Sunday, January 14, 2007

Papias' opinion of the Greek Gospels

I haven’t read many books over the last two years so I’m enjoying any chance I get to continue reading through Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (I’m up to page 229). I’m questioning Bauckham’s opinion of Papias’ view of the Greek Gospels:

Thus Papias is concerned throughout with two aspects of each Gospel: its origin from eyewitness testimony and the question of "order." In both cases he wants to explain why a Gospel with eyewitness origins lacks proper "order." [page 224]

Papias himself, however [unlike Eusebius], seems to have been interested, not in arguing for the apostolic origin of the Gospels he discusses, but rather in explaining how Gospels which were agreed to be of apostolic origin came to differ so much in their "order." [p226]

But is it merely the chronological order that Papias is concerned about? Papias may simply not be very impressed with the Synoptic Gospels because they are not in his opinion written by apostles (or the "seven"[!] disciples of Jesus) and so are not any more impressive than his own books on Jesus. The Greek Gospels would only be providing that which Papias himself was also able to provide by having also relied on eyewitness testimony of others. This would explain why, unlike most other people, Papias was not so very impressed by that which was contained in such books and why he does not really seem to be defending them after all.

I would have liked Bauckham to have addressed the notion that Papias was censored by Eusebius. There are only two sentences I noticed addressing the notion:

Alternatively, Eusebius has omitted something of which he did not approve. He had his own ideas about the origins and differences among the Gospels (see especially _Hist. Eccl._ 3.24.5-16) and is likely to have suppressed material in Papias that was not consistent with them.
These sentences only relate to it the likelihood "that Eusebius has omitted some material" prior to the "Therefore Matthew" quotation. Didn’t Eusebius have access to Papias’ five books and only quoted a few lines. Isn’t this showing him to be a little suspicious of Papias considering Eusebius’ purpose should have been helped by depending more on Papias? Hmm.

Is Papias defending the Greek Gospels? Bauckham suggests that Papias is not necessarily responding to critics but he may be intending "to set any such misgivings [differences between the Gospels] to rest." [p229] But it seems Bauckham is assuming that Papias must have thought more highly of the Greek Gospels than he gives evidence for. Bauckham says,

Given this limitation, [that Mk was only complete in the first stage of the historian’s task] Papias valued Mark’s Gospel because of its scrupulously accurate record of the _chreiai_ as Peter related them. [p228]
but he has not sufficiently demonstrated that "Papias valued Mk’s Gospel" though perhaps Bauckham simply means "Mark, in Papias’ opinion, at least was accurate in reproducing Peter’s preaching."

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