The earliest witnesses to the New Testament

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
Vanished
Posts: 24
Joined: Mon Jan 01, 2024 5:33 pm

Re: The earliest witnesses to the New Testament

Post by Vanished »

ebion wrote: Sun Feb 11, 2024 11:50 am
Peter Kirby wrote: Sun Feb 11, 2024 10:48 am
Vanished wrote: Sun Feb 11, 2024 10:07 amHebrews, almost unanimously agreed to be a later work in the style of Paul rather than a genuine Pauline writing,
Is it? I view it as an early work, not in the style of Paul, and (importantly) not originally presenting itself as a Pauline writing at all. Instead of being a non-genuine Pauline writing, it would be a text without any intention of being Pauline that came to be falsely attributed to Paul.
I certainly see Hebrews as not being Pauline in its theology as well as style, and assume the later attribution to Paul to be false.

Vanished: what about Hegesippus? I thought he was one of the earliest testifiers. Or do you discount the parts that come to us of him via Euseubius?

FWIW, Revelation Jude 2John 2Peter 3John are not in the Eastern Church canon, and I think the Apostolic Church of the East assumes them not to have been in circulation at the time their canon closed - your work supports that view.

Back to the central question you and I have, do the Paulines have witnesses before 138-144 (Marcion), is there clear evidence of quotes from the best of the Paulines before then? The way your data is formatted it's hard to see that given the broad range of dates you assign to the authors. (Maybe you could narrow the date range if possible to the date range of their wrtings?).
You're entirely right on Hebrews, I was just tired. I should have just said "almost unanimously agreed to be a NON-PAULINE work", not necessarily a later one or one written in the style of Paul.

Regarding Hegesippus, I know the name but he never appeared in any of the resources I used to make my initial list of early writers to research - I'll most certainly be adding references from his fragments here when I get the chance. Thanks for the heads up :)

I did not know about the Apostolic Church of the East excluding those 5 books, but that would certainly make sense given what I've found here - hopefully there will one day be some more confirmed fragments of Papias and Quadratus to look at to be even more confident.

Apologies for not including the dates of the works - I didn't do this in my initial research because I imagined they'd be quite broad, and while I wanted to before I made this post here, I simply forgot. I'll add them soon as well - thank you for the reminder. However, I can quite confidently say that unless the quotes by Papias are forged, 1 Clement is a 50-100-year-later forgery, Ignatius's writings are all forgeries and Polycarp only wrote during the very final decade or two of his life (or alternatively, that Marcion came much earlier than we know about - certainly possible, as I've seen the theory put forward that Marcion was potentially only dated so late by early scholars to bring down his credibility), some, if not most, of the Paulines are attested to before 138-144.
rgprice
Posts: 1975
Joined: Sun Sep 16, 2018 11:57 pm

Re: The earliest witnesses to the New Testament

Post by rgprice »

However, I can quite confidently say that unless the quotes by Papias are forged, 1 Clement is a 50-100-year-later forgery, Ignatius's writings are all forgeries and Polycarp only wrote during the very final decade or two of his life (or alternatively, that Marcion came much earlier than we know about - certainly possible, as I've seen the theory put forward that Marcion was potentially only dated so late by early scholars to bring down his credibility), some, if not most, of the Paulines are attested to before 138-144.
Actually this is all more than probable. The term "forgery" is a bit loaded, but I'd say that the writing called First Clement was certainly not written by Clement of Rome, if such a person even existed. First Clement is very likely a forgery, but not forged to be written by Clement as the letter itself in no way identifies its writer as Clement. It is only associated with Clement by later traditions, perhaps first by Irenaeus?

First Clement appears to have been fabricated for the purpose of establishing Roman primacy, which is exactly how Irenaeus uses it. Many scholars now are arguing that all of the Ignatian letters are forgeries, likely produced around 150-170. They, again, are not actually signed by Ignatius and are really only attributed to him with headings by the editor of the collection.

There are many reasons to conclude that the writings of Papias are misdated and misattributed. They too likely come from at least 140, if not later.

I find evidence to indicate that there were traditions that associated the Gospel of Mark with Paul, as opposed to Peter and that traditions associating Mark to Peter are late. Papias is the earliest supposed source to associate Mark with Peter.

I'm also quite intrigued by the fact that there was a known heretic from Alexandra called Mark, or Marcus, who held a set of beliefs that aligns very well with the content of the Gospel of Mark, and that the Gospel of Mark is associated with having been produced in Alexandria or having been produced in Rome and then taken to Alexandria for "publication". So it seems to me that the Gospel of Mark may well come from the Alexandrian heretic Marcus. But regardless, the point is, you have to be very careful adopting the traditional dates of the writings of the church fathers.
Vanished
Posts: 24
Joined: Mon Jan 01, 2024 5:33 pm

Re: The earliest witnesses to the New Testament

Post by Vanished »

rgprice wrote: Sun Feb 11, 2024 3:17 pm
However, I can quite confidently say that unless the quotes by Papias are forged, 1 Clement is a 50-100-year-later forgery, Ignatius's writings are all forgeries and Polycarp only wrote during the very final decade or two of his life (or alternatively, that Marcion came much earlier than we know about - certainly possible, as I've seen the theory put forward that Marcion was potentially only dated so late by early scholars to bring down his credibility), some, if not most, of the Paulines are attested to before 138-144.
Actually this is all more than probable. The term "forgery" is a bit loaded, but I'd say that the writing called First Clement was certainly not written by Clement of Rome, if such a person even existed. First Clement is very likely a forgery, but not forged to be written by Clement as the letter itself in no way identifies its writer as Clement. It is only associated with Clement by later traditions, perhaps first by Irenaeus?

First Clement appears to have been fabricated for the purpose of establishing Roman primacy, which is exactly how Irenaeus uses it. Many scholars now are arguing that all of the Ignatian letters are forgeries, likely produced around 150-170. They, again, are not actually signed by Ignatius and are really only attributed to him with headings by the editor of the collection.

There are many reasons to conclude that the writings of Papias are misdated and misattributed. They too likely come from at least 140, if not later.

I find evidence to indicate that there were traditions that associated the Gospel of Mark with Paul, as opposed to Peter and that traditions associating Mark to Peter are late. Papias is the earliest supposed source to associate Mark with Peter.

I'm also quite intrigued by the fact that there was a known heretic from Alexandra called Mark, or Marcus, who held a set of beliefs that aligns very well with the content of the Gospel of Mark, and that the Gospel of Mark is associated with having been produced in Alexandria or having been produced in Rome and then taken to Alexandria for "publication". So it seems to me that the Gospel of Mark may well come from the Alexandrian heretic Marcus. But regardless, the point is, you have to be very careful adopting the traditional dates of the writings of the church fathers.
Perhaps, but you also have to be very careful not to be overly skeptical. 1 Clement may be a later work not written by Clement. The Ignatian Epistles may be forgeries from 150-170. Papias may have been misquoted, misdated, or misattributed. Polycarp may have only written during the very end of his lifetime. There's certainly a number of respectable scholars proposing each one of these theories. I don't doubt that at least one of these is true - later authorship of 1 Clement, if I were to pick one, since it seems to make everything work out a lot nicer. However, for all to be true I find very unlikely, and I think most scholars would be inclined to agree with that. The traditional dates of the writings of the church fathers can't be fully trusted, as those that originally put them forward would have been biased and had motivation to date the apostolic fathers as early as possible, but it should also be noted that these men were working with a wealth of knowledge that we do not have, and they certainly knew much about the apostolic fathers that we do not. I think their more-knowledgeable, more-biased commentary is just as valid as a respected modern scholar's less-biased (hopefully), less-knowledgeable commentary, and don't think it should be treated much differently. After all, without these early scholars, we would know next to nothing about the Bible. No authors, no dates, no anything - just writings from a random guy (if not an anonymous/pseudiepigraphical author) from an unknown period.
Vanished
Posts: 24
Joined: Mon Jan 01, 2024 5:33 pm

Re: The earliest witnesses to the New Testament

Post by Vanished »

rgprice wrote: Sun Feb 11, 2024 2:23 pm
Third - and this one is really interesting to me - there does not appear to be a SINGLE indisputable reference to Mark in ANY of these writings. There are many possible uses of Mark, but every single one can be mirrored in another gospel. There's not even one reference to unique Markan material or even specifically Markan phrasing, which I find particularly interesting seeing as Markan priority seems to be a very common belief. Maybe Mark was written first but kept private until well after the other gospels were authored? I'm not sure. I feel like I'm missing something here - I'm very new to this after all - but this is certainly something to note.
Its not just about dating. Mark was by far teh least read, least referenced and least respected Gospels. The view seemed to be that there was little reason to read Mark because Matthew said everything that Mark did and more, and did it better. Since the church fathers thought that the works were independently written, they didn't study them in the way that we do trying to understand intertextual dependencies, etc.
That is quite interesting - I don't know much about the synoptic gospels so I can't really argue for or against what you're saying, but I am surprised if that's the case as Mark seems, to me, to the most well-written gospel of the bunch. Even if they did believe they were fully independently written, I imagine as one of the few written testaments to the acts of Jesus Christ it would be very closely studied by these early scholars, but if Mark was as discarded as you say, maybe not. That's something I'd like to look into in more detail, but for another time. I want to finish my study of the Paulines before I move to the synoptics, then the general epistles, then Revelation, and then finally to the OT which is what interests me the most.
ebion
Posts: 397
Joined: Wed Oct 18, 2023 11:32 am

Re: The earliest witnesses to the New Testament

Post by ebion »

rgprice wrote: Sun Feb 11, 2024 3:17 pm
However, I can quite confidently say that unless the quotes by Papias are forged, 1 Clement is a 50-100-year-later forgery, Ignatius's writings are all forgeries and Polycarp only wrote during the very final decade or two of his life (or alternatively, that Marcion came much earlier than we know about - certainly possible, as I've seen the theory put forward that Marcion was potentially only dated so late by early scholars to bring down his credibility), some, if not most, of the Paulines are attested to before 138-144.
Actually this is all more than probable. The term "forgery" is a bit loaded...
I agree with rgprice (and RMPrice). And I won't use the term forgery either, so I'll assert that the writings ascribed to Ignatius are too much of a mess to use for anything concrete. So I discount anything from his writings as proof of anything. I'm not the only one: IIRC Detering looked carefully at them and came to the same conclusion.

IIRC the Alexandrian origin of Mark is on quite solid ground, although personally I'd shy away from the word heretic in describing Mark from Alexandra; I'd use non-orthodox or unconventional in a sense different from the ditheistic heretics such as Marcion. One reason the Mark from Alexandria was looked at askance may be that it airbrushes out some of the key conflicts between Matthew and Paul/Faul.

I didn't think Papias ever mentioned the Faulines, and the only one you have there 1 Corinthians (15:25-28)
is right in front of the most Marcionite verse in the whole bible:
Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead? (I Corinthians 15:29 [KJV])
which Detering (and I) use to say I Corinthians is a Marcionite creation.

That Polycarp only wrote (the verses citing the Faulines) during the very final decade or two of his life is very possible, and I note that I Corinthians is in that list. Eusebius dates him to a decade later, his death in the reign of Marcus Aurelius, 166–167. From the Catholic Encylopaedia:
Now there are two possible years for this [the death of Polycarp], 155 and 166. The choice depends upon which of the two Quadratus was proconsul of Asia. By means of the chronological data supplied by the rhetorician Aelius Aristides in certain autobiographical details which he furnishes, Waddington who is followed by Lightfoot ("St. Ignatius and St. Polycarp", I, 646 sq.), arrived at the conclusion that Quadratus was proconsul in 154-55 (the proconsul's year of office began in May). Schmid, a full account of whose system will be found in Harnack's "Chronologie", arguing from the same data, came to the conclusion that Quadratus' proconsulship fell in 165-66.
I appreciate your work, but if you have time I'd love to see the details from him on these:
  • Romans (14:10-12)
  • 1 Corinthians (6:9-10)
  • 2 Corinthians (6:7, 8:21)
  • Galatians (1:1, 6:7)
  • Ephesians (2:8-9, 4:26)
Anything that is a quote of things from the OT would have to be viewed as uncertain.

So I'm still looking to see solid details on if the Paulines are attested to before 138-144.
Last edited by ebion on Sun Feb 11, 2024 10:58 pm, edited 7 times in total.
User avatar
Peter Kirby
Site Admin
Posts: 7631
Joined: Fri Oct 04, 2013 2:13 pm
Location: Santa Clara
Contact:

Re: The earliest witnesses to the New Testament

Post by Peter Kirby »

A Dialogue of Primus and Secundus

Primus: Here is a detail.
Secundus: Redate the detail.
Primus: Here is a detail.
Secundus: Redate the detail.

Repeat as needed.
rgprice
Posts: 1975
Joined: Sun Sep 16, 2018 11:57 pm

Re: The earliest witnesses to the New Testament

Post by rgprice »

Vanished wrote: Sun Feb 11, 2024 3:46 pm Perhaps, but you also have to be very careful not to be overly skeptical. 1 Clement may be a later work not written by Clement. The Ignatian Epistles may be forgeries from 150-170. Papias may have been misquoted, misdated, or misattributed. Polycarp may have only written during the very end of his lifetime. There's certainly a number of respectable scholars proposing each one of these theories. I don't doubt that at least one of these is true - later authorship of 1 Clement, if I were to pick one, since it seems to make everything work out a lot nicer. However, for all to be true I find very unlikely, and I think most scholars would be inclined to agree with that. The traditional dates of the writings of the church fathers can't be fully trusted, as those that originally put them forward would have been biased and had motivation to date the apostolic fathers as early as possible, but it should also be noted that these men were working with a wealth of knowledge that we do not have, and they certainly knew much about the apostolic fathers that we do not. I think their more-knowledgeable, more-biased commentary is just as valid as a respected modern scholar's less-biased (hopefully), less-knowledgeable commentary, and don't think it should be treated much differently. After all, without these early scholars, we would know next to nothing about the Bible. No authors, no dates, no anything - just writings from a random guy (if not an anonymous/pseudiepigraphical author) from an unknown period.
Coming to terms with the nature of Christian origins is a journey that everyone has to go on independently. Having studied the nature of writing and "publication" in the ancient world it is clear that actual forgery and misrepresentation was widespread across all types of writing, from legal documents to historical narratives to religious writings, to philosophical works, etc. This was not unique to Christianity. It is also clear that misrepresentation of the provenance of writings had many effects on Roman society that impacted their politics, legal system and government administration.

Regarding the likelihood of "all of these things being true" vs "some of them", I think the case is actually much stronger that its all forgery and misunderstanding "all the way down", than that this was a case of a few misunderstood documents. What we are really looking at here is a pattern of behavior. All of these cases come together to show a widespread pattern of both literary fabrication and naive literary reception.

First of all, the way that scholars on Christian origins have tended to treat "forgery" is to dismiss and forget about works that are deemed inauthentic. Most people who have studied these works are Christian faithful that have been trying to "identify the truth". So a lot of this work has been done by Protestant scholars looking to find the "true way" to worship Jesus. As a result, when they identify a work as a forgery, or not what it was believed to be, they just set it aside and stop studying it. It mostly just gets put into the garbage can of Protestant theology and disregarded.

But at this point, the fact is that when you look at writings purported to be from the first four centuries of Christianity, there are far more works in the garbage can now than outside of it. Literally thousands of writings have now been acknowledged as forgeries, most of them now forgotten by most theologians. Many of these may be trivial on their own, forged letters of minor figures, fabricated stories about various saints, invented accounts of martyrdom, falsified church records, etc. etc. But what we can see is that many of these writings were accepted as legitimate by many early church fathers and theologians on into the 10th and 11th centuries, people like Jerome and Augustine, etc. and even Eusebius and those before him. There are indications of skeptical reception of some works, but what is clear is that these people were swimming in writings that were not what they thought they were. Understanding the true provenance of these writings was truly impossible in their own time. The magnitude of literary fabrication in the first through fourth centuries was overwhelming.

When we take a writing like First Clement, the writing is unsigned, it is undated, it uses very vague terms to describe the circumstances of its writing, and it builds upon themes from earlier known works - the Pauline letters. The Corinthian Church is "out of line". Yes, well, this was a charge leveled by Paul in his letters to the Corinthians. Using vague language, the writer dismisses the nature of Corinthian leadership and establishes the superior character of the Roman Church. The writer then invites the Corinthians to submit to Roman counsel. Who wrote the letter? When?

Oh, but what about the corroboration of the circumstances of the writing by the works of other church fathers, such as Hegesippus? Yes, quite convenient, because you see these other writings of supposed "corroboration" can often instead to be shown to be works of dependence, where one of the works is actually dependent on the other. Either the writer of First Clement knew the works of Hegesippus and their writing was inspired by Hegesippus or the other way around, etc., etc.

And of course First Clement does not appear to have been a forgery in the name of Clement, because the writer made no effort to establish Clement as the writer, rather what we have here is likely a writing that was never actually sent to the Corinthians and was not attempting to be passed off as a writing of Clement, but was written to insinuate Roman primacy. It was later attributed to Clement.

Also keep in mind that all of the evidence indicates that Peter and Paul were never actually in Rome. The coming of Peter to Rome is itself a fabricated myth. The establishment of any churches by Peter is all fabricated myth. Who are these bishops that are listed, with the earliest of them supposedly appointed by Peter himself? Linus, Ignatius, etc.? Ignatius supposedly personally knew John the Evangelist. Well this is impossible, not least of which is because the writing called the Gospel of John was certainly not written by anyone of Jewish ancestry named John, it isn't even a unity and most definitely the earliest and most significant layer of John is Gnostic. John the Evangelist was supposedly a Jew who became a disciple.

The Gospel of John is virulently anti-Jewish, essentially talking about Jews as if they are an entirely alien group who deserve condemnation. The Gospel does not even mention James and John Zebedee until the final forged chapter. Layers of the work present the Jewish God as a false God and Jesus as having been sent by a God superior to the Jewish God.

So obviously this isn't a work written by "John Zebedee", disciple of Jesus. Yet, all of the traditions of the church fathers indicate that Ignatius personally knew John Zebedee and was able to vouch for the authenticity of the Gospel of John. Clearly none of that can be true. Was Ignatius even real person? Nothing said about Ignatius is even plausible. Was there really a "bishop" of a "church" in Antioch in 70 CE? 70 CE!? There is zero corroborating evidence for this. Ignatius was fed to wild animals in Rome? Made up. Ignatius WANTED to be fed to wild animals in Rome? Yeah right!

The whole thing is a farce from top to bottom.

It seems to me that what we are dealing with is a religion that grew out of a secret mystery cult. The mystery cult may go back to the first century, but the Christianity we know developed as elements of the mystery cult started to become public in the second century. The Christianity we know was developed by people outside the mystery cult who were imparting their own meaning to writings and rituals that had origins they weren't aware of, who ended up inventing their own back story for the religion's origins. What we see in the writings of the church fathers, from the very beginning, is that everything is framed in relation to supposed "heretics". The whole back story of orthodoxy is invented for the purpose of establishing the credibility of orthodox beliefs against those of other sects. The claims of apostolic succession are inventions for the purpose of establishing the legitimacy of orthodox teachings against other groups. The lists of bishops back to real apostles are all fabricated. The writings used to establish the legitimacy of those lists and claims of succession are all fabricated. These things were all fabricated or misrepresented throughout the second, third and fourth centuries in order to provide a basis for establishing the legitimacy of one set of claims over another. And you see this in how all of these works are used.

We can see that in the ecumenical council starting in the fourth century these works are entered like evidence in legal trials to establish the credibility of orthodoxy over competing versions of Christianity. The fact is that when it came to establishing what teachings about Jesus were true and legitimate, there was nothing concrete to go on. It all came down to just what one person said vs another. The claims of apostolic succession and known authorship of the Gospels were the evidence that put the orthodox over the top. Instead of arguing over theology and philosophy, over matters like whether the Creator was good, evil, or indifferent, they could simply claim that their view was right because it could reliably be traced back directly to the real Jesus himself, through teh succession of the apostles. So at that point it wasn't about logic or reason merits of debate, it was about simply showing that X teaching could be traced directly back to an apostle, who got it directly from Jesus who conveyed it directly from God, and therefore it must be right.
andrewcriddle
Posts: 2789
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 12:36 am

Re: The earliest witnesses to the New Testament

Post by andrewcriddle »

Vanished wrote: Sun Feb 11, 2024 10:07 am
Papias of Hierapolis (60-130):
Fragment 5:
John (14:2)
1 Corinthians (15:25-28)
Fragment 6:
1 John?
1 Peter?
Gospel of Hebrews?
Fragment 8:
Revelation?
Note: Fragments 5 is directly quoted from Papias, while fragments 6 and 8 are secondhand testimony that claim Papias used 1 John/1 Peter/Gospel of Hebrews and accepted Revelation. Actual dialogue from Papias regarding these books is lost to time.

.....................
One should note that Papias mentions the Gospels of Matthew and Mark although there are no surviving quotations.
And the presbyter said this. Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took special care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements. ...Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could.
Andrew Criddle
Post Reply