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Clement of Rome

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(CLEMENS ROMANUS). One of the early presbyters of the Church in Rome; probably a presiding presbyter, primus inter pares, afterwards called bishop. Irenaeus, in his adv. Haer. (3:3, 3), written between 182-188 A.D., makes him the third in order after the apostles Peter and Paul, Linus being the first, and Cletus or Anacletus the second. The Clementines give a different order, which was followed by Tertullian. But Eusebius, who appears to have taken great pains to be accurate, and had access to authorities no longer extant, preferred the order of Irenaeus. He also adds the dates. Clement, he says (Hist. 3. 34), died in the third year of Trajan, "having for nine years superintended the preaching of the Divine Word." As Trajan became emperor on the death of Nerva, Jan. 23, 98 A.D., the so- called episcopate of Clement will have for its termini 91 or 92 - 100 or 101 A.D. Irenaeus speaks of him as "having seen and conversed with the blessed apostles" who "founded the Church in Rome," i.e. Peter and Paul. Origen (Comment. in Joan. 6, 36) identifies him with the Clement of Philippians 4:3. This may have been only a conjecture, or it may have been a tradition.

It was, at any rate, the opinion of Eusebius and the early writers, and is in itself not at all improbable. Thirty years would certainly be time enough for a prominent Philippian to become a prominent Roman. Modern attempts to make out his origin from the epistle which bears his name have failed. Judging from the epistle, he may have been either a Jew, as Tillemont argues, or a Roman, as Lipsius argues, and the one about as probably as the other. Rufinus, who died 410 A.D., was the first to call him a martyr. The language of Eusebius implies that he died a natural death, which is altogether likely to have been the case if his dates have been correctly given. The Martyrdom of St. Clement, in the first volume of the Patres Apostolici of Cotelerius, is a puerile fabrication of no great antiquity. Its story is that Clement was first banished by Trajan to Chersonesus, and afterwards drowned in the Black Sea. On reaching his place of exile, he found two thousand Christians condemned to work in a marble quarry. As the water they used had to be fetched six miles, Clement caused a spring to break forth close to the quarry. This led to the conversion of a great multitude in the province, and the building in one year of seventy-five churches. And this, in its turn, led to Clement's martyrdom. An anchor was fastened to his neck, and he was cast into the sea. The people, bewailing him, prayed God to discover to them his remains. In answer to their prayer, the sea receded, and the people, going in on dry ground, found the body of the holy martyr buried with the anchor in a marble tomb, but were not permitted to remove it. Every year, on the anniversary of the martyrdom, the sea repeats this miracle of receding for seven days. Another fable confounds Clement the presbyter with T. Flavius Clemens, the consul, and cousin to the emperor Domitian, by whom he was put to death on a charge of "atheism," one of the charges then current against Christians. Such fables, in the absence of authentic memorials, are not to be wondered at. The wonder is that the authentic memorials are so meager; that of the real Clement-a man so conspicuous, able, and influential there is so little known.

Of the writings falsely ascribed to Clement of Rome notice is taken in another article. (See CLEMENTINES). The only genuine document is his Epistle to the Corinthians, commonly called the First, but improperly, since the so-called Second Epistle is not his, and is not an epistle, but only the fragment of a homily, later, perhaps, by nearly a hundred years. The only known manuscript of this epistle is the one appended to the Alexandrian Codex of the Scriptures sent by Cyril Lucar to Charles I in 1628, and now the property of the British Museum. Throughout the manuscript are many lacunce, generally, however, of only single words or syllables. The only considerable gap, occasioned apparently by the loss of a leaf, is near the end of the epistle, between chapters 57 and 58. Here may have belonged certain ancient citations from Clenientwhich cannot now be verified. Some expressions, like λαικός in the 40th chapter, have a suspicious look; but of the substantial integrity of the epistle there is no good reason for serious doubt. That it came from the pen of Clement, though his name is not in the epistle, is now generally conceded. It appears to have been in the hands of Polycarp of Smyrna when writing to the Philippians as early, perhaps, as 115, certainly not much later than 150 A.D. It is referred to as the work of Clement by Dionysius of Corinth in a letter to Soter of Rome, which must have been written between 170-176 A.D. Irenaeus, in the section already cited (adv. Haer. 3. 3, 3), speaks of it as a very able epistle, sent to the Church in Corinth by the Church in Rome under the episcopate of Clement. Origen, who died 254 A.D., speaks of it as written by Clement. So also Clement of Alexandria [ 220], who frequently and freely quotes from it, and even calls the author of it "the apostle Clement." Eusebius, whose History was written about 325 A.D., ascribes it to Clement, and speaks of it as having been "publicly read in very many churches both in former times and in our own" (Hist. 3. 16). Jerome (t 420), in his De Viris Illustribus, § 15, reports it as still "publicly read in some places." But no one of these writers anywhere speaks of it as an inspired book. Though highly prized, neither this, nor the Epistle of Barnabas, nor the Shepherd of Hermas, was ever included in any ancient list of authoritative books. (See Westcott, Canon of the New Testament, Appendix B.) This epistle, as we now have it, consists of fifty-nine short chapters some of them very short whose total bulk is about one third greater than that of the sixteen chapters of St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians.

Presbyters of the Church in Corinth had been unjustly deposed from office; a bitter dissension had broken out, and this epistle was written by Clement in the name of the Church in Rome, in order, if possible, to end the strife. It was sent by the hands of three messengers, Claudius Ephebus, Valerius Biton, and Fortunatus, who, it was hoped (chap. 59), might bring back the good news of peace and harmony restored. In form it resembles the Canonical Epistles, beginning with a salutation and concluding with a benediction. In the first three chapters, the Corinthians are first praised for their former virtues, and then sharply rebuked for the scandals which had occurred. The next nineteen chapters are devoted to historical illustrations, drawn from the Old and New Testaments, of the evils flowing from jealousy and envy; followed by exhortations to repentance, humility, and meekness. In the next fourteen chapters, the exhortations are continued in view of the promised coming of Christ and their own resurrection; salvation by grace through faith is taught; and good works, in their proper relation to faith, are strongly insisted upon. Twenty-one chapters are then devoted to the special purpose of the epistle, discussing the general subject of ecclesiastical organization and order, and urging the Corinthians to put an end to their grievous sedition. The last two chapters contain a prayer for helping grace, with a benediction.

As to the date of this epistle, Hefele, who agrees with Cave, Dodwell, Fleury, and others in assigning the episcopate of Clement to the years 68- 77 A.D., refers it to the time of Nero. But the mention made in the first chapter of "sudden and successive trials" which had befallen the Roman Church seems to require a later date. The Tubingen school put it into the second century. But recent critical authority preponderates decidedly in favor of 95-98 A.D. Falling thus within the apostolic age, and yet of considerably later date than the great bulk of the New Testament, special interest attaches to this epistle. It may be considered:

1. In comparison with the canonical books. It is evidently modeled after the canonical epistles, and yet is decidedly inferior to them. In regard to language, three words used by Clement are found only in the First-Epistle of Peter; eleven only in the epistles of Peter and Paul; and twelve only in the epistles of Paul. (See Westcott, p. 30.) The book of which it most reminds us is the Epistle to the Hebrews. Hence an ancient tradition, reported by Eusebius (Hist. 6, 25) on the authority of Origen, that Clement was the author also of that epistle. But besides the many points of dissimilarity which discredit this particular tradition, there is a marked inferiority pervading the epistle of Clement as compared not only with the Epistle to the Hebrews, but with all the rest of the New Testament, which reacts powerfully as an argument for the inspiration of the canonical books. The Old Testament quotations are more extended; fanciful interpretations are given, as of the scarlet cord let down by Rahab typifying the blood of Christ; fables are introduced, as of the phoenix in treating of the resurrection; attempts are made at fine writing, as in the twentieth chapter, devoted to a description of the order and harmony of nature; with a tendency throughout to expatiation; which stands in strong contrast with the soberness, simplicity, terseness, and vigor of the apostolic epistles. A line has thus been deeply drawn between the inspired and uninspired documents of the early Church.

2. With respect to the canon itself. Of the Old Testament but little needs to be said. In the way either of express citation or of marked resemblance, nearly every book is recognized. Two at least of the apocryphal books are quoted. Clement made use of the Septuagint, and quotes more accurately than some of the fathers, indicating that he either referred to a manuscript or had a better memory than common. The text employed by him, Hilgenfeld says, accords neither with the Alexandrian nor the Vatican Codex, but, where these are at variance, steers between them, agreeing sometimes with the one, sometimes with the other. In quoting from the New Testament, Clement never calls it "Scripture" or "Scriptures," as he does the Old Testament; but individual writers are either quoted or referred to, and in a way which implies his belief that they had an authority above his own. Apologizing for the attitude he assumes, he exhorts the Corinthians, as though that must end all controversy, to "take in their hands the epistle of the blessed apostle Paul." Besides the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the books indicated are Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, Hebrews, and James; perhaps also 1 Timothy and Titus. In short, the usage is precisely what we should expect while the canon was not yet formed, but only silently forming.

3. With respect to the polity of the early Church. The object aimed at in the epistle called for certain definite statements on this point. And these are in complete accordance with the representations of the inspired books. In Clement, as in the Acts and Epistles of the New Testament, several features are palpable. No distinction is made between bishops and presbyters. For the local Church only two orders are recognized: presbyter- bishops and deacons. And they were appointed at first by the apostles, afterwards by these rulers themselves, though not to the exclusion of the brotherhood. The initiative was not with the congregation, but with its elders, "the whole Church consenting." Such is the representation in the forty-fourth chapter; and it accords with what is related of Paul and Barnabas, who, instead of merely ordaining, as our version appears to teach, "had appointed them elders in every church" (Acts 14:23). The New Testament representations are thus not only corroborated, but also elucidated.

4. In relation to doctrine. The orthodoxy of Clement, as of the earlier fathers in general, has been repeatedly called in question, but without good reason. Doctrinal discussion, in the style of the Epistle to the Romans, is certainly not attempted. But the leading features of the Gospel economy come clearly out. The divinity of Christ is taught quite as distinctly as in the Epistles to the Colossians and Hebrews. And so likewise are the atonement and justification by faith. If good works are strongly emphasized, so also are they strongly emphasized not only by James in his epistle, but by Paul himself. And as there is no contradiction between Paul and James, there is none between Paul and Clement.

The Literature of the subject is abundant. Of the text there have been three recensions. The epistle was first published by Junius, at Oxford, in 1633; again, more accurately, by Wotton, at Cambridge, in 1718; and, lastly, by Jacobson, at Oxford, in four successive editions, 1838, 1840, 1847. and 1866. Jacobson's text is now the standard, and is as nearly perfect as critical acumen and diligence could make it. Of earlier editions, embracing all the apostolical fathers, the best are those of Cotelerius, Paris, 1672, as improved by Clericus (Antwerp, 1698), and again improved (Amsterdam, 1724), and of Ittivius, with a valuable dissertation (Leipsic, 1699). Of later editions, the best are those of Jacobson, already named; of Hefele (Tubingen, 1839, 1842, 1847, 1855); and of Dressel (Leipsic, 1856, 1863). Of treatises, the most valuable are those of Lechler, Das apostolische und das nachapostolische Zeitalter (Haarlem, 1851; Stuttgardt, 1857); Hilgenfeld, Apostolische Vater (Halle, 1853); Lipsius, De Clementis Romani Epistola ad Corinthios Priore Disquisitzo (Leipsic, 1855); and Donaldson, Critical History of Christian Literature and Doctrinefrom the Death of the Apostles to the Nicene Council (vol. 1, London, 1864). Of English translations, the earliest was by Burton (London, 1647); the next was that of Archbishop Wake (London, 1693, frequently republished; admirably though inaccurately done); the next was anonymous (Aberdeen, 1768); then Chevallier (London, 1833, 1851, on the basis of Wake); and, lastly, Roberts and Donaldson (Edinburgh, 1867, vol. 1 of the "Ante- Nicene Library"). This last has not the scriptural tone of Wake, but is greatly superior to it in accuracy of rendering.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Clement of Rome'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​c/clement-of-rome.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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