Scripture in 1 Clement: Conclusions

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

Sacred ScriptureBefore concluding this examination, I offer two final key findings and a note on the ramifications of these conclusions. First, the relationship between 1 Clement and the Gospel of Matthew remains—at the very least—an ongoing topic of conversation. Scholarship which claims insignificant connections between these two early Christian writings cannot stand in the face of the literary connections outlined here. The author of 1 Clement had access to a version of Matthew’s gospel prior to the writing of his epistle. Second, those evaluating early Christian reception history and literary allusion should not neglect the possibility of composite citations by their authors, especially in writings where clear examples of this practice exist. In contrast to the assumption of the need for formal markers to signal literary connections, consideration of composite citations may require an extensive text- and linguistic-centered comparative process, such as the above side-by-side reading of 1 Clement 46:8 alongside potential gospel parallels.

Gospel Writers

Gospel Writers

Finally, there are historical ramifications for the argument that 1 Clement relied upon the Gospel of Matthew. This would suggest not only Matthew’s availability in Rome during the mid-90’s (at the latest) but also that Clement felt this writing to possess significant enough authority to accurately recall the words of the Lord. While discussing a “Grand Unified Theory” of early Christianity which makes this chronology fit takes us too far afield from these concluding remarks, Clement’s use of Matthew should be recognized as an important historical and literary insight into how late first century Christians viewed the writings now included in the New Testament canon. Ultimately, this study stands as but one piece of a larger puzzle concerning the function of scripture in early Christianity and Clement’s practice of composite citation thus only offers partial insight into how the Church viewed now-canonical writings in the late first century. But even these partial insights are worthy of continued attention by those attempting to understand the function and authority of scripture in the earliest centuries of the Christian faith.

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