2 Clement (Lake introduction)

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The so-called second epistle of Clement is found in the two Greek MSS. (AC) of I. Clement, and in the Syriac version (S), but it is not in the Latin or Coptic versions (LK), and it is never quoted by Clement of Alexandria, though apparent reminiscences of its language have given rise to the view that he was acquainted with it. It is clear from the MS. tradition that at least as early as the fifth century, and probably earlier, it was in some circles closely associated with I. Clement, though this was not the case in the Coptic church, which perhaps represents early Alexandrian tradition, or in the Latin Church. Western writers do, it is true, seem to speak of a "second epistle" of Clement, but they refer not to our II. Clement, but to the pseudepigraphic epistle of Clement to James.

II. Clement is a letter only in form, and scarcely in that, for the writer distinctly states (cf. Cap. XIX) that he is reading aloud, and implies that he is doing so in a meeting for religious worship: it is thus clear that it is really more a sermon than a letter. The main object of the writer is to inculcate a high Christology, a pure life, and a belief in the resurrection of the flesh. So much is generally agreed and it is, moreover, clear that it cannot have been written by the author of I. Clement; but there is no commonly accepted view as to the community to which it was sent. Three views may be mentioned.

1. Harnack thinks that it is the letter which Soter (bishop of Rome - c. 166-174) is related to have sent to Corinth (cf. Eus. Hist. Eccl. iv. 23. 11). He thinks that Soter probably used an old homily which seemed to him to be suitable. This letter was kept in the archives of the church at Corinth together with I Clement, which had also come from Rome; later on, when they were both being copied, the real facts were forgotten and both were supposed to be letters of Clement (Harnack, Chronogie I, pp. 438 ff).

2. Lightfoot is inclined to think that it was an ancient homily of some unknown person in the church at Corinth. He lays stress on the imagery from the games, and suggests that this was inspired by the Isthmian games. Like Harnack's this theory has the advantage of explaining why the document came to be connected with Clement - it was found in the Corinthian archives together with I. Clement.

3. Other scholars, regarding the external evidence as practically valueless, have thought that II. Clement was originally an Alexandrian homily. Their reasons are the theological character of the book, and the possible use of the Gospel of the Egyptians. This theory explains the contents of the book more naturally than do the views of Harnack and Lightfoot, but fails to show why it was ever connected with I. Clement.

Equally uncertain is the date of the book. In the absence of any direct references to contemporary events, it can only be dated by considering its place in the general development of Christian doctrine. This is a very insecure guide, but probably the half of the century between 120 and 170 A.D. is the period chosen by the general opinion of the best critics, and within this limits +/- 150 A.D. is most usually accepted, except by those who agree with Harnack to identify II. Clement with the letter of Soter to the Corinthians.