Scripture in 1 Clement: Place in Scholarship

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the function and use of scripture in the early Christian writing known as 1 Clement.

Jensen Memorial LibraryThis project investigates how Clement employed composite citations of Jewish and Christian writings, particularly the synoptic tradition, to support his arguments for proper Christian theology and practice. In doing so, this study seeks to fill two gaps in existing scholarship on 1 Clement: the void concerning the relationship between the Gospel of Matthew and 1 Clement and the lacuna regarding the practice of composite citation in early Christian literature. With regard to this first gap, while scholars such as Bruce M. Metzger, Bart D. Ehrman, Helmut Koester, Michael J. Kruger, and Lee M. McDonald comment on the relationship between Matthew and 1 Clement—either advocating or rejecting literary connections[3]—many treatments of 1 Clement and the formation of the New Testament forego careful consideration of this literary relationship. In contrast, the now dated works The Use of the Old and New Testaments in Clement of Rome[4] by Donald A. Hagner and The Influence of the Gospel of Saint Matthew on Christian Literature before Saint Irenaeus[5] by Edouard Massuax offer deeper considerations of the relationship between Matthew and 1 Clement. However, recent studies on 1 Clement often focus on the letter’s rhetoric,[6] its historical role in forming and extending Roman Christianity,[7] and its interaction with other non-canonical Christian literature of the period[8] rather than the 1 Clement’s insights into the formation and authority of the New Testament. This study re-evaluates the claims of Hagner and Massaux in light of recent scholarship and offers a comparative analysis that extends beyond that offered by these authors.

The second lacuna that this study seeks to address involves the relative neglect of the practice of composite citation by those studying early Christian literature. Clement’s implementation of composite citation, noted by Hagner and then built upon by Massuax, stands as an important contribution to considerations of how early Christian writers employed existing—and now canonical—literature in their writings. [9] Unfortunately, recent scholarship on the text of the New Testament in the writings of early Christians, such as the essays included in The Reception of the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers, [10] neglects consideration of this practice. This study seeks to demonstrate Clement’s practice of composite citation and the implications of this practice for the wider study of early Christian literature. It should be noted that at the heart of this study are concerns with determining what constitutes literary dependence of one text upon another. The general operating assumption of this study is that literary dependence may be ascertained with some degree of certainty based on the identification of verbal parallels between extant pieces of literature.[11] Although Clement’s citation of now-New Testament writings is essentially allusive—that is, based on indirect reference rather than formal markers—his references nonetheless fit the definition of literary connection offered by Ziva Ben-Porat, as “a sign (simple or complex) in a given text characterized by an additional larger ‘referent.’”[12]

[3] See Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 40-3, Bart D. Ehrman, The Apostolic Fathers: Volume I, ed. Jeffery Henderson (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003) , 25-6, 58-9, 118-9, Helmut Koester, “The Apostolic Fathers and the Struggle for Christian Identity,” The Expository Times 117.4 (2006), 133-9, Kostenberger and Kruger, 136-9, and Lee Martin McDonald, The Biblical Canon: Its Origin, Transmission, and Authority, 3rd Ed (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2007) , 384-5.

[4] Donald A. Hagner, The Use of the Old and New Testaments in Clement of Rome, ed. W.C van Unnik (Leiden: Brill, 1973).

[5] Eduard Massaux, The Influence of the Gospel of Matthew on Christian Literature before Irenaeus, trans. Norman J. Belval and Suzanne Hecht (Macon, G.A.: Mercer University Press, 1990).

[6] Willem C. van Unnik, “Studies on the So-Called First Epistle of Clement: The Literary Genre,” in Cilliers Breytenbach and L.L. Welborn, Encounters with Hellenism (Leiden: Brill, 2004), 115−181. Odd Magne Bakke, Concord and Peace: A Rhetorical Analysis of the First Letter of Clement with an Emphasis on the Language of Sedition and Unity, ed. Jorg Frey, Martin Hengel, and Otfried Hofius (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2001), and Cilliers Breytenbach, “The Historical Example in 1 Clement,” Journal of Ancient Christianity 18.1 (2014), 22-33.

[7] Christoph Markschies, “Harnack’s Image of 1 Clement and Contemporary Research,” Journal of Ancient Christianity 18.1 (2014), 54-69, John Fuellenbach, Ecclesiastical Office and the Primacy of Rome: An Evaluation of Recent Theological Discussion of First Clement, ed. Johannes Quasten (Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of American Press, 1980), and Michael Stover, The Dating of I Clement (Wake Forest, N.C.: Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2012).

[8] Kenneth Berding, “Polycarp’s Use of 1 Clement: An Assumption Reconsidered,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 19.1 (2011): 127-139 and David L. Eastman, “Jealousy, Internal Strife, and the Deaths of Peter and Paul: A Reassessment of 1 Clement,” Journal of Ancient Christianity 18.1 (2014), 34-53.

[9] Hagner, 160f. Massaux, 21-4.

[10] See especially Andrew F. Gregory and Christopher M. Tuckett, “Reflections on Method: What Constitutes the Use of Writings that later formed the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers?”, eds. Andrew Gregory and Christopher Tuckett, The Reception of the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 61-82.

[11] Julie Hughes, Scriptural Allusions and Exegesis in the Hodayot (Leiden: Brill, 2006), 45-46.

[12] Ziva Ben-Porat, “The Poetic of Literary Allusion,” PTL: A Journal for Descriptive Poetics and Theory of Literature 1 (1976): 105-128. See especially 107-109.


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