10 votes, average: 5.00 out of 510 votes, average: 5.00 out of 510 votes, average: 5.00 out of 510 votes, average: 5.00 out of 510 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5 (10 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
You need to be a registered member to rate this post.

Did a “Pope” Write the First-Century Book of 1 Clement?

I return her to the book of 1 Clement, probably unknown to many people on the blog, but an important work written at about the time of some of some of the writings of the New Testament – or so I’ll b arguing in the post after this.  First I need to say something about the author.  Why is it attributed to someone named Clement?   Could this really have been written by a first-century pope (i.e., the Bishop of the church in Rome)?

Again, I am taking this information from the Introduction to the letter, which I give in a new English translation (with the Greek text on the facing page) in the first volume of my Apostolic Fathers in the Loeb Classical Library (Harvard University Press).


The Author of the Book

Even though the letter claims to be written by the “church … residing in Rome,” it has from early times been attributed to Clement, a leader of the Roman church near the end of the first century.  In his celebrated church history, Eusebius sets forth the tradition, earlier found in the writings of the third-century church Father Origen, that this Clement was the companion of the apostle Paul mentioned in Phil 4:3 (Eccl. Hist. 3.4.15; see Origen Comm. Jn. 6.36).   Some of the early traditions claim that Clement was the second bishop of Rome, ordained by Peter himself (Tertullian, Prescription 32); more commonly it was thought that he was the third, following Linus and Anacletus (thus Irenaeus in Agst. Heresies 3.3.1 and Eusebius Eccl. Hist. 3.4.21).  The first reference to any …

To see the rest of this post, you will need to be a member of the blog.  If you’re not already, now’s your big chance.  Why not join?  It doesn’t cost much, you get tons for your money, and every penny goes to charity.

You need to be logged in to see this part of the content. Please Login to access.

Is 1 Clement Older than Some Books of the New Testament?
The Letter of First Clement: An Overview



  1. Avatar
    Stylites  August 12, 2018

    Your course on the Apostolic Fathers for the Great Courses led to me buying your translations for the Loeb Classical Library. I highly recommend both for anyone wanting to explore I Clement or any of the other writings of the Apostolic Fathers. This is an era of Christian history too often overlooked, and one that needs to be examined to get an undistorted view of the story of the Christian church.

  2. Avatar
    Stephen  August 12, 2018

    I just finished rereading I Clement after many years and was struck by how much the author quotes the Old Testament. He continuously refers to it as “scripture”, something he never seems to do with his allusions to the writings in the New Testament. He also makes a reference to “our Father Abraham” at one point. I guess I always assumed the author was a Gentile writing to other Gentiles. Is it possible the author was a Jewish Christian with a high position in the Roman Church? If not then how were the Gentile converts learning their Tanakh?


    • Bart
      Bart  August 13, 2018

      I think the author was almost certainly a gentile and that he, and other gentile converts, learned early on the importance of the Old Testament for understanding their faith.

  3. talmoore
    talmoore  August 12, 2018

    Dr Ehrman, I’m currently reading the Pseudo-Clementine literature (the Homilies and Recognitions in parallel) and I would be absolutely stunned if they were actually composed by a 1st century follower of Peter. (That’s probably why they’re called the “Pseudo”-Clementine literature.) In fact, they read more like something composed in the 3rd century, in response to attacks from Orthodox Pauline Christianity on the right, and Gnosticism and Neoplatonism on the left. (Peter’s main opponent in the works — which consist mainly disputations in the tradition of other apologetics, such as Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho — is Simon Magus, who himself can’t seem to decide whether he’s a Neoplatonist, a Gnostic heretic or a hardcore Pauline Christian.)

    Anyway, 1 Clement seems like the first in a long line of traditions of using Clement as a mouthpiece for some Christian guy’s own thoughts and opinions (in this case, for a church hierarchy). Maybe early Christians found it necessary to fill out the CV of this purported Clement of Rome. The same way that they found it necessary fill out the stories of most of Jesus’ disciples — many of whom have a blink-and-you’ll-miss-him quality in the gospels — into these epic lives spent spreading the gospel in India or somesuch nonsense. If you’re an early Christian missionary, and someone asks you “whatever happened to Bartholomew?” you can’t just say, “You know what? That’s a good question.” No, you have to say something (anything!) in order not to look like an idiot, so you make something up, such as that Bartholomew took Christianity to Armenia, or India, or both, or somesuch nonsense.

    So you’re a 2nd century Christian initiate who asks, “who is this Clement guy who I read mentioned from time-to-time in the literature?” If you’re a Christian apostle, you can’t answer, “Good question. I don’t know.” Because you’ll look like an idiot. So you say, “Oh Clement? He was one of the first bishops of Rome. In fact, he was handpicked by Saint Peter himself. And that letter to the Corinthians that’s been going around? That was written by Clement.” And, bam! Clement is now a fully realized human being.

    This kind of stuff happens so often that there’s even a name for it. It’s called “bullshitting”. We see it happening even today. All the time (just listen to the words of any politician). It’s so ubiquitous, in fact, as to be inconspicuous and commonplace.

    • Bart
      Bart  August 13, 2018

      No, they certainly are not first century. The scholarship is massively complicated, especially the older work that focused almost exclusively in trying to establish the sources/Urtext behind the Recognitions and Homilies. But more recent scholarship has bypassed all that to try to understand how the works could function in their fourth century context. If you’re interested, there are excellent books by Annette Yoshiko Reed and Nicole Kelley for starters.

  4. Avatar
    John Uzoigwe  August 13, 2018

    Dr Bart Ehrman, on a personal note do you believe in demonic possession and exorcism?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 13, 2018

      I believe exorcisms happen, but I don’t believe in demons or any supernatural beings, so I don’t think there are literally demons being cast out of people, no.

  5. Avatar
    John Uzoigwe  August 13, 2018

    How historical is the movie, AGORA?
    Have you ever written on book on the violence of early Christians? Can you make any recommendation on the violence of early Christians?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 13, 2018

      I haven’t seen it in a while — I would have to take a look. I deal with violence in the later chapters of my most recent book Triumph of Christianity, and give bibliography there in the footnotes, if you’re interested.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  August 13, 2018

      Some things were changed in the movie, probably for the sake of narrative, like most historical dramas. The biggest change, of course, is that Hypatia is stoned in the film (after first being mercifully strangled by her former slave). The historical record, however, says that Hypatia was flayed with pottery shards (possibly while she was still conscious), publicly dismembered and burned.

      • Bart
        Bart  August 14, 2018

        Dismembered? She was stripped, but I don’t remember anything about dismemberment. Ugly incident in any event….

        • talmoore
          talmoore  August 14, 2018

          “I don’t remember anything about dismemberment.”

          “After tearing her body in pieces, they took her mangled limbs to a place called Cinaron, and there burned them.” — Socrates Scholasticus, Ecclesiastical History, 7.15

          • Bart
            Bart  August 15, 2018

            Ah, thanks.

  6. Avatar
    prestonp  August 13, 2018

    Don’t know about a pope writing it. Don’t care. I’m sure that some popes were nice fellas, but having a title means nothing about the character of the individual or his pursuit of God. Give me a St. Frances of Assisi any day or a Brother Andrew. They longed for God, to know Him and the fellowship of His sufferings. The bibles Andrew smuggled included all the miraculous deeds and references to the miraculous that the Higher Critics dismiss before even considering that they may have taken place. Gone Before The Wind gets there.

    Bart, why don’t Higher Critics use The Life And Morals Of Jesus Of Nazareth Extracted Textually from the Gospels in Greek, Latin, French & English”, Tom Jefferson’s Version? He completed it in 1820 by cutting and pasting with a razor and glue numerous sections from the New Testament as extractions of the doctrine of Jesus. Jefferson’s condensed composition is especially notable for its exclusion of all miracles by Jesus and most mentions of the supernatural, *(Should have removed every single reference to the supernatural no matter how subtle) including sections of the four gospels that contain the Resurrection and most other miracles, and passages that portray Jesus as divine. Thanks Wikipedia.

    You see, at least that way, we can know that we are discussing and comparing the same material, apples to apples, oranges to oranges, you know?

    * guess who

    It makes no sense to me for Higher Critics to call the N.T. the N.T. when Higher Critics mean a N.T. absent everything miraculous. Do you see what I mean? In fact, when Historic Critics try to explain them away, it merely complicates their interpretations. They end up making a bunch of truly bizarre theories. If they would stick with a Jefferson Bible, that would reduce the number of misunderstandings and much of the conjecture.

    • Avatar
      Jayredinger  August 14, 2018

      I am not too sure why Prestonp is commenting here, he doesn’t seem to be able to differentiate between what is historical and what is theological. There is a difference between fact and faith, the one does not require evidence.

  7. Lev
    Lev  August 13, 2018

    “the friendly attitude toward the Roman empire evidenced in 1 Clement (e.g., ch. 60) is replaced by a sense of opposition.”

    I think I once read somewhere (but can’t find it now) that some scholars have concluded that ch 60-65 were a late addition to the epistle, and that why some translations of the text end at chapter 59. Is that something you’ve come across?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 13, 2018

      No, I don’t think that’s quite right. The first discovered ms of the book, Codex Alexandrinus, was missing a page and so was lacking 57.7-63.4; but the other complete manuscript has all the chapters.

  8. epicurus
    epicurus  August 13, 2018

    It’s been about 10 years since I listened to your Great Courses lectures on the Apostolic Fathers, so this is a nice refresher!

    • Avatar
      mtelus  August 14, 2018

      Great courses has a monthly subscription now, I would be interested in the anthropology lectures.

  9. Avatar
    fishician  August 13, 2018

    When do you think the first “pope,” recognized leader of the majority of churches in the empire, actually emerged? Do you think the existence of a secular Caesar influenced the Christians to want a singe leader of the church? (I.e., that was the assumed proper form of government, secular or religious.)

    • Bart
      Bart  August 13, 2018

      It’s very hard to date. There was a bishop of Rome certainly by the mid to late second century; but the Roman bishop is not considered by most everyone as “the” leader of the church probably until the early fourth century. that is, of course, when the emperor converts, so possibly there was some cross-fertilization of ideas?

    • Avatar
      prestonp  August 14, 2018

      {fishician August 13, 2018
      When do you think the first “pope,” recognized leader of the majority of churches in the empire, actually emerged?}

      Recognized by whom?

      “Bart August 13, 2018
      I believe exorcisms happen, but I don’t believe in demons or any supernatural beings, so I don’t think there are literally demons being cast out of people, no.”
      See M. Scott Peck

      Neither MBI nor Wheaton supported the “spiritual gifts”, I assume. Do you have an opinion about how those who exercise them do so? IOW, for “languages”, do you think they are manufacturing what they do intentionally to deceive others? If not, what’s your best guess as to the mechanism of action? How do they do it?

      “But it is not at all implausible that the miracle working deeds of Jesus were later memories told by those who had come to believe that he had been raised from the dead and exalted to heaven. His current powers as Lord of all, according to these memories, were present already during his life as demonstrations that the end was near.” Bart

      It is far, far, more plausible that they reported observed miracles. IMO. These guys were monotheists! Jews! The ONE GOD crowd! They gave up all for Him

      John said, “I am not the Christ.” “Then who are you?” “Are you Elijah?” “Are you the Prophet?” …So they said to him, “Who are you? We need an answer for those who sent us…” “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”…”among you stands One you do not know. He is the One who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”…The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

      Why would John call Jesus the Lamb of God? (I know, must have been added later.) Why would the Apocalypticist announce the coming of another apocalypticist? Why wouldn’t the conspirators eliminate all mention of John? Wait. I got it! Duh! They throw him in to prove that Christ was the One! Though He was a loose cannon, end time, nut job, (and John obviously knew this) they made Him God and put words in the mouth of John to affirm His deity at some point down the road. AHA!

      • Bart
        Bart  August 14, 2018

        I think miracle workers in Christianity today are much like miracle workers in so many other religions. If you think one group actually does them, I think you need to allow that the others do as well.

      • Avatar
        mtelus  August 15, 2018


        M. Scott Peck’s book was an interesting read.

        Even though M. Scott Peck was a psychiatrist, the reason why he could not provide psychotherapy alone to those patients is because demonic possession affects both state of mind and agency. Medicine would not diagnosis someone as demonically possessed, this is what a patient might describe their mental disturbance as in some cases, other cases the patient might not know what to call their condition. However, the underlying issue is the patient no longer has a unified agency.

        When agency is affected, there are periods when the patient is not in complete control of their actions. One example where agency can be compromised is a patient has a surgical procedure to cut their corpus callosum. They can feel someone is pushing them out of bed, but it’s really one half of their body doing the pushing resulting in a tug of war.

        In those who are experiencing a loss of agency (e.g., split-brain, demonically possessed), this is also accompanied with mental and behavioral changes. Since those parts of the brain which control behavior are also affected. Treatment would include medication, behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques, and follow ups with the neurologist.

        However, M. Scott Peck chose exorcism and it was successful, because he was able to cast out the demon. I’ve read what happens during an exorcism in M. Scott Peck’s Glimpse of the Devil, Fr. Gabriel Amorth’s An Exorcist tells his Story, and Fr. Malachi Martin’s Hostage to the Devil and the metaphysical aspects were pretty unnerving and left me a little unsettled. It eventually lead me to read the Bible from cover-to-cover.

        But it’s important to note the rituals of exorcism induces a hypnotic state and exorcisms could very well be a form of hypnotherapy.

  10. Avatar
    prestonp  August 13, 2018

    Bart, what would happen if you asked Christ to reveal Himself to you? Would your answer be that He couldn’t? Would you say that because He was an apocalypticist and not God, not the risen, the resurrected Savior of the world, there is no way He could?

    But, say you were truly curious, and you really, really wanted to know if you were right. If you were to ask Him to come into your heart, sincerely-which is the only way you would do such a thing-what do you think would happen?

    I think that would be a fair test. If your understanding of Christ is correct, He couldn’t respond, of course, because He is dead. Long gone. There’s nothing He could do, period, end of story, see you later, that’s all she wrote! Right? Nothing to worry about plain and simple. That’s if you are correct. You wouldn’t lose a thing. Nothing. Zero.

    Say you were willing to conduct this test of sorts and gave it a go. Say you just wanted to be absolutely positive that you are on the right track. Not that you don’t know that you are. You do. You’ve researched these issues for decades and by golly you know deep down you are on target. But, just as a scholar thoroughly committed to investigate these matters fairly and objectively, if you earnestly wrote in a letter to Him or just said to Him, “Jesus, if You are real, if You really did rise from the dead, if You can hear me, show me!”, what do you think would happen?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 14, 2018

      You do know that I was a very devout born again Christian who asked Jesus into his heart and committed his life to him as his lord and savior, don’t you?

  11. Avatar
    Steefen  August 13, 2018

    The Professor:
    Some scholars have argued that this Clement was a freedman of the Roman consul T. Flavius Clemens, a Roman aristocrat of the Flavian family who was executed by his cousin Domitian for “atheism,” possibly referring to an association with Judaism (see esp. the full account in Lightfoot and the more recent discussion in Jeffers).

    The Student:
    I’m ready to check amazon dot com or libraries:
    What is the book by Lightfoot and the author’s full name?
    What is the book by Jeffers and the author’s full name?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 14, 2018

      J. B. Lightfoot, the five-volume edition of the Apostolic Fathers, originally published in 1889, reissued by Hendrickson publishers in 1989. Deffers. I wonder if I meant Clayton Jefford, Reading the Apostolic Fathers? Or maybe James S. Jeffers, Conflict at Rome.

      • Avatar
        Steefen  August 17, 2018

        J.B. Lightfoot, the five volume edition of the Apostolic Fathers
        Steve: OMG, I’m really not feeling going through each of the five volumes

        Clayton Jefford – “Reading the Apostolic Fathers
        Steve: Reading the Apostolic Fathers: A Student’s Introduction, 2nd Edition

        James S. Jeffers – Conflict at Rome: Social Order and Hierarchy in Early Christianity
        Steve quoting amazon dot com text: Utilizing archeological evidence and an analysis of two early Christian texts related to the church at Rome, James S. Jeffers offers a penetrating glimpse into the economic, social, and theological tensions of early Roman Christianity. Clement and the Shepherd of Hermas are shown to represent two decidedly conflicting conceptions of Christianity and hierarchy: Clement represents the social elite and a more structured approach to church organization, and Hermas displays a tendency toward sectarianism.

        I’m definitely hunting down the Jeffers book.

        The Marvin Meyer’s book (The Ancient Mysteries) you recommended does not have an index, which of course is an obvious problem for studying the book.

        • Bart
          Bart  August 19, 2018

          It really doesn’t need much of an index: it is a reader that is clearly organized by mystery cult (Isis, Bacchus, Demeter, etc.)

  12. Avatar
    SidDhartha1953  August 13, 2018

    I’m sure there are quotations in the Apostolic/Church Fathers from early Christian documents of which there are no extant manuscripts. Are there any in particular that would be on your wish list of future discoveries?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 14, 2018

      I’d love to see the five-volume work of Papias, Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord. Dated to around 130 and must have been filled with both historical and, especially, legendary material, from very early times.

  13. Avatar
    Marko071291  August 13, 2018

    could you cite good book or article on the rise of early-christian mono-episcopacy? I m really interested in the question of how did church structure rose from earliest house churches to the administrative church with clear hierarchy and with a bishop on top?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 14, 2018

      That’s a great question. I can’t think of anything other than dry and relatively inaccessible scholarship… I’ll think some more — or maybe someone else on the blog knows of something?

You must be logged in to post a comment.