Clement's Two Letters


Clement- Very little has been preserved concerning him before the third and fourth centuries. His name does not appear on either letter attributed to him but Eusebius of the fourth century wrote that Dionysius (perhaps Bishop of Corinth in 170) claimed Clement as the author of the first letter. According to Irenaeus (130-202) and Tertullian (160-225) Clement was the Bishop of Rome  between 92-96. Tertullian writes that Clement was the first Bishop after Peter, Irenaeus writes that he was the fourth Bishop after Peter, while Jerome (347-420) wrote that he was the third Bishop after Peter. Howbeit, it is commonly believed that the position of such a monarchical bishop probably didn't even exist in Clement's age.

Two letters are ascribed to him. The first is a letter to the Church at Corinth from the Church at Rome. Clement may have written it for the Roman Church but there is no evidence that it was actually from him. Its date is most likely before the destruction of Jerusalem because the letter alludes to the sacrifices then being offered in the temple at Jerusalem.

Not just anywhere, brothers, are the continual daily sacrifices offered, or the freewill offerings, or the offerings for sin and trespasses, but only in Jerusalem. And even there the offering is not made in every place, but in front of the sanctuary at the altar, the offering having been first inspected for blemish by the high priest and the previously mentioned ministers (41:2-3).

As this temple and sanctuary and altar were all destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70, we are well within the bounds of logic to conclude that the letter was written before that destruction. If the author was a believer, as seems likely, then he most likely was gathered together into Christ's kingdom in A.D. 70. Regardless, events depicted in the letter must be understood to refer to events before the fall of Jerusalem.

Here are a few to consider.

Truly his purpose will be accomplished quickly and suddenly, just as the Scripture also testifies: "He will come quickly and not delay; and the Lord will come suddenly into his temple, even the holy one whom you expect." [23:5]

Let us consider, dear friends, how the Master continually points out to us the coming resurrection of which he made the Lord Jesus Christ the firstfruit when he raised him from the dead. [24:1]

For he forewarns us: "Behold, the Lord comes, and his reward is with him, to pay each one according to his work." [34:3]

For he says: "Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and it has not entered into the heart of man, what great things he has prepared for those who patiently wait for him." [34:8]

Let us therefore make every effort to be found in the number of those who patiently wait for him, so that we may share in his promised gifts." [35:4]

Having therefore received their orders and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and full of faith in the Word of God, they [the apostles] went forth with the firm assurance that the Holy Spirit gives, preaching the good news that the kingdom of God was about to come. [42:3]

All the generations from Adam to this day have passed away, but those who by God's grace were perfected in love have a place among the godly, who will be revealed when the kingdom of Christ [some texts have instead God] visits us. [50:3]

It is reasonable to conclude that such a letter could not have been written thirty or forty years after the destruction of Jerusalem.

The nature of the second letter commonly referred to as Clement's, is aptly and briefly described by  Michael W. Holmes in his edition of Lightfoot's translation of The Apostolic Fathers, pg 65.

The so-called second letter of Clement is not a letter, nor is it by Clement. It is, in fact, a sermon or "word of exhortation" composed by an anonymous presbyter (17:3). It is the oldest complete Christian sermon that has survived. Based upon a text from Isaiah (54:1; see 2:2), it presents a call to repentance, purity, and steadfastness in the face of persecution. Little or nothing, however, is known about its author, date, or occasion.

The range of guesses to its date are extreme to say the least. We will give a few quotes from the actual sermon for the reader to consider.

Moreover you know, brothers, that our stay in this world of the flesh is insignificant and transitory, but the promise of Christ is great and marvelous; rest in the coming kingdom and eternal life! [5:5]

Let us wait, therefore, hour by hour for the kingdom of God in love and righteousness, since we do not know the day of God's appearing. [12:1]

For the Lord said, "I am coming to gather together all the nations, tribes, and languages." Now by this he means the day of his appearing, when he will come and redeem us, each according to his deeds. [17:4]

For I myself am utterly sinful and have not yet escaped from temptation; but even though I am surrounded by the tools of the devil, I make every effort to pursue righteousness, that I may succeed in at least getting close to it, because I fear the coming judgment. [18:2]

Let us, therefore, practice righteousness, that we may be saved in the end. Blessed are they who obey these injunctions; though they may endure affliction for a little while in the world, they will gather the immortal fruit of the resurrection. [19:3]

All of these statements definitely point to a time before Christ's return, and we see no evidence that requires us to date the letter after the fall of Jerusalem.