In this thread I have been discussing documents known from early Christianity that no longer exist and that I very much wish would be discovered.  So far I have talked about the lost letters of Paul, the writings of Paul’s opponents, Q (the source used by Matthew and Luke for many of their sayings of Jesus), and the Signs Source (a collection of Jesus miraculous activities used by the Gospel of John).   With this post I move outside the New Testament to indicate documents that certainly at one time existed that I wish we still had.   One such document was a five-volume book produced by a church father named Papias.

We don’t have this long book any longer.   In fact we don’t have any of the writings from Papias.  We know about him, and his writings, only because later church fathers refer to him.  He is first mentioned in the writings of Irenaeus, the bishop of Gaul and himself the author of a long five-volume work that attacked heretics (especially Gnostics).  Irenaeus’s book is known today as Against Heresies, and it was written around 180 CE.  It is clear from Irenaeus’s reference that Papias was an important figure in the earlier part of the second century (Against Heresies, 5.33.4)

Papias and his writings are referred to at greater length in the Church History of Eusebius (from the early part of the fourth century).  Still later sources also mention Papias, say clearly legendary things about him, and allegedly quote from his book.   In these later traditions Papias is sometimes said to have been a disciple of John, the son of Zebedee.  Even later legends indicate that he in fact was John’s personal secretary, to whom he dictated his Gospel.   But no one on the planet really thinks that is true.  Or at least no one that I’ve ever heard of.

What we learn from the more reliable non-legendary references to Papias is…

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