Papias’s appeal to the ‘living and lasting voice’ over books

Book chapter


Carlson, Stephen Conrad. (2020). Papias’s appeal to the ‘living and lasting voice’ over books. In In Ayres, Lewis and Ward, H. Clifton (Ed.). The rise of the early Christian intellectual pp. 25-44 Walter de Gruyter. https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110608632-005
AuthorsCarlson, Stephen Conrad
EditorsAyres, Lewis and Ward, H. Clifton
Abstract

[Extract] If book-learning is the mark of an intellectual, then it may be unsettling to learn that the earliest commentator of the Jesus tradition in five volumes no less, Papias of Hierapolis, claimed that what comes from books is not as beneficial to him as what comes from a “living and lasting voice.” His seemingly anti-intellectual attitude has attracted considerable attention,¹ and even condemnation,² from scholars and theologians. Yet attitudes toward the written word were complex in Greco-Roman antiquity, even among the most educated. In line with scholars such as Heinrich Karpp,³ Loveday Alexander,⁴ and Jaap Mansfeld,⁵ I hold that the best way to make sense of Papias’s statement is to look at how the notion of the “living voice” functioned in antiquity. All of these scholars—and the considerable primary sources they cite—understand the “living voice” to refer to personal, oral instruction from a teacher, which was regarded as superior to mere book learning, and they hold that Papias extended the “living voice” concept to cover oral tradition. My position is somewhat more nuanced: the “living voice” in Papias retains its conventional meaning as direct, personal, oral instruction, and that it is his augmentation of the phrase with “lasting” that enables Papias to broaden its application to oral tradition, both direct and indirect, via respected teachers.

Page range25-44
Year2020
Book titleThe rise of the early Christian intellectual
PublisherWalter de Gruyter
Place of publicationBerlin, Germany
Boston, MA
SeriesArbeiten zur Kirchengeschichte ; volume 139
ISBN9783110607550
9783110608632
9783110608007
ISSN1861-5996
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110608632-005
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All rights reserved
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Output statusPublished
Publication dates
Online05 May 2020
Print05 May 2020
Publication process dates
Deposited16 May 2022
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