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New JECS Article on Papias and the “Gospel according to the Hebrews”

The Journal of Early Christian Studies 25.1 (2017) has come out and has my article “Did Papias of Hierapolis Use the Gospel according to the Hebrews as a Source?” in it. It is based on the following line from Eusebius: “Now this is reported by Papias about Mark, but about Matthew this was said, Now Matthew compiled the reports in a Hebrew manner of speech, but each interpreted them as he could… and [he] had also set forth another story about a woman who was accused of many sins before the Lord, which the Gospel according to the Hebrews contains” (Ecclesiastical History 3.39.16-17). This is the official journal of the North American Patristic Society and this article is meant for specialists, but I will outline the main arguments:

  • Ecclesiastical History 3.39.16 was not referring to a Jewish style of argumentation (contra Kürzinger and Gundry). There are three options: Papias mistakenly thought that our Greek New Testament “Gospel according to Matthew” was translated from the language of the Hebrews (i.e. Aramaic), alluded to a lost Aramaic source, or referred to the “Gospel according to the Hebrews” that Eusebius brings up in the next passage. I leaned towards the first option and tried to disprove the third option.
  • The general consensus dates Papias, a bishop in Hierapolis, around 110 CE based on a combination of external and internal evidence. Papias seems to know the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, 1 Peter, 1 John, and Revelation, while the writer of Luke-Acts may actually be a near contemporary of him.
  • There is debate among scholars about whether there was one, two, three, or more Gospel texts being cited by the church fathers who refer to the “Gospel according to the Hebrews.” I follow Luomanen and Gregory that there were two: a Jewish Christian source cited originally by Christians in Alexandria (Clement, Origen, Didymus) and a Gospel harmony attributed to the Jewish Ebionite sect by Epiphanius, while Jerome may have had access to other fragments from the Jewish Nazoraean sect’s translation of Matthew’s Gospel.
  • There are fragments of the Jewish Christian Gospels that show signs of harmonizing Matthew and Luke and, thus, postdate the Synoptic tradition and Papias.
  • Papias got the story of the accused woman from the oral traditions in Asia Minor. Interestingly, many of Papias’s oral traditions are multiply attested by the author of Luke-Acts, while this particular episode evolves into the familiar story of Jesus rescuing an adulteress from getting stoned to death that was interpolated into John 7:53-8:11.
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