Did Papias, Polycarp, Ignatius etc. endorse Paul as an inspired apostle ?

  • The question

    Do early church fathers praise and quote Paul as an inspired apostle, commissioned and approved by Jesus, and dwelling with Jesus in heaven?

“Yes, after all…
  • Polycarp praises Paul as an inspired apostle

    Polycarp called Paul an apostle.2

    Polycarp to the Philippians 3:2 — “[None can] replicate the wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul. When he was with you he accurately and reliable taught the word of truth to those who were there at the time. And when he was absent he wrote you letters. If you carefully peer into them, you will be able to be built up in the faith that was given you [Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, Vol 1. (Harvard, 2003)]
    Polycarp to the Philippians 9:1-2 — “…obey the word of righteousness and to pratice all endurance, which you also observed with your own eyes not only in the most fortunate Ignatius, Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others who lived among you, and in Paul himself and the other apostles. … They are with… the Lord, with whom they also suffered.” [Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, Vol 1. (Harvard, 2003)]

    Polycarp quoted Paul as inspired. He cites Paul’s letters 16 times in Polycarp tο the Philippians 1:3; 2:2; 4:1; 5:1, 3; 6:1, 2; 9:2; 11:1, 2, 4; 12:1.

  • Ignatius endorses Paul as an inspired apostle

    Ignatius called Paul an apostle (like Peter). [Note: some of these may be inauthentic]

    Ignatius to the Philadelphians 4 — “Abraham, and…., and Isaiah, and the rest of the prophets; as of Peter, and Paul, and the rest of the apostles”
    Ignatius to the Romans 4:3 — “I do not, as Peter and Paul, issue commandments unto you. They were apostles;”
    Ignatius to the Ephesians 12:2 — “…with Paul, the holy, the martyred, inasmuch as he was ‘a chosen vessel’; at whose feet may I be found, … saints,”

    Ignatius quoted Paul as inspired.

    Ignatius to Polycarp 5:1 — “In like manner also charge my brothers in the name of Jesus Christ to love their wives, as the Lord loved the Church.”

    Compare Paul:
    Ephesians 5:25 — ”Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,”)

  • “2nd Clement 19:2” quotes Paul as scripture

    2 Clement 14:5 — “…No man can declare or tell those things which the Lord hath prepared for His elect.”

    Compare Paul:

    1 Cor 2:9 — “… ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him [the elect].’”

    This is relevant because

    Dictionary of the Later New Testament & Its Developments: “[This] suggests that by the time of the author of 2 Clement was writing, the Gospels and Paul's writings were being treated as sacred texts, equally useful as the OT to be used in saying something authoritative about God and 'the Lord Jesus.” [Ben Witherington, “Lord”, eds. Martin & Davids (IVP, 2010), .]

  • “Martyrdom of Polycarp 1:2” quotes Phil 2:4

    The Martrydom of Polycarp 1:2 — ”For he lingered that he might be delivered up, even as the Lord did, to the end that we too might be imitators of him, not lookingonly to that which concerneth ourselves, but also to that which concerneth our neighbors. For it is the office of true and steadfast love, not only to desire that oneself be saved, but all the brethren also.”


    Phil 2:4 — ”do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

  • “Epistle to Diognetus” quotes Paul as “apostle”

    Unknown Author (writing c. AD 120-2nd century): “The Apostle, perceiving the force [of this conjunction], and blaming that knowledge which, without true doctrine, is admitted to influence life, declares, "Knowledge puffeth up, but love edifieth.” [Epistle to Diognetus 12:5]


    1 Cor 8:1 — “… ‘knowledge’ puffs up, but love builds up.” [ESV]

  • Papias of Hierapolis quotes Paul as “apostle”

    Papias: “even as it is said by the apostle [Paul], ‘For He must reign till He hath put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.’” (Cf. 1 Cor 15:25 — ”For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.”) [As cited by Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5.36](Alternatively in what’s labeled, “Fragments of Papias 5”)1>

    1. Note: there is debate over whether Irenaeus is attributing this quote to Papias.