I have discussed Papias a number of times on the blog in the past, but have not given any substantial time to him in a about a year and a half. He is an important figure for historians of early Christianity, because, as I pointed out in my previous post, he was a proto-orthodox author from the first part of the second century. More than anything, conservative biblical scholars have latched on to Papias because in their opinion he provides direct evidence that the Gospel of Matthew really was written by Matthew, and the Gospel of Mark was really written by Mark. I’ll be dealing with the evidence from Papias on both matters in subsequent posts. What is even more remarkable is that some conservative scholars have actually argued that Papias gives us evidence about Luke and John, even though in none of the surviving fragments does Papias so much as *mention* Luke and John!! Scholars can be amazingly inventive sometimes…..
Before discussng what Papias says about the two Gospel-writers that do get mentioned in the surviving fragments, I need to explain why it is that his witness is often taken to be so important. The first reason is that he is writing so early in the tradition. Scholars debate when his writings were produced, but usually they are dated between 110-140. Some scholars (conservative evangelicals, for the most part) date him much earlier (that dating makes him more convenient for their purposes); no one really dates him much later. But suppose his Expositions of the Sayings of the Lord were written in, say 120 or 130. This would be the earliest commentary on Jesus’ sayings. That would be significant. Especially if we actually had the book.
But the other reason that his witness is taken to be important is because he himself, in one of his fragments, indicates that he had a direct line of transmission back to the apostles of Jesus, so that his claims about who they were and what they did are highly authorized by someone who would know.
This is what he says:
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