First Epistle of Clement
The First Epistle of Clement (Ancient Greek: Κλήμεντος πρὸς Κορινθίους Klēmentos pros Korinthious “Clement to Corinthians”) is a letter addressed to the Christians in the city of Corinth. The letter dates from the late 1st or early 2nd century, and ranks with Didache as one of the earliest—if not the earliest—of extant Christian documents outside the canonical New Testament. As the name suggests, a Second Epistle of Clement is known; but this is a later work, not by the same author.
Authorship and date
Although traditionally attributed to Clement of Rome, this view has been questioned by modern scholarship. The letter is anonymous; however, the stylistic coherence suggests a single author. Many scholars believe 1 Clement was written around the same time as the Book of Revelation, c. AD 95 – 97. Neither 1 nor 2 Clement was accepted in the canonical New Testament, but they are part of the Apostolic Fathers collection.
The First Epistle does not contain Clement's name, instead being addressed by "the Church of God which sojourneth in Rome to the Church of God which sojourneth in Corinth." The traditional date for Clement's epistle, which has been elicited by the Epistle to the Hebrews's call for leadership from the church in Rome and is permeated with the earlier letter's influence, is at the end of the reign of Domitian, or c. AD 96, by taking the phrase "sudden and repeated misfortunes and hindrances which have befallen us" (1:1) for a reference to persecutions under Domitian. An indication 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). However, some scholars hold to a wider and earlier range of dates, but limit the possibilities to the last two decades of the 1st century, and absolutely no later than AD 140.
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 were charged with moral offences, Clement charged that their removal was high-handed and unjustifiable. The letter was extremely lengthy — it was twice as long as the Epistle to the Hebrews — and includes several references to the Old Testament, of which he demonstrates a knowledge. Clement repeatedly refers to the Old Testament as Scripture.
New Testament references include Clement’s admonition to “Take up the epistle of the blessed Paul the Apostle” (xlvii. 1) which was written to this Corinthian audience; a reference which seems to imply written documents available at both Rome and Corinth. Clement also alludes to the first epistle of Paul to the Corinthians and may allude to Paul's epistles to the Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians, numerous phrases from the Epistle to the Hebrews, and possible material from Acts, James, and I Peter. In several instances, he asks his readers to “remember” the words of Jesus, although Clement does not attribute these sayings to a specific written account. These New Testament allusions are employed as authoritative sources which strengthen Clement’s arguments to the Corinthian church, but Clement never explicitly refers to them as “Scripture”.
The epistle was publicly read from time to time at Corinth, and by the 4th century this usage had spread to other churches. It was included in the 5th century Codex Alexandrinus, which contained the entire Old and New Testaments. It was included with the Gospel of John in the fragmentary early Greek and Akhmimic Coptic papyrus designated Papyrus 6. 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 document to contain the Epistle of Clement and to be studied by Western scholars was found in 1628, having been included with an ancient Greek Bible given by the Patriarch Cyril of Jerusalem to King Charles I of England. 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 2nd or 3rd century was found in an 11th-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, and translated by him into English 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. Its early date is attested to 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 — for example, translating Greek presbyteroi as seniores rather than transliterating to presbyteri.
- Jurgens, W A, ed. (1970), The Faith of the Early Fathers: A Source-book of Theological and Historical Passages from the Christian Writings of the Pre-Nicene and Nicene Eras, Liturgical Press, p. 6, ISBN 978-0-8146-0432-8, retrieved 18 April 2013
- Holmes, Michael (1 November 2007), Apostolic Fathers, The: Greek Texts and English Translations, Baker Academic, p. 34, ISBN 978-0-8010-3468-8, retrieved 18 April 2013
- W.C. van Unnik, "Studies on the so-called First Epistle of Clement. The literary genre," in Cilliers Breytenbach and Laurence L. Welborn, Encounters with Hellenism: Studies on the First Letter of Clement, Leiden & Boston: Brill, 2004, p. 118. ISBN 9004125264.
- Edgar J. Goodspeed, "First Clement Called Forth by Hebrew" Journal of Biblical Literature 30.2 (1911:157-160).
- Holmes, Michael (1 November 2007), Apostolic Fathers, The: Greek Texts and English Translations, Baker Academic, p. 35, ISBN 978-0-8010-3468-8, retrieved 18 April 2013
- L.L. Welborn, "The preface to 1 Clement: the rhetorical situation and the traditional date," in Breytenbach and Welborn, p.201
- Bruce M. Metzger, Canon of the New Testament (Oxford University Press) 1987:42–43.
- Staniforth, Maxwell. Early Christian writings: the Apostolic Fathers. Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1968. p. 14. ISBN 0-14-044197-2.
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- Catholic Encyclopedia article on Clement of Rome
- Early Christian writings: The First Epistle of Clement - Useful links
- Lexundria: 1 Clement: Epistle of the Romans to the Corinthians - English translation by Kirsopp Lake
- The Use of Material Deriving from the Synoptic Gospels in the Letter of Clement to the Corinthians
- 2012 Translation & Audio Version