Home
Authors
Titles
Keyword Search
Reference

Table of Contents

Previous Chapter


Essays on "Supernatural Religion"

by J. B. Lightfoot

 

V. PAPIAS OF HIERAPOLIS.


[AUGUST, 1875.]

Two names stand out prominently in the Churches of proconsular Asia during the age immediately succeeding the Apostles--Polycarp of Smyrna, and Papias of Hierapolis. Having given an account of Polycarp in my last article, I purpose now to examine the notices relating to Papias. These two fathers are closely connected together in the earliest tradition. Papias, writes IrenŠus, was 'a hearer of John and a companion of Polycarp.' [142:1] On the latter point we may frankly accept the evidence of IrenŠus. A pupil of Polycarp, at all events, was not likely to be misinformed here. But to the former part of the statement objections have been raised in ancient and modern times alike; and it will be my business in the course of this investigation to inquire into its credibility. Yet, even if Papias was not a personal disciple of St John, still his age and country place him in more or less close connection with the traditions of this Apostle; and it is this fact which gives importance to his position and teaching.

Papias wrote a work entitled, 'Exposition of Oracles of the Lord,' in five books, of which a few scanty fragments and notices are preserved, chiefly by IrenŠus and Eusebius. The object and contents of this work will be discussed hereafter; but it is necessary to quote at once an extract which Eusebius has preserved from the preface, since our estimate of the date and position of Papias will depend largely on the interpretation of its meaning.

Papias then, addressing (as it would appear) some friend to whom the work was dedicated, explains its plan and purpose as follows [143:1]:--

But I will not scruple also to give a place for you along with my interpretations to everything that I learnt carefully and remembered carefully in time past from the elders, guaranteeing their truth. For, unlike the many, I did not take pleasure in those who have so very much to say ([Greek: tois ta polla legosin]), but in those who teach the truth; nor in those who relate foreign commandments, but in those [who record] such as were given from the Lord to the Faith, and are derived from the Truth itself. And again, on any occasion when a person came [in my way] who had been a follower of the elders ([Greek: ei de pou kai parŕkolouthŕk˘s tis tois presbuterois elthoi]), I would inquire about the discourses of the elders--what was said by Andrew, or by Peter, or by Philip, or by Thomas or James, or by John or Matthew or any other of the Lord's disciples, and what Aristion and the Elder John, the disciples of the Lord, say. For I did not think that I could get so much profit from the contents of books as from the utterances of a living and abiding voice ([Greek: ou gar ta ek t˘n Bibli˘n tosouton me ˘phelein hupelambanon, hoson ta para z˘sŕs ph˘nŕs kai menousŕs]).

This passage is introduced by Eusebius with the remark that, though IrenŠus calls Papias a hearer of John,

Yet Papias himself, in the preface to his discourses, certainly does not declare that he himself was a hearer and eye-witness of the holy Apostles, but he shows, by the language which he uses, that he received the matters of the faith from those who were their friends.

Then follows the extract which I have given; after which Eusebius resumes:--

Here it is important to observe, that he twice mentions the name of John. The former of these he puts in the same list with Peter and James and Matthew and the rest of the Apostles, clearly intending the Evangelist; but the second John he mentions after an interval ([Greek: diasteilas ton logon]), and places among others outside the number of the Apostles, putting Aristion before him, and he distinctly calls him an 'elder;' so that by these facts the account of those is proved to be true who have stated that two persons in Asia had the same name, and that there were two tombs in Ephesus, each of which, even to the present time, bears the name of John.

Then, after speculating on the possibility that this second John was the author of the Apocalypse, he continues:--

Papias avows that he has received the sayings of the Apostles from those who had been their followers ([Greek: t˘n autois parŕkolouthŕkot˘n]), but says that he himself was an immediate hearer of Aristion and the Elder John. Certainly he mentions them many times in his writings, and records their traditions.

The justice of this criticism has been disputed by many recent writers, who maintain that the same John, the son of Zebedee, is meant in both passages. But I cannot myself doubt that Eusebius was right in his interpretation, and I am glad for once to find myself entirely agreed with the author of _Supernatural Religion_. It will be observed that John is the only name mentioned twice, and that at its second occurrence the person bearing it is distinguished as the 'elder' or 'presbyter,' this designation being put in an emphatic position before the proper name. We must therefore accept the distinction between John the Apostle and John the Presbyter, though the concession may not be free from inconvenience, as introducing an element of possible confusion.

But it does not therefore follow that the statement of IrenŠus was incorrect. Though this passage in the preface of Papias lends no support to the belief that he was a personal disciple of John the son of Zebedee, yet it is quite consistent with such a belief. IrenŠus does not state that he derived his knowledge from this preface, or indeed from any part of the work. Having listened again and again to Polycarp while describing the sayings and doings of John the Apostle [144:1], he had other sources of information which were closed to Eusebius. Nor indeed is there any chronological or other difficulty in supposing that he may have derived the fact from direct intercourse with Papias himself. But the possibility still remains that he was guilty of this confusion which Eusebius lays to his charge; and the value of his testimony on this point is seriously diminished thereby.

It will have been noticed that in the above extract Papias professes to derive the traditions of 'the elders,' with which he illustrated his expositions, from two different sources. He refers _first_, to those sayings which he had heard from their own lips, and _secondly_, to those which he had collected at second-hand from their immediate followers. What class of persons he intends to include under the designation of 'elders' he makes clear by the names which follow. The category would include not only Apostles like Andrew and Peter, but also other personal disciples of Christ, such as Aristion and the second John. In other words, the term with him is a synonyme for the Fathers of the Church in the first generation. This meaning is entirely accordant with the usage of the same title elsewhere. Thus IrenŠus employs it to describe the generation to which Papias himself belonged [145:1]. Thus again, in the next age, IrenŠus in turn is so designated by Hippolytus [145:2]. And, when we descend as low as Eusebius, we find him using the term so as to include even writers later than IrenŠus, who nevertheless, from their comparative antiquity, were to him and his generation authorities as regards the traditions and usages of the Church [145:3]. Nor indeed did Papias himself invent this usage. In the Epistle to the Hebrews for instance, we read that 'the elders obtained a good report' [145:4]; where the meaning is defined by the list which follows, including Old Testament worthies from Abel to 'Samuel and the prophets.' Thus this sense of 'elders' in early Christian writers corresponds very nearly to our own usage of 'fathers,' when we speak of the Fathers of the Church, the Fathers of the Reformation, the Pilgrim Fathers, and the like.

Thus employed therefore, the term 'presbyters' or 'elders' denotes not office, but authority and antiquity [146:1]. It is equivalent to 'the ancient' or 'primitive worthies' [146:2]. But at its last occurrence in the extract of Papias, where it is applied to the second John, this is apparently not the case. Here it seems to be an official title, designating a member of the order of the presbyterate. Though modern critics have stumbled over this two-fold sense of the word [Greek: presbuteros] in the same context, it would create no difficulty to the contemporaries of Papias, to whom 'the Presbyter John' must have been a common mode of designation in contradistinction to 'the Apostle John,' and to whom therefore the proper meaning would at once suggest itself. Instances are not wanting elsewhere in which this word is used with two senses, official and non-official, in the same passage [146:3].

Of the elders with whom Papias was personally acquainted, we can only name with certainty Aristion and the Presbyter John; but as regards these Eusebius is explicit. To them the Apostle John may perhaps be added, as we have seen, on the authority of IrenŠus. Beyond these three names we have no authority for extending the list, though there is a possibility that in very early life he may have met with others, more especially Andrew and Philip, who are known to have lived in these parts. But, however this may be, it seems to follow from the words of his preface that his direct intercourse with these elders or personal disciples of the Lord had not been great. It was probably confined to the earlier part of his life, before he had any thought of writing his book; and the information thence derived was in consequence casual and fragmentary. When he set himself to collect traditions for this special purpose, he was dependent on secondary evidence, on the information collected from scholars and followers of these primitive elders.

We are now in a position to investigate the age of Papias; but, as a preliminary to this investigation, it is necessary to say something about the authority for the one definite date which is recorded in connection with him. In my article on Polycarp, I pointed out that recent investigations had pushed the date of this father's martyrdom several years farther back, and that some chronological difficulties attaching to the commonly received date had thus been removed [147:1]. A similar difficulty meets us in the case of Papias; and it disappears in like manner, as I hope to show, before the light of criticism. The _Chronicon Paschale_, which was compiled in the first half of the seventh century [147:2], represents Papias as martyred at Pergamum about the same time when Polycarp suffered at Smyrna, and places the event in the year 164. If this statement were true, we could hardly date his birth before A.D. 80, and even then he would have lived to a very advanced age. But there is a certain difficulty [147:3] in supposing that one born at this late date should have been directly acquainted with so many personal disciples of our Lord. No earlier writer however mentions the date, or even the fact, of the martyrdom--not even Eusebius, who has much to say both about Papias and about the martyrologies of this epoch; and this absence of confirmation renders the statement highly suspicious. I believe that I have traced the error to its source, which indeed is not very far to seek. The juxtaposition of the passage in this Chronicle with the corresponding passage in the History of Eusebius [148:1], will, if I mistake not, tell its own tale.

        CHRONICON PASCHALE.           |        EUSEBIUS.
                                      |
In the 133rd year of the Ascension    | At this time _very severe
of the Lord _very severe persecutions | persecutions having disturbed_
having dismayed_ ([Greek:             | ([Greek: anathorubŕsant˘n])
anasobŕsant˘n]) _Asia_, many were     | _Asia, Polycarp_ is perfected by
_martyred_, among whom _Polycarp_.... | _martyrdom_ ... and in the same
                                      | writing concerning him were
                                      | attached other martyrdoms ...
  *       *       *       *       *   | and next in order ([Greek: hexŕs])
                                      | memoirs of _others_ ([Greek:
                                      | all˘n]) also, who were martyred
and in _Pergamum others_ ([Greek:     | _in Pergamum_, a city of Asia,
heteroi]), among whom was PAPIAS and  | _are extant_ ([Greek: pheretai]),
many others ([Greek: alloi]), whose   | Carpus and PAPYLUS and a woman
martyrdoms _are extant_ ([Greek:      | Agathonice....
pherontai]) also in writing....       |
                                      |
  *       *       *       *       *   |  *       *       *       *       *
                                      |
_Justin_, a philosopher of the        | And at the same time with these
word received among us ([Greek: tou   | ([Greek: kata toutous]) _Justin_,
kath' hŕmas logou]), _having          | also who was mentioned shortly
presented a second book in defence of | before by us, _having presented
the doctrines received among us_ to   | a second book in defence of the
Marcus Aurelius and Antoninus Verus,  | doctrines received among us_ to
the emperors, _is decorated_ not      | the aforementioned rulers, _is
long after _with the divine_ crown of | decorated with divine martyrdom_,
_martyrdom, Crescens_ accusing (?)    | a philosopher _Crescens_ ...
him.                                  | having hatched the plot against
                                      | him, etc.

The sequence of events, and the correspondence of individual phrases, alike show that the compiler of this Chronicle derived his information from the History of Eusebius [148:2]. But either he or his transcriber has substituted a well known name, _Papias_, for a more obscure name, _Papylus_. If the last letters of the word were blurred or blotted in his copy of Eusebius, nothing would be more natural than such a change. It is only necessary to write the two names in uncials, [Greek: PAPIAS PAPYLOS], to judge of its likelihood [149:1]. This explanation indeed is so obvious, when the passages are placed side by side, that one can only feel surprised at its not having been pointed out before. Thus the martyrdom of Papias, with its chronological perplexities (such as they are), disappears from history; and we may dismiss the argument of the author of _Supernatural Religion_, that 'a writer who suffered martyrdom under Marcus Aurelius (c. A.D. 165) can scarcely have been a hearer of the Apostles' [149:2].

Thus we are left to infer the date of Papias entirely from the notices of his friends and contemporaries; but these will assist us to a very fair approximation. (1) He was a hearer of at least two personal disciples of Christ, Aristion and the Presbyter John. If we suppose that they were among the youngest disciples of our Lord, and lived to old age, we shall be doing no violence to probability. Obviously there were in their case exceptional circumstances which rendered intercourse with them possible. If so, they may have been born about A.D. 10 or later, and have died about A.D. 90 or later. In this case their intercourse with Papias may be referred to the years A.D. 85-95, or thereabouts. (2) He was acquainted with the daughters of Philip, who dwelt with their father at Hierapolis, where they died in old age. Whether this Philip was the Apostle, as the earliest writers affirm, or the Evangelist, as others suppose [149:3], is a question of little moment for my immediate purpose--the date of Papias. In the latter case these daughters would be the same who are mentioned at the time of St Paul's last visit to Jerusalem, A.D. 58, apparently as already grown up to womanhood [149:4]. On the former supposition they would belong to the same generation, and probably would be about the same age. As a very rough approximation, we may place their birth about A.D. 30, and their death about A.D. 100-110. (3) Papias is called by IrenŠus a 'companion' of Polycarp, whose life (as we saw) extended from A.D. 69 to A.D. 155 [150:1]. The word admits a certain latitude as regards date, though it suggests something approaching to equality in age. But on the whole the notices affecting his relations to Polycarp suggest that he was rather the older man of the two. At all events Eusebius discusses him immediately after Ignatius and Quadratus and Clement, _i.e._ in connection with the fathers who flourished in the reign of Trajan or before; while the notice of Polycarp is deferred till a much later point in the history, where it occurs in close proximity with Justin Martyr [150:2]. This arrangement indicates at all events that Eusebius had no knowledge of his having been martyred at the same time with Polycarp, or indeed of his surviving to so late a date. Otherwise he would naturally have inserted his account of him in this place. If it is necessary to put the result of these incidental notices in any definite form, we may say that Papias was probably born about A.D. 60-70.

But his work was evidently written at a much later date. He speaks of his personal intercourse with the elders, as a thing of the remote past [150:3]. He did not write till false interpretations of the Evangelical records had had time to increase and multiply. We should probably not be wrong if we deferred its publication till the years A.D. 130-140, or even later. Our author places it at least as late as the middle of the second century [150:4].

The opinions of a Christian writer who lived and wrote at this early date, and had conversed with these first disciples, are not without importance, even though his own mental calibre may have been small. But the speculations of the TŘbingen school have invested them with a fictitious interest. Was he, or was he not, as these critics affirm, a Judaic Christian of strongly Ebionite tendencies? The arguments which have been urged in defence of this position are as follows:--

1. In the first place we are reminded that he was a millennarian. The Chiliastic teaching of his work is the subject of severe comment with Eusebius, who accuses him of misinterpreting figurative sayings in the Apostolic writings and assigning to them a literal sense. This tendency appears also in the one passage which IrenŠus quotes from Papias. But the answer to this is decisive. Chiliasm is the rule, not the exception, with the Christian writers of the second century; and it appears combined with views the very opposite of Ebionite. It is found in Justin Martyr, in IrenŠus, in Tertullian [151:1]. It is found even in the unknown author of the epistle bearing the name of Barnabas [151:2], which is stamped with the most uncompromising and unreasoning antagonism to everything Judaic.

2. A second argument is built on the fact that Eusebius does not mention his quoting St Paul's Epistles or other Pauline writings of the Canon. I have already disposed of this argument in an earlier paper on the 'Silence of Eusebius' [151:3]. I have shown that Papias might have quoted St Paul many times, and by name, while nevertheless Eusebius would not have recorded the fact, because it was not required by his principles or consistent with his practice to do so. I have shown that this interpretation of the silence of Eusebius in other cases, where we are able to test it, would lead to results demonstrably and hopelessly wrong. I have pointed out for instance, that it would most certainly conduct us to the conclusion that the writer of the Ignatian Epistles was an Ebionite--a conclusion diametrically opposed to the known facts of the case [152:1].

3. Lastly, it is argued that Papias was an Ebionite, because he quoted the Gospel according to the Hebrews. In the first place, however, the premiss is highly questionable. Eusebius does not say, as in other cases, that Papias 'uses' this Gospel, or that he 'sets down facts from' it [152:2], but he writes that Papias relates 'a story about a woman accused of many sins before the Lord' (doubtless the same which is found in our copies of St John's Gospel, vii. 53-viii. 11), and he adds 'which the Gospel according to the Hebrews contains' [152:3]. This does not imply that Papias derived it thence, but only that Eusebius found it there. Papias may have obtained it, like the other stories to which Eusebius alludes, 'from oral tradition'([Greek: ek paradose˘s agraphou]). But, even if it were directly derived thence, the conclusion does not follow from the premiss. The Gospel according to the Hebrews is quoted both by Clement of Alexandria and by Origen, though these two fathers accepted our four Gospels alone as canonical [152:4]. It may even be quoted, as Jerome asserts that it is, and as the author himself believes [152:5], by the writer of the Ignatian letters, a most determined anti-Ebionite. If Papias had cited the Gospel according to the Hebrews only once, Eusebius would have mentioned the fact, because he made it his business to record these exceptional phenomena; whereas he would have passed over any number of quotations from the Canonical Gospels in silence.

As all these supposed tokens of Ebionite tendencies have failed, we are led to inquire whether any light is thrown on this question from other quarters.

And here his name is not altogether unimportant. Papias was bishop of Hierapolis, and apparently a native of this place. At all events he seems to have lived there from youth; for his acquaintance with the daughters of Philip, who resided in this city, must have belonged to the earlier period of his life. Now Papias was a designation of the Hierapolitan Zeus [153:1]; and owing to its association with this god, it appears to have been a favourite name with the people of Hierapolis and the neighbourhood. It occurs several times in coins and inscriptions belonging to this city and district [153:2]. In one instance we read of a 'Papias, who is also Diogenes,' this latter name 'Zeus-begotten' being apparently regarded as a rough synonyme for the Phrygian word [153:3]. We find mention also in Galen of a physician belonging to the neighbouring city of Laodicea, who bore this name [153:4]. Altogether it points to a heathen rather than a Jewish origin.

But more important than his name, from which the inference, though probable, is still precarious [153:5], are his friendships and associations. Papias, we are told, was a companion of Polycarp [153:6]. The opinions of Polycarp have been considered in it previous article [153:7]; and it has there been shown that the hypothesis of Ebionite leanings in his case is not only unsupported, but cannot be maintained except by an entire disregard of the evidence, which is of different kinds, and all leads to the opposite conclusion. As regards Papias therefore, it is reasonable to infer, in the absence of direct evidence, that his views were, at all events, in general accordance with his friend's. Moreover, the five books of Papias were read by IrenŠus and by Eusebius, as well as by later writers; and, being occupied in interpretation, they must have contained ample evidence of the author's opinions on the main points which distinguished the Ebionite from the Catholic--the view of the Mosaic law, the estimate of the Apostle Paul, the conception of the person of Christ. It is therefore important to observe that IrenŠus quotes him with the highest respect, as an orthodox writer and a trustworthy channel of Apostolic tradition. Eusebius again, though he is repelled by his millennarianism, calling him 'a man of very mean capacity,' and evidently seeking to disparage him in every way, has yet no charge to bring against him on these most important points of all. And this estimate of him remains to the last. Anastasius of Sinai for instance, who wrote in the latter half of the sixth century, and who is rigidly and scrupulously orthodox, according to the standard of orthodoxy which had been created by five General Councils, had the work of Papias in his hands. He mentions the author by name twice; and on both occasions he uses epithets expressive of the highest admiration. Papias is to him 'the great,' 'the illustrious' [154:1].

But indeed Eusebius has left one direct indication of the opinions of Papias, which is not insignificant. He tells us that Papias 'employed testimonies from the First Epistle of John.' How far this involves a recognition of the Fourth Gospel I shall have to consider hereafter. At present it is sufficient to say that this Epistle belongs to the class of writings in our Canon which is the most directly opposed to Ebionism.

It may be said indeed, that Papias was foolish and credulous. But unhappily foolishness and credulity are not characteristic of any one form of Christian belief--or unbelief either.

The work of Papias, as we saw, was entitled, 'Exposition of Oracles of the Lord,' or (more strictly), 'of Dominical Oracles' [155:1]. But what was its nature and purport? Shall we understand the word 'exposition' to mean 'enarration,' or 'explanation'? Was the author's main object to construct a new Evangelical narrative, or to interpret and explain one or more already in circulation? This is a vital point in its bearing on the relation of Papias to our Canonical Gospels. Our author, ignoring what Dr Westcott and others have said on this subject, tacitly assumes the former alternative without attempting to discuss the question. Yet, if this assumption is wrong, a very substantial part of his argument is gone.

The following passage will illustrate the attitude of the author of _Supernatural Religion_ towards this question:--

This work was less based on written records of the teaching of Jesus than on that which Papias had been able to collect from tradition, which he considered more authentic, for, like his contemporary Hegesippus, Papias avowedly prefers tradition to any written works with which he was acquainted [155:2].

I venture to ask in passing, where our author obtained his information that Hegesippus 'avowedly prefers tradition to any written works with which he was acquainted.' Certainly not from any fragments or notices of this writer which have been hitherto published.

After quoting the extract from the preface of Papias which has been given above, our author resumes:--

It is clear from this that, even if Papias knew any of our Gospels, he attached little or no value to them, and that he knew absolutely nothing of Canonical Scriptures of the New Testament. His work was evidently intended to furnish a more complete collection of the discourses of Jesus from oral tradition than any previously existing, with his own expositions; and this is plainly indicated by his own words, and by the title of his work, [Greek: Logi˘n kuriak˘n exŕgŕsis] [156:1].

'The natural and only reasonable course,' he adds in a note, 'is to believe the express declaration of Papias, more especially as it is made, in this instance, as a prefatory statement of his belief.' He has appealed to CŠsar, and to CŠsar he shall go.

What then is the natural interpretation of the title 'Exposition of Oracles of' (or 'relating to') 'the Lord'? Would any one, without a preconceived theory, imagine that 'exposition' here meant anything else but explanation or interpretation? It is possible indeed, that the original word [Greek: exŕgŕsis] might, in other connections, be used in reference to a narrative, but its common and obvious sense is the same which it bears when adopted into English as 'exegesis.' In other words, it expresses the idea of a commentary on some text. The expression has an exact parallel, for instance, in the language of Eusebius when, speaking of Dionysius of Corinth, he says that this writer introduces into his letter to the Church of Amastris 'expositions of Divine Scriptures' ([Greek: graph˘n thei˘n exŕgŕseis]), or when he says that IrenŠus quotes a certain 'Apostolic elder' and gives his 'expositions of Divine Scriptures' (the same expression as before) [156:2]. It is used more than once in this sense, and it is not used in any other, as we shall see presently, by IrenŠus [156:3]. Moreover Anastasius of Sinai distinctly styles Papias an 'exegete,' meaning thereby, as his context shows, an 'interpreter' of the Holy Scriptures [157:1].

'The title of his work' therefore does not 'indicate' anything of the kind which our author assumes it to indicate [157:2]. It does not suggest a more authentic narrative, but a more correct interpretation of an existing narrative. And the same inference is suggested still more strongly, when from the title we turn to the words of the preface; '_But_ I will not scruple _also_ to give a place _along with my interpretations_ ([Greek: sunkatataxai tais hermŕneiais]) to all that I learnt carefully and remembered carefully in time past from the elders.' Here the sense of 'exegesis' in the title is explained by the use of the unambiguous word 'interpretations.' But this is not the most important point. The interpretations must have been interpretations of something. Of what then? Certainly not of the oral traditions, for the interpretations are presupposed, and the oral traditions are mentioned subsequently, being introduced to illustrate the interpretations. The words which I have italicised leave no doubt about this. The 'also,' which (by the way) our author omits, has no significance otherwise. The expression 'along with the interpretations' is capable only of one meaning. In other words, the only account which can be given of the passage, consistently with logic and grammar, demands the following sequence.--(1) The text, of which something was doubtless said in the preceding passage, for it is assumed in the extract itself. (2) The interpretations which explained the text, and which were the main object of the work. (3) The oral traditions, which, as the language here shows, were subordinate to the interpretations, and which Papias mentions in a slightly apologetic tone. These oral traditions had obviously a strong attraction for Papias; he introduced them frequently to confirm and illustrate his explanations. But only the most violent wresting of language can make them the text or basis of these interpretations [158:1].

A good example of the method thus adopted by Papias and explained in his preface is accidentally preserved by IrenŠus [158:2]. This father is discoursing on the millennial reign of Christ. His starting point is the saying of our Lord at the last supper, 'I will not drink henceforth of the fruit of this vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.' (Matt. xxvi. 29.) He takes the words literally, and argues that they must imply a terrestrial kingdom, since only men of flesh can drink the fruit of the vine. He confirms this view by appealing to two other sayings of Christ recorded in the Gospels--the one the promise of a recompense in the resurrection of the just to those who call the poor and maimed and lame and blind to their feast (Luke xiv. 13, 14); the other the assurance that those who have forsaken houses or lands for Christ's sake shall receive a hundredfold now _in this present time_ (Matt. xix. 29; Mark x. 29, 30; Luke xviii. 30) [158:3], which last expression, he maintains, can only be satisfied by an earthly reign of Christ. He then attempts to show that the promises to the patriarchs also require the same solution, since hitherto they have not been fulfilled. These, he says, evidently refer to the reign of the just in a renewed earth, which shall be blessed with abundance.

As the elders relate, who saw John the disciple of the Lord, that they had heard from him how the Lord used to teach concerning those times, and to say, 'The days will come, in which vines shall grow, each having ten thousand shoots, and on each shoot ten thousand branches, and on each branch again ten thousand twigs, and on each twig ten thousand clusters, and on each cluster ten thousand grapes, and each grape when pressed shall yield five-and-twenty measures of wine. And when any of the saints shall have taken hold of one of their clusters, another shall cry, "I am a better cluster; take me, bless the Lord through me." Likewise also a grain of wheat shall produce ten thousand heads,' etc. These things Papias, who was a hearer of John and a companion of Polycarp, an ancient worthy, witnesseth in writing in the fourth of his books, for there are five books composed by him. And he added, saying, 'But these things are credible to them that believe.' And when Judas the traitor did not believe, and asked, 'How shall such growths be accomplished by the Lord?' he relates that the Lord said, 'They shall see, who shall come to these [times].'

I shall not stop to inquire whether there is any foundation of truth in this story, and, if so, how far it has been transmuted, as it passed through the hands of the elders and of Papias. It is sufficient for my purpose to remark that we here find just the three elements which the preface of Papias would lead us to expect: _first_, the saying or sayings of Christ recorded in the written Gospels: _secondly_, the interpretation of these sayings, which is characteristically millennial; _thirdly_, the illustrative story, derived from oral tradition, which relates 'what John said,' and to which the author 'gives a place along with his interpretation' [159:1].

So far everything seems clear. But if this be so, what becomes of the disparagement of written Gospels, which is confidently asserted by our author and others? When the preface of Papias is thus correctly explained, the 'books' which he esteems so lightly assume quite a different aspect. They are no longer Evangelical records, but works commenting on such records. The contrast is no longer between oral and written Gospels, but between oral and written _aids to interpretation_. Papias judged rightly that any doctrinal statement of Andrew or Peter or John, or any anecdote of the Saviour which could be traced distinctly to their authority, would be far more valuable to elucidate his text than the capricious interpretations which he found in current books. If his critical judgment had corresponded to his intention, the work would have been highly important.

The leading object of Papias therefore was not to substitute a correct narrative for an imperfect and incorrect, but to counteract a false exegesis by a true. But where did he find this false exegesis? The opening passage of IrenŠus supplies the answer. This father describes the Gnostic teachers as 'tampering with the oracles of the Lord ([Greek: ta logia Kuriou]), showing themselves bad expositors of things well said' ([Greek: exŕgŕtai kakoi t˘n kal˘s eirŕmen˘n ginomenoi]) [160:1]. Here we have the very title of Papias' work reproduced. Papias, like IrenŠus after him, undertook, we may suppose, to stem the current of Gnosticism. If, while resisting the false and exaggerated spiritualism of the Gnostics, he fell into the opposite error, so that his Chiliastic doctrine was tainted by a somewhat gross materialism, he only offended in the same way as IrenŠus, though probably to a greater degree. The Gnostic leaders were in some instances no mean thinkers; but they were almost invariably bad exegetes. The Gnostic fragments in IrenŠus and Hippolytus are crowded with false interpretations of Christ's sayings as recorded in the Gospels. Simonians, Ophites, Basilideans, Valentinians, Gnostics of all sects, are represented there, and all sin in the same way. These remains are only the accidental waifs and strays of a Gnostic literature which must have been enormous in extent. As by common consent the work of Papias was written in the later years of his life, a very appreciable portion of this literature must have been in existence when he wrote. More especially the elaborate work of Basilides on 'the Gospel,' in twenty-four books, must have been published some years. Basilides flourished, we are told, during the reign of Hadrian [161:1] (A.D. 117-138). Such a lengthy work would explain the sarcastic allusion in Papias to those 'who have so very much to say' ([Greek: tois ta polla legousin]) [161:2], and who are afterwards described as 'teaching foreign commandments [161:3].' There are excellent reasons for believing this to be the very work from which the fragments quoted by Hippolytus, as from Basilides, are taken [161:4]. These fragments contain false interpretations of passages from St Luke and St John, as well as from several Epistles of St Paul. But, however this may be, the general character of the work appears from the fact that Clement of Alexandria quotes it under the title of 'Exegetics' [161:5]. It is quite possible too, that the writings of Valentinus were in circulation before Papias wrote, and exegesis was a highly important instrument with him and his school. If we once recognize the fact that Papias wrote when Gnosticism was rampant, the drift of his language becomes clear and consistent.

This account of the 'books' which Papias disparages seems to follow from the grammatical interpretation of the earlier part of the sentence. And it alone is free from difficulties. It is quite plain for instance, that Eusebius did not understand our Gospels to be meant thereby; for otherwise he would hardly have quoted this low estimate without expostulation or comment. And again, the hypothesis which identifies these 'books' with written Evangelical records used by Papias charges him with the most stupid perversity. It makes him prefer the second-hand report of what Matthew had said about the Lord's discourses to the account of these discourses which Matthew himself had deliberately set down in writing [162:1]. Such a report might have the highest value outside the written record; but no sane man could prefer a conversation repeated by another to the immediate and direct account of the same events by the person himself. Nor again, is it consistent with the language which Papias himself uses of the one Evangelical document about which (in his extant fragments) he does express an opinion. Of St Mark's record he says that the author 'made no mistake,' and that it was his one anxiety 'not to omit anything that he had heard, or to set down any false statement therein.' Is this the language of one speaking of a book to which 'he attached little or no value'? [163:1]

But, if Papias used written documents as the text for his 'expositions,' can we identify these? To this question his own language elsewhere supplies the answer at least in part. He mentions Evangelical narratives written by Mark and Matthew respectively; and it is therefore the obvious inference that our first two Gospels at all events were used for his work.

An obvious inference, but fiercely contested nevertheless. It has been maintained by many recent critics, that the St Mark of Papias was not our St Mark, nor the St Matthew of Papias our St Matthew; and as the author of _Supernatural Religion_ has adopted this view, some words will be necessary in refutation of it.

The language then, which Papias uses to describe the document written by St Mark, is as follows:--

And the elder said this also: Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately everything that he remembered, without however recording in order what was either said or done by Christ. For neither did he hear the Lord, nor did he follow Him; but afterwards, as I said, [attended] Peter, who adapted His instructions to the needs [of his hearers] but had no design of giving a connected account of the Lord's oracles [_or_ discourses] ([Greek: all' ouch h˘sper suntaxin t˘n kuriak˘n poioumenos logi˘n] _or_ [Greek: l˘gon]). So then Mark made no mistake, while he thus wrote down some things as he remembered them; for he made it his one care not to omit anything that he heard, or to set down any false statement therein.

Eusebius introduces this passage by a statement that it 'refers to Mark, the writer of the Gospel;' and the authority whom Papias here quotes is apparently the Presbyter John, who has been mentioned immediately before.

Now it will be plain, I think, to any reader of common sense, that Papias is giving an account of the circumstances under which the Evangelical narrative in question was composed. There were two phenomena in it which seemed to him to call for explanation. In the first place, it is not a _complete_ narrative. In the second place, the events are not recorded in _strict chronological order_. These two phenomena are explained by St Mark's position and opportunities, which were necessarily limited. His work was composed from reminiscences of St Peter's preaching; and, as this preaching was necessarily fragmentary and adapted to the immediate requirements of his hearers (the preacher having no intention of giving a continuous narrative), the writer could not possess either the materials for a complete account or the knowledge for an accurate chronological arrangement. Papias obviously has before him some other Gospel narrative or narratives, which contained sayings or doings of Christ not recorded by St Mark, and moreover related those which he did record in a different order. For this discrepancy he desires to account. The motive and the treatment have an exact parallel, as I shall show hereafter, in the account of the Gospels given by the author of the Muratorian Canon.

This is the plain and simple inference from the passage; and we have only to ask whether this description corresponds with the phenomena of our St Mark. That it does so correspond, I think, can hardly be denied. As regards _completeness_, it is sufficient to call attention to the fact that any one of our Canonical Gospels records many doings, and above all, many sayings, which are omitted in St Mark. As regards _order_ again, it may, I believe, safely be said that no writer of a 'Life of Christ' finds himself able to preserve the sequence of events exactly as it stands in St Mark. His account does not profess to be strictly chronological. There are indeed chronological links in the narrative here and there; but throughout considerable parts of our Lord's ministry the successive incidents are quite unconnected by notices of time. In short, the Gospel is just what we should expect, if the author had derived his information in the way reported by the Presbyter. But our author objects, that it 'does not depart in any important degree from the order of the other two Synoptics,' and that it 'throughout has the most evident character of orderly arrangement' [165:1]. Persons may differ as to what is important or unimportant; but if the reader will refer to any one of the common harmonies, those of Anger and Tischendorf for instance, he will see that constant transpositions are necessary in one or other of the Synoptic Gospels to bring them into accordance, and will be able to judge for himself how far this statement is true. 'Orderly arrangement' of some sort, no doubt, there is; but it is just such as lay within the reach of a person obtaining his knowledge at second-hand in this way. Our author himself describes it lower down as 'artistic and orderly arrangement.' I shall not quarrel with the phrase, though somewhat exaggerated. Any amount of 'artistic arrangement' is compatible with the notice of Papias, which refers only to historical sequence. 'Artistic arrangement' does not require the direct knowledge of an eye-witness. It will be observed however, that our author speaks of a comparison with 'the order of the other two Synoptics.' But what, if the comparison which Papias had in view was wholly different? What, if he adduced this testimony of the Presbyter to explain how St Mark's Gospel differed not from another Synoptic narrative, but _from St John_? I shall return to this question at a later point in these investigations.

Our author is no stranger to the use of strong words: 'If our present Gospel,' he writes, 'cannot be proved to be the very work referred to by the Presbyter John, as most certainly it cannot, the evidence of Papias becomes fatal to the claims of the second Canonical Gospel' [165:2]. The novelty of the logic in this sentence rivals the boldness of the assumption.

Yet so entirely satisfied is he with the result of his arguments, that he does not consider it 'necessary to account for the manner in which the work to which the Presbyter John referred disappeared, and the present Gospel according to Mark became substituted for it' [166:1]. But others are of a more inquiring turn of mind. They will be haunted with this difficulty, and will not be able thus to shelve the question. They will venture to ask how it is that not any, even the faintest, indication of the existence of this other Mark can be traced in all the remains of Christian antiquity. They will observe too, that if the date which our author himself adopts be correct, IrenŠus was already grown up to manhood when Papias wrote his work. They will remember that IrenŠus received his earliest Christian education from a friend of Papias, and that his great authorities in everything which relates to Christian tradition are the associates and fellow-countrymen of Papias. They will remark that, having the work of Papias in his hands and holding it in high esteem, he nevertheless is so impressed with the conviction that our present four Gospels, and these only, had formed the title-deeds of the Church from the beginning, that he ransacks heaven and earth for analogies to this sacred number. They will perhaps carry their investigations further, and discover that IrenŠus not only possessed our St Mark's Gospel, but possessed it also with its present ending, which, though undoubtedly very early, can hardly have been part of the original work. They will then pass on to the Muratorian author, who probably wrote some years before IrenŠus, and, remembering that IrenŠus represents the combined testimony of Asia Minor and Gaul, they will see that they have here the representative of a different branch of the Church, probably the Roman. Yet the Muratorian writer agrees with IrenŠus in representing our four Gospels, and these only, as the traditional inheritance of the Church; for though the fragment is mutilated at the beginning, so that the names of the first two Evangelists have disappeared, the identity cannot be seriously questioned. They will then extend their horizon to Clement in Alexandria and Tertullian in Africa; and they will find these fathers also possessed by the same belief. Impressed with this convergency of testimony from so many different quarters, they will be utterly at a loss to account for the unanimity of these early witnesses--all sharing in the same delusion, all ignorant that a false Mark has been silently substituted for the true Mark during their own lifetime, and consequently assuming as an indisputable fact that the false Mark was received by the Church from the beginning. And they will end in a revolt against the attempt of our author to impose upon them with his favourite commonplace about the 'thoroughly uncritical character of the fathers.'

Indeed, they will begin altogether to suspect this wholesale denunciation; for they will observe that our author is convicted out of his own context. They will remark how he repels an inconvenient question of Tischendorf by a scornful reference to 'the frivolous character of the _only_ criticism in which they [Eusebius and the other Christian Fathers] _ever_ indulged [167:1].' Yet they will remember at the same time to have read in this very chapter on Papias a highly intelligent criticism of Eusebius, with which this father confronts a statement of IrenŠus, and which our author himself adopts as conclusive [167:2]. They will recall also, in this same context, a reference to a passage in Dionysius of Alexandria, where this 'great Bishop' anticipates by nearly sixteen centuries the criticisms of our own age concerning the differences of style between the Fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse [167:3].

From St Mark we pass to St Matthew. Papias has something to tell us of this Gospel also; but here again we are asked to believe that we have a case of mistaken identity.

After the notice relating to St Mark, Eusebius continues:--

But concerning Matthew, the following statement is made [by Papias]: 'So then Matthew ([Greek: Matthaios men oun]) composed the Oracles in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as he could.'

The assumption that this statement, like the former, was made on the authority of the Presbyter, depends solely on the close proximity in which the two extracts stand in Eusebius. It must therefore be regarded as highly precarious. In Papias' own work the two extracts may have been wide apart. Indeed the opening particles in the second passage prove conclusively that it cannot have followed immediately on the first. Just as the [Greek: h˘s ephŕn] in the extract relating to St Mark showed that it was a fragment torn from its context, so we have the similar evidence of a violent severance here in the words [Greek: men oun]. The ragged edge is apparent in both cases [168:1]. This fact must be borne in mind in any criticisms which the passages suggest.

In this extract then Papias speaks of a state of things in which each man interpreted the original Hebrew for himself. There can have been no authoritative Greek Gospel of St Matthew at that time, if his account be correct. So far his meaning is clear. But it is equally clear that the time which he is here contemplating is not the time when he writes his book, but some earlier epoch. He says not 'interprets,' but 'interpreted.' This past tense 'interpreted,' be it observed, is not the tense of Eusebius reporting Papias, but of Papias himself. Everything depends on this distinction; yet our author deliberately ignores it. He does indeed state the grammatical argument correctly, as given by others:--

Some consider that Papias or the Presbyter use the verb in the past tense, [Greek: hŕrmŕneuse], as contrasting the time when it was necessary for each to interpret as best he could with the period when, from the existence of a recognized translation, it was no longer necessary for them to do so [169:1].

Yet a few lines after, when he comes to comment upon it, he can write as follows:--

The statement [of Papias] is perfectly simple and direct, and it is at least quite clear that it conveys the fact that translation was requisite: and, as each one translated 'as he was able,' that no recognized translation existed to which all might have recourse. There is absolutely not a syllable which warrants the conclusion that Papias was acquainted with an authentic Greek version, although it is possible that he may have known of the existence of some Greek translations of no authority. The words used, however, imply that, if he did, he had no respect for any of them [169:2].

Our author has here imposed upon himself by a grammatical trick. Hard pressed by the argument, he has covered his retreat under an ambiguous use of tenses. The words 'each one translated as he was able' are perfectly clear in the direct language of Papias; but adopted without alteration into the oblique statement of our author, they are altogether obscure. 'Translation _was_ requisite.' Yes, but at what time? The fact is that no careful reader can avoid asking why Papias writes 'interpreted,' and not 'interprets.' The natural answer is that the necessity of which he speaks had already passed away. In other words, it implies the existence of a recognized Greek translation, _when Papias wrote_. Whence our author got his information that Papias 'had no respect for' any such translation, it is difficult to say. Certainly not from 'the words used'; for Papias says nothing about it, and we only infer its existence from the suppressed contrast implied in the past tense.

But, if a Greek St Matthew existed in the time of Papias, we are forbidden by all considerations of historical probability to suppose that it was any other than our St Matthew. As in the case of St Mark, so here the contrary hypothesis is weighted with an accumulation of improbabilities. The argument used there might be repeated _totidem verbis_ here. It was enough that we were asked to accept the theory of a mistaken identity once; but the same demand is renewed again. And the improbability of this double mistake is very far greater than the sum of the improbabilities in the two several cases, great as this sum would be.

The testimony of Papias therefore may be accepted as valid so far as regards the recognition of our St Matthew in his own age. But it does not follow that his account of the origin was correct. It may or may not have been. This is just what we cannot decide, because we do not know exactly what he said. It cannot be inferred with any certainty from this fragmentary excerpt of Eusebius, what Papias supposed to be the exact relation of the Greek Gospel of St Matthew which he had before him to the Hebrew document of which he speaks. Our author indeed says that our First Gospel bears all the marks of an original, and cannot have been translated from the Hebrew at all. This, I venture to think, is far more than the facts will sustain. If he had said that it is not a homogeneous Greek version of a homogeneous Hebrew original, this would have been nearer to the truth. But we do not know that Papias said this. He may have expressed himself in language quite consistent with the phenomena. Or on the other hand he may, as Hilgenfeld supposes, have made the mistake which some later fathers made, of thinking that the Gospel according to the Hebrews was the original of our St Matthew. In the absence of adequate data it is quite vain to conjecture. But meanwhile we are not warranted in drawing any conclusion unfavourable either to the accuracy of Papias or to the identity of the document itself.

Our author however maintains that the Hebrew St Matthew of which Papias speaks was not a Gospel at all--_i.e._ not a narrative of our Lord's life and ministry--but a mere collection of discourses or sayings. It is urged that the expression, 'Matthew compiled the oracles' ([Greek: xunegrapsato ta logia]), requires this interpretation. If this explanation were correct, the notice would suggest that Papias looked upon the Greek Gospel as not merely a translation, but an enlargement, of the original document. In this case it would be vain to speculate how or when or by whom he supposed it to be made; for either he did not give this information, or (if he did) Eusebius has withheld it. This hypothesis was first started, I believe, by Schleiermacher, and has found favour with not a few critics of opposite schools. Attempts have been made from time to time to restore this supposed document by disengaging those portions of our First Gospel, which would correspond to this idea, from their historical setting. The theory is not without its attractions: it promises a solution of some difficulties; but hitherto it has not yielded any results which would justify its acceptance.

Our author speaks of those critics who reject it as 'in very many cases largely influenced by the desire to see in these [Greek: logia] our actual Gospel according to St Matthew' [171:1]. This is true in the same sense in which it is true that those who take opposite views are largely influenced in very many cases by the opposite desire. But such language is only calculated to mislead. By no one is the theory of a collection of discourses more strongly denounced than by Bleek [171:2], who apparently considers that Papias did not here refer to a Greek Gospel at all. 'There is nothing,' he writes, 'in the manner in which Papias expresses himself to justify this supposition; he would certainly have expressed himself as he does, if he meant an historical work like our New Testament Gospels, if he were referring to a writing whose contents were those of our Greek Gospel according to Matthew.' Equally decided too is the language of Hilgenfeld [171:3], who certainly would not be swayed by any bias in this direction.

Indeed this theory is encumbered with the most serious difficulties. In the first place, there is no notice or trace elsewhere of any such 'collection of discourses.' In the next place, all other early writers from PantŠnus and IrenŠus onwards, who allude to the subject, speak of St Matthew as writing a Gospel, not a mere collection of sayings, in Hebrew. If they derived their information in every case from Papias, it is clear that they found no difficulty in interpreting his language so as to include a narrative: if they did not (as seems more probable, and as our author himself holds [172:1]), then their testimony is all the more important, as of independent witnesses to the existence of a Hebrew St Matthew, which was a narrative, and not a mere collection of discourses.

Nor indeed does the expression itself drive us to any such hypothesis. Hilgenfeld, while applying it to our First Gospel, explains it on grounds which at all events are perfectly tenable. He supposes that Papias mentions only the _sayings_ of Christ, not because St Matthew recorded nothing else, but because he himself was concerned only with these, and St Matthew's Gospel, as distinguished from St Mark's, was the great storehouse of materials for his purpose [172:2]. I do not however think that this is the right explanation. It supposes that only [Greek: logoi] ('discourses' or 'sayings') could be called [Greek: logia] ('oracles'); but usage does not warrant this restriction. Thus we are expressly told that the Scriptures recognized by Ephraem, Patriarch of Antioch (about A.D. 525-545), consisted of 'the Old Testament and the Oracles of the Lord ([Greek: ta kuriaka logia]) and the Preachings of the Apostles' [172:3]. Here we have the very same expression which occurs in Papias; and it is obviously employed as a synonyme for the Gospels. Our author does not mention this close parallel, but he alleges that 'however much the signification [of the expression 'the oracles,' [Greek: ta logia]] became afterwards extended, it was not then at all applied to doings as well as sayings'; and again, that 'there is no linguistic precedent for straining the expression, used at that period, to mean anything beyond a collection of sayings of Jesus which were oracular or divine [173:1].' This objection, if it has any force, must involve one or both of these two assumptions; _first_, that books which were regarded as Scripture could not at this early date be called oracles, unless they were occupied entirely with divine sayings; _secondly_, that the Gospel of St Matthew in particular could not at this time be regarded as Scripture. Both assumptions alike are contradicted by facts.

The first is refuted by a large number of examples. St Paul, for instance, describes it as the special privilege of the Jews, that they had the keeping of the 'oracles of God' (Rom. iii. 2). Can we suppose that he meant anything else but the Old Testament Scriptures by this expression? Is it possible that he would exclude the books of Genesis, of Joshua, of Samuel and Kings, or only include such fragments of them as professed to give the direct sayings of God? Would he, or would he not, comprise under the term the account of the creation and fall (1 Cor. xi. 8 sq), of the wanderings in the wilderness (1 Cor. x. 1 sq), of Sarah and Hagar (Gal. iv. 21 sq)? Does not the main part of his argument in the very next chapter (Rom. iv.) depend much more on the narrative of God's dealings than of His words? Again, when the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews refers to 'the first principles of the oracles of God' (v. 12), his meaning is explained by his practice; for he elicits the divine teaching quite as much from the history as from the direct precepts of the Old Testament. But, if the language of the New Testament writers leaves any loophole for doubt, this is not the case with their contemporary Philo. In one place he speaks of the words in Deut. x. 9, 'The Lord God is his inheritance,' as an 'oracle' ([Greek: logion]); in another he quotes as an 'oracle' ([Greek: logion]) the _narrative_ in Gen. iv. 15, 'The Lord God set a mark upon Cain, lest anyone finding him should kill him' [174:1]. From this and other passages it is clear that with Philo an 'oracle' is a synonyme for a 'scripture.' Similarly Clement of Rome writes, 'Ye know well the sacred Scriptures, and have studied the oracles of God,' [174:2] and immediately he recalls to their mind the account in Deut. ix. 12 sq, Exod. xxxii. 7 sq, of which the point is not any divine precept or prediction, but _the example of Moses_. A few years later Polycarp speaks in condemnation of those who 'pervert the oracles of the Lord.' [174:3] How much he included under this expression, we cannot say, but it must be observed that he does not write [Greek: ta kuriaka logia] 'the Dominical oracles,' or [Greek: ta logia] 'the oracles' simply--the two expressions which occur in Papias--but [Greek: ta logia tou Kuriou], 'the oracles of the Lord,' which form of words would more directly suggest the Lord as the speaker. Again IrenŠus, denouncing the interpretations of the Scriptures current among the Gnostics, uses the very expression of Papias, [Greek: ta kuriaka logia] [174:4]; and though he does not define his exact meaning, yet as the 'oracles of God' are mentioned immediately afterwards, and as the first instance of such false interpretation which he gives is not a saying, but an incident in the Gospels--the healing of the ruler's daughter--we may infer that he had no idea of restricting the term to sayings of Christ. Again when we turn to Clement of Alexandria, we find that the Scriptures in one passage are called 'the oracles of truth,' while in another among the good deeds attributed to Ezra is the 'discovery and restoration of the inspired oracles' [174:5]. Similarly Origen speaks of the teachings of the Scripture as 'the oracles,' 'the oracles of God' [175:1]. In the context of the latter of the two passages to which I refer, he has clearly stated that he is contemplating the histories, the law, and the prophets alike. So too St Basil uses 'sacred' (or divine) 'oracles', 'oracles of the Spirit,' [175:2] as synonymes for the Scriptures. And this catena of passages might be largely extended.

This wide sense of the word 'oracles' therefore in itself is fully substantiated by examples both before and after the time of Papias. But our author objects that it is not consistent with the usage of Papias himself elsewhere. The examples alleged however fail to prove this. If Papias entitled his work 'Exposition of Oracles of the Lord,' or rather 'of Dominical Oracles,' there is nothing to show that he did not include narrative portions of the Gospels, as well as discourses; though from the nature of the case the latter would occupy the chief place. On the contrary, it is certain from the extant notices that he dealt largely with incidents. And this he would naturally do. By false allegory and in other ways Gnostic teachers misinterpreted the facts, not less than the sayings, of the Gospels; and Papias would be anxious to supply the corrective in the one case as in the other. The second example of its use in Papias certainly does not favour our author's view. This father, as we have seen [175:3], describes St Mark as not writing down 'in order the things said or done by Christ' ([Greek: ou mentoi taxei ta hupo tou Christou ŕ lechthenta ŕ prachthenta]). This, he states, was not within the Evangelist's power, because he was not a personal disciple of our Lord, but obtained his information from the preaching of Peter, who consulted the immediate needs of his hearers and had 'no intention of giving a consecutive record of the Dominical oracles' ([Greek: ouch h˘sper suntaxin t˘n kuriak˘n poioumenos logi˘n]). Here the obvious inference is that [Greek: ta kuriaka logia] in the second clause is equivalent to [Greek: ta hupo tou Christou ŕ lechthenta ŕ prachthenta] the first, just as the [Greek: suntaxin] in the second clause corresponds to the [Greek: taxei] in the first. Our author however, following the lead of those who adopt the same interpretation of 'the oracles,' explains it differently [176:1].

There is an evident contrast made. Mark wrote [Greek: ŕ lechthenta ŕ prachthenta], because he had not the means of writing discourses, but Matthew composed the [Greek: logia]. Papias clearly distinguishes the work of Mark, who had written reminiscences of what Jesus had said and done, from that of Matthew, who had made a collection of his discourses [176:2].

This interpretation depends altogether on the assumption that the extracts relating to St Mark and St Matthew belonged to the same context; but this is only an assumption. Moreover it introduces into the extract relating to St Mark a contrast which is not only not suggested by the language, but is opposed to the order of the words. The leading idea in this extract is the absence of strict historical sequence in St Mark's narrative. Accordingly the emphatic word in the clause in question is [Greek: suntaxin], which picks up the previous [Greek: taxei], and itself occupies the prominent position in its own clause. If our author's interpretation were correct, the main idea would be a contrast between a work relating deeds as well as sayings, and a work relating sayings only; and [Greek: logi˘n], as bringing out this idea, would demand the most emphatic place ([Greek: ouch h˘sper t˘n logi˘n suntaxin poioumenos]); whereas in its present position it is entirely subordinated to other words in the clause.

The examples quoted above show that 'the oracles' ([Greek: ta logia]) can be used as co-extensive with 'the Scriptures' ([Greek: hai graphai]) in the time of Papias. Hence it follows that 'the Dominical Oracles' ([Greek: ta kuriaka logia]) can have as wide a meaning as 'the Dominical Scriptures' (_Dominicae Scripturae_, [Greek: ai kuriakai graphai])--an expression occurring in IrenŠus and in Dionysius of Corinth [177:1]--or, in other words, that the Gospels may be so called. If any difficulty therefore remains, it must lie in the _second_ of the two assumptions which I mentioned above--namely, that no Evangelical record could at this early date be invested with the authority implied by the use of this term, or (in other words) could be regarded as Scripture. This assumption again is contradicted by facts. The Gospel of St Matthew is twice quoted in the Epistle of Barnabas, and in the first passage the quotation is introduced by the common formula of Scriptural reference--'as it is written' [177:2]. To what contortions our author puts his argument, when dealing with that epistle, in the vain attempt to escape the grip of hard fact, I shall have occasion to show when the proper time comes [177:3]. At present it is sufficient to say that the only ground for refusing to accept St Matthew as the source of these two quotations, which are found there, is the assumption that St Matthew could not at this early date be regarded as 'Scripture.' In other words, it is a _petitio principii_. But the Epistle ascribed to Barnabas, on any showing, was written before the date which our author himself assigns to the Exposition of Papias. Some place it as early as A.D. 70, or thereabouts; some as late as A.D. 120; the majority incline to the later years of the first, or the very beginning of the second century. If therefore this Gospel could be quoted as Scripture in Barnabas, it could _Ó fortiori_ be described as 'oracles' when Papias wrote.

 


The Anglican Library, This HTML edition copyright ©2001.

Next Chapter

Table of Contents

Home
Authors
Titles
Keyword Search
Reference