Nov 242013

identitycrisis copy_860I’ve been sitting on the idea presented in this post for a couple weeks. As an idea, it sets off red flags. It’s comparing a text known only from a few fragments to another text known only from a few fragments, which both reduces the amount of potential evidence and increases the amount of room for speculation. It’s positing an identity between two given names of writers, writers that are widely known in some circles (they are both in presentations of church history aimed at a secondary school level) and conflating them, which seems a bit pat.

Frankly, I didn’t like these red flags, and that’s why I felt it necessary to mull it over a bit before offering it to others for consideration. My own understanding of the evidence has not changed, so I’m giving the idea up for scrutiny that others might help me change it if I have erred.

The idea arises from the background material presented in earlier posts:

Putting Papias in Order

Chasing Hegesippus

The second post, about Hegesippus, concludes that the author’s name was unknown (having been assumed to be Josephus and then corrupted to be Hegesippus), that the author may have been known solely from his fifth book (from which the title was ascribed), and that the author wrote during the reign of Antoninus and specifically between 138 and 148 AD. The conclusions reached when “Chasing Hegesippus” lead to the question of the author’s identity.

Here are the clues that point to a common identity between Papias and the author of the fifth book of memoirs otherwise known as Hegesippus:

  1. Both refer to Hadrian as a recent emperor (Papias in the fragment from Philip of Side, Hegesippus in the fragment regarding Antinoüs).
  2. Both are attributed with a five-volume work.
  3. Quotes from Papias mention specifically only the first, second, and fourth books. Quotes from Hegesippus mention specifically only the fifth book.
  4. The fourth book of Papias is explicitly mentioned for containing the death of Judas and a scene that appears to be drawn from the Lord’s supper. The fifth book of the other work contains post-Ascension stories.
  5. Papias stresses memory (μνημονεύουσιν), while the other work acquires the title Memoirs (Ὑπομνήματα) and has the author making inquiries in Corinth.
  6. Stephen Gobar refers to Hegesippus in the context (apparently) of correcting 1 Clement because it quotes a potential dominical saying (“Eye has not seen,” etc.) that contradicts a more-authoritative saying, a concern for the sayings of the Lord and a criticism of books that contained them consistent with Papias.
  7. Both Papias and Hegesippus are specifically mentioned by Eusebius as using the Gospel of the Hebrews.
  8. Both make lists of sevens (heretical schools for Hegesippus, apostles and other things for Papias).
  9. Both show a concern for proper order or chronology (given that the reference in Clement of Alexandria to Josephus making a chronology to the tenth year of Antoninus is in fact to the text later ascribed to Hegesippus).
  10. Both works adopt a genre that allows the author to make some statements in the first person.
  11. Both are considered ancient and apostolic men with important information from the early church, but Papias is quoted much more widely, which makes sense if Hegesippus is just a false name given to his fifth book.
  12. Papias had chiliast views and liked numerical symbolism enough to expound on the six days of creation. The tenth year of Antoninus (147/148 AD) is not just seventy-seven years after the destruction of Jerusalem (mentioned by Clement of Alexandria) but also 120 years after a possible date for the Ascension, significant enough to be a prediction of the imminent apocalypse.

Interesting, no? But is it correct? Let me know what you think.



  3 Responses to “That Hegesippus Was Papias”

  1. What about the differences between “Papias” and “Hegesippus”? Papias was the bishop of Hierapolis so it is unlikely that he knew Hebrew. But Hegesippus knew Hebrew. Also the name combination Papias-Hegesippus does not seem likely since both names are Greek. The name “Papias” was particularly common in Asia minor and was rare elsewhere. We would have to assume a scenario like the following: Hegesippus migrated to Hierapolis from Palestine and then became bishop there and was given the honorific name “Papias”. Is there sufficient evidence to carry the weight of such assumptions? I too would be interested in what others think.

    • Definitely. While Papias as bishop of Hierapolis and as having knowledge of Hebrew may be reconciled, it is definitely a stronger point than a few of the points made above.

      Personally I don’t like weak tea ideas like this, as a general rule, so it’s a bit hard for me to double down on the likelihood of such a hypothesis and entrench it against objections. It’s possible but so are quite a few mutually exclusive ideas. For the sake of the hypothesis, it was rather unlucky to find me for a champion.

      It’s not even up for consideration except as an interesting possibility that arises after considering the points made in the “Chasing Hegesippus” article. For exactly the reason you cite: “the name combination Papias-Hegesippus does not seem likely since both names are Greek.” Before it’s even an interesting possibility, someone would have to accept the argument that the identification of the name of the author of the “memoirs” of “Hegesippus” is doubtful.

      The specific idea outlined above is that the fifth book of Papias separated from the rest of his work, got mistaken for a work of Josephus, and then got attributed with the name of Hegesippus. At which point Eusebius reads a 4-book Papias and a 1-book Hegesippus, both of which carry statements that the full extent of the work was 5 books. Because it depends on a number of uncertain hypotheses, it’s only a possibility at best. But sometimes that’s all we’re doing: identifying some interesting possibilities.

  2. “The authority of Scripture: a re-statement of the argument”, by Robert Ainslie Redford. See page 146-148. Redford’s description of the two writers, Hegesippus and Papias, indicates some shared features, even though Redford saw them as two distinct authors.
    Also note the similarity between the names Hegesippus and Papias.

    Hegesi p–p–u s
    Papi a s

    Papias being described as a bishop does not preclude him from knowing Hebrew or Aramaic, It is probable that Eusebius borrowed his list of the early bishops of Jerusalem from Hegesippus. The first 15 bishops of Jerusalem were Jewish-Christians , presumably all Aramaic speakers (Eusebius, The Church History, Paul l. Maier translator, Kregel Publications, 1999, p118-121). The existence of Jewish-Christian bishops at locals other than Jerusalem should be considered.
    Both Papius and Hegesippus must have been big wheels with strong letters of introduction in order to travel about and get inner circle christians to provide information.

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