In response to a post by my colleague JD, a commenter -- Quixie -- rejected the notion that 1 Clement -- even if authentic -- betrays knowledge of Paul’s letters. On his website, he seems to concede some familiarity with Pauline thought as expressed in chapters 12 and 13 of 1 Corinthians but insists that the author had not read any of Paul’s letters. I think Clement is demonstrably reliant on 1 and 2 Corinthians as well as Romans and Galatians. In this post, however, I will examine Clement's reliance on 1 Corinthians. In particular, I will focus on Clement's explicit reference to Paul's first letter to the Corinthian church.
Quixie’s analysis is conclusory so it is unclear what if any standards he applied in evaluating potential references to Paul’s letters. He also fails to cite any of the leading studies of this issue, instead conducting his own review based on a translation and notations by William Wake, who died in 1737. In any event, judging by his conclusions, Quixie’s expectations are unreasonably high.
Although it is likely there was was an “oral tradition” phase of gospel material prior to their being written down, the same is unlikely for Paul’s letters. Though Paul undoubtedly uses some traditions in his letter, by far most of his letters were free-hand writings in response to specific situations as they arose among the churches. In other words, they were occasional. As a result, it is less likely that correlations are the result of common oral tradition. Also, explicit attribution was not a regular practice among the Apostolic Fathers. We know from their use of the Old Testament that it was not unusual to quote or allude to a written source without identifying the source or even that there was a source.
1 Clement, written by a leader (or leaders) in the Roman church to the Corinthian church, is dated by scholarly consensus to the end of the first century. In his letter, Clement explicitly refers to one of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians. Which letter to the Corinthians is made clear by his reference emphasizing the need for church unity.
Take up the epistle of the blessed Paul the Apostle. What wrote he first unto you in the beginning of the Gospel? Of a truth he charged you in the Spirit concerning himself and Cephas and Apollos, because that even then ye had made parties. Yet that making of parties brought less sin upon you; for ye were partisans of Apostles that were highly reputed, and of a man approved in their sight.
1 Clement 47:1-4. Without even comparing this passage to 1 Corinthians for linguistic parallels we see that the author knew of a letter Paul had written to the Corinthian church. Moreover, he was familiar enough with it and its occasion, that he directed the Corinthian church of his time to refer to the letter to help respond to contemporary factional disputes. As noted by Donald Hagner in a study on Clement's use of the Old and New Testaments, “Not only did both epistles have the same destination, but both were written for the same purpose: to restore order and unity to a strife-torn church.” Hagner, The Use of the Old and New Testaments in Clement of Rome, page 195. A comparison of the text of a passage from 1 Corinthians adds undeniable weight to the case for dependence on 1 Corinthians.
Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name.
1 Cor. 1:12-15.
Add specific references to the Pauline, Apollos, and Cephas factions in the Corinthian church in both letters combined with the context of church division and an explicit reference to a letter Paul had sent to the Corinthian church, and the case is made. In the words of the Oxford Society of Historical Theology,
It cannot be doubted that this passage refers to the First Epistle to the Corinthians; the references to Cephas and Apollos and the trouble in the Church seem to make this plain, and the conclusion is borne out by actual quotations from the Epistle.
The New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers, page 41. This conclusion has been confirmed again and again by detailed examinations of Clement’s reliance on Paul’s letters. Hagner, op. cit., page 195 (“It is certain that Clement here refers to 1 Cor. 1.10ff.”), Albert Barnett, Paul Becomes a Literary Influence, page 99 (finding it “a matter of practical certainty” that Clement relies on 1 Cor. 1:11-13), Edouard Massaux, The Influence of the Gospel of Saint Matthew, page 40 (“Clement of Rome informs us himself that he knows at least one of the letters of St. Paul....”), Andrew F. Gregory, “1 Clement and the Writings that later formed the New Testament,” in The Reception of the New Testament in the Apostolic Fathers, eds. Andrew Gregory and Christopher Tuckett, page 144 (“Such clear testimony to 1 Corinthians means that this conclusion is secure....”).
An important implication of Clement's explicit reference to the above Corinthian passage is that Clement considers Paul’s letter so well-known and so authoritative that he directs another church to it in order to resolve their dispute. “It shows that Clement considered it to be self-evident that he should make use of Paul’s letter in support of his own argument; that he assumed that the letter Paul sent from forty years before is still available in the Corinthian Church; and that he saw no reason to comment on the fact that a copy of the letter already existed in Rome.” Gregory, op. cit., page 145-46. In other words, Paul was an important figure and his correspondence was considered authoritative beyond their church of destination.
Another important implication of this analysis is that the overwhelming evidence of dependence on 1 Corinthians “strengthens the likelihood” of other instances of Clement’s use of 1 Corinthians. Id. at 145. Space and time constraints prohibit a detailed examination of further examples in this post, but one and usually more of the studies referenced above also rate the following instances of dependence as certain or highly probable: 1 Cor. 12:12, 14 (1 Clem. 37:5-38.2), 1 Cor. 13:4-7 (1 Clem. 49.5), 1 Cor. 15:20, 23 (1 Clem. 24.1), 1 Cor. 15:36-37 (1 Clem. 24:4-5), 1 Cor. 1:31 (1 Clem. 13:1), 1 Cor. 2:9 (1 Clem. 34:8), 1 Cor. 13 (1 Clem 49:5). Additional correlations are considered reasonably probable.
All told, the case for 1 Clement's use of 1 Corinthians is overwhelming.