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Did Papias write history or exegesis?

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

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Author(s)

Richard Bauckham

School/Research organisations

Abstract

This article investigates what sort of a literary work Papias wrote and how it was related to the written Gospels he knew. The meaning of its title-Lambda o gamma i omega nu K nu rho i alpha kappa omega nu E xi eta gamma eta sigma iota s-is discussed first. The word lambda o gamma o omega nu always means 'an oracle', an authoritative utterance from a divine source, and so refers here to sayings of Jesus, though Papias certainly included stories about Jesus, probably because they contained sayings. 'E xi eta gamma eta sigma iota s can mean either 'account, report' or 'interpretation'. Was Papias's work simply a collection of Jesus traditions or an exegetical work of interpretation, as the majority of scholars have assumed? A survey of the use of the word in other book titles suggests that, if 'interpretation' were the meaning, the plural would have been more appropriate, but the evidence is not conclusive. As for the evidence of the work's content, Eusebius' description makes it sound like a collection of Gospel traditions, and the surviving fragments confirm this, though it is likely Papias's work began (like John) with an introductory account of primeval history. In the extant portion of Papias's preface, it is argued, he presents himself as a historian who employed good historical research methods, preferring living eyewitness sources ('a living and surviving source'), which he could access at only one remove, to 'the books' (i.e. written Gospels). Whether he supplemented his oral sources from the written Gospels we do not know.

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Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)463-488
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Theological Studies
Volume65
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2014

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