Ancient Hebrew Cosmology

Context is EverythingHuman beings often presume our own worldview when trying to make sense of a message or a text. As anyone who has had an argument based upon a misunderstanding knows (think of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” routine), assuming that other people mean exactly what you think they mean, without making sure that’s what they say they mean, often becomes an exercise in frustration.

The same is true with written texts. Many times modern Christians come to a text such as the Bible and assume that the worldview they hold is precisely that of the specific Bible passage they are reading. While this may (rarely) be the case, more often than not readers of the Bible bring their own presuppositions without even knowing that they differ from those of the Biblical authors (and, by extension for those of us who believe in the inspiration of scripture, different presuppositions than God). This means that reading and interpreting the Bible without seeking to understand the context of the Bible leads to a distorted interpretation of the Bible. And since I would hazard to guess that few people desire to purposefully misinterpret the Bible, it seems important to seek a contextualized reading of any Biblical text. Continue reading

Some Thoughts on Bible Reading

Open BibleSome thoughts on Bible reading for your morning:

1. Never read a Bible verse. Always read at least a paragraph, preferably more. Best is reading a whole book (more on that below). You can make any one verse mean any number of things, but considering the larger context of passage places that verse within a more meaningful narrative, making it easier to understand what the verse is saying. So always read verses within their larger narrative context.

2. Keep a couple of different versions on-hand. Having two or three different Bibles around serves as a reminder that English Bibles are translations and that, whatever you may believe about inerrancy and inspiration, translations are neither. Having multiple versions around also enables you to draw upon different renderings of a passage when you try to understand what’s being said. Not all translations are created equal, of course, and which translations you choose will vary based on your preferences and Bible knowledge. But keep a couple different versions around. Continue reading

Scripture in 1 Clement: Bibliography

This post concludes our series on the function and use of scripture in the early Christian writing known as 1 Clement by providing interested readers with a select bibliography of the sources consulted in this study.

Apostle Paul WritingAncient Texts

Clement of Rome. First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, trans. Bart D. Ehrman. The Apostolic Fathers: Volume One, Loeb Classical Library 24, ed. Jeffrey Henderson. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003.

Eusebius of Caesarea. Ecclesiastical History, trans. G.A. Williamson, ed. Andrew Louth. London: Penguin Books, 1989.

Ignatius of Antioch. Letter to the Philadelphians, trans. Bart D. Ehrman. The Apostolic Fathers: Volume One, Loeb Classical Library 24, ed. Jeffrey Henderson. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2003.

Tertullian. Prescription Against the Heresies, trans. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, ed. Paul A. Boer, Sr. The Anti-Marcion Writings of Tertullian. Veritatis Splendor Publications, 2012.

Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Scripture in 1 Clement: Composite Implications

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

Saint Clement of RomeBy way of summary, I briefly outline some of the implications of the argument that Clement compositely cited the Gospel of Matthew. First, this citation suggests Clement knew and had read Matthew’s Gospel. This is contrary to perspectives like that of Helmut Koester which reject Clement’s knowledge of written gospel accounts.[1] While he almost certainly did not have a copy of Matthew’s Gospel open before him while writing his letter, Clement was certainly familiar enough with that text to cite it from memory with at least allusive accuracy. Continue reading

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

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

jesus_catacombWhat does account for 1 Clement 46:8 is Clement’s tendency to cite written passages compositely, as was noted in his use of the Jewish scriptures.[1] According to this explanation, Clement combined the words of Jesus found in two different locations of the synoptic tradition, thereby—with a single “word of the Lord”—arguing against the perils of leading the Church into schism and error. Of course, it is not enough to suggest that Clement may have compositely cited the synoptic tradition—one must also explain why he would have done so. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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] Continue reading

Scripture in 1 Clement: Composite Citations of the Hebrew Bible

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 Creation of Man by Michelangelo Sistine ChapelCentral to the considerations here are the “composite citations” of the Jewish Scriptures, where Clement fused together different passages and presented them as a single citation. There are several characteristics indicative of this type of citation. First, these composites often align with the meaning rather than exact verbal structure of their sources and come from the same book of the Jewish scriptures.[1] For example, 1 Clement 32:2 combines Genesis 15:5 and 22:17, saying “Your offspring will be like the stars of heaven.”[2] Here Clement is more concerned with the promise to Abraham than with an exact replication of Genesis’s terminology. Second, these citations are often from the same source.[3] For instance, 1 Clement 26:2 reads, “You will raise me up and I will praise you, and I lay down and slept, and I arose, because you are with me.”[4] This is apparently a composite citation of Psalm 3:6 and 28:7, and possibly incorporates Psalm 22:4 and 87:11 as well.[5] In addition to the thematic similarity between these passages—God’s presence with the believer—this passage also stands as an example of Clement’s tendency to conflate passages from the same written source. Continue reading