I don’t mind stretching – it makes for good fodder. Ben tells us of a stele found in Turkey which bares the name of Papias. Now, for those that do no know, a certain Papias was a bishop in the early Church, part of what historians now call the ‘Apostolic Fathers,’ along with Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smryna. Papias provides us with the tradition that Mark wrote down Peter’s words and is himself involved in the tradition of John’s Gospel as being the Apostle’s scribe.
Ben ends his remarks with this:
If we take all of this together it is indeed possible that this is the grave stele of Bishop Papias though we certainly can’t be sure by any means. It certainly is the grave stele of an honorable and probably relatively high status Christian. What we know about Papias is that he seems to have died a martyr in Smyrna (Izmir). But perhaps his flock chose to honor him in this generic way thereafter. The early second century was a dicey time for Christians in western Turkey as is evident from reading Pliny’s letter to Trajan asking what to do with Christians handed over for practicing a ‘superstition’. See what you think and weigh in.
Is it possible? The Papias Stele – Ben Witherington on the Bible and Culture.