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In his book History and Christianity: A Vigorous, Convincing Presentation of the Evidence for a Historical Jesus (1965, IVP Press), John Warwick Montgomery says on page 34:

Irenaeus had often heard from Polycarp the eyewitness accounts of Jesus received from John and others who had been personally acquainted with Jesus.13


13See Eusebius, H.E., V. 20.

At face value, I found this, combined with Irenaeus' reference to the Gospels, to be the most powerful point in Montgomery's book. However, Polycarp himself does not claim to have known John or others who new Jesus, and his biographer does not mention this either. So we could say that Irenaeus claims a connection to Jesus, but Polycarp does not.

Unfortunately, the only other example Montgomery provides is Paul. Are there others who claim a connection to Jesus? (Such as Irenaeus, who studied under Polycarp, who met John, who was a disciple of Jesus)

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Polycarp's only surviving writing is his Epistle to the Philippians, and the focus of his epistle is teaching the gospel rather than talking about himself.

We can glean much about Polycarp's beliefs from his epistle, but it tells us almost nothing about his personal life. The biographical information we know about Polycarp comes principally from 3 sources:

There are those who wish to discredit Polycarp because they do not like his teachings, but the historical record is quite consistent that he was indeed a disciple of John. The rebuttal that "he doesn't claim to be a disciple of John" is pretty irrelevant, since he doesn't claim much of anything about himself in his surviving epistle. His audience already knew who he was. Gratefully, others who knew Polycarp have told us much more about Polycarp than he himself did in his Epistle to the Philippians.

Other notable writers with a close connection to the teachings of Jesus:

  • Matthew (apostle)
  • Mark (missionary companion to Peter & to Paul)
  • Luke (missionary companion to Paul)
  • John (apostle)
  • Paul (apostle)
  • James (the Lord's brother)
  • Peter (apostle)
  • Jude (lots of people had this name but the writer of the New Testament book is probably the Lord's brother)
  • Clement of Rome (one of the most prominent apostolic fathers, author of 1 Clement, a 2nd generation Christian leader who was taught by the apostles)
  • Ignatius of Antioch (one of the most prominent apostolic fathers, author of 7 surviving epistles, a 2nd generation Christian leader who was taught by the apostles)
  • Papias of Hieropolis (one of the most prominent apostolic fathers, a 2nd generation Christian leader who was taught by the apostles, author of the 5-part work Exposition on the Oracles of the Lord which save for fragments has been lost)
  • Irenaeus of Lyons (a 3rd generation Christian leader who was taught by Polycarp, author of multiple works including the extremely influential 5-part series Against Heresies)
  • Clement of Alexandria (a 4th generation Christian leader who in the 2nd century diligently sought out the testimony of early Christian leaders, author of numerous works)

Irenaeus & Clement of Alexandria are a little further removed than the others, but they were extremely scholarly writers with prodigious output.

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  • Useful answer, thank you. I note that we have writings of Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Papias, and Clement of Alexandria, but none of them claim connection to Jesus. And for Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, James, Peter and Jude we don't have any of their writings (at least, that is the mainstream scholarly viewpoint). So it is Paul and Irenaeus who we both have their writings and they claim connection to Jesus. Commented Sep 10, 2023 at 0:34
  • @user1010110 You should investigate whether or not Irenaeus, with his connection to Jesus, agrees with the mainstream scholarly viewpoint. :) Commented Sep 11, 2023 at 2:48
  • @MikeBorden It is reasonably likely that Irenaeus himself gave the then anonymous Gospels the names we use today: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. He would be rather uniquely positioned in history to be one of the only people who knew who the actual authors were - in fact it is reasonably likely that Irenaeus himself wrote parts of the Gospels. Commented Sep 12, 2023 at 3:14
  • @user1010110 for a deductive, logical argument that Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew, see my video here: youtu.be/SBjsC2ld8SI . Papias definitely claimed a connection to Jesus (see his preface). Clement of Rome & Ignatius were taught by the apostles - hard to see how we could interpret that as not being a connection to Jesus. Commented Sep 12, 2023 at 3:17
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    @user1010110 Irenaeus definitely could not have written the synoptic Gospels, which were already being quoted all over the Mediterranean decades before Irenaeus was born. In my video series I show why it is implausible that Irenaeus assigned the names to the Gospels -- the conspiracy it requires becomes so large it collapses under its own weight. Commented Sep 12, 2023 at 3:21

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