dianoigo blog
Showing posts with label Clement of Rome. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Clement of Rome. Show all posts

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

The intermediate state in 1 Clement (part 2)

In the previous post, we noted the claim of Christadelphian apologist Dave Burke that the core theological teachings of 1 Clement correspond exactly to those of Christadelphians today. We found that, although this claim has repeatedly been portrayed as factual information by Dave in his interactions with Christadelphian audiences, it is in fact at odds with contemporary scholarship. In particular, we surveyed the scholarly literature concerning Clement's individual eschatology and found that most scholars agree that Clement believed in an intermediate state for the righteous dead prior to the resurrection; some scholars explicitly locate this post-mortem existence in heaven.

We now turn to a closer exegesis of the relevant passages in 1 Clement. Perhaps the most significant is 1 Clement 5.3-6.2, already quoted in the previous post but reproduced here for convenience:
3. We should set before our eyes the good apostles. 4. There is Peter, who because of unjust jealousy bore up under hardships not just once or twice, but many times; and having thus borne his witness he went to the place of glory that he deserved. 5. Because of jealousy and strife Paul pointed the way to the prize for endurance. 6. Seven times he bore chains; he was sent into exile and stoned; he served as a herald in both the East and the West; and he received the noble reputation for his faith. 7. He taught righteousness to the whole world, and came to the limits of the West, bearing his witness before the rulers. And so he was set free from this world and transported up to the holy place, having become the greatest example of endurance. 6.1. To these men who have conducted themselves in such a holy way there has been added a great multitude of the elect, who have set a superb example among us by the numerous torments and tortures they suffered because of jealousy. 2. Women were persecuted as Danaids and Dircae and suffered terrifying and profane torments because of jealousy. But they confidently completed the race of faith, and though weak in body, they received a noble reward. (1 Clement 5.3-6.2)1
A person with the user name Evangelion, whom I believe was Dave, discussed this passage on a Christadelphian web forum in 2005 and offered the following explanation:
‘I see no reference to heaven (or any form of afterlife) in these passages. I see only a reference to the reward of superlative rank that was promised to him (“…the place of glory due to him… the holy place”) with the word “place” here signifying not a literal abode but a position of authority. The truth of this interpretation is confirmed by Clement’s use of the phrase “due to him”, which makes no sense in the context of a place to which one departs (how can a literal place be “due” to someone?) but perfect sense in the context of a glorious promotion to the heavenly host. It is also vindicated by the New Testament, which is replete with similar language; not least from the writings of Peter himself.’2
It is unclear exactly how Dave conceives of a 'glorious promotion to the heavenly host', a 'position of authority' which yet does not constitute 'any form of afterlife'. It is not obvious how a person who is in no sense alive could receive such a promotion. However, let us for the sake of argument assume the internal consistency of Dave's interpretation.

Evangelion/Dave also comments on 1 Clement 44.4-5, which contains language relevant to our passage. It reads thus in Ehrman’s translation:
Indeed we commit no little sin if we remove from the bishop’s office those who offer the gifts in a blameless and holy way. How fortunate are the presbyters who passed on before, who enjoyed a fruitful and perfect departure from this life. For they have no fear that someone will remove them from the place (topos) established for them.3
Evangelion/Dave writes concerning 1 Clement 44.5:
As in the passage which spoke of Peter’s reward, "the place appointed for them" here is clearly a reward of rank, as opposed to an actual location (such as heaven.) This is confirmed by the context, which makes repeated references to the presbyters' "office", "place" and "ministry."
The key claim is that topos (‘place’) in 1 Clement 5.4, 5.7 does not refer to a location, an abode, but to a position of authority. Evangelion/Dave makes three arguments in favour of this interpretation. 

(1) It is said that the phrase ‘due to him’ (Greek: opheilomenon) makes no sense in relation to a literal place. However, this is not an exegetical argument but merely an assertion for which no lexical or other evidence is provided. If the ‘place’ to which Peter went is construed as a reward (as it clearly is, given the parallel expression ‘noble reward’ in 1 Clement 6.2), then prima facie it is reasonable that it be called his due. Moreover, the same word is used in a similar way by Polycarp in his Letter to the Philippians 9.2, where he says concerning the apostles that ‘they are in the place they deserved, with the Lord’ (kai hoti eis ton opheilomenon autois topon eisi para tō kuriō). Here it seems that topos denotes a location since it is 'with the Lord'.4 Also comparable is Barnabas 19.1, which uses a different word but has a similar idea: ‘Anyone who wants to travel to the place that has been appointed (ton hōrismenon topon) should be diligent in his works.’

(2) It is claimed that the New Testament is replete with similar language confirming his interpretation of topos in 1 Clement 5.4 and 5.7. However, none of the New Testament passages he cites use the word topos, and none of them explicitly refer to something gained immediately after death. Hence, they provide no support for Evangelion/Dave's interpretation of topos in 1 Clement 5.4 and 5.7.

(3) It is claimed that topos in 1 Clement 44.5 refers to an office or rank is highly plausible and, since this would provide a precedent for interpreting topos in the same way in 1 Clement 5.4 and 5.7, it represents the strongest aspect of Evangelion/Dave's argument. It does appear that the place (topos) established for the presbyters who have departed from this life is a position, given the contrast with removal from office in v. 4.5 However, it is possible that there is wordplay here, so that topos simultaneously refers to the presbyters' permanent position as well as the transcendent location of reward. A likely parallel to such wordplay is found in Acts 1:24-25:
And they prayed and said, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place (topos) in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place (topos)." (ESV)
A quick survey of scholarly interpretations of the last clause of v. 25 is in order. Apparently the majority view is that 'his own place' refers to 'a transcendent region related to one's final destiny...In this case...a place of punishment after death'.6 Johnson thinks there is a double entendre so that Judas’ ‘own place’ refers both to his ‘place of final destiny’ and ‘the abandonment of the apostolic circle symbolized by his purchasing of his property’.7

A different, but still spatial, interpretation of ‘his own place’ is Keener’s, who interprets it simply as ‘the field he bought, where he met his gory end’.8 McCabe thinks ‘his own place’ refers to Judas’ ‘solitary and shameful death’;9 this is still a quasi-spatial interpretation. Van de Water thinks this clause alludes to Psalm 36:36 LXX where the plight of the wicked is described thus: ‘and his place was not found.’10 However, this text does not help to explain what place Judas did find according to Acts 1:25 (and van de Water does not elaborate on this point). Whitlock regards Acts 1:24-25 as a poem in which the repetition of the word ‘place’ plays an important role: ‘The place of service is contrasted with Judas’s own place. The contrast is made explicit by the repetition of topos’. Whitlock does not clearly opt for an exclusively spatial or metaphorical meaning of Judas’ own place, but says it leaves readers ‘with a tragically precise summation of Judas’s conflict and fate’.11

If topos can be used poetically in Acts 1:25a and 1:25c to refer to Judas’ position and to his spatial location or destiny respectively (and possibly takes on spatial and positional meanings in 1:25c), then such multivalence should also be regarded as a possibility in 1 Clement 44.5. That topos refers at least partly to a transcendent reward and not merely an office in 1 Clement 44.5 is argued by Hill12 and suggested as a possibility by Lindemann13 Lona regards τόπος in this text as an office only.14

Thus, while the context suggests a metaphorical meaning for topos as 'office' or 'position' in 1 Clement 44.5, it is plausible that there is wordplay here and that a spatial sense is also intended, referring to the presbyters' place of reward. Even if topos takes an exclusively metaphorical sense in 1 Clement 44.5, this does not necessarily mean it takes on an exclusively metaphorical sense in 1 Clement 5.4, 7. This passage must be considered on its own terms. Below are six exegetical arguments which, collectively, in my view, represent a compelling case for interpreting topos spatially in 1 Clement 5.4, 7 (more specifically, as referring to the heavenly sanctuary) and thus concluding that Clement believed in an intermediate state.

(1) Religion-historical parallels adduced by Hill strongly support a heavenly interpretation of 'the place of glory' and 'the holy place' to which Peter and Paul respectively are said to have gone. Concerning the 'holy place' he notes the following important background:
τὰ ἅγια is the customary name used by the author of Hebrews for the holy place, or the holy of holies, whether the earthly (9.8[?], 25; 13.11) or the heavenly (8.2; 9.12, 24; 10.19). It is moreover significant that in Hebrews, which almost certainly Clement knows,15 we have clear evidence of the belief that the "spirits of just men made perfect" now congregate at the cultic precincts of the heavenly Mount Zion (12.22-4).16
A further parallel is adduced from 'Clement's Jewish contemporary at Rome, Josephus' from Bellum Judaicum 3.374:
in accordance with the law of nature and repay the loan which they received from God, when He who lent it is pleased to reclaim it, win eternal renown (κλέος);17 that their houses and families are secure; that their souls, remaining spotless and obedient, are allotted the most holy place in heaven (χῶρον οὐράνιον λαχοῦσαι τὸν ἁγιώτατον), whence, in the revolution of the ages, they return to find in chaste bodies a new habitation.18
Hill comments that 'This teaching is remarkable for its resemblance to that of 1 Clement' and 'In it the "most holy place" is expressly set in heaven'.19 Finally, Hill adduces 'another document of Roman Christian provenance' which 'Within a few decades'20 of 1 Clement portrays 'the celestial lot of Christian martyrs after death as the "right hand portion of the sanctuary" (τοῦ ἁγιάσματος) (Hermas, Vis 3.1.9; 3.2.1), a place also characterized by glory.'21

These religion-historical parallels from Hebrews, Josephus and Hermas support interpreting ‘the holy place’ as a reference to the heavenly sanctuary. To this can be added some relevant OT texts. Throughout the OT, a part of the earthly sanctuary is denoted ‘the holy place’22 and in certain instances the mountain of the Lord (Ps. 24:3; Ps. 68:5 cp. 68:17) or God’s heavenly dwelling-place (Isa. 26:21) is described as God’s ‘holy place.’23 If you asked a person steeped in Second Temple Judaism what ‘the holy place’ (or ‘the place of glory’) was (note the presence of the article in Greek), he would no doubt tell you either that it was the earthly sanctuary (the temple), or the heavenly sanctuary (of which the earthly is merely a copy, according to Heb. 9:24). Since Clement obviously does not mean that Peter and Paul went to the Jerusalem temple, he must mean they went to the heavenly sanctuary. There is, to my knowledge, not one instance in the OT, Second Temple Jewish literature, or early Christian literature where ‘the holy place’ takes on any other spatial meaning, much less a metaphorical meaning such as an office or position! Certainly Dave has not produced any such evidence that suggests otherwise.

(2) There is a text-critical issue concerning the verb used in the description of Paul’s martyrdom in 1 Clement 5.7. Holmes’ critical text follows the two Greek manuscripts in reading ἐπορεύθη, and so he translates, ‘he thus departed from the world and went to the holy place.’24 Ehrman’s critical text, however, follows the Latin, Coptic and Syriac versions in reading ἀνελήμφθη, and so he translates, ‘he was set free from this world and transported up to the holy place.’25 This reading is also favoured by Hill,26 as well as Arndt et al.27 That ἀνελήμφθη is not attested in any extant Greek manuscript is not very significant, because the presence of equivalent verbs in Syriac, Latin and Coptic versions essentially proves the existence of a Greek textual tradition that read ἀνελήμφθη, since it is extremely unlikely that three translators would have made the same semantic change independently. If Ehrman’s text has the correct reading, then Paul explicitly ascended to the holy place, which supports its spatial location in heaven.

(3) Even the verb poreuō (in 5.4 and in the Greek manuscripts 5.7) usually takes on the spatial meaning ‘go’. The only metaphorical meanings attested in Arndt et al are ‘to conduct oneself’ and ‘to die’,28 neither of which are possible in this context. Certainly, for an expression consisting of a verb (‘go’) and a noun (‘place’) which both have a spatial meaning as their primary sense, a spatial interpretation is most natural.

(4) In 1 Clement 5.7, the explicit contrast between ‘this world’ (the place from which Paul departed or was set free;29 cf. John 13:1; 1 Cor. 5:10) and ‘the holy place’ implies spatial movement. ‘This world’ is not an office or position. It is a place; an abode.

(5) In 1 Clement 50.3, the writer uses a different Greek word to refer to the ‘place’ of the righteous dead: chōros. This text reads:
3 All the generations from Adam till today have passed away, but those perfected in love through the gracious gift of God have a place (chōros) among the godly. And they will be revealed when the kingdom of Christ appears. 4 For it is written, “Come into the inner rooms for just a short while, until my anger and wrath pass by; and I will remember a good day and raise you up from your tombs.”30
These inner rooms are regarded by Clement not metaphorically but as a spatial place, since chōros means ‘an undefined area or location, place’;31 ‘a definite space, piece of ground, place’ or ‘land’, ‘country’, ‘estate’, etc.32 and, unlike topos,  does not have any attested metaphorical sense. The sense of 1 Clement 50.3-4, therefore, is that the righteous dead dwell in a spatial place, identified with the ‘inner rooms’ (ta tameia) of Isa. 26:20 LXX, until the resurrection. Thus it is best to interpret ‘place’ spatially in 1 Clement 5.4 and 5.7 as well. We note further that Josephus, writing in the same city as Clement around the same time (see above), uses the same word chōros to refer to the heavenly abode of the souls of the righteous dead while they await the resurrection of the body.

(6) Remarkably, the passage on which Clement explicitly depends for his doctrine of the intermediate state in 1 Clement 50.3-433 is also the passage which contains the clearest OT reference to ‘the holy place’ as a transcendent location: ‘For look, the Lord from his holy place (tou hagiou) brings wrath upon those who dwell on the earth’ (Isa. 26:21 LXX, NETS). Since we can be certain that Clement’s ideas about the intermediate state have been influenced by this passage, it makes sense to interpret his reference to ‘the holy place’ in 1 Clement 5.7 in line with the reference to ‘the holy place’ in Isa. 26:21 LXX. Accordingly, ‘the holy place’ in 1 Clement 5.7 is best understood as a reference to heaven.

Besides all of this evidence concerning the spatial meaning of topos in 1 Clement 5.4 and 5.7, we redirect the reader’s attention to 1 Clement 6.2, which says of some female martyrs that they received ‘a noble reward’ (geras gennaion). Arndt et al define geras as ‘a material exhibition of esteem, prize, reward’.34 For these martyrs to have received a prize after their death but before their resurrection, they must have still existed. Dave’s post does not mention this verse.

In conclusion, there is substantial evidence that Clement believed in an intermediate state for the righteous dead, or at least for martyrs. The idea that the ‘place’ of the righteous dead refers to a position of authority is plausible in 1 Clement 44.5 but untenable in 1 Clement 5.4 and 5.7 (where it also seems to have no scholarly support). Rather, the ‘place of glory’ and ‘holy place’ to which Peter and Paul are said to have gone (or ascended, in Paul’s case) is best understood as the heavenly sanctuary.

What are the implications of this finding? First, the theology of 1 Clement is not exactly as Christadelphians believe, as Dave claims. In particular, the theology of 1 Clement shows that belief in an intermediate state was entrenched in the church of Rome before the end of the first century. This doctrine was being projected back onto the martyrdoms of Peter and Paul at a time when the church elders in Rome likely included individuals (even Clement?) who had known them personally and sat under their teaching.35 This is reason enough for Christadelphians to take a long look at their materialistic anthropology, and revisit their exegesis of New Testament texts such as Acts 7:59, Phil. 1:22-24 and Heb. 12:22-24 which appear to presuppose belief in an intermediate state. Second, in early Christian theology, heaven-going and resurrection were not mutually exclusive, competing models of individual eschatology. Rather, they could be held simultaneously as two sequential components of individual eschatology – as they still are today in orthodox Christian theology.


  • 1 Ehrman, B.D. (2003). The Apostolic Fathers (Vol. 1). Cambridge: Harvard University Press, pp. 43-47; emphasis added.
  • 2 He goes on to quote Matt. 19:28; 1 Cor. 9:25; 2 Tim. 4:8; Jas 1:12; 1 Pet. 5:4.
  • 3 Ehrman, op. cit., p. 115.
  • 4 Evangelion/Dave disputes this in a separate post on the same discussion board, claiming that 'with the Lord' is symbolic. Space does not allow further discussion of this text here, but suffice it to say that a symbolic meaning for 'with the Lord' is not 'clear' as Dave claims.
  • 5 Unquestionably, topos takes on a figurative sense in 1 Clement 40.5: ‘For special liturgical rites have been assigned to the high priest, and a special place (topos) has been designated for the regular priests, and special ministries are established for the Levites.
  • 6 Oropeza, B.J. (2010). Judas’ Death and Final Destiny in the Gospels and Earliest Christian Writings. Neotestamentica, 44(2), 342-361; here pp. 352-353. Also favouring this view are Barrett (Barrett, C.K. (1994). Acts 1-14. London: T&T Clark, pp. 103-104; he also considers the possibility that Judas’ own place refers to his position as a traitor); Witherington, B., III. (1998). The Acts of the Apostles. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 122; Marshall, I.H. (1980). The Acts of the Apostles: An Introduction and Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 66; 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. 1011; Bock, D.L. (2007). Acts. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, p. 89; Gaertner, D. (1995). Acts. Joplin: College Press, p. 64; Peterson, D. (2009). The Acts of the Apostles. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 128; Zwiep, A.W. (2004). Judas and the Choice of Matthias: A Study on Context and Concern of Acts 1:15-26. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, pp. 166-168. Zwiep offers perhaps the most comprehensive exegesis, considering five possible interpretations of ‘his own place’ before concluding that it ‘is a euphemism for his postmortem state, in Luke’s view geenna.’ Among the parallels cited by scholars in support of this interpretation, the most impressive are Targum on Ecclesiastes 6.6 and Ignatius Magnesians 5.1. The former reads, ‘On the day of his death his soul goes down to Gehenna, the one place where all the guilty go’ (Talbert, C.H. (2005). Reading Acts: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles. Macon: Smyth & Helwys, p. 21, trans., who also cites this text in connection with Acts 1:25 and thus presumably holds to the same interpretation.) The latter reads, ‘the two things are set together, death and life, and each person is about to depart to his own place’ (Ehrman, op. cit., p. 245). In this text, the expression ‘his own place’ parallels that in Acts 1:25, and appears to refer to one’s final destination.
  • 7 Johnson, L.T. (1992). The Acts of the Apostles. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, p. 37.
  • 8 Keener, C.S. (2012). Acts: An Exegetical Commentary (Vol. 1). Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, p. 771.
  • 9 McCabe, D.R. (2011). How to Kill Things with Words: Ananias and Sapphira under the Prophetic Speech-Act of Divine Judgment (Acts 4.32-5.11). London: T&T Clark, p. 208.
  • 10 Van de Water, R. (2003). The Punishment of the Wicked Priest and the Death of Judas. Dead Sea Discoveries 10(3), 395-419; here p. 405.
  • 11 Whitlock, M.G. (2015). Acts 1:15-26 and the Craft of New Testament Poetry. Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 77(1), 87-106; here pp. 104-105.
  • 12 ‘In one other place Clement uses the word τόπος to denote “the post-mortal place of honour.” This time, in an ironical jab at the Corinthians, he is speaking of the lot of deceased presbyters… The directional quality of προοδοιπορήσαντες, not merely “predecessors” but those who have traveled or gone before, is reinforced by the clear terminus for the journey in the τόπος of the departed. Despite, then, prima facie resemblance to Irenaeus’s “appointed place” (ὡρισμένος τόπος, Against Heresies V.31.2), Clement’s “established place” (τόπος) represents a conception of the place of the dead entirely at odds with that notion. There is every reason to assume that the teaching here is of a piece with that of chapter 5, in which the due place of glory and the holy place must be understood as the heavenly sanctuary and not as a subterranean holding place’ (Hill, C.E. (2001). Regnum Caelorum: Patterns of Millennial Thought in Early Christianity. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, pp. 83-84).
  • 13 ‘τόπος meint die irdische Amtsstellung der Presbyter (vgl. 40,5), die ihnen nicht mehr genommen werden kann, oder aber den "himmlischen" Ort wie in 5,4.7 (so nachdrüklich Aono, Entwicklung 67; dann wäre ἱδρυμένος allerdings uneigentlich gemeint); vielleicht soll gar nicht präzise unterschieden werden’ (Lindemann, A. (1992). Die Clemensbriefe. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, p. 132)] and (apparently) Arndt et al (op. cit., p. 1011), who list 1 Clement 44.5 under the ‘position’ meaning of topos but also asks the writer to ‘Cp. 44:5’ when listing 1 Clement 5.7 under the ‘transcendent site’ meaning.
  • 14 ‘Die Presbyter haben nun keinen Anlaß mehr zur Furcht, von ihrem Platz bzw. Amt entfernt zu werden (μεθίστημι wie in 1 Kön 15,13; 1 Makk 11,63; Lk 16,4). Die Ausdrucksweise verrät in zweifacher Weise das Interesse, die Vorstellung von einer schon soliden, feststehenden Einrichtung wachzurufen. Einmal ist von τόπος der Presbyter die Rede, was in diesem Zusammenhang an I Clem 40,5 erinnert: καὶ τοῖς ἱερεῦσιν ἴδιος ὁ τόπος προστέτακται. Sodann wird das bedeuteungsvolle  ἱδρύειν gebraucht, um die Errichtung des Amtes zu bezeichnen. Die Passiv-Form  ἱδρυμένος weist wie in 40,5 auf Gott als den Urheber hin, das Perfekt auf die Gültigkeit des den Presbytern errichteten τόπος. Der Terminus paßt in das Gesamtbild. Der fest gegründete Platz der Presbyter hat sich für einige von ihnen als nicht sicher erwiesen, da sie aus ihrem Amt hinausgedrängt wurden. Dieser Gefahr sind die schon verstorbenen Presbyter entgangen.’ (Lona, H.E. (1998). Der erste Clemensbrief. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, p. 470)
  • 15 1 Clement 36 appears to borrow extensively from Hebrews, quoting several of the same OT texts quoted in Hebrews 1, and referring to Jesus as ‘the high priest of our offerings, the benefactor who helps us in our weaknesses’ – language reminiscent of Heb. 2:18; 3:1 (cf. Ehrman, op. cit., pp. 26, 99-100).
  • 16 Hill, op. cit., p. 83.
  • 17 Hill notes that this same Greek word is used in 1 Clement 5.6.
  • 18 quoted in ibid.
  • 19 ibid.
  • 20 If the Visions were the first part of The Shepherd of Hermas to be written, around the end of the first century, as Osiek 1999: 20 suggests, then this text would have arisen around the same time as 1 Clement from within the same local church!
  • 21 Hill, op. cit., p. 83. He discusses this text in more detail in his discussion on the Shepherd of Hermas, ibid., pp. 92ff.
  • 22 following LXX: Ex. 28:26; 29:31; Lev. 6:27-36; 10:13-18; 16:2-27; 24:9; Num. 4:16; 28:7; 1 Ki. 8:10; 1 Chr. 23:32; 2 Chr. 5:9-11; 29:7; 31:18; Eccl. 8:10; Ezek. 41:21; 42:14; 44:27; 45:4; 45:18; Dan. 8:11; cf. 1 Macc. 14:36; 2 Macc. 2:18; 8:17; 3 Macc. 2:1; 4 Macc. 4:12; 1 Enoch 25.5.
  • 23 Cp. 1 Enoch 12.4, which refers to the Watchers having ‘left the high heaven, the holy eternal place’.
  • 24 Holmes, M.W. (2007) The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, p. 53.
  • 25 Ehrman, op. cit., p. 53.
  • 26 ‘Both Greek mss have ἐπορεύθη (he went), but ἀνελήμφθη (he was taken up) is presumed by the Syriac, Latin, and Coptic versions. Since ἐπορεύθη here may also be accounted for as an assimilation to v. 4, ἀνελήμφθη is preferred by Harnack, I. Clemensbrief, and Lake, ApF. It is also adopted by Funk-Bilhmeyer, though not by Jaubert. Knoch assumes ἐπορεύθη and does not even mention the variant…If  ἀνελήμφθη is original, it would, of course, be very unsuitable for depicting a removal to Hades but utterly natural for depicting an ascension to heaven. (Hill, op. cit., p. 82 n. 19).
  • 27 Arndt et al, op. cit., p. 66.
  • 28 op. cit., p. 853.
  • 29 Ehrman's translation above has Paul being 'set free' from this world, whereas Holmes (op. cit., p. 53) translates 'he thus departed from the world...' Both 'set free' and 'depart' are possible meanings of the verb apallassō (Arndt et al, op. cit., p. 96).
  • 30 Ehrman, op. cit., p. 125, trans.
  • 31 Arndt et al, op. cit., p. 1096.
  • 32 Liddell, H.G. & Scott, R. (1940). A Greek-English Lexicon (revised and augmented throughout by H.S. Jones with the assistance of R. McKenzie). Oxford: Clarendon Press. Retrieved from http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3Dxw%3Dros1, 21 December 2015.
  • 33 Lona's comments on this text, already quoted in Part One of this article, are as follows: 'Zitat, dessen Herkunft in einem zweiten Schritt erörtert wird, will offensichtlich das zuvor Gesagte unterstreichen. Gemäß der vom Vf. praktizierten Schriftauslegung ist der als Zitat angeführte Text wörtlich zu nehmen. In diesem Fall sind τὰ τεμεῖα (die Kammern) identisch mit dem χῶρος εὐσεβῶν von V.3. Der Aufenthalt dort hat eine beschützende Funktion, aber er ist nicht dauernd, sondern nur für die Zeit des göttlichen Zornes gedacht, bis Gott sich des guten Tages erinnert und die Gläubigen auferstehen läßt. Zwei Aspekte sind in diesen Wort enthalten, die das Verständnis der Stelle im Kontext bestimmen. Der erste und vordergründige ist der eschatologische. Präzis ist er aber nicht. Die in der Liebe Vollendeten würden in diesen Aufenthaltsort eingehen - was nur als postmortales Ereignis vorstellbar ist - , um dort auf den guten Tag zu warten, an dem Gott sie auferstehen lassen wird. ἀναστήσω ist als Auferstehungsverheißung auszulegen. Die jüdische Apokalyptik kennt ähnliche Vorstellungen über einen Zwischenzustand. Sie sind auch dem NT nicht fremd (vgl. Phil 1,23; Lk 23,43), wenngleich die Ausdrucksweise dort nicht so bildreich ist wie in I Clem 50,4' (Lona, op. cit., p. 534).
  • 34 Arndt et al, op. cit., p. 195.
  • 35 1 Clement 44.3, 6 may indicate that among the ministers who had been deposed in Corinth were some who had been appointed by the apostles.

Monday, 21 December 2015

The intermediate state in 1 Clement (part 1)

1 Clement is an early Christian letter written from the church of Rome to the church of Corinth.1 The consensus date for this document is c. 96 AD, though it may have been written as early as the 70s.2 It is traditionally ascribed to Clement of Rome; the name Clement 'appears in the titles of each manuscript in which the letter survives'.3 For convenience we will refer to the author as Clement. One can find scholars arguing that the author was 'almost certainly...a Gentile believer'4 or, on the other hand, 'almost certainly a Jewish Christian'!5 Given the writer's knowledge of Old Testament and Jewish tradition but familiarity with and use of Hellenistic ideas, Hagner's balanced statement seems on point: 'We may be sure…that Clement was either a Jew whose Hellenization was complete, or a Greek who had drunk deeply of Jewish thought and practice.'6 The high valuation of this letter in the patristic Church can be seen from its inclusion (together with 2 Clement) at the end of the New Testament in Codex Alexandrinus, one of the most important early biblical manuscripts.

Some Christadelphian apologists have attempted to enlist the author of 1 Clement as essentially a proto-Christadelphian. For instance, in a recent talk on early Christianity, Dave Burke says the following:
In the letter of Clement to the Corinthians we find New Testament theology7 exclusively; we don’t find the deity of Christ, we don’t find the pre-existence of Christ, we don’t find the Trinity, we don’t find the immortal soul, we don’t find a supernatural devil; everything here is exactly as we [Christadelphians] believe. It’s perfectly consistent with New Testament theology.8
More recently, in a Facebook post from August 2015, Dave asserts the following:
Clement's theology is utterly apostolic; there is no evidence that he believed in immortal soulism, the pre-existence of Christ, the deity of Christ, the deity of the Holy Spirit, or an evil supernatural devil.
This appears on a Facebook page authored by Dave which is entitled 'Christian History'. The stated purpose of this page is 'to provide information about early Christian history, the Reformation, and the three Great Awakenings.' The page does not state that it offers a Christadelphian slant on early Christian history, so one would expect the information to be factual or at least in line with the current scholarly consensus. Sadly, this is not the case.

In fact, 1 Clement 51.1 refers to 'the adversary' and it is universally agreed by scholars that this is a reference to Satan (as I have discussed previously). Moreover, scholars have concluded that several passages in 1 Clement presuppose the pre-existence of Christ.9 Dave does not mention any of this evidence. However, our main concern in this article is with Clement's individual eschatology: his beliefs concerning the afterlife. Dave's assertion in this respect is imprecise: he says there is no evidence that Clement believed in 'immortal soulism' and infers that, because Clement believed in resurrection, his individual eschatology must have been identical to that of Christadelphians. However, this implicitly creates a false dichotomy as though Christadelphian conditionalism and 'immortal soulism' (a term Dave does not define) are the only options. If, by 'immortal soulism', Dave means the Greek doctrine of the immortality of the soul founded upon Platonic dualism, in which the soul is temporarily imprisoned in the body which is a mere shell, then one can heartily agree that Clement held no such anthropology. However, there is a third possibility that Dave does not mention: that of an intermediate state, in which the soul continues to exist after death while awaiting the consummate goal of bodily resurrection.

Hence, the question that needs to be asked is whether there is any evidence that Clement believed in a post-mortem existence prior to the resurrection. In order for Clement's theology to be exactly as Christadelphians believe, the answer would have to be no. However, the answer from the scholarly literature, and from careful exegesis of certain passages in 1 Clement, is a decisive yes!

Before turning to these passages we must first note our agreement with Dave that the doctrine of bodily resurrection is at the core of Clement's individual eschatology.10 Consider, for instance, 1 Clement 24.1:
We should consider, loved ones, how the Master continuously shows us the future resurrection that is about to occur, of which he made the Lord Jesus Christ the first fruit by raising him from the dead.11
Having noted this, we must reiterate that Clement's belief in resurrection does not imply his disbelief in any post-mortem existence (as in Christadelphian theology). Schmisek reminds us that Clement 'did not spell out the nature of his resurrection anthropology' and that he 'felt free to draw on pagan imagery to convey the concept of resurrection'.12 More importantly, 1 Clement refers to a blessed state of existence which faithful believers and martyrs in particular enter immediately after death. The most significant text in this respect concerns the martyrdom of Peter, Paul and some women, and reads as follows:
3. We should set before our eyes the good apostles. 4. There is Peter, who because of unjust jealousy bore up under hardships not just once or twice, but many times; and having thus borne his witness he went to the place of glory that he deserved. 5. Because of jealousy and strife Paul pointed the way to the prize for endurance. 6. Seven times he bore chains; he was sent into exile and stoned; he served as a herald in both the East and the West; and he received the noble reputation for his faith. 7. He taught righteousness to the whole world, and came to the limits of the West, bearing his witness before the rulers. And so he was set free from this world and transported up to the holy place, having become the greatest example of endurance. 6.1. To these men who have conducted themselves in such a holy way there has been added a great multitude of the elect, who have set a superb example among us by the numerous torments and tortures they suffered because of jealousy. 2. Women were persecuted as Danaids and Dircae and suffered terrifying and profane torments because of jealousy. But they confidently completed the race of faith, and though weak in body, they received a noble reward. (1 Clement 5.3-6.2)13
It should be obvious that, prima facie, this passage constitutes evidence for Clement's belief in post-mortem existence. A plain reading of the text suggests that these martyrs went somewhere after death and received a reward. Certainly, one will never hear the kind of language used in this passage at a Christadelphian funeral! However, Dave neglects to mention this passage when summarizing Clement's theology in his talk and on his Facebook page. This is not because Dave is unaware of the passage; in fact, he had discussed it in an online discussion forum almost a decade earlier (assuming, according to my recollections, that Evangelion was Dave's user name on this forum). However, neither in that post nor at any time since (as far as I am aware) has Dave shown any familiarity with scholarship on this passage and others relevant to our subject. It is to this scholarship that we now turn.

Based on my survey of scholarship, it appears that most scholars conclude, based primarily on 1 Clement 5.3-6.2, that Clement believed in an intermediate state. Some of these, such as Lampe,14 Bauckham,15 Hill,16 Wright,17 and Lehtipuu,18 explicitly locate the intermediate state in heaven. Others, such as Lindemann,19 Lona,20 Arndt et al,21 and Mutie,22 do not explicitly describe Clement's intermediate state as 'heaven' but do conclude that he believed in post-mortem existence.

More nuanced views are those of Sumney, who thinks Clement's intermediate state concept applied to martyrs only,23 and Gonzalez, who thinks 1 Clement is ambiguous about the kind of post-mortem existence which the martyrs enjoy.24

Having surveyed the literature, it is apparent that most scholars have concluded that Clement's theology included the notion of post-mortem existence in an intermediate state for believers. None of the scholars I read concluded that Clement held that believers ceased to exist between their death and resurrection (although Sumney held this to be the case with the exception of martyrs). Contemporary scholarship weighs against Dave Burke's claim that the theology of 1 Clement corresponds exactly to that of Christadelphians in the matter of individual eschatology. Accordingly, I call on Dave to provide his Christadelphian audiences with an objective picture of Clement's theology and to stop presenting his own private interpretations as factual information.

This is Part One of a two-part article. In the next installment, I will interact with Dave's exegesis of 1 Clement 5.3-6.2 and provide exegetical arguments that Clement believed that the righteous dead go to heaven to await the resurrection.


  • 1 The prescript of the letter reads, 'The church of God that temporarily resides in Rome, to the church of God that temporarily resides in Corinth' (Ehrman, B.D. (2003). The Apostolic Fathers (Vol. 1). Cambridge: Harvard University Press, p. 35).
  • 2 Gregory, A. (2006). I Clement: An Introduction. The Expository Times, 117(6), 223-230 (here pp. 227-228).
  • 3 ibid., pp. 224-225.
  • 4 Skarsaune, O. (2009). Does the Letter to the Hebrews Articulate a Supersessionist Theology? In R. Bauckham, D. Driver & T. Hart (Eds.), The Epistle to the Hebrews and Christian Theology (pp. 192-200). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 198.
  • 5 Sanders, J.T. (1993). Schismatics, Sectarians, Dissidents, Deviants: The First One Hundred Years of Jewish-Christian Relations. London: SCM Press, p. 220.
  • 6 Hagner, D.A. (1973). The Use of the Old and New Testaments in Clement of Rome. Leiden: Brill, p. 8.
  • 7 Read: the Christadelphian version of New Testament theology.
  • 8 These remarks are from a talk Dave delivered in 2014, which can be downloaded here (the discussion of 1 Clement begins around the 9:45 mark).
  • 9 E.g. 1 Clement 16.2, 16.17, 36.2, 42.1. These are the texts adduced by Talbert who concludes that 1 Clement 'assumes pre-existence' and thus 'reflects an epiphany model' of Christology (Talbert, C.H. (2011). The Development of Christology during the first hundred years. Leiden: Brill, p. 36). I hope to discuss Clement's Christology in detail in a future post.
  • 10 Wright states: 'He not only believes in final resurrection; he mounts various arguments to show that it is not as unreasonable a thing to believe as one might suppose. First, the sequence of day and night, and seedtime and harvest, indicates that such a progression is built into the created world… Clement then – boldly, we may think – advances the apparent parallel of the phoenix, which rejuvenates itself after dying every 500 years. And he rounds off his exposition with three biblical passages which demonstrate, he says, that "the creator of all things will create the resurrection of those who have served him in holiness, in the assurance of a good faith."' (Wright, N.T. (2003). The Resurrection of the Son of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, p. 481) Similarly, Chester: 'The main concentration of eschatological themes in 1 Clement… is to be found in chapters 23-27. It is clearly the delay of the Parousia that constitutes one main problem that the writer has to deal with… Chapters 24-26 provide the main, central thrust of this section as a whole, arguing for the resurrection of the body as not in the least improbable, on the analogy of the seed dying in order to product fruit and the phoenix rising from the ashes. Clearly the writer sees the doubts about the Parousia, and those about the resurrection of the believers, as closely bound up together.' (Chester, A. (2007). Messiah and Exaltation: Jewish Messianic and Visionary Traditions and New Testament Christology. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, p. 455.) See also Mutie, J. (2015). Death in Second-Century Christian Thought: The Meaning of Death in Earliest Christianity. Eugene: Wipf & Stock, pp. 56-57. Offering a different perspective is Schmisek, who surprisingly claims that 'resurrection was not a major issue for Clement and he spent little time discussing it' (Schmisek, B. (2013). Resurrection of the Flesh or Resurrection from the Dead: Implications for Theology. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, p. 3.)
  • 11 Ehrman, op. cit., p. 81.
  • 12 Schmisek, op. cit., p. 4.
  • 13 Ehrman, op. cit., pp. 43-47; emphasis added.
  • 14 Lampe thinks that topos refers to 'heaven' in 1 Clement 5.4, 5.7 (Lampe, G.W.H. (1961). A Patristic Greek Lexicon. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 1397).
  • 15 Bauckham regards the word sunēthroisthē in 1 Clement 6.1 as possibly suggesting that 'the great multitude joined the martyrs just mentioned in heaven: this would supply a reference to the heavenly reward of the great multitude of martyrs, which is otherwise missing but which is expected by comparison with the examples of Peter, Paul and the women' (Bauckham, R.J. (1992). The Martyrdom of Peter in Early Christian Literature. In ANRW II.26.1, pp. 539-595; here p. 561).
  • 16 Hill concludes that Clement believed in a 'heavenly version of the intermediate state' and yet that 'absolutely no tension can be detected, in Clement's mind' between this and his 'vigorous Christian doctrine of the resurrection of the body' (Hill, C.E. (2001). Regnum Caelorum: Patterns of Millennial Thought in Early Christianity. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 85). Hill's exegesis of the relevant passages in 1 Clement is the most detailed among the scholars cited here. We will consider it in more detail in the second part of this article.
  • 17 Wright says that 'Clement believed in a temporary post-mortem heaven rather than in the righteous going to Hades' and argued that 1 Clement 5.4-6.2 dovetail with Clement's teachings on the resurrection of the dead: 'We are not surprised, therefore, to find that Clement articulates a doctrine of resurrection not far removed from that of the New Testament. To begin with, however, it might have seemed otherwise. In the early chapters Clement speaks of the apostles Peter and Paul having died and gone, in the first place, to a "place of glory", and in the second to the "holy place". He goes on to speak of martyrs who "received a noble reward", of those who obtain the gift of "life in immortality", and of presbyters who have finished their course and have obtained "a fruitful and perfect release (analysis)", and who now need have no fear of being moved "from the place appointed to them". By themselves these passages could have been taken to indicate a belief in a final disembodied state, capable of being described in shorthand (though Clement does not use this phrase) as "going to heaven". But when Clement expounds his own view of the final state of the blessed departed, he makes it clear that this language about Peter, Paul and the others must refer to their temporary abode in a blessed, glorious and holy place. He not only believes in final resurrection; he mounts various arguments to show that it is not as unreasonable a thing to believe as one might suppose' (Wright, op. cit., p. 479).
  • 18 Lehtipuu regards this passage from 1 Clement as one witness to a widespread conviction 'that martyrs will pass immediately to heaven at the moment of their death': 'The conviction that martyrs will pass immediately to heaven at the moment of their death is so widespread that it can be called "a commonplace in martyrological literature."… The emphasis of the martyr accounts is on the continuation of life after death without any interruption.' (Lehtipuu, O. (2015). Debates over the Resurrection of the Dead: Constructing Early Christian Identity. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 169).
  • 19 Lindemann regards 1 Clement 5.4-7 as referring to a post-mortem state of existence analogous to that implied by NT passages such as Luke 16:22f, 23:43 and Acts 7:56-59. He writes, 'τόπον vgl. Apg 1,25 (dort ἴδιος statt ὀφειλόμενος) und in der Sache Joh 14,2f; Ign Magn 5,1; vgl. auch die etwas rätselhafte Bemerkung in Apg 12,17: Petrus ἐπορεύθη εἰς ἕτερον τόπον (M. Smith, NTS 7, 1960/61, 86-88 sieht hier einen literarischen Zusammenhang und ein Argument gegen die Petrus-Rom-Hypothese; s.u.). Zur eschatologischen Bedeutung von δόξα s. Röm 8,18.21. V. 4 besagt wohl nicht, daß dem Märtyrer "ein besonderer Platz am postmortalen, interimistischen Ort der Frommen" zuteil wird oder er schon "in die volle Seligkeit" gelangt ist, auf die "andere Tote noch bis zur Endvollendung warten müssen" (so Baumeister aaO. 242, der auf 44,5 verweist; s. dort), denn ein Vergleich mit anderen ist gar nicht im Blick. Die Stelle bestätigt freilich eine im NT vor allem in den lk Schriften zu beobachtende Tendenz zur Individualisierung der Eschatologie (vgl. Lk 16,22f; 23,43; Apg 7.56.59),' (Lindemann, A. (1992). Die Clemensbriefe. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, pp. 37-38).
  • 20 Lona regards the 'place of glory' in 1 Clement 5.4 as the eschatological place (Ort) of salvation. He writes on this 'place of glory' that it is 'ein klarer Hinweis auf die von Petrus empfangene eschatologische Belohnung' (Lona, H.E. (1998). Der erste Clemensbrief. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, p. 161). He adds in a note, 'Zu τόπος als eschatologischem Ort des Heiles vgl. auch I Clem 44,5; II Clem 1,2; Herm Sim IX 27,3 (104,3)' (ibid., p. 161 n. 1). On 1 Clement 5.7 he writes, 'Das Verlassen der Welt bedeutet in diesem Fall das Hingehen zu einem anderen Ort' (ibid., p. 166). In 1 Clement 50.3-4 Lona finds a concept of the intermediate state similar to what is found in Jewish apocalyptic and in NT passages such as Luke 23:43 and Phil. 1:23: 'Das Zitat, dessen Herkunft in einem zweiten Schritt erörtert wird, will offensichtlich das zuvor Gesagte unterstreichen. Gemäß der vom Vf. praktizierten Schriftauslegung ist der als Zitat angeführte Text wörtlich zu nehmen. In diesem Fall sind τὰ τεμεῖα (die Kammern) identisch mit dem χῶρος εὐσεβῶν von V.3. Der Aufenthalt dort hat eine beschützende Funktion, aber er ist nicht dauernd, sondern nur für die Zeit des göttlichen Zornes gedacht, bis Gott sich des guten Tages erinnert und die Gläubigen auferstehen läßt. Zwei Aspekte sind in diesen Wort enthalten, die das Verständnis der Stelle im Kontext bestimmen. Der erste und vordergründige ist der eschatologische. Präzis ist er aber nicht. Die in der Liebe Vollendeten würden in diesen Aufenthaltsort eingehen - was nur als postmortales Ereignis vorstellbar ist - , um dort auf den guten Tag zu warten, an dem Gott sie auferstehen lassen wird. ἀναστήσω ist als Auferstehungsverheißung auszulegen. Die jüdische Apokalyptik kennt ähnliche Vorstellungen über einen Zwischenzustand. Sie sind auch dem NT nicht fremd (vgl. Phil 1,23; Lk 23,43), wenngleich die Ausdrucksweise dort nicht so bildreich ist wie in I Clem 50,4' (ibid., p. 534).
  • 21 The lexicon classifies topos in this text under the following definition: ‘a transcendent site: esp. of the place to which one’s final destiny brings one’ (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. 1011).
  • 22 Mutie states that the writer of 1 Clement 'concludes his understanding of death by suggesting that those who are perfected in love have already entered their glorious places in Christ’s kingdom. [cites 1 Clement 50.3-4] In other words, not only does the writer of 1 Clement understand death in terms of sleep, but he also, within the tradition of the Old Testament, affirms the survival of the soul beyond the physical death. As Dewart observes, "it is interesting to note that the letter contains one of the passages in the Apostolic Fathers which seems to affirm the survival of the soul independently of the body" after death.' (Mutie, op. cit., pp. 56-57).
  • 23 Sumney's main focus is Paul's individual eschatology. He argues that in Paul's view,  'most people (including believers) cease to exist at death' but 'Martyrs and others of exceptional faithfulness...may be exceptions to this general rule and thus possess a limited existence with God before the parousia' (Sumney, J.L. (2009). Post-Mortem Existence and Resurrection of the Body in Paul. Horizons in Biblical Theology, 31(1), 12-26; here p. 12). He regards Acts 7:59, Revelation 6:9-11 and 4 Maccabees 17:17-18 as evidence for a belief that 'the fate of martyrs differs from that of others...martyrs are already in heaven with God' (ibid., p. 24). He interprets 1 Clement 5.3-6.2 in the same way, as affirming a 'post mortem existence for martyrs': 'Clement says that Peter has gone to the ‘place of glory’ because he is a martyr (1 Clem 5:4). Clement goes on to say that Paul is in ‘the holy place’ (5:6) and that women martyrs receive a ‘noble reward’ (6:2). So various people within the early church thought that post mortem existence for martyrs, including Paul, was different from the state of others' (ibid., p. 25). Sumney's thesis has been criticized by Orr, who says that the literature cited by Sumney holds out martyrs as examples to imitate but does not differentiate their fate from that of other believers. Orr says Sumney has missed 'the fact that the texts that he cites, although they speak of the martyrs being with God, do not, in fact, distinguish between martyrs and other believers. So 4 Maccabees does indeed picture martyrs being present with God following their death, but these are held out as examples for readers to imitate so that they too will suffer like these martyrs. The state of those who die without suffering is not raised. The implicit understanding of the book is that those who τῆς εὐσεβείας προνοοῦσιν ἐξ ὅλης καρδίας (7:18) will suffer death and so will go to be with God. Similarly, Revelation appears to apply the description (if not the term) of martyr to all believers (7:9, 14). Sumney argues that Polycarp distinguishes between martyrs and other believers in Philippians 9:2 when, in fact, he is using their example and reward to call his readers to imitate them (9:1). The same note of imitation is found in 1 Clement 5 (cf. 5:1). Further, it seems that Paul himself fails to make any distinction between martyrs and other Christians. In any case, this distinction would be very odd in a letter where he so definitely sees himself as a model for other Christians' (Orr, P. (2014). Christ Absent and Present: A Study in Pauline Christology. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, p. 46).
  • 24 Gonzalez states: 'The early church fathers tend to support the view that the martyrs, through some means, and within a context of an anthropology that is never defined, go straight to heaven at their deaths. In the earlier chapters of 1 Clement, reference is made to Peter and Paul, who were martyred and who are respectively described as having gone ‘to his appointed place in glory’ (εἰς τὸν ὁφειλόμενον τόπον της δόξης), and ‘departed from this world and went to the holy place’ (ὁυτως ἀπηλλάγη τοῦ κόσμου καὶ εἰς τὸν ἅγιον τόπον ἐπορεύθη). 1 Clement also refers to the martyrs as having received ‘a noble reward’ (ἔλαβον γέρας γενναῖον). There is some ambiguity in this matter, however. It is notable (and rather overlooked) that 1 Clement never explicitly describes the martyrs or the righteous dead as having ascended or as specifically having gone to heaven. The extent to which the state in which the martyrs exist is merely blessed in anticipation rather than in reality is unclear. It may be either that the immediate admittance of the martyrs to heaven is simply assumed, or that this idea has not yet fully matured in the concept of early Christianity… From what we have seen, the concept of the immediate post-mortem ascent of the soul itself is not explicitly found in the writings of the "Apostolic Fathers." Perhaps it may be assumed in 1 Clement, and in the Martyrdom of Polycarp with regard to the martyrs. However, in relation to the martyrs as discussed in 1 Clement and the Polycarp texts, there is still no concept of a soul as separate from the physical body, nor of the motion of ascent of the martyrs to God. The martyrs are portrayed as receiving an immediate reward upon death, although the tension with the teaching of the resurrection is at times quite apparent.' (Gonzalez, E. (2014). The Fate of the Dead in Early Third Century North African Christianity: The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitas and Tertullian. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, pp. 57-58). Gonzalez shows reserve in his exegesis of this passage, but this does not amount to an endorsement of a Christadelphian reading of Clement's theology.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Supernatural Evil in the Apostolic Fathers (1): 1 Clement

This is the first 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.

The 'Apostolic Fathers' is a somewhat artificial body of writings from the early church, mostly dating from the late first through mid-second century A.D. None of these writings were ultimately accepted into the Christian canon, but they were traditionally held by the church to be orthodox in their teaching. Recently published critical editions of the Apostolic Fathers include the Loeb Classical Library two-volume set by Bart Ehrman (see Volumes 1 and 2 here), as well as the single-volume edition of Michael Holmes, now in its third printing. The writings included in this corpus, in Ehrman's order (which will be followed in this blog series) are as follows: 1 Clement, 2 Clement, the seven Epistles of Ignatius, Polycarp's Epistle to the Philippians, the Martyrdom of Polycarp, the Didache, the Epistle of Barnabas, the fragments of Papias, the fragment of Quadratus' Apology, the Epistle to Diognetus, and the Shepherd of Hermas. I will treat them in this order (the order in which they appear in Ehrman's edition).

I am not going to discuss introductory issues for these texts (authorship, date, provenance, etc.) in a scholarly fashion. For such purposes I would refer the reader to the series of articles on the various AF writings which appeared in The Expository Times in 2006-2007. For those who may not have access to this material, a serviceable alternative would be to look up each individual text on www.earlychristianwritings.com.

1 Clement is a letter written, probably toward the end of the first century A.D., from the church at Rome to the church at Corinth. The author is not named in the letter but for sake of convenience we will refer to him as Clement following the traditional attribution. Despite its length, the document contains only one brief reference to supernatural evil, at 1Clem 51.1. This text reads as follows:
And so we should ask to be forgiven for all the errors we have committed and the deeds we have performed through any of the machinations of the Enemy.1
The Greek term which Ehrman translates 'the Enemy' is τοῦ ἀντικειμένου or, in its lexical form,  ἀντικείμενος. This is a substantivized participle of the verb ἀντίκειμαι, 'to oppose', and a literal translation thus might be, 'the opposing one'. What grounds do we have for concluding that 'the opposing one' in this text refers to Satan (the devil)?

Firstly, it is well established in Christian literature before and contemporaneous with 1 Clement that Satan was regarded as 'the adversary' par excellence (e.g. Luke 10:18-19; 1 Pet. 5:8; etc.). Hence, since 1Clem 51.1 does not explicitly identify 'the opposing one' it is only natural to conclude that Satan is the referent - especially since Clement implicates 'the opposing one' in inducing people to sin, which is one of Satan's main functions in the New Testament (Matt. 4:1-11; 1 Cor. 7:5; etc.)

Secondly, there is abundant evidence of the word ἀντίκειμαι being used with reference to Satan in Jewish and Christian literature in antiquity. Most (but not all) of it probably dates from after 1 Clement was written, but still shows that there was a strong early Christian tradition of describing Satan with this terminology. In Zech. 3:1 LXX, the verb שָׂטָן (the verbal equivalent of the Hebrew noun śāṭān) is translated into Greek as ἀντικεῖσθαι, the infinitive form of ἀντίκειμαι. Although haśśāṭān ('the adversary'/'the prosecutor',  διάβολος in the LXX) is not yet the Satan of Christian theology in this text, it undoubtedly played an influential role in the development of this concept in the early church. The tradition cited in Jude 9 indirectly depends on Zech. 3:1, while Justin Martyr cites Zech. 3:1 LXX on three occasions in his Dialogue with Trypho (79.4; 116.3-8; 155.2). In the second of these passages he uses the participle ἀντικείμενος twice to modify διάβολος. This suggests that the use of this participle with reference to the devil depends on the occurrence of the verb in Zech. 3:1 LXX, which could also explain its usage in other early Christian texts, including 1Clem 51.1.

In the second-century A.D. translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek by Theodotion, שָּׂטָן in Job 1:6 is translated ἀντικείμενος. Origen states in Contra Celsum 6.44 that ἀντικείμενος is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Σατάν or Σατανᾶς. This shows that the semantic equivalence between the Hebrew word śāṭān and the Greek ἀντικείμενος is sufficient to account for the use of the latter word for Satan, apart from any dependence on Zech. 3:1 LXX.

Within the New Testament, there is no clear use of ἀντικείμενος for Satan. However, the word is used in 2 Thess. 2:4 for an eschatological Antichrist figure who is linked to Satan in the same passage (v. 9). Moreover, a significant number of scholars interpret this term with reference to Satan in 1 Tim. 5:142 (though many others do not3). The extant Latin version of Pseudo-Philo's work Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum, generally dated to the first or early second century A.D., uses the word anteciminus at 45.6 which scholars think has been transliterated from ἀντικείμενος and almost certainly reflects שָּׂטָן in the (lost) Hebrew original.4 Other uses of ἀντικείμενος for Satan in second-century Christian texts include Martyrdom of Polycarp 17.1 (to be discussed in an upcoming post), Ptolemy the Gnostic's Letter to Flora 7.5, Clement of Alexandria's Paedagogus 1.8 and Stromata 2.5, 4.18 and 21.1, and in Eusebius' quotations from the Martyrium of Lyons and an anonymous opponent of Montanism (Historia Ecclesiastica 5.1.5; 5.1.23; 5.1.42; 5.16.7). Clement of Alexandria's Stromata 4.8 is actually a paraphrase of 1Clem 51.1, and shows that 'the opposing one' was understood as a reference to Satan in the earliest extant interpretation of this text.

Another possible parallel is in Ascension of Isaiah 11.19, a Christian text generally dated to the late first century A.D. This text makes reference to 'the adversary' but survives only in an Ethiopic version, so there is no way of knowing whether the Greek original had  ἀντικείμενος.

All told, there is abundant evidence for the view that 1Clem 51.1 refers to Satan. Hence, it is unsurprising that this interpretation appears to enjoy unanimous support among modern scholars.5 I was unable to find a single published work which takes a different view.

While this is the only reference to supernatural evil within 1 Clement, there is a second passage which is of interest precisely because it does not mention the devil when we might expect it to. 1Clem 3.4 offers the following criticism of the disunity which is apparently taking place in the Corinthian congregation:
For this reason, righteousness and peace are far removed, since each has abandoned the reverential awe of God and become dim-sighted in faith, failing to proceed in the ordinances of his commandments and not living according to what is appropriate in Christ. Instead, each one walks according to the desires of his evil heart, which have aroused unrighteous and impious jealousy - through which also death entered the world.6
The last part of this sentence, 'through which also death entered the world', is a quotation from the Jewish pseudepigraphic work Wisdom of Solomon 2.24, which reads in the NRSV translation, "but through the devil’s envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his company experience it."

It is fairly unremarkable that Clement quotes the passage without mentioning the word διάβολος (which the NRSV translates "devil"), since he only uses a short snippet to make his point about envy. However, the writer of 1 Clement continues, "For so it is written..." and proceeds to recount the story of Cain and Abel. This shows that the writer understands Wisdom of Solomon 2.24 to be referring to the story of Cain and Abel. The same is true of Theophilus of Antioch, writing in the late second century A.D. However, while Clement makes no mention of the devil here (and does not use the word διάβολος), Theophilus explains that Satan infiltrated Cain's heart, causing him to murder Abel (Ad Autocylus 2.29). Have the two writers interpreted διάβολος differently in their source? It is possible that they both interpreted the passage in the same way, but that Clement neglected to mention the devil's role (perhaps because his concern is more pastoral than theological here). However, it is also possible that Clement has implicitly understood διάβολος in his source to refer to Cain himself. This second view commands much scholarly support.7 It is impossible to be certain, however, since Clement does not say how he has understood διάβολος.8

What if we are correct to infer that Clement has understood διάβολος in Wisdom of Solomon 2.24 to refer to Cain and not the devil? At least one scholar (Beyschlag) has suggested that it is a demythologizing move on Clement's part.9 However, Dochhorn cautions against such an assumption.10 After all, we have seen from 1Clem 51.1 that the devil does have a place in Clement's theology as an instigator of sin.

It is interesting that there is a trend in recent scholarship of interpreting διάβολος in Wisdom of Solomon 2.24 to refer to Cain11 (who is mentioned explicitly in 10.3) or to refer to a generic adversary12 (although some scholars still maintain the 'devil' interpretation).13 It is important to note that διάβολος occurs in this text without the definite article. Hence, one possible explanation is simply that Wisdom of Solomon 2.24 did not refer to the devil, and Clement interpreted it correctly. That is, there was no demythologization because there was nothing to demythologize! In that case the most we could say is that, unlike Theophilus, Clement refrained from mythologizing this text. This, of course, would not imply that Clement did not believe in the devil (we have already seen that he did); only that he did not regard the anarthrous  διάβολος  in Wisdom of Solomon 2.24 as a reference to the devil.

In conclusion, the early Christian letter known as 1 Clement makes one mention of Satan in a way that stands in continuity with early Christian Satanology as known from the New Testament and other early Christian texts. However, the fact that Clement only mentions Satan once in this lengthy letter, and refrains from mentioning him in a context in which we might have expected him to do so, suggests that Satan plays only a minor role in his theology. Perhaps, as Knoch suggests, Satan has been disempowered in Clement's eschatological outlook.14


  • 1 Ehrman, B.D. (2003). (Ed. & trans.). The Apostolic Fathers (Vol. 1). Cambridge: Harvard University Press, p. 127.
  • 2 In support of interpreting the adversary here as Satan are  Bartelink, G.J.M. (1987). ΑΝΤΙΚΕΙΜΕΝΟΣ (Widersacher) als Teufels- und Dämonenbezeichnung. Sacris Erudiri, 30, 205-224 (here p. 209); Bobichon, P. (2003). Dialogue avec Tryphon: Introduction, Texte Grec, Traduction (Vol. 2). Fribourg: Université de Fribourg, p. 864 n. 8; Collins, R.F. (2002). 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus: A Commentary. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, p. 142; Lea, T.D. (1992). 1, 2 Timothy, Titus. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, p. 152; Lona, H.E. (1998). Der erste Clemensbrief. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, p. 542; Towner, P.H. (2006). The Letters to Timothy and Titus. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 357; Marshall, I.H. (2004). The Pastoral Epistles. London: Bloomsbury, p. 605; and a further nine scholars mentioned by Marshall. Undecided are 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. 88; Lock, W. (1999). The Pastoral Epistles: Critical and Exegetical Commentary. London: T&T Clark, p. 61; and Quinn, J.D. & Wacker, W.C. (2000). The First and Second Letters to Timothy: A New Translation with Notes and Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 446.
  • 3 See scholars cited in Burke's paper, p. 14 n. 87.
  • 4 Jacobson, H. (1996). A Commentary on Pseudo-Philo’s Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum: with Latin Text and English Translation, Vol. 1. Leiden: Brill, p. 67; Jacobson, H. (1996). A Commentary on Pseudo-Philo’s Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum: with Latin Text and English Translation, Vol. 2. Leiden: Brill, p. 1037; Harrington, D.J. (1983/2010). Pseudo-Philo: A new translation and introduction. In J.H. Charlesworth (Ed.), The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, Vol. 2 (pp. 297-378). Peabody: Hendrickson, p. 360 n. g.
  • 5 Bartelink, op. cit., pp. 210-211; Bobichon, op. cit., p. 864 n. 8; Court, J.M. (2000). The Book of Revelation and the Johannine Apocalyptic Tradition. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, p. 54; Quinn & Wacker, op. cit., p. 446; Jaubert, A. (1971). Clément de Rome, Épître aux Corinthiens. Sources Chretiennes (Vol. 167). Paris: Cerf, p. 183 n. 3; Page, S.H.T. (1995). Powers of Evil: A Biblical Study of Satan and Demons. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, p. 190; Albl, M.C. (Ed.). (2004). Pseudo-Gregory of Nyssa: Testimonies against the Jews. Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, p. 127; Massaux, É. (1993). The Influence of the Gospel of Saint Matthew on Christian Literature before Saint Irenaeus: the first ecclesiastical writers. Leuven: Peeters, p. 51; Fascher, E. (1968). Frage und Antwort. Berlin: Ev. Verl.-Anst, p. 56; Van Den Hoek, A. (2001). Clément d’Alexandrie: Les Stromates (Vol. 4). Paris: Cerf, p. 100; Redalié, Y. (2011). Deuxième épître aux Thessaloniciens. Geneva: Labor et Fides, p. 104 n. 90; Gokey, F.X. (1961). The Terminology for the Devil and Evil Spirits in the Apostolic Fathers. Washington: The Catholic University of America Press, pp. 68-69; Arndt et al, op. cit., p. 89; Lampe, G.W.H. (1961). A Patristic Greek Lexicon, Vol. 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 154; Ehrman, op. cit., p. 127; Knoch, A.O. (1964). Eigenart und Bedeutung der Eschatologie im theologischen Aufriss des ersten Clemensbriefes: Eine auslegungsgeschichtliche Untersuchung. Bonn: Peter Hanstein, p. 203f; Lona, op. cit., p. 542; Russell, J.B. (1987). Satan: The Early Christian Tradition. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, pp. 33-34; Lindemann, A. (1992). Die Clemensbriefe. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, p. 149. Even Beyschlag, who sees evidence of demythologisation in 1Clem 3.4 (see below), acknowledges that the letter refers to Satan here (Beyschlag, K. (1966). Clemens Romanus und der Frühkatholizismus: Untersuchungen zu I Clemens 1-7. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, p. 65 n. 1).
  • 6 Ehrman, op. cit., p. 41.
  • 7 This second view of 1 Clement is taken in Clifford, R.J. (2013). Wisdom. Collegeville: Liturgical Press, p. 21; Kelly, H.A. (2006). Satan: A Biography. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 78-79, and Byron, J. (2011). Cain and Abel in text and tradition: Jewish and Christian interpretations of the first sibling rivalry. Leiden: Brill, p. 223. Dochhorn agrees that Cain has taken centre stage in 1 Clement’s exegesis of Wisdom of Solomon 2.24 but does not say the writer has applied the word διάβολος in his source directly to Cain. He appears to leave room for the first view (Dochhorn, J. (2007). Mit Kain kam der Tod in die Welt. Zur Auslegung von SapSal 2,24 in 1 Clem 3,4; 4,1-7, mit einem Seitenblick auf Polykarp, Phil. 7,1 und Theophilus, Ad. Autol. II, 29,3-4. Zeitschrift für die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft und die Kunde älteren Kirche, 98(1), 150-159. Here pp. 152-154, 158-159).
  • 8 Dochhorn cautiously comments, "Wie er sich das genau vorstellte, läßt sich für uns nicht mehr im Einzelnen ermitteln" (op. cit., p. 153).
  • 9 Beyschlag, op. cit., pp. 65-66.
  • 10 Dochhorn, op. cit., p. 153.
  • 11 Clifford, op. cit., p. 21; Kelly, op. cit., pp. 78-79; Byron, op. cit., p. 223.
  • 12 Zurawski, J.M. (2012). Separating the Devil from the Diabolos: A Fresh Reading of Wisdom of Solomon 2.24. Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha, 21(4), 366-399.
  • 13 NRSV translators; Dochhorn, op. cit., pp. 150-151; Knibb, M.A. (trans.). (2007). Wisdom of Solomon. In A. Pietersma & B.G. Wright (Eds.), A New English Translation of the Septuagint (pp. 697-714). Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 700.
  • 14 Knoch, op. cit., p. 207.