Clementine literature

From Academic Kids

Clementine literature (also called Clementia, Pseudo-Clementine Writings, etc.) is the name given to the religious romance which purports to contain a record made by one Clement (whom the narrative identifies as both Pope Clement I, and Domitian's cousin T. Flavius Clemens) of discourses involving the apostle Peter, together with an account of the circumstances under which Clement came to be Peter's travelling companion, and of other details of Clement's family history. This romance has has come down to us in two forms: one form is called the Clementine Homilies, which consists of 20 books and exists in the original Greek; the other is called the Clementine Recognitions, for which the orignial Greek has been lost, but exists in a translation made by Rufinus (died 410). Two later epitomes of the Homilies also exist, and there is a partial Syriac translation, which embraces the Recognitions (books 1-3), and the Homilies (books 10-14), preserved in two British Library manuscripts, one of which was written in the year 411. Some fragments of the Clementines are known in Arabic and in Slavonic.

Large portions of the Homilies (H) and Recognitions (R) are almost word for word the same, and larger portions also correspond in subject and more or less in treatment. However, other parts contained only in one appear to be referred to or presupposed in the other. The two works are roughly of the same length, and contain the same framework of romance. H was considered to be the original by Neander, Baur, Schwegler, and others. Lehmann thought the first three books of R. to be original, and H. for the remainder. Uhlhorn argued that both were recensions of an earlier book, Preachings of Peter (usually referred to by its greek equivalent - Kerygmata Petrous), R having best preserved the narrative, H the dogmatic teaching. Whiston, Rosenmüller, Ritschl, Hilgenfeld, and others held R to be the original. It is now almost universally held (after Hort, Harnack, Waitz) that H and R are two versions of an original Clementine romance, which was longer than either, and embraced most of the contents of both. Sometimes H, sometimes R, is the more faithful to the archetype.


With the elaborate philosophical and dogmatic discourse which forms the bulk of both works is interwoven a story which, when we consider its date, may he described as positively exciting and romantic. It differs slightly in the two books. The narrative is addressed to James the Just, the Bishop of Jerusalem, and is related in the voice of Clement himself. He begins by detailing his religious questionings, his doubts about immortality, his love for celibacy, and so on. Clement hears at Rome the preaching of a man of Judea who relates the miracles of Christ. R identifies this man as Barnabas; H does not provide a name. Clement defends this speaker from the mob, and follows him to Palestine. (In H, Clement likewise sets out for Palestine, but is driven by storms to Alexandria, where he is directed to Barnabas, and there defends him from the mob and follows to Caesarea.) At Caesarea, Clement hears that the apostle Peter is there and is about to hold a disputation with Simon Magus. At Peter's lodging he finds Barnabas, who introduces him. Peter invites Clement to accompany him from city to city, on his way to Rome, in order to hear his discourses. Clement (so R; H credits this duty to Peter himself) sends a report of this to James, from whom Peter has an order to transmit to him accounts of all his teaching.

So far H 1 and R 1.1-21; then the two versions differ. The original order may have been as follows: Clement arises at dawn (H 2.1) and finds Peter, who continues to instruct him (2-18, compare R 2.33 and 3.61). Peter sends for two of his disciples, Nicetas and Aquila, whom he describes as foster-sons of Justa, the Syrophoenician woman who was healed by Christ. They had been educated from boyhood by Simon Magus, but had been converted by Zacchaeus, another disciple of Peter (19-21). Aquila relates Simon's parentage and his Samaritan origin, and declares that he claims to be greater than the God who created the world (H 2.22; R 2.7). He had been a disciple of John the Baptist, who is represented in H as the head of a sect of "daily baptizers"; Dositheus succeeded John as head of it, and Simon supplanted Dositheus (23-4). In R John the Baptist is not mentioned, and the sect is said to be led by Dositheus. The woman, Helena, whom Simon took about with him, is described (in R she is called the moon -- R 2.12, H 2.26), and the sham miracles he claimed to do (H 2.32, R 2.10). He can make himself visible or invisible at will, can pass through rocks as if they were clay, throw himself down from a mountain unhurt, loose himself when bound; he can animate statues, make trees spring up; he can throw himself into the fire without harm, can appear with two faces: "I shall change myself into a sheep or a goat. I shall make a beard to grow upon little boys. I shall ascend by flight into the air, I shall exhibit abundance of gold. I shall make and unmake kings. I shall be worshipped as God, I shall have divine honors publicly assigned to me, so that an image of me shall be set up, and I shall be adored as God." (R 2.9.) Next day at noon, Zacchaeus announces that Simon has put off the promised dispute (H 2.35-7; R 2.20-1). Peter instructs Clement into the evening (H 2.38-53).

Probably before this should come a long passage of R (1.22-74) in which Peter speaks of Old Testament history (27-41) and then gives an account of the coming of the true Prophet, His rejection, Passion, and Resurrection, and relates the preaching to the Gentiles. The Church at Jerusalem having been governed by James for a week of years, the Apostles return from their travels, and at James's request state what they have accomplished. Caiphas sends to ask if Jesus was the Christ. Here Peter, in a digression, explains why the true Prophet is called Christ and describes the Jewish sects. Then we are then told how the Apostles argued before Caiphas, and refuted successively the Sadducees, Samaritans, Scribes, Pharisees, disciples of John, and Caiphas himself. When Peter foretells the destruction of the Temple, the priests are enraged, but Gamaliel quells the tumult, and next day makes a speech. James preaches for seven days, and the people are on the point of being baptized, when an enemy (not named, but identified by modern scholars with Paul) excites them against James, who is thrown down the steps of the Temple and left for dead. James is carried to Jericho, with 5000 disciples. On recovering he sends Peter to Caesarea to refute Simon. He is welcomed by Zacchaeus, who relates Simon's doings to him. Perhaps the author of H thought all this story inconsistent with Acts, and omitted it.

Next morning before dawn Peter arouses his disciples (H 3.1; R 2.1), who are enumerated (H 2.1; R 2.1). Peter gives a private preparatory discourse (H) and then goes out to the public discussion with Simon. Only one day of it is related in H (3.38-57), but the whole matter of the three days is given in R (2.24-70; 3.12-30, 33-48). But what H has omitted, R gives largely, though in a different form, in chapters 16, 17, 18, and partly in 19, as another discussion with Simon in Laodicea. It is clear that R has the original order. Simon, being worsted, flies in the night to Tyre. Peter determines to follow, leaving Zaccaeus as bishop at Caesarea (H 3.58-72; R 3.63-6). H adds that Peter remained seven days longer and baptized 10,000 people, sending on Nicetas and Aquila to stay at Tyre with Bernice, daughter of their stepmother, Justa (3.73). But R relates that seven other disciples were sent on, while Clement remained at Caesarea for three months with Peter, who repeated in private at night the public instructions he gave during the day; all this Clement wrote down and sent to James. In chapter 74 the contents of the ten books of these sermons as sent to Jerusalem are described. H now makes Clement, Nicetas, and Aquila go on to Tyre. Bernice tells them how Simon has been raising ghosts, infecting the people with diseases, and bringing demons upon them, and has gone to Sidon. Clement has a discussion with Simon's disciple Appion (H 5.7 -- 6.25). All this is omitted by R, but the same subjects are discussed in R 10.17-51. Peter goes on northward by Tyre, Sidon, Beirut, and Byblos to Tripolis (H 7.5-12). (R adds Dora and Ptolemais Ace, omitting Byblos, 4.1.) Peter's discourses to the multitude at Tripolis are detailed in H (books 8-11), and in R (three days only, 4-6), with considerable differences. Clement is baptized (H 11.35; R 6.15). After a stay of three months he goes through Ortosias to Antaradus (H 12.1; R 7.1).

At this point Clement recounts his history to Peter. He was closely related to the emperor. Soon after his birth his mother had a vision that unless she speedily left Rome with her twin elder sons, she and they would perish miserably. His father therefore sent them with many servants to Athens, but they disappeared, and nothing could be learned of their fate. At last, when Clement was twelve years old, his father himself set out upon the search; and he too was no more heard of (H 12.9-11; R 7.8-10). In the island of Aradus, opposite the town, Peter finds a miserable beggar woman, who turns out to be Clement's mother. Peter unites them, and heals the woman (H 12.12-23; R 7.11-23). H adds a discourse by Peter on philanthropy (25-33). The party now leave Aradus (Mattidia, Clement's mother, travels with Peter's wife) and go by Balaneae, Palates, and Gable to Laodicea in Syria. Nicetas and Aquila receive them, and hear Clement's story with surprise; they declare themselves to be the twin sons of Mattidia and brothers of Clement, Faustus and Faustinianus. They had been saved on a fragment of wreck, and some men in a boat had taken them up. They had been beaten and starved, and finally sold at Caesarea Stratton to Justa, who had educated them as her own sons. Later they had adhered to Simon, but were brought by Zacchaeus to Peter. Upon hearing this, Mattidia is baptized, and Peter discourses on the rewards given to chastity (H 12; R 7.24-38). The next morning Peter is interrupted at his prayers by an old man, who assures him that prayer is a mistake, since all things are governed by genesis or fate. Peter replies (H 14.1-5; R names him Nicetas); Aquila and Clement try also to refute him (8.5 -- 9.33; compare H 15.1-5), but without success, for the old man had cast a horoscope for himself and his wife, and he explains how it came true. Clement, Nicetas, and Aquila recognize that this man is their father; Peter asks his name and those of his children. Their mother rushes in, and all embrace in floods of tears. Faustus is then converted by a long series of discourses on evil and on mythology (in R these appear at 10.1-51; in H to 20.1-10 and 4.7 - 6.25, the discussion between Clement and Appion at Tyre; the long discussions with Simon before Faustus in H books 16, 17 and 18 were in their right place in R as part of the debate at Caesarea). Simon is driven away by the threats of Cornelius the Centurion, but first he changes the face of Faustus into his own likeness by smearing it with a magic juice, in hopes that Faustus will be put to death instead of himself. Peter frightens away Simon's disciples by what are simply lies, and he sends Faustus to Antioch to unsay in the person of Simon all the abuse Simon has been pouring on the Apostle there. The people of Antioch in consequence long for Peter's coming, and nearly put the false Simon to death. Peter restores him to his proper form, and thenceforth they all live happily.

Clement's letter to James forms the epilogue to H. In it, Clement relates how Peter on his death bed gave his last instructions and set Clement in his own chair as his successor in the See of Rome. James is addressed as "Bishop of bishops, who rules Jerusalem, the holy Church of the Hebrews, and the Churches everywhere". To him Clement sends a book, "Clement's Epitome of the Preachings of Peter from place to place". Another letter, that of Peter to James, forms an introduction. The Apostle urges that the book of his teachings is not to be committed to anyone before initiation and probation. A note follows the letter, relating that James on receipt of the letter called the elders and read it to them. The book is to be given only to one who is pious, and a teacher, and circumcised, and even then only a part at a time. A form of promise (not an oath, which is unlawful) is prescribed for the reader, by heaven, earth, water, and air, that he will take extraordinary care of the writings and communicate them to no one; he invokes upon himself terrible curses in case he should be unfaithful to this covenant. The most curious passage is: "Even if I should come to acknowledge another God, I now swear by him, whether he exist or not." After the adjuration he shall partake of bread and salt. The elders, on hearing of this solemnity, are terrified, but James pacifies them. The whole of this elaborate mystification is obviously intended to explain how the Clementine writings came to be unknown from Clement's time until the date of their unknown author. Many parallels can be found in modern times; Sir Walter Scott's prefaces -- the imaginary Mr. Oiled and his friends -- will occur to everyone. Nevertheless a good many modern critics accept the "adjuration" with the utmost gravity as the secret rite of an obscure and very early sect of Judaizers.

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