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

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

Clement of Rome

Clement of Rome

In all, six basic options have been offered regarding the source of 1 Clement 46:8: (1) Matthew 26:24, (2) Luke 17:1-2, (3) Matthew 18:6,[1] (4) Mark 9:42, (5) a combination of any or all of these sources, or (6) an extra-canonical and non-extant source such as Q.[2] Table 1 outlines a textual comparison of these synoptic passages with 1 Clement 46:8.

Table 1: Comparison of 1 Clement 46:8 with Proposed Synoptic Parallels

Text Greek[3] English[4]
1 Clement 46:8[5] ειπεν γαρ· Ουαι τω ανθρωπω εκεινω· καλον ην αψτω ει ουκ εγεννηθη, η ενα των εκλεκτων μου σκανδαλισαι· κρειττον ην αυτω περιτεθηναι μυλον και καταποντισθηναι εις την θαλασσαν, η ενα των εκλεκτων μου διαστρεψαι. “for he 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.’”
Matthew 26:24 Ὁ μὲν υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ὑπάγει, καθὼς γέγραπται περὶ αὐτοῦ· οὐαὶ δὲ τῷ ἀνθρώπῳ ἐκείνῳ, δι’ οὗ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου παραδίδοται· καλὸν ἦν αὐτῷ εἰ οὐκ ἐγεννήθη ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἐκεῖνος. “The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”
Luke 17:1-2 Εἶπεν δὲ πρὸς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ, Ἀνένδεκτόν ἐστιν τοῦ τὰ σκάνδαλα μὴ ἐλθεῖν· πλὴν οὐαὶ δι’ οὗ ἔρχεται.

Λυσιτελεῖ αὐτῷ εἰ λίθος μυλικὸς περίκειται περὶ τὸν τράχηλον αὐτοῦ, καὶ ἔρριπται εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν, ἢ ἵνα σκανδαλίσῃ τῶν μικρῶν τούτων ἕνα.

“And he said to his disciples, ‘Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.’”
Matthew 18:6 Ὃς δ’ ἂν σκανδαλίσῃ ἕνα τῶν μικρῶν τούτων τῶν πιστευόντων εἰς ἐμέ, συμφέρει αὐτῷ ἵνα κρεμασθῇ μύλος ὀνικὸς περὶ τὸν τράχηλον αὐτοῦ, καὶ καταποντισθῇ ἐν τῷ πελάγει τῆς θαλάσσης. “but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”
Mark 9:42 Καὶ ὃς ἂν σκανδαλίσῃ ἕνα τῶν μικρῶν τούτων τῶν πιστευόντων [εἰς ἐμέ], καλόν ἐστιν αὐτῷ μᾶλλον εἰ περίκειται μύλος ὀνικὸς περὶ τὸν τράχηλον αὐτοῦ καὶ βέβληται εἰς τὴν θάλασσαν. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.”

As Table 1 demonstrates, there are strong levels of verbal similarity between the four possible synoptic passages and 1 Clement 46:8, indicated here by the highlighting of parallel terms from each passage. Yet Clement clearly did not copy this passage from any known version of Matthew, Mark, or Luke. Matthew 26:24 shares important terminology with the first part of Clement’s citation, but the latter half of the passage is very different. The reverse is true for Luke 17:1-2, which includes several instances of verbal parallelism from the latter half of Clement’s passage, but none from the first. And the same is true of Matthew 18:6. Mark 9:42 shares the basic message of this passage, but most of its terminology is distinctly different. Furthermore, there are certain facets of this passage which exhibit no synoptic parallels: for example, there is no apparent basis for Clement’s διαστρεψαι (to distort, pervert; translated “corrupted” by Ehrman). Further, there is clear development from “those who believe in me” (πιστευόντων εἰς ἐμέ, Matthew 18:6; πιστευόντων [εἰς ἐμέ], Mark 9:42) to “one of my chosen” (ενα των εκλεκτων μου, Clement). In short, no one canonical passage accounts for all aspects of Clement’s apparent quotation of Jesus.


[1] Only Hagner and Lightfoot suggest use of Matthew 18:6. See Hagner, 160-1 and Prahlow, Appendix A.

[2] Again, with regard to non-extant or oral traditions, this paper follows Metzger’s methodological dictum, “It is generally preferable, in estimating doubtful cases, to regard variation from a canonical text as a free quotation from a document known to us than to suppose it to be a quotation from a hitherto unknown document, or the persistence of primitive tradition.” See Metzger, 73 n47. Lardner, Funk, Knoch, Zahn, and Lightfoot affirm the use of at least one Synoptic. Resch, Cassels, Donaldson, the Oxford Committee, Clarke, Knopf, Richardson, and Goodspeed favor reliance upon an extra-canonical source.

[3] Greek for canonical passages taken from the Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 28th (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellshaft, 2012), online at www.nestle-aland.com .

[4] English for canonical passages taken from the English Standard Version (Wheaton, I.L.: Crossway, 2011).

[5] Ehrman, Apostolic Fathers.

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