First Epistle of Clement

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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 was composed at some time between AD 80 and AD 140, 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 by a different author. Neither 1 nor 2 Clement are part of the canonical New Testament, but they are part of the Apostolic Fathers collection.

Authorship and date

Although traditionally attributed to Clement of Rome,[1] the letter does not include Clement's name, and is anonymous; it is addressed as "the Church of God which sojourneth in Rome to the Church of God which sojourneth in Corinth." Its stylistic coherence suggests a single author.[2]

Scholars have proposed a range of dates, but most limit the possibilities to the last two decades of the 1st century,[3] and no later than AD 140.[4] The traditional date for Clement's epistle is at the end of the reign of Domitian (c. AD 96): the phrase "sudden and repeated misfortunes and hindrances which have befallen us" (1:1) is taken as a reference to persecutions under Domitian. The Epistle to the Hebrews' call for leadership from the church in Rome has been thought to have been influential.[5] Some scholars believe 1 Clement was written around the same time as the Book of Revelation (c. AD 95 – 97).[6]


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, 1 Clement charges 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 many references to the Old Testament, of which he demonstrates a knowledge. Clement repeatedly refers to the Old Testament as Scripture.[7]

New Testament references include 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. 1 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, the author asks his readers to “remember” the words of Jesus, although they do not attribute these sayings to a specific written account. These New Testament allusions are employed as authoritative sources which strengthen the letter's arguments to the Corinthian church, but it never explicitly refers to them as “Scripture”.[7]

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, which contained the entire Old and New Testaments.[8] 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.[citation needed]


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.[9] 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.[10][11]

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.[citation needed]

See also


  1. 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<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 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<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 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<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. L.L. Welborn, "The preface to 1 Clement: the rhetorical situation and the traditional date," in Breytenbach and Welborn, p.201
  5. Edgar J. Goodspeed, "First Clement Called Forth by Hebrew" Journal of Biblical Literature 30.2 (1911:157-160).
  6. 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.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Bruce M. Metzger, Canon of the New Testament (Oxford University Press) 1987:42–43.
  8. Aland, Kurt; Aland, Barbara (1995). The Text of the New Testament: An Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual Criticism. Erroll F. Rhodes (trans.). Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. pp. 107, 109. ISBN 978-0-8028-4098-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Staniforth, Maxwell. Early Christian writings: the Apostolic Fathers. Harmondsworth, Penguin, 1968. p. 14. ISBN 0-14-044197-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. A second manuscript containing a Syriac version of 1 Clement is mentioned in Sailors, Timothy B. "Bryn Mawr Classical Review: Review of The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations". Retrieved 13 January 2017.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. JB Lightfoot and JR Harmer, ed. (1891), The Apostolic Fathers: Revised Greek Texts with Introductions and English Translations, Baker Books, 1988 reprint, p. 4, retrieved 21 April 2016<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

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