« Prev 4. Confusion of the Two Johns. Next »


But, as a boy, Irenaeus often heard Polycarp himself speak of his teacher John; how, then, can a mistake have been possible as to which John was meant? Well, the riddle explains itself. Both Johns were “disciples of the Lord.” As a rule, Polycarp only needed to say, “my teacher John, the disciple of the Lord,” and the young Irenaeus only too easily made the mistake of supposing 176that he meant the apostle, who was perhaps the only John of whom he had so far heard. In fact, Irenaeus himself says regularly in his book, when he means the Apostle John, as we have just conjectured that Polycarp did, “the disciple of the Lord,” whereas for Paul he always uses the expression “Apostle.”

Once a mistake of the kind had arisen, the statement would be believed only too readily. The community in a city thought it a great honour to have been founded by an apostle, or led by one for some time. In the second century the idea grew up that the bishop of a community must have been consecrated to his office through the laying-on of hands either by an apostle or by a bishop who had received his own consecration at the hands of an apostle. It was thought that the capacity to fill the office of bishop, the so-called “charisma of office,” could be transferred from one person to another only through this laying-on of hands by a consecrated person, and the first of such a series must always be an apostle. Thus it was naturally of the greatest importance to be able to show that in the past an apostle himself laboured in the community. Every one believed that he attended to the consecration of his successor; otherwise doubts might arise as to whether a bishop was properly consecrated.

We must not suppose that the confusion by which Ephesus was given an apostle, instead of one who was not an apostle, as the leader of the community is an isolated case. In the Acts of the Apostles (vi. 5) we find included among the seven almoners of the community at Jerusalem a Philip who, according to xxi. 8 f., was an evangelist, that is to say, a missionary, and had four daughters who were endowed with the gift of prophecy. At the end of the second century this same Philip was identified with Philip 177the Apostle. Thus Hierapolis, where he is supposed to have stayed at the end of his life, was provided with an apostle as the head of the community.

« Prev 4. Confusion of the Two Johns. Next »

| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |