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Wine Flowing in the Kingdom: Guest Post on Papias by Stephen Carlson

Here is yet another guest post by Stephen Carlson on the intriguing but puzzling quotations from Papias, the elusive second century church father who wrote a five-volume book called “Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord.”   What was this book, and does it give us any information from outside the Gospels – from an extremely early source – about the sayings of Jesus?

In this post Stephen addresses one of the most, well, unusual passages known to be from Papias’s work.  As you’ll see, in this account Jesus thought that in the millennial kingdom yet to come, the wine will be flowing….

I have broken the post into two because of its length.  Part 2 will come next.

Stephen Carlson is the author of The Gospel Hoax and The Text of Galatians and Its History.


The Fertility Tradition in Papias

In our last post, we looked at the preface of Papias’s Exposition of Dominical Oracles, and noticed that it mentions two kinds of content in the work. One kind of content is characterized by the term “interpretations,” which Eusebius does not further explain. Since this term semantically overlaps the title of his work, however, it suggests these interpretations are explanations or expositions of the “dominical oracles.” The other kind of content in Papias’s work are oral traditions, which he claims to have carefully committed and kept in memory, most of which are attributed to two fairly obscure figures, Aristion and the elder John. In this post, we will look at the most substantial fragment from Papias’s work and explore how it corresponds to the these two types of content.

This fragment is earliest named citation of Papias to have survived, and it was preserved by the late second-century Biblical theologian Irenaeus of Lyons. This bishop wrote …

I’m afraid you won’t be able to see what Papias says about the massive fertility of the earth (and the wine!) without being a member of the blog.  So why not join?  It won’t cost much, and all proceeds go to charity!

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What Kind of Book Was Papias Writing? Guest Post by Stephen Carlson
Paul in Hell. The Apocryphal Apocalypse of Paul.



  1. Avatar
    Hngerhman  May 8, 2019

    Dr Carlson –

    Just confirming: Iraneaus thinks Papias heard “John” (as Papias himself attests), who Iranaeus thinks was John son of Zebedee but Eusebius (and you) think is John the Presbyter, based on the double mention, the separate grouping and the differing qualifier. Correct? I’m trying to keep my mental flow chart straight…


    • Avatar
      Stephen Carlson  May 11, 2019

      Yeah, it’s very confusing and it turns out that it is surprisingly difficult to pin down whether Irenaeus thinks this “John the disciple of the Lord” is the son of Zebedee or not. It’s just not how Irenaeus thinks about him. He’s aware of a John who has James for a brother, and he one implies that they are apostles. And early in Book 1, he implies that John the evangelist is an apostle. But is the link connecting these two John through the term “apostle” strong enough? I’m not so sure. Irenaeus has a functional sense of “apostle,” not limited to the 12, such that John the Baptist even qualifies! (cf. AH 3.11.4 John the Baptist is both a prophet and an apostle).

      In sum, Irenaeus thinks John the evangelist and John the seer of Revelation are the same person and this John is “the disciple of the Lord.” Unfortunately for us, Irenaeus is probably wrong to identify them. Papias mentions two Johns in his preface and calls them both “disciples of the Lord.” Nevertheless, he probably never says anything more about the first John. On top of that, I can’t find any good reason that Papias knew of the Gospel of John.

  2. Avatar
    Omar Osama  May 8, 2019

    do you think the writers who lied in their books
    lied about saying the christ is the god
    and he is in real a prophert

  3. Avatar
    Poeticjazztice  May 8, 2019

    Hi Stephen. Thanks for sharing this. Have you any information on Montanist “dominical oracles”?


    • Avatar
      Stephen Carlson  May 11, 2019

      There’s a book by Ronald E. Heine, The Montanist Oracles and Testimonia, which lists those that have survived. These appears to be short statements by Montanus (and his colleague) while in an altered state of consciousness. In other words, “oracles” in the pagan sense.

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    AstaKask  May 8, 2019

    Matt 19:29 seems to suggest that anyone who abandons his wife for Jesus’s sake will get a hundred wives after the resurrection. 🙂

    • Avatar
      Bewilderbeast  May 10, 2019

      Seems appropriate punishment – those good women will make him rue the day . .

    • Avatar
      Stephen Carlson  May 11, 2019

      When the third-century theologian Origen talks about the “more simple” Christians like Irenaeus (and Papias) who believe this, it is this suggestion that seems really offensive to him.

    • Avatar
      Pattylt  May 12, 2019

      Or, a hundred brothers and sisters! Who wants that, though…😂

  5. fefferdan
    fefferdan  May 8, 2019

    Thanks, Dr. Carlson, for this intriguing post. I’m reminded of Jacob’s blessing on Joseph in Gen. 49
    the Almighty… will bless you
    with blessings of heaven above,
    blessings of the deep that lies beneath,
    blessings of the breasts and of the womb.

    For me your post also raises a question as to what Jesus’ teachings might have been regard to human fertility. How does one correlate your quote with other pro-fertility quotes such as “what God has joined together let no man tear asunder” verses anti-fertility quotes such as “in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage,” and the idea of eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven? If the vines germinate profusely in the World to Come, why not people?

    • Avatar
      Stephen Carlson  May 11, 2019

      This idea is actually explicit in the sixth-century Stephen Gobarus who characterizes the contrasting eschatological views as follows: “That, first, the righteous will be raised, and with them all the living things, and for a thousand years they will flourish, eating and drinking and bearing children, and after this the general resurrection will happen; and on the contrary, that there is no pre-resurrection of the righteous, nor a thousand years of flourishing nor marriage.”

  6. Avatar
    doug  May 8, 2019

    I wonder how many of Jesus’ first century followers and disciples believed that the Kingdom of God on Earth would not come until at least the 21st century?

  7. Avatar
    Bewilderbeast  May 8, 2019

    Hallelujah! Sign me up! I’m getting genuine religious feelings here! Why doesn’t this good religion have a TV channel!?
    Meantime, I’ve stepped up my intake. That wine lake is gonna need attention . .

  8. NulliusInVerba
    NulliusInVerba  May 8, 2019

    Thank you once again, Dr. Carlson, for your insightful guest post.

  9. Avatar
    fishician  May 8, 2019

    I think I made a similar comment on a previous post, but I find it interesting that someone says that so-and-so said that Jesus said such-and-such, and then someone quotes part of that and puts their own spin on it, and of course, there’s no way to know if they are quoting it accurately or completely, and ergo – Christian doctrine! Religion is a curious thing.

  10. Robert
    Robert  May 8, 2019

    “… If the fertility tradition is meant to supplement an interpretation. …”

    Isn’t it much more likely that the ‘interpretations’ were meant to supplement the λόγια (whether written [by Matthew Papias presumed] or oral tradition from the elders or a combination of both), rather than the λόγια supplementing the interpretations?

    – Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher redivivus.

  11. Avatar
    Eric  May 8, 2019

    Sounds like Paradise to me!

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    Joel Smith  May 8, 2019

    Regarding the gospel of Mark, Papias (in about 100 AD) cites John the Elder:
    The Elder used to say: Mark, in his capacity as Peter’s interpreter, wrote down accurately as many things as he recalled from memory—though not in an ordered form—of the things either said or done by the Lord. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied him…

    Papias on how the gospel of Matthew was written:
    Therefore Matthew put the logia in an ordered arrangement in the Hebrew language, but each person interpreted them as best he could.

    If the Gospels were anonymous until about 200 AD, how could Papias reference them in 100 AD?

    • Avatar
      Stephen Carlson  May 11, 2019

      That’s Martin Hengel’s argument. But if you look closely, Papias is talking about the writings of Mark and Matthew and doesn’t explicit state that they are gospels. In fact, I don’t even think this writing of Matthew that Papias had in mind was the Gospel. More on that in a future post.

      • Avatar
        Hngerhman  May 11, 2019

        Dr Carlson – Can’t wait for that post.

        In the interim, is it weird that, if one throws away the names of the authors Papias puts forward which are associated with our two gospels, the description of the unordered vignettes of Jesus fits decently with Q (which our Matthew employs in one order, and Luke reorders), while the ordered vignettes with a semitic flare fits decently with our Mark (ordered, with Aramaic undertones)? The descriptions proffered by Papias of the two written works, if forced to be matched to only our two gospels with those same names, seemingly best correspond to the reverse order of the names proffered by Papias as the authors. At least to this layman…

        • Avatar
          Stephen Carlson  May 14, 2019

          That’s basically Schleiermacher’s inspiration for his form of the Mark / Q theory way back in the 1830s.

          • Avatar
            Hngerhman  May 14, 2019

            Ha. Thanks!

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