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.