Papias: Did he hold Church of Rome or Church of God views?

Hierapolis, Turkey (Photo by Joyce Thiel)


The Catholics of Rome consider February 22nd as the day to honor Papias of Hierapolis, whom they consider to be one of their saints. This is somewhat odd in that Papias held many Church of God, not Church of Rome views. One of which, the current Catechism of the Catholic Church considers to be a doctrine of antichrist.

The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that Papias was:

Bishop of Hierapolis (close to Laodicea and Colossae in the valley of the Lycus in Phrygia) and Apostolic Father, called by St. Irenaeus “a hearer of John, and companion of Polycarp, a man of old time”. He wrote a work in five books, logion kyriakon exegesis, of which all but some fragments is lost…Of Papias’s life nothing is known. If Polycarp was born in 69, his “comrade” may have been born a few years earlier…The work of Papias was evidently written in his old age, say between the years 115 and 140 “…His knowledge of St. John’s Gospel is proved not merely by his mention of aloes, but by a citation of John 14:2, which occurs in the curious prophecy of a miraculous vintage in the millennium which he attributed to Our Lord…

Eusebius says that Papias frequently cited traditions of John…Eusebius says Papias “published a story of a woman accused of many sins before the Lord, which is contained in the Gospel according to the Hebrews”. This appears to refer to the pericope adulterae (John 8). The cause of the loss of this precious work of an Apostolic Father was the chiliastic view which he taught, like St. Justin and St. Irenæus. (Chapman J. Transcribed by Marcia L. Bellafiore. St. Papias. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XI. Copyright © 1911 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Since John and Polycarp were quartodecimans (Eusebius. Church History. Book V, Chapter 24), apparently so was Papias (since the churches in Asia Minor had not adopted a Sunday Passover at this time, Ibid). Yet, being a Quartodeciman (observing the Passover on the biblical date of the 14th) was seriously denounced by an edict of Theodosius in the late fourth century.

Papias and John

The Catholic Encyclopedia notes this about Papias and the Apostle John:

The author of the Second and Third Epistles of John designates himself in the superscription of each by the name (ho presbyteros), “the ancient”, “the old”. Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis, also uses the same name to designate the “Presbyter John” as in addition to Aristion, his particular authority, directly after he has named the presbyters Andrew, Peter, Philip, Thomas, James, John, and Matthew (in Eusebius, “Hist. eccl.”, III, xxxix, 4)…St. Irenaeus also positively designates the Apostle and Evangelist John as the teacher of Papias, and neither he nor any other writer before Eusebius had any idea of a second John in Asia (Adv. haer., V, xxxiii, 4). In what Papias himself says the connection plainly shows that in this passage by the word presbyters only Apostles can be understood. If John is mentioned twice the explanation lies in the peculiar relationship in which Papias stood to this, his most eminent teacher. By inquiring of others he had learned some things indirectly from John, just as he had from the other Apostles referred to. In addition he had received information concerning the teachings and acts of Jesus directly, without the intervention of others, from the still living “Presbyter John”, as he also had from Aristion. Thus the teaching of Papias casts absolutely no doubt upon what the New-Testament writings presuppose and expressly mention concerning the residence of the Evangelist John in Asia (Fonck L. Transcribed by Michael Little. St. John the Evangelist. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VIII Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Thus, it appears that Papias directly knew the Apostle John. The Apostle John wrote the Book of Revelation which, among other things, described a thousand year reign of Christ on the earth (Revelation 20:4).

Eusebius recorded the following about Papias:

1. There are extant five books of Papias, which bear the title Expositions of Oracles of the Lord. Irenæus makes mention of these as the only works written by him, in the following words: “These things are attested by Papias, an ancient man who was a hearer of John and a companion of Polycarp, in his fourth book. For five books have been written by him.” These are the words of Irenæus.
2. But Papias himself in the preface to his discourses by no means declares that he was himself a hearer and eye-witness of the holy apostles, but he shows by the words which he uses that he received the doctrines of the faith from those who were their friends.
3. He says: But I shall not hesitate also to put down for you along with my interpretations whatsoever things I have at any time learned carefully from the elders and carefully remembered, guaranteeing their truth. For I did not, like the multitude, take pleasure in those that speak much, but in those that teach the truth; not in those that relate strange commandments, but in those that deliver the commandments given by the Lord to faith, and springing from the truth itself.
4. If, then, any one came, who had been a follower of the elders, I questioned him in regard to the words of the elders— what Andrew or what Peter said, or what was said by Philip, or by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the disciples of the Lord, and what things Aristion and the presbyter John, the disciples of the Lord, say. For I did not think that what was to be gotten from the books would profit me as much as what came from the living and abiding voice.
5. It is worth while observing here that the name John is twice enumerated by him. The first one he mentions in connection with Peter and James and Matthew and the rest of the apostles, clearly meaning the evangelist; but the other John he mentions after an interval, and places him among others outside of the number of the apostles, putting Aristion before him, and he distinctly calls him a presbyter.
6. This shows that the statement of those is true, who say that there were two persons in Asia that bore the same name, and that there were two tombs in Ephesus, each of which, even to the present day, is called John’s. It is important to notice this. For it is probable that it was the second, if one is not willing to admit that it was the first that saw the Revelation, which is ascribed by name to John.
7. And Papias, of whom we are now speaking, confesses that he received the words of the apostles from those that followed them, but says that he was himself a hearer of Aristion and the presbyter John. At least he mentions them frequently by name, and gives their traditions in his writings. These things, we hope, have not been uselessly adduced by us.
8. But it is fitting to subjoin to the words of Papias which have been quoted, other passages from his works in which he relates some other wonderful events which he claims to have received from tradition.
9. That Philip the apostle dwelt at Hierapolis with his daughters has been already stated. But it must be noted here that Papias, their contemporary, says that he heard a wonderful tale from the daughters of Philip. For he relates that in his time one rose from the dead. And he tells another wonderful story of Justus, surnamed Barsabbas: that he drank a deadly poison, and yet, by the grace of the Lord, suffered no harm.
10. The Book of Acts records that the holy apostles after the ascension of the Saviour, put forward this Justus, together with Matthias, and prayed that one might be chosen in place of the traitor Judas, to fill up their number. The account is as follows: “And they put forward two, Joseph, called Barsabbas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias; and they prayed and said.” Acts 1:23 11. The same writer gives also other accounts which he says came to him through unwritten tradition, certain strange parables and teachings of the Saviour, and some other more mythical things.
12. To these belong his statement that there will be a period of some thousand years after the resurrection of the dead, and that the kingdom of Christ will be set up in material form on this very earth. I suppose he got these ideas through a misunderstanding of the apostolic accounts, not perceiving that the things said by them were spoken mystically in figures.
13. For he appears to have been of very limited understanding, as one can see from his discourses. But it was due to him that so many of the Church Fathers after him adopted a like opinion, urging in their own support the antiquity of the man; as for instance Irenæus and any one else that may have proclaimed similar views.
14. Papias gives also in his own work other accounts of the words of the Lord on the authority of Aristion who was mentioned above, and traditions as handed down by the presbyter John; to which we refer those who are fond of learning. But now we must add to the words of his which we have already quoted the tradition which he gives in regard to Mark, the author of the Gospel.
15. “This also the presbyter said: Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not in order, whatsoever he remembered of the things said or done by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterward, as I said, he followed Peter, who adapted his teaching to the needs of his hearers, but with no intention of giving a connected account of the Lord’s discourses, so that Mark committed no error while he thus wrote some things as he remembered them. For he was careful of one thing, not to omit any of the things which he had heard, and not to state any of them falsely.” These things are related by Papias concerning Mark.
16. But concerning Matthew he writes as follows: “So then Matthew wrote the oracles in the Hebrew language, and every one interpreted them as he was able.” And the same writer uses testimonies from the first Epistle of John and from that of Peter likewise. And he relates another story of a woman, who was accused of many sins before the Lord, which is contained in the Gospel according to the Hebrews. These things we have thought it necessary to observe in addition to what has been already stated. (Eusebius. The History of the Church, Book 3, Chapter XXXIX; Digireads, pp. 68-69)

So, this “Catholic saint” taught the millennium–a doctrine that is now denounced by the Vatican as associated with Antichrist (see Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism?).

Papias would have observed Passover on the 14th of Nisan instead of a Sunday. Neither Papias nor other early Christian leaders observed Lent  or Easter.

The Roman Catholic Church, in spite of the fact that it admits that many of its early saints taught the millennium, now strongly condemns this belief. Notice:

676 The Antichrist’s deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the “intrinsically perverse” political form of a secular messianism. (Catechism of the Catholic Church. Imprimatur Potest +Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Doubleday, NY 1995, p. 194).

It should be noted that the millennial teaching appears to be the only doctrine associated with Antichrist that is condemned in the current official Catechism of the Catholic Church (which is the first new one in hundreds of years). The one that has the imprimatur of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger who is now called Pope Emeritus and was Pope Benedict XVI.

Notice something else that Joseph Ratzinger wrote in a paper titled The Theology of History in St. Bonaventure prior to becoming pope:

“…both Chiliasm [the teaching of the Millennium] and Montanism were declared heretical and were excluded from the universal church; for they both denied this vision [the “Christ is the end of the ages” vision] and awaited still another period of more definitive salvation to follow after the age of Christ” (as cited in Birch, pp. 515-516; note the comments within [] were from the Catholic writer Birch).

This is an odd statement for several reasons. It was the leaders in Asia Minor who stood for the Millennium and were the first to oppose Montanism–whom the Roman Catholics originally tolerated (please see the article Location of the Early Church)–hence the belief in one is NOT necessarily related to the other.

The other reason this condemnation is odd, is that even though Origen was opposed to the millennium Origen also taught that there was definitive salvation after what then Cardinal Ratzinger calls “the age of Christ” (please see the article Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God Differs from Protestantism). Yet pontiff emeritus Benedict XVI has publicly praised Origin as a “true teacher” (for documentation, see What is the Appropriate Form of Biblical Interpretation?).

It appears to me that the millennial view is being so definitely condemned now, because we are getting so close to that time when the Church of Rome is expected to compromise more and the Pope has prepared his followers to do that. It seems like the final revised Roman Church intends to warn against following any (like the actual two witnesses) who will be teaching the original millennial doctrine. Of course, there still are Catholics who accept the biblical teaching on the millennium–but they are becoming more and more of a minority within their church.

Despite any Catholic observance in Papias’ honor, the reality is that based on what is actually known about Papias, he had views closer to the Church of God, than the current Church of Rome.

Some items of possibly related interest may include the following:

Papias Papias died circa 135-145 and oversaw churches from Hierapolis. This article has many of his writings that are not in today’s post.
Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism? Was the millennium (sometimes called chiliasm) taught by early Christians? Who condemned it? Will Jesus literally reign for 1000 years on the earth? Is this time near?
Passover and the Early Church Did the early Christians observe Passover? What did Jesus and Paul teach? Why did Jesus die for our sins? There is also a detailed YouTube video available titled History of the Christian Passover.
The Passover Plot What was the first Passover plot? Which plots have Islam and the Greco-Roman faiths perpetuated about Passover? A sermon video of related interest is The Passover Plots, Including Easter.
Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism? Was the millennium (sometimes called chiliasm) taught by early Christians? Who condemned it? Will Jesus literally reign for 1000 years on the earth? Is this time near? Two related sermons are available Millennial Utopia and The Millennium.
Some Similarities and Differences Between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Continuing Church of God Both groups claim to be the original church, but both groups have differing ways to claim it. Both groups have some amazing similarities and some major differences. Do you know what they are?
Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Continuing Church of God? Do you know that both groups shared a lot of the earliest teachings? Do you know which church changed? Do you know which group is most faithful to the teachings of the apostolic church? Which group best represents true Christianity? This documented article answers those questions.
Tradition and Scripture: From the Bible and Church Writings Are traditions on equal par with scripture? Many believe that is what Peter, John, and Paul taught. But did they? A related sermon is titled Tradition and Scripture.
Where is the True Christian Church Today? This free online pdf booklet answers that question and includes 18 proofs, clues, and signs to identify the true vs. false Christian church. Plus 7 proofs, clues, and signs to help identify Laodicean churches. A related sermon is also available: Where is the True Christian Church? Here is a link to the booklet in the Spanish language: ¿Dónde está la verdadera Iglesia cristiana de hoy? Here is a link in the German language: WO IST DIE WAHRE CHRISTLICHE KIRCHE HEUTE? Here is a link in the French language: Où est la vraie Église Chrétienne aujourd’hui?
Continuing History of the Church of God This pdf booklet is a historical overview of the true Church of God and some of its main opponents from Acts 2 to the 21st century. Related sermon links include Continuing History of the Church of God: c. 31 to c. 300 A.D. and Continuing History of the Church of God: 4th-16th Centuries and Continuing History of the Church of God: 17th-20th Centuries. The booklet is available in Spanish: Continuación de la Historia de la Iglesia de Dios, German: Kontinuierliche Geschichte der Kirche Gottes, French: L’Histoire Continue de l’Église de Dieu and Ekegusii Omogano Bw’ekanisa Ya Nyasae Egendererete.
The History of Early Christianity Are you aware that what most people believe is not what truly happened to the true Christian church? Do you know where the early church was based? Do you know what were the doctrines of the early church? Is your faith really based upon the truth or compromise?

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