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Clement of Rome

FL. c.90-100. Prominent early Roman presbyter-bishop. Perhaps already mentioned in Philippians 4:3 (if from Rome) and often identified or connected (as slave or freedman?) with the Titus Flavius Clemens executed by Domitian, he is most probably the Clement in Hermas's Shepherd whose duty was to write to other churches, which accords with the traditional authorship of 1 Clement, a letter in the name of the Roman to the Corinthian Church. (The ascription to Clement is first attested about 170 by Dionysius of Corinth, but is absent from Irenaeus.)

The letter was almost certainly written soon after the supposed persecution under Domitian, i.e., about 96. It attempts to heal a division which had led, perhaps through the ascendancy of a Gnostic party, to the deposition of senior Corinthian presbyters (also called bishops). The letter betrays no knowledge of monepiscopacy, but appeals to a simple form of apostolic succession. It argues incessantly for the preservation of divine order, by cataloguing moralistically the entail of jealousy or strife in the OT and in the Christian times, by rehearsing the virtues of humility, and by natural and military analogies. It adheres to traditions of Hellenistic rhetoric and Stoic political philosophy, but also follows Jewish precedents. As probably the oldest extra-NT Christian writing, it is invaluable for plotting the development of “early catholicism” (Frühkatholizismus). Though it appeals to the authority of works like 1 Corinthians and Hebrews, it reveals a marked change of outlook from Paul's epistles. In the later second century it enjoyed almost scriptural status in several churches.

For editions, etc., see Apostolic Fathers, and J. Quasten, Patrology 1 (1950), pp. 42-53; also ed. A. Jaubert (Sources Chrétiennes 167, 1971); ET by W.K.L. Clarke (1937). See also L. Sanders, L'Héllenisme de S. Clément de Rome et le Paulinisme (1943); K. Beyschlag, Clemens Romanus und der Frühkatholizismus: Untersuchungen zu I Clemens 1-7 (1966).

Later tradition promoted Clement to a monarchical bishop, the third pope after Peter or even his successor, and spawned legends about his travels and death. The following writings were wrongly ascribed to him (see also Apostolic Constitutions):

(1) 2 Clement: this Second Epistle to the Corinthians, read as Scripture in Syria but recognized as spurious by Eusebius, is actually a sermon, probably the oldest in postapostolic literature. It appears to have been delivered about 140-50, in Rome (by Bishop Hyginus, c.138-42?) or Corinth (hence its MS connections with 1 Clement), or perhaps Alexandria. It touches on several aspects of Christian doctrine, especially the church and repentance, revealing Pauline and gnosticizing influences, but is mainly a moral exhortation.

For literature see Apostolic Fathers and J. Quasten, op.cit. 1, pp. 53-58; also K.P. Donfried, The Setting of Second Clement in Early Christianity (1974).

(2) Two Letters to Virgins: an important source for early Christian asceticism, from the first half of the third century, probably Palestine or Syria. It extols the angelic and Christlike quality of ascetic life, and deplores the irregularities of the syneisaktoi (see Agapetae).

ET in Ante-Nicene Christian Library 14 (The Writings of Methodius), pp. 365-95; bibliography in Quasten, op.cit. 1, pp. 58-59.

(3) Clementine Homilies and Recognitions: didactic novels built around Clement's career mostly as Peter's companion. After a religious-philosophical pilgrimage, Clement is converted by Peter at Caesarea. The twenty Greek Homilies (before 380) are Clement's account of Peter's missionary preaching and contest with Simon Magus, preceded by letters to Jesus' brother, James of Jerusalem, from Clement and Peter, and Clement's instructions for the use of the work. Two Greek epitomes preserve mostly narrative sections, with additions, e.g., regarding Clement's martyrdom. The Recognitions (before c.360-80) get their title from Clement's successive reunions, through Peter's intervention, with long-lost members of his family. The ten books survive only in Rufinus's Latin abridgment.

The two collections possess a common narrative core (more developed in the Recognitions), which results from common dependence on a Jewish-Christian Grundschrift from early third-century Syria. Scholars still debate whether the Recognitions are independent of the earlier Homilies, whether they have suffered interpolation (e.g., the Recognitions by a Eunomian), how extensive were the Grundschrift and its presumed sources, the Sermons (Kerygmata of Peter and the Acts (or Travels, Periodoi) of Peter, and how deviantly Jewish-Christian their theology. The Homilies display marked Ebionite or Elkesaite features (Christianity as reformed Judaism; Christ as merely the true prophet; Paul as hostile to Peter's message), and reflect a Jewish-Christian Gnosticism, but in the Recognitions Judaistic elements are largely obscured by orthodoxy, presumably partly through Rufinus. For all their difficulty, the Clementines are an invaluable source for the fortunes of Jewish Christianity.

Text: Homilies, ed. B. Rehm, J. Irmscher, and F. Paschke, in Die griechischen christlichen Schriftseller der ersten drei Jahrhunderte 42 (2nd ed., 1969); Recognitions, ed. Rehm and Paschke, ibid. 51 (1965).

ETs: in Ante-Nicene Christian Library 3 (Recognitions) and 17 (Homilies); extracts with introduction in E. Hennecke, W. Schneemelcher, R. McL. Wilson (eds.), New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 2 (1965), pp. 102-27 (G. Strecker) and pp. 532-70 (J. Irmscher).

Other studies: O. Cullmann, Le problème Littéraire et Historique du Roman Pseudo-Clémentin (1930); H.J. Schoeps, Theologie und Geschichte des Judenchristentums (1949); G. Strecker, Das Judenchristentum in den Pseudo-Klementinen (1958), and on the Sermons of Peter source in W. Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity (1972), pp. 257-71.