Oct 16, 2010
Koke on Papias
Excerpt for Review: M. Koke, The Golden Rule, Blog Articles on Papias, (Internet, 2010)
As Mike Koke has regretfully announced he will not be posting very often in the future on his Blogsite The Golden Rule (Here), It seemed wise to grab his excellent information summaries on Papias and repost them here.
Posted by Mike Koke
One of the most notorious problems is trying to figure out what in the world Papias means by Matthew being compiled in the Hebrew (Aramaic?) language (Ἑβραΐδι διαλέκτῳ). Now, since Matthew has struck many readers as the most Jewish of the four Gospels with its constant theme of the fulfillment of scripture and Jesus presented as something of a new Moses with the infancy narratives or the Sermon on the Mount or the seemingly divided into five sections, so it seems a natural assumption to make that Matthew was also a translation of a Hebrew original. Yet scholars note that our text of Matthew is in Greek, its sources such as Mark (and perhaps “Q”?) are in Greek and that it is unlikely that the apostle Matthew would allow the non-apostolic authorship of the Gospel of Mark determine its framework (even Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses is skeptical of the traditional authorship of the apostle Matthew, arguing from the study of Palestinian Jewish names that it is unlikely for a Palestinian Jew to bear two common Semitic personal names, Levi and Matthew, and therefore the evangelist altered the story of the conversion of Levi the tax collector to the conversion of Matthew because he wanted to associate it with the Apostle Matthew). So how are we to explain this tradition of the Apostle Matthew and the original Hebrew Gospel?
One solution provided by Kürzinger (Papias von Hierapolis), who has done a complete rereading of the Papian fragments using rhetorical categories, argues that Papias meant Matthew was written in a Semitic style. However, while some of Kürzinger new interpretations have achieved some wide acceptance (e.g. the idea that Mark composed the Gospel out of different chrieiai in Peter’s preaching but didn’t seek an ordered arrangement), most scholars continue to think that the more natural interpretation of Papias is that Matthew was composed in Hebrew and each interpreted (hermeneusen) i.e. translated as best they could. Allison and Davies, in their famous Commentary on Matthew, point out that many patristic commentators including great scholars like Clement of Alexandria and Origen all accepted that Matthew was translated from a Semitic original, so it was not always easy to tell when a book was translated and was an easy enough mistake to make. However, some scholars have made a case that Papias (or if Papias misunderstood, John the Elder before him) were referring to something like “Q”, a document of sayings (Papias’ ta logia) that may have originally been in Hebrew or Aramaic before its Greek recessions (Davies/Allison, Matthew 1-7; cf. Matthew Black, “The Use of Rhetorical Terminology in Papias on Mark and Matthew”). Others argue against the hypothesis that Papias/Elder John meant to refer to something like Q, noting that Papias also identifies Mark as composed of logia (sayings) but also mentions that Mark includes both the things said and done by the Lord (τὰ ὐπὸ τοῦ κυρίου η λεχθέντα ἢ πραχθέντα) (cf. Kloppenborg, Formation of Q, who also defends that Matthew/Luke used a single document of sayings in Greek and doubts any earlier Aramaic recessions). But to those who doubt the existence of Q either by arguing that Luke used Matthew or those who propose a more chaotic model of Synoptic origins (ahem, Steph), is it possible that Papias (or John the Elder) simply made a mistaken assumption about the Gospel of Matthew or was referring to some other ”Matthew” that could be some source in Hebrew/Aramaic along with the Greek sources that may underlie the Synoptic Tradition?
September 28, 2010
When Papias explains how he learned about the apostolic traditions, he says that when those who knew the elders came to him, he inquired about the elders’ words, what (ti) Andrew or Peter or Philip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew or some other disciples of the Lord said (eipen), or what Aristion and the elder John, disciples of the Lord, are saying (legousin) (Eusebius, Hist Eccl. 3.39.4). So who is this latter John: the son of Zebedee, the Apostle (cf. C Blomberg, Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel, RH Gundry, Apology for the Cross (note a critique of Gundry’s position also available online by D Sim, “A Response to RH Gundry“), or A Köstenberger & S Snout, “‘The Disciple Jesus Loved’ – Witness, Author, Apostle“). Although the passage does not even make clear that Papias had a direct connection with Aristion and John, the best reasons given for an identification of John the Elder with the Apostle John are:
However, there are other reasons for affirming that Papias really does refer to two separate figures, John the Apostle (who died with the rest of the apostolic figure) and John the Elder as a known leader in Ephesus. Such reasons include:
Thus, I would conclude that in Papias we have two Johns, one was among the Apostles and the other was a later Elder in Asia Minor and a transition figure between first and second generation Christ followers. The further argument made by some that John the Elder is to be connected with the author of the canonical Fourth Gospel I am not so sure. There has been strong arguments that Papias is aware of the Johannine tradition (e.g. Papias apparent use of 1 John, his millenialism, sectarianism, the list of disciples with John 1:35-51, etc.) (cf. D. Deeks, “Papias Revisited”, Hengel, Die johanneische Frage, Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses), but there have been so many candidates proposed for the “Beloved Disciple” and actually Mark Goodacre makes a good case for the traditional identification with John the son of Zebedee at least at the literary level in this podcast. So what do you think: who is John the Elder and does he have any association with the Johannine tradition?
September 18, 2010
I always find the issue of dating our sources to be so important in reconstructing Christian history – here are some of my past posts on dating and/or authorship issues regarding Acts, Barnabas, 1 Peter, “Secret Mark“, etc. So when do scholars think that Papias wrote his famous five-volume “Interpretation of the Logia of the Lord” (Logiwn Kuriakvn exhghseiV), the fragments of which form the basis for the church tradition regarding the authorship of the Gospels of “Mark” and “Matthew”? Scholars have generally dated this work to some time in the first half of the second century CE. Some of the information that has been used in the past to date Papias’ work, such as the 7th century Paschal Chronicle which recorded his martyrdom around 164 CE (Lightfoot’s Essays 0n Supernatural Religion showed this to be a copyist mistake putting “Papias” instead of “Papylas”) or the remark by the 5th century Phillip of Side (fragment V in Lightfoot and Harmer) that Papias records that those who were raised from the dead by Christ lived until the reign of Hadrian (117-138 CE), may be unreliable. A growing scholarly trend has been to move back the dating of Papias’ work to around 110 CE or earlier (Bartlet, Gundry, Körtner, Schoedel, Yarbrough). Annand has assigned Papias’ work an even earlier date to 80 CE, contending in part that Papias influenced Luke’s prologue (but I am not sure the influence needs to go either way, but both could rely on common rhetorical tropes). Some of the reasons for early dating:
The arguments seem pretty convincing, though there may be counter arguments. Some might question whether Phillip the Side should be judged as so completely unreliable in comparison to Eusebius, or if Papias recognition of the status of Matthew and Mark (and possibly Luke and John, if C.E. Hill is correct) requires a bit later dating than the first decade of the second century, or whether behind Papias’ contrast between the the commandments of the Lord and the truth against those who say many things or who teach “alien commandments” (allotrias entolas) (Eusebius Hist. Eccl. 3.39.3) might be a reference to Marcion (cf. R.P. Martin) or to some variety of Gnostics (cf. Lightfoot) (unless one sees perhaps a reference to Paul or a polemic against some unknown figure(s)?). Where would you date Papias?
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