Clement I, Pope, St.

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Pontificate: 92 to 99 (or 68 to 76). Accurate biographical data on Clement of Rome are meager. His identity

with the Clement mentioned in Phil 4.3 or with the consul Titus Flavius Clemens, put to death for his faith by Emperor Domitian, is conjectural. There is no extant evidence to support the view that he was a convert from Judaism. Because of divergent notices in such early Christian writers as tertullian (De Praescriptione 32) and irenaeus (Adv. Haer. 3.3.3), and because of Epiphanius's efforts (Panarion 27.6) to reconcile the conflicting data, Clement's traditional third place (following Linus and Cletus) in the list of Peter's successors is not certain. His pontificate is usually assigned to the last decade of the 1st century. Accounts of his martyrdom are legendary, based on the Passio S. Clementis, written in either the 4th or 5th century.

First Epistle. In spite of biographical uncertainties, Clement of Rome is an important Apostolic Father whose eminence is founded on the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians. The text of the epistle nowhere claims Clement as its author; it states merely that the Church of Rome is writing to the Church of Corinth. Irenaeus (loc. cit. ), however, maintained that Clement was the author of that letter. He notes that during the episcopacy of Clement, the Church of Rome wrote a most fitting letter to the Church of Corinth. Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 4.23.11) quotes a letter written by dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, to Pope Soter shortly after the middle of the 2d century that clearly links the sending of the epistle with Clement. His name has thus been associated with the letter since early Christian antiquity and its authenticity is not questioned. The letter was considered inspired and was read in many churches of the subapostolic era. It has long been studied for evidence of the sojourn and martyrdom of Peter and Paul in Rome, for its dogmatic and juridical contents (the distinction between clergy and laity, the illicitness of depriving duly appointed officials of their office), and for references to the moral code and liturgy of the early Church in Rome.

Historical Background. The historical background of the epistle is still in need of clarification. Corinth was the administrative seat of the Roman province of Achaia and as a commercial center attracted large numbers of Greeks, Jews, and other peoples. In the course of his second missionary journey, St. Paul founded a flourishing Christian community there. Even during his lifetime strife and factions, among other disorders, caused serious problems for the community (1 Cor 1.1116). Apparently, similar conditions developed in the days of Clement during the last decade of the 1st century.

Structure. In structure, the epistle consists of an introduction (13), two main sections (436 and 3761), and a brief conclusion (6265). After calling attention to the once flourishing Christian community, Clement deplores the present factions and exhorts the community to penance, piety, humility, and hospitality, adding numerous quotations and examples from Scripture to each admonition. After reminding the Corinthians of the harmony in all creation and of God's goodness and omnipotence, he ends the first section with remarks on the resurrection and judgment and an exhortation to faith and good works. Stoic thought is an element in this doctrine, which, however, may have come from the OT sapiential books.

The second main section deals directly with the quarrel in the local Church. God requires order and obedience from all creatures, consequently obedience and discipline are necessary in the Church. Just as there were definite offices and duties established by God in the Old Law, so too Christ chose Apostles, who in turn appointed bishops and deacons to continue His work. The contentious elements among the Corinthians, the younger members, are exhorted to do penance as well as to be submissive.

The conclusion summarizes the exhortations and expresses the hope that the envoys who delivered the letter will return with the good news that peace has been reestablished. There is no evidence that the Church of Corinth appealed to the Church of Rome for an authoritative decision, nor does the tone of the epistle indicate that it is an official reply to a situation formally presented for action and solution. In fact, the letter clearly states that it gives counsel (58.2) and is making a request (59.2).

Salutation. The salutation of the epistle, "The Church of God which sojourns in Rome to the Church of God which sojourns in Corinth," echoes in its very wording the preoccupation of the subapostolic age with the imminence of the parousia, the second coming of Christ as judge. In a spirit of fraternal solidarity, the Church in Rome appeals to the Christian community in Corinth to restore peace and harmony, using language that is hortatory rather than peremptory. Since Clement wrote in the name of the community and not in his own name, many scholars conclude that the monarchical episcopate did not exist in Rome at that time and that a communal structure was likely. Furthermore, he uses episkopoi (overseers) and presbyteroi (elders) as equivalent terms, suggesting that those offices had not attained firm lines in Rome. Clement's allusions to Stoic philosophy and his citation of the phoenix as a natural proof of resurrection, show that the Roman community did not completely shun pagan culture.

The so-called Second Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians is not a letter, but rather a homily, written perhaps at Corinth by an unknown author, probably near the middle of the 2d century.

Feast: Nov. 23.

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[h. dressler]