Did Papias exist?

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Ben C. Smith
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Re: Did Papias exist?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Fri Feb 12, 2021 3:52 pm

Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote:
Fri Feb 12, 2021 3:17 pm
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Fri Feb 12, 2021 2:46 pm
Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote:
Fri Feb 12, 2021 2:39 pm
It seems very likely to me that "the" John of Papias, mentioned by Irenaeus, should be the apostle John. In order to somehow save this dubious claim, Eusebius turned him into the elder.
I am pretty sure that Irenaeus thinks of "the" John of Papias as the Apostle John, the Revelator and Evangelist, but I am also pretty sure that Papias himself has no such thing in mind.
Very understandable. But you can only quote a Papias-fragment from Eusebius for that, right?
Kind of? The main one is from Eusebius, yes. Secondary support comes (A) from Mark 10.35-40, the martyrologies, and possibly also from Philip Sidetes demonstrating an early belief that John, the direct follower of the Lord and son of Zebedee, died early, and (B) from the tradition that John was a child when he met Jesus, which can be interpreted as a way to make a certain John's dotage during a certain period of time fit in with his being regarded as an eyewitness, as well (indeed, the tradition that Jesus was crucified under Claudius may at least partly serve the same purpose), without explicitly naming him as one of the Twelve.

YMMV (and I bet it does).

John2
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Re: Did Papias exist?

Post by John2 » Fri Feb 12, 2021 4:43 pm

After refreshing my memory on the John(s) in Papias I too think that Irenaeus is wrong and that the apostle John (the son of Zebedee) was was dead by Papias' time ("what John said") and that the other John (the elder) who was alive and in Asia in Papias' time is the pillar John and that this is the John who wrote 1 John (if not also 2 and 3 John). And I think the John who wrote Revelation was a third (and otherwise unknown) John. And the author of the gospel of John is a fourth John (or rather someone pretending to be one of these other Johns).

I base my guess for Papias' elder John being the pillar John in part on early Jewish Christian leaders being called elders and on what Polycrates says in his letter in EH 5.24.2.

2. We observe the exact day; neither adding, nor taking away. For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the day of the Lord's coming, when he shall come with glory from heaven, and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who fell asleep in Hierapolis; and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter, who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and, moreover, John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and, being a priest, wore the sacerdotal plate.

While Polycrates appears to think this John is the author of the gospel of John, the reference to being a priest who wore the "sacerdotal plate" strikes me as being a possible misunderstanding of the uncut hair of a Nazirite, which is the same word as the sacerdotal plate (nezer). And given Hegesippus' description of James as a Nazirite and being allowed to enter and pray in the "holy place" (and not the Holy of Holies as commonly thought), I can imagine that the pillar John may have similarly been a Nazirite (with the priest-like status it conferred).

At the same time I wouldn't rule out the possibility that the pillar John was an actual priest considering Acts 6:7 ("The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith").

Either way, the pillar John is the only John left who was both a "witness" (cf. 1 John 1:1-3) and possibly alive in Papias' time.

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Re: Did Papias exist?

Post by davidmartin » Fri Feb 12, 2021 5:01 pm

Revelation might go back to the apostle if it were composed of several layers brought together later
Likewise the sources of the gospel of John might go back to the apostle without having to think of so many John's
But if 1/2/3 John had different authors then you'd end up with even more of them!

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Re: Did Papias exist?

Post by Kunigunde Kreuzerin » Sat Feb 13, 2021 3:42 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Fri Feb 12, 2021 3:52 pm
Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote:
Fri Feb 12, 2021 3:17 pm
Very understandable. But you can only quote a Papias-fragment from Eusebius for that, right?
Kind of? The main one is from Eusebius, yes. Secondary support comes (A) from Mark 10.35-40, the martyrologies, and possibly also from Philip Sidetes demonstrating an early belief that John, the direct follower of the Lord and son of Zebedee, died early, and (B) from the tradition that John was a child when he met Jesus, which can be interpreted as a way to make a certain John's dotage during a certain period of time fit in with his being regarded as an eyewitness, as well (indeed, the tradition that Jesus was crucified under Claudius may at least partly serve the same purpose), without explicitly naming him as one of the Twelve.

YMMV (and I bet it does).
My hypothesis in this thread is that Papias didn't exist. Because of this, it makes little sense to me to say that Papias thought something entirely different from what Irenaeus said of him. Because Papias didn't exist! :D ;)

My hypothesis is seriously, but it’s not my aim to finally assert this. I take this radical point of view in the hope that it will help me understand some things better. My impression is that there could be a greater pious fraud regarding the Johannine tradition and Papias and I am trying to find out what it could be.

For this purpose there are no trustworthy quotes from Papias, only questionable claims by later authors that they quote Papias. And the truth is, it really is like that. You have to trust Eusebius in order to be able to substantiate your POV even partially.

According to the Anti-Marcionite prologue and Irenaeus, it is very clear that Papias is said to have been a hearer and disciple of the evangelist and apostle John. This is the earliest tradition about the relationship between Papias and John and about the identity of John. The exact dating of the Anti-Marcionite prologue is, from my point of view, rather unimportant, because the prologue goes back to this earliest tradition.

The Anti-Marcionite prologue of GJohn Irenaeus, Against Heresies 5.33.4
This gospel, then, after the apocalypse was written was made manifest and given to the churches in Asia by John, as yet still in the body, as the Heiropolitan, Papias by name, dear disciple of John, transmitted in his Exoteric, that is, the outside five books. He wrote down this gospel while John dictated. These things Papias too, who was a earwitness of John and companion of Polycarp, and an ancient man, wrote and testified in the fourth of his books. For there are five books written by him. And he adds, saying: But these things are believable by the believers. And, he says, Judas the traitor did not believe and asked: How therefore will such generations be brought to completion by the Lord? The Lord said: Those who come into those [times] will see.

Your secondary support A) could simply be a contradicting tradition that moved Eusebius to harmonize this tradition with the tradition about John and Papias. Why shouldn't it have been like that? Eusebius was undoubtedly dealing with two conflicting traditions. The support B) is not really a support, but the dubiousness of the earliest tradition about Papias itself. It agrees with Irenaeus' assertion that Papias was an “ancient man”.

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Re: Did Papias exist?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sat Feb 13, 2021 7:33 am

Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote:
Sat Feb 13, 2021 3:42 am
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Fri Feb 12, 2021 3:52 pm
Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote:
Fri Feb 12, 2021 3:17 pm
Very understandable. But you can only quote a Papias-fragment from Eusebius for that, right?
Kind of? The main one is from Eusebius, yes. Secondary support comes (A) from Mark 10.35-40, the martyrologies, and possibly also from Philip Sidetes demonstrating an early belief that John, the direct follower of the Lord and son of Zebedee, died early, and (B) from the tradition that John was a child when he met Jesus, which can be interpreted as a way to make a certain John's dotage during a certain period of time fit in with his being regarded as an eyewitness, as well (indeed, the tradition that Jesus was crucified under Claudius may at least partly serve the same purpose), without explicitly naming him as one of the Twelve.

YMMV (and I bet it does).
My hypothesis in this thread is that Papias didn't exist. Because of this, it makes little sense to me to say that Papias thought something entirely different from what Irenaeus said of him. Because Papias didn't exist! :D ;)

My hypothesis is seriously, but it’s not my aim to finally assert this. I take this radical point of view in the hope that it will help me understand some things better. My impression is that there could be a greater pious fraud regarding the Johannine tradition and Papias and I am trying to find out what it could be.
That is a great idea, and, to be honest, with so much about Papias floating around the forum right now and my attention only partly focused on these matters at the moment, I have lost track of what each poster's aims are.
For this purpose there are no trustworthy quotes from Papias, only questionable claims by later authors that they quote Papias. And the truth is, it really is like that. You have to trust Eusebius in order to be able to substantiate your POV even partially.
I would reword this a bit, I think. It is not that I either trust or distrust Eusebius; rather, it is that I have tried to build up a picture of how Eusebius operates, and it is that picture that I am trusting.

I find a strange analogy in the modern British TV game show called "Would I Lie to You?" In this show, the panelists have written down a set of true things about their past or their preferences and such, but the show runners have also written down a set of false things. Turn by turn, a panelist will read one such thing from a card, not knowing whether it is going to be one of the truths or one of the lies until actually reading it. At that point, the panelists on the other team will interrogate him/her about the topic, and then they have to decide whether it is the truth or a lie. Meanwhile, if the card is a lie, the panelist who has read it is doing his/her best to justify that lie. So the other team is making this determination, not at all on whether they trust the reader, because they already know he/she is going to be lying at least part of the time, but rather on how good a picture they have of that person: is that person capable of or prone to this sort of thing, for example? Two of the panelists, David Mitchell and Lee Mack, are regulars on the show, each one being the captain of one of the two teams, so in their cases especially it becomes increasingly possible to distinguish the truth from a lie just because everyone has gotten to know their personalities more and more, game by game. Obviously, no method is foolproof, but some people get to know David and Lee better than others, and they then have an advantage.

Similarly, with Eusebius, we have a lot of extant writings from him, and it is possible to get better and better at forming a complete picture of what he is capable of and prone to.

All this to say, I find it more likely that Eusebius is quoting Papias accurately here than that he is not. There is no smoking gun. I could definitely be wrong. It is less like holding a position with 90% certainty against a position with only 20% certainty and more like holding a position of 55% certainty against a position of 45% certainty.
According to the Anti-Marcionite prologue and Irenaeus, it is very clear that Papias is said to have been a hearer and disciple of the evangelist and apostle John. This is the earliest tradition about the relationship between Papias and John and about the identity of John. The exact dating of the Anti-Marcionite prologue is, from my point of view, rather unimportant, because the prologue goes back to this earliest tradition.
What leads you to date this tradition so early?
Your secondary support A) could simply be a contradicting tradition that moved Eusebius to harmonize this tradition with the tradition about John and Papias. Why shouldn't it have been like that?
Well, if the fragment from Philip Sidetes is correct, then Papias would appear to be commenting on Mark 10.35-40, affirming that the sons of Zebedee were both already dead by the time Mark was written, in contrast to the Elder John of whom he writes in the present tense. If we ignore Philip, we still have Mark 10.35-40 itself, along with the martyrologies, which suggests that the sons of Zebedee were no longer on the scene (if they even existed) by the time Mark was written. And, if that is the case, then (assuming Papias postdates Mark) Papias probably could not have known John the son of Zebedee in his old age, much less have been writing about him in the present tense. This is not a comment on the tradition, of course; this is a comment on what I take to actually be the case about Papias, regardless of what the tradition may have said, however soon after his flourit. And all of this agrees with what I take to be the most likely meaning of the syntax in the crucial passage (but obviously recall my point about the 55% versus the 45%): the only thing that tempts anyone to connect the first John to the second John is the fact that both men bear the same name, and this temptation is heightened by the desire on the part of Papias' admirers (like Irenaeus) to connect the Hierapolitan as closely as possible to the apostolic age; had Papias instead written of "the Elder Bob" in the second list, no one would have been missing anything in the passage.

To be clear, of course, yes, most of this depends upon Eusebius having quoted Papias more or less correctly. My main point is that this proposition does not stand alone; there are other factors available in its favor.
The support B) is not really a support, but the dubiousness of the earliest tradition about Papias itself. It agrees with Irenaeus' assertion that Papias was an “ancient man”.
The "best fit" for the origins of B, IMHO, is at a stage before Papias' John was thought to be the apostle, and was merely thought to have been an eyewitness (albeit as a child to make the dates work out). I readily admit that this is only a "best fit" argument; but I do not think that we have recourse to any better kind of argument at this point due to the scarcity of the data. All of the best arguments are going to be "best fit" here.

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Re: Did Papias exist?

Post by Secret Alias » Sat Feb 13, 2021 8:10 am

Papias is a well attested name in the period.

https://www.trismegistos.org/ref/ref_li ... pnr=135120

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Re: Did Papias exist?

Post by Secret Alias » Sat Feb 13, 2021 8:15 am

I think he existed, because the bizarre "threefold, fourfold " revision of the gospel by Irenaeus depends on SOMETHING. What other explanation is there for Irenaeus's decisions? Irenaeus is clearly channeling Papias in Book Three from chapter 1 to chapter 11, maybe even down to chapter 16. We just don't know. Even canonical gospel of John was developed because of the testimony of Papias. Irenaeus needed to find or invent a referee an arbiter for his new canon. He did so through a creative misrepresentation of Papias. No other explanation

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Re: Did Papias exist?

Post by Kunigunde Kreuzerin » Sat Feb 13, 2021 2:10 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sat Feb 13, 2021 7:33 am
Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote:
Sat Feb 13, 2021 3:42 am
For this purpose there are no trustworthy quotes from Papias, only questionable claims by later authors that they quote Papias. And the truth is, it really is like that. You have to trust Eusebius in order to be able to substantiate your POV even partially.
I would reword this a bit, I think. It is not that I either trust or distrust Eusebius; rather, it is that I have tried to build up a picture of how Eusebius operates, and it is that picture that I am trusting.
...
Similarly, with Eusebius, we have a lot of extant writings from him, and it is possible to get better and better at forming a complete picture of what he is capable of and prone to.

All this to say, I find it more likely that Eusebius is quoting Papias accurately here than that he is not. There is no smoking gun. I could definitely be wrong. It is less like holding a position with 90% certainty against a position with only 20% certainty and more like holding a position of 55% certainty against a position of 45% certainty.
I understand what you mean. Additionally, I suspect that we like Eusebius and are therefore more inclined to his position. On the one hand we have many pious authors who claim that John the Apostle still lived in Ephesus in old age and wrote Revelation and the Gospel there, which seems rather doubtful to us. On the other hand there is the rational Eusebius, who obviously doubts this story too, discusses it like a scholar on the basis of quotations and finally gives us a comprehensible explanation for this pious error. It seems that we have a choice between pious simplicity and enlightened thinking.

However, I think there is a smoking gun. The overwhelming majority of all authors or works citing Papias claim that Papias was a disciple or earwitness of John the Apostle with the only exception of Eusebius. Four of the authors/works also establish a close connection between Papias and the Gospel. The Anti-Marcionite prologue reports that Papias wrote about the origin of GJohn in his work. Agapius of Heirapolis stated that one of the five books of Papias’ work is about GJohn.

Therefore I think that if there really was a five-volume work by an author named Papias, then Papias almost certainly wrote about the origin of GJohn. But Eusebius, who quoted Papias on the origin of GMatthew and GMark, deliberately concealed Papias’ explanations on the origin of GJohn.
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sat Feb 13, 2021 7:33 am
Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote:
Sat Feb 13, 2021 3:42 am
This is the earliest tradition about the relationship between Papias and John and about the identity of John. The exact dating of the Anti-Marcionite prologue is, from my point of view, rather unimportant, because the prologue goes back to this earliest tradition.
What leads you to date this tradition so early?
The dating of your webpage textexcavation.com :D and Eusebius who wrote (Chronicle):

Irenaeus and others report that John the theologian and apostle remained in life until the times of Trajan, after which his earwitnesses Papias the Heirapolitan ...

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sat Feb 13, 2021 7:33 am
Well, if the fragment from Philip Sidetes is correct, then Papias would appear to be commenting on Mark 10.35-40, affirming that the sons of Zebedee were both already dead by the time Mark was written, ...
But Philip of Side himself claimed that Papias was an earwitness of John the theologian, who had a brother James. In addition, the Chronicon of George Hamatolos made it clear that the martyrdom was carried out by Jews in Ephesus, after “having composed the gospel according to himself”.

Philip of Side: "Papias, bishop of Heirapolis, who was earwitness of the theologian John, and companion of Polycarp, wrote five volumes of the lordly oracles ..." "Papias in the second volume says that John the theologian and James his brother were done away with by Jews."


Chronicon of George Hamatolos: "Nerva ... who, having called John back from the island, released him to house in Ephesus. Being then the only one still alive from the twelve disciples, and having composed the gospel according to himself, he was held worthy of martyrdom. For Papias, the bishop of Heirapolis, who was the eyewitness of this man, in the second volume of the lordly oracles claims that he was done away with by Jews, having clearly fulfilled with his brother the prediction of Christ about them and their own confession about this and submission."


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Re: Did Papias exist?

Post by John2 » Sat Feb 13, 2021 2:40 pm

Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote:
Sat Feb 13, 2021 3:42 am

You have to trust Eusebius in order to be able to substantiate your POV even partially.

Yes, and since his citations of extant sources are fairly accurate, why should we assume that his lost sources just so happen to be made up (particularly if some sense can be made of them)?

According to the Anti-Marcionite prologue and Irenaeus, it is very clear that Papias is said to have been a hearer and disciple of the evangelist and apostle John. This is the earliest tradition about the relationship between Papias and John and about the identity of John. The exact dating of the Anti-Marcionite prologue is, from my point of view, rather unimportant, because the prologue goes back to this earliest tradition.



Right, but as I noted upthread all the prologue says is that Papias said that someone named John was still alive in his time (as per the underlined part below). Everything else appears to be speculation by whoever wrote the prologue (based at least partly on Ireneaus). But I think it also shows that Papias was held in such esteem that the writer wanted to attach his name to what they were saying (in this case, that someone named John -whom the author thinks wrote the gospel of John- was "still in the body" in Papias' time).


[/quote]
The Anti-Marcionite prologue of GJohn
This gospel, then, after the apocalypse was written was made manifest and given to the churches in Asia by John, as yet still in the body, as the Heiropolitan, Papias by name, dear disciple of John, transmitted in his Exoteric, that is, the outside five books. He wrote down this gospel while John dictated.

Last edited by John2 on Sat Feb 13, 2021 4:39 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Did Papias exist?

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sat Feb 13, 2021 2:42 pm

Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote:
Sat Feb 13, 2021 2:10 pm
I understand what you mean. Additionally, I suspect that we like Eusebius and are therefore more inclined to his position.
I am not sure I would characterize myself as "liking" Eusebius. If anything, I harbor some pretty heavy biases against his role in the creation of the Church Triumphant or Church Militant. But I try to keep those biases out of my assessment of his treatment of earlier tradition.
On the one hand we have many pious authors who claim that John the Apostle still lived in Ephesus in old age and wrote Revelation and the Gospel there, which seems rather doubtful to us. On the other hand there is the rational Eusebius, who obviously doubts this story too, discusses it like a scholar on the basis of quotations and finally gives us a comprehensible explanation for this pious error. It seems that we have a choice between pious simplicity and enlightened thinking.
I can see where you are coming from, but I think that Eusebius has as much reason to keep the Apostle John innocent of the Apocalypse as the other church writers have to associate Papias with the Apostle John. My decision comes down, not to how I view Eusebius himself or his motives, but to whether or not I think he quoted Papias accurately enough, and currently I think he did, so that I can judge the matter for myself. Eusebius is reduced to a mere scribe at this stage.
However, I think there is a smoking gun. The overwhelming majority of all authors or works citing Papias claim that Papias was a disciple or earwitness of John the Apostle with the only exception of Eusebius. Four of the authors/works also establish a close connection between Papias and the Gospel. The Anti-Marcionite prologue reports that Papias wrote about the origin of GJohn in his work. Agapius of Heirapolis stated that one of the five books of Papias’ work is about GJohn.

Therefore I think that if there really was a five-volume work by an author named Papias, then Papias almost certainly wrote about the origin of GJohn. But Eusebius, who quoted Papias on the origin of GMatthew and GMark, deliberately concealed Papias’ explanations on the origin of GJohn.
This is basically my former position, and it resembles Bauckham's. I now think that the arrow points in the other direction: not that Papias wrote about the gospel of John and Eusebius suppressed that bit, but rather that Papias' close association with John the Elder, transformed by the tradition into John the Evangelist, Apostle, and Revelator, inspired his association with the gospel of John. Because, in my view, the work of Papias is part of what inspired the gospel of John in the first place, there were overlaps between Papias and that gospel, and any such overlap could have easily been seen by the patristic authors as Papias drawing upon John rather than vice versa.
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sat Feb 13, 2021 7:33 am
Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote:
Sat Feb 13, 2021 3:42 am
This is the earliest tradition about the relationship between Papias and John and about the identity of John. The exact dating of the Anti-Marcionite prologue is, from my point of view, rather unimportant, because the prologue goes back to this earliest tradition.
What leads you to date this tradition so early?
The dating of your webpage textexcavation.com :D and Eusebius who wrote (Chronicle):

Irenaeus and others report that John the theologian and apostle remained in life until the times of Trajan, after which his earwitnesses Papias the Heirapolitan ...

Ha ha. Absolutely none of my own acumen went into the dating of that prologue on my web site. I was following what the collections of Papian fragments suggested.

At any rate, it may well be that Papias' corpse was not yet even cold in the grave when the suggestions started to be made that his John the Elder was John the Apostle. The tradition could be amazingly early.
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sat Feb 13, 2021 7:33 am
Well, if the fragment from Philip Sidetes is correct, then Papias would appear to be commenting on Mark 10.35-40, affirming that the sons of Zebedee were both already dead by the time Mark was written, ...
But Philip of Side himself claimed that Papias was an earwitness of John the theologian, who had a brother James.
Sure, as expected, since everybody "knew" that Papias was an earwitness of John the Theologian/Revelator/Evangelist/Apostle. The trick is to separate out what Papias himself may have actually written from what later patristic authors interpreted out of him.
In addition, the Chronicon of George Hamatolos made it clear that the martyrdom was carried out by Jews in Ephesus, after “having composed the gospel according to himself”.
I take this as an attempt to reconcile the two traditions: James and John were martyred by the Jews, and John died in Ephesus (of old age, in some accounts). This kind of combining of different streams is quite typical of later ecclesiastical writers. Notice that the bit about John being released to his house in Ephesus is written in George the Sinner's own words; once he cites Papias, all he says is that Papias, "in the second volume of the lordly oracles," claims "that he was done away with by Jews." And George may well simply be relying on Philip Sidetes for this datum. The sifting is actually pretty painless in this case, since George never even claims that Papias said anything about a martyrdom late in life in Ephesus. Rather, he claims support from Papias for his own statement to that effect. (Eusebius himself does this a fair bit: claim something big, then cite something small but compatible as support, while not mentioning that the small thing can be true while the big thing is false.)

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