Spectrums of Scripture: Stream of Thought

This post is part of an ongoing series formulating a methodology for tracking and understanding the variety of ways in which early Christians received and utilized Scripture.

Clement of Rome
Clement of Rome

The third level of authoritative correspondence includes “stream of thought” and “somewhere” references. These citations cast their source texts as implicitly authoritative: not so important that they bear explicit mention but important enough to creatively insert into the discussion at hand.[1] Many times use of a particular text will occur in a stream of thought, a series of references to the argument of a source text but without clear indication of that text.[2] David Downs has demonstrated such a use of Romans 5-6 in 1 Clement 32-33, which expands upon Paul’s teaching on justification through repeated return to the language and authority of Romans.[3] Such references often appear in slightly modified form, since it is the meaning of the text rather than its explicit authority to which an author appeals.[4] Finally, there is the ever enjoyable που reference, where an author offers a citation located “somewhere” but without knowledge (or care) from whence it came. 1 Clement 28:2-3 employs this formula, saying “For the Scripture somewhere says, ‘Where will I go and where will I hide from your presence?’”[5]

Finally, the far end of the authoritative correspondence spectrum incorporates unclear appeals to source texts. These are references which include no obvious markers of authority and appear almost as afterthoughts in the text employing them. What level of authority or functionality these texts carry remains unclear. If not for other spectral indicators of their existence, the authoritative correspondence coordinate would often not locate these references. In certain cases, they may fulfill a primarily decorative function. An example of an unclear appeal occurs in 1 Clement 20:6, where Clement echoes Genesis 1:9 (εἰς τὰς συναγωγὰς), but for little reason other than to find language with suits his overarching message.[6] In all of these forms of authoritative correspondence, one text utilizes another through varying means of identification with authority. Rarely do texts appear for no purpose other than their manifestation; rather, ancient authors appealed to sources which carried authority beyond (or in addition to) their own.

[1] Gregory and Tuckett, 66-7. [2] Peter Gorday, “Paulus Origenianus: The Economic Interpretation of Paul in Origen and Gregory of Nyssa” in Paul and the Legacies of Paul (ed. W.S. Babcock, Dallas: SMU Press, 1990), 351n2. [3] David J. Downs, “Justification, Good Works, and Creation in Clement of Rome’s Appropriation of Romans 5-6,” NTS 59 (2013): 415-432. [4] Hill, 277. [5] Ehrman, 86-7. [6] Ibid., 72-3.


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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