Papias fragment from the Syriac version of the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius

The Syriac version of the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius contains an interesting variant when Eusebius quotes the words of Papias. This was pointed out long ago in this article, but I wanted to see what the Syriac said for myself and translate a bit more than was translated in the article. I hope one day to translate all of the fragments in the the Syriac version of the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, but right now I simply do not have the time.

The Syriac does change the implication of Papias’ words, as you can see from where I have bolded words. Also, it was interesting to note that apparently the Syriac translation of the Ecclesiastical History contains chapter numbers and headings! Those must have been present in the Greek because we apparently still follow them today.

[GREEK]There are extant five books of Papias, which bear the title Expositions of Oracles of the Lord. Irenaeus 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 Irenaeus.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. 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. 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.” [SYRIAC]
Thirty-Nine. The writings of Papias.And Papias had five writings, which were written concerning the interpretation of the words of our Lord. For Irenaeus recalls these as being the only that he wrote. And he says in this way, “So these things Papias spoke from what he heard from John. And he was a companion of Polycarp. And he was a man of antiquity.” And he testifies of <these> writings in a [] chapter in his treatises. For five books have been written by him.” Irenaeus <thus> speaks concerning him.

But Papias in the introduction to his words does not declare that he heard the holy apostles or saw them. For he teaches that he accepted the words of faith from they who knew the apostles by these words which he spoke:”I will not be negligent to put down for you in these interpretations what I indeed well learned from the elders. AndI well remember from them and I testify on their behalf the truth. For in many words I did not rejoice as many <do>, but in those who teach the truth, nor in those who remember the Commandments of strangers, but in those who followed what was given by our Lord to the faith and from that which flows and comes from the truth. Nor, if someone came who followed the elders, did I treat as equal the words of the elders, what Andrew said or what Peter said or what Philip or what Thomas or what James or what John or Matthew or any other of the disciples of our Lord or what Aristion or John the elder <said>. For I did not so think to discover gain from their writings as from a living and abiding voice.”

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2 Responses to Papias fragment from the Syriac version of the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius

  1. Roger Pearse says:

    I envy you your language skills! This is precisely the sort of thing that I would want to do. Very nice to see this.

    The chapter division details were also interesting! Can I ask how we know that the divisions are not editorial? — i.e. part of the 19th century publication? It would be great if we have clear evidence that they are in the manuscript!

  2. Tom says:

    The editor in the preface to the Syriac version does not specifically say that the chapter divisions are part of the Syriac, but the manuscript that was used for the Syriac edition is dated to 462 AD, more than 500 years earlier than any Greek manuscript. The editor also says that “In every case the spelling, pointing, and interpunction of the MS followed have been faithfully reproduced.” -p.xi of Preface.

    So it seems very unlikely that the editor manufactured Syriac text to correspond with a much later Greek manuscript.

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