Dialogue of Jason and Papiscus

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The Dialogue of Jason and Papiscus is a lost early Christian text in Greek describing the dialogue of a converted Jew, Jason, and an Alexandrian Jew, Papiscus. The text is first mentioned, critically, in the True Account of the anti-Christian writer Celsus (c. 178 CE), and therefore would have been contemporary with the surviving, and much more famous, Dialogue between the convert from paganism Justin Martyr and Trypho the Jew.


The main source is Origen in his Against Celsus where he criticises Celsus' selective use of the text.[1]

he has chosen one that is worthless, which although it could be of some help to the simple-minded multitude in respect of their faith, certainly could not impress the more intelligent, saying: "I know a work of this sort a Controversy between one Papiscus and Jason..." ... Nevertheless, I could wish that everyone who hears Celsus' clever rhetoric asserting that the book entitled 'A Controversy between Jason and Papiscus about Christ' deserves not laughter but hatred, were to take the little book into his hands and have the patience and endurance to give attention to its contents. .... In it a Christian is described as disputing with a Jew from the Jewish scriptures and as showing that the prophecies about the Messiah fit Jesus; and the reply with which the other man opposes the argument is at least neither vulgar nor unsuitable to the character of a Jew. (Contra Celsum 4:52)[2]

Origen's lukewarm defence of the text, his mention of the vigorous reply of Papiscus, and the Dialogue's use by Celsus, may explain the subsequent non-survival of the text. The loss of the document removes a potentially significant record of a 2nd-century Jewish Christian's arguments before later theological developments in the Christian church.

Jerome mentions the Dialogue twice. In Commentary on Galatians, in connection with he who is hanged on a tree is accursed of God (Commentary on Galatians, 2.3.13) and the Dialogue mis-citing Genesis 1:1 as "In the Son," (instead of "In the Beginning"), "God created the heaven and the earth." (Questions in Genesis, 2.507).

  • "I Remember in the Dispute between Jason and Papiscus, which is composed in Greek, to have found it written: `The execration of God is he that is hanged.'" (Commentary on Galatians 3:13)
  • "In the beginning God made the heaven and the earth. The majority believe, as it is affirmed also in the Dispute between Jason and Papiscus, and as Tertullian in his book Against Praxeas contends, and as Hilarius too, in his exposition of one of the Psalms, declares, that in the Hebrew it is: `In the Son, God made the heaven and the earth.' But that this is false, the nature of the case itself proves." (Questions in Genesis)[3]

The third source is a letter (mistakenly included in the works of Cyprian) to a certain "Bishop Vigilius" (not Vigilius of Thapsus(de)) describing a translation from Greek to Latin by an otherwise unknown Celsus, (given the sobriquet Celsus Africanus by scholars), which also describes the Dialogue, including the information that Jason himself was a convert from Judaism, and the ending - that Papiscus is convinced and asks for baptism.[4][5]

A recent discovery in St. Catherine's monastery at Mount Sinai provides more text quoted from the Dialogue.[6]

Dating and authorship[edit]

Lahey (2007) dates the Dialogue to c. 140 and considers a date of c. 160 unlikely since the Dialogue is believed to be a source or model for the Dialogue with Trypho, which is itself dated c. 160.[7]

Maximus the Confessor (7th century, or possibly 6th century if mainly the work of John of Scythopolis as suggested by Hans Urs von Balthasar[8]), notes that Clement of Alexandria, in the (now lost) sixth book of his Hypotyposes ascribes the Dialogue to Luke the Evangelist, though Maximus himself ascribes the authorship to Ariston of Pella, in Latin Aristo Pellaeus, an author whom Eusebius mentions in connection with emperor Hadrian and Simon bar Kokhba.[9] No further trace of an attribution to Luke or Ariston is extant. Since the Dialogue was known to Celsus, Origen, Jerome and the later Latin translator "Celsus Africanus," none of whom names an author, the testimony of Maximus is now disregarded.[10]


F. C. Conybeare proposed the hypothesis (1898[11]) that two later traditions, the Dialogue of Athanasius and Zacchaeus (Greek, 4th century) and the Dialogue of Timothy and Aquila (Greek, 6th century), were based on an earlier text, and identified that text as the Dialogue of Jason and Papiscus.[12] His thesis was not widely accepted.[13]


  1. ^ Charles Thomas Cruttwell, A Literary History of Early Christianity: The apostolic fathers 1893 "Celsus, who read it, dismisses it with the contemptuous remark "that it is worthy not so much of laughter as of pity and indignation." 3 Origen does not offer a very warm defence of the writer, but he deprecates Celsus' criticism..."
  2. ^ Translation: Contra Celsum Henry Chadwick 1965 2nd ed. 1980 ISBN 0-521-29576-9
  3. ^ Translation: Sir James Donaldson Ante-Nicene Christian Library - The Works of Lactantius (Vol.2) with the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs 1871 Page 139
  4. ^ Arthur Lukyn Williams, Adversus Judaeos. A Bird's-Eye View of Christian Apologiae until the Renaissance, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1935 p428 "so called to distinguish him from his earlier namesake, translated the Dialogue into Latin, and tells us that Jason was a Hebrew Christian and Papiscus an Alexandrian Jew, and that Papiscus was won over by Jason and was baptised."
  5. ^ John Allen Giles The writings of the early Christians of the second century 1857 Page 211 "That noble, memorable and glorious result of the discussion between Jason, a Hebrew Christian, and Papiscus, an Alexandrian Jew, comes into my mind; how the obstinate hardness of the Jewish heart was softened by Hebrew admonition and gentle chiding; and the teaching of Jason, on the giving of the Holy Ghost, was victorious in the heart of Papiscus. Papiscus, thereby brought to a knowledge of the truth, and fashioned to the fear of the Lord through the mercy of the Lord Himself, both believed in Jesus Christ the Son of God, and entreated Jason that he might receive the sign."
  6. ^ François Bovon and John M. Duffy, "A New Greek Fragment of Ariston of Pella's Dialogue of Jason and Papiscus, Harvard Theological Review 105.4 October 2012, pp 457-465.
  7. ^ Lawrence Lahey. Evidence for Jewish Believers in Christian-Jewish Dialogues through the Sixth Century. in Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries (9780801047688): eds. Oskar Skarsaune and Reidar Hvalvik 2007 pp. 585-591.
  8. ^ Hans Urs von Balthasar Das Scholienwerk des Johannes von Scythopolis, in Scholastik 15 (1940): 16-38, revised in Kosmische Liturgie 1961, translated 2003. Per Brian E. Daley Cambridge Companion to Hans Urs von Balthasar p206.
  9. ^ Maximus, Scholia on The Mystical Theology, ascribed to Dionysius the Areopagite, Chapter 1 "I have found this expression Seven heavens also in the Dispute between Papiscus and Jason, written by Aristo of Pella, which Clement of Alexandria, in the sixth book of the Outlines,3 says was composed by Saint Luke."
  10. ^ Fergus Millar, Emil Schürer, Geza Vermes, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ 1973 p38 "Since the Dialogue was known to Celsus, Origen, Jerome and the Latin translator as being anonymous (for none of them names the author), it is very questionable whether the testimony of Maximus Confessor describing Ariston as the author deserves any credit"
  11. ^ F. C. Conybeare The Dialogues of Athanasius and Zacchaeus and of Timothy and Aquila, Oxford. 1898. 45. Ibid.. p. xxxiv.
  12. ^ Sébastien Morlet La "démonstration évangélique" d'Eusèbe de Césarée 2009 "Dans le même temps, FC Conybeare se fit lui aussi le défenseur de l'hypothèse «Jason et Papiscus ». En 1898, il suggéra que le Dialogue de Timothée et Aquila et le Dialogue d'Athanase et Zacchée étaient deux recensions différentes d'un "
  13. ^ William Varner Ancient Jewish-Christian dialogues: Athanasius and Zacchaeus, Simon and Theophilus, Timothy and Aquila: introductions, texts, and translations E. Mellen Press, 2004 "This work provides the texts and translations of three ancient Jewish-Christian dialogues: The Dialogue of Athanasius and Zacchaeus (Greek, 4th c.); The Dialogue of Simon and Theophilus (Latin, 5th c.); and The Dialogue of Timothy and Aquila (Greek, 6th c.). This is the first published translation of each of these texts. An introduction discusses the context of these dialogues in the "Contra Judaeos" literature of the early church and also explores the question of whether or not they"