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Monday, 24 August 2015

Supernatural Evil in the Apostolic Fathers (2): 2 Clement

This is the second in a series of posts in which I will be sharing some of the main exegetical findings from a larger study on Satan and demons in the Apostolic Fathers (AF). The study was occasioned in response to a study published online by Christadelphian apologist Jonathan Burke in which he argued that most of the Apostolic Fathers belonged to an early Christian tradition which rejected belief in supernatural evil. My study reached quite an opposite conclusion. However, in these blog posts I will not be interacting with Burke's arguments as in the main study; I will just be summarizing my main findings positively. If you're interested in the full picture along with references and bibliography, please see the main study.

2 Clement is a homily generally dated to the mid-second century A.D. It is universally agreed by modern scholars that the author was neither Clement of Rome nor the author of 1 Clement (if the latter two were different people).1 However, there is no evidence that the document is a forgery: the author does not name himself and the name Clement never occurs in the text. Indeed, the text we are about discuss (albeit for different reasons) highlights the author's unpretentious character.

There is one clear reference to supernatural evil in the document, at 2Clem 18.2, which reads as follows:
For even I myself am completely sinful and have not yet fled temptation and am still surrounded by the instruments of the Devil (τοῖς ὀργάνοις τοῦ διαβόλου).2
It appears that scholars are in unanimous agreement that τοῦ διαβόλου occurs in its usual sense in early Christian texts, as a technical term for the devil or Satan.3 That the term occurs in the immediate context of a reference to temptation (τὸν πειρασμόν) lends further support to this identification. The only obscure point in this text is the sense of the rare word ὄργανον ('tool' or 'instrument'),4 which never occurs in the New Testament. Some scholars think the term has a military connotation, and thus regard it as parallel to the imagery used for the devil in Eph. 6:11-17 (a passage in which the devil is unmistakably a supernatural being - see here).5 Others think the devil's 'tools' are unbelieving humans who lie in the devil's grasp.6 Either way, the imagery vividly depicts the devil as a wily adversary.

Like 1 Clement, this document makes only one cursory reference to Satan. However, the cursory nature of these references shows that for these writers and their audiences, this was a familiar, uncontroversial concept which needed no explanation.


  • 1 For introductory issues, see Ehrman, B.D. (2003). (Ed. & trans.). The Apostolic Fathers (Vol. 1). Cambridge: Harvard University Press, pp. 154-163; Parvis, P. (2006). 2 Clement and the Meaning of the Christian Homily. The Expository Times, 117(7), 265-270.
  • 2 Ehrman, op. cit., p. 195, trans.
  • 3 Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.) Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 226; Donfried, K.P. (1974). The Setting of Second Clement in Early Christianity. Leiden: Brill, p. 178; Elliott, J.H. (2000). 1 Peter: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. New York: Doubleday, p. 856; Klein, T. (2011). Bewährung in Anfechtung: der Jakobusbrief und der Erste Petrusbrief als christliche Diaspora-Briefe. Tübingen: Francke Verlag, p. 345 n. 640; Lampe, G.W.H. (1961). A Patristic Greek Lexicon, Vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 345; Lindemann, A. (1992). Die Clemensbriefe. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, p. 254; Pratscher, W. (2007). Der zweite Clemensbrief. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, p. 204; Tuckett, C. (2012). 2 Clement: Introduction, Text, and Commentary. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 289.
  • 4 Arndt et al, op. cit., p. 720.
  • 5 Lindemann, op. cit., p. 254; Pratscher, op. cit., p. 217.
  • 6 Arndt et al, op. cit., p. 226.

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