Epistles of Clement

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The Epistles of Clement often referred to as 1 Clement and 2 Clement are two letters, not a pair, addressed to the Christians in the city of Corinth from the late first or early second century. They were not accepted in the canonical New Testament, but they are part of the Apostolic Fathers collection. Neither is it clear that they were written by Pope Clement I, as is traditionally believed.


The First Epistle of Clement

The letter does not contain Clement's name, instead being addressed by "the Church of God which sojourneth in Rome to the Church of God which sojourneth in Corinth." Nevertheless, the traditional date for Clement's epistle is at the end of the reign of Domitian, or circa 96 AD, by taking the phrase "sudden and repeated misfortunes and hindrances which have befallen us" (1:1) for a reference to persecutions under Domitian. Confirmation of the date comes from the fact that the church at Rome is called "ancient" and that the presbyters installed by the apostles have died (44:2), and a second ecclesiastical generation has also passed on (44:3).

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, Clement charged 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 several references to the Old Testament. Clement demonstrates a familiarity with the Old Testament that points to his being a Christian of long standing, rather than a recent convert. Bruce Metzger, in Canon of the New Testament[1] points out that Clement repeatedly refers to the Old Testament as Scripture. Though he quotes some of the letters of Paul and the Epistle to the Hebrews and remembers some sayings of Jesus, he never refers to these as authoritative Scripture.

The epistle was publicly read from time to time at Corinth, and by the fourth century this usage had spread to other churches. We even find it included in the famous fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus containing the Old and New Testaments, but this does not imply that the epistle ever reached canonical rank. This work was translated into at least three languages in ancient times: a translation from the second or third century was found in an eleventh century manuscript in Namur, Belgium, and published by G. Morin in 1894; a Syriac manuscript, now at Cambridge University, was found by R. L. 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 Second Epistle of Clement

A second epistle, better described as a homily and written in Rome in the middle of the second century, has been traditionally ascribed to Clement, but recent scholarship discredits his authorship. Some of the citations appear to derive from the Greek Gospel of the Egyptians.


  1. ^ B. Metzger, Canon of the New Testament, page 43.

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