Epistles of ClementChristianity Portal
First Clement (c 96) is one of the oldest Christian documents outside the New Testament canon. The epistle was written for the church in Corinth, where it was read for centuries. Indeed, historians generally hold First Clement to be an authentic document dating from the first century. From the fifth century to the eighth century, many of the eastern churches accepted the First Epistle of Clement as canonical scripture as it is clearly listed among the canonical books of the New Testament in "Canon 85" of the Canons of the Apostles. However, by the end of the eighth century, none of the ancient churches, eastern or western, included First Clement in any official listing of the canonical New Testament.
Second Clement, a homily, was probably written later, c 140-160. It may be the oldest surviving sermon outside the New Testament. While Second Clement was traditionally ascribed to Saint Clement, if it was indeed written in the second century, Clement could not have been its author, as he likely died in the year 99.
- 1 The First Epistle of Clement
- 2 The Second Epistle of Clement
- 3 Other Clementine literature
- 4 See also
- 5 Notes
- 6 External links
The First Epistle of ClementWikisource has original text related to this article: 1 Clement
The First Epistle of Clement, (literally, Clement to Corinth; Greek, Κλήμεντος πρὸς Κορινθίους, Klēmentos pros Korinthious) dates from the late first or early second century, and ranks with the Didache, the Epistle of Barnabas, and the Seven Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch as one of the earliest — if not the earliest — of extant Christian documents outside the canonical New Testament. Scholarly consensus is overwhelmingly in favour of its authenticity, however there are a number of questions raised by critics that remain unanswered.
The traditional date for Clement's epistle is at the end of the reign of Domitian, or circa 96 AD, by taking the phrase "sudden and repeated misfortunes and hindrances which have befallen us" (1:1) for a reference to persecutions under Domitian. Confirmation of the date comes from the fact that the church at Rome is called "ancient" and that the presbyters installed by the apostles have died (44:2), and a second ecclesiastical generation has also passed on (44:3).
The letter was occasioned by a dispute in Corinth, which had led to the removal from office of several presbyters. Since none of the presbyters was charged with moral offences, Clement charged that their removal was high-handed and unjustifiable. The letter is extremely lengthy — twice as long as the Epistle to the Hebrews — and includes several references to the Old Testament. Clement demonstrates a familiarity with the Old Testament that points to his being a Christian of long standing, rather than a recent convert. Clement repeatedly refers to the Old Testament as Scripture. Though he quotes some of the letters of Paul and the Epistle to the Hebrews and remembers some sayings of Jesus, he never refers to these as authoritative Scripture.
The epistle was publicly read from time to time at Corinth, and by the fourth century this usage had spread to other churches. It was included in the fifth century Codex Alexandrinus, which contained the entire the Old and New Testaments. First Clement is listed as canonical in "Canon 85" of the Canons of the Apostles, suggesting that First Clement had canonical rank in at least some regions of early Christendom.
Though known from antiquity, the first complete copy of 1 Clement was rediscovered in 1873, some four hundred years after the Fall of Constantinople, when Philotheos Bryennios found it in the Greek Codex Hierosolymitanus, written in 1056. This work, written in Greek, was translated into at least three languages in ancient times: a Latin translation from the second or third century was found in an eleventh century manuscript in the seminary library of Namur, Belgium, and published by Germain Morin in 1894; a Syriac manuscript, now at Cambridge University, was found by Robert Lubbock Bensly in 1876, which he translated in 1899; and a Coptic translation has survived in two papyrus copies, one published by C. Schmidt in 1908 and the other by F. Rösch in 1910.
The Namur Latin translation reveals its early date in several ways and embodies what J.H. Breasted tactfully called "a modification of the text to suit the later spirit of the Roman church". Its early date is attested by not being combined with the pseudepigraphic later Second Epistle of Clement, as all the other translations are found, and by showing no knowledge of the church terminology that became current later, translating presbyteroi as seniores rather than episcopi. In the modification of the text, the Pauline prayer of Clement, that believers should submit themselves in all humility to the civil authority, has been reversed to state precisely the opposite: a prayer that all princes and rulers may now subject themselves to the Church, the Gelasian doctrine that was being revived and put into effect during the eleventh-century Gregorian reform.
The Second Epistle of Clement
The Second Epistle of Clement, (literally, Clement to Corinth; Greek, Κλήμεντος πρὸς Κορινθίους, Klēmentos pros Korinthious) was traditionally believed to have been an epistle to the Christian Church in Corinth written by Clement of Rome sometime in the late first century. However, the fourth century bishop Eusebius, in his historical work, says Clement "has left us one recognized epistle" (Ecclesiastical History 3.16), so doubts about this work belonging to Clement of Rome are not new. Though the first external references to this work date to the fourth century, most modern scholars believe that Second Clement is actually a sermon written around 140 - 160 CE by an anonymous author-- one who was neither the author of 1 Clement nor Clement of Rome. Nonetheless, scholars still generally refer to the work by its traditional name "Second Clement".
Second Clement appears to be a transcript of a homily or sermon that was originally delivered orally at a Christian worship service. For example, in chapter 19 the speaker announces that he will read aloud from scripture -- something we would only expect to find in an a transcript of an oral sermon. Similarly, whereas an epistle would typically begin by introducing the sender and recipient, 2 Clement starts with by addressing "Brethren", and then proceeding directly to the sermon. If it is a sermon, 2 Clement would be the earliest surviving Christian sermon (aside from those found in the New Testament).
Rather than trying to convert others to Christianity, 2 Clement appears to be directed at an audience of Christians who had converted from Paganism. It seems to reference a past history of idolatry: "[Previously] we were maimed in our understanding-- we were worshiping stones and pieces of wood, and gold and silver and copper -- all of them made by humans".
Despite their Pagan background, the speaker and audience in 2 Clement appear to consider the Jewish texts to be Scripture -- the speaker quotes repeatedly from the Book of Isaiah and interprets the text. The speaker also regards the words of Jesus as scripture -- for example, 2:4 quotes a saying of Jesus (one which has parallels, for example, in Mark 2:17, and Matthew 9:13).
In addition to the canonical literature, the author appears to have had access to Christian writings or oral tradition aside from those found in the New Testament. Some quotes attributed to Jesus are found only here -- e.g. 4:5. In 5:2-4, the author quotes a saying of Jesus that is partially found in the New Testament, but the version quoted in 2 Clement is substantially longer than the version found in the New Testament. In the 20th century, a manuscript fragment was discovered that suggests this saying is a quote from the Gospel of Peter, much of which has been lost. Similarly, in 2 Clement 12, the author quotes from the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, which was lost until the mid-20th century. Second Clement also appears to cite the Greek Gospel of the Egyptians.
The earliest external reference to 2 Clement is found in Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History written in the early fourth century: "It must not be overlooked that there is a second epistle said to be from Clement's pen, but I have no reason to suppose that it was well known like the first one, since I am not aware that the early fathers made any use of it. A year or two ago other long and wordy treatises were put forward as Clement's work. They contain alleged dialogues with Peter and Apion, but there is no mention whatever of them by early writers, nor do they preserve in its purity the stamp of apostolic orthodoxy." (Historia Ecclesiastica III 38) 
Other Clementine literature
- ^ Durant, Will. Caesar and Christ. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1972
- ^ Louth 1987:20; preface to both epistles in William Jurgens The Faith of the Early Fathers, vol 1", pp 6 and 42 respectively.
- ^ Hermann Detering, "Der erste Clemensbrief und die Ignatianen in der Holländischen Radikalkritik" trans. Frans-Joris Fabri. http://www.hermann-detering.de/Clem_eng.pdf
- ^ B. Metzger, Canon of the New Testament (Oxford University Press) 1987:43.
- ^ James Henry Breasted, "The Newly-Discovered Latin Translation of the Epistle of Clement" The Biblical World 3.6 (June 1894:452-453).
- Early Christian writings: The First Epistle of Clement
- Early Christian writings: The Second Epistle of Clement
- English Translation of 2 Clement
- Catholic Encyclopedia article on Clement of Rome
- Metzger, Bruce (1987), Canon of the New Testament, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-826180-2
- Louth, Andrew (1987), Early Christian Writings, Penguin; Rev Ed. ISBN 978-0140444759
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