Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 16:Appendix

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by Neil Godfrey

Appendix: Papias as Eusebius’s Source in Hist. Eccl. 3.24.5-13?

At the end of chapter 16 Bauckham addresses the argument of Charles Hill that Eusebius paraphrased a section of Papias that discussed the gospels of John and Luke.

Hill’s argument contradicts Bauckham’s by implication:

  1. Hill’s “Papias’ passage” as paraphrased by Eusebius implies that Papias understood the source of the Gospel of John was John the Apostle, the Son of Zebedee. Bauckham has argued that it is the Beloved Disciple.
  2. Hill’s “Papias’ passage” in Eusebius is only relatively mildly critical of the “order” of the non-Johannine gospels, at least by modern standards, and thus leaves the Gospel of John without any major contribution or insight to make to the Synoptic history of Jesus. Bauckham’s hypothesis needs a singularly significant difference between the gospels of John and the Synoptics since the former was written by an eyewitness himself, and one who was especially intimate with Jesus, while the latter were editorial creations making do with what eyewitnesses, not as personally close to Jesus, had said.

Before continuing, here is the passage Hill argues is a paraphrase of Papias by Eusebius (H.E. 3.24.5-13), copied from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library (ccel) site:

5 . . . Nevertheless, of all the disciples of the Lord, only Matthew and John have left us written memorials, and they, tradition says, were led to write only under the pressure of necessity.

6 For Matthew, who had at first preached to the Hebrews, when he was about to go to other peoples, committed his Gospel to writing in his native tongue, and thus compensated those whom he was obliged to leave for the loss of his presence.

[7] And when Mark and Luke had already published their Gospels, they say that John, who had employed all his time in proclaiming the Gospel orally, finally proceeded to write for the following reason. The three Gospels already mentioned having come into the hands of all and into his own too, they say that he accepted them and bore witness to their truthfulness; but that there was lacking in them an account of the deeds done by Christ at the beginning of his ministry.

8 And this indeed is true. For it is evident that the three evangelists recorded only the deeds done by the Saviour for one year after the imprisonment of John the Baptist, and indicated this in the beginning of their account.

9 For Matthew, after the forty days’ fast and the temptation which followed it, indicates the chronology of his work when he says: “Now when he heard that John was delivered up he withdrew from Judea into Galilee.”

10 Mark likewise says: “Now after that John was delivered up Jesus came into Galilee.” And Luke, before commencing his account of the deeds of Jesus, similarly marks the time, when he says that Herod, “adding to all the evil deeds which he had done, shut up John in prison.”

11 They say, therefore, that the apostle John, being asked to do it for this reason, gave in his Gospel an account of the period which had been omitted by the earlier evangelists, and of the deeds done by the Saviour during that period; that is, of those which were done before the imprisonment of the Baptist. And this is indicated by him, they say, in the following words: “This beginning of miracles did Jesus”; and again when he refers to the Baptist, in the midst of the deeds of Jesus, as still baptizing in Aenon near Salim; where he states the matter clearly in the words: “For John was not yet cast into prison.”

12 John accordingly, in his Gospel, records the deeds of Christ which were performed before the Baptist was cast into prison, but the other three evangelists mention the events which happened after that time.

13 One who understands this can no longer think that the Gospels are at variance with one another, inasmuch as the Gospel according to John contains the first acts of Christ, while the others give an account of the latter part of his life. And the genealogy of our Saviour according to the flesh John quite naturally omitted, because it had been already given by Matthew and Luke, and began with the doctrine of his divinity, which had, as it were, been reserved for him, as their superior, by the divine Spirit.

Bauckham’s challenges to Hill:

  1. The passage of Eusebius is not a complete paraphrase but includes Eusebius’ own comments, as in paras 8-10. Bauckham also suggests that 12-13 could be Eusebius’ comment too, and not necessarily a paraphrase from a source. B concedes, however, that in this passage Eusebius “may” have picked up the vocabulary of the source. (Hill in The Johannine Corpus, p.387, singles out for note in para 12 the words for “records”, “deeds” and “mention” above — paradidosin (hands down), praxhthenta (things done) and mnemoneuousin (record).)
  2. Bauckham says that Eusebius could be “quite free” with his paraphrasing and to illustrate this cites H.E. 6.14.6-7 and H.E. 2.15.1-2. These examples, to my mind at least, demonstrated if anything Eusebius’s basic consistency each time he paraphrased the one source. The major difference that appears between the two passages are that in the first, Eusebius is saying that Peter did not have strong feelings when he first heard about the plan to record his preaching in a book, while in the second Eusebius is saying Peter was pleased with the results of what had been done, especially when he learned of the outcome through a vision. That is hardly an inconsistency of the order of paraphrasing the same event in contradictory ways.
  3. Hill argues that Eusebius is paraphrasing a written source (indicated by the use of “katechei logos” — “written memorials” in para 5 above) and B acknowledges this. However B is less sure that E’s references to “they say” (phasi) in para 7 above. B’s implication is that even if Eusebius is referencing Papias there could well be much less of Papias here than Hill claims. (Alternately Eusebius could be telling what Papias said elders said (phasi) to him.)
  4. Bauckham notes that, regarding the gospel of Matthew, the only point in common between this passage and the undisputed Papias passage (H.E. 3.39.16) is that it is said to have been originally written in Hebrew. Other information is completely different. B does acknowledge that different contexts could call for different details to be brought out: “This is not an insuperable difficulty for ascribing the anonymous source to Papias, but it deprives the case of some of its attractiveness.” (p.435)
  5. Hill notes that both passages are concerned with the “order” in which the gospel ‘historical’ details are written. Bauckham expresses his doubts on this point. He argues that the in H.E. 3.39.15 the discussion about Mark’s “order” leads us to “infer” that the chronological order is all wrong. While most commentators do seem to “infer” this, this does seem to me to be a somewhat flippant assumption to what the ancients meant by “order” in this and similar contexts. Hill in fact demonstrates that to the mind of Eusebius, the question of “order” in the gospels was satisfied when John filled out the missing years of Jesus’ ministry, from the time of baptism until the time of the Baptist’s imprisonment. Bauckham does concede in this respect: “It does, therefore, address the problem of differences among the Gospels in the way that that problem seems to have been felt most acutely by ancient readers . . . ” (p.436) Nevertheless Bauckham insists that Hill’s Eusebian passage “is quite inconsistent with what Papias says about Mark in the undisputed fragment (3.39.15) as well as with what can probably be inferred as to his view of John’s Gospel.” (p.436) It is certainly inconsistent with most generally assumed inferences about what Papias meant to say about Mark.
  6. Bauckham concludes that even if we accept the whole of Hill’s argument that the above passage is a paraphrase of Papias, nothing in that passage contradicts B’s reasoning that the author of John’s gospel was in fact John the Elder and not John the apostle.
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Neil Godfrey

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