Bishop of Hierapolis, a town a
few miles N of Laodicea in Phrygia (SW Asia Minor), at the end of the 1st cent. and the beginning of
the 2nd (a little later in the 2nd cent., Claudius Apollinaris the apologete
was bishop of the see). Papias probably was born in the decade of a.d. 60–70. His writings are the major
ground of interest in him, for he said that he made a point of interrogating
people who had known the Lord’s disciples. He thought he could profit more
“from the utterances of a living and surviving voice” than from books (Euseb. Eccl. Hist. 3.39.4).
He wrote an Interpretation of the Sayings of the Lord in five books.
Although it was listed in the library catalogue of Stams, a Cistercian
monastery in the Tyrol as late as 1341, it has now disappeared. There are only
quotations from it and references to it by other writers. Eusebius has the most interesting
citations, but Irenaeus and
Andrew of Caesarea (late 6th cent.), among others, also quoted him directly.
The Interpretation can be dated about
120–130. It states that “Mark became Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately
all that he remembered, not indeed in order, of the things said or done by the
Lord.” Of Matthew, Papias said that he “collected the sayings in the Hebrew
language, and each interpreted them as he was able” (Euseb. Eccl. Hist.
3.39.15–16). Irenaeus (Ag. Her. 5.33.3) quoted Papias as saying that the
apostle John related what Christ taught, that after the resurrection of the
righteous there would be an earthly kingdom when vines and wheat would be more
prolific than ever, and animals would be peaceable and obedient to man.
Irenaeus also described Papias as a “hearer of John” and a companion of Polycarp (5.33.4).
Eusebius, however, argued that Papias had not known
any of the apostles (Eccl. Hist. 3.39.4). He quotes Papias as saying, “I
inquired into the words of the presbyters, what Andrew or Peter or Philip or
Thomas or James or John or Matthew, or any other of the Lord’s disciples, had
said, and what Aristion and the presbyter John, the Lord’s disciples, were
saying.” Eusebius interpreted this statement to be a reference to two separate
“Johns,” and he frequently has found support among modern scholars. Eusebius
had a low opinion of Papias’s mind and called him “a man of very little
intelligence” (Eccl. Hist. 3.39.13). The connection indicates that this
may be due, in part at least, to their divergent views on the millennial
period. (See M. Jourjon, DBSup
6 , cols. 1104–9; U. H. J.
Körtner, Papias von Hierapolis: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte des frühen
Christentums ; J. Kürzinger, Papias von Hierapolis und die
Evangelien des Neuen Testaments ; R. Bauckham in JTS 44 : 24–69; W. R. Schoedel in ABD,