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First Epistle of Clement

First Epistle of Clement

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The First Epistle of Clement
Pope Clement I
Starting in the 3rd and 4th century, tradition has identified him as the Clement that Paul mentioned in Philippians as a fellow laborer in Christ.While in the mid-19th century it was customary to identify him as a freedman of Titus Flavius Clemens, who was consul with his cousin, the Emperor...

, (literally, Clement to Corinth; Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

, Κλήμεντος πρὸς Κορινθίους, Klēmentos pros Korinthious) 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
Didache
The Didache or The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles is a brief early Christian treatise, dated by most scholars to the late first or early 2nd century...

 as one of the earliest — if not the earliest — of extant Christian documents outside the canonical New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

. As the name indicates, also a Second Epistle of Clement
Second Epistle of Clement
The Second Epistle of Clement, often referred to as 2 Clement, is an early Christian writing....

 is known, but this is a later work, not by the same author.

Authorship and date


In the case of the first epistle the scholarly consensus is overwhelmingly in favour of its authenticity, whereas by contrast it is widely accepted that the second epistle is not to be attributed to Clement. Many scholars believe 1 Clement was written around the same time as the Book of Revelation
Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation is the final book of the New Testament. The title came into usage from the first word of the book in Koine Greek: apokalupsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation"...

, c. 95-97 AD. Neither 1 nor 2 Clement was accepted in the canonical New Testament
Biblical canon
A biblical canon, or canon of scripture, is a list of books considered to be authoritative as scripture by a particular religious community. The term itself was first coined by Christians, but the idea is found in Jewish sources. The internal wording of the text can also be specified, for example...

, but they are part of the Apostolic Fathers
Apostolic Fathers
The Apostolic Fathers are a small number of Early Christian authors who lived and wrote in the second half of the first century and the first half of the second century. They are acknowledged as leaders in the early church, although their writings were not included in the New Testament...

 collection.

The First Epistle does not contain Clement's name, instead being addressed by "the Church of God which sojourneth in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 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
Epistle to the Hebrews
The Epistle to the Hebrews is one of the books in the New Testament. Its author is not known.The primary purpose of the Letter to the Hebrews is to exhort Christians to persevere in the face of persecution. The central thought of the entire Epistle is the doctrine of the Person of Christ and his...

'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
Domitian
Domitian was Roman Emperor from 81 to 96. Domitian was the third and last emperor of the Flavian dynasty.Domitian's youth and early career were largely spent in the shadow of his brother Titus, who gained military renown during the First Jewish-Roman War...

, or c. 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. 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).

Content


The letter was occasioned by a dispute in Corinth, which had led to the removal from office of several presbyter
Presbyter
Presbyter in the New Testament refers to a leader in local Christian congregations, then a synonym of episkopos...

s. 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
Epistle to the Hebrews
The Epistle to the Hebrews is one of the books in the New Testament. Its author is not known.The primary purpose of the Letter to the Hebrews is to exhort Christians to persevere in the face of persecution. The central thought of the entire Epistle is the doctrine of the Person of Christ and his...

 — 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 epistles of Paul to the Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians; numerous phrases from the Epistle to the Hebrews
Epistle to the Hebrews
The Epistle to the Hebrews is one of the books in the New Testament. Its author is not known.The primary purpose of the Letter to the Hebrews is to exhort Christians to persevere in the face of persecution. The central thought of the entire Epistle is the doctrine of the Person of Christ and his...

, and possible material from Acts, James, and I Peter. In several instances, he asks his readers to “remember” the words of Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

, 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”.

Canonical rank


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
Codex Alexandrinus
The Codex Alexandrinus is a 5th century manuscript of the Greek Bible,The Greek Bible in this context refers to the Bible used by Greek-speaking Christians who lived in Egypt and elsewhere during the early history of Christianity...

, which contained the entire Old and New Testaments. It was included with the Gospel of John
Gospel of John
The Gospel According to John , commonly referred to as the Gospel of John or simply John, and often referred to in New Testament scholarship as the Fourth Gospel, is an account of the public ministry of Jesus...

 in the fragmentary early Greek and Akhmimic Coptic papyrus
Papyrus
Papyrus is a thick paper-like material produced from the pith of the papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus, a wetland sedge that was once abundant in the Nile Delta of Egypt....

 designated Papyrus 6. First Clement is listed as canonical in "Canon 85" of the Canons of the Apostles
Canons of the Apostles
The Apostolic Canons or Ecclesiastical Canons of the Same Holy Apostles is a collection of ancient ecclesiastical decrees concerning the government and discipline of the Early Christian Church, first found as last chapter of the eighth book of the Apostolic Constitutions and belonging to genre of...

, suggesting that First Clement had canonical rank in at least some regions of early Christendom.

Sources


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
Charles I of England
Charles I was King of England, King of Scotland, and King of Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. Charles engaged in a struggle for power with the Parliament of England, attempting to obtain royal revenue whilst Parliament sought to curb his Royal prerogative which Charles...

. The first complete copy of 1 Clement was rediscovered in 1873, some four hundred years after the Fall of Constantinople
Fall of Constantinople
The Fall of Constantinople was the capture of the capital of the Byzantine Empire, which occurred after a siege by the Ottoman Empire, under the command of Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II, against the defending army commanded by Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI...

, when Philotheos Bryennios
Philotheos Bryennios
Philotheos Bryennios was a Greek Orthodox metropolitan of Nicomedia, and the discoverer in 1873 of an important manuscript with copies of early Church documents.-Life:...

 found it in the Greek Codex Hierosolymitanus
Codex Hierosolymitanus
Codex Hierosolymitanus is an 11th-century Greek manuscript, written by an unknown scribe named Leo, who dated it 1056...

, written in 1056. This work, written in Greek
Koine Greek
Koine Greek is the universal dialect of the Greek language spoken throughout post-Classical antiquity , developing from the Attic dialect, with admixture of elements especially from Ionic....

, was translated into at least three languages in ancient times: a Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 translation from the second or 3rd century was found in an 11th century manuscript in the seminary library of Namur, Belgium, and published by Germain Morin
Germain Morin
Germain Morin was a Belgian Benedictine historical scholar and patrologist, of the Beuronese Congregation.-References:* Grosselin, Oliver A., O.S.B., "Dom Germain Morin," American Benedictine Review, 6:4 408-418...

 in 1894; a Syriac manuscript, now at Cambridge University, was found by Robert Lubbock Bensly
Robert Lubbock Bensly
Robert Lubbock Bensly was an English Orientalist.He was educated at King's College London, and Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, studied in Germany, and was appointed reader in Hebrew at Gonville and Caius College 1863...

 in 1876, and translated by him into English in 1899; and a Coptic
Coptic language
Coptic or Coptic Egyptian is the current stage of the Egyptian language, a northern Afro-Asiatic language spoken in Egypt until at least the 17th century. Egyptian began to be written using the Greek alphabet in the 1st century...

 translation has survived in two papyrus
Papyrus
Papyrus is a thick paper-like material produced from the pith of the papyrus plant, Cyperus papyrus, a wetland sedge that was once abundant in the Nile Delta of Egypt....

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.

External links