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The Epistles of Clement (1 Clement and 2 Clement) are two letters ascribed to Saint Clement, an Apostolic Father, and the fourth Pope and Bishop of Rome.

First Clement (80-140 CE) is one of the oldest Christian documents outside of the New Testament canon. The epistle was written for the church in Corinthmarker, where it was read for centuries. Historians generally hold First Clement to be an authentic document dating from the first century. From the fifth century to the eighth century, many of the eastern churches accepted the First Epistle of Clement as canonical scripture partly due to the fact that it is listed among the canonical books of the New Testament in "Canon 85" of the Canons of the Apostles. By the end of the eighth century, however, none of the ancient churches, eastern or western, included First Clement in any official listing of the canonical New Testament.

Second Clement, a homily, was probably written later, circa 140-160. It may be the oldest surviving Christian sermon outside of the New Testament. While Second Clement was traditionally ascribed to Saint Clement, Clement could not have been its author if it was in fact written in the second century, since he apparently died in the year 99.

Like almost all early Christian texts, both letters were written in Greek, the common language of the Hellenized Mediterraneanmarker area.

The First Epistle of Clement

The First Epistle of Clement, (literally, Clement to Corinth; Greek, Κλήμεντος πρὸς Κορινθίους, Klēmentos pros Korinthious) dates from the late first or early second century, and ranks with the Didache, the Epistle of Barnabas, and the Seven Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch as one of the earliest — if not the earliest — of extant Christian documents, outside of the canonical New Testament itself. Even though scholarly consensus is overwhelmingly in favour of its authenticity, there are a number of questions raised by critics that remain unanswered.

The traditional date for Clement's epistle is at the end of the reign of Domitian, or circa 96 AD, which was arrived at by taking the phrase "sudden and repeated misfortunes and hindrances which have befallen us" (1:1) as a reference to persecutions under Domitian. Confirmation of the date was derived from the factual details that the church at Rome is called "ancient", that the presbyters installed by the apostles are said to have died (44:2), and that a second ecclesiastical generation has also apparently passed on (44:3).

The letter was occasioned by a dispute in Corinthmarker, which had led to the removal from office of several presbyters. Since none of the presbyters was charged with moral offenses, Clement charged that their removal was high-handed and unjustifiable. The letter is extremely lengthy — twice as long as the Epistle to the Hebrews — and includes several references to the Old Testament. Clement demonstrates a familiarity with the Old Testament that points to the possibility of his being a Christian of long standing, rather than a recent convert. 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, and possible material from Acts, James, and I Peter. On several instances, he asks his readers to “remember” the words of Jesus, 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”.

The epistle was publicly read from time to time at Corinth, and by the fourth century this usage had spread to other churches. It was included in the fifth century Codex Alexandrinus, which contained the entire the Old and New Testaments. 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.

Though known from antiquity, the first document to contain the Epistle of Clement and studied by western scholars was found in 1628; it was included with an ancient Greek Bible given by the Patriarch Cyril of Jerusalem to King Charles 1. 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 second or third century was found in an eleventh 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, which he translated 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.

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 presbyteroi as seniores rather than episcopi.

The Second Epistle of Clement

The Second Epistle of Clement, (literally, Clement to Corinth; Greek, Κλήμεντος πρὸς Κορινθίους, Klēmentos pros Korinthious) was traditionally believed to have been an epistle to the Christian Church in Corinth written by Clement of Rome sometime in the late first century. However, the fourth 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. Though the first external references to this work date to the fourth century, most 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".

Second Clement appears to be a transcript of a homily or sermon that was originally delivered orally at a Christian worship service. For example, in chapter 19 the speaker announces that he will read aloud from scripture—something we 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).

Rather than trying to convert others to Christianity, 2 Clement appears to be directed at an audience of Christians who had converted from Paganism. It seems to reference a past history of idolatry: "[Previously] we were maimed in our understanding-- we were worshiping 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 and interprets the text. The speaker also regards the words of Jesus as scripture—for example, 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 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 5:2-4, the author quotes a saying of Jesus that 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, 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 by Clement of Alexandria.

The earliest external reference to 2 Clement is found in Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History written in the early fourth 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 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." (Historia Ecclesiastica III 38)[44285]

Other Clementine literature

The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church includes in their wider Biblical canon an epistle traditionally attributed as written by St. Paul to Clement.

See also

Pope Clement I


External links

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