A Review of Richard Bauckham’s “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”; discussion with Historian Adam Francisco, Part 16

“This chapter will argue that the author [of the Gospel of John] was the disciple of Jesus whom Papias calls John the Elder, and that some second century writers who refer to the matter were aware that this man was not John the son of Zebedee.”

—Richard Bauckham, page 416

My review of chapter 16:

“[Papias] certainly knew the Gospel of John.”  p. 417

Evidence?  In a quote of Papias, found in the fourth century writings of Eusebius, Papias lists Jesus’ disciples in an order most closely (but not exactly) corresponding to the order listed in John’s Gospel:  Andrew, Peter, Philip, Thomas, James, John, and Matthew. (not exactly because Matthew does not appear in John’s list and Judas Iscariot and the other Judas mentioned in John’s list do not appear in Papias’ list.)

“The first six names occur in the order in which these characters first occur in the Gospel of John.  This striking correspondence is unlikely to be coincidental.” p. 417

And based on this, Bauckham claims that Papias not only knew of the Gospel of John but that Papias preferred the Gospel of John over the other Gospels!  The non-stop conjecture in this book is just outrageous!

Bauckham then goes on to discuss other early Christian writings which discuss the authorship of the Gospels, such as the Muratorian Fragment.  Here is Bauckham:  “Thus it is likely that the last paragraph in our quoted section of the Muratorian Canon is closely dependent on Papias.” p. 428

Papias…again!

What other attributions of Gospel authorship go back to one source:  Papias?   Let’s see.  Let’s read the following SHOCKING admission from our conservative NT scholar, Mr. Bauckham:

  “If the Muratorian Canon’s quotation from I John and the conclusions drawn from it about the Gospel of John very probably follow Papias quite closely, its story about the origin of the Gospel is more problematic.  We must allow for the possibility that this story is a considerably embroidered version of what Papias said.  Papias’ account of the origin of Mark’s Gospel was elaborated by Clement of Alexandria and then further by Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 2.15.1-2), even while the latter claimed only to be repeating Papias’s and Clement’s account.  The elaborations in these cases served the apologetic purpose of enhancing the apostolic authority of the Gospel.  The same could be true of the Muratorian Canon’s story of the origin of the Gospel of John.”  (emphasis, Gary’s)

Hmm.  Embroider.  Elaborate. Enhance.  Let’s add, embellish, shall we?

These words all say the same thing, friends:  fiction!  Someone took some bare facts and added a lot of fiction to them.  That is what most of us skeptics are saying about the Jesus story.  There is a core story that is true.  But the rest of it is embroidered, elaborated, enhanced, and embellished.  And if Bauckham is right; that Eusebius was doing it in the fourth century; and Clement was doing it in the second century; and the author of the Muratorian Canon was doing it in the second century; then why not Papias in the second century…AND… Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John doing it in the FIRST century…all to “enhance apostolic authority“?

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