Episode 3—Clement of Rome: The Earliest Christian Author after the Apostles

By Mike Aquilina (bio - articles - email) | Nov 13, 2019 | In Way of the Fathers (Podcast)

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Clement of Rome led a Church in turmoil. Its people were deeply divided. The secular culture was hostile to the faith. Across the ocean from the Eternal City the laity were rising up in rebellion against the clergy. And it was only 67 A.D. St. Peter was hardly cold in his grave on Vatican Hill. How should his successor lead in such a crisis?

Clement healed the Church in the way of the Apostles: by writing a winsome, reasonable, gentle letter. Clement’s Epistle to the Corinthians is, says Johannes Quasten, “the earliest piece of literature outside the New Testament for which the name, position, and date of the author are historically attested.” It provides us a snapshot of Church life as the first Christian generation turned over to the second. And it reveals the origins of so many doctrines: apostolic succession, Roman primacy, the papal office, and the unity of the Old Testament and the New.

The letter was considered Scripture in some local churches, and proclaimed in the liturgy. Clement himself was suspected by some ancient teachers to be the author of the Letter to the Hebrews. Christians today don’t fully understand the achievement of the Apostles unless they understand the work of their immediate disciples. Clement knew both Peter and Paul and carried their mission forward according to their model and instructions. His words are useful for our own time of crisis.

Links

Buy Kenneth Howell’s new edition and translation of Clement of Rome’s Epistle. https://www.amazon.com/Clement-Didache-Early-Christian-Fathers/dp/0983082979/

Read Clement in the context of the other Apostolic Fathers. https://www.amazon.com/Early-Christian-Writings-Apostolic-Fathers/dp/0140444750/

Compare Clement’s letter in Greek and English. https://www.amazon.com/1-Clement-Readers-Theodore-Bergren/dp/0813232368/

Read a recent study of Clement’s Letter, by a respected scholar and official of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. https://www.amazon.com/Clement-Early-Church-Rome-Corinthians-ebook/dp/B004OEIWGC/

Clement’s First Epistle to the Corinthians online. https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/fathers/view.cfm?recnum=1608

Catholic Culture Audiobooks reading of Clement’s First Epistle to the Corinthians: https://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/st-clement-rome-letter-to-corinthians/

More Works by the Fathers. https://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/fathers/

Mike Aquilina’s Website. https://fathersofthechurch.com

Theme music: Gaudeamus (Introit for the Feast of All Saints), sung by Jeff Ostrowski. Courtesy of http://www.ccwatershed.org

Mike Aquilina is a popular author working in the area of Church history, especially patristics. He is executive vice-president and trustee of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, a contributing editor of Angelus (magazine) and general editor of the Reclaiming Catholic History Series from Ave Maria Press. See full bio.

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