Presbyters in Papias

…and so, virtually, to Melbourne, where I had the pleasure of attending the Biblical and early Christian seminar of the ACU to respond to Stephen Carlson on “Presbyters in Papias”… what’s not to like?

Stephen argued that the term in Papias denotes a channel of tradition. I could not disagree; in response I suggested that this mirrors forming Jewish usage. Although the main evidence for this is later (M Erub. 3.4; M Aboth 1.1), we may note Mark 7:3 and par. as indication that this usage was ancient. In this context we might not overlook the significant presence of Jews in Hierapolis. Papias receives from the elders the traditions about Jesus.

Although I doubt that the Christian use of the term for an office has anything to do with Judaism, this usage is different. And so I revise, or at least qualify slightly, the opinion in Original Bishops that presbyteros has no Jewish heritage. It does not when we speak of the presbyters within communities, but perhaps does so when the bishops of individual churches, gathering together in part as agents of tradition, refer to themselves as the presbyteroi of a particular place. Paul Bradshaw had already pointed out to me the usage at Exodus 24:1 (LXX) and Numbers 11:16–17 (LXX); this usage is thus consistent.

The essay will appear in a book on presbyters to be published in WUNT and edited by Bart Koet. We look forward to this.

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