The Premillennialism of Papias

Papias of HierapolisAlongside Polycarp, Papias was a student of the apostle John.  He was the bishop of Hierpolis in Phrygia and was martyred in 163 AD (around the same time that Polycarp was martyred).  In addition to enjoying friendship with the apostle John, Papias intimately knew several others who had been alive to interact with Jesus and the apostles.[1]  This makes Papias among the most important Christian figures following the completion of the Bible (ca. 96 A.D.).  It is unfortunate that outside of a few relics, what survives of Papias’ teachings can only be found where he is quoted or paraphrased by other fathers.

The early fourth century Church historian Eusebius of Caesarea confirmed Papias’ Chiliasm or Premillennialism:

The same person, moreover, has set down other things as coming to him from unwritten tradition, amongst these some strange parables and instructions of the Saviour, and some other things of a more fabulous nature.  Amongst these he says that there will be a millennium after the resurrection from the dead, when the personal reign of Christ will be established on this earth.[2] 

Papias expected that Jesus’ earthly reign during the Millennium was to commence after the resurrection of the dead.  It is of special interest that Eusebius records that Papias received this belief from an unwritten tradition.  Papias’ connection with those who knew Jesus personally indicates that he likely heard of this teaching from one or some of these individuals.  It is quite possible that the apostle John himself instructed Papias on the Millennium.  This makes the most sense given that John was the writer of Revelation, the book that most clearly teaches on the thousand year reign of Christ.

After writing on the blessings to be found in the Millennium, Irenaeus provides this fascinating quote from Papias:

And these things are borne witness to in writing by Papias, the hearer of John, and a companion of Polycarp, in his fourth book; for there were five books compiled (συντεταγμένα) by him.  And he says in addition, “Now these things are credible to believers.” And he says that, “when the traitor Judas did not give credit to them, and put the question, ‘How then can things about to bring forth so abundantly be wrought by the Lord?’ the Lord declared, ‘They who shall come to these [times] shall see.’”[3]

According to Papias, Judas not only doubted the millennial blessings but even questioned Jesus on how such wonders could ever come to pass.  In evoking the villain Judas, Papias and Irenaeus underscored just how important they thought it was to disagree with him.

[1] Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson and Arthur Cleveland Coxe, eds., the Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume I – the Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, 151.

[2] Ibid., 154.  Eusebius, Fragments of Papias, VI.

[3] Ibid., 563.  Irenaeus, Against Heresies, bk. V, ch. XXXIII.



  1. Interesting


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