Good Question...were the Apostolic Fathers unable to distinguish between authentic and unauthentic books?



(Part Two: Created August 28, 1998) 

Continuing from Part One...

In the last piece, we saw that the answer to Part One of this question:

1. Was Clement even aware of the NT documents, and, if so, was he aware of the written form of the NT documents, especially the Gospels? ...was a decided "YES", and so we move on to the next Part of the question: 2. What was his attitude toward the NT material? Was he influenced by it, did he consider it authoritative, was it on a par with the OT? What does his usage patterns tell us?
 
The first step is to establish a methodology for determining the answer to this question. We might look for things like: 1. Are there any explicit comments about the NT materials?

2. Does he mix OT and NT allusions/connections indiscriminately?

3. Does he use the same or similar introductory phrases?

4. Does he seem to appeal to it as authoritative (or at least the allusions/connections as being 'binding')?

5. How much from each testament does he "use", and what implications from this might we be warranted in drawing?

 

Let's see what we can glean from the data in each one of these areas...

 
1. Are there any explicit comments about the NT materials?

Some.

First, we note (as does the questioner) that the words of Jesus are put on a par with the OT Scriptures.

This is clear from a number of passages:

In 1CL 2.1, we see that Christ's words are God's words: "Moreover, ye were all distinguished by humility, and were in no respect puffed up with pride, but yielded obedience rather than extorted it, and were more willing to give than to receive. Content with the provision which God had made for you, and carefully attending to His words, ye were inwardly filled with His doctrine, and His sufferings were before your eyes."

In 1CL 13, we have already seen that Christ's words were written, and are put on a par with the OT "holy word" at the end of the passage as well: "Let us therefore, brethren, be of humble mind, laying aside all haughtiness, and pride, and foolishness, and angry feelings; and let us act according to that which is written (for the Holy Spirit saith, "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, neither let the rich man Story in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in the Lord, in diligently seeking Him, and doing judgment and righteousness" ), being especially mindful of the words of the Lord Jesus which He spake, teaching us meekness and long-suffering. For thus He spoke: "Be ye merciful, that ye may obtain mercy; forgive, that it may be forgiven to you ; as ye do, so shall it be done unto you; as ye judge, so shall ye be judged; as ye are kind, so shall kindness be shown to you; with what measure ye mete, with the same it shall be measured to you." By this precept and by these rules let us establish ourselves, that we walk with all humility in obedience to His holy words. For the holy word saith, "On whom shall I look, but on him that is meek and peaceable, and that trembleth at My words? "

In 1CL 22.1f, Christ is said to have authored a Psalm, through the Holy Spirit: "Now the faith which is in Christ confirms all these [admonitions]. For He Himself by the Holy Ghost thus addresses us: "Come, ye children, hearken unto Me; I will teach you the fear of the Lord..."

 

Second, the apostles are compared to Moses, and the apostolic teaching to the written Mosaic Law.
 
This is apparent from the argument in 43-44. In 43, Moses is held up as a source of teaching, which is the target of sedition: "And what wonder is it if those in Christ who were entrusted with such a duty by God, appointed those [ministers] before mentioned, when the blessed Moses also, "a faithful servant in all his house," noted down in the sacred books all the injunctions which were given him, and when the other prophets also followed him, bearing witness with one consent to the ordinances which he had appointed? For, when rivalry arose concerning the priesthood...What think ye, beloved? Did not Moses know beforehand that this would happen?"
 
And in 44, the pattern is applied to the Apostles: [EXCURSUS--"Levels" of inspiration: It should be remembered, that for all the attempts of Clement to derive the authority of the deposed elders/bishops from the Apostolic authority, he nonetheless recognized some uniqueness of the apostles. Their teaching, via the Holy Spirit, was still qualitatively different. This can be seen in three ways.

1. He sets up their direct link to Christ in 42: "The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe" (notice they did NOT set up 'apostles', but rather 'bishops and deacons')

2. Peter and Paul are distinguished in chapter 5 from other saints in chapter 6. After eulogizing the OT saints in chapter 4, Clement introduces the apostles in chapter 5 thus: "But not to dwell upon ancient examples, let us come to the most recent spiritual heroes. Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the Church] have been persecuted and put to death. Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles." In chapter 6, in which he moves on to "regular" martyrs, he distinguishes them from the apostles: "To these men who spent their lives in the practice of holiness, there is to be added a great multitude of the elect..."

3. The apostles are likewise given a higher status in chapter 47: "Take up the epistle of the blessed Apostle Paul. What did he write to you at the time when the Gospel first began to be preached? Truly, under the inspiration of the Spirit, he wrote to you concerning himself, and Cephas, and Apollos, because even then parties had been formed among you. But that inclination for one above another entailed less guilt upon you, inasmuch as your partialities were then shown towards apostles, already of high reputation, and towards a man whom they had approved."

This impacts our study here only slightly. The Fathers (like teachers today) will claim to speak God's words and/or to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, but only in what might be called a "local only impact zone". In other words, the inspiration of the Apostles was of a higher order, and hence of usefulness to the Church Global (and hence, canonized), whereas the latter teachers' inspiration was designed only for a local community or local issue.

Clement is no exception to this. He can claim to speak the words of God (59.1: "what God has told them through us") and that his epistle was prompted/written though the Holy Spirit (63.2). But it is clear that he considered the Apostolic authority to be significantly greater than his own--indeed, on a par with the OT authority (see below). END EXCURSUS]

 

Third, there is the explicit mention of Paul's letter to the Corinithians in 47.1: "Take up the epistle of the blessed Apostle Paul. What did he write to you at the time when the Gospel first began to be preached? Upon (epi) true (aletheias) Spirit-inspiration (pneumatikos), he wrote to you concerning himself, and Cephas, and Apollos, because even then parties had been formed among you" Although we cannot press this too far, given the differential between Patristic authority and Apostolic authority, this amounts to a high claim of 'biblical inspiration.' Indeed, the standard Greek lexicon of the period (BAG, s.v. "pneumatikos") translates this as " full of the (divine) Spirit, he wrote to you".

However, the fact that this argument from Paul is used immediately after the words of Jesus in 1CL46, lends credence to the idea that Clement saw the epistle as quite authoritative and binding upon his audience.
 
So, in this first aspect--explicit mention--we see that:

(1) Jesus is put on a par with the OT;

(2) the Apostles (and their instructions) are put on a par with Moses (and his instructions--the Mosaic Law);

(3) Paul's epistle is accorded very, very high authority, and is used in argument along ide the words of Jesus.

 

This would strongly suggest that the NT documents were understood as 'inspired' by Clement.

................................................................................................................................

2. Does he mix OT and NT allusions/connections indiscriminately?

 
Here we want to look at the patterns of conflations
 
Let's consider a couple of passages:
 
 
Let's look first at 1CL 27, and lay out the possible connections, phrase-by-phrase.

 

The thing to notice here is that 1CL mixes indiscriminately--without ANY markers, formulae, or "clues"--OT quotes (Ps 19, Dan 4.35), OT allusions (Ps 139, Ps 119), NT quotes (Lk 1.37, Heb4.13; 6.18), and NT allusions (2 Peter 3; Col 3.9). This argues quite strongly that 1CL made no distinctions in authority, teaching appropriateness, and 'inspiration' between the OT and NT.
 

I might also point out that the comment in 27.2 ("He commanded us not to lie"), if indeed a reference to Col 3.9 and the related NT passages--instead of the more remote OT passages bearing on 'false witness'--makes God the author of Paul's epistle to the Colossians! This would represent inspiration at the same level (e.g., dual authorship) of the OT Scripture.
 

To show that this is not an isolated phenomena, let's look at another passage in this same way, 1CL 34:

 

Notice that you have NT and OT connections intermingled here, but also notice something strange about the citation formulae:

  1. "And thus He forewarns us" introduces a conflation of OT, and possible one NT, passages.
  2. "He exhorts us" introduces a conflation of NT quotes, taken from Titus et. al.
  3. "For the Scripture says" introduces a conflation of OT quotes, but definitely influenced by the NT.
  4. "For He says" introduces a verbatim quote from the NT, but which is probably meant to be from the OT.
Number Two above indicates that 1CL could introduce NT texts with a 'high inspiration' intro formula!
 
 
Let's consider one final passage, 1CL 38. (here I will omit material without close parallel/connection) The main thing to notice here is that embedded in the middle of a string of NT allusions is an OT allusion--without marker or discriminating clues, and the string finishes up with an OT cite, rounded out with some verbiage from the NT. It looks as if 1CL made no practical distinction between his use of the OT and his use of the NT.
 
So, from the survey of three passages, we have gleaned:  
Thus, the pattern of usage of 1CL in mixed passages indicates no distinction between OT and NT material.
 
................................................................................................................................
 
3. Does he use the same or similar introductory phrases?

Here we want to see if any of the introductory phrases, which we saw applied to the OT, also occur in front of NT connections.

The first thing to note is that almost half of the OT connections have no introduction at all, and that we have identified (in part One) several NT connections that fell into the same pattern.

The second thing to note is that we could probably find introductory formulas applied to NT material, if we looked more at the 'closer parallels' than simply assuming a direct OT background. We saw specifically (above, for example):

To this we could certainly add the epithet "commandments of God/the Lord", for in chapters one and two of 1CL, he describes their faithfulness to a string of NT injunctions, and then twice says they were obedient to the "commandments of God/the Lord": "For who ever dwelt even for a short time among you, and did not find your faith to be as fruitful of virtue as it was firmly established? Who did not admire the sobriety and moderation of your godliness in Christ? Who did not proclaim the magnificence of your habitual hospitality? And who did not rejoice over your perfect and well-grounded knowledge? For ye did all things without respect of persons, and walked in the commandments of God, being obedient to those who had the rule over you, and giving all fitting honour to the presbyters among you. Ye enjoined young men to be of a sober and serious mind; ye instructed your wives to do all things with a blameless, becoming, and pure conscience, loving their husbands as in duty bound; and ye taught them that, living in the rule of obedience, they should manage their household affairs becomingly, and be in every respect marked by discretion. (from 1CL 1)
 
"Moreover, ye were all distinguished by humility, and were in no respect puffed up with pride, but yielded obedience rather than extorted it, and were more willing to give than to receive. Content with the provision which God had made for you, and carefully attending to His words, ye were inwardly filled with His doctrine, and His sufferings were before your eyes. Thus a profound and abundant peace was given to you all, and ye had an insatiable desire for doing good, while a full outpouring of the Holy Spirit was upon you all. Full of holy designs, ye did, with true earnestness of mind and a godly confidence, stretch forth your hands to God Almighty, beseeching Him to be merciful unto you, if ye had been guilty of any involuntary transgression. Day and night ye were anxious for the whole brotherhood, that the number of God's elect might be saved with mercy and a good conscience. Ye were sincere and uncorrupted, and forgetful of injuries between one another. Every kind of faction and schism was abominable in your sight. Ye mourned over the transgressions of your neighbours: their deficiencies you deemed your own. Ye never grudged any act of kindness, being "ready to every good work." Adorned by a thoroughly virtuous and religious life, ye did all things in the fear of God. The commandments and ordinances of the Lord were written upon the tablets of your hearts.(chapter two)
Even a cursory glance at the above will reveal a mass of NT 'specialty' motifs, all subsumed under the rubric of "the commandments of" God or the Lord. This not only demonstrates the divine authority of the NT motifs, but even the God-originated character of them. In short, they were inspired at the 'commandments level' (i.e., Moses)!
 
The third thing to note is that the word "scripture" is not applied to it, but this is of little practical import. Given that NT connections are "written", "commandments of the Lord", "commandments of God", and God-authored (e.g., "God exhorts us..."), the lack of applying the word 'scripture' to them is apparently only a historical note. That those closest to the activity of the Spirit (e.g., Paul and Peter) could recognize the NT material as 'scripture' counts more than the lack of use of the term in Clement's writing. [I personally suspect that the term was merely a traditional-use term, for the 'venerable' scrolls of the Tanakh/OT, which were in less circulation than the more 'common' codex-forms of most of the NT documents. Eventually, as we shall see, even this traditional usage gave way to the sheer power of the NT to impress upon its readers the divine character of its docs.]
 
Hagner understands this lack of attribution of "scripture" to the apostolic writings as being a non-issue. He discusses the several factors which probably contributed to this phenomena, but consistently points out that they were treated as being as authoritative as the OT writings. So HI:UONTCL:341, 343]: "How are we to account for the fact that these apostolic writings did not immediately take their place beside the OT as 'Scripture'? In view of the high authority ascribed by Clement and the Apostolic Fathers to Christ and the Apostles, it is wrong to suggest that the words and writings of the latter were regarded as inferior to the OT Scriptures in authority. The explanation seems to lie in a complex of attendant circumstances, rather than in any deficiency of intrinsic merit."
 
"A very important reason...for the reluctance to refer to apostolic writings as 'Scripture' is simply that it had not become customary to do so. The term 'Scripture' and the formula 'It is written' were convenient for reference to a more or less clearly defined body of writings which the Church had inherited from Judaism. Despite the acknowledged authority of the apostolic writings--an authority which at least implicitly equaled that of the OT--it was no small innovation to apply the title to the newer writings, thereby going against traditional usage. Moreover, since these writings bore the authority of Christ, it is quite possible that in the early Church no need was felt for designating them 'Scripture'--and no advantage either, since the Jews would simply dispute the claim. Accordingly, the impetus for such designation may well have been lacking, at least prior to the time of Marcion."
So, the intro formulas seem to indicate a parity between the OT and NT documents (despite the lack of using the word 'scripture').
 
................................................................................................................................
 
4. Does he seem to appeal to it as authoritative (or at least the allusions/connections as being 'binding')?

This we have already noted above, esp. in regards to (a) the introductory formula and (b) the pattern of weaving OT and NT connections together into single arguments.
 
We might also note here the intermingling of OT and NT in the great argument form of 1CL 46-47. In this section, Clement uses the following warrants:

 
This mingling of material, in such a short section of argument, can leave no doubt that they all are cut from the same cloth--the OT, the gospel material, and the NT apostolic writings.
 
What we keep seeing, is that the very texture of 1CL reveals the high status accorded to the NT writings, and its usage in authoritative contexts and conflation illustrate this quite clearly.
 
................................................................................................................................
 
5. How much from each testament does he "use", and what implications from this might we be warranted in drawing?
 
There are essentially two points to look at here.
 
First we need to note the massive amount of NT material in 1CL. In part One, I had built a table of OT citations/connections (111 or so), and the same thing for NT connections (200+). Given this mix of material, in a book roughly the size of 1 Corinthians or Romans, we should be careful in drawing any contrasts between Clement's attitudes to the OT and to the NT. Citation formulae aside, the very intermingled usage is clear in its import.

 
But the second point is the one raised by the questioner:

Why is he not eager to quote from the gospels and the NT letters? (Nearly all his teaching is from the OT)
 
Let me make some observations about this: With all of this in mind, I personally have my theory on why he didn't use the same OT citation style as frequently for the NT arguments:
 
1. First of all, it seems clear to me that he is trying to demonstrate that the "upstarts" in Corinth had broken with tradition much older than even the NT. It would serve his purpose better to use OT examples and OT maxims to prove his point, than more novel and recent NT materials. This can be seen quite clearly in his argument from apostolic 'method' in 42.4-5: "The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done sol from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. And this was no new method, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus saith the Scripture in a certain place, "I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith."
 
2. This emphasis on 'continuity' and 'antiquity', besides being a dominant value in Roman life, was consistently used and pointed out by Clement, in a way that NT material would be useless to him: In chapter 7.5, he argues "Let us review all the generations, and let us learn that in generation after generation the Master has given a place of repentance to those who will turn to him"

In 19.1, he argues concerning the "generations before us"

In 31.1, he calls the readers to ponder the old: "Let us cleave then to His blessing, and consider what are the means of possessing it. Let us think over the things which have taken place from the beginning. For what reason was our father Abraham blessed?"

In 42.5, we have the comment we noted above about "no new method"

In 45, his argument is that the bad-guys of Corinth were just like the bad-guys of the OT. The whole argument needs a wealth of examples from the OT, to demonstrate that their "wickedness" had been judged by God previously.

In 62, he refers again to "even as our fathers, whose example we quoted".

 

3. Clement is not just going for 'antiquity', but he also wants to argue from quantity. In 63.1 he states: "It is therefore right that we should respect so many and so great examples...." Any such argument from example--if trying to build a case from quantity--is simply going to be forced to get most of its material from the OT.
 
4. Additionally, there is a distinct possibility that Clement is trying to "look apostolic" in the letter, adding force to his arguments. His very deliberate imitation of the style of Paul and of the author of Hebrews shows he is going for this effect, but his lack of citing them may indicate a desire on his part to not draw attention to the gap in authority between himself and his sources. In other words, if Clement had said "Submit to your elders, as the apostle Peter said" , then this would have been a tacit admission that Clement did not possess the requisite authority to command them. And this may have been a point that Clement did NOT want to bring up, since technically speaking, at 95ad the church at Rome had no "authority" over Corinth in any real sense of the word. He could use apostolic forms and terms and arguments, and as long as he didn't cite them, then he stood the chance of being perceived at 'apostolic level', as he actually was briefly. [1CL was accepted as canonical scripture briefly in Egypt, being cited as 'scripture' by Clement of Alexandria, and it was included in a few NT canonical lists in Syria for a short period of time.]

Richardson points out that the fine line between "influence" and "authority" was only now being developed in early thinking [HI:ECF:35-36]:

 
5. The above points make sense from the nature of Clement's argument, but I personally think that a more fundamental reason exists. I personally am convinced that the NT materials do not support his thesis to begin with! Apart from the more generic comments of Jesus on humility and meekness (which Clement uses), I am hard pressed to find any other sections in the Gospels that support Clement's position! Jesus seemed to be constantly rejecting the leadership of Judaism--even setting up a "sect" of Judaism(!)--and the one passage that might be useful to Clement (i.e., telling the healed leper "to do what those that sit in Moses' seat command"), would end up being a condemnation of the elders he wanted re-instated! I can almost visualize the Corinthians, in response, using the Parable of the Wicked Tenants against Clement!
 
And Clement's hero and role-model Paul might present the same problem. The general sections on love, humility, and unity Clement uses, but the passages on false apostles, 'wolves from among your midst' , his public rebuke of Peter, his rejection of some local leaders (cf. John's similar action in 3 Jn 9), and his seeming lack of authority-based action in Galatians (cf. the "reputed to be pillars" texts) might render much of Paul's material (other than the pro-hierarchy material that he does use) counter-productive to Clement.
 
It is certainly thought by many that Clement is considerably at variance with Pauline thought (so ABD, HI:ECF). Note Richardson's summary in HI:ECF:39: So, between the method of Clement's argument (i.e. that the recent activity in Corinth is against the entire tradition of God throughout history) and possible lack of suitable NT materials to support his argument, it makes perfect sense why he would not and could not cite the NT materials any more than he did!
 

I cannot help but believe--given the argument of the book--that had Clement found suitable materials in the NT, he would have used them.

So, where does this leave us?

 ...................................................................................................................................................................................
 

So, I have to conclude on the basis of the textual and literary data, that the answer to the question:

2. What was his attitude toward the NT material? Was he influenced by it, did he consider it authoritative, was it on a par with the OT? What did his usage patterns tell us? ...is that 1CL held the NT material to be on a par with the OT material.
 
.............................................................................................................................
 
But as our questioner noted, there seems to be some non-canonical material in 1CL, and we must now get to the next question: 3. What does his alleged use of non-canonical sources tell us about his (1) attitude toward the canonical material; and (2) his ability to distinguish between the two? in the next section...

Glenn Miller,

August 29, 1998


The Christian ThinkTank...[http://www.Christian-thinktank.com] (Reference Abbreviations)