Bishop Papias in The Writings of Irenaeus

Sometimes it is illuminating to read the actual “ancient” sources such as this fragment about the obscure Bishop Papias in the writings of Irenaeus.

15 And the presbyter would say this: Mark, who had indeed been Peter’s interpreter, accurately wrote as much as he remembered, yet not in order, about that which was either said or did by the Lord. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but later, as I said, Peter, who would make the teachings anecdotally but not exactly an arrangement of the Lord’s reports, so that Mark did not fail by writing certain things as he recalled. For he had one purpose, not to omit what he heard or falsify them.

What the above suggests to me is the conclusion I am coming to as I peruse the various and voluminous reflections of the corps of scholars who now make it their business to parse ancient Christian texts and see what they tell us about Jesus.

This quote squares with the general idea that memory, while fallible, functioned almost from the beginning as the transmission mode. If a Q sayings-text emerged, it does not mean that those who formed a community based on the teachings of Jesus did not remember and respond to other elements of Jesus’s story.

In other words, it does not mean that that Jesus did not die in some way at the hands of a mob and state and religious authorities. Or that people did not believe very early that he had overcome death, whether as a vindication of his obsdient life or otherwise.

What is contained as the texts evolve is the growth of what I have called creedal messianism. Even so, Jesus’s radical iconoclasm could not be suppressed in the formation of our canon.

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abba's way, jesus

On Jesus

Ported. Revised.

He sought Abba before he sought the crowd
He climbed the heights and waited for a word
No satanic temptation was allowed
Instead the spirit flew down like a bird

You see the tawdry effects of this world
Depend upon the devil’s canny wiles
And when the tempter’s power was unfurled
The world was in thrall to the tempter’s styles

When Jesus came down from those lofty heights
He knew the truth the truth that set him free
He knew the way to set this world to rights
And how to teach all those with eyes to see

There is no way to live here without sin
So sinners must repent and receive grace
Abba’s spirit is present and within
Let Abba’s love all satan’s ways replace

His enemies drew close to have their way
Come tell us by what power you do act
Look at me Jesus said don’t turn away
Abba and I are one and that’s a fact

So he was sent to death for blasphemy
And gave up his life with a fearsome shout
It seemed the tempter had the victory
His followers were filled with grief and doubt

But over time the truth began to spread
The spirit of Abba is given us
The one you loved is risen from the dead
A flame of truth and his name is Jesus

So now we say to this world’s tawdry show
You are the shadow of a vanquished way
And now we claim the gift and come to know
That that life and death and life turn night to day

abba's way, faith

On Faith

Ported. Revised.

Faith is an openness to Abba’s Way
A way of justice peace and healing care
Faith is belief in victory one day
Over all forces violent and unfair

Faith knows that life is more than clothes or food
Faith knows that life tends toward the just and good
Faith moves beyond the callous and the rude
From abject I cannot to yes I could

Faith is the power of Abba to transform
An aimless life into a life that sings
The joyous song of hope and love reborn
The song that from the heart of Abba springs

For Abba fuels a spirit deep within
A spirit that can overcome all woe
Come feel its balm and see new hope begin
To bathe you in the warmth of its fine flow

Hope and eternity live side by side
And Abba is the fountain of all life
Faith is the chosen way to open wide
The paradise that lies beyond all strife

So let us say good by to shabby ways
And lay our wrongs before the mercy seat
And henceforth dedicate all of our days
To lay our growing faith at Abba’s feet


Of Matthew, Mark and Luke and John


With no Jesus save in our four gospels
Our blindness to him would stay manifest
Bonhoeffer chose his Sermon and he fell
Our gospels still contain this final test

— Stephen C. Rose

PS. If this seems obscure, it is simply my recurrent thought about all the brouhaha over authentic words of Jesus and the skewering of the canonical Gospels as the product of bishops and therefore the repository of the official line. If this is so, how did all the sayings people say are Q creep in? It can only be because, with all the repressive features of the religious impulse. these statements could not be suppressed. They were too well known. Accretions of myth in the canonicals? Sure. But not so much that they would strain credulity or do offense to common memory. Preservation of the authentic statements of Jesus? More than likely. The true scandal is not suppressing the authentic, but our ignoring it for 2000 years — heading into yet another millennium of possible ignorance.

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abba's way, beatitude, happiness

On Happiness

Ported. From Abba’s Way. Revised.

Consider the beatitudes once more:
That happiness lies past unhappiness.
It is not abject meekness we are for,
It is not toward resentment that we press

Think filling think companionship think joy
Not states of deep depression and regret
Depression is what Abba will destroy
And sorrows he will help us to forget

Life is not meant to be a vale of tears
Nor are we meant to crawl upon all fours
Beatitude is not the sum of fears
It is the end and essence of life’s force

This force is free from rancor does not cling,
To shards of twisted fate that are now dead
Today’s today so let your freedom ring
And see beatitude as daily bread

abba's way, good news

Good News

From Abba’s Way. Revised.

The good news from the start was simply this
The very realm of Abba is at hand
A simple turn from past to what now is
Only believe and you will understand

And yet his simple healing drew hard looks
From those who saw his power as blasphemy
Steeped in tradition buttressed by old books
They could let his new covenant be

Still there is no dividing word and deed
The light of Abba is a single star
Its power embraces all those who come in need
And Jesus’ name is published near and far

Therefore a house divided cannot stand
No matter how we block the Spirit’s power
For Jesus speaks a holiness at hand
And for all time for this is Abba’s hour

All values in an instant are transformed
All past reliances are set askew
A new humanity is being born
And in this moment everything is new

The healing power of Jesus is sublime
A woman mended children snatched from death
Jesus brought healing yes and seized the time
And danced to the sweet fire of Abba’s breath

But endings came as endings seem to do
His herald John beheaded by the king
The priests and scribes what would their threats come to
It seemed the Spirit had a broken wing

But Abba said to Jesus you keep on
Have faith for I am here and here I stay
And yes I know that you may soon be gone
But that is all a part of Abba’s Way

How strange that innocence and love will die
So easily Abba be so suppressed
But no for Abba’s power none can defy
Till this is seen the world will know no rest

The good news from the start was simply this
The very realm of Abba is at hand
Repent believe this is the way it is
And you will see and hear and understand

Try asking for good news in Jesus’ name
Ask anything at all in faith and love
And see your good news born a holy flame
Is there a thing you cannot rise above


Come join the life of those who live alone

Ported from The Way of Abba


Come join the life of those who live alone
Yet not alone for Abba lives inside
A hand to hold a breath to breathe and stone
Building within a temple high and wide

— Stephen C. Rose

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