Bauckham, Richard. “Chapter 9, Papias on Mark and Matthew.” Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony.” Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2006, pp. 202-239.
Bauckham, observing that Eusebius was doubtful about some of Papias’ theological conclusions, finds that Eusebius did consider Papias as a reliable reporter when it came to the traditions of composition of the Gospels. Papias attributes statements about Mark to “the Elder,” whom Bauckham takes to be the apostle John (Bauckham 2006, 202). Papias’ claim is that Peter told the events included in Mark’s Gospel, and that Mark did minimal arranging, while Matthew, with no source cited by Papias, created an ordered account of the Gospel (Bauckham 2006, 203). Bauckham takes Papias’ report to be credible, in part because it cites John, then reinforces the claim with 1 Peter 5:13. It would have seemed more normal, if Papias were inventing something, to use a letter of Peter to show Peter’s influence on Mark (Bauckham 2006, 205).
Papias does introduce Mark as Peter’s “interpreter.” Bauckham considers the fact that Mark didn’t seem to explain what Peter wrote, but merely to transcribe it. He also notes that Peter, being from Bethsaida, would almost certainly have known Greek (Bauckham 2006, 205). However, it is quite possible that Mark’s Greek usage was more polished than Peter’s (Bauckham 2006, 206). Bauckham considers several possible implications of the word “interpreter” and concludes tha Mark acted as a transcriber and preserver of Peter’s teaching, and that he may have provided some editorial assistance as well (Bauckham 2006, 208). In this regard, he recognizes that the work of “interpreting” or “translating” in antiquity was often understood differently than it is today.
One of the important issues in the scholarly community is, based on Papias, whether Mark wrote the thins he (Mark) recalled and which he (Mark) related from memory, or whether the “he” referred to Peter (Bauckham 2006, 211). Bauckham does consider that Papias intended us to see Peter as the source. He further finds it telling that while the word “related” is in the imperfect tense but the word “wrote” is in the aorist. This suggests the oral telling happened over time but the writing was at a certain point in time (Bauckham 2006, 212). Further, Justin Martyr referred to Mark’s Gospel as the memoirs of Peter. This suggests that it was written by Mark but had Peter as its source.
The term used by Papias for Peter’s teaching is chreia. Bauckham takes this as the technical rhetorical term, a concise account, rather than saying that Peter varied the teachings “as needed.” This leads Bauckham to conclude that Mark was writing the chunks of narrative down as Peter had provided them, as discrete and concise stories (Bauckham 2006, 215).
Papias did not consider Mark to have invested in adding careful ordering to the Gospel. He takes Mark as a simple collection of Peter’s narratives. This is in sharp contrast to Papias’ view of good historical writing (Bauckham 2006, 218). Bauckham does observe that history and biography of the period tends to be more highly structured than does Mark’s Gospel. Bauckham thinks Papias was reacting to the non-chronological nature of Mark’s Gospel. This is a likely effect of Mark’s status. Since he was not an eyewitness, he may not have been able to make a clear chronological order (Bauckham 2006, 221).
Bauckham next compares Papias’ reaction to Mark, Matthew, and John. Citing Eusebius’ quotation, Bauckham observes that Papias considered Matthew to be orderly in nature (Bauckham 2006, 222). Bauckham takes the passage to suggest that Matthew wrote in Hebrew but that his work was variously translated. For Matthew and Mark, then, there were various stages of composition and a rather extensive editorial process (Bauckham 2006, 223). Papias’ conclusion about Matthew was that several translations into Greek existed, and that they bore significant alterations to the message (Bauckham 2006, 224).
Papias was apparently familiar with John’s Gospel. Bauckham observes that he uses a list of disciples which have strong parallels to John’s order. He also seemed to have preferred John’s ordering of events, considering that to be the correct chronology and the Synoptics to be less chronological in nature (Bauckham 2006, 226). Papias was of the opinion that while John was written by an eyewitness, Matthew and Mark had undergone intermediaries, so did not have the same proximity to their source (Bauckham 2006, 228).
Having considered Papias in detail, Bauckham asks whether Mark’s Gospel is actuall “not in order” (Bauckham 2006, 230). His conclusion, based on many features of the Gospel account, is that it is a clearly ordered work. While it is not as smoothly constructed as some works, it stil shows a great deal of careful arrangement. Bauckham notes that it is not as smooth a literary construction as John’s Gospel, but that this is likely related to the overall oral compositional style (Bauckham 2006, 233).
Mark’s Gospel was widely considered by the early Church as preaching. Even in the Gospel of Thomas, Matthew and Peter are used as representatives of the evangelists, suggesting that Peter, not Mark, was considered responsible for the content of a Gospel (Bauckham 2006, 236). Bauckham describes the many affirmations of Peter as the source for Mark’s Gospel in some detail. It is clearly a very early opinion, dating back to the beginning of the history of Mark’s Gospel.