1 Clement (Lake introduction)

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1 Clement (Lake)  (1912) 
by Kirsopp Lake
From The Apostolic Fathers (published London 1912), v. I, pp. 3-7.

The writing which has always been known by this name is clearly, from internal evidence, a letter sent by the church of Rome to the church of Corinth in consequence of trouble in the latter community which had led to the deposition of certain Presbyters. The church of Rome writes protesting against this deposition, and the partizanship which has caused it.

The actual name of the writer is not mentioned in the letter itself: indeed, it clearly claims to be not the letter of a single person but of a church. Tradition, however, has always ascribed it to Clement, who was, according to the early episcopal lists, the third or fourth bishop of Rome during the last decades of the first century. There is no reason for rejecting this tradition, for though it is not supported by any corroborative evidence in its favour there is nothing whatever against it.

Nothing certain is known of Clement; but from the amount of pseudepigraphic literature attributed to him it is probable that he was a famous man in his own time. Tradition has naturally identified him with the Clement who is mentioned in Philippians iv.3. A Clement is also mentioned in the Shepherd of Hermas, Vis. ii. 4, 3, in which it is stated that it was his duty to write to other churches. This certainly points to a Clement in Rome exercising the same functions as the writer of I. Clement; but Hermas is probably somewhat later than I. Clement, and the reference may be merely a literary device based on knowledge of the earlier book.

More complicated and more interesting are suggestions that Clement may be identified or at least connected with Titus Flavius Clemens, a distinguished Roman of the imperial Flavian family. This Titus Flavius Clemens was in 95 A.D. accused of treason or impiety (αθεοτης) by Domitian, his cousin, owing, according to Dio Cassius, to his Jewish proclivities. He was put to death and his wife, Domitilla, was banished. There is no proof that he was really a Christian, but one of the oldest catacombs in Rome is supposed to have belonged to Domitilla, and certainly was connected with this family. It is not probable that T. Flavius Clemens was the writer of I. Clement, but it is an attractive and not improbable hypothesis that a slave or freedman of the Flavian family had the name of Clemens, and held a high position in the Christian community at Rome.

The date of I. Clement is fixed by the following considerations. It appears from chapter 5 to be later than the persecution in the time of Nero, and from chapters 42-44 it is clear that the age of the apostles is regarded as past. It can therefore scarcely be older than 75-80 A.D. On the other hand chapter 44 speaks of presbyters who were appointed by the apostles and were still alive, and there is no trace of any of the controversies or persecutions of the second century. It is therefore probably not much later than 100 A.D. If it be assumed that chapter 1, which speaks of trouble and perhaps of persecution, refers to the time of Domitian, it can probably be dated as c. 96 A.D.; but we know very little of the alleged persecution in the time of Domitian, and it would not be prudent to decide that the epistle cannot be another ten or fifteen years later. It is safest to say that it must be dated between 75 and 110 A.D.; but within these limits there is a general agreement among critics to regard as most probable the last decade of the first century.

The evidence for the text of the epistle is as follows:


The Codex Alexandrinus, a Greek uncial of the fifth century in the British Museum, contains the whole text with the exception of one page. It can be consulted in the photographic edition of the whole codex published by the Trustees of the British Museum.

The Codex Constantinopolitanus, a Greek minuscule written by Leo the Notary in 1056 A.D. and discovered by Bryennius in Constantinople in 1875; it also contains the second epistle of Clement, the epistle of Barnabas, the Didache, and the interpolated text (see pp. 167 ff.) of the epistles of Ignatius. A photographic edition of the text is given in Lightfoot's edition of Clement.

The Syriac version, extant in only one MS. written in 1169 A.D. and now in the Library of Cambridge University (MS. add. 1700); the date of this version is unknown, but it is probably not early, and may perhaps best be placed in the eighth century. A collation is given in Lightfoot's edition, and the text has been published in full by R. H. Kennett (who took up the material of the late Prof. Bensley) in The Epistles of St. Clement to the Corinthians in Syriac, London, 1899.

The Latin version, also extant in only one MS which formerly belonged to the Monastery of Florennes, and is now in the Seminary at Namur. The MS. was probably written in the eleventh century, but the version which it represents is extremely ancient. It seems to have been used by Lactantius, and may perhaps be best regarded as a translation of the late second or early third century made in Rome. The text was published in 1894 by Dom Morin in Anecdota Maredsolana vol. 2 as S. Clementis Romani ad Corinthos versio latina antiquissima.


The Coptic version is extant in two MSS., neither complete, in the Akhmimic dialect. The older and better preserved is MS. orient, fol. 3065 in the Konigliche Bibliothek in Berlin. This is a beautiful Papyrus of the fourth century from the famous 'White monastery' of Shenute. It was published in 1908 by C. Schmidt in Texte und Untersuchungen, xxxii. 1 as Der erste Clemensbrief in altkoptischer Ubersetzung. The later and more fragmentary MS. is in Strassburg and was published in 1910 by F. Rosch as Bruchstucke des I. Clemensbriefes; it probably was written in the seventh century.

Besides these MSS. and version exceptionally valuable evidence is given by numerous quotations in the Stromateis of Clement of Alexandria (flor. c. 200 A.D.). It is noteworthy that I. Clement appears to be treated by Clement of Alexandria as Scripture, and this, especially in connection with its position in the codex Alexandrinus and in the Strassburg Coptic MS., where it is directly joined on to the canonical books, suggests that at an early period in Alexandria and Egypt I. Clement was regarded as part of the New Testament.

The relations subsisting between these authorities for the text have not been finally established, but it appears clear that none of them can be regarded as undoubtedly superior to the others, so that any critical text is necessarily eclectic. At the same time there is very little range of variation, and the readings which are in serious doubt are few, and, as a rule, unimportant.