Polycarp & Jn
- Dear friends,
Below, you will find yet another interesting historical puzzle about Jn
that is in need of a solution.
Irenaeus (ca 135-200) was from Smyrna, in Asia Minor, and he's generally
believed to have been a follower of Polycarp, the famous bishop of Smyrna.
Polycarp is believed to have died a martyr ca 160. His letter to the
Philippians, his only surviving writing, is generally thought to date ca
Irenaeus was of course a strong proponent of Jn. But it's certainly very
curious that Polycarp's Epistle to the Philippians never quotes from Jn,
and never even alludes to it (although 1 Jn 4:3 _is_ quoted; can this be
seen as an argument that 1Jn precedes Jn?). Of all the other NT writings,
First Epistle of Peter is represented best of all in Polycarp's letter;
it's quoted 20 times. Other NT writings are also quoted abundantly,
including the Synoptics, especially Mt, which is quoted at least 8 times.
But never Jn!
So this certainly calls for an explanation. Is it possible that ca 135 Jn
was still unknown in Asia Minor? Wouldn't this be the simplest solution to
It may be possible that Jn, in its final form, was published by Asian
churches quite late, after 135, as a deliberate correction to the Synoptic
version of the story of Jesus. In such a case, it would have been meant to
supplant the Synoptic form of catechesis, at least in the Asian churches.
It's been proposed before that an earlier, shorter version of Jn
originated in Alexandria, and had some currency there. And later, in a
modified and perhaps expanded form, Jn would have been transplanted to
Asia, and published as "the true Asian gospel".
Also, in connection with this, it's certainly notable that Justin Martyr,
who may be writing even later than Polycarp, never seems to quote Jn
(although it's possible that he may refer to it in a passage or two). Like
Polycarp, Justin also quotes from the Synoptics abundantly, although
seemingly using some harmonised version of them. His main source may have
been the Gospel of Hebrews.
Yuri Kuchinsky -=O=- http://www.trends.ca/~yuku
"It is so much easier to assume than to prove; it is so much less painful
to believe than to doubt; there is such a charm in the repose of
prejudice, when no discordant voice jars upon the harmony of belief; there
is such a thrilling pang when cherished dreams are scattered, and old
creeds abandoned, that it is not surprising that men close their eyes to
the unwelcome light" -- W.E.H. Lecky (A History of Rationalism)