Papias was Bishop of Hierapolis (in Phrygia, sort mid southwestern Turkey). We don't know his exact dates, some have him being born as early as AD 70 (the fall of the temple) and dying as late 155.[1] His writings are mostly dates to around 130.[2] He died in Smyrna (mid way down Western coast of Turkey). By the second century the center of the faith had shifted to Antioch, in Syria and a lot of missionary activity was in Asia Minor. Only fragments of his Writings Survive most of those come to us from either  Irenaus or Eusebius.

There is a famous fragment that has come to us from Eusebius that might imply either that Papias knew disciples of Jesus who were eye witnesses either the Apostle Jon or another John or both,

I shall not hesitate to set down for you along with my interpretations all things which I learned from the elders with care and recorded with care, being well assured of their truth. For unlike most men, I took pleasure not in those that have much to say but in those that preach the truth, not in those that record strange precepts but in those who record such precepts as were given to the faith by the Lord and are derived from truth itself. Besides if ever any man came who had been a follower of the elders, I would inquire about the sayings of the elders; what Andrew said, or Peter or Philip or Thomas, or James, or John or Matthew, or any other of the Lord's deciples; and what Aristion says, and John the Elder, who are dciples of the Lord. For I did not consider that i got so much from the content of books as from the utterances of living and abiding voices...[3]
Some think this imposes an intermediate group between the Apostles and Papias. If any man was a follower of the elders, he would inquire (of that man) what the elders it does. He puts the second groups. "disciples" in the present tense: what Aristion says or John the Elder. This would imply they were alive during his own time. Just because he was away from them and inquired what others heard from them doesn't mean he never met them. We have words of Irenaeus to the effect hat he did meet them. Ireneaus would know because Papias and Poly carp were contemporaries and knew each other. They both taught Ireneaus.

Schoedel writes about Papias
According to Irenaeus, our earliest witness, Papias was "a hearer of John and a companion of Polycarp, a man of primitive times," who wrote a volume in "five books" (haer. 5.33.4; quoted by Eusebius Hist. Eccl. 3.39.1). Eusebius already doubted the reality of a connection between Papias and the apostle John on the grounds that Papias himself in the preface to his book distinguished the apostle John from John the presbyter and seems to have had significant contact only with John the presbyter and a certain Aristion (Hist. Eccl. 3.39.3-7). Eusebius' skepticism was no doubt prompted by his distaste - perhaps a recently acquired distaste (Grant 1974) - for Papias' chiliasm and his feeling that such a theology qualified Papias for the distinction of being "a man of exceedingly small intelligence" (Hist. Eccl. 3.39.13). Nevertheless Eusebius' analysis of the preface is probably correct; and his further point that Papias' chiliasm put him to the same camp as the Revelation of John is surely relevant. It is notable that Eusebius, in spite of his desire to discredit Papias, still places him as early as the reign of Trajan (A.D. 98-117); and although later dates (e.g., A.D. 130-140) have often been suggested by modern scholars, Bartlet's date for Papias' literary activity of about A.D. 100 has recently gained support (Schoedel 1967: 91-92; Kortner 1983: 89-94, 167-72, 225-26).[4]
Irenaeus calls him a "hearer of John." Eusebius says he wasn't a hearer of the Apostles. Since Eusebius was so much further removed from the scene than Irenaeus it's more likely the latter would know better. Of course the statement would also make sense if it was the Elder John he knew not the Apostles John. He also says he was a companion of Polycarp. Whichever John they knew they must have both known him at the same time. This all meets Lowder's criteria becasue Irenaeus was in a position to know that Polycarp knew John (although perhaps not which John) and that he also knew Papias. Papias and Polycarp knew disciples of Jesus, this is independent of reading the gospels.

Schoedel writes about the comments of Papias
What the fragments have to tell us about Mark and Matthew is information that Papias himself traces to "the presbyter" (Eus. Hist. Eccl. 3.39.15-16). Eusebius separates the statements about Mark and Matthew, but they may have originally followed one another and certainly seem closely related. Perhaps the simplest reading of the statement on Mark is that Mark served as Peter's interpreter (possibly in the role of methurgaman, or oral translator) and wrote down what he heard Peter say of the words and deeds of Jesus and that his writing is defective in "order," though not in accuracy or fullness of recollection, because Peter naturally referred to the Lord's logia in a random manner. Some have suspected that Papias did not have in mind the gospel of Mark that we know, but the arguments are tenuous. On another point, Kurzinger has attempted to show that Papias was speaking not of translation from the native language of Peter but of presentation of the reports of Peter (an interpretation which he applies also to Papias' statement about Matthew); but this seems to push a rhetorical approach to Papias' terminology too far (Schoedel 1967: 107; Kortner 1983: 203-4). On the other hand, an interpretation in rhetorical terms is somewhat more likely when it comes to the suggestion that Papias meant to say that Peter spoke "in chria-style" rather than "as needs (chriai) dictated." But the point that is debated more than any other is what Papias had in mind when he said that Mark did not write "in order." It is perhaps most likely that Papias was measuring Mark by Matthew (who is said by Papias to have made "an ordered arrangement" of the materials) - or perhaps more generally by Papias' own conception of what ought to be included in such an account - and that he had in mind completeness of information as well as "order" in the narrow sense of the term. In any event, Papias is defending Mark in spite of perceived deficiencies.[5]

My theory based upon this materiel and more (see my Doxa for details--Canonical Gospels--Gospel behind the Gospels) is that Mark may have been based upon Peter's memoirs, Matthew may have begun as an Aramaic saying source then latter adapted to narrative form in Greek by redactors. John started as the memoirs of "the beloved Disciple" (Lazarus? John the Apostle?) The Elder John of Papias who wrote the Epistles (so we are told by Eusebuis) was the last head redactor of John's Gospel. The community itself wrote the Gospel of John because it is so heavily redacted. I accept Luke's authorship becuase I can't see there being a Luke community since he had no real ties to Jesus.

 There are indications from Eusebius that Papias had extended contact with the Elder John and with other disciples. Eusebius writes "in his writings he transmits other narratives of the words of the Lord which came form the afore mentioned Aristion and others which came from John the Elder" moreover he goes on, "the elder used to say this also: Mark became the interpreter of Peter and wrote down accurately, but not in order, as much as he remembered...'" And here Eusebius is quoting Papias. This phrase "the eder used to say..." indicates a personal acquaintance in more than one meeting.(Ibid.). Here we may have a direct link form eye witness to Apostolic "father." Moreover, he changes tenses when he speaks of Aristion and Elder John, the he speaks in present tense, as though he's still in contact with them.[6] Eusebius speaking of Papias in relating his Oracles of the Lord says:

Papias, who is now mentioned by us, affirms that he received the sayings of the apostles from those who accompanied them, and he moreover asserts that he heard in person Aristion and the presbyter John. Accordingly he mentions them frequently by name, and in his writings gives their traditions. Our notice of these circumstances may not be without its use. It may also be worth while to add to the statements of Papias already given, other passages of his in which he relates some miraculous deeds, stating that he acquired the knowledge of them from tradition.[7]
Who Did Papias Know?

Bauckham theorizes that thyere were two John Papias knew and they became confussed with each oter by the chruch:
  • "A case can be made that the beloved disciple was not a member of the Twelve and was a elite Judean follower (cf. John 18:15-16). A key difference between Hengel and Bauckham is that the former allows that the Gospel conflated the Elder John with the Apostle John in its portrait of the beloved disciple."[8]
It is true that there are no other records of an elder John in Church history []. Yet the author of the Johnnie epistles calls himself "The Elder." [] It is the most logical solution since we are told by authoritative sources (Irenaeus quoting Polycarp) it was Apostle John they learned with ( both of them) and he does name John twice. Does that weaken the case for the connection to Jesus? I don't think so because Aristion and elder John knew Jesus, they are called disciples. He probably knew both but if he only knew they latter two they were disciples.

the issue about fifth hand

 (b) there is an intermediate line of "elders"between Apples and Papias, that is how some scholars read the quote. quote. Tat means he did't know John.He is asking these other people what John said. "Besides if ever any man came who had been a follower of the elders, I would inquire about the sayings of the elders; what Andrew said, or Peter or Philip or Thomas, or James," Does that mean I asked the elders what the apostles said? for the elders are the apostles and he asked others what they said? That problem would not be resolved byElder John.

Fragments of Papias not dependent upon Eusebius

An internet source, Chronicon.Net has assembled a great of materiel that contains these fragments. the Independence form Eusebius is important since atheists charge him as biased. Even the there good arguments agaisnt the charges independent sources give us a more direct defense. The compiler says:

In the print world, Michael Holmes has published a popular and good quality English translation of Papias in The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations, however it has a few mistakes and omits some fragments, all of which I have attempted to correct on this page.  While assembling these fragments,  I have used the translations of Lightfoot  and the Nicene and Post-Nicene Church Father Series. These are good English translations and are in the public domain.  I have only changed punctuation or a word here and there, in order to make the translation better fit our modern vernacular.  For other Greek and Latin fragments I have translated them myself. For Agapius I asked a kind friend of mine, Tamim, to translate the small fragment from Arabic into English. I also made use of Roger Pearse’s collaborative translation of Jerome’s Chronicon. Roger also helped track down some obscure references. Finally, Robert Bedrosian has graciously volunteered to translate the two fragments of Vardan Arewelts'i from Armenian as well as the one Armenian fragment from Andrew of Caeserea.  I am deeply thankful for all of their kind help.[9]
These are not necessarly quotes form his writings as early statements about him:

Irenaeus of Lyons wrote c180AD
Therefore the foretold blessing indisputably belongs to the times of the Kingdom, when the righteous shall rise from the dead and reign and through the resurrection itself shall be honored by God, when also creation shall be freed and renewed, and  shall grow a multitude of every kind of food from the dew of heaven and from the wealth of the earth. Just as the Elders, who saw John the disciple of the Lord, recalled hearing from him how concerning these times he used to teach that the Lord would say:

“Days will come in which the vines shall grow, when  each one will have ten-thousand branches and every single branch ten-thousand twigs  and on every single twig ten-thousand leaves and on every single leaf ten-thousand clusters, and on every single cluster ten-thousand grapes and each grape that is pressed will give twenty-five measures of wine.  And when one of the saints plucks a cluster, another cluster shall call, ‘I am better, take me, bless the Lord through me.’ In the same way an ear of wheat will grow ten-thousand kernels of grain, and every single ear of wheat will have ten-thousand kernels and every single kernel will give five pounds of the finest pure flour, and the rest of the ripe fruits and the seeds and the grass will be like these in a following proportion.  And all the creatures who desire these foods will receive them from the earth, becoming peaceable and united to one another, submissive to men and entirely obedient.”

These things Papias, the hearer of John, who was a companion of Polycarp, a man of ancient time, testifies in writing in the fourth of his books, for there are five books composed by him.  And he adds saying “These things are believable to those who believe.  For,” he says, “even Judas the betrayer who did not believe and questioned ‘And how will such things happen been accomplished by God?’ But the Lord said ‘those who come to those times shall see.’” -Against Heresies 5.33.3-4  [checked  reconstructed Greek of SC 153 p213-217]

editor's note:
which is based off of a literal Armenian translation and incorporates one small fragment of Greek from Eusebius' fragment below.  Holmes, Lightfoot, and the ANCF translations are based off the  poorer quality Latin translation and also included the Greek fragment from Eusebius.

Jerome c342-420AD
Bishop Irenaeus writes that John the Apostle survived all the way to the time of Trajan: after whom his notable disciples were Papias, Bishop of Hieropolis, Polycarp of Smyrna, and Ignatius of Antioch.

-Chronicon of Jerome 220th Olympiad/100AD.  [checked via Pearse’s translation]

For even previously, Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis and Nepos, Bishop of areas of Egypt, thought the same as Victorinus concerning the thousand year Kingdom.

-Preface to Jerome's revised version of Victorinus' Commentary on the Apocalypse  [checked CSEL 49]

Papias, a hearer of John, and bishop of Hierapolis in Asia, wrote only five books, which he entitled An Exposition of Discourses of the Lord. Wherein, when he asserts in his preface that he is not following promiscuous statements, but has the Apostles as his authorities, he says:

I used to inquire what had been said by Andrew, or by Peter, or by Philip, or by Thomas or James, or by John or Matthew or any other of the Lord's disciples, and what Aristion and the Elder John, the disciples of the Lord, were saying. For books to read do not profit me so much as the living voice clearly sounding up to the present day in the persons of their authors.

From which it is clear that in his list of names itself there is one John who is reckoned among the Apostles, and another the Elder John, whom he enumerates after Aristion. We have mentioned this fact on account of the statement made above, which we have recorded on the authority of very many, that the two later epistles of John are not the work of the Apostle, but of the Elder. This Papias is said to have promulgated the Jewish tradition of a Millennium, and he is followed by Irenaeus, Apollinarius and the others, who say that after the resurrection the Lord will reign in the flesh with the saints. Tertullian also in his work On the hope of the faithful, Victorinus of Petau and Lactantius follow this view.”
-On Illustrious Men 18  [checked LTF and NPNCF]
It is a false rumor which has reached you to the effect that I have translated the books of Josephus and the volumes of the holy men Papias and Polycarp. I have neither the leisure nor the ability to preserve the charm of these masterpieces in another tongue.
-Letter to Lucinius (71.5)  [checked NPNCF]

The growth of this heresy is described for us by Irenaeus, bishop of the church of Lyons, a man of the apostolic times, who was a disciple of Papias the hearer of the evangelist John.
-Letter to Theodora (75.3)  [checked NPNCF]

 there are many more found here:

these are just a few samples.



[1] The dates for his birth and death are not known and vary widely frm as early as AD 70(birth)-168 (death). For this reason it's more useful to try and date his literary activity, which is usually taken to be 130. He probably died in 155.

[2] "Papias of Hierapolis" American Bible Society (website) URL:
 It is notable that Eusebius, in spite of his desire to discredit Papias, still places him as early as the reign of Trajan (A.D. 98-117); and although later dates (e.g., A.D. 130-140) have often been suggested by modern scholars, Bartlet's date for Papias' literary activity of about A.D. 100 has recently gained support (Schoedel 1967: 91-92; Kortner 1983: 89-94, 167-72, 225-26).

[3]  Documents of the Christian Church, edited by Henry Bettonson, Oxford:Oxford University press 1963, 27

[4] William R.Schoedel The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Newhaven: Yale University Press. Edited by David Noel Freedman  first published 1956, current publication 2012.v. 5, p. 140

[5] Schoedel, op. cit., v. 5, pp. 141-142

[6] in Bettenson, op cit,  27)

[7] Eusebius, From the exposition of the oracles of the Lord. no VI On New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia website: URL:

[8] Michael J. Kok, "The Elder john as The Beloved Disciple," The Apostle's Memoirs: Thevhistgory and Reception of The New Testament Writings June 20,16, blog URL:  accesssed 6/16/16

Kck: Education:  Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Theology with a Specialization in Biblical Studies (Taylor University College), Master of Arts in Religious Studies (University of Alberta), PhD in Biblical Studies (University of Sheffield)

[9] Chronicon.Net  accessed 11/3/13

see Papias and daughters of Pilip