After Irenaeus, Eusebius thought about Papias. In his Chronicon (303 CE) he quotes Irenaeus without contradicting him, but twenty years later he questions Irenaeus' assertion in his Church History and claims that Papias did not even know the Evangelist John. This would follow from Papias’ own words in the preface of his work. He thus initiated an exegetical battle among modern scholars.
|Irenaeus, Against Heresies||Eusebius, Chronicon||Eusebius, History of the Church|
|3.3.4 Then, again, the Church in Ephesus, founded by Paul, and having John remaining among them permanently until the times of Trajan, is a true witness of the tradition of the apostles.
5.33.3-4 … just as the elders who saw John the disciple of the Lord remembered that they had heard from him how the Lord would teach … These things Papias too, who was a earwitness of John and companion of Polycarp ...
|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 and Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, became known.||3.39.1ff Irenæus makes mention of these as the only works written by him, in the following words: "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. |
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. He says:
… (alleged quote from Papias)
It is worth while observing here that the name John is twice enumerated by him. 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. 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. 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. 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.
The alleged quote from the preface goes as follows:
|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 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 ἤ τις 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
|But I will not hesitate, for you|
also so much I ever very carefully learnt and very carefully memorized by/from the Elders
to put into properly ordered form together with the interpretations,
guaranteeing it’s truth.
Because, unlike the many (people), I did not enjoy those who had many (things) to say,
but those who teached the true (things),
not those who memorized other’s commandments,
but those (who recalled) the (things) given by/from the Lord to the faith and which proceed from the truth itself.
But whenever someone, who had closely beside followed the Elders, came along, I investigated about the words of the Elders
what Andrew or what Peter had said or what Philip or what Thomas or James or what John or Matthew or what any of the Lord’s disciples,
and whatever Aristion and the elder John, the Lord’s disciples, were saying.
Because I did not suppose that the (things) out of books would profit me
as much as the (things) by/from a living and remaining voice.
It seems to me that the author of the alleged Papias-quote was a jolly liar. He claims that he has no interest in books, but the quoted text is clearly literarily formed with rhetorical means. I think it is worth studying the text carefully because the meaning is constructed from the text itself. imho, nobody should start thinking about „apostles“. Note what Irenaeus said: The Elders "saw John the disciple of the Lord", but Papias was a "earwitness of John".
Michael Kok, „Would the real Elder John please stand up?“, mentions the discussion points among scholars.