Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses - Part 26
This rather extensive summary of Bauckham's book is almost at an end - only two posts left (Pts 27 and 28). The whole series shall then be completed with two final posts (Pts 29 and 30) offering some critical reflections and general remarks. A 30 part review! I need to get a life!
Click here for the (continually updated) series outline
Chapter 16. Papias on John
In the previous two chapters Bauckham has argued that the Gospel of John portrays, and plausibly so, its author as the disciple it calls ‘the disciple Jesus loved’. This argument entails that the Beloved Disciple was not one of the Twelve, namely John the son of Zebedee. This is affirmed by the absence of a list of the Twelve disciples in the Gospel of John as is made in the Synoptics which, as was argued earlier, was indicative of an acknowledgment of indebtedness to the traditions of the Twelve. The names in John’s Gospel rather indicate that it draws on traditions ‘not simply from the Beloved Disciple himself, but from a particular circle of disciples of Jesus in which the Beloved Disciple moved’. This conclusion is further strengthened with reference to the ‘protective anonymity’ scheme detailed earlier.
This does not mean that the question of the identity of the John ‘the Beloved’ should remain closed. Indeed, and drawing on Hengel’s work again, he asserts: ‘That the author of John’s Gospel was a John other than John the son of Zebedee is not at all unlikely’. Furthermore, the evidence of what Papias said about the origin of the Gospels can be used to argue that the author of the Gospel of John is none other than ‘the disciple of Jesus whom Papias calls John the Elder’. This leads to an extensive analysis of the Papias material once again that firmly associates the Gospel author with ‘John the Elder’, and not John the son of Zebedee. To strengthen this case Bauckham investigates the meaning of the John 21:23 ‘rumour’ that the Beloved Disciple would survive until the parousia, and the title ‘the elder’. To facilitate this examination, Bauckham also addresses the question as to why ‘no explicit comments by Papias on the Gospel of John have survived’ and argues that Eusebius had good reason to edit out much material original to Papias. However, and again breaking fresh ground, Bauckham argues in detail that some remnant of Papias’s comments on the Gospel of John can be found in the Muratorian Canon. His reasoning at this stage is a powerful blend of deep familiarity with early Christian literature and exact reasoning, which maintains that, for the author of the Muratorian Canon who drew to an extent from lost Papias material, John was a disciple but not a member of the Twelve.
‘We may conclude that what Papias said about the origin of John’s Gospel was that John the Elder, the disciple of the Lord, wrote it. He may have said that John was urged to do so by the elders, the leading Christian teachers in the province of Asia, who had known other disciples of Jesus. Papias also, very likely, said that these elders vouched for the truth of the Gospel (referring to John 21:24). He then quoted part of 1 John 1:1-4 in order to show that its author, John the Elder, was both himself an eyewitness of the events of the Gospel history and himself wrote them in his Gospel. Therefore he alone, among the Gospel writers Papias discussed, wrote the logia of the Lord in order’.The chapter ends with an appendix making several significant qualifications to the arguments of Charles Hill that Papias’ ‘views on John’s Gospel ... are preserved by Eusebius in Hist. Eccl. 3.24.5-13’ as Hill’s thesis would negate much of Bauckham’s work in isolating dependence on Papias in the Muratorian Canon.
. Ibid., 414.
. Ibid., 416.
. Ibid., 422.
. Ibid., 433.
(Picture is of Eusebius)