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Abstract for my SBL Paper

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Update: I am no longer able to make it to this year’s SBL conference due to my upcoming big move in the new year, but the panel will arrange for someone to read my paper below if you are still interested in attending (and critiquing it since I am not there to defend it :D). If you are interested in learning more about this topic, my book The Beloved Apostle? The Transformation of the Apostle John into the Fourth Evangelist will be out soon.

The program book for the upcoming 2017 Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature in Boston is available online. Here is the information for the session I will be speaking at:

Inventing Christianity: Apostolic Fathers, Apologists, and Martyrs


4:00 PM to 6:30 PM

Room: Room TBD – Clarendon (Third Level) – Sheraton Boston Hotel (SB)

Theme: Second-Century Reconstructions of the Past

Stephanie Cobb, University of Richmond, Presiding

Matthew R. Crawford, Australian Catholic University: Forbidden Angelic Knowledge in 1 Enoch and Tatian the Assyrian (30 min)

J. Christopher Edwards, St. Francis College: The Polemical Function of Jesus in the Epistle of Barnabas (30 min)

Michael J. Kok, The King’s University: The Patristic Reception of the “Elder John” (30 min)

Diane Lipsett, Salem College, Respondent (30 min)

Business Meeting (30 min)

Here is the abstract for my presentation at the upcoming Society of Biblical Literature Meeting in November:

The Patristic Reception of the ‘Elder John’

The Papian fragment cited in Eusebius’s Ecclesiastical History 3.39.4 has caused major interpretative difficulties. Were Papias’s “elders” a special class of ecclesiastical presbyters who ranked beneath and were appointed by the apostles? Or did the “elders” stand in an appositional relationship to the “disciples of the Lord,” meaning that Papias was simply restating his goal to ascertain the elder’s (i.e. disciple’s) words or what they had said? The second question is whether the same John was mentioned twice, the first time as part of the seven disciples who had passed away and the second time as one of the two remaining disciples who were still alive in Papias’s time, or whether the disciple John and the elder John were two separate individuals. However one resolves these translation issues, this paper will explore the Patristic reception of Papias’s mysterious informant on the evangelists Mark and Matthew (H.E. 3.39.15-16). Although A. C. Perumalil (1980) and Richard Bauckham (2006, 2007) have argued via different routes that Irenaeus maintained the distinction between the apostle John and the elder John, Lorne Zelyck (2016) has reiterated that Irenaeus probably assumed that the apostle John inaugurated a line of apostolic succession in Asia Minor through the bishops Papias and Polycarp (A.H. 3.3.4; 5.33.4) and legitimated the fourth canonical Gospel by recourse to its apostolic origins (3.1.1). I would add that there is also no additional information to be gleaned about the “elder John” from Polycrates of Ephesus (Eusebius, H.E. 3.31.3; 5.24.2) or from the Muratorian Canon. Finally, Eusebius and Jerome may not have manufactured the second John since they had access to Papias’s five-volume treatise, but their biases are displayed when they assigned the book of Revelation or the Johannine epistles to this anonymous elder in order to downgrade their authoritative status (H.E. 3.39.2, 5-7; cf. 3.25.2, 4; 3.28.2-5; 3.39.13-15; 7.25.1-27; Jerome, De vir. il. 13). Thus, ideological agendas were at work in the translation of Papias’s sloppy phraseology.

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