Scripture in 1 Clement: Composite Citation of the Gospels (Part I)

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

The Four Evangelists (Book of Kells)
The Four Evangelists (Book of Kells)

Clement’s relationship with written Christian texts remains far more difficult to parse than his near constant reliance on Jewish scriptures. Arguments have been made for this epistle’s use of nearly every writing now in the New Testament, [1] although in no place does Clement introduce a possible reference to these writings with anything other than a “he says/said” introduction.[2] Clement’s lack of clear citations to Christian literature contributes to the major divergence of scholarly opinion regarding this letter’s possible use of materials from the Synoptic Gospels.  Commonly noted possible parallels include the sayings on mercy and forgiveness found in 1 Clement 13.2,[3] the reference to the Parable of the Sower found in 1 Clement 24:5,[4] and the quotation of Isaiah 29:13 in 1 Clement 15:2, where Clement agrees with the form found in Matthew 15:8 and Mark 7:6 over LXX Isaiah.[5]

Perhaps most central to these discussions are contentions surrounding the possible source (or sources) for the words of Jesus recorded in 1 Clement 46:8. This passage reads, “for he [Jesus] said, ‘Woe to that person! It would have been good for him not to be born, rather than cause one of my chosen to stumble. Better for him to have a millstone cast about his neck and be drowned in the sea than to have corrupted one of my chosen.’”[6]  To note but a few of the perspectives concerning the origin of this passage: F.C. Bauer argued that Clement had access to the Gospel of Mark and a sayings source;[7] Andrew Gregory concludes that there is “no sign of the influence of the redactional activity of either Matthew or Luke”;[8] Andreas Kostenberger indicates a possible citation of Matthew and Luke,[9] while Michael Kruger finds plausible the use of Mark as well;[10] Lee McDonald affirms Clement’s use of Matthew;[11] Andreas Lindemann argues for a “free combination” of Mark and Q;[12] and Donald Hagner suggests textual reliance upon at least one synoptic, likely Matthew.[13]

[1] Commonly cited writings include Matthew, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Timothy, Titus, Hebrews, 1 Peter, and James.

[2] As Andrew Gregory notes, however, “explicit formal markers of quotations are the exception, not the rule…” for literature of this time and type. See Andrew F. Gregory, “What is Literary Dependence?,” In New Studies in the Synoptic Problem, Oxford Conference April 2008: Essays in Honour of Christopher M. Tuckett, eds. P. Foster, A. Gregory, J. S. Kloppenborg and J. Verheyden (Leuven: Uitgeverij Peeters, 2011), 88.

[3] 1 Clement 13:2 remains distinctly different than either Matthew of Luke. Paul Foster suggests that while Clement was possibly influenced by Luke’s gospel, the wording was based upon Matthew’s gospel and a noncanonical source such as Q (Foster, “New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers,” 289-90). The apparent conflation of these texts leads Foster to declare that “it is not even possible to state with certainty which gospel Clement was following (if indeed he had only one text in mind), let alone recover the form of a specific gospel.” Metzger suggests that Clement quoted from memory (Metzger, Canon, 43). However, memory does not sufficiently account for the large number of maxims without any parallel and maxims that are distinctly different in form from the Synoptics. Additionally, the stylized form may indicate the use of a written source, a possibility which seems more likely when this passage is compared to Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians 2:3, where the same form is repeated. See Hagner, 151 and Richard Bauckham, “The Study of Gospel Traditions Outside the Canonical Gospels: Problems and Prospects,” In Gospel Perspectives: The Jesus Tradition Outside the Gospels, Volume 5, ed. David Wenham (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 1984), 378. For a verbal comparison of this passage with its proposed synoptic parallels, see Prahlow, Appendix C.

[4] Hagner, 171. Cf. Matthew 13:1f, Mark 4:1f, and Luke 8:4f.

[5] Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 27, ed. Kurt Aland (Westphalia: Deutsche BibelGesellschaft, 2011),  40, 111. Hagner, 178.

[6] 1 Clement 46:8. Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers, 118-9.

[7] Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, eds. Robert A. Kraft and Gerhard Krodel, trans. Philadelphia Seminar on Christian Origins (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971), 209.

[8] Gregory, “What is Literary Dependence?”, 90. See also Gregory, “Introduction”, 139, 228.

[9] Kostenberger and Kruger, 139. See also Milton Fisher, “The Canon of the New Testament,” In The Origin of the Bible, ed. Philip Wesley Comfort (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 2003), 70.

[10] Kostenberger and Kruger, 139.

[11] McDonald, 256.

[12] Andreas Lindemann, “The Apostolic Fathers and the Synoptic Problem,” In New Studies in the Synoptic Problem, Oxford Conference April 2008: Essays in Honour of Christopher M. Tuckett, eds. P. Foster, A. Gregory, J. S. Kloppenborg and J. Verheyden (Leuven: Uitgeverij Peeters, 2011), 693-4. Lindemann suggests that this passage may incorporate Mark 9.42 and 14.21b as well as Q.

[13] Hagner, 332.


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

4 thoughts on “Scripture in 1 Clement: Composite Citation of the Gospels (Part I)

  1. Hi, Jacob. Your article exposed something I’ve looked high and low for – an Old Testament quote in the New which favors the Masoretic Hebrew over the Septuagint. Isa 29:13 as a whole favors the Septuagint over the Hebrew in both Mt 15:8-9 and Mk 7:6-7, but taking Mt 15:8 and Mk 7:6 as individual verses does favor the Masoretic Hebrew. Are you aware of any other New Testament quotes which favor the Masoretic over the LXX?

    1. Matthew,
      Off the top of my head, in early Christian studies we often talk about those types of quotation/citation as “non-LXX forms”, particularly since so few early Christians knew Hebrew and thus it’s far more likely that they “lucked into” a Hebrew-like reading of an OT passage than actually intended to use that form of the text. First Clement includes several other non-LXX readings: 3.1 (Dt. 32.15); 20.7 (Job 38.11); 21.2 (Pr. 20.27); 28.3
      (Ps. 138.7-10); 42.5 (Is. 60.17). Hope that’s helpful.
      Best, JJP

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