For reasons that I believe are very sound, I date 1 Clement in the 70s or 80s AD.
Using this dating, 1 Clement helps us date much of the New Testament. It refers to the letter of Titus twice. In Chapter 64, for example, Clement calls Christians a “peculiar people” (“λαον περιουσιον”) a phrase which originates from Titus 2:14. It is also worth noting the Eph 4:4-6 is paraphrased as well. In short, pretty much all of the questionable Pauline Epistles can be dated before Clement, as Colossians obviously was penned by the same writer of Ephesians, and 1 Tim and 2 Tim from the same writer as Titus. It goes without saying that 1 Clement also cites 1 and 2 Peter, and the Epistle of James.
On Facebook, a couple brothers took issue with an earlier date. One wrote a thought-out list of reasons as to why 1 Clement should be dated around 95AD. His comments are in italics. My rejoinders are in bullet points and I hope that they serve to you, the reader, as a useful resource in defense of an early date for 1 Clement.
Well, according to 1 Clement 1.1 and 7.1 there is some type of persecution going on in Rome. It could be some type of minor persecution not preserved in other historical records…This seems to allude to some type of “official” persecution. And this persecution is at such a level that the Corinthians all the way across the Adriatic are supposed to know what Clement is talking about. This would place the letter either at the Neronian persecution in the late 60s or during the latter reign of Domitian, who also had a terrible reputation in the last years of his reign after about 93 AD when he murdered Agricola.
- The “calamity” in 1 Clem 1:1 can be a localized persecution. The early churches were well aware of minor goings on in far away churches. In Phil 4:2-3 (a passage that ironically mentions Clement) Paul references a fight between Euodia and Syntyche. If Paul (and presumably others) knew of women from a “city” with a population of 10,000 bickering, then it is reasonable that a local, otherwise listless persecution in Rome would be known to the Corinthian church.
- The “calamity” can easily be the deaths of Danaids and Dircae (1 Clem 6), whose martyrdom was apparently known to the Corinthians at the time. Being that no one knows when these women died, the fact that more martyrs are not mentioned is highly suggestive of a persecution preceding Domitian.
- In 1 Cor 7:26 Paul speaks of an otherwise unknown persecution in Corinth (“present distress.”) So, there is already a precedent for “small” persecutions to be referred to with very serious language. Such a persecution is mentioned in Acts 18:13-17.
- The passage in 1 Clem 7:1 (“For we are struggling on the same arena, and the same conflict is assigned to both of us”) simply is not descriptive enough to lend credibility to an empire-wide persecution. In Acts, Paul was persecuted in nearly every city, and this was before the Neroian persecution. So, if Clement refers to Rome and Corinth fighting “on the same arena” this euphemism implies only that both have common sufferings–not that Christians are literally being thrown into the Colosseum in larger numbers at this time. (It is worth mentioning in Acts 19:29, Christians in Ephesus were dragged into the “theater” apparently to be persecuted. The theater, pictured below, was somewhere gladiatorial combat would take place.)
In 47.6 Clement makes reference to the “ancient” (αρχαιαν) Church at Corinth, which hardly seems appropriate, if Clement was writing during the Neronian persecution in the late 60s. That would make the Corinthian Church 15-20 years old, hardly “ancient.” If Clement was writing in the mid 90s, then the Church would have been around 60 years old.
- Being that Paul started the Corinthian Church in the 50s AD, even a late date for 1 Clem (95 AD) would make the church only four decades old…hardly “ancient.”
- The term “ancient” meant something different to the ancients. For example, the term “αρχαιαν“ is used to reference an old friendship Eleazar has with his persecutors in 2 Macc. A similar term, αρχαιον, is used in a proverb by Jesus of Sirach (“do not abandon old friends,” Sir 9:10.) The range of meaning of the term “ancient” was much like its range of meaning today. For example, if I call a co-worker who is 25 years older than me “ancient” because he has been doing the job for two decades, everyone would know what I mean.
When Clement makes reference to Peter and Paul as “nearest to our time” (but not in our own time) it appears that there is some distance. Yet Peter and Paul would have had to have died fairly recently because they are part “our generation.”
- I agree, which is why I date the letter perhaps ten years after Peter’s martyrdom. Clement speaks of those presently ruling in the church being one or two generations after the Apostles:
Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them [the apostles], or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole Church, and who have blame-lessly served the flock of Christ in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry (1 Clem 44).
Being that by the writing of Titus we can already see Titus appointing elders in Crete (Titus 1:5), we already see in the 60s AD an Apostle having appointed an Elder (Timothy) who subsequently, was appointing a second generation of Elders (those in Crete). Hence, to push the date of 1 Clement past the 70s AD actually contradicts the internal evidence. “Those appointed by them [the apostles]” and Elders appointed “by other eminent men” shows that the Tituses, Timothys, and Clements (duh) of the world, men appointed by the Apostles, were still ruling churches.
- Further, Eusebius recorded 15 Bishops in Jerusalem between James the Just (62 AD) to Judas of Jerusalem (135 AD). After James, none are Apostles other than perhaps Simeon I. So, even if we (righly so) allow for a plurality of Bishops, we average two Bishops per decade between 60 to 130 AD. By 75 AD, we would have easily had at least one or two second generation Elders ruling as Bishops in Jerusalem. If this is so, then the internal chronology in Clement favors the earlier, and not the later date.
Another tangential bit of evidence would be that found in Hebrews, which, as this thread notes, is extensively quoted by Clement. Hebrews mentions some type of persecution that was going on “in former days” (10:32-34). The author of Hebrews also seems to distance himself from the first Apostles and followers of Jesus when he wrote that the salvation spoken by Jesus was “confirmed to us by those who heard him” (2.3), i.e. the author did not see Jesus and it was a later time that this salvation was confirmed by those who heard Jesus.
- As I already discussed, we see several persecutions within the time of Acts of the Apostles, so a date of composition for Hebrews in the 60s AD would allow for such verbiage.
- Further, Jude speaks of himself as if he had not heard Jesus personally (Jude 17), though we know he grew up with Jesus. What Paul (the likely author of Hebrews if it was not Clement himself) and Jude were referring to those who heard Jesus’ ministry before the crucifixion. Such men were properly Apostles. James and Paul were only Apostles because they saw (and were presumably taught by) the risen Christ. (Take note that James and Paul in 1 Cor 15:7-8 saw the risen Christ at a point after most people and Paul calls himself one “untimely born.”) Jude might have been among the “Apostles” in 1 Cor 15:7 that saw Christ after the resurrection, having not been properly a disciple of Christ beforehand. The verbiage in Jude 1 and Heb 2:13 would be consistent with such Apostles who did not teach of Christ from a position of personally having heard His teachings during His active ministry.
Also, because of the allusions to the Temple [in Hebrews] 9:6-9, the book most likely pre-dates 70 AD.
- 1 Clem 41 the same allusions exists, which means the sacrificial system was in some sense still intact, which either places the date before 70 AD (which is possible) or immediately afterwards, referring to a now unknown continuance of sacrifices in the ruins of the temple complex. Unlike what Josephus says, there is evidence that some people still lived in Jerusalem area at that time, though much of the old city was destroyed in 70 AD.
Because of the above, I think that a date of 94-96 AD for Clement is the most likely and most plausible date.
- Having countered the interpretations of your evidence with, what I think is, better interpretations, I must respectfully disagree. A date in the 70s AD is much more consistent with there being a church with a plurality of Elders in which both first and second generation elders still rule. A church in the 90s would easily have third, fourth, and even fifth generation Elders by then.
Ed: This article was made when I was a Protestant and upon greater learning and reflection my thoughts may have evolved.
Interesting. Do you think there’s any connection to the Shepherd of Hermas? I ask because it contains this instruction: “Thou shalt therefore write two little books, and shalt send one to Clement, and one to Grapte. So Clement shall send to the foreign cities, for this is his duty; while Grapte shall instruct the widows and the orphans. But thou shalt read (the book) to this city along with the elders that preside over the Church.” Which seems to indicate that Grapte, a woman, was in a leadership position and considered sufficiently important to be mentioned by name and instructed to instruct those whom Clement could not because of the gender and class segregation of their day and age.
Personally, I don’t think so. Tertullian identified Shepherd as written close to his own day, so I think that the names were popular in Rome because of their 1st century counterparts’ saintly lives. Shepherd was clearly written after some time in which it was unclear what one should do in light of post-baptismal sins. Paul’s and Clement’s instruction (just don’t sin) seemed not to satisfy people that wanted more of a process in which they knew they were in God’s good grace. I hopefully will be able to cover Shepherd in some more detail soon.
Thank you for your nice response to my Facebook post Craig. You have a great website here and I happy to see that you are dedicated at studying early Church history!
I just wanted to comment here in order to put my quoted comments into context. First, I did not have any problem with an earlier date of 1 Clement, I was not attacking any position. In another comment on the same thread I wrote “The evidence is just too meager to be dogmatic on any of this.” The quoted comments above were written in response to a post by Craig who asked for my thoughts as to why I thought 1 Clement could be dated later. The interchange is quoted in full below.
Timothy Mitchell: Not sure about Clement dating to the 70s. Otherwise, I agree that Clement is obviously pretty familiar with most of Paul’s letters. He writes as though he expects his readers across the Adriatic to be familiar with the writings as well.
Craig Truglia: Why not the 70s (or earlier?) He mentions only two generations of elders after the Apostles, and says that there are still first generation elders. We had Paul addressing Elders n the 50s AD. A date in the 90s is unteneable, and 80s less likely.
Timothy Mitchell: Well, according to 1 Clement 1.1 and 7.1 there is some type of persecution going on in Rome. It could be some type of minor persecution not preserved in other historical records. But this would hardly seem to warrant such statements as “Because of the sudden and repeated misfortunes…” that delays Clement’s correspondence to the Corinthians. In 7.1, Clement makes reference to an “Arena.” This seems to allude to some type of “official” persecution. And this persecution is at such a level that the Corinthians all the way across the Adriatic are supposed to know what Clement is talking about. This would place the letter either at the Neronian persecution in the late 60s or during the latter reign of Domitian, who also had a terrible reputation in the last years of his reign after about 93 AD when he murdered Agricola.
In 47.6 Clement makes reference to the “ancient” (αρχαιαν) Church at Corinth, which hardly seems appropriate, if Clement was writing during the Neronian persecution in the late 60s. That would make the Corinthian Church 15-20 years old, hardly “ancient.” If Clement was writing in the mid 90s, then the Church would have been around 60 years old. When Clement makes reference to Peter and Paul as “nearest to our time” (but not in our own time) it appears that there is some distance. Yet Peter and Paul would have had to have died fairly recently because they are part “our generation.” Thus, 25 to 30 years, in 94-97 AD fits well here. Notice too that in 6.1 seems to speak of the Neronian persecution as something that occurred in the past because Clement has to remind the Corinthians that the Roman Christians are in the same arena (7.1). This only makes sense as a way of comparing what the earlier Christians went through during the Neronian persecution (which Clement seems to expect the Corinthians Christians to already be familiar with as a past event).
Another tangential bit of evidence would be that found in Hebrews, which, as this thread notes, is extensively quoted by Clement. Hebrews mentions some type of persecution that was going on “in former days” (10:32-34). The author of Hebrews also seems to distance himself from the first Apostles and followers of Jesus when he wrote that the salvation spoken by Jesus was “confirmed to us by those who heard him” (2.3), i.e. the author did not see Jesus and it was a later time that this salvation was confirmed by those who heard Jesus. There is also some time lapse indicated in 5:12 “by this time you ought to be teachers.” Also, because of the allusions to the Temple 9:6-9, the book most likely pre-dates 70 AD. The author of Hebrews appears to be writing to Christians in Rome, because in 13.24, he appears to be writing to a city in Italy. So, we have most likely, second generation Christians who endured great persecution in past days. Yet this persecution was not to death, if we take 12:4 strictly literally “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” More than likely, this is a reference to the expulsion of Jews from Rome by Claudius in 49 AD. Therefore, Hebrews would likely have been written sometime after 49 AD, but before the Neronian persecution broke out in 65 AD (and obviously before 70 AD), most likely in the early 60s.
Because of the familiarity that Clement quotes the epistle of Hebrews, using terms that seem to revere it as scripture (i.e. 36.3) and the fact that Clement readily expects the Corinthians to be intimately familiar with this book, it seems very unlikely that Clement is writing during the Neronian persecution, but some time has elapsed.
Because of the above, I think that a date of 94-96 AD for Clement is the most likely and most plausible date.
I hope that the above quoted material helps to provide context to the Facebook discussion. My comment was not meant as an exhaustive argument, and I am certainly open to other dates for 1 Clement, there is no way to know for absolute certainty.
Thank you Tim. Just so you are aware, I was not necessarily “defending” myself against you. I thought you succinctly, and accurately, summarized why scholars date it in the 90s and so I was defending my view against the majority scholarly view, which you presented.
Thank you Craig, I do appreciate the kind comments.
My ad hoc Facebook comments are no match for real scholarship.
Yes. And it also could be entirely false: an ancient Christian church already existing 30 years after Paul’s foundation, referring to the fathers and the fathers before, and Paul being dead since, say 20 years, while referring to the entire Pauline Epistle Canon, as well as the Book of Revelations, that was written shortly afterward 1 Clement, while the Temple in Jerusalem was still intact, and so on. 1 Clement is impossible — there is no way that it can be genuine.
Rev is not cited in 1 clement and as i detail there is no contradiction of clement citing 2 generations of bishops.
Right. Correction acknowledged.