Friday, March 06, 2020

Was The Fourth Gospel Written By A John Other Than The Son Of Zebedee?

Steve Hays recently pointed me to a post by Michael Bird regarding the authorship of the fourth gospel. In that post, Bird refers to a White Horse Inn radio program that features interviews with several scholars commenting on the gospel's authorship (Craig Blomberg, G.K. Beale, Justin Holcomb, Richard Bauckham, D.A. Carson, Andreas Kostenberger, and Lydia McGrew). The page Bird links doesn't seem to contain the relevant audio, but Patrick Chan found it here. I looked for the program through the White Horse Inn search engine, and it appears that the program originally aired in December of 2019. Apparently, you can't listen to the program at the White Horse Inn site, but you can listen at the site Patrick found. Contrary to what Bird reported, the host who favored something like Richard Bauckham's view of the gospel's authorship was Shane Rosenthal, not Michael Horton.

Some good points are made during the program, but some of the best arguments for authorship by the son of Zebedee aren't mentioned. Here's an article I wrote in 2017 in response to the second edition of Bauckham's book, Jesus And The Eyewitnesses (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2017). In that article, I discuss a lot of New Testament and patristic evidence not addressed by the White Horse Inn program.

I should add that Dean Furlong recently published a book that's relevant, based on his doctoral thesis, The Identity Of John The Evangelist (Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books/Fortress Academic, 2020). His book doesn't say much about the New Testament, but is instead focused on the extrabiblical evidence. He argues that the John of Papias and other early sources was somebody other than the son of Zebedee. I disagree with him, for reasons like the ones referred to in my response to Bauckham linked above. But he makes a better case than Bauckham does, and I agree with some of the other points Furlong makes (the strength of the evidence for the martyrdom of John the son of Zebedee, the fact that Papias attributed the fourth gospel's authorship to his John the Elder, etc.). He provides a large amount of information on Johannine issues, and you don't have to agree with him about everything to find his book useful in a lot of contexts. It's a good resource to have, no matter what position you take on the identity of the author of the fourth gospel, who Papias' elder was, when Revelation was written, and the other issues involved.

52 comments:

  1. Thanks, Jason. This is very helpful! I put the book you recommended on my wish list.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Whoa, whoa, wait:

    "the fact that Papias attributed the fourth gospel's authorship to his John the Elder"

    That's not correct. We have *no* record of what Papias thought about the authorship of the fourth Gospel. None. Bauckham says that himself, and so does everyone else. So unless Dean Furlong has made some bombshell discovery of a new document by Papias, this is just incorrect. Papias may mention the *existence* of a separate "John the elder" in one passage, though as you know even that interpretation of the passage is disputed. But that's it. *No* authorship statements about the Gospel. This is why Bauckham has to conjecture a whole *theory* that Papias attributed it to this other John and that Eusebius suppressed what Papias said because he disagreed with it! (In which case Eusebius must have lied, by the way, because E. says that no one disagrees with the claim that the Gospel was written by the son of Zebedee.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lydia, could you tell me where I can find Eusebius's claim to this effect?

      Delete
    2. "But of the writings of John, not only his Gospel, but also the former of his epistles, has been accepted without dispute both now and in ancient times. But the other two [epistles] are disputed. In regard to the Apocalypse, the opinions of most men are still divided." Ecclesiastical History 3.24.17-18 That Eusebius here means John the son of Zebedee is clear in various ways, including the fact that when he does discuss the Apocalypse, he considers seriously attributing the Apocalypse to the elder John. But not the Gospel.

      Delete
    3. E. quoting the famous Papias quote and suggesting attributing the Apocalypse to the "second" John in the quote, thus making it clear (as Bauckham not only admits but emphasizes) that he believes that the Gospel was written by the son of Zebedee, which he has said that no one disputes: 3.39.6 "For it is probable that it was the second, if one is not willing to admit that it was the first that saw the Revelation, which is ascribed by name to John."

      Delete
    4. That's not how I read it at all, but thanks for providing the reference.

      Delete
    5. You don't read it as saying that the Gospel and the first epistle of John have been accepted as writings of John without dispute both now and in ancient times? That's what it says.

      And Eusebius, as I know you agree (as does Bauckham), thinks that the "John" in question is the son of Zebedee.

      Delete
    6. I've now had a chance to look (albeit briefly thus far) at your dissertation. As far as I can tell, you think that Eusebius thinks that the Gospel was written by the son of Zebedee. Therefore, that is who he means here by "John" when he says that this has been accepted without dispute as a writing of John from earliest time.

      Delete
    7. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    8. I take it as saying that John and 1 John are accepted in the churches (i.e. as "canonical") whereas 2 and 3 John are disputed. He then states that opinion over Revelation is divided. He never says that the Gospel was universally accepted as the work of John the son of Zebedee. The book has some significant updates and revisions as compared to the dissertation.

      Delete
    9. I'm afraid that strikes me as ad hoc hair-splitting, especially since he calls them "the writings of John" in the lead-in. Moreover, the dispute about the Apocalypse is *precisely* a dispute about authorship (as you know, of course), not about some kind of canonicity that is independent of authorship. As I know you discuss at length, Eusebius has a lot to say about differences of opinion concerning the authorship of the Apocalypse, which is what he appears to be referring to here. Hence his listing of things here according to what opinions people hold about them is pretty clearly bound up with opinions concerning authorship. And in general, canonicity was of course closely bound up with authorship, though it was possible for books of doubtful authorship (most notably Hebrews) to gain canonical recognition.

      Delete
    10. Is there a page number in the book version where you discuss this passage of Eusebius and give this interpretation? I couldn't find anything in the dissertation version.

      Delete
    11. Since it appears to be quite important to your thesis in the dissertation that Eusebius identified the evangelist with John the Apostle, the son of Zebedee, would I be right in taking it that *that* has not changed between the dissertation and book version?

      Delete
    12. Your argument strikes me the same way, but I'll leave that as something for the observing reader to decide. Eusebius states that John and 1 John had always been accepted in all churches, in contrast to 2 and 3 John, which presumably had not been accepted in some churches. I think you're reading into that more than is there, though again, it's better for the reader to reach their own conclusion.

      Delete
    13. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    14. It looks like the opening pages of Chapter 5 in the dissertation and Chapter 6 of the book are the same, or very close. Some of the chapters have been supplemented; e.g. the one on the unattributed fragment (which I think is the core of the argument that Papias identified his John with the Elder) has been enlarged. However, if this is your only point of interest, the dissertation should be just fine. I don't deal specifically with your objection as it isn't a view I've come across in the published literature.

      Delete
    15. Thanks for bringing this passage to my attention though, as it's always good to think through things, and I might have noticed something else in this passage I hadn't noticed before ...!

      Delete
    16. Even concerning Hebrews, Eusebius expressly connects its being disputed with the dispute about authorship: "Paul's fourteen epistles are well known and undisputed. It is not indeed right to overlook the fact that some have rejected the Epistle to the Hebrews, saying that it is disputed by the church of Rome, on the ground that it was not written by Paul. But what has been said concerning this epistle by those who lived before our time I shall quote in the proper place." In other words, some have *rejected* its canonicity *because* they dispute its authorship.

      It would be quite astonishing if Eusebius' original audience had taken him to be saying something *other than* that the authorship John (and we know which John he meant) had always been undisputed. And in that case, Eusebius would be misleading his audience if he were suppressing evidence to the contrary, which was my original point.

      In any event, the *passage* is obviously relevant, and there must be dozens of sources that mention that Eusebius includes the Gospel of John among the undisputed Johannine writings. That is regardless of whether anyone has previously explicitly said in print that this would make Eusebius a deceiver if he had suppressed a writing of Papias, as Bauckham suggests. (Which would be in any event an extremely irresponsible and unethical thing for him to do as an historian, in and of itself.)

      But I'll be sure to make that explicitly part of the published literature now myself.

      Delete
    17. But the undisputed books were not all written by a member of the 12 or Paul. If the Beloved Disciple had been an eyewitness disciple of Jesus outside of the twelve, this would not necessarily have been grounds for rejecting it. Hebrews was accepted even though it was variously attributed to Luke, Paul and Barnabas; Eusebius only mentions its rejection by the church of Rome on account of non-Pauline authorship. Neither Mark nor Luke were apostles or eyewitness disciples. Papias's Elder John (as I argue)--was an eyewitness, not a later secondary figure, a presbyter who lived in the second century and had never known Jesus, as Eusebius seems to paint him.

      Again, I disagree that Eusebius was even addressing authorship. He states that the books of John have always been accepted, and they had. Again I think you're reading into it too much, but I also think we'll have to agree to disagree.

      I also disagree with you that Eusebius would never have misled his audience. I argue that he indeed demonstrably did on occasion, and that he did so with respect to Papias too, but the arguments are developed over the course of many chapters and can't really be given justice here; they also often differ from Bauckham's (e.g. I accept many of Hill's arguments against Bauckham's on the issue of the unattributed fragment). I'd suggest reading through the dissertation (though acquiring the book through a library would be better, as my thoughts did develop in those two years), as it addresses many of the issues you've raised. After that, I'd be happy to hear any criticisms (indeed, I will be discussing the passages you raise if there is a second edition, as I think they will prove useful on a related matter).

      Delete
    18. "I also disagree with you that Eusebius would never have misled his audience."

      I didn't definitely say that he never would have. What I *said* is that this passage *would* be a case of his deliberately doing so if he knew of evidence that the authorship of John was disputed but deliberately suppressed it. You've correctly guessed that I think that deception is a rather uncharitable thing to attribute to Eusebius, and I tend to be highly skeptical of such complex theories without much stronger evidence, but my point thus far has been *explicitly* only to say that, on Bauckham's theory of suppression, Eusebius *would be* being deceptive, and that this passage makes that deception even more pointed.

      If you think (as I already guessed you did think from what I've seen of your dissertation) that Eusebius had no qualms about misleading his audience, wouldn't it be simpler for you just to accept that this passage is indeed addressing authorship (or at least that Eusebius knew that his audience would take it that way) and that he didn't mind misleading his audience by saying it?

      I'm not sure which "many issues" you have already addressed, since just here we've been discussing one highly focused issue and passage which, I gather you are saying, you did not address at all.

      (Of course there could be undisputed books not written by members of the twelve. I'm well aware of that, though Eusebius seems to be saying that Hebrews wasn't one of them, and that *precisely* on the grounds that its authorship *was* disputed and hence that, unlike Luke and Mark, some in the early church were insufficiently confident that it had apostolic authorization. The two issues are deeply entangled.)

      Delete
    19. That is to say (to clarify), of course you've addressed many issues in what you've written, but I'm not sure which many that I've raised just here.

      Delete
    20. Eusebius doesn't provide a reason as to why Jude and James were disputed. It can't be concluded that it was because the authorship was suspect. It might simply be that the content was considered to be inspired scripture. He states that Hebrews was accepted everywhere but Rome, even though we know that it was attributed to Barnabas in N. Africa and that other theories were also current in Alexandria.
      I've provided evidence in the dissertation/book (in multiple chapters) of Eusebius's sometimes less than honest use of sources. Here, however, I think you're simply misreading Eusebius. Besides, misusing something and blatantly lying (which would be the case here) aren't the same. If you want the "stronger" evidence you'll have to read through the work. The other issues are the ones you've raised on here, e.g. Eusebius' discussion of authorship, proposed Papian sources like the Anti-Marcionite Prologue, whether Papias attributed John's Gospel to the "Elder."

      Delete
    21. Typo. Should be "was not considered to be inspired scripture".

      Delete
    22. "Eusebius doesn't provide a reason as to why Jude and James were disputed. It can't be concluded that it was because the authorship was suspect. It might simply be that the content was not considered to be inspired scripture."

      Distinguish a necessary from a sufficient condition. Here you are pointing out that disputes about authorship may not have been a necessary condition for the canonicity of a book to be questioned. In theory, I agree. Obviously nobody was going to publish St. Paul's grocery lists as inspired, canonical documents, even if they were morally certain that they were written by Paul.

      But I know of no independent example of a NT book whose authorship *was* disputed but whose canonicity was *not* disputed by anyone. Hebrews cannot be an example here, since Eusebius makes it clear that its canonicity was rejected by some precisely because its authorship was unknown.

      If early disputed authorship of a NT book was a sufficient condition for canonicity to be considered disputed, then it seems highly likely that Eusebius's audience would have understood him in the way that I have indicated and that Eusebius would have known that they would do so.

      Delete
    23. 1. It was disputed by "some" because it was rejected by the church of Rome on account of their rejection of its Pauline authorship. Yet the letter was preserved as a received work under the name of Barnabas in N. Africa. According to Origen, others thought it had been written by Luke or Clement, without questioning whether it belonged in the canon. Your additional condition of "by anyone" is unnecessary and unwarranted; indeed, the Gospel of John itself couldn't meet that criteria (unless you deny that the Alogi rejected the Gospel of John). Clearly "early disputed authorship of a NT book" was not "a sufficient condition for canonicity to be considered disputed," because that was not the case with the book of Hebrews, whose authorship was disputed by those who did not doubt its canonicity.
      2. We don't have much information concerning the basis on which some books were disputed. We simply don't know either way why James or Jude were disputed. Perhaps Jude was disputed because it quoted from 1 Enoch. We don't know.
      Eusebius is saying that John and 1 John had always been received in the churches. Nothing more.

      Delete
    24. The church of Rome was a considerably more important entity than the Alogi, whoever they were! That is, considerably more important for anyone to regard a book as disputed by the orthodox churches. I do *not* agree with the idea that there was any orthodox group questioning of the canonicity of the Gospel of John. The Alogi were specifically designated as heretics by Epiphanius. I don't go as far as T. Scott Manor does as to say that they didn't exist and that Epiphanius invented them, but I do emphatically agree with him (and with Hill, if I'm understanding Hill correctly) that there was not some known, orthodox questioning of the canonicity of John.
      Indeed, Eusebius even on *your* reading of Eusebius here would be either ignorant of or deliberately *lying* about the Alogi (and Gaius) if they counted as *orthodox* church doubt, since they allegedly questioned the canonicity of John, not just its authorship.

      To be "preserved as a received work" is not the same thing as being undisputed. Eusebius is *explicit* that Hebrews was indeed disputed as to canonicity by an important church! And he is explicit about the reason.

      Once again, I maintain that you cannot give a single, independent, known example of a known work whose authorship was disputed early but whose canonicity never was.

      Delete
    25. Let's try it this way: Suppose for the sake of the argument that I grant that Eusebius will say that a book is disputed only if it is disputed (in whatever sense he means that term) by some church body, not just by individuals he regards as important. I don't really agree that that is the case, but even granting that arguendo, he explicitly states that in this sense Hebrews is not undisputed, since it was disputed by the church of Rome (rather an important church!).

      Since it is the interpretation of Eusebius that is at issue, can you give a single example of a book of the New Testament that was received as canonical by all the churches while they nonetheless disputed its authorship? Obviously Hebrews doesn't count as such an example, given what Eusebius says about it.

      Delete
    26. I certainly hope that you are not going to say or trying to say that, when Eusebius says that the Gospel of John is accepted without dispute, he means canonicity but not authorship, but when he says that the book of Hebrews is disputed by the church of Rome, he means authorship, but not canonicity.

      That would be...problematic. To put it mildly.

      Delete
    27. What’s important here is whether there was a work whose authorship was disputed while its canonicity was not. And there was: Hebrews. You’ve mis-framed it by adding the irrelevant qualification “by anyone”: “But I know of no independent example of a NT book whose authorship *was* disputed but whose canonicity was *not* disputed by anyone.”
      In your more recent post, you’ve done the same by adding the irrelevant qualification of “never”: “Once again, I maintain that you cannot give a single, independent, known example of a known work whose authorship was disputed early but whose canonicity never was.”
      I’ll let the reader observe how you’ve reframed the issue twice now in order to avoid acknowledging that Hebrews was a work whose authorship was often (!) questioned even while it’s canonicity was not. Once this is accepted, it removes any grounds for your insistence that Eusebius was necessarily making a claim as to authorship by the son of Zebedee when he claimed that the Gospel and 1 John had always been accepted by the churches.

      Delete
    28. While this would render the Alogi irrelevant to the discussion, it can be noted that Epiphanius did not consider the Alogi as orthodox in their doctrines. Epiphanius concedes that “they seem to believe the same things as us” (Pan. 51.4.3); furthermore, he notes that according to the Alogi, neither the Gospel nor Revelation had any rightful place in the church (Pan. 51.3.6), which presupposes they were themselves members of the church. I’m surprised that you can so confidently assert that there was no “orthodox group questioning of the canonicity of the Gospel of John.”

      Delete
    29. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    30. This comment has been removed by the author.

      Delete
    31. typo fixed: Your other posts are going over the same ground again. In the areas where Hebrews was universally accepted, its authorship was disputed! The fact that there was an area outside this area where both were disputed is irrelevant to the logic of the fact that canonicity and authorship weren’t absolutely tied in the manner you claim. And again, we simply don’t have the information on the reasons for the disputes of some books to say either way. Your challenge that I produce a book other than Hebrews (which is sufficient anyway) is, in light of the paucity of sources, unreasonable.
      I could mention that the Dialogue of Adamantius and Jerome (who gave it as his opinion) identify Mark with John Mark, which Eusebius, Dionysius, Chrysostom and the Martyrdom of Mark almost certainly didn’t accept. If you’re interested, you’ll have to see my upcoming book for this, The John also Called Mark: Reception and Transformation in Christian Tradition. I feel like we’ve gone around in circles enough to convince me that this somewhat time-consuming discussion isn’t going to get off the ground in any meaningful way, and so I’m going to bow out at this point.

      Delete
    32. "What’s important here is whether there was a work whose authorship was disputed while its canonicity was not. And there was: Hebrews." "In the areas where Hebrews was universally accepted, its authorship was disputed!"

      That's...astonishing. "Universally accepted" when the *church of Rome* didn't accept it?? The whole point, Eusebius's *own* point, is that it was *not* universally accepted. There is no such thing in Eusebius's work as a book that was "universally accepted" *in an area* when a very important church disputed it! (Further, within each of the areas where it was accepted, as far as anything you say goes, the important orthodox leaders in that area thought they *did* know who wrote it, though the areas may have disagreed among themselves as to who that was. But I emphasize that this is a side point and that the more important point is the extremely strange attempt to use "universally accepted" of a work that Eusebius himself calls "disputed" *in a discussion of Eusebius's use of those terms.)

      We're discussing *Eusebius's* use of terms like "disputed" and "undisputed." First you insisted that such words referred to canonicity but not authorship. But when I pointed out that Eusebius says that Hebrews was not undisputed, *because* the church of Rome did not accept it, and that this was *because* its authorship was disputed, you seem to be trying to imply that Eusebius himself would refer to a work as "undisputed" from ancient times even though he knew that its authorship was disputed. You back this up by saying that "in the areas where Hebrews was universally accepted, its authorship was disputed." I mean, that just doesn't make any sense. The citation from Eusebius shows that, when the authorship of Hebrews was disputed by an important Christian body (and *therefore* apparently its canonicity), Eusebius *does not* refer to the book in question in the terms that he uses for John's Gospel--accepted without dispute both now and in ancient times. This is very important evidence concerning both Eusebius's use of the terms in question and the importance of knowledge of authorship to ancient acceptance of a NT work as canonical.

      Delete
    33. A much simpler theory rescue attempt for the Bauckham-Furlong view of Papias would be this: They could say that Papias (per their theory) did somewhere-or-other attribute the Gospel to "John the elder" rather than to John the son of Zebedee, based on the clues they think they've found, but that this attribution was lost *before* Eusebius's time. In other words, abandon the theory that Eusebius deliberately suppressed anything by Papias. Then EH 3.24.17-18, which is so extremely explicit, could be interpreted in its obvious, straightforward sense, and they could just say that Eusebius didn't know about Papias's view and hence honestly believed what he said there. That's *much* less costly than trying to make Eusebius here speak of "canonicity rather than authorship" when there are so many indications that he is speaking quite clearly of both (not least his careful statement about the Apocalypse, for which, again, canonicity was disputed because authorship was disputed).

      Abandoning the claim that Eusebius knew of and suppressed the statement of Papias that they conjecture existed would be a relatively minor tweak to their overall theoretical structure and much better than what Dr. Furlong attempts in this thread.

      Delete
    34. This thread has obvious run its course, but I would like to offer some final clarifications. I do thank you for bringing up this passage and forcing me to think through what Eusebius meant. It has been useful for me. I'll wrap up by saying that I do think I was mistaken, anachronistic even, to suggest that ancient readers might have accepted the apostolic authorship while rejecting the canonicity of a work. I don't think they would have made such a distinction. If they weren't sure about a work like Jude or James, that would manifest in their questioning of the work's claims to apostolic authorship. Some books, like Hebrews, don't make such claims about authorship, and so authorship wasn't as bound up with the question of reception. I think the point I made there was cogent, though readers are the ultimate judge of that: Eusebius states that Hebrews was only disputed at Rome, yet there were various theories concerning authorship outside of Rome, where its reception wasn't disputed, proving that the situation is more complex than simply claiming that canonicity was always disputed where authorship was disputed. Authorship was disputed all over, but this only led to canonical doubts at Rome.
      I am lost as to what this claim means: "the important orthodox leaders in that area thought they *did* know who wrote it, though the areas may have disagreed among themselves as to who that was." I fail to see how this denies (it affirms!) that authorship but not canonicity was disputed outside of Rome or how the same reasoning can't be applied to John.
      Lastly, applying all of this to Eusebius's words concerning John, I think we could say that Eusebius implies that it was not disputed insofar as it was attributed always to the Beloved Disciple and to John the Evangelist, the disciple of Christ who lived out his life in Ephesus and died at the end of the first century. That Eusebius thought this was the same John as the one spoken of in the Synoptics as the Galilean fisherman is without doubt, but it is certainly not necessary to believe that others had always made the same association. You can read my evidence for the various identifications of Mark the Evangelist (some identified him with John Mark, some denied it; some with the Alexandrian Mark, some denied it) in my upcoming book, if you're so interested. Again, I thank you for the engaging discussion; I have benefited from it and I hope we can discuss matters further in the future.

      Delete
    35. Thanks, I appreciate those clarifications and perhaps partial retrenchments. "[I]t is certainly not necessary to believe that others had always made the same association." For my point in this sub-thread, the only thing I am arguing is that Eusebius is *saying* that others had made the same association and that his readers would have taken him in that way. In other words, since he did believe that John the Galilean fisherman was the author and uses "John" in that sense, he is (to my mind quite clearly) saying that it is undisputed that John as *he* means that name was the author. Of course I quite realize that the Bauckham-type view holds that Eusebius was wrong about this and that others before him had taken a different view. The question is whether Eusebius would be *deceiving* his readers here (blatantly lying, in fact) if he *knew* that Papias thought otherwise but suppressed Papias's work and wrote what he did here.

      "the important orthodox leaders in that area thought they *did* know who wrote it, though the areas may have disagreed among themselves as to who that was." All that I meant in that side point was that it was apparently important to those within any given region to make up their own minds about authorship--in other words, not to consider it dubious--before ratifying the work as canonical in their own churches. My suggestion is that at least early on there was not the same willingness that later writers (including ourselves, for that matter) have to say, "I don't know who wrote Hebrews, but I'm sure it's inspired." Serious uncertainty about authorship seems to have been quite a big deal. This is apparently why Eusebius himself never lists Hebrews as among the undisputed books.

      Thanks for the interaction.

      Delete
  3. The anti-Marcionite preface gives an *indirect* statement that Papias attributed the book to "John when he was still in the body" and says that Papias was John's "disciple." But it does not say that this was some other John nor that it was the son of Zebedee.

    ReplyDelete
  4. So when I say that we have no record, I mean we have no text by Papias himself on this topic. And the indirect attestation of the anti-Marcionite preface does not distinguish two Johns even if it is correct. There are problems with it in any event, since it says that Papias was the amanuensis of the fourth Gospel. Lightfoot conjectures a misunderstanding of something Papias may have written based upon a misreading of a Greek word, giving rise to the amanuensis claim. F. F. Bruce thinks Lightfoot's conjecture may be correct.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lydia wrote:

      "We have *no* record of what Papias thought about the authorship of the fourth Gospel. None….*No* authorship statements about the Gospel."

      A statement isn't needed. My conclusion can be the best explanation of the evidence we have, for reasons I've discussed elsewhere (my post responding to Bauckham linked above, etc.), without our having a statement from Papias directly addressing the subject.

      You wrote:

      "And the indirect attestation of the anti-Marcionite preface does not distinguish two Johns even if it is correct."

      It's one source among others. It doesn't have to address every topic in order to address one or more of the topics relevant here. In addition to what we're told by sources like the Anti-Marcionite Prologue, we also consider the historical context in which Papias lived, how likely it is that he didn't say anything relevant about the authorship of the fourth gospel in the writings in question, which view of his authorship attribution best explains what we see in later sources, etc.

      Dean Furlong thinks there are traces of Papias' writings in other sources than the ones typically cited in these discussions. And there are comments on the authorship of the fourth gospel in those sources, comments Furlong thinks were derived from Papias. My view is that it's likely that Papias attributed the fourth gospel to a close disciple of Jesus named John, and that the John in question is the son of Zebedee and Papias' Elder, even if Furlong is wrong about those other alleged Papian fragments.

      Delete
    2. But I would strongly caution against calling it a "fact" when any view of what Papias said in now-lost writings is so indirectly derived. I would caution against that *all the more so* if this allegation that Papias attributed it to "John the elder" is being treated (as apparently Furlong is treating it) as evidence *against* authorship by the son of Zebedee. In other words, people get the impression that Papias attributed it to "John the elder" in a passage that is at least somewhat naturally read as distinguishing "John the elder" from the son of Zebedee. (E.g., the famous passage Bauckham is always quoting. But that passage says nothing about authorship of the Gospel.) We have no evidence for that.

      Delete
    3. Lydia wrote:

      "In other words, people get the impression that Papias attributed it to 'John the elder' in a passage that is at least somewhat naturally read as distinguishing 'John the elder' from the son of Zebedee. (E.g., the famous passage Bauckham is always quoting. But that passage says nothing about authorship of the Gospel.) We have no evidence for that."

      The passage names several apostles, ending with John and Matthew. The best explanation I'm aware of for those features of the list is the attribution of gospels to John and Matthew. The context identifies the John in question as the son of Zebedee. That list of apostles has added significance when responding to Bauckham, since he acknowledges that Matthew's inclusion at the end of the list is best explained by the attribution of a gospel to him. You can extend Bauckham's own argument to authorship of a gospel by John the son of Zebedee. And it's a significant argument independently of Bauckham's granting so much of it. The argument doesn't have the simplicity, clarity, and some other features we'd like an argument to have, but we need to make the most of whatever we're given to work with. An argument doesn't have to be ideal or even close to ideal in order to have some significance. This passage in Papias supports authorship of the fourth gospel by John the son of Zebedee.

      Delete
    4. I see from this, Jason, how *you* are using the passage (though I think it's fairly tenuous, to be honest), but if you were/are right about that, then that is attributing the Gospel to the *first* John mentioned in that passage by Papias, not to the second John mentioned. I understand that you take them to be the same person, which may well be correct, but as you know is not the view of those who take the Bauckhamite view.

      I think this would only increase the confusion about what you want to say when you say in the o.p. that you agree with Furlong that it is a "fact" that Papias attributed the Gospel to "his John the elder." What it *sounds* like you are saying there is that it is a fact that in this passage Papias was attributing the Gospel to John the elder in particular, even if John the elder is someone different from John the son of Zebedee! Based on your clarification, I realize that isn't your position, but I'm pretty sure that's how the o.p. would be naturally read.

      (Tangentially, the only thing I find Bauckham saying is that he thinks Papias started with a list of disciples who appear in John's Gospel, removed Nathanael's name, and replaced it with Matthew's, because Papias saw Matthew as important as the source of a Gospel. 2nd edition of Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, pp. 20-21. I gather it isn't so much Matthew's inclusion in the list but what he takes to be the *replacement* of Nathanael with Matthew that Bauckham is trying to "explain." Frankly, I think this is all way-out-there conjecture and am quite doubtful that Papias is "getting" this list from anywhere besides the reality of the people he's thinking of, much less that he's "replacing" names with other names. But in any event, it doesn't seem like it could be extended to an argument for an attribution of John's Gospel, since Bauckham thinks that the name "John" in this list comes from the sons of Zebedee who are said to be with Peter in John 21.2, so he thinks he's already accounted for that name.)

      Delete
    5. Lydia,

      In the comment from my original post that you're objecting to, I wasn't just addressing the passage in Papias you're focused on. I was addressing the evidence as a whole.

      There are several aspects of Papias' list of apostles that need to be explained. You've cited pages 20-21 in Bauckham's book. I cited pages 417-18 in my response to Bauckham linked earlier. As he explains, Papias' list is highly unusual and mostly follows the order of the naming of the apostles in the fourth gospel. You refer to "the reality of the people [Papias is] thinking of", but that doesn't address why he thought that way. The influence of the fourth gospel is the best explanation I'm aware of. But he departs from the gospel in some ways I mentioned in my response to Bauckham. Papias' belief in John's authorship of the fourth gospel explains the conclusion of the list better than any alternative I'm aware of.

      If Papias was thinking of Johannine authorship, that helps explain why he named James and John as individuals rather than repeating the "sons of Zebedee" of John 21:2, why he named John after James rather than before him, why he added Matthew (another gospel author) to the list, and why he placed Matthew next to John at the conclusion of the list. In the scenario you've mentioned, in which Matthew was thought of as a replacement for Nathanael, Papias could have placed Matthew fourth in the list, not last. That illustrates how easily the list could have been different. It would have been so easy for John to have not been mentioned at all, for Matthew to have not been mentioned at all, and for the two of them, if both were mentioned, to have been mentioned apart rather than together. The inclusion of Matthew by itself, even without considering any of the other factors I've cited, is best explained by Papias' having gospel authorship in mind. Matthean authorship of the first gospel is by far the best candidate for what would motivate Papias to add Matthew to a list of apostles derived from the names in a gospel that never mentions Matthew by name.

      There are alternative explanations for the aspects of the list I've highlighted. You could propose a series of explanations to replace mine. James and John may have been included because of their general significance, without having gospel authorship in mind primarily or at all, John may have been mentioned after James because that's how the Synoptics usually list them, etc. But my proposal, in which Papias' thinking about the authorship of the fourth gospel shaped how he concluded his list, has the advantage of explaining the details involved more efficiently. It is the fourth gospel, after all, that's so influenced how he's thinking about the names of the apostles, so a desire to go out of his way to include the name of the author of that gospel makes more sense accordingly, and it makes more sense accordingly for the other apostolic gospel author (Matthew) to come to mind.

      As I said earlier, the argument I'm making doesn't have some of the features we'd like an argument to have, such as the sort of simplicity and clarity we prefer. But that's true of a lot of arguments we accept (e.g., concerning the details of apostolic lists in other sources, like the gospels and Acts). An argument doesn't have to be ideal, or even close to ideal, in order to have some value.

      Bauckham is right that there are some striking features in Papias' list of apostles. The list ought to be studied further rather than just making dismissive comments about being "tenuous", "conjecture", "the reality of the people [Papias is] thinking of", etc.

      Delete
    6. Perhaps he listed those seven because when he wrote it he could think of having actually heard of specific things that those specific seven people had said while they were alive. That's what I meant to allude to concerning reality. I agree with you in thinking that Bauckham's attempted "explanation" of the order is unconvincing. In fact, I don't see any reason to seek a specific explanation of the order. James, for example, is never named in the Gospel of John anyway, and as you say, if "Matthew" were a substitute for "Nathanael," he should have been named earlier. But why should we assume that this list of seven people is in some particular order for any particular reason at all? Most of them wrote no Gospels, though Papias of course gives us the tradition that Peter lay behind the Gospel of Mark. Yet he lists Peter second and not next to John or Matthew.

      Delete
    7. Lydia wrote:

      "Perhaps he listed those seven because when he wrote it he could think of having actually heard of specific things that those specific seven people had said while they were alive."

      The next step is to ask how likely that scenario is in comparison to the alternatives. If Papias was doing what you suggest, how likely is it that his memory of disciples "he could think of having actually heard of specific things that those specific seven people had said while they were alive" would just happen to line up so closely with the order of the naming of disciples in the fourth gospel? It's not just a matter of which individuals are included, but also their order. There are reasons why the apostolic lists in the gospels and Acts keep beginning with Peter and ending with Judas Iscariot. Similarly, if Papias were going by the sort of memory you refer to, it seems unlikely that he'd place Andrew first, before Peter, place James and John so late in the list, etc. And even under your proposed scenario, we still have John and Matthew included and placed together at the end of the list. That could just be a coincidence, but seems better explained on the basis of what we know was an early widespread Christian belief that those were the only two individuals among the disciples in question who produced gospels.

      You mention that James isn't named in the fourth gospel, but that's part of my argument. A family name of James and John is provided in John 21:2 ("the sons of Zebedee"), whereas Papias provides their individual names. He's still following the order of names in the fourth gospel, but he departs from the gospel at this point by replacing "the sons of Zebedee" with James and John. That allows him to not only name John as an individual, but also place Matthew, the other disciple who wrote a gospel, next to him to conclude the list.

      Delete
    8. "would just happen to line up so closely with the order of the naming of disciples in the fourth gospel?"

      Except that they really don't! You have to add various epicycles and exceptions to this to make the claim. (So does Bauckham.) No Nathanael. James named by first name when James is never named in that way in John's Gospel. (And therefore the *order* of James and John in the list cannot be chosen by their order in John's Gospel.) Matthew included when he occurs nowhere at all in John's Gospel. Qualification after qualification. Notice that Papias obviously has no objection to including people who weren't members of the twelve, so why not include Nathanael, if he's trying in some way to follow John's Gospel? And Nathanael comes up several times in John, too. And that's even assuming that Nathanael isn't a member of the twelve under another name.

      Then these exceptions are "explained" by extremely epicyclic theories of removing one person (Nathanael) and replacing him with another (Matthew) and putting them in order according to whether or not they wrote a Gospel. But not moving Peter so as to place him with the other apostles whom Papias himself credits with a Gospel, as Papias famously credits Peter with Mark.

      I'm sorry, but this is all *extremely* unconvincing.

      I sometimes think that people strain to find hints in what we do have by Papias of what he said or thought about the authorship of John's Gospel just because we're so convinced that he said something and we can't stand the fact that we don't have it! But we can't do historical investigation that way. We just don't have whatever Papias said about this. Lots of works and portions of works from ancient times have been lost. That's the way ancient history goes. *Of course* I believe that Papias thought that John the son of Zebedee wrote the Gospel. But that's because I think he knew things about that question and because I think that conclusion is true on other (very strong, in my opinion) grounds. Not because of anything we actually have in Papias.

      Delete
    9. It would be possible for him to list *both* Nathanael *and* James and John *and* Matthew. Why not? And if he's somehow trying to follow the order in John's Gospel, why wouldn't he do that?

      Besides, if we take Papias's truthfulness with seriousness, we should seriously consider that he *does* mean to say that he inquired about what these specific people were saying, not that he's just "getting a list" from somewhere else! After all, the quotation *says* that he inquired about the words of the elders and then lists these apostles. Why would we *not* think that he actually heard things that these specific people said? Indeed, his inclusion of the otherwise unknown Aristion in the passage seems to strengthen the idea that he is (as he appears to be) literally referring to people about whose traditions he believes he has information. He's obviously not getting Aristion from one of the Gospels.

      Delete
    10. Lydia,

      Terms like "disciple" and "apostle" are used in different ways in different contexts, and people often have qualifiers in mind that they don't spell out. The situation is complicated in the present context by the fact that Papias uses the less common term "elder" without providing us with much information about how he defines it. He applies the term to the individuals in the list we're discussing, and he applies it in his second reference to John, but he doesn't apply it to Aristion. So, he's making distinctions among these figures to some extent. They're all witnesses of Jesus, but distinguishable in one or more other ways.

      If Papias had the Twelve in mind in the list we're discussing, and he didn't consider Nathanael a member of the Twelve, then Nathanael isn't even relevant. Everybody he names in the list is a member of the Twelve, and that group is often in mind when people refer to Jesus' disciples, his apostles, or whatever term may be used in a given context.

      But even if he had the Twelve in mind, he leaves out the Judas of John 14:22, who seems to be one of the Twelve. As Bauckham acknowledges, and as I said in my 2017 article responding to him linked above, the issue here is how Papias mostly follows the order of the naming of the disciples in the fourth gospel, so your pointing out that he doesn't entirely follow that order is repeating something that's been acknowledged from the start. What needs explained is why the Papian list so closely follows the material in the fourth gospel. His not including the Judas of John 14:22 (and Nathanael, if he's relevant) is easy to explain under my view.

      It's unlikely that Papias had a copy of John's gospel open before him as he wrote. Rather, he most likely was going by memory. I doubt many people would remember that the Judas of John 14 is named in John's gospel or that he said something in that passage or what he said. It's impressive that Papias remembered as much as he did. His leaving out Judas (and Nathanael, if he's relevant) is much easier to explain under my view than it is to explain what Papias included if his list wasn't shaped by John's gospel.

      My view doesn't suggest that Papias wasn't interested in other sources. He goes on to mention other sources after the list in question, and it would be unreasonable to suggest that he wasn't interested in what the rest of the Twelve, Paul, James the brother of Jesus, etc. had said. What I'm addressing here is the nature of the list in question, which doesn't exclude Papias' interest in other sources.

      Objecting that the fourth gospel doesn't give us an order to follow for James and John is true, but doesn't address Papias' following the order in which the gospel mentions the sons of Zebedee as a group, in the only place where they're named (with a family name rather than individual names). In other words, if James and John appear in Papias in correspondence to where "the sons of Zebedee" are mentioned in the fourth gospel, objecting that the fourth gospel doesn't name James and John individually is an inadequate response.

      Delete
    11. As I mentioned before, we have other lists of apostles from the relevant timeframe to consult for purposes of comparison. There are a few lists of the Twelve in the Synoptics and a list of the Eleven in Acts. Peter is always mentioned first. Judas Iscariot is always mentioned last when he's part of the list. James and John are always in the top half of the list. Etc. There are differences among the lists, but also some significant similarities. So, it's striking when Papias' list puts Andrew before Peter, in contrast to every New Testament list. It's striking when Papias mentions James and John so late, in contrast to every New Testament list.

      There's a known source that has those and other features we find in Papias: the fourth gospel. And there's good evidence that Papias was a student of a close disciple of Jesus named John, and the fourth gospel was widely attributed to such an individual in antiquity. There's also good evidence that Papias had an unusually large amount of interest in gospels. That the work in which his list of disciples appears discusses gospels. That he lived in an area where Johannine Christianity was prominent. That he was highly influenced by the Johannine literature (e.g., his reference to "the truth itself" in the passage we're discussing, which echoes 3 John 12; his use of the term "the elder"). Papias is a good candidate for somebody who was highly influenced by the fourth gospel. So, when he writes a list of apostles that's so unusually Johannine, you need much more than you've offered so far to justify dismissing the fourth gospel's influence on Papias' list.

      Peter's relationship to the gospel of Mark is significantly similar to how John and Matthew are related to the gospels named after them, but Peter's relationship with Mark is also significantly different. Peter can be placed in the same category as John and Matthew in some contexts, but should be distinguished in others. There's a significant difference between being a source consulted by the author of a document, even the primary source, and being its author. Christians have made that distinction for close to two thousand years, as we see in Justin Martyr's reference to "the memoirs which I say were drawn up by his apostles and those who followed them" (Dialogue With Trypho, 103). John is similar to Matthew in a significant way in which he isn't similar to Peter. A student of John, like Papias, probably would have been even more concerned than most Christians with making that sort of distinction.

      Objecting that Papias' list doesn't entirely line up with John's gospel doesn't explain why it lines up as well as it does under circumstances in which they so easily could have been much less aligned. Objecting that John and Matthew aren't grouped with Peter in the list doesn't explain why John and Matthew are grouped together under circumstances in which they so easily could have not been grouped together.

      Delete
  5. Thanks Jason. I hope to finish a separate volume in the future discussing the evidence from the New Testament.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dean, Lydia, and anybody else interested,

    This blog is set up to automatically send posts into moderation starting three days after a thread originates. We're now in that phase for this thread. You can keep posting here if you want, and we'll try to get your posts out of moderation and publicly visible as soon as we can, but your posts here will have to go through moderation from now on.

    ReplyDelete