Markus Vinzent's Blog

Monday, 8 October 2012

A riddle: Papias in Argumentum secundum Iohannem - or what does it say about John and Marcion?

Here is a riddle for everyone who wants to stretch her or his mind, language skills and observations.
For a very long time, Papias' Fragment 21 (in the J. Kürzinger-edition, one of the first projects in which I was involved as a very young student), has rarely attracted scholarship - I noticed that already when I drew up the annotated bibliography (spanning just Kürzinger's period of his publication and reception to the date of publication of this edition and translation, the latter two done by R.M. Hübner). But it is probably an important document, and it has something to say about Marcion.
The text derives from the "Incipit argumentum secundum Iohannem" of Vat. Reg. lat. 14 (Kürzinger, 124).
Now, for days recently, I have struggled again with this text, as given in our two recent editions, that of the mentioned Josef Kürzinger (a.o.), Papias von Hierapolis und die Evangelien des Neuen Testaments (Regensburg, 1983); and the other that appeared almost simultaneously, the one done by Körtner: Ulrich H.J. Körtner, Papias von Hierapolis, Forschungen zur Religion und Literatur des Alten und Neuen Testaments 133 (Göttingen, 1983).
The text in both editions is almost identical (the more precise one in Kürzinger is given here):
Evangelium Iohannis manifestatum et datum est ecclesiis ab Iohanne adhuc in corpore constituto, sicut Papias nomine Hierapolitanus, discipulus Iohannis carus, in exotericis id est in extremis quinque libris retulit. Descripsit vero Evangelium dictante Iohanne recte.
Verum Martion hereticus, cum ab eo fuisset improbatus eo quod contraria sentiebat, abiectus est a Iohanne. Is vero scripta vel epistolas ad eum pertulerat a fratribus, qui in Ponto fuerunt.
The German translation of Hübner reads:

Das Evangelium des Johannes ist noch zu seinen Lebzeiten veröffentlicht und den Gemeinden übergeben worden, wie Papias (mit Namen Hierapolitaner), der vertraute Schüler des Johannes in seinen Ausführungen (?), nämlich in den letzten (?) fünf Büchern berichtet hat. Er schrieb das Evangelium nach dem Diktat des Johannes richtig nieder.
Der Häretiker Markion jedoch wurde, nachdem er von ihm wegen seiner gegensätzlichen Meinungen gerügt worden war, von Johannes abgesetzt. Dieser hatte Schriften oder Briefe zu ihm überbracht von den Brüdern, die in Pontus waren.
Körtner translates the same text as follows:
Das Johannesevangelium ist den Gemeinden von Johannes, als er noch am Leben war, offenbart und gegeben worden, wie Papias, genannt der Hierapolitaner, ein lieber Schüler des Johannes, in seinen exoterischen (exegetischen?), das heißt in den allerletzten (äußeren?) fünf Büchern berichtete hat. Er schrieb sogar das Evangelium nach dem Diktat des Johannes fehlerfrei auf. Indessen ist der Ketzer Marcion, der von ihm (= Papias?) verworfen wurde, weil er die Gegensätze wahrnahm, (auch) durch Johannes widerlegt worden. Er (= Marcion?) hat ihm (= Papias?) nämlich Schriften oder Briefe von den Brüdern mitgebracht, die in Pontus lebten.
Körtner remarked already (Ibid. 253, note 133), that it is unklear, "to whom to refer the last argument of the fragment", and it "remains extremely dubious why the [earlier] editors of the fragments of Papias left out the last sentences or, as in K. Bihlmeyer they were set in brackets. 'In the final sentence„He“ (Is) seemes to refer to Marcion as subject' (J.A. Kleist, ACW 6, p. 210, note 46). R. Annad, SJTh 9, 1956, S. 60 reads: '... VERUM. MARCION HERETICUS ... ABIECTUS EST: AB IOHANNE ...' The dark words 'ab eo' and 'ad eum', then in both cases mean Papias. On this more reluctant is W.R. Schoedel, The Apostolic Fathers V, S. 122.“

When we study this text, we notice that not only the end of it is dark
. To date, the opening of the sentence with "descripsit vero" is unclear as well, because it is not obvious who the subject of this verb is. When we read the text, as printed (and as read in Pitra and the manuscript), one would need to take John as the subject, of whom it was said before that he had published and distributed his Gospel - but the text adds "dictante Iohanne" which excludes him from being the subject of "descripsit". If not John, do we have to take Papias as its subject? However, the previous sentence is given in passive form and Papias only appears in the subordinate clause, so that the descripsit-sentence is somehow unconnected. Even more so is what follows and introduces Marcion, the heretic. What has Marcion to do with the previous argument? And what has the writing down or the description to do with the fact that John rejects Marcion? And again, what in this context is the meaning of "contraria"?
To start with the easier, the latter task. It seems to me that in the context of Marcion "contraria" are not simply opposing views or ideas, but the "Antitheses" of Marcion that he put before his Gospel in the published version. If this were so, then John had read Marcion’s Antitheses together with his Gospel and, as a result of the former, rejected him (eo quod contraria sentiebat). If this were so – according to this text, of course – we might be able to solve the riddles of the first part. Already in the year, 1938 Robert Eisler suggested a slightly different interpunction.
Robert Eisler, The Enigma of the Fourth Gospel(London, 1938), 156:

Evangelium Iohannis manifestatum et datum
est ecclesiis ab Iohanne adhuc in corpore constituto
sicut Papias nomine hierapolitanus,
discipulus Iohannis carus
in exegeticis quinque libris retulit.
Descripsit vero evangelium, dictante Iohanne recte verum
Marcion hereticus. Cum ab eo fuisset improbatus, eo quod
contraria sentiebat, abiectus est ab Iohanne.
Is vero scripta vel epistolas ad eum
pertulerat a fratribus, qui in Ponto fuerunt.
Here my own translation:
The Gospel of John, even during his lifetime, was published and distributed to the churches, as Papias, called the Hierpolitan, the beloved disciple of John, has reported in his explications (?), namely the last (?) five books. But Marcion, the heretic, described/wrote down the/a Gospel, while John dictated correctly the true one. Since he [Marcion] has been disapproved by him [John], for him [John] having got to know the Antitheses of him [Marcion], John rebuked him. He [Marcion], indeed, had brought him writings or letters from the brethren who were in Pontus.
"Descripsit" is, unfortunately, an ambiguous term. It can mean "describe", and if so here, then Marcion described the Gospel (of John), if, however, it means "wrote down", then we would need to understand that Marcion wrote down a Gospel – there are several indications that the second variant seems the correct one here: Whereas in the case of the Gospel of John the specification is given, there is no such detailing for Marcion’s text (hence, it is not to be referred to John), while it is added that John "dictated correctly the true one [Gospel]". If one opts for the first variant, then Marcion had criticized the Gospel of John as he did the others of being plagiarisms (aemulationes), pointing apparently to Luke and Matthew. If we follow the second variant, then the text differentiates between the written down Gospel of Marcion and the true, correctly dictated one of John without telling us who, in fact, wrote it down. We only know that John himself had published and distributed it. Or shall one combine the two varants, as Eisler did who believed that Marcion was the scribe of John who wrote down what John dictated correctly, but then usshered his "contraria" which made John rebuke him. The latter version, however, seems to me to go beyond the text, as the writing down in itself is not negatively connotated in the text, only the voicing of the "contraria". That it seems to be about the opposition between the correctly dictated text of John, the true Gospel, and Marcion’s own Gospel, qualifying all others as untrue by the added Antitheses is indicated by the following clause, which underlines, again, that Marcion gave John writings or letters from the Brothers in Pontus, hence Marcion’s and Marcionite works. Whichever way one may read this Incipit, the text defends John who dictated, published and distributed his own Gospel as the true and correct one, while the Antitheses of Marcion and with these their author are being rejected. At the same time, supported by Papias, John’s product is highlighted as an authentic Gospel. The hint at the correct dictation may counter-argue Marcion’s accusation of plagiarism.
That we have to do, indeed, with information by Papias is supported by the way Papias describes the working of Mark and Matthew. In both cases, Papias is concerned with correctness and order, so with Mark, he criticizes him of incorrectly writing down, what Peter has preached, and with regards to Matthew he insists that Matthew had followed the right (corrected?) order. Papias endorses that John dictated correctly, but that Marcion in his Antitheses must have criticized him and challenged the truth of it.


  1. You may be interested that in my published restoration of the original Gospel of John, in the commentaries, I punctuate as follows, and translate into English thus...

    Evangelium Iohannis manifestum et datum est ecclesiis ab Iohanne adhuc in corpore constituto; sicut Papias nomine, Hieropolitanus, discipulus Johannis carus, in Exotericis, id est in extremis quinque libris retulit; descripsit vero evangelium dictante Iohanne recte verum.

    The Gospel of John was published and given to the churches by John [the Presbyter] when he was still in the flesh; so recalled Papias, a beloved disciple of John named [by him as the bishop] of Hierapolis, in Exotericis [Explanations], that is, in the last of [Papias’s] five books: John in fact wrote the gospel down faithfully from the correct truth dictated to him.

    That John the Presbyter wrote the gospel from the oral memories of the Beloved Disciple (whom I conclude was Lazarus) fits. The gospel manuscript was sent to Pontus for safekeeping, and Marcion took it with him when his father disowned him, and tried to buy favor with Papias by giving it to him. The above Reg. Lat. 14 also coheres with the comments in the Muratorian Canon, which I believe like the Reg. Lat. 14 is a paraphrase of Papias's writings that was in Greek at first, but both were translated into horrible Latin...

    (10) quarti euangeliorum iohannis ex decipolis (11) cohortantibus condescipulis et eps suis dixit (12) conieiunate mihi. odie triduo (13) et quid cuique fuerit reuelatum alterutrum nobis ennarremus (14) eadem nocte reuelatum andreae ex apostolis ut recogniscentibus cuntis iohannis suo nomine cuncta discriberet ... (20) quid ergo mirum si iohannes tam constanter sincula etia in epistulis suis proferam dicens in semeipsu (21) quae uidimus oculis nostris et auribus audiuimus et manus nostrae palpauerunt haec scripsimus uobis (22) sic enim non solum uisurem sed & auditorem sed & scriptore omnium mirabiliu dni per ordinem profetetur

    (10) The fourth [book] of the Gospels is that of John, [one] of the disciples. (11) When his fellow-disciples and bishops urged [him], he said: (12) “Fast together with me today for three days (13) and, what shall be revealed to each, let us tell [it] to each other.” (14) On that same night it was revealed to Andrew, [one] of the Apostles, that, with all of them reviewing [it], John should describe all things in his own name. ... (20) What marvel, therefore, if John so constantly brings forward particular [matters] also in his letters, saying of himself: (21) “What we have seen with our eyes and have heard with [our] ears and our hands have handled, […] these things we have written to you.” (22) For thus he declares that he was not only an eyewitness and hearer, but also a writer of all the wonderful things of the Lord in order.

  2. I forgot to copy in the rest of 14....

    Marcion hæreticus cum ab eo fuisset improbatus eo quod contraria sentiebat, abiectus est. A Johanne is vero scripta vel epistolas ad eum pertulerat a fratribus qui in Ponto fuerunt.

    Marcion, the heretic, when he had been rejected by him [Papias] because he [Marcion] had suggested contrary matters, was expelled. He [Marcion] had brought to him [Papias], from the brothers who were in Pontus, the writings and letters by John.

    This accords with what the Panarion says...

    τοῖς ἔτι πρεσβύταις περιοῦσι καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν μαθητῶν τῶν ἀποστόλων ὁρμωμένοις συμβαλὼν ᾔτει συναχθῆναι καὶ οὐδεὶς αὐτῷ συγκεχώρηκε.

    He met with the presbyters who still lived, those who had been taught by the disciples of the apostles (of Jesus), and begged to be admitted to communion, but none of them would allow this.

    ... and Peter of Alexandria....

    … καθως τα ακριβη βιβλια περιεχει, αυτο τε το ιδιοχειρον του ευαγγελιστου, οπερ μεχρι του νυν πεφυλακται χαριτι θεου εν τη Εφεσιων αγιωτατη εκκλησια, και υπο των πιστων εκεισε προσκυνειται.

    … the very copy that was written by the hand of the evangelist, which, by divine grace, has been preserved in the most holy church in Ephesus, where it is kissed [venerated] by the faithful.

    Of course, I provide a lot of analytical detail in the book - I am expanding these chapters for the next printing, in which we go to two volumes, because the translation and commentaries now total up around a thousand pages.....

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