Scripture in 1 Clement: Introduction

BibleMaking sense of conceptions of scripture during the earliest years of Christianity is no easy task. The relative scarcity of evidence from this period is made even more difficult by the non-systematic form of many early Christian writings and the literary practices of the time, where authors used sources without formal (or clear) introductions, regularly cited from memory, modified existing sources for form and/or content, and packaged passages together in conglomerative fashion. Not surprisingly, then, the earliest extant Christian writings are often a battleground for competing claims and narratives concerning the conception and use of scripture in the first centuries of the Church.

On one side are those who argue that a unified and authoritative Christian New Testament arose naturally from a context of Jewish scripture and apostolic authority.[1] On the other hand, there are voices which claim Christianity was from the start full of competing texts, ideas of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus, and sources of authority.[2] As part of this ongoing conversation, this study examines one early Christian writing—Clement of Rome’s First Epistle to the Corinthians—and one facet of that writing’s use of scripture—the practice of composite citation.

st-matthew-the-evangelistAfter beginning with a brief overview of this study’s place in scholarship and the context of 1 Clement, I explore Clement’s approach to scriptural citation, and special attention is given to his practice of composite citation of the Jewish scriptures. After a general overview of Clement’s possible use of gospel materials in his epistle, the possible composite citation in 1 Clement 46:8 is examined in-depth. Building upon Clement’s practice of composite citation of the Jewish scriptures, this study suggests that 1 Clement 46:8 stands as a composite citation of Matthew 18:6 and 26:24. Finally, the implications of Clement’s practice of composite citation are examined, especially the ramifications of this practice for conceptions of now-New Testament writings in the first century. In sum, this study takes its lead from Hagner and Massaux, re-evaluates the premise that Clement compositely cited Matthew’s Gospel, and employs a comparative textual examination of 1 Clement 46:8 to argue for 1 Clement’s reliance upon the Gospel of Matthew.

[1] See Andreas J. Kostenberger and Michael J. Kruger, The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture’s Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity (Wheaton: Crossway Publishers, 2010) and Frederick W. Norris, “Ignatius, Polycarp, and I Clement: Walter Bauer Reconsidered,” Vigiliae Christianinae 30.1 (1976): 23-44.

[2] See Bart D. Ehrman, Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), Bart D. Ehrman, Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), and Raymond E. Brown and John P. Meier, Antioch and Rome: New Testament Cradles of Catholic Christianity (New York: Paulist Press, 1983).



Published by Jacob J. Prahlow

Husband of Hayley. Dad of Bree and Judah. Lead pastor at Arise Church. MATS from Saint Louis University, MA from Wake Forest University, BA from Valparaiso University. Theologian and writer here and at Conciliar Post. Find me on social at @pastorjakestl

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