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

and foe of Judaism, whose criticism was answered by Josephus, appears in this character both in Homilies and Recognitions, though mainly in the former (iv. 6-vii. 5). Thus Eusebius implies (1) a spurious Clementine work containing matter found also in our Homilies at any rate; and (2) its quite recent origin. Next we note that an extract in the Philocalia is introduced as follows: “Yea, and Clement the Roman, a disciple of Peter the Apostle, after using words in harmony with these on the present problem, in conversation with his father at Laodicea in the Circuits, speaks a very necessary word for the end of arguments touching this matter, viz. those things which seem to have proceeded from genesis ( = astrological destiny), in the fourteenth book.” The extract answers to Recognitions, x. 10–13, but it is absent from our Homilies. Here we observe that (1) the extract agrees this time with Recognitions, not with Homilies; (2) its framework is that of the Clementine romance found in both; (3) the tenth and last book of Recognitions is here parallel to book xiv. of a work called Circuits (Periodoi).

This last point leads on naturally to the witness of Epiphanius (c. 375), who, speaking of Ebionites or Judaizing Christians of various sorts, and particularly the Essene type, says (Haer. xxx. 15) that “they use certain other books likewise, to wit, the so-called Circuits of Peter, which were written by the hand of Clement, falsifying their contents, though leaving a few genuine things.” Here Ephiphanius simply assumes that the Ebionite Circuits of Peter was based on a genuine work of the same scope, and goes on to say that the spurious elements are proved such by contrast with the tenor of Clement’s “encyclic epistles” (i.e. those to virgins, (2) above); for these enjoin virginity (celibacy), and praise Elijah, David, Samson, and all the prophets, whereas the Ebionite Circuits favour marriage (even in Apostles) and depreciate the prophets between Moses and Christ, “the true Prophet.” “In the Circuits, then, they adapted the whole to their own views, representing Peter falsely in many ways, as that he was daily baptized for the sake of purification, as these also do; and they say that he likewise abstained from animal food and meat, as they themselves also do.” Now all the points here noted in the Circuits can be traced in our Homilies and Recognitions, though toned down in different degrees.

The witness of the Arianizing Opus Imperfectum in Matthaeum (c. 400) is in general similar. Its usual form of citation is “Peter in Clement” (apud Clementem). This points to “Clement” as a brief title for the Clementine Periodoi, a title actually found in a Syriac MS. of A.D. 411 which contains large parts of Recognitions and Homilies, and twice used by Rufinus, e.g. when he proposes to inscribe his version of the Recognitions “Rufinus Clemens.” Rufinus in his preface to this work—in which for the first time we meet the title Recognition(s)—observes that there are two editions to which the name applies, two collections of books differing in some points but in many respects containing the same narrative. This he remarks in explanation of the order of his version in some places, which he feels may strike his friend Gaudentius as unusual, the inference being that the other edition was the better-known one, although it lacked “the transformation of Simon” (i.e. of Clement’s father into Simon’s likeness), which is common to the close both of our Recognitions and Homilies, and so probably belonged to the Circuits. We may assume, too (e.g. on the basis of our Syriac MS.), that the Greek edition of the Recognition(s) actually used by Rufinus was much nearer the text of the Periodoi of which we have found traces than we should imagine from its Latin form.

So far we have no sure trace of our Homilies at all, apart from the Syriac version. Even four centuries later, Photius, in referring to a collection of books called both Acts of Peter and the Recognition of Clement, does not make clear whether he means Homilies or Recognitions or either. “In all the copies which we have seen (and they are not a few) after those different epistles (viz. ‘Peter to James’ and ‘Clement to James,’ prefixed, the one in some MSS. the other in others) and titles, we found without variation the same treatise, beginning, I, Clement, &c.” But it is not clear that he had read more than the opening of these MSS. The fact that different epistles are prefixed to the same work leads him to conjecture “that there were two editions made of the Acts of Peter (his usual title for the collection), but in course of time the one perished and that of Clement prevailed.” This is interesting as anticipating a result of modern criticism, as will appear below. The earliest probable reference to our Homilies occurs in a work of doubtful date, the pseudo-Athanasian Synopsis, which mentions “Clementines, whence came by selection and rewriting the true and inspired form.” Here too we have the first sure trace of an expurgated recension, made with the idea of recovering the genuine form assumed, as earlier by Epiphanius, to lie behind an unorthodox recension of Clement’s narrative. As, moreover, the extant Epitome is based on our Homilies, it is natural to suppose it was also the basis of earlier orthodox recensions, one or more of which may be used in certain Florilegia of the 7th century and later. Nowhere do we find the title Homilies given to any form of the Clementine collection in antiquity.

(ii.) The Genesis of the Clementine Literature. It has been needful to cite so much of the evidence proving that our Homilies and Recognitions are both recensions of a common basis, at first known as the Circuits of Peter and later by titles connecting it rather with Clement, its ostensible author, because it affords data also for the historical problems touching (a) the contents and origin of the primary Clementine work, and (b) the conditions under which our extant recensions of it arose.

(a) The Circuits of Peter, as defined on the one hand by the epistle of Clement to James originally prefixed to it and by patristic evidence, and on the other by the common element in our Homilies and Recognitions, may be conceived as follows. It contained accounts of Peter’s teachings and discussions at various points on a route beginning at Caesarea, and extending northwards along the coast-lands of Syria as far as Antioch. During this tour he meets with persons of typically erroneous views, which it was presumably the aim of the work to refute in the interests of true Christianity, conceived as the final form of divine revelation—a revelation given through true prophecy embodied in a succession of persons, the chief of whom were Moses and the prophet whom Moses foretold, Jesus the Christ. The prime exponent of the spurious religion is Simon Magus. A second protagonist of error, this time of Gentile philosophic criticism directed against fundamental Judaism, is Apion, the notorious anti-Jewish Alexandrine grammarian of Peter’s day; while the rôle of upholder of astrological fatalism (Genesis) is played by Faustus, father of Clement, with whom Peter and Clement debate at Laodicea. Finally, all this is already embedded in a setting determined by the romance of Clement and his lost relatives, “recognition” of whom forms the dénouement of the story.

There is no reason to doubt that such, roughly speaking, were the contents of the Clementine work to which Eusebius alludes slightingly, in connexion with that section of it which had to his eye least verisimilitude, viz. the dialogues between Peter and Apion. Now Eusebius believed the work to have been of quite recent and suspicious origin. This points to a date about the last quarter of the 3rd century; and the prevailing doctrinal tone of the contents, as known to us, leads to the same result. The standpoint is that of the peculiar Judaizing or Ebonite Christianity due to persistence among Christians of the tendencies known among pre-Christian Jews as Essene. The Essenes, while clinging to what they held to be original Mosaism, yet conceived and practised their ancestral faith in ways which showed distinct traces of syncretism, or the operation of influences foreign to Judaism proper. They thus occupied an ambiguous position on the borders of Judaism. Similarly Christian Essenism was syncretist in spirit, as we see from its best-known representatives, the Elchasaites, of whom we first hear about 220, when a certain Alcibiades of Apamea in Syria (some 60 m. south of Antioch) brought to Rome the Book of Helxai—the manifesto of their distinctive message (Hippol., Philos. ix. 13)—and again some twenty years later, when Origen refers to one of their leaders as having lately arrived at Caesarea (Euseb. vi. 38).