Why Do Conservative New Testament Scholars and Theologians trust Papias as a Reliable Source?

The same Papias, upon whose brief quotes conservative Christian scholars and theologians base much of their belief that the Gospels are historically reliable eyewitness testimony, is also quoted as saying the following:

“But Judas went about in this world as a great model of impiety. He became so bloated in the flesh that he could not pass through a place that was easily wide enough for a wagon – not even his swollen head could fit. They say that his eyelids swelled to such an extent that he could not see the light at all; and a doctor could not see his eyes even with an optical device, so deeply sunken they were in the surrounding flesh. And his genitals became more disgusting and larger than anyone’s; simply by relieving himself, to his wanton shame, he emitted pus and worms that flowed through his entire body.

And they say that after he suffered numerous torments and punishments, he died on his own land, and that land has been, until now, desolate and uninhabited because of the stench. Indeed, even to this day no one can pass by the place without holding their nose. This was how great an outpouring he made from his flesh on the ground.”

And how believable is this story attributed to Papias:

“The aforesaid Papias reported as having received it from the daughters of Philip that Barsabas who is Justus, tested by the unbelievers, drank the venom of a viper in the name of the Christ and was protected unharmed. He also reports other wonders and especially that about the mother of Manaemus, her resurrection from the dead. Concerning those resurrected by Christ from the dead, that they lived until Hadrian.”

And how about Papias’ alleged quote of Jesus himself:

“As the elders who saw John the disciple of the Lord remembered that they had heard from him how the Lord taught in regard to those times, and said]: The days will come in which vines shall grow, having each ten thousand branches, and in each branch ten thousand twigs, and in each true twig ten thousand shoots, and in every one of the shoots ten thousand clusters, and on every one of the clusters ten thousand grapes, and every grape when pressed will give five-and-twenty metretes of wine. And when any one of the saints shall lay hold of a cluster, another shall cry out, ‘I am a better cluster, take me; bless the Lord through me.’ In like manner, [He said] that a grain of wheat would produce ten thousand ears, and that every ear would have ten thousand grains, and every grain would yield ten pounds of clear, pure, fine flour; and that apples, and seeds, and grass would produce in similar proportions; and that all animals, feeding then only on the productions of the earth, would become peaceable and harmonious, and be in perfect subjection to man.

Conservative Christian scholars and theologians don’t believe that Jesus said this.  So why do they believe Papias when he claims to have information about the authorship of the Gospels of Matthew and Mark?  Answer:  Because without Papias, their evidence for the apostolic, eyewitness, traditional authorship of the four Gospels must be moved forward to the end of the second century, when Irenaeus first mentioned these four books as authored by Matthew the Apostle, John Mark the companion of Peter, Luke the physician, and the Apostle John.

To admit that Papias is not a reliable historical source would be a death blow to the conservative Christian claim that the Gospels are eyewitness accounts, which would be a death blow to the believability of the alleged post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, which would be a death blow to the believability of the Resurrection, which would be a death blow to Christianity itself!





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