who give up all things and follow Him, have, as it were in another way, sold their possessions, in order that, by having sold and surrendered them, and having received in their place from God— their helper— a noble resolution, they may purchase, at great cost worthy of the field, the field containing the treasure hidden in itself.
The λόγια are simply inspired words or books: scriptures, if you will, texts written by people inspired by God. Early Christianity seems to have been full of prophets who were presumed to be speaking by the spirit of God:
1 Corinthians 12.3: 3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking in the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except in the Holy Spirit.
What a prophet utters may be considered an oracle (a logion
). The following verse comes from an epistle Papias is said to have known:
1 Peter 4.11a: 11a If someone speaks, let it be as the logia of God.
Papias implies that he considers Peter's own preaching to be logia
, and he states that Matthew wrote down logia
. (And, if Bernard is correct, then logia
being passed down from the disciples of the Lord, through tradents like Aristion, all the way to the Hierapolitan himself.) My sense is that this is Papias' way of calling statements (words or stories) about Jesus inspired. He considered what Peter said and what Matthew wrote to be oracular, since these were chosen men, but Mark had no way of unscrambling Peter's disordered preaching and the translations of Matthew's Hebrew text had not been all they could have been (or so he thought). So he set out to reconstruct things, including their order, by tracing the words and stories back to those inspired, chosen men, the disciples of the Lord.
I do not think he meant to limit the term logia
to the rubricated words in a trendy evangelical red letter edition
1970 (of which I owned several as a child) any more than Philo limited the term logia
to the very words spoken by God on the pages of scripture. He wrote that Peter had preached logia
, that Mark had transcribed them accurately, and that the result was a record of what the Lord had said and done
. This is not an "emphasis" on red-letter sayings; this is simply filling out what logia
meant for Papias. Logia
are not just sayings material or discourse material; logia
are inspired words, and they can narrate the destruction of cities as easily as they can relate the very words of God from a mountaintop.
Stephen Hultgren has a good discussion of the meaning of logia
available in Google Books: https://books.google.com/books?id=FaYFC ... 22&f=false