Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume VII/The Second Epistle of Clement/Introductory Notice by Professor M. B. Riddle, D.D
Introductory Notice by Professor M. B. Riddle, D.D.
In this volume, pp. 372–376, will be found a brief account of the Codex discovered by Bryennios, now Metropolitan of Nicomedia. It remains in the library of the Jerusalem Monastery of the Holy Sepulchre at Constantinople. While the publication of the Greek text of the Teaching awakened unusual interest, the recovery of that document has not been the only valuable result of this important discovery. The Codex, as was speedily known, contains the only complete copy of the Greek text of the two Epistles of Clement. The lacunæ previously existing in the genuine Epistle were not extensive; but, as now appears, the Alexandrian manuscript contains only three-fifths of the second Epistle. The entire Greek text of both Epistles was given to the public by Bryennios in 1875.
This at once led to a revision of some recent editions, notably those of Hilgenfeld, and of Gebhardt and Harnack. Many monographs soon appeared. But the discovery of a new (Syriac) source for the text in 1876, while not affecting the general problem, gave to patristic scholars more abundant critical material. Bishop Lightfoot’s Appendix contains the most convenient and accessible collation of this material, as well as the most clear statements on all points affected by the two discoveries. The Syriac manuscript, containing a version of the two Epistles of Clement, was purchased by the Cambridge University Library in 1876, from the collection of “the late Oriental scholar M. Jules Mohl of Paris” (Lightfoot). It embraces the entire New Testament, except the Apocalypse, in the Harkleian recension of the Philoxenian (or later) Syriac version; but the scribe has inserted the two Epistles of Clement (entire) between the Catholic and Pauline Epistles. The value of the manuscript for New-Testament criticism is great, and the phenomena it presents interesting, as bearing on the discussion of the New-Testament canon; but the paucity of sources for the text of the Clementine Epistles gives special importance to the discovery of a version of these writings so soon after the recovery of the entire Greek text. A discussion of the textual questions is forbidden by the limits of this Introductory Notice, but a few points may be stated:—
1. A comparison of the three authorities (the Alexandrian, the Constantinopolitan, and the Syriac), in the parts they in common contain, shows that the first is most trustworthy, and that the Syriac is usually more correct than the Constantinopolitan.
2. Hence, in the recovered portions, the authority of the Syriac is very valuable in correcting the obvious blunders of the Greek copy. This should teach caution in accepting the text of the Teaching, where the same Greek manuscript is our only authority.
3. The genuine Epistle of Clement, which stands next in age to the canonical books of the New Testament, now stands next in accuracy of text also. Doubt in regard to textual questions decreases as the critical material increases.
section 2.—place and date of composition; author.
The recovery of the entire text of the Second Epistle settles the question as to the purpose of the work. As was previously surmised, it is a homily (comp. chaps. xvii., xix., xx.); moreover, it was “read” by the author at public worship after the Scripture lesson (see Chap. xix). But as to place, date, and author, there is still diversity of opinion. The three questions are closely related. The view of Bishop Lightfoot seems, on the whole, most tenable. He regards the homily as of Corinthian origin, delivered, in all probability, between a. d. 120 and 140, but the work of an unknown author, who seems to have been one of the presbyters of the church,—possibly the bishop. The allusions to the athletic games are in favour of Corinth. On this theory the title is thus accounted for: The genuine Epistle of Clement was addressed to the Corinthians, and read in the church of that city from time to time. This homily was probably read in the same manner, and at length united in a manuscript copy with the other. Each was “to the Corinthians:” hence it was gradually inferred that both were Epistles of Clement. Of this succession or movement Lightfoot finds some indications in the manuscript authorities.
The internal evidence of an early date has been increased by the discovery of the concluding portion, but there is nothing to determine the exact time of composition. The distinction made in Chap. xiv. between the Old and New Testaments, as well as the use of the Gospel of the Egyptians (at the close of chap. xii.), taken in connection with the unmistakeable citations of New-Testament passages as of Divine authority, point to the first half of the second century as the probable period. The absence of all direct opposition to Gnosticism points to an origin within the same limits. All these considerations make against the view of Hilgenfeld, who attributes the homily to Clement of Alexandria, thus assigning it to the latter half of the second century.
In regard to the author, nothing further is learned from the newly recovered portion, except the fact that he was a preacher. Even this does not determine his ecclesiastical position, since at that early date much freedom of utterance was permitted in Christian assemblies. It is, however, very probable that the author was a presbyter; and it is not improbable that he was the chief presbyter, or local bishop.
The homily is still attributed to a person named Clement, but there are three theories as to what Clement. (1) Bryennios stands almost alone in claiming that the document is the work of Clemens Romanus. The internal evidence against this view was quite sufficient before the full text of the two Epistles was known; now it is to be regarded as abundantly conclusive. Even the English version of the two writings will suggest to the intelligent reader the points of difference. (2) As intimated above, Hilgenfeld regards Clement of Alexandria as the author; but this places the homily too late. Moreover, the writings of the Alexandrian Father stand immensely above this feeble, commonplace, and chaotic production. Even the citation from the Gospel of the Egyptians, common to both, is differently used by the two authors; Clement of Alexandria opposing the interpretation favoured in this homily, as well as objecting to the authority of that apocryphal Gospel. Hilgenfeld’s argument from the word φιλοσοφει̑ν in chap. xix., is invalidated by the improbability of that reading; see note in loco. (3) The most plausible view, as Bishop Lightfoot admits, is that of Harnack. He assigns the homily to a third Clement, referred to, as he supposes, in the Shepherd of Hermas, and living somewhat later than Clement of Rome. In favour of this may be urged: some similarity to the Shepherd of Hermas, the probability that at the date of the later writing Clement of Rome was not living, and the easy explanation it affords of the traditional title. But, while a third Clement may have lived at Rome, we have no evidence other than the doubtful hint in the Shepherd. The allusion in that work seems far more appropriate to the well-known Clement of Rome. The argument from the later date of the Shepherd proves very little; not only is the date uncertain, but the visions are placed quite early. The editor of this series, while accepting a. d. 160 as the probable date of the Shepherd, regards it as a compilation, introducing “Hermas and Clement to identify the times which are idealized in his allegory.” The view of Bishop Lightfoot, therefore, seems to be the safest.
section 3.—character and contents.
The style of the homily is poor. It abounds in connectives, which link unconnected ideas; its thought is feeble, its theology peculiar though not false, its arrangement confused. While it furnishes some historical data for practical theology, it is, in homiletical method and matter, in sharp contrast with the Apostolic writings and with the homilies of Origen. Though referring to Scripture, it has none of the virtues of the expository discourse; though hortatory in tone, it has little of the unity and directness of better sermons of that class. Its chief excellence is its brevity.
It is difficult to make an analysis of the contents. The theme is the duty of fulfilling the commands of Christ.
(1) This obedience is the true confession of Christ, answering to the greatness of His salvation; mainly in chaps. i.-iv.
(2) Thus the Christian shows his opposition to the world; chaps. v.-viii.
(3) This obedience will be rewarded in the future world; chaps. ix.-xvii.
(4) The conclusion: the preacher’s confession (xviii.), justification of his exhortation (xix.); concluding word of consolation, with doxology (xx.). But the treatment is not strictly logical, nor are the parts clearly distinguished.
The theology shows no traces of heresy, nor does it sharply oppose any false doctrinal views. It lacks the dogmatic precision of a later age, but emphasizes rigid views of the relation of the sexes. “Repentance and good works seem to be the main articles of its creed. Of regeneration there seems to be no definite idea: to be called is the same as to be saved. The Church is pre-existent; the kingdom of God is in the future; no worth is left to this world or to the life in it. The principal argument urged in favour of standing firm in faith is the good issue of it in the next life” (C. J. H. Ropes).
The hints given in regard to public worship agree with the famous description of Justin Martyr, and there are indications that the early freedom of exhortation had not yet disappeared. Bishop Lightfoot aptly concludes his dissertation with these words: “the homily itself, as a literary work, is almost worthless. As the earliest example of its kind, however, and as the product of an important age of which we possess only the scantiest remains, it has the highest value. Nor will its intellectual poverty blind us to its true grandeur, as an example of the lofty moral earnestness and the triumphant faith which subdued a reluctant world, and laid it prostrate at the foot of the cross.” 
section 4.—the version in this volume.
Greater unity would have been secured by a new translation of the entire work. Since, however, this was not possible, the aim of the editor has been to give the reader, as far as practicable, the benefit of the light shed upon the whole by the recently discovered authorities. The portion already translated in the Edinburgh volume has been supplied with critical annotations, and a few exegetical points have been treated. The recent editions of the Greek text have, of course, been consulted. The newly recovered portion has been re-translated. Bishop Lightfoot’s version is so excellent that the temptation to use it was very great. It has, of course, influenced the editor in many places. But the following version differs from it mainly in two respects: (1) An effort has been made to preserve the verbal correspondences between the language of the homily and that of the New Testament: hence the English word used in the Revised Version as an equivalent of a Greek term is given here as a similar equivalent. (2) The view of the Greek tenses indicated in Lightfoot’s renderings does not always accord with that of the editor.
It may be added, that Professor C. J. H. Ropes of Bangor, Me., kindly sent, for use in the preparation of the Epistle for this volume, his manuscript translation and notes. These have been very helpful, and are entitled to this acknowledgment. It will be found that the American translation is less paraphrastic than the Edinburgh. The new portions, both text and notes, have been printed without brackets when they are the work of the editor. The rare additions of the general editor are always bracketed, that the reader may readily recognise to whom the literary responsibility in each case properly belongs.
The following is the Edinburgh Introductory Notice:—
The first certain reference which is made by any early writer to this so-called Epistle of Clement is found in these words of Eusebius (Hist. Eccl., iii. 38): “We must know that there is also a second Epistle of Clement. But we do not regard it as being equally notable with the former, since we know of none of the ancients that have made use of it.” Several critics in modern times have endeavoured to vindicate the authenticity of this Epistle. But it is now generally regarded as one of the many writings which have been falsely ascribed to Clement. Besides the want of external evidence, indicated even by Eusebius in the above extract, the diversity of style clearly points to a different writer from that of the first Epistle. A commonly accepted opinion among critics at the present day is, that this is not an Epistle at all, but a fragment of one of the many homilies falsely ascribed to Clement. There can be no doubt, however, that in the catalogue of writings contained in the Alexandrian ms. it is both styled an Epistle, and, as well as the other which accompanies it, is attributed to Clement. As the ms. is certainly not later than the fifth century, the opinion referred to must by that time have taken firm root in the Church; but in the face of internal evidence, and in want of all earlier testimony, such a fact goes but a small way to establish its authenticity.
- The full title of his edition, in English form, is as follows: “The two Epistles of our holy father Clement Bishop of Rome to the Corinthians; from a manuscript in the Library of the Most Holy Sepulchre in Fanar of Constantinople; now for the first time published complete, with prolegomena and notes, by Philotheos Bryennios, Metropolitan of Serræ. Constantinople, 1875.”
- Novum Test. extra canonem receptum (2d ed., Leipzig, 1876). Pp. xliv.-xlix., 69–106, contain prolegomena, text, and notes, 2 Clement.
- Patrum Apost. Opera, 2d ed., Leipzig, 1876.
- St. Clement of Rome An Appendix containing the newly recovered portions, with introductions, notes, and translations. London, 1877. The original volume, London, 1869.
- See chap. xii., and Clem. Alex., Stromata, iii. 13, vol. ii. p. 398.
- See Vision II. 4, vol. ii. p. 12.
- See vol. ii. p. 4; and comp. Lightfoot, Appendix, pp. 316, 317.
- First Apology, ch. lxvii. (vol. i. p. 186).
- St. Clement, Appendix, p. 317.