Dating the First Letter of Clement

In my earlier post about the Letter to the Hebrews, I mentioned that one reason to date that letter sometime in the first century was its use by the First Letter of Clement. I also noted that the use of Hebrews by Clement indicated a Roman destination. Peter Kirby, in the comments, asked whether Clement would be dated before or after the 96 AD date I ascribed to it. Of course it could, but there is widespread agreement that the late first century is the best dating.

I admit that this is not something I've spent a lot of time researching. I accepted the date because most scholars did and cannot remember seeing anyone proffer a much different date. In Reading the Apostolic Fathers, Clayton N. Jefford notes that "the widest range of dates during which 1 Clement could have been composed would thus features the years 81-110." Page 104. For a concise statement as to reasons, though, I'll refer to J.B. Lightfoot (edited and revised by Michael W. Holmes):

There is widespread agreement in dating this letter about A.D. 95-97, in the last year of the emperor Domitian or the first of his successor, Nerva. Several considerations suport this conclusion.

At the time of writing, the church in Rome appears to be suffering some form of persecution; in fact, the letter to Corinth has been delayed because of it (I.I; cf. 7.1). Based on what is known of the course of early persecutions, this suggests either the late years of Nero (A.D. 64-68) or the date given above. The former date, however, appears to be ruled out by two points: (1) in chapters 5 and 6 the Neronian persecution, which according to tradition included Petera nd Paul among its victims, is an event of the past; and (2) the reference to those "who from youth to old age have lived blamess lives among us" (63.3) would seem to require a date subsequent to the late 60s. At the same time, the observation that some of the leaders appointed by the apostles are still living (44.3-5) rules out any date much beyond the turn of the century. Finally, what external evidence there is (cheifly references in Hegesippus and Irenaeus) is consistent with a date of 95-97.

The Apostolic Fathers, pages 23-24.

Holmes notes that some scholars have dated it earlier, to 69-70 A.D. Kirby's quotes Lawrence Welborn of entertaining a range of 80-140 A.D.

Another interesting -- and perhaps relevant -- point can be found in the Shepard of Hermas, which indicates that the Church of Rome had -- by the early first century -- what Peter Lampe calls a "minister of external affairs" who was "responsible for the correspondence with other cities." From Paul to Valentus, page 403 (See Hermas, 2.4.3). Hermas names this person as "Clement," though no such person or office is indicated in First Clement.

Speaking of which, Lampes' From Paul to Valentinus was finally translated into English in 2003. I'm still working through it, but it's quite a resource -- tracking the history of "Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries." By the way, Lampes also places First Clement in the first century.


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