Women in the Apostolic Fathers: Paranetic Women in 1 Clement (Part II)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Women in the Apostolic Fathers.

1 Clement 12.1-8[1]

Διὰ πίστιν καὶ φιλοξενίαν ἐσώθη Ῥαὰβ ἡ πόρνη…. 3. ἡ οὖν φιλόξενος Ῥαὰβ εἰσδεξαμένη αὐτοὺς ἔκρυψεν εἰς τὸ ὑπερῷον ὑπὸ τὴν λινοκαλάμην…. 7. καὶ προσέθεντο αὐτῇ δοῦναι σημεῖον, ὅπως ἐκκρεμάσῃ ἐκ τοῦ οἴκου αὐτῆς κόκκινον, πρόδηλον ποιοῦντες ὅτι διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ κυρίου λύτρωσις ἔσται πᾶσιν τοῖς πιστεύουσιν καὶ ἐλπίζουσιν ἐπὶ τὸν θεόν. 8. ὁρᾶτε, ἀγαπητοί, ὅτι οὐ μόνον πίστις, ἀλλὰ καὶ προφητεία ἐν τῇ γυναικὶ γέγονεν. Because of her faith and hospitality Rahab the prostitute was saved from danger…. 3. And so, the hospitable Rahab brought them inside and hid them in the upper room under a pile of thatching straw…. 7. And they proceeded to give her a sign, that she should hang a piece of scarlet from her house–making it clear that it is through the blood of the Lord that redemption will come to all who believe and hope in God. 8. You see, loved ones, not only was faith found in the woman, but prophecy as well.

Rahab's Scarlet CordClement next regales his readers with the story of Rahab from Joshua 2. The φιλόξενος Ῥαὰβ is named not only for her faith, but also for her hospitality, which following on the heels of Lot’s Wife’s inhospitable actions. This forms a stark contrast to Rahab’s own hospitable concord, not only with the spies, but also within herself and toward Yahweh. Clement’s source for Rahab’s faith—possibly James 2:25 or Hebrews 11:31—is not a direct concern here.[2] What is important here is how Rahab’s “sign” not only points to her faith, but also to her prophetic spirit. That is, Rahab’s faith and hospitality not only commend in her own time, but stand as examples worthy of emulation throughout time due to her faithful witness.

1 Clement 55.3-6[3]

3. πολλαὶ γυναῖκες ἐνδυναμωθεῖσαι διὰ τῆς χάριτος τοῦ θεοῦ ἐπετελέσαντο πολλὰ ἀνδρεῖα. 4. Ἰουδὶθ ἡ μακαρία, ἐν συγκλεισμῷ οὔσης τῆς πόλεως, ᾐτήσατο παρὰ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων ἐαθῆναι αὐτὴν ἐξελθεῖν εἰς τὴν παρεμβολὴν τῶν ἀλλοφύλων. 5. παραδοῦσα οὖν ἑαυτὴν τῷ κινδύνῳ ἐξῆλθεν δἰ ἀγάπην τῆς πατρίδος καὶ τοῦ λαοῦ τοῦ ὄντος ἐν συγκλεισμῷ, καὶ παρέδωκεν κύριος Ὁλοφέρνην ἐν χειρὶ θηλείας. 6. οὐχ ἧττον καὶ ἡ τελεία κατὰ πίστιν Ἐσθὴρ κινδύνῳ ἑαυτὴν παρέβαλεν, ἵνα τὸ δωδεκάφυλον τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ μέλλον ἀπολέσθαι ῥύσηται· διὰ γὰρ τῆς νηστείας καὶ τῆς ταπεινώσεως αὐτῆς ἠξίωσεν τὸν παντεπόπτην δεσπότην, θεὸν τῶν αἰώνων· ὃς ἰδὼν τὸ ταπεινὸν τῆς ψυχῆς αὐτῆς ἐρύσατο τὸν λαόν, ὧν χάριν ἐκινδύνευσεν. 3. Many women were empowered by the gracious gift of God to perform numerous “manly” deeds. 4. The blessed Judith, when her city lay under siege, asked the elders for permission to go out to the foreigners’ camp. 5. And so she handed herself over to danger, going out because she loved her homeland and the people under siege. And the Lord handed Holofernes over to the hand of a female. 6. No less did Esther, a woman perfect in faith, put herself in danger to rescue the twelve tribes of Israel who were about to perish. For through her fasting and humility she petitioned the all-seeing Master, the God of eternity, who saw the humbleness of her soul and rescued the people for whom she put herself in danger.

Judith and Esther appear at the end of lengthy section of cultural and biblical models for right action before God.[4] These women’s ἀνδρεῖα, their “manly” deeds, are what Clement highlights.[5] Judith receives the title ἡ μακαρία, an appellation applied to the saints, because of the love of her homeland and people.[6] Similarly, Esther, a woman τελεία κατὰ πίστιν, is held up as an example right action, which she completes with humility of soul and at the expense of her own danger. For both of these women, “manly” deeds and right action stand at the heart of their paranetic example, actions spurred on by love (of people and land) and faith in God.

Ancient Corinth
Ancient Corinth

In the end, Clement utilized biblical examples of women as exemplars for the Corinthians. In the instances of Lot’s Wife and Rahab, Clement exhorted the Corinthians toward interior and exterior harmony and the good fruits thereof, rather than the double-mindedness and discord which was plaguing that church. In the examples of Judith and Esther, Clement encourages the Corinthian community toward right action which is motivated by love and faith in God. For Clement, these women demonstrated proper disposition and order, making them worthy examples not only for Corinthian women, but for Corinthian men as well.


[1] Ehrman Apostolic Fathers I, 54-7.

[2] Given Clement’s knowledge of Hebrews, it would not be surprising to see him building from the “Hall of Faith.” Donald A. Hagner, The Use of the Old and New Testaments in Clement of Rome (Leiden: Brill, 1973), 181-94. See also Clement’s christological interpretation of the cord, which is taken up by Justin, Dialogue 111.4.

[3] Ehrman Apostolic Fathers I, 132-3.

[4] Robert M. Grant and Holt H. Graham, The Apostolic Fathers: A New Translation and Commentary: Volume 2: First and Second Clement (New York: Thomas Nelson, 1964), 87-8. Into a woman’s hand” comes from Judith 13:15 or 16:6 (LXX) and Esther’s petition of God cannot be from the Hebrew, as YHWH does not appear there.

[5] While ἀνδρεῖα and its cognates are most often applied to men, the term was applied to women. Prov. 11:16 LXX.

[6] Judith is later called a saint by Tertullian in On Marrying. 17.1. Cx. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 2.35.4.

Published by Jacob J. Prahlow

Christ-Follower. Married to Hayley. Father of Bree. PhD student in Historical Theology at Saint Louis University (19). Love Reading, Thinking, and Blogging.

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