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The Hypomnemata of Hegesippus

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 May 2022

John-Christian Eurell*
Stockholm School of Theology, Bromma, Sweden


This article deals with the lost work of the early Christian writer Hegesippus, whose Hypomnemata is only known through quotations in Eusebius. Faulty preconceptions regarding the dating and provenance of Hegesippus’ work are criticised, and it is argued that the Hypomnemata is a loose collection of bishop traditions from the late 170s or 180s. The purpose of the work is to connect orthodoxy with correct episcopal succession.

Research Article
Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press

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1 Only two monographs have been devoted to this significant early Christian writer, and both are rather dated: Dannreuther, Henri, Du témoignage d'Hégésippe sur l’église chrétienne aux deux premiers siècles (Nancy: Berger-Levrault, 1878)Google Scholar; and Allemand Lavigiere, Charles Martial, De Hegesippo (Paris: Librairie Catholique de Perisse Frères, 1950)Google Scholar. Other significant early works on Hegesippus are Theodor Jeß, ‘Hegesippus nach seiner kirchengeschichtlicher Bedeutung’, Zeitschrift für die historische Theologie (1865), pp. 1–95; Hilgenfeld;, AdolfHegesippus’, Zeitschrift für Wissenschaftliche Theologie 19 (1876), pp. 177229Google Scholar; Hilgenfeld, ‘Hegesippus und die Apostelgeschiche’, Zeitschrift für Wissenschaftliche Theologie 21 (1878), pp. 298–330; Nösgen, K. F., ‘Die kirchliche Standpunkt Hegesipps’, Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte 2 (1878), pp. 193233Google Scholar.

2 Albert Schwegler, Das nachapostolische Zeitalter in den Hauptmomenten seiner Entwicklung, 2 vols (Tübingen: Fues, 1846), vol. 1, p. 426.

3 Baur, Ferdinand Christian, Das Christentum und die Christliche Kirche der drei ersten Jahrhunderte, 2nd edn (Tübingen: Fies, 1860), p. 84Google Scholar.

4 Schoeps, Hans Joachim, Aus frühchristlicher Zeit: Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen (Tübingen: Mohr, 1950), pp. 120–1Google Scholar.

5 Telfer, W., ‘Was Hegesippus a Jew?’, Harvard Theological Review 53 (1960), p. 146CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For a critique of Telfer, see Skarsaune, Oskar, ‘Fragments of Jewish Christian Literature Quoted in Some Greek and Latin Fathers’, in Skarsaune, Oskar and Hvalvik, Reidar (eds), Jewish Believers in Jesus (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007), pp. 339–40Google Scholar.

6 Nicholson, Edward Byron, The Gospel According to the Hebrews (London: C. Kegan Paul, 1879), p. 65Google Scholar.

7 Cf. Jones, F. Stanley, ‘Hegesippus as a Source for the History of Jewish Christianity’, in Le Judéo-Christianisme dans tous ses états: Actes du colloque de Jérusalem 6–10 juillet 1998 (Paris: Cerf, 2001), p. 204Google Scholar.

8 Hyldahl, Niels, ‘Hegesipps Hypomnemata’, Studia Theologica 14 (1960), pp. 70113CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

9 Theodor Zahn, Forschungen zur Geschichte der neutestamentlichen Kanons und altkirchlichen Literatur 6.1: Aposteln und Apostelschüler in der Provinz Asien (Leipzig: Deichert, 1900), pp. 228–50.

10 Wilhelm Pratscher, Der Herrenbruder Jakobus und die Jakobustradition (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1987), pp. 105–6, n. 11. English trans.: ‘An Eastern Christian of orthodox orientation with great interest for Jewish-Christian tradition, in particular concerning the beginning.’

11 The dichotomy between Jewish and Gentile Christianity is problematic; cf. Judith M. Lieu, ‘The Parting of the Ways: Theological Construct or Historical Reality?’, Journal of the Study of the New Testament 56 (1994), pp. 101–19.

12 See discussion in Hans von Campenhausen, Kirchliches Amt und geistliche Vollmacht in den ersten drei Jahrhunderten, BHT 14 (Tübingen: Mohr, 1953), 183–4, n. 4.

13 Zahn, Forschungen, p. 254.

14 It is hard to examine more in detail how Eusebius made this deduction since none of these aspects of Hegesippus’ work have been preserved.

15 Zahn, Forschungen, p. 254.

16 If Hegesippus and Antinous were the same age, they would have been born around 110, and Hegesippus could certainly have written in the 170s or 180s.

17 See discussion in Jones, ‘Hegesippus as a Source’, p. 204.

18 Franz Overbeck, Über die Anfänge der Kirchengeschichtsschreibung (Basel: Reinhardt, 1892), p. 21. Michael Durst, ‘Hegesipps Hypomnemata: Titel oder Gattungsbezeichnung?’, Römische Quartalschrift 84 (1989), pp. 299–330, points out that ὑπομνήματα cannot be viewed as a genre as such, whereas Nadine Quenouille, ‘Hypomnema und seine verschiedenen Bedeutungen’, in Alberto Nodar and Sofía Torallas Tovar (eds), Proceedings of the 28th Congress of Papyrology, Barcelona 1–6 August 2016 (Barcelona, 2019), pp. 674–82, points out that there are in fact a number of technical uses of the term.

19 As noted by T. Halton, ‘Hegesippus in Eusebius’, in Elizabeth A. Livingstone (ed.), Studia Patristica XVII, 3 vols (Oxford: Pergamon, 1982), vol. 2, pp. 688–93. A recent attempt at reconstructing Papias’ work can be found in Dennis R. MacDonald, Two Shipwrecked Gospels: The Logoi of Jesus and Papias's Exposition of the Logia about the Lord (Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2012).

20 An influential collection of the fragments of Hegesippus is found in Zahn, Forschungen, pp. 228–50.

21 Hugh Jackson Lawlor, Evsebiana: Essays on the Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea (Oxford: Clarendon, 1912).

22 An apt summary of Eusebius’ use of Hegesippus can be found in Robert M. Grant, Eusebius as Church Historian (Oxford: Clarendon, 1980), p. 68.

23 Lawlor, Evsebiana, p. 5.

24 James the Just was called Oblias which means ‘wall’ (Pan. 58.7.1||Hist. Eccl. 3.23.7); vegetarianism and James bearing a linen garment (Pan. 58.13.1||Hist. Eccl. 2.23.5–7); James never wore wool (Pan. 58.14.1||Hist. Eccl. 2.23.6); martyrdom of James (Pan. 58.14.4||Hist. Eccl. 2.23.16–18).

25 Andrew James Carriker, The Library of Eusebius of Caesarea (Leiden: Brill, 2003), pp. 264–5, claims that Eusebius certainly made more extensive use of Hegesippus than is indicated in the direct quotations, not least concerning the early Palestinian church.

26 That Hegesippus’ writing is an apology is maintained by Lawlor, Evsebiana, pp. 2–4; see also Richard J. Bauckham, Jude and the Relatives of Jesus in the Early Church (London: T&T Clark, 1990), p. 75.

27 The term ‘Oblias’ is rather ambiguous; see Jonathan Bourgel, ‘Jacques le Juste, un Oblias parmi d'autres’, New Testament Studies 59 (2013), pp. 222–46.

28 Cf. Josephus, Ant. 20.9.

29 It is significant to keep in mind that the terms ‘orthodoxy’ and ‘heresy’ do not necessarily designate historically disparate groups as previously supposed, see discussion in John-Christian Eurell, Peter's Legacy in Early Christianity: The Appropriation and Use of Peter's Authority in the First Three Centuries (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, forthcoming), pp. 12–14.

30 Telfer, ‘Was Hegesippus a Jew?’, p. 153, points out that Hegesippus may have lived at the same time as Irenaeus, and thus they might have exchanged information. Telfer suggests that Hegesippus provided Irenaeus with information regarding Palestinian Christianity. Although possible, I find it more likely that their major shared interest was how to preserve what they considered to be orthodoxy.

31 Although Hegesippus normally uses αἱρέσις about the Jewish sects, Kirsopp Lake suggests that it may here refer to Palestinian Christians (Kirsopp Lake, Eusebius: The Ecclesiastical History I (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1926), pp. 376–7). However, the heresies accounted for thereafter are more than seven in number, and the most natural reading is to understand it as referring to the seven sects of Judaism.

32 Already Acts 15 suggests that James was a uniting figure who mediates between different fractions in the church in order to maintain unity.

33 Here we might suspect that Hegesippus is of the same opinion as Clement of Alexandria, that James the Just was appointed bishop by the apostles; cf. Hyp. 6–7 in Hist. Eccl. 2.1.3–4.

34 It is worth noting that Hegesippus uses ὀρθός rather than ἀληθής here, thus underlining his distinction between orthodoxy and heresy.

35 Quotation from the translation of Kirsopp Lake, Eusebius: The Ecclesiastical History, p. 375.

36 The state of research is well described in Jonathon Lookadoo, ‘The Date and Authenticity of the Ignatian Letters: An Outline of Recent Discussions’, Currents in Biblical Research 19 (2020), pp. 88–114.

37 This corresponds fairly well to the thesis of Candida Moss, The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom (San Francisco, CA: HarperOne, 2013).

38 Cf. Irenaeus, Haer. 1.23.

39 Jones, ‘Hegesippus as a Source’, p. 206.

40 Cf. Allen Brent, ‘Diogenes Laertius and the Apostolic Succession’, Journal of Ecclesiastical History 44 (1993), pp. 367–89.

41 Cf. Hist. Eccl. 5.12.

42 Jones, ‘Hegesippus as a Source’. On the traditions accounted for by Hegesippus as martyrdom accounts, see David J. DeVore, ‘Opening the Canon of Martyr Narratives: Pre-Decian Martyrdom Discourse and the Hypomnemata of Hegesippus’, Journal of Early Christian Studies 27 (2019), pp. 579–609.

43 Cf. Bauckham, Jude and the Relatives of Jesus, p. 81.

44 Grant, Eusebius as Church Historian, pp. 66–72.