One of the oldest INVESTIGATIVE REPORTS on the Gospels

by Terry 7 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Terry

    [Reference: Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament by G. R. Driver and the Introduction to the Literature of the New Testament by James Moffatt. These books are over a hundred years old but they should be required reading for ANYONE interested in this subject.]


    If you had lived in the time of the living Apostles of Jesus would you have personally investigated stories about

    him? Or, would you simply read whatever was written instead?

    There was a man named Papias who made that decision for himself.

    He interviewed the Apostles and eye-witnesses while they yet lived and shunned the written word.

    He searched for the real story, the true story.

    I would like to introduce him to you and tell you of his fate and explain why you have probably NEVER EVEN HAVE HEARD OF HIM!

    His name was Papias.

    Papias was born around the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans or shortly thereafter. He lived in the same century as Jesus and his apostles. He was the sort of man who wants to go to the source rather than rely on hearsay, as others did.

    Travelers from outside of his birthplace (Turkey) had brought wonder stories of miracles, teachings and writings about Jesus and his followers which changed Papias into a man driven to investigate how much might be true and learn the details.

    He collected sayings, writings and listened to stories before setting out on his own to find as many as were still alive to personally interview those who might tell him all that could be known for certain.

    Listen now as Papias tell you what he did in his own words:

    “…I formerly learned with care from the (elders) and have carefully stored (what I learned) in memory, giving assurance of its truth… And also if any follower of the presbyters happened to come, I would inquire for the sayings of the presbyters, what said, Andrew or what Peter said, or what Philip or what Thomas or James or what James or Matthew or any other of the Lord's disciples, and for the things which other of the Lord's disciples, and for the things which Aristion and the Presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, were saying. For I considered that I should not get so much advantage from matter in books as from the voice which yet lives and remains…”

    Like a modern investigative reporter from 60 Minutes, Papias sought out first-generation apostles and disciples of Jesus, and sometimes other elders who were hearers of the apostles.

    Contemporary scholars such as Helmut Koester consider him to be the earliest surviving written witness of this tradition (Koester, 1990 pp. 32f) Papias also seems to have collected stories regarding the earliest history of the church after Jesus' death.

    What an astonishingly significant find! Surely, the writings of Papias must be second in importance only to the bible itself, right?

    Get ready to be shocked……..Wrong!

    Like the original autograph manuscripts of actual bible writers, so too, Papias’ writings were NOT PRESERVED. They exist only in quotations by other early church fathers!

    The Roman Emperor Constantine had his own official biographer, Eusebius, whose Ecclesiatical history is the go-to book for church history by mainstream Christianity.

    Remember, it is the Catholic doctrine which shaped modern understanding of the bible, the apostles and what is orthodox!

    Eusebius did not like what Papias had written. Not at all!


    Eusebius did not agree with what Papias had written and sought to use ad hominem to destroy his reputation, to minimize him as a thinker and perhaps even eliminate the writings by burning them. We may never know for certain.

    Eusebius defamed Papias this way:

    “Papias is a man of small mental capacity who mistook the figurative language of apostolic traditions

    Why the cutting remarks? Eusebius did not believe in a Millennial reign by Christ upon the earth that would usher in a paradise. So, Eusebius bad-mouthed him when Papias quoted the followers of Jesus as having taught this very thing.

    Eusebius says:

    Among which he says that there will be a period of some ten thousand years after the resurrection, and that the
    kingdom of Christ will be set up in material form on this earth. These ideas I suppose he got through a
    misunderstanding of the apostolic accounts, not perceiving that the things recorded there in figures were spoken by
    them mystically.

    Fortunately, Eusebius quoted some of Papias’ writings and we can stitch together what he said about certain things, such as:

    “Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements. Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could.

    What an insight we’d not have known about were it not for Papias!

    What we now call the bible might not be much of anything like writings seen, touched, and experienced by Papias! Eusebius was in a unique position to eliminate anything he Felt would undermine the work of his Council of Nicea (convened to create a single orthodoxy)

    There is question whether the documents which Papias knew as the Gospels of Matthew and Mark are even the same ones that we have today!

    Papias may well have seen the ORIGINALS, the uncorrupted texts written by the authors themselves! Papias may have written down what they actually said.

    Matthew is a narrative, rather than a sayings gospel with commentary, and some scholars reject the thesis that it was originally written in Hebrew at all!

    Papias also related a number of traditions that Eusebius had characterized as "some strange parables and teachings of the savior, and some other more mythical accounts.”

    The nerve! If you don’t like it—discredit it. Thanks to Eusebius.

    Papias also related a tradition on the death of Judas Iscariot, in which Judas became so swollen (Obese, fat, over weight) he could not pass where a chariot could easily and was crushed by a chariot, so that his bowels gushed out.

    No known fact is inconsistent with c. 60-135 as the period of Papias's life. Eusebius (3.36) calls him "bishop" of Hierapolis (in Turkey).

    It has even been written that Papias might have been the very scribe used by the Apostle John in his own writings!

    "The Gospel of John was made known and given to the Churches by John, while he yet remained in the body; as (one) Papias by name, of Hierapolis, a beloved disciple of John, has related in his five exoteric (exegetical?) books; but he wrote down the Gospel at the dictation of John, correctly" (Codex Alexandrinus 14).

    What, if anything, can we know for certain about Jesus if all original writings about him were systematically eliminated by men in power (such as Eusebius) who had their own agenda to put forward?

    Eusebius was a powerful man having the confidence and the ear of the Roman Christian emperor Constantine. Yet, he may have been alone in considering Papias to be weak minded and confused.

    For he evidently was a man of very mean capacity, as one may say judging from his own statements: yet it was owing to him that so many church fathers after him adopted a like opinion, urging in their own support the antiquity of the man, as for instance Irenaeus and whoever else they were who declared that they held like views.

    What can be learned from Papias?

    1. Honest investigators of the truth about Jesus, his teachings and his followers met with strong opposition by the very men who canonized scripture!
    2. Disagreement between early church fathers was rampant.

    3. Nothing original has been preserved beyond fragmentary quotations.

    Jehovah's Witness have built a massive and tedious theology around what they call "inerrant scripture".

    But, historically, no uncorrupt autograph manuscripts have been allowed to survive. Even interviews and quotations by honesty investigators have been suppressed by the early church.

    Isn't it time we acknowledge that the Christian religion today is a massive compilation of opinion, interpretation and "official" storytelling which cannot

    proof text any orthodoxy at all?

    Investigate for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

    **Papias was also disliked because he stood in the way of the tradition that John the son of Zebedee wrote the gospel of John. The John of Ephesus that he personally knew was not John the disciple of the Lord, as he distinguished John the "elder" from John the apostle. Moreover, he reported the tradition that the two sons of Zebedee died early in Jerusalem (the gospel of Mark appears to imply similarly that the two sons would be martyred in ch. 10, and Mark was likely written in the late 60s).

  • truthseeker

    Excellent read!

  • Shanagirl

    I've done some reading on Papias and the early Christian apocrypha. It was just so much reading and I never did quite get into it.


  • Terry

    In the almost 20 years spent (wasted) with the Jehovah's Witness "educational" (indoctrination) program I never got a clear sense

    of exactly who the EARLY CHURCH FATHERS were. Now, I grant you--it was mentioned in the Society's books and magazines in a coy sort of way.

    But--like most things referenced in WTS writings--taking things out of context is the name of their game.

    So many early Christians were competing with each other; contesting, arguing, debating; villifying one another---A READING of their may writings is

    quite illuminating. THE CATHOLIC CHURCH was the only "official" (i.e. government of Rome approved) CHRISTIAN religion at the time.

    Who is to say any of them had any "truth" or facts to spread around?

    There was a lot of speculation, word of mouth scuttlebut and story-mongering which passed for historical reporting.

    Papias really nailed that down for me.

  • TJ Curioso
    TJ Curioso

    Thanks for the explanation Terry!

  • tootired2care

    Terry, this is interesting history, thanks for sharing. I loved your book too, are you coming out with another one that is targeted to interesting historical stories such as this one?

  • designs

    Interesting to is how early anyone outside the popular power structure was labeled- Heretic, which made ostracizing and marginalizing discent so much easier.

    Fundie's and Evangelicals seem to be the last remnants of that Doctrinaire era.

  • Terry

    We have first hand experience with the Org refusing to deal with criticism.

    They label you Apostate and make threats against any who converse with critics. Bingo--they don't deal with IDEAS or TRUTH, they deal with censorship and dismissal.

    There is enormous IRONY here.

    What is the work of Jehovah's Witnesses? Isn't it going door to door TRYING TO CREATE APOSTACY?

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