The Second Epistle of Clement
, (literally, Clement to Corinth
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
) often referred to as 2 Clement
, is an early Christian writing.
2 Clement was not accepted in the canonical New Testament
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 was included in the 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...
2 Clement was traditionally believed to have been epistle to the Christian Church in Corinth written by Clement of Rome sometime in the late 1st century. However, 4th-century bishop Eusebius, in his historical work, says Clement "has left us one recognized epistle", so doubts about this work belonging to Clement of Rome are not new. 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".
2 Clement appears to be a transcript of a homily
A homily is a commentary that follows a reading of scripture. In Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and Eastern Orthodox Churches, a homily is usually given during Mass at the end of the Liturgy of the Word...
or sermon that was originally delivered orally at a Christian worship service. For example, in ch. 19 the speaker announces that he will read aloud from scripture – something one 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).
Like many early Christian texts, 2 Clement was written in 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....
, the common language of the Hellenized Mediterranean area.
Rather than trying to convert others to Christianity, 2 Clement appears to be directed at an audience of Christians who had converted from Paganism. 2 Clement seems to reference a past history of idolatry
Idolatry is a pejorative term for the worship of an idol, a physical object such as a cult image, as a god, or practices believed to verge on worship, such as giving undue honour and regard to created forms other than God. In all the Abrahamic religions idolatry is strongly forbidden, although...
: "[Previously] we were maimed in our understanding - we were worshipping 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
The Book of Isaiah is the first of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, preceding the books of Ezekiel, Jeremiah and the Book of the Twelve...
and interprets the text. The speaker also regards the words of Jesus as scripture - for example, 2 Clement 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 of 2 Clement 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 2 Clement 5:2-4, the author quotes a saying of Jesus which 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
The Gospel According to Peter , commonly called the Gospel of Peter, is one of the non-Canonical gospels which were rejected by the Church Fathers and the Catholic Church's synods of Carthage and Rome, which established the New Testament canon, as apocryphal...
, 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; this quotation was also ascribed to Cassianus and to the Greek Gospel of the Egyptians
The Greek Gospel of the Egyptians is a Gnostic religious text. Its title is adopted from its opening line.- Dating :The suppressed Greek Gospel of the Egyptians, , perhaps written in the second quarter of the 2nd century, was already cited in Clement of Alexandria's miscellany, the...
by Clement of Alexandria
Titus Flavius Clemens , known as Clement of Alexandria , was a Christian theologian and the head of the noted Catechetical School of Alexandria. Clement is best remembered as the teacher of Origen...
The earliest external reference to 2 Clement is found in Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History written in the early 4th 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
Clementine literature is the name given to the religious romance which purports to contain a record made by one Clement of discourses...
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."