Are there Chains of Transmissions for Early Patristic Witnesses?


Question:

A Christian polemicist who previously compared Muslims to a cancer in Europe, and who denied that God inscribed the 10 commandments on tablets to Moses, has claimed that there is a chain of transmission linking the apostles of Jesus to the early Church Fathers. Is this true? How, do we respond to this?

Answer:

There is nothing to respond to. The author of the aforementioned article does not seem to understand the basics of hadith criticism, and reduces the science of hadith criticism to merely throwing some names together and linking them through obscurity. It should be noted that in reading that poor article, the author depends solely on one disciple and solely on one Patristic, with two extremely obscure quotes whose works we no longer have the autographs (originals) for. After several hundred words, the author could not sum his evidences to provide a basis for a single da’eef (weak) chain of transmission. Under hadith criticism, especially that of mustalah or rijal, the hadith sciences would have no other option to regard that claim of a “chain”, as nothing more than hearsay.

Regarding his quotes, Papias and Polycarp are said to have been contemporaries of each other. Eusebius in the 4th century, corrects Papias in his assertion that he knew John the apostle. It is disputed which John that Papias knew. If Papias and Polycarp were contemporaries, and the Christians of the 4th century couldn’t identify which of the four Johns he knew (John the apostle, John the elder, John of Patmos or a John with a combination of any of the previous identities), how can someone 2000 years later claim to make that identification for Papias’ contemporary, Polycarp? Furthermore, it should be noted that Polycarp himself not once quotes or references John the apostle in any of his extant writings, and Iraeneus who in the late second century recorded the claim that Polycarp knew John, heard this in his childhood. There are literally no other sources which can corroborate something that Iraeneus writing in the late second century, claims to have heard in his childhood, much less so from any of the extant writings of Polycarp himself.

The author of the aforementioned article, in a case of pure desperation attempts to quote Ignatius’ work to qualify the claim of early Trinitarian beliefs, whereas it should be known that Ignatius’ works are only survived through Eusebius in the 4th century, with absolutely no verifiable chain of transmission between the two. In other words, it has been demonstrated that the author himself is unfamiliar with the hadith sciences to the point he could not offer a single chain of transmission or the chain’s grading, or a jarh of any of the names mentioned in the overly lengthy article. His sole reliance on one obscure quote without any other witness or comment by Iraeneus himself, demonstrates the desperation of the author to forcibly create an instance of a chain of transmission. In my debate earlier this year, I consulted with a New Testament Professor and a scholar of the hadith sciences to examine the chains of transmission in the early Church. A basic summary of the results of our labour can be found in that debate:

It is clear that the author of the article was not attempting to present a studied argument. Due to the nature of the blog he posted the article to, it can thus be deduced that he was pandering to lay-Christians with no scholastic interest in either Christianity or Islam. I forwarded his article to both the New Testament Professor and hadith scholar I worked with on examining Patristic chains of transmission, and both of them replied quite negatively. Another brother, who discussed this topic with a prominent Christian New Testament scholar and historian, also replied negatively to the claims in the article (not to the article itself). I have not sought permission from any of these persons to reproduce their comments on this website. Should the case arise for me to do so, I will, with great pleasure. However, it is saddening that the Christian author has chosen to align himself with an anti-immigrant polemicist, whose venom Dr. James White in a recent video attempted to dissuade Christians from endorsing. It would then seem, that the author is more interested in pandering to a racist crowd, that conforms to his views, than to do objective, intelligent and honest academic research.

In this article, using a single criteria from the hadith sciences, I demonstrated that the New Testament does not meet the criteria of a da’eef (weak) narration.

In this article, using a single criteria from the hadith sciences, I demonstrated that none of the New Testament literature, can be validated or verified as being from Jesus ‘alayhi as salaam or his apostles, since none of the alleged transmitters can stand up to rijal al hadith.

and Allah knows best.