Thursday, 30 April 2015

Stephan Witetschek: Polycrates of Ephesos and the "Canonical John"

John "who had reclined at the Lord's chest" is one of the witnesses whom Bishop Polycrates of Ephesos lines up in order to defend the quartodeciman practice of celebrating Easter agaist Bishop Victor of Rome (apud Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 5.24.2-8; see also ibid. 3.31.3). This "John" is identified with the "Beloved Disciple" of John 13.23-25, as in Irenaeus (Haer. 3.1.1). Yet in other aspects, Polycrates' image of "John" is quite different from what we find, at about the same time, in Irenaeus (partly in Clement of Alexandria, too) who presents the full "canonical" image of John as it had become common in the course of the 2nd century: "John",  the "Beloved Disciple", Apostle and author of the Gospel and the Apocalypse of John. Polycrates' "John" is, among other things, a priest, but not the author of a literary work, be it a gospel or an apocalypse. This paper will trace the differences between these images of "John" and try to investigate the reasons for Polycrates' peculiar image of "John".

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