From  the  book  “THE  HISTORY  OF  THE  CHURCH”


Menander the impostor

26. Let us now return to the course of our story. Simon the Magus was succeeded by Menander, a second tool of the devil's ingenuity as bad as his predecessor, as he showed by his conduct. He too was a Samaritan, and having risen to the same heights of imposture as his master, he poured out a stream of still more marvellous tales. He actually claimed to be the saviour sent down from somewhere aloft to save


1. Fragments survive; the work was written before A.D. 150.

2. A large fragment survives: the work was probably written early in the 2nd century.

3. The extant Gospel of Thomas may consist of the orthodox parts of this work.

4. A third-century list of miracles, of which a summary survives.

5. A second-century work, of which large portions survive.


mankind from invisible aeons,1 and taught that there was no way by which a man could get the better even of the angels who made the world, unless he had first been taken through the magical skills transmitted by himself and the baptism which he bestowed: those who were admitted to this baptism would share in everlasting immortality in this present world, no longer subject to death but destined to continue here for ever, ageless and immortal. All this is clearly stated in the writings of Irenaeus. Justin, too, follows up his comments on Simon with an account of his successor:

Another Samaritan, called Menander, from the village of Caparattaea, became a disciple of Simon and like him was driven mad by the demons. It is known that he arrived in Antioch and deluded many by magical trickery. He even persuaded his followers that they would not die: and there are still some who on the strength of his assertion maintain this belief.2

It was certainly characteristic of the devil's ingenuity to make use of such impostors, who usurped the name of Christian, in his determination to misrepresent in the interests of magic the great mystery of religion,3 and to make a mockery of the Church's teaching on the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the dead. But those who have entitled these men 'saviours' have fallen from the true hope.4

The Ebionite sect: the heresies of Cerinthus and Nicolaus

27. There were others whom the evil demon, unable to shake their devotion to the Christ of God, caught in a different trap and made his own. Ebionites they were appropriately


1. In Gnostic language 'aeons' were major supernatural powers: the world had been created by lower angels, evil and hostile, of which the soul, if it was to be saved, could get the better only by sacramental initiation and esoteric knowledge.

2. Justin Martyr, Defence.

3. 1 Tim. iii. 16.

4. Eusebius is right in his belief that Gnosticism did not begin as a Christian movement, but soon drew Christians into it.


named by the first Christians, in view of the poor and mean opinions they held about Christ. They regarded Him as plain and ordinary, a man esteemed as righteous through growth1 of character and nothing more, the child of a normal union between a man and Mary;2 and they held that they must observe every detail of the Law - by faith in Christ alone, and a life built upon that faith, they would never win salvation.

A second group went by the same name, but escaped the outrageous absurdity of the first. They did not deny that the Lord was born of a virgin and the Holy Spirit, but nevertheless shared their refusal to acknowledge His pre-existence as God the Word and Wisdom. Thus the impious doctrine of the others was their undoing also, especially as they placed equal emphasis on the outward observance of the Law. They held that the epistles of the Apostle ought to be rejected altogether, calling him a renegade from the Law; and using only the ‘Gospel of the Hebrews’, they treated the rest with scant respect. Like the others, they observed the Sabbath and the whole Jewish system; yet on the Lord's Day they celebrated rites similar to our own in memory of the Saviour's resurrection. It is then because of such practices that they have been dubbed with their present name: the name of Ebionites hints at the poverty of their intelligence, for this is the way in which a poor man is referred to by the Hebrews.3

28. At the time under discussion, tradition tells us, another heretical sect was founded by Cerinthus.4 Gaius, whose words


1. The word used in Luke ii. 52.

2. The fact that these very early heretics denied the Virgin Birth implies its general acceptance.

3. Both these wild guesses at the origin of the name are derived from Origen. A more likely explanation is that it was applied to the earliest Jewish Christians in reference to their voluntary poverty.

4. A Judaizing gnostic, whose views are rebutted in the prologue of John's gospel.


I quoted earlier,1 in the Disputation attributed to him writes this about him:

Then there is Cerinthus, who by revelations purporting to have been written by a great apostle presents us with tales of wonder falsely alleged to have been shown to him by angels. He declares that after the Resurrection the Kingdom of Christ will be on earth, and that carnal humanity will dwell in Jerusalem, once more enslaved to lusts and pleasures.2 And in his enmity towards the Scriptures of God, and his anxiety to lead men astray, he foretells a period of a thousand years given up to wedding festivities.

Dionysius again, who held the bishopric of the Alexandrian see in my own time, in Book 11 of his Promises makes certain statements about the Revelation of John on the basis of very ancient tradition. He then refers to Cerinthus in the following terms.

Cerinthus: the founder of a sect called Cerinthian after him, who wished to attach a name commanding respect to his own creation. This, they say, was the doctrine he taught - that Christ's Kingdom would be on earth; and the things he lusted after himself, being the slave of his body and sensual through and through, filled the heaven of his dreams - unlimited indulgence in gluttony and lechery at banquets, drinking-bouts, and wedding-feasts, or (to call these by what he thought more respectable names) festivals, sacrifices, and the immolation of victims.3

That is how Dionysius puts it. Irenaeus in Book 1 of his Heresies Answered set out some of his more revolting errors, and in Book III has placed on record a memorable story. He states on the authority of Polycarp that one day John the apostle went into a bath-house to take a bath, but when he found that Cerinthus was inside he leapt from the spot and


1. p. 105.

2. Titus iii. 3.

3. An excerpt from the passage quoted on p. 309; Cerinthus and the Nicolaitans tried to import into Christianity the notorious licentiousness of western Asia Minor.


ran for the door, as he could not endure to be under the same roof. He urged his companions to do the same, calling out: “Let us get out of here, for fear the place falls in, now that Cerinthus, the enemy of the truth, is inside.”1

29. In their day, too, the very short-lived sect of the Nicolaitans came into existence. It is mentioned in the Revelation of John.2 These sectaries laid claim to Nicolaus, who like Stephen was one of the deacons appointed by the apostles to assist those in want.3 Clement of Alexandria in Book III of his Miscellanies gives this account of him:

This man, we are told, had an attractive young wife. After the Saviour's Ascension the apostles accused him of jealousy, so he brought his wife forward and said that anyone who wished might have her. This action, we are told, followed from the injunction 'the flesh must be treated with contempt'; and by following example and precept crudely and unquestioningly the members of the sect do in fact practise utter promiscuity. But my own information is that Nicolaus had no relations with any woman but his wife; and that, of his children, his daughters remained unmarried till the end of their days and his son's chastity was never in doubt. Such being the case, his bringing the wife whom he loved so jealously into the midst of the apostles was the renunciation of desire, and it was mastery of the pleasures so eagerly sought that taught him the rule 'treat the flesh with contempt'. For in obedience to the Saviour's command, I imagine, he had no wish to serve two masters, pleasure and Lord. It is believed that Matthias also taught this, that we must fight against the flesh and treat it with contempt, never yielding to it for pleasure's sake, but must nourish the soul through faith and knowledge.

So much for those who during that period endeavoured to twist the truth, only to be extinguished completely, in less time than it takes to tell.


1. The story in Irenaeus's own words will be found on p. 167.

2. Rev. ii. 16.

3. Acts vi. 5.


Apostles who were married men

30. Clement, whose words we have just been reading, goes on from the passage I have quoted to rebut those who deprecated marriage, by listing the apostles known to have been married men. He says:

Or will they condemn even the apostles? For Peter and Philip had families, and Philip gave his daughters in marriage, while Paul himself does not hesitate in one of his epistles to address his yokefellow,1 whom he did not take round with him2 for fear of hindering his ministry.

While I am on the subject, I may as well quote another of Clement's interesting stories, to be found in Book VII of his Miscellanies:

We are told that when blessed Peter saw his wife led away to death he was glad that her call had come and that she was returning home, and spoke to her in the most encouraging and comforting tones, addressing her by name: “My dear, remember the Lord.” Such was the marriage of the blessed, and their consummate feeling towards their dearest.

These quotations, relevant as they are to this section of my work, must suffice for the moment.

The deaths of John and Philip

31. When and how Paul and Peter died, and where after their departure from this life their mortal remains were laid, I have already explained.3 The date of John's death has also been roughly fixed:4 the place where his mortal remains lie


1. It would seem from 1 Cor. vii. 8 that Paul was either a widower or a bachelor. The ‘true yokefellow’ of Phil. iv. 3 may mean ‘Loyal comrade’, as in the New English Bible.

2. 1 Cor. ix. 5 does not say that Paul had a wife, only that he was entitled to have one. Why did not Clement quote the rest of the verse, which says that all the twelve and the Lord's brothers had wives?

3. pp. 104-5.

4. p. 128.


can be gathered from a letter of Polycrates, Bishop of Ephesus, to Victor, Bishop of Rome. In it he refers not only to John but to Philip the apostle and Philip's daughters as well:

In Asia1 great luminaries sleep who shall rise again on the last day, the day of the Lord's advent, when He is coming with glory from heaven and shall search out all His saints - such as Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who sleeps in Hierapolis with two of his daughters, who remained unmarried to the end of their days, while his other daughter lived in the Holy Spirit and rests in Ephesus. Again there is John, who leant back on the Lord's breast, and who became a sacrificing priest wearing the mitre, a martyr and a teacher; he too sleeps in Ephesus.2

So much Polycrates tells us about their deaths. And in the Dialogue of Gaius of whom I spoke a little while ago, Proclus, with whom he was disputing, speaks thus about the deaths of Philip and his daughters, in agreement with the foregoing account:

After him there were four prophetesses at Hierapolis in Asia, daughters of Philip. Their grave is there, as is their father's.

That is Gaius's account. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles refers to Philip's daughters as then living with their father at Caesarea in Judaea and endowed with the prophetic gift. His words are:

We arrived at Caesarea, where we went to the house of Philip the Evangelist, one of the Seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters who were prophetesses.3


1. The Roman province, as always. 

2. An excerpt from the passage quoted on p. 231; Polycrates was born c. A.D. 125 and wrote his letter c. A.D. 190. Both John and James the Lord's brother are stated to have worn the mitre (derived from the Jewish high priest), presumably in their archiepiscopal capacity. The word ‘martyr’ does not imply that John was put to death, but only that his witness cost him dear.

3. Acts xxi. 8-9: there seems ample evidence in ancient documents that both Philip the Apostle and Philip the Evangelist came to Hierapolis. Unfortunately Eusebius thought they were the same.


In these pages I have set down all the facts that have come to my knowledge regarding the apostles and the apostolic period; the sacred writings they have left us; the books which though disputed are nevertheless constantly used in very many churches; those that are unmistakably spurious and foreign to apostolic orthodoxy. Let us now go on to the story of what followed.

The martyrdom of Symeon, Bishop of Jerusalem

32. After Nero and Domitian, under the emperor whose times I am now describing,1 there is a firm tradition that persecution broke out against us sporadically in one city at a time as a result of popular risings. In the course of it Symeon, son of Clopas, the second to be appointed Bishop of Jerusalem, as already stated,2 is known to have ended his life by martyrdom. The authority for this statement is the writer to whose history I have appealed several times already, Hegesippus. When writing of certain heretics he goes on to explain how at this time they brought an accusation against Symeon, and how after being subjected for days on end to a variety of tortures for being a Christian, to the utter amazement of the judge and his assessors, he won the prize of an end like that suffered by the Lord. But we cannot do better than listen to the writer's own version of the story:

Some of these [heretics] charged Simon son of Clopas with being a descendant of David and a Christian; as a result he suffered martyrdom at the age of 120, when Trajan was emperor and Atticus consular governor.3

The same writer tells us that in the sequel, when members of the royal house of Judah were being hunted, Symeon's accusers were arrested too, on the ground that they belonged to it. And it would be reasonable to suggest that Symeon was


1. Trajan: there was no persecution in Nerva's short reign.
2. p. 123.

3. A.D. 106 or 107.


an eyewitness and earwitness of the Lord, having regard to the length of his life and the reference in the gospel narrative to Mary, wife of the Clopas whose son he was, as explained in an earlier section.1

The same historian tells us that other descendants of one of the ‘brothers’ of the Saviour named Jude lived on into the same reign, after bravely declaring their faith in Christ, as already recorded,2 before Domitian himself. He writes:

Consequently they came and presided over every church, as being martyrs and members of the Lord's family, and since profound peace came to every church they survived till the reign of Trajan Caesar - till the son of the Lord's uncle, the aforesaid Simon son of Clopas, was similarly informed against by the heretical sects and brought up on the same charge before Atticus, the provincial governor. Tortured for days on end, he bore a martyr's witness, so that all, including the governor, were astounded that at the age of 120 he could endure it; and he was ordered to be crucified.

In describing the situation at that time Hegesippus goes on to say that until then the Church had remained a virgin, pure and uncorrupted, since those who were trying to corrupt the wholesome standard of the saving message, if such there were, lurked somewhere under cover of darkness. But when the sacred band of the apostles had in various ways reached the end of their life, and the generation of those privileged to listen with their own ears to the divine wisdom had passed on, then godless error began to take shape, through the deceit of false teachers, who now that none of the apostles was left threw off the mask and attempted to counter the preaching of the truth by preaching the knowledge falsely so called.

Christian-hunting stopped by Trajan

33. So great was the intensification of the persecution directed against us in many parts of the world at that time, that


1. p. 123.

2. pp. 126-7.


Plinius Secundus,1 one of the most distinguished governors, was alarmed by the number of martyrs and sent a report to the emperor about the number of those who were being put to death for the faith. In the same dispatch he informed him that he understood they did nothing improper or illegal: all they did was to rise at dawn and hymn Christ as a god, to repudiate adultery, murder, and similar disgraceful crimes, and in every way to conform to the law. Trajan's response was to issue a decree that members of the Christian community were not to be hunted, but if met with were to be punished.2 This meant that though to some extent the terrifyingly imminent threat of persecution was stifled, yet for those who wanted to injure us there were just as many pretexts left. Sometimes it was the common people, sometimes the local authorities, who devised plots against us, so that even without open persecution sporadic attacks blazed up in one province or another, and many of the faithful endured the ordeal of martyrdom in various forms.

I have taken this story from a book referred to above, Tertullian's Latin Defence. The translation is as follows:

And yet we have found that even hunting us is forbidden. For Plinius Secundus, as governor of a province, after condemning several Christians and depriving them of their status, was at a loss because of their numbers; and not knowing what to do in the future, he sent a report to the Emperor Trajan to the effect that except for their refusal to worship idols he had detected nothing improper in their behaviour. He also informed him that the Christians got up at dawn and hymned Christ as a god, and in order to uphold their principles were forbidden to commit murder, adultery, fraud, theft, and the like. In response, Trajan sent a rescript ordering that members of the Christian community were not to be hunted, but if met with were to be punished.


1. Pliny the younger, governor of Bithynia.

2. These famous letters were exchanged in A.D. 112; though we possess copies, apparently Eusehius did not.


Bishops of Rome and Jerusalem

34. In the bishopric of Rome, in the third year of Trajan's reign, Clement departed this life, yielding his office to Evarestus. He had been in charge of the teaching of the divine message for nine years in all.

35. When Symeon had found fulfilment in the manner described, his successor on the throne of the Jerusalem bishopric was a Jew named Justus, one of the vast number of the circumcision who by then believed in Christ.

Ignatius and his epistles

36. Pre-eminent at that time in Asia was a companion of the apostles, Polycarp, on whom the eyewitnesses and ministers1 of the Lord had conferred the episcopate of the church at Smyrna. Famous contemporaries of his were Papias, bishop of the see of Hierapolis, and one who to this day is universally remembered - Ignatius, the second to be appointed to the bishopric of Antioch in succession to Peter.

There is evidence that Ignatius was sent from Syria to Rome and became food for wild animals because of his testimony to Christ. He made the journey through Asia under the strictest military guard, encouraging the Christian community, by homilies and exhortations, in every city where he stayed. In particular he warned them to guard most carefully against the heresies which were then first becoming prevalent, and exhorted them to hold fast to the apostolic tradition, which, as he was now on his way to martyrdom, he thought it necessary for safety's sake to set down clearly in writing. Thus, when he arrived at Smyrna where Polycarp was, he wrote one epistle to the church at Ephesus referring to their pastor Onesimus, another to the church at Magnesia


1. Luke i. 2.


on the Maeander, where he refers to Bishop Damas, and a third to the church at Tralles, which, as he states, was then under the rule of Polybius. In addition he wrote to the church at Rome; in his letter he implores them not to beg him off from his martyrdom and so rob him of his longed-for hope.

In support of these statements it will be well to quote some very short passages from these letters:

All the way from Syria to Rome I am fighting with wild animals on land and sea, by night and day, fettered to ten leopards - a squad of soldiers - whom kindness makes even worse. Their disgraceful conduct makes me still more a disciple, but that does not justify me.1 May it be for my good that the wild animals are ready for me: I pray that I may find them prompt. I shall coax them to devour me promptly, unlike some whom they have been afraid to touch; if they are unwilling and refuse, I will compel them to do it. Pardon me; I know what is best for me, and now I am beginning to be a disciple. May nothing seen or unseen grudge my attaining to Jesus Christ! Let fire and cross, encounters with wild animals, tearing apart of bones, hacking of limbs, crushing of the whole body, tortures of the devil come upon me, if only I may attain to Jesus Christ!2

These letters he wrote from Smyrna to the churches named. At a further stage of his journey he communicated in writing from Troas with the Christians at Philadelphia and the church at Smyrna, along with a personal letter to the head of that church, Polycarp. He was well aware that Polycarp was an apostolic man, so like a true and kind shepherd he commended to him the flock at Antioch, asking him to take great care of it. In his letter to Smyrna he quotes a saying from an unknown source to support what he is saying about Christ:

I know and am convinced that even after the Resurrection He was in the flesh. When He came to Peter and his companions He said to


1. 1 Cor. iv. 4.

2. Ignatius: Romans.


them: “Take hold, handle me, and see that I am not a bodiless phantom.” And they at once touched Him and were convinced.1

His martyrdom was well known to Irenaeus, who draws on his epistles:

As one of our people said, when because of his witness he was condemned to the beasts: “I am God's wheat, ground by the teeth of beasts, that I may be found pure bread.”

Polycarp also alludes to these same epistles in the letter to the Philippians that bears his name:

I urge you all to be obedient and to practise the unfailing endurance that you saw before your eyes, not only in blessed Ignatius, Rufus, and Zosimus, but in others from your own number, and in Paul himself and the rest of the apostles: satisfied that all these did not run in vain2 but in truth and righteousness, and that they are in the place that is their due, by the side of the Lord whose sufferings they shared. For they did not love this present world3 but the One who died on our behalf and for our sakes was raised by God. ... You wrote to me as did Ignatius, requesting that if anyone was going to Syria he should take your letters with him. I will do so, if I find a convenient opportunity, either personally or by sending an agent on our joint behalf. The epistles which Ignatius sent us, and any others I have by me, I am sending you as requested: they are enclosed with this letter. You will find them most helpful, for they contain faith, endurance, and all the edification that concerns our Lord.

There we must leave Ignatius. As Bishop of Antioch he was succeeded by Heros.

Evangelists still eminent at that time

37. Among the shining lights of the period was Quadratus, who according to the written evidence was, like Philip's


1. Ignatius may be quoting from some lost gospel, but is probably giving a loose paraphrase of Luke xxiv. 40, borrowing the word ‘convinced’ from John xx. 29.

2. PhiL ii. 16.

3. 2 Tim. iv. 10.


daughters, eminent for a prophetic gift. Besides them many others were well known at the time, belonging to the first stage in the apostolic succession. These earnest disciples of great men built on the foundations of the churches everywhere laid by the apostles,1 spreading the message still further and sowing the saving seed of the Kingdom of Heaven far and wide through the entire world. Very many of the disciples of the time, their hearts smitten by the word of God with an ardent passion for true philosophy, first fulfilled the Saviour's command by distributing their possessions among the needy; then, leaving their homes behind, they carried out the work of evangelists,2 ambitious to preach to those who had never yet heard the message of the faith3 and to give them the inspired gospels in writing. Staying only to lay the foundations of the faith in one foreign place or another, appoint others as pastors, and entrust to them the tending of those newly brought in, they set off again for other lands and peoples with the grace and cooperation of God, for even at that late date many miraculous powers of the divine Spirit worked through them, so that at the first hearing whole crowds in a body embraced with whole-hearted eagerness the worship of the universal Creator.4

Clement's Epistle: works mistakenly attributed to him

As it is impossible for me to enumerate by name all who in the first succession from the apostles became pastors or evangelists in the churches of all the known world, I have naturally included in my account the individual stories only of those whose transmission of the apostolic teaching can still be studied in their writings. 

38. Obvious instances are Ignatius, in the epistles already listed, and Clement in the


1. 1 Cor. iii. 10.    

2. 1 Tim. iv. 5.    

3. A reminiscence of Rom. xv. 20-21. 

4. The aim of these evangelists, as of Paul at Lystra and Athens, was to wean pagans from polytheism to belief in one beneficent Creator.


one universally recognized, which he indited in the name of the church at Rome to that at Corinth. In this he echoes many thoughts from the Epistle to the Hebrews, and indeed makes many verbal quotations from it, proving beyond a doubt that the document was not of recent origin, and making it seem quite natural to include it with the rest in the list of the Apostle's writings. Paul had communicated with the Hebrews by writing to them in their native tongue; and some say that the evangelist Luke, others that this same Clement translated the original text. The second suggestion is the more convincing, in view of the similarity of phraseology shown throughout by the Epistle of Clement and the Epistle to the Hebrews, and of the absence of any great difference between the two works in the underlying thought. It must not be overlooked that there is a second epistle said to be from Clement's pen, but I have no reason to suppose that it was well known like the first one, since I am not aware that the early fathers made any use of it. A year or two ago other long and wordy treatises were put forward as Clement's work. They contain alleged dialogues with1 Peter and Apion, but there is no mention whatever of them by early writers, nor do they preserve in its purity the stamp of apostolic orthodoxy.

The writings of Papias

39. I have now made it clear what is the acknowledged work of Clement, and have discussed the works of Ignatius and Polycarp. Papias has left us five volumes entitled The Sayings of the Lord Explained. These are mentioned by Irenaeus as the only works from his pen:

To these things Papias, who had listened to John and was later a companion of Polycarp, and who lived at a very early date, bears written testimony in the fourth of his books; he composed five.


1. Or 'between'.


That is what Irenaeus says; but Papias himself in the preface to his work makes it clear that he was never a hearer or eyewitness of the holy apostles, and tells us that he learnt the essentials of the Faith from their former pupils:

I shall not hesitate to furnish you, along with the interpretations, with all that in days gone by I carefully learnt from the presbyters and have carefully recalled, for I can guarantee its truth. Unlike most people, I felt at home not with those who had a great deal to say, but with those who taught the truth; not with those who appeal to commandments from other sources but with those who appeal to the commandments given by the Lord to faith and coming to us from truth itself. And whenever anyone came who had been a follower of the presbyters, I inquired into the words of the presbyters, what Andrew or Peter had said, or Philip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew, or any other disciple of the Lord, and what Aristion1 and the presbyter John, disciples of the Lord, were still saying. For I did not imagine that things out of books would help me as much as the utterances of a living and abiding voice.2

Here it should be observed that he twice includes the name of John. The first John he puts in the same list as Peter, James, Matthew, and the rest of the apostles, obviously with the evangelist in mind; the second, with a changed form of expression, he places in a second group outside the number of the apostles, giving precedence to Aristion and clearly calling John a presbyter. He thus confirms the truth of the story that two men in Asia had the same name, and that there were two tombs in Ephesus, each of which is still called John's. This is highly significant, for it is likely that the second - if we cannot accept the first - saw the Revelation that bears the name of John. Papias, whom we are now discussing, owns that he learnt the words of the apostles from their former followers, but says that he listened to Aristion and the presbyter John with his own ears. Certainly


1. The reputed author of the present ending of Mark's gospel.

2. A reminiscence of 1 Peter i. 23.


he often mentions them by name, and reproduces their teachings in his writings.1

I hope that these suggestions are of some value. Now we must go on, from the remarks of Papias already quoted, to other passages in which he tells us of certain miraculous events and other matters, on the basis, it would seem, of direct information. It has already been mentioned that Philip the Apostle resided at Hierapolis with his daughters: it must now be pointed out that their contemporary Papias tells how he heard a wonderful story from the lips of Philip's daughters. He describes the resurrection of a dead person2 in his own lifetime, and a further miracle that happened to Justus, sur-named Barsabas, who swallowed a dangerous poison and by the grace of the Lord was none the worse. After the Saviour's ascension, this Justus was put forward with Matthias by the holy apostles, who prayed over them before drawing lots for someone to fill up their number in place of the traitor Judas. This incident is described in the Acts:

And they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabas and sumamed Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed and said ....3

Papias reproduces other stories communicated to him by word of mouth, together with some otherwise unknown


1. Eusebius's reasoning is unsatisfactory. The fact that the second John is called a presbyter does not distinguish him from the first John, who like Peter, Andrew, and the rest is expressly referred to as a presbyter, nor does the precedence given to Aristion: Philip and Thomas are similarly put before the first John. Nor does the fact that he is mentioned twice: he is first included in the list of presbyters (which, as Eusebius saw, is here equivalent to apostles); then he is mentioned with Aristion, because these two long survived the others. Eusebius has failed to notice the change of tense from 'had said' to 'were saying'. His only authority for the belief that there were two tombs is Dionysius's cautious statement, written nearly two centuries after John's death: “There are said to have been two tombs in Ephesus, each reputed to be John’s.” Nor would two tombs prove that there were two Johns, any more than the five cities each claiming to possess the head of John the Baptist prove that there were five Baptists.

2. Named by Papias as the wife of Manaen.

3. Acts i. 23.


parables and teachings of the Saviour, and other things of a more allegorical character. He says that after the resurrection of the dead there will be a period of a thousand years, when Christ's kingdom will be set up on this earth in material form. I suppose he got these notions by misinterpreting the apostolic accounts and failing to grasp what they had said in mystic and symbolic language. For he seems to have been a man of very small intelligence, to judge from his books. But it is partly due to him that the great majority of churchmen after him took the same view, relying on his early date; e.g. Irenaeus and several others, who clearly held the same opinion.1

In his own book Papias gives us accounts of the Lord's sayings obtained from Aristion or learnt direct from the presbyter John. Having brought these to the attention of scholars, I must now follow up the statements already quoted from him with a piece of information which he sets out regarding Mark, the writer of the gospel:

This, too, the presbyter used to say. “Mark, who had been Peter's interpreter, wrote down carefully, but not in order, all that he remembered of the Lord's sayings and doings. For he had not heard the Lord or been one of His followers, but later, as I said, one of Peter's. Peter used to adapt his teaching to the occasion, without making a systematic arrangement of the Lord's sayings, so that Mark was quite justified in writing down some things just as he remembered them. For he had one purpose only - to leave out nothing that he had heard, and to make no misstatement about it.

Such is Papias's account of Mark. Of Matthew he has this to say:

Matthew compiled the Sayings in the Aramaic language, and everyone translated them as well as he could.2


1. We shall need more evidence before accepting this contemptuous dismissal of Papias and so many others as unintelligent. Did they misinterpret the apostolic accounts, or did Eusebius misinterpret theirs?

2. There seems no reason to doubt this statement, but what the Sayings (i.e. divine pronouncements) were is uncertain. Probably they were a collection of our Lord's authoritative utterances, later translated into Greek and fitted, perhaps by another hand, into a framework of narrative to make the complete gospel that we possess.


Papias also makes use of evidence drawn from I John and 1 Peter, and reproduces a story about a woman falsely accused before the Lord of many sins. This is to be found in the Gospel of the Hebrews.1

This is all that it is necessary to add to the passages I have quoted.







Keith Hunt