Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
491
CLEMENTINE LITERATURE

laid upon it in the famous Tübingen reconstruction of primitive Christianity, in which it played a leading part; but later criticism has lowered its importance as its true date and historical relations have been progressively ascertained. (1) and (2) became “Clementine” only by chance, but (3) was so originally by literary device or fiction, the cause at work also in (4) and (5). But while in all cases the suggestion of Clement’s authorship came ultimately from his prestige as writer of the genuine Epistle of Clement (see Clement I.), both (3) and (4) were due to this idea as operative on Syrian soil; (5) is a secondary formation based on (3) as known to the West.

(1) TheSecond Epistle of Clement.”—This is really the earliest extant Christian homily (see Apostolic Fathers). Its theme is the duty of Christian repentance, with a view to obedience to Christ’s precepts as the true confession and homage which He requires. Its special charge is “Preserve the flesh pure and the seal (i.e. baptism) unstained” (viii. 6). But the peculiar way in which it enforces its morals in terms of the Platonic contrast between the spiritual and sensuous worlds, as archetype and temporal manifestation, suggests a special local type of theology which must be taken into account in fixing its provenance. This theology, the fact that the preacher seems to quote the Gospel according to the Egyptians (in ch. xii. and possibly elsewhere) as if familiar to his hearers, and indeed its literary affinities generally, all point to Alexandria as the original home of the homily, at a date about 120–140 (see Zeit. f. N. T. Wissenschaft, vii. 123 ff). Neither Corinth (as Lightfoot) nor Rome (as Harnack, who assigns it to Bishop Soter, c. 166–174) satisfies all the internal conditions, while the Eastern nature of the external evidence and the homily’s quasi-canonical status in the Codex-Alexandrinus strongly favour an Alexandrine origin.

(2) The Two Epistles to Virgins, i.e. to Christian celibates of both sexes. These are known in their entirety only in Syriac, and were first published by Wetstein (1752), who held them genuine. This view is now generally discredited, even by Roman Catholics like Funk, their best recent editor (Patres Apost., vol. ii.). External evidence begins with Epiphanius (Haer. xxx. 15) and Jerome (Ad Jovin. i. 12); and the silence of Eusebius tells heavily against their existence before the 4th century, at any rate as writings of Clement. The Monophysite Timothy of Alexandria (A.D. 457) cites one of them as Clement’s, while Antiochus of St Saba (c. A.D. 620) makes copious but unacknowledged extracts from both in the original Greek. There is no trace of their use in the West. Thus their Syrian origin is manifest, the more so that in the Syriac MS. they are appended to the New Testament, like the better-known epistles of Clement in the Codex Alexandrinus. Indeed, judging from another Syriac MS. of earlier date, which includes the latter writings in its canon, it seems that the Epistles on Virginity gradually replaced the earlier pair in certain Syrian churches—even should Lightfoot be right in doubting if this had really occurred by Epiphanius’s day (S. Clement of Rome, i. 412).

Probably these epistles did not originally bear Clement’s name at all, but formed a single epistle addressed to ascetics among an actual circle of churches. In that case they, or rather it, may date from the 3rd century in spite of Eusebius’s silence, and are not pseudo-Clementine in any real sense. It matters little whether or not the false ascription was made before the division into two implied already by Epiphanius (c. A.D. 375). Special occasion for such a hortatory letter may be discerned in its polemic against intimate relations between ascetics of opposite sex, implied to exist among its readers, in contrast to usage in the writer’s own locality. Now we know that spiritual unions, prompted originally by highstrung Christian idealism as to a religious fellowship transcending the law of nature in relation to sex, did exist between persons living under vows of celibacy during the 3rd century in particular, and not least in Syria (cf. the case of Paul of Samosata, c. 265, and the Synod of Ancyra in Galatia, c. 314). It is natural, then, to see in the original epistle a protest against the dangers of such spiritual boldness (cf. “Subintroductae” in Herzog-Hauck’s Realencyklopädie), prior perhaps to the famous case at Antioch just noted. Possibly it is the feeling of south Syria or Palestine that here expresses itself in remonstrance against usages prevalent in north Syria. Such a view finds support also in the New Testament canon implied in these epistles.

(3) [a] The Epistle of Clement to James (the Lord’s brother). This was originally part of (3) [b], in connexion with which its origin and date are discussed. But as known to the West through Rufinus’s Latin version, it was quoted as genuine by the synod of Vaison (A.D. 442) and throughout the middle ages. It became “the starting point of the most momentous and gigantic of medieval forgeries, the Isidorian Decretals,” “where it stands at the head of the pontifical letters, extended to more than twice its original length.” This extension perhaps occurred during the 5th century. At any rate the letter in this form, along with a “second epistle to James” (on the Eucharist, church furniture, &c.), dating from the early 6th century, had separate currency long before the 9th century, when they were incorporated in the Decretals by the forger who raised the Clementine epistles to five (see Lightfoot, Clement, i. 414 ff.).

(3) [b] TheHomiliesandRecognitions”—“The two chief extant Clementine writings, differing considerably in some respects in doctrine, are both evidently the outcome of a peculiar speculative type of Judaistic Christianity, for which the most characteristic name of Christ was ‘the true Prophet.’ The framework of both is a narrative purporting to be written by Clement (of Rome) to St James, the Lord’s brother, describing at the beginning his own conversion and the circumstances of his first acquaintance with St Peter, and then a long succession of incidents accompanying St Peter’s discourses and disputations, leading up to a romantic recognition of Clement’s father, mother and two brothers, from whom he had been separated since childhood. The problems discussed under this fictitious guise are with rare exceptions fundamental problems for every age; and, whatever may be thought of the positions maintained, the discussions are hardly ever feeble or trivial. Regarded simply as mirroring the past, few, if any, remains of Christian antiquity present us with so vivid a picture of the working of men’s minds under the influence of the new leaven which had entered into the world” (Hort, Clem. Recog., p. xiv.).

The indispensable preliminary to a really historic view of these writings is some solution of the problem of their mutual relations. The older criticism assumed a dependence of one upon the other, and assigned one or both to the latter part of the 2nd century. Recent criticism, however, builds on the principle, which emerges alike from the external and internal evidence (see Salmon in the Dict. of Christian Biography), that both used a common basis. Our main task, then, is to define the nature, origin and date of the parent document, and if possible its own literary antecedents. Towards the solution of this problem two contributions of prime importance have recently been made. The earlier of these is by F. J. A. Hort, and was delivered in the form of lectures as far back as 1884, though issued posthumously only in 1901; the other is the elaborate monograph of Dr Hans Waitz (1904).

Criticism.—(i.) External Evidence as to the Clementine Romance. The evidence of ancient writers really begins, not with Origen,[1] but with Eusebius of Caesarea, who in his Eccl. Hist. iii. 38, writes as follows: “Certain men have quite lately brought forward as written by him (Clement) other verbose and lengthy writings, containing dialogues of Peter, forsooth, and Apion, whereof not the slightest mention is to be found among the ancients, for they do not even preserve in purity the stamp of the Apostolic orthodoxy.” Apion, the Alexandrine grammarian

  1. Dr Armitage Robinson, in his edition of the Philocalia (extracts made c. 358 by Basil and Gregory from Origen’s writings), proved that the passage cited below is simply introduced as a parallel to an extract of Origen’s; while Dom Chapman, in the Journal of Theol. Studies, iii. 436 ff., made it probable that the passages in Origen’s Comm. on Matthew akin to those in the Opus Imperf. in Matth. are insertions in the former, which is extant only in a Latin version. Subsequently he suggested (Zeitsch. f. N. T. Wissenschaft, ix. 33 f.) that the passage in the Philocalia is due not to its authors but to an early editor, since it is the only citation not referred to Origen.