2. POLYCARP’S TEACHER IN EPHESUS: JOHN THE ELDER.
The confusion might appear harmless. It affects Papias merely; but the man with whom we are concerned, who told the young
Irenaeus about his
former teacher, the Apostle John, was Polycarp. But why does Irenaeus call Papias
a companion of Polycarp, unless it be because both of them 174in their early youth had the same teacher? Both lived in Asia
Minor, and when they were young there was only one John in Asia Minor. It was left
for a Christian writer in the third century to note that there were statements about
both John the Apostle and John the Elder which indicated Ephesus as their dwelling-place; and because he knew of no other
way of adjusting these, he was obliged to think
that the two men lived there simultaneously. But no one belonging to the earlier
period has any knowledge of this, and it is clear from our records, every one of
which knows only of one head of the Christian Church in Asia Minor, that there was
no room for the two men at the same time. Irenaeus must therefore have been as much
mistaken about Polycarp’s teacher as about the teacher of Papias; and Polycarp
was the disciple of John the Elder, not of the Apostle.