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Clement of Rome

December 25th, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments


The Use of Material Deriving from the Synoptic Gospels

In the Letter of Clement to the Corinthians

(Also known as I Clement)

A.) The Apostolic Fathers

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There remain extant today a relatively few documents authored by those who were personally acquainted with Jesus’ disciples. These works fill a vital role in demonstrating the transition from a faith based upon the personal experience of the believer into a faith based upon documents written and endorsed by eyewitnesses. The disciples of Jesus’ disciples are commonly known as “The Apostolic Fathers”. Pre-eminent among their writings are:

1.) A letter by Clement of Rome (a disciple of Peter and Paul) to the church

at Corinth (Achaia).

2.) Seven letters by Ignatius of Antioch (a disciple of Peter, Paul, and possibly John). Six letters are addressed to the churches of various cities throughout the Roman Empire; the seventh to an individual, Polycarp of Smyrna.

3.) A letter by Polycarp of Smyrna (a close disciple of John) to the church at Philippi (Macedonia).

4.) Excerpts from a work in five books authored by Papias of Hierapolis, (a “hearer” of Jesus’ disciple John). These excerpts were preserved as citations by later writers, who found Papias’ subject matter useful for their own discussions. It is difficult to form generalizations concerning the writing style of Papias due to the fragmentary nature of material thus preserved.

Other examples of literature which was possibly written by those who knew the followers of Jesus include:

1.) The Didache (The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles)

2.) The Epistle of Barnabas

3.) The Shepherd of Hermas

4.) The Epistle to Diognetus

But these four documents are of less certain date and origin.

As Lightfoot and Westcott have shown, specific characteristic traits appear to apply to the writings of this period, and especially to the writings of Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp:

“(1) They assign a special and preeminent authority to the Apostles, while distinctly disclaiming any such exceptional position for themselves. This is the case with Clement (I Cor. 5, 47), and Ignatius (Rom. 4), speaking of S. Peter and S. Paul, and with Polycarp (Phil. 3), speaking of S. Paul, these being the only Apostles mentioned by name in their writings.

(2) On the other hand, there is no evidence that these fathers recognized a Canon of the New Testament, as a well-defined body of writings…

(3) As a rule the Apostolic Fathers do not quote the New Testament Scriptures by name…yet fragments of most of the Canonical Epistles are embedded in the writings of these fathers, whose language moreover is thoroughly leavened with the Apostolic diction[1].”

And, “The words of Scripture are inwrought into the texture of the books, and not parceled out into formal quotations[2].”

“(4) Lastly: there is not a single Evangelical quotation which can be safely referred to any apocryphal source[3].”

B.) Methods of Citation Utilized by Clement of Rome

Clement’s letter to the Corinthians contains many passages which parallel language and ideas found in Old and New Testament literature. Since this corpus was written prior to the most probable time of creation for I Clement (AD 90-95), literary dependence indicates Clement’s usage of preexisting material. Indeed, Clement appears to expect these citations to wield additional authority for his target audience; and he takes for granted that his readers will recognize the passages as belonging to some common set of literature approved by the Christian community. Overall, the First Epistle of Clement alludes to 205 passages from twenty-three books of the Old Testament, and 676 passages from twenty-five books of current New Testament Canon[4].

A few examples will serve to illustrate the manner in which Clement utilized scripture.

Consider how Clement handled the following passage, found in the second Chapter of the Book of Joshua:

I Clement, Chapter 12

Joshua 2:1 – 21 (NIV)

For her faith and hospitality Rahab the harlot was saved.  For when the spies were sent forth unto Jericho by Joshua the son of Nun, the king of the land perceived that they were come to spy out his country, and sent forth men to seize them, that being seized athey might be put to death. So the hospitable Rahab received them and hid them in the upper chamber under the flax-stalks.  And when the messengers of the king came near and said, bThe spies of our land entered in unto thee: bring them forth, for the king so ordereth: then she answered, The men truly whom ye seek, entered in unto me, but they departed forthwith and are journeying on the way; and cshe pointed out to them the opposite road.

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And she said unto the men, dOf a surety I perceive that the Lord your God delivereth this city unto you; for the fear and the dread of you is fallen upon the inhabitants thereof.  When therefore it shall come to pass that ye shall take it, save me and the house of my father.

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And they said unto her, It shall be even so as thou hast spoken unto us.

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Whensoever therefore thou perceivest that we are coming, thou shalt gather all thy folk beneath thy roof, and they shall be saved; for as many as shall be found without the house shall perish. And moreover they gave her a sign, that eshe should hang out from her house a scarlet thread, thereby showing beforehand that through the blood of the Lord there shall be redemption unto all them that believe and hope on God.  Ye see, dearly beloved, not only faith, but prophecy, is found in the woman.

1 Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute

named Rahab and stayed there.

2 The king of Jericho was told, “Look! Some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” 3 So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: b “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.”

4 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. 5 At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, the men left. cI don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” 6 (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.) 7 So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.

8 Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9 and said to them, d “I know that the LORD has given this land to you and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed. 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the LORD your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. 12 Now then, please swear to me by the LORD that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign 13 that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and that you will save us from death.”

14 “Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the LORD gives us the land.”

15 So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. 16 Now she had said to them, “Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.”

17 The men said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us 18 unless, when we enter the land, eyou have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. 19 If anyone goes outside your house into the street, his blood will be on his own head; we will not be responsible. As for anyone who is in the house with you, his blood will be on our head if a hand is laid on him. 20 But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.”

21 “Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.” So she sent them away and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.

In this passage from the Old Testament, we notice that Clement retells the story in his own words, paraphrasing and emphasizing portions as necessary to illustrate his points. Clement never violates the meaning or spirit of the original passage, but his rendition is very loose when compared to the original[5]. Some examples of Clement’s additions and omissions are herein provided to the reader, referenced by letter to the original texts:

a.) Clement reports that being seized, the spies would by the king’s command be “put to death.” While this is a fair assumption, it is never stated in the Book of Joshua.

b.) Clement merely paraphrases the “message of the king” to Rahab.

c.) Clement paraphrases Rahab’s response, and then adds that, “she pointed out to them the opposite road.” In the Joshua account, Rahab states that, “I don’t know which way they went.” This is a minor contradiction, although in keeping with the spirit of Rahab’s conversion to the cause of Israel.

d.) Clement greatly abbreviates Rahab’s speech in this instance, omitting a great deal of detail.

e.) Clement informs us of the sign of the scarlet thread in the course of his narration. The scarlet thread is included within the dialogue of the Israelite spies in the Joshua account. Once again, Clement paraphrases all of the conversational passages found within the Book of Joshua.

This side-by-side comparison illustrates that Clement never quoted any portion of the Book of Joshua verbatim, even though Joshua undoubtedly contained the source text for his discussion. This is indicative of Clement’s treatment for cited materials, and not in any way unusual or exceptional to his normal practice. And although this is an Old Testament passage, it conforms to Lightfoot’s four principles as discussed in section ‘A’ above.

The next passage that we will investigate comes from the New Testament, from the epistles of Paul, whom Clement had known personally. Clement specifically refers the Corinthians to the letter they had received from the Apostle Paul as he argues against the way that they had overthrown their church government:

47. Take up the epistle of the blessed Paul the Apostle.  What wrote he first unto you in the beginning of the Gospel?  Of a truth he charged you in the Spirit concerning himself and Cephas and Apollos, because that even then ye had made parties…

Having thus opened the discussion, he uses points which are all compatible with modern Christian Orthodoxy, but based upon loose citations drawn from a plethora of writings which have since been included in the New Testament Canon:

I Clement, Chapter 49

Parallels within the New Testament Canon

Let him that hath love in Christ fulfil the commandments of Christ.

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Who can declare the bond of the love of God?  Who is sufficient to tell the majesty of its beauty? The height, whereunto love exalteth, is unspeakable.  Love joineth us unto God;

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love covereth a multitude of sins;

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love endureth all things, is long-suffering in all things.  There is nothing coarse, nothing arrogant in love. Love hath no divisions, love maketh no seditions, love doeth all things in concord…

If ye love me, keep my commandments.

– John 14:15 (KJV)

For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments… – I John 5:3 (KJV)

17That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
18May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

19And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God. – Ephesians 3:17-19 (KJV)

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. – I Peter 4:8 (NIV)

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. – I Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

Notice that Clement’s command of these New Testament writings is sufficient to allow him to use the concepts conversationally, to season his speech with scripture-isms. He seldom cites a passage verbatim, but rather he retains the main thought behind each passage in order to combine many scriptural precepts into one Orthodox position on a given subject. A final example of Clement’s method is based upon citations from the canonical Epistle to the Hebrews. Since Clement is sometimes credited with involvement (with the Apostle Paul) in the creation of this book, lack of formal word-for-word quotation is particularly significant:

I Clement, Chapter 36

Parallels From Within the New Testament Book of Hebrews

(Unless Otherwise Noted)

This is the way, dearly beloved, wherein we found our salvation, even Jesus Christ the High-priest of our offerings, the Guardian and Helper of our weakness.  Through Him let us look stedfastly unto the heights of the heavens; through Him we behold as in a mirror His faultless and most excellent visage; through Him the eyes of our hearts were opened; through Him our foolish and darkened mind springeth up unto [His marvellous] light; through Him the Master willed that we should taste of the immortal knowledge; Who being the brightness of His majesty

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is so much greater than angels, as He hath inherited a more excellent name.

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For so it is written; Who maketh His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire;

but of His Son the Master said thus; Thou art My Son, I this day have begotten Thee.

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Ask of Me, and I will give Thee the Gentiles for Thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Thy possession.

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And again He saith unto Him; Sit Thou on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies a footstool for Thy feet.

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Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:  (1:3) (KJV)

Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. (1:4) (KJV)

And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. (1:7) (KJV)

or unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? (1:5) (KJV)

7I will proclaim the decree of the LORD :

He said to me, “You are my Son;

today I have become your Father.

8Ask of me,

and I will make the nations your inheritance,

the ends of the earth your possession.

- Psalms 2:7:8 (NIV)

But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? (1:13) (KJV)

Once again, we see Clement’s willingness to transpose, compress and alter the text of Hebrews as needed. But in so doing, he never violates the spirit or meaning of the author of Hebrews. Of great interest is Clement’s addition – or completion – of the passage in Psalms (2:7-8) which was cited in Hebrews 1:5. Here we see Clement’s familiarity with both the Old and New Testament literature, and his ability to draw in additional scripture to illuminate his meaning.

Some have argued that the looseness of quotation indicates mere familiarity with some oral tradition. But the ability to interweave over eight-hundred Old and New Testament citations into one homogeneous document after the manner of Clement requires, I believe, a command of scripture only available through long hours of study involving written materials. Try this exercise yourself as proof of the foregoing proposition. In addition, it seems unlikely that Clement could expect the Corinthians to recognize such a vast array of allusions based upon mere oral tradition. His confidence in their ability to identify this profusion of references betrays his belief that they shared a common Christian literature.

C.) Citation of the Synoptic Gospels by Clement of Rome

Having now established Clement’s literary and exegetical tendencies, we will now examine Clement’s use of Synoptic material. We will begin with Clement’s discourse on proper Christian attitudes, which is built upon the model of the beatitudes given by Jesus and recorded in various Synoptic Gospels:

I Clement, Chapter 13

(Excerpt)

Parallels From Within the Canonical New Testament

…most of all remembering the words of the Lord Jesus which He spake, teaching forbearance and long suffering: for thus He spake;

a Have mercy, that ye may receive mercy;

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b forgive that it may be forgiven to you.

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c As ye do, so shall it be done unto you.

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d As ye give, so shall it be given unto you.

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e As ye judge, so shall ye be judged.

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f As ye show kindness, so shall kindness be showed unto you.

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g With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured withal to you.

With this commandment and these precepts let us confirm ourselves, that we may walk in obedience to His hallowed words, with lowliness of mind…

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a Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. – Matthew 5:7 (KJV); or

a Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. – Luke 6:36 (KJV)

b For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:

– Matthew 6:14 (KJV); or

b And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” – Mark 11:25 (NIV); or

b …forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:

– Luke 6:37c (KJV)

c So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. – Matthew 7:12 (NIV); or

c Do to others as you would have them do to you. – Luke 6:31 (NIV); or

c…and then he shall reward every man according to his works. – Matthew 16:27b (KJV); or

c God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” – Romans 2:6 (NIV); see also 2 Cor. 5:10; Eph. 6:8; 2 Tim. 4:14; 1 Peter 1:17; and Rev. 2:23

d Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

– Luke 6:38 (KJV)

e For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: – Matthew 7:2a (KJV); or

e Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: – Luke 6:37 (KJV); see also Rom. 2:1-3

f Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:32 (NIV); or

f Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. – Romans 11:22

g …and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

– Matthew 7:2b (KJV); or

g “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you-and even more. – Mark 4:24 (NIV); or

g For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

– Luke 6:38b (KJV)

While we can see that most of this material came from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew (Chapters 5-7) and Luke (Chapter 6, vv 20-49), Clement again introduces material from Paul’s epistles (see “f”) which is not found in the Gospel accounts. This is exactly the same method that Clement used in Chapter 49 (see previous Section) when he included excerpts from John, Peter, and Ephesians while expounding upon the “love” Chapter found in I Corinthians (13:4-7). And it is reminiscent of his inclusion of Psalms 2:7-8 during his treatment of Hebrews Chapter 1 (found in I Clement, Chapter 36).

The argument has been made that Clement’s failure to cite the exact text of a given gospel account somehow “proves” that this passage follows an unknown, apocryphal gospel. Or alternatively that Clement here follows oral tradition without written support. But we have already demonstrated Clement’s propensity and preference for supporting his arguments with Scripture in just this manner, whether citing passages from the Old or the New Testament. Surely his Old Testament citations are not from “oral tradition” or “unknown” apocryphal works? Why then would we presume his New Testament passages to be so? And considering Clement’s purpose for writing this letter – to correct an upheaval in the Corinthian church which had recently overthrown its leadership – it makes far more sense for Clement to have included as many sources as possible.

Let us assume, as seems reasonable, that Clement’s purpose was to persuade the dissenting factions in the Corinthian church into restoring the original (and in Clement’s opinion legitimate) church government. Given that Christians of this period recognized Jesus, the Christ, as Divine and therefore their supreme authority; and given the recurrent theme in period literature that the Apostles of Christ were considered the primary repositories of Christ’s directives; and given the possibility that some churches might still show particular deference to the Apostle associated with the founding of their own local church; why would Clement limit his authority to a verbatim citation from only one such source? If Clement’s purpose was to strengthen the foundation for his argument, wouldn’t he rather proceed by distilling the precepts of the majority of these authorities, (all three Synoptics, Paul’s epistles, Peter’s epistles, etc.,) into one litany (catalogue) of instruction – thus demonstrating the unity and agreement of the various Apostles with respect to his position – and thereby removing the potential for some adversary to make a case for differences of doctrine between the various documents endorsed by the church? Wouldn’t the result be as we see – all authors placed into a list emphasizing their similarities? Indeed, such appears to be Clement’s method and objective.

But the question still remains – did Clement have Matthew in mind when he wrote this passage? Or was he drawing his material primarily from Luke? Other than “d” above, which is found only in Luke, (and “f” which comes from material outside of the Synoptics,) one could really argue for either case. But I am going to suggest that the answer goes deeper than that. Given that most of Clement’s allusions to Synoptic material are found in more than one gospel account, I propose that Clement’s intention was to utilize material that was supported by more than one gospel author. In other words, it is no accident that allusions to gospel passages in Clement are generally attributable to more than one account; rather, this is Clement’s way of assuring that his audience will accept his statements as authoritative regardless of their preferred gospel. This is a difficult statement to prove, but see if Clement’s choice of which gospel passage to reference does not seem, as we go through the rest of his texts, to be more than a coincidence in this regard:

I Clement, Chapter 46

(Excerpt)

Parallels From Within the Canonical New Testament (NIV)

…Remember the words of Jesus our Lord: for He said, a Woe unto that man.

b It were good for him if he had not been born,

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c rather than that he should offend one of Mine elect.

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d It were better for him that a mill-stone were hanged about him, and he cast into the sea,

e than that he should pervert one of Mine elect.

Your division hath perverted many; it hath brought many to despair, many go doubting, and all of us to sorrow.  And your sedition still continueth.

The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. a But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! b It would be better for him if he had not been born.” – Matthew 26:24; or

The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. a But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! b It would be better for him if he had not been born.” – Mark 14:21; or

The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed, but a woe to that man who betrays him.”

– Luke 22:22 (all NIV)

6 e But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, d it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.

7“Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but a woe to the man through whom they come! – Matthew 18:6-7 (NIV); or

c&e And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, d it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck. – Mark 9:42; or

1Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but

a woe to that person through whom they come. 2 d It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck c&e than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. – Luke 17:1-2 (NIV)

Here we find Clement taking considerable liberties with his sources. “The words of Jesus our Lord” as presented by Clement in Chapter 46 are actually a conflation of two warnings given by Christ under somewhat different circumstances. The first set of citations (“a” and “b”) alludes to the rebuke of Christ upon revelation of the imminent treachery of Judas Iscariot at the Last Supper. This incident is contained in all three Synoptics, although phrase “b” is not found in the account of Luke. The second set of citations (“c”, “d” and “e”) is a more general warning to anyone who would cause one of Jesus’ “little ones” (or Jesus’ “elect”, according to Clement) to sin. This incident is also recounted within all three Synoptics. Clement combines these admonitions into a stern warning against those who had caused the disruption within the Corinthian church; thus using the very words of Jesus, as attested to by three gospel accounts which had each been endorsed by Jesus’ own disciples. What stronger case could be made to a Christian living at the end of the First Century AD?

Once again, it is difficult to assign these allusions to one specific gospel. Whereas citation “d” from Chapter 13 of Clement’s letter was attributable only to Luke’s Gospel, citation “b” from Chapter 46 is found in Matthew and Mark but not Luke. This is consistent with the notion that Clement is purposefully arguing from the consensus of gospel narratives, rather than from one gospel alone. And this demonstrates the likelihood that Clement was utilizing at least two gospel accounts for his letter, Matthew[6] (in Chapter 46) and Luke (in Chapter 13).

Other passages in Clement which parallel the Canonical Gospel accounts include:

I Clement

Parallels From Within the Canonical New Testament

He will do all things, and none of the things determined by Him shall pass away.

– I Clement, XXVII (excerpt)

Let us cleave, therefore, to those who cultivate peace with godliness, and not to those who hypocritically profess to desire it.  For [the Scripture] saith in a certain place, “This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” - I Clement, XV (excerpt)

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The sower goes forth, and casts it into the ground; and the seed being thus scattered…

– I Clement, XXIV (excerpt)

Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

-Matthew 24:35 (KJV)

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.

-Matthew 15:8 (KJV); or

He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

– Mark 7:6 (KJV); or

The Lord says:

“These people come near to me with their mouth

and honor me with their lips,

but their hearts are far from me.

Their worship of me

is based on merely human rules they have been taught. – Isaiah 29:13 (NIV)

A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. – Luke 8:5 (KJV)

But these add little to the conclusions that we have already drawn.  Lightfoot[7] remarks on the probability that Clement followed the Evangelists rather than Isaiah in Chapter 15; but given the effort that we have made to demonstrate Clement’s lack of concern with exactness of language, I am unwilling to pursue this line of reasoning at length.

D.) Conclusions:

Clement’s Letter to the Corinthian Church utilizes considerable material from text which has since been included within the Canon of New Testament Scripture. Due to the abundance of such allusions, it seems unreasonable to believe that Clement was merely invoking oral tradition. The ability to interweave so many hundreds of citations into one letter of this length seems to require access to written documents, as well as the years of intense study necessary to allow one to command such a plethora of quotations in a conversational manner – to have them at one’s fingertips, so to speak.

Clement seldom named his sources, but rather he assumed that his audience would both recognize his quotations, even if loosely worded, and accept the underlying authority associated with the cited text. He made free use of rephrasing Scripture so as to better address his concerns, and he frequently combined passages from both the Old and New Testament literature into a sort of comprehensive statement of the behavior and attitude required by service to Christ. In this way, Clement takes liberties with the wording and order of his cited text; transposing, rearranging, omitting and combining passages as necessary to facilitate his argument. This methodology is equally apparent in Clement’s use of Old and New Testament materials.

Clement includes several lengthy passages which parallel the Synoptic Gospels quite well, although he frequently introduces non-Synoptic Scripture into these discourses as well. These recitations tend to be based upon portions of the gospel which are contained by three (or at least two) of the Synoptic accounts. Clement’s proclivity to draw information from as many Scriptural sources as possible would be in keeping with his motive for writing to the Corinthians. Specifically, Clement would want to base his admonition upon the authority of Christ, as specified by Christ’s own Apostles. The more agreement which Clement could show between the writings endorsed by the various Apostles, the stronger his case would be. This was especially true in dealing with a congregation which had, in Clement’s view, rebelled against their rightful church authority.

No single account exists which would account for all Clement’s allusions to passages within the Synoptic gospels. The phrase “As ye give, so shall it be given unto you” (citation “d” from Chapter 13) may only be found within the Gospel of Luke; whereas “It were good for him if he had not been born” (citation “b” from Chapter 46) may be found in Matthew or Mark, but not Luke. For this reason, we must conclude that a minimum of two gospels, Matthew and Luke, were within Clement’s possession when he wrote his letter in 95 AD. It seems likely that Clement, as a follower of S. Peter, was familiar with the Gospel of Mark as well. All early testimony agrees that Mark wrote his gospel to record the account given by S. Peter. But whether two synoptic gospels or three, Clement was familiar with accounts of eyewitness testimony concerning Christ.

Finally, it is evident from Clement’s use of these materials, and from his invocation of the names of S. Peter (I Clem. 5) and S. Paul (I Clem. 5 & 47), that Clement was seeking to introduce these citations into his arguments to provide a universally recognized authority in support of his premises. In this way, it was not Clement who was admonishing the Corinthians, but their own founding Apostle, Paul. Or alternatively Peter, arguably the leader of Jesus’ twelve Apostles, was providing the needed correction with his own reminiscence of Christ’s words. Or the three Synoptic Gospel accounts, at the time the sole repository of information concerning the earthly tenure of Christ, could be combined to show the Corinthians the true path of Christ. But in any case, Clement’s letter would speak with the voice of Jesus’ own Apostles, rather than one who was a mere contemporary of the church leadership already deposed at Corinth.

This deference to the authority of the documents which had been endorsed by the Apostles; this perception by Clement that these documents were universally accepted as such; and Clement’s confidence that the Corinthians would listen to this New Testament Scripture, even if they would not listen to their own leadership or the bishop of the church at Rome – these are the treasures bequeathed by Clement to the modern church. And any who in modern times would try to recast the early history of the church must first explain why men such as Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp – men who were personal disciples to Jesus’ own Apostles – Why would these men rely upon the gospel accounts as authoritative if they were not the authentic records claimed by universal testimony of the early church? Such is the consistency and merit of the succession of the true message of Christ – from Jesus, through his Apostles, to their Disciples, to the Church.

NOTICES:

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.

NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® and NIV® are registered trademarks of International Bible Society. Use of either trademark for the offering of goods or services requires the prior written consent of International Bible Society.

The Translations for I Clement are either those of:

1.) James Donaldson:

Works by this author are in the public domain in countries where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 70 years or less.

Some or all works by this author are in the public domain in the United States because they were published before January 1, 1923. They may be copyrighted outside the U.S. (see Help:Public domain). However, works published before 1923 may be in the public domain in countries where they would ordinarily be copyrighted (due to the term of 70 years [or less] after the author’s death having not yet expired) but whose legislature has waived copyright by accepting the rule of the shorter term.

Or,

2.) Joseph Barber Lightfoot:

Published before January 1, 1923, Works by this author are in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago. Translations or editions published later may be copyrighted. Posthumous works may be copyrighted based on how long they have been published in certain countries and areas.


[1] J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, Part One, Volume 1, Chapter 1, The Apostolic Fathers, pp 9-10.

[2] Brook Foss Westcott, D.D.,  A General Survey of the History of the Canon of the New Testament, Fifth Edition, Chapter I, The Age of the Apostolic Fathers, Section II, p. 49

[3] J. B. Lightfoot, ibid.

[4] I obtained this count by merely adding entries from the Index of References found within Donald Alfred Hagner’s The Use of the Old and New Testaments in Clement of Rome, Leiden, E.J Brill, 1973. Certain passages in Clement reference themes that occur more than once in Scripture. While Hagner argues that some of these references could be from lost, extra-canonical sources, or merely oral tradition, the vast array of scriptural references employed leads to the inescapable conclusion that Clement was using a recognized corpus of Christian literature to support his arguments. Most of these documents must have been considered as “Scripture” either due to their inclusion in the Hebrew Holy Writ, which Jesus used as an authority; or conversely the writings were considered to have been authored or endorsed by Apostles, those entrusted by Christ with ensuring the truth for their followers to come.

[5] A rigorous comparison of the Hebrew and Septuagint Greek texts to the texts of various manuscripts of I Clement would be an interesting study. But the flagrant differences in Clement’s version render such an exercise unnecessary. The changes are obviously not due merely to transcription or translation.

[6] Either Matthew or Mark would be sufficient to account for citation “b” in Chapter 46, but much of the material found in Chapter 13 is not found in Mark. So the citations thus far could in theory be provided by a combination of Matthew and Luke, without resorting to the Gospel of Mark.

[7] J. B. Lightfoot, The Apostolic Fathers, Part One, Volume 2, footnote (12.) on page 55.

Useful Links:

http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/First_Epistle_of_Clement

http://www.textexcavation.com/measureformeasure.html

http://www.tektonics.org/ntdocdef/gospdefhub.html#anon

  1. January 14th, 2009 at 20:28 | #1

    Hello John,

    I saw the comment you left on my blog, so I came over to read your essay. I am impressed! It’s very well written and informative! It is a fascinating study of Clement’s Letter. You have done an amazing work in studying Clement’s use of Scriptural quotations.
    God bless you and thank you for posting this!

  2. January 28th, 2009 at 19:56 | #2

    You did a good job with this.

    JNORM888

  1. April 8th, 2009 at 13:21 | #1