Catholic Encyclopedia – Pope Saint Clement I

[Pope Saint Clement I]Article

Pope Clement I (called Clemens Romanus to distinguish him from the Alexandrian), is the first of the successors of Saint Peter of whom anything definite is known, and he is the first of the “Apostolic Fathers”. His feast is celebrated 23 November. He has left one genuine writing, a letter to the Church of Corinth, and many others have been attributed to him.

The fourth pope

According to Tertullian, writing c. 199, the Roman Church claimed that Clement was ordained by Saint Peter (De Praescript., xxxii), and Saint Jerome tells us that in his time “most of the Latins” held that Clement was the immediate successor of the Apostle (Illustrious Men 15). Saint Jerome himself in several other places follows this opinion, but here he correctly states that Clement was the fourth pope. The early evidence shows great variety. The most ancient list of popes is one made by Hegesippus in the time of Pope Anicetus, c. 160 (Harnack ascribes it to an unknown author under Soter, c. 170), cited by Saint Epiphanius (Haer., xxvii, 6). It seems to have been used by Saint Irenæus (Haer., III, iii), by Julius Africanus, who composed a chronography in 222, by the third- or fourth-century author of a Latin poem against Marcion, and by Hippolytus, who see chronology extends to 234 and is probably found in the “Liberian Catalogue” of 354. That catalogue was itself adopted in the “Liber Pontificalis”. Eusebius in his chronicle and history used Africanus; in the latter he slightly corrected the dates. Saint Jerome’s chronicle is a translation of Eusebius’s, and is our principal means for restoring the lost Greek of the latter; the Armenian version and Coptic epitomes of it are not to be depended on. The varieties of order are as follows:

  • Linus, Cletus, Clemens (Hegesippus, ap. Epiphanium, Canon of Mass).
  • Linus, Anencletus, Clemens (Irenaeus, Africanus ap. Eusebium).
  • Linus, Anacletus, Clemens (Jerome).
  • Linus, Cletus, Anacletus, Clemens (Poem against Marcion),
  • Linus, Clemens, Cletus, Anacletus [Hippolytus (?), "Liberian Catal."- "Liber. Pont."].
  • Linus, Clemens, Anacletus (Optatus, Augustine).

At the present time no critic doubts that Cletus, Anacletus, Anencletus, are the same person. Anacletus is a Latin error; Cletus is a shortened (and more Christian) form of Anencletus. Lightfoot thought that the transposition of Clement in the “Liberian Catalogue” was a mere accident, like the similar error “Anicetus, Pius” for “Pius Anicetus”, further on in the same list. But it may have been a deliberate alteration by Hippolytus, on the ground of the tradition mentioned by Tertullian. Saint Irenæus (III, iii) tells us that Clement “saw the blessed Apostles and conversed with them, and had yet ringing in his ears the preaching of the Apostles and had their tradition before his eyes, and not he only for many were then surviving who had been taught y the Apostles”. Similarly Epiphanius tells us (from Hegesippus) that Clement was a contemporary of Peter and Paul. Now Linus and Cletus had each twelve years attributed to them in the list. If Hippolytus found Cletus doubled by an error (Cletus XII, Anacletus XII), the accession of Clement would appear to be thirty-six years after the death of the Apostles. As this would make it almost impossible for Clement to have been their contemporary, it may have caused Hippolytus to shift him to an earlier position. Further, Saint Epiphanius says (loc. cit.): “Whether he received episcopal ordination from Peter in the life-time of the Apostles, and declined the office, for he says in one of his epistles ‘I retire, I depart, let the people of God be in peace’, (for we have found this set down in certain Memoirs), or whether he was appointed by the Bishop Cletus after he had succeeded the Apostles, we do not clearly know.” The “Memoirs” were certainly those of Hegesippus. It seems unlikely that he is appealed to only for the quotation from the Epistle, c. liv; probably Epiphanius means that Hegesippus stated that Clement had been ordained by Peter and declined to be bishop, but twenty-four years later really exercised the office for nine years. Epiphanius could not reconcile these two facts; Hippolytus seems to have rejected the latter.


The date intended by Hegesippus is not hard to restore. Epiphanius implies that he placed the martyrdom of the Apostles in the twelfth year of Nero. Africanus calculated the fourteenth year (for he had attributed one year too little to the reigns of Caligula and Claudius), and added the imperial date for the accession of each pope; but having two years too few up to Anicetus he could not get the intervals to tally with the years of episcopate given by Hegesippus. He had a parallel difficulty in his list of the Alexandrian bishops.

Hegesippus Africanus (from Eusebius) Interval Real Dates A.D.
Linus 12 Nero 14 12 Nero 12 66
Cletus 12 Titus 2 12 Vesp 10 78
Clemens 9 Dom 12 (7) Dom 10 80
Euaristus 8 Trajan 2 (10) Trajan 2 99
Alexander 10 Trajan 12 10 Trajan 10 107
Sixtus 10 Hadrian 3 (9) Hadrian 1 117
Telesphorus 11 Hadrian 12 (10) Hadrian 11 127
Hyginus 4 Anton 1 4 Anton 1 138
Pius 15 Anton 5 15 Anton 5 142
Anicetus Anton 20 Anton 20 157

If we start, as Hegesippus intended, with Nero 12 (see last column), the sum of his years brings us right for the last three popes. But Africanus has started two years wrong, and in order to get right at Hyginus he has to allow one year too little to each of the preceding popes, Sixtus and Telesphorus. But there is one inharmonious date, Trajan 2, which gives seven and ten years to Clement and Euaristus instead of nine and eight. Evidently he felt bound to insert a traditional date — and in fact we see that Trajan 2 was the date intended by Hegesippus. Now we know that Hegesippus spoke about Clement’s acquaintance with the Apostles, and said nothing about any other pope until Telesphorus, “who was a glorious martyr.” It is not surprising, then, to find that Africanus had, besides the lengths of episcopate, two fixed dates from Hegesippus, those of the death of Clement in the second year of Trajan, and of the martyrdom of Telesphorus in the first year of Antoninus Pius. We may take it, therefore, that about 160 the death of Saint Clement was believed to have been in 99.


Origen identifies Pope Clement with Saint Paul’s fellow-labourer (Philippians 4:3), and so do Eusebius, Epiphanius, and Jerome — but this Clement was probably a Philippian. In the middle of the nineteenth century it was the custom to identity the pope with the consul of 95, T. Flavius Clemens, who was martyred by his first cousin, the Emperor Domitian, at the end of his consulship. But the ancients never suggest this, and the pope is said to have lived on till the reign of Trajan. It is unlikely that he was a member of the imperial family. The continual use of the Old Testament in his Epistle has suggested to Lightfoot, Funk, Nestle, and others that he was of Jewish origin. Probably he was a freedman or son of a freedman of the emperor’s household, which included thousands or tens of thousands. We know that there were Christians in the household of Nero (Philippians 4:22). It is highly probable that the bearers of Clement’s letter, Claudius Ephebus and Valerius Vito, were of this number, for the names Claudius and Valerius occur with great frequency in inscriptions among the freedmen of the Emperor Claudius (and his two predecessors of the same gens) and his wife Valeria Messalina. The two messengers are described as “faithful and prudent men, who have walked among us from youth unto old age unblameably”, thus they were probably already Christians and living in Rome before the death of the Apostles about thirty years earlier. The Prefect of Rome during Nero’s persecution was Titus Flavius Sabinus, elder brother of the Emperor Vespasian, and father of the martyred Clemens. Flavia Domitilla, wife of the Martyr, was a granddaughter of Vespasian, and niece of Titus and Domitian; she may have died a martyr to the rigours of her banishment The catacomb of Domitilla is shown by existing inscriptions to have been founded by her. Whether she is distinct from another Flavia Domitilla, who is styled “Virgin and Martyr”, is uncertain. (See FLAVIA DOMITILLA and NEREUS AND ACHILLEUS) The consul and his wife had two sons Vespasian and Domitian, who had Quintilian for their tutor. Of their life nothing is known. The elder brother of the martyr Clemens was T. Flavius Sabinus, consul in 82, put to death by Domitian, whose sister he had married. Pope Clement is rep resented as his son in the Acts of Saints Nereus and Achilleus, but this would make him too young to have known the Apostles.


Of the life and death of St, Clement nothing is known. The apocryphal Greek Acts of his martyrdom were printed by Cotelier in his “Patres Apost.” (1724, I, 808; reprinted in Migne, P.G., II, 617, best edition by Funk, “Patr. Apost.”, II, 28). They relate how he converted Theodora, wife of Sisinnius, a courtier of Nerva, and (after miracles) Sisinnius himself and four hundred and twenty-three other persons of rank. Trajan banishes the pope to the Crimea, where he slakes the thirst of two thousand Christian confessors by a miracle. The people of the country are converted, seventy-five churches are built. Trajan, in consequence, orders Clement to be thrown into the sea with an iron anchor. But the tide every year recedes two miles, revealing a Divinely built shrine which contains the martyr’s bones. This story is not older than the fourth century. It is known to Gregory of Tours in the sixth. About 868 Saint Cyril, when in the Crimea on the way to evangelize the Chazars, dug up some bones in a mound (not in a tomb under the sea), and also an anchor. These were believed to be the relics of Saint Clement. They were carried by Saint Cyril to Rome, and deposited by Adrian II with those of Saint Ignatius of Antioch in the high altar of the basilica of Saint Clement in Rome. The history of this translation is evidently quite truthful, but there seems to have been no tradition with regard to the mound, which simply looked a likely place to be a tomb. The anchor appears to be the only evidence of identity but we cannot gather from the account that it belonged to the scattered bones. (See Acta SS., 9 March, II, 20.) Saint Clement is first mentioned as a martyr by Rufinus (c. 400). Pope Zozimus in a letter to Africa in 417 relates the trial and partial acquittal of the heretic Caelestius in the basilica of Saint Clement; the pope had chosen this church because Clement had learned the Faith from Saint Peter, and had given his life for it (Ep. ii). He is also called a martyr by the writer known as Praedestinatus (c. 430) and by the Synod of Vaison in 442. Modern critics think it possible that his martyrdom was suggested by a confusion with his namesake, the martyred consul. But the lack of tradition that he was buried in Rome is in favour of his having died in exile.

The basilica

The church of Saint Clement at Rome lies in the valley between the Esquiline and Coelian hills, on the direct road from the Coliseum to the Lateran. It is now in the hands of the Irish Province of Dominicans. With its atrium, its choir enclosed by a wall, its ambos, it is the most perfect model of an early basilica in Rome, though it was built as late as the first years of the twelfth century by Paschal II, after the destruction of this portion of the city by the Normans under Robert Guiscard. Paschal II followed the lines of an earlier church, on a rather smaller scale, and employed some of its materials and fittings The marble wall of the present choir is of the date of John II (533-5). In 1858 the older church was unearthed, below the present building, by the Prior Father Mulooly, O.P. Still lower were found chambers of imperial date and walls of the Republican period. The lower church was built under Constantine (d. 337) or not much later. Saint Jerome implies that it was not new in his time: “nominis eius [Clementis] memoriam usque hodie Romae exstructa ecclesia custodit” (Illustrious Men 15). It is mentioned in inscriptions of Damasus (d. 383) and Siricius (d. 398). De Rossi thought the lowest chambers belonged to the house of Clement, and that the room immediately under the altar was probably the original memoria of the saint. These chambers communicate with a shrine of Mithras, which lies beyond the apse of the church, on the lowest level. De Rossi supposed this to be a Christian chapel purposely polluted by the authorities during the last persecution. Lightfoot has suggested that the rooms may have belonged to the house of T. Flavius Clemens the consul, being later mistaken for the dwelling of the pope; but this seems quite gratuitous. In the sanctuary of Mithras a statue of the Good Shepherd was found.

Pseudo-Clementine writings

Many writings have been falsely attributed to Pope Saint Clement I:

  • The “Second Clementine Epistle to the Corinthians”, discussed under III.
  • Two “Epistles to Virgins”, extant in Syriac in an Amsterdam manuscript of 1470. The Greek originals are lost. Many critics have believed them genuine, for they were known in the fourth century to Saint Epiphanius (who speaks of their being read in the Churches) and to Saint Jerome. But it is now admitted on all hands that they cannot be by the same author as the genuine Epistle to the Corinthians. Some writers, as Hefele and Westcott, have attributed them to the second half of the second century, but the third is more probable (Harnack, Lightfoot). Harnack thinks the two letters were originally one. They were first edited by Wetstein, 1470, with Latin translation, reprinted by Gallandi, “Bibl. vett. Patr.”, I, and Migne, P.G., I. They are found in Latin only in Mansi, “Concilia”, I, and Funk “Patres Apost.”, II. See Lightfoot, “Clement of Rome” (London, 1890), I Bardenhewer, “Gesch. der altkirchl. Litt.” (Freiburg im Br., 1902), I; Harnack in “Sitzungsber. der k. preuss. Akad. der Wiss.” (Berlin, 1891), 361 and “Chronol.” (1904), II, 133.
  • At the head of the Pseudo-Isidorian decretals stand five letters attributed to Saint Clement. The first is the letter of Clement to James translated by Rufinus (see III); the second is another letter to James, found in many manuscripts of the “Recognitions”. The other three are the work of Pseudo-Isidore (See FALSE DECRETALS.)
  • Ascribed to Clement are the “Apostolical Constitutions”, “Apostolic Canons”, and the “Testament of Our Lord”, also a Jacobite Anaphora (Renaudot, Liturg. Oriental. Coll., Paris, 1716, II; Migne, P.G., II). For other attributions see Harnack, “Gesch. der altchr. Lit.” I, 777-80. The “Clementines” or Pseudo-Clementines. (q.v.)

The Epistle to the Corinthians

The Church of Corinth had been led by a few violent spirits into a sedition against its rulers. No appeal seems to have been made to Rome, but a letter was sent in the name of the Church of Rome by Saint Clement to restore peace and unity. He begins by explaining that his delay in writing has been caused by the sudden calamities which, one after another, had just been falling upon the Roman Church. The reference is clearly to the persecution of Domitian. The former high reputation of the Corinthian Church is recalled, its piety and hospitality, its obedience and discipline. Jealousy had caused the divisions; it was jealousy that led Cain, Esau, etc., into sin, it was jealousy to which Peter and Paul and multitudes with them fell victims. The Corinthians are urged to repent after the example of the Patriarchs, and to be humble like Christ himself. Let them observe order, as all creation does. A curious passage on the Resurrection is somewhat of an interruption in the sequence: all creation proves the Resurrection, and so does the phoenix, which every five hundred years consumes itself, that its offspring may arise out of its ashes (23-6). Let us, Clement continues, forsake evil and approach God with purity, clinging to His blessing, which the Patriarchs so richly obtained, for the Lord will quickly come with His rewards, let us look to Jesus Christ, our High-Priest, above the angels at the right hand of the Father (36). Discipline and subordination are necessary as in an army and in the human body, while arrogance is absurd for man is nothing. The Apostles foresaw feuds, and provided for a succession of bishops and deacons; such, therefore cannot be removed at pleasure. The just have always been persecuted. Read Saint Paul’s first epistle to you, how he condemns party spirit. It is shocking that a few should disgrace the Church of Corinth. Let us beg for pardon; nothing is more beautiful than charity; it was shown by Christ when He gave His Flesh for our flesh, His Soul for our souls; by living in this love, we shall be in the number of the saved through Jesus Christ, by Whom is glory to God for ever and ever, Amen (58). But if any disobey, he is in great danger; but we will pray that the Creator may preserve the number of His elect in the whole world.–Here follows a beautiful Eucharistic prayer (59-61). The conclusion follows: “We have said enough, on the necessity of repentance, unity, peace, for we have been speaking to the faithful, who have deeply studied the Scriptures, and will understand the examples pointed out, and will follow them. We shall indeed be happy if you obey. We have sent two venerable messengers, to show how great is our anxiety for peace among you” (62-4). “Finally may the all-seeing God and Master of Spirits and Lord of all flesh, who chose the Lord Jesus Christ and us through Him for a peculiar people, grant unto every soul that is called after His excellent and holy Name faith, fear, peace, patience, long-suffering, temperance, chastity, and soberness, that they may be well-pleasing unto His Name through our High Priest and Guardian. Jesus Christ, through whom unto Him be glory and majesty, might and honour, both now and for ever and ever, Amen. Now send ye back speedily unto us our messengers Claudius Ephebus and Valerius Bito, together with Fortunatus also, in peace and with joy, to the end that they may the more quickly report the peace and concord which is prayed for and earnestly desired by us, that we also may the more speedily rejoice over your good order. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and with all men in all places who have been called by God and through Him, through whom is glory and honour, power and greatness and eternal dominion, unto Him, from the ages past and for ever and ever. Amen.” (64-5.)

The style of the Epistle is earnest and simple, restrained and dignified, and sometimes eloquent. The Greek is correct, though not classical. The quotations from the Old Testament are long and numerous. The version of the Septuagint used by Clement inclines in places towards that which appears in the New Testament, yet presents sufficient evidence of independence; his readings are often with A, but are less often opposed to B than are those in the New Testament; occasionally he is found against the Septuagint with Theodotion or even Aquila (see H. B. Swete, Introd. to the 0. T. in Greek, Cambridge 1900). The New Testament he never quotes verbally. Sayings of Christ are now and then given, but not in the words of the Gospels. It cannot be proved, therefore, that he used any one of the Synoptic Gospels. He mentions Saint Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, and appears to imply a second. He knows Romans and Titus, and apparently cites several other of Saint Paul’s Epistles. But Hebrews is most often employed of all New Testament books. James, probably, and I Peter, perhaps, are referred to. (See the lists of citations in Funk and Lightfoot, Westcott, Introductions to Holy Scripture, such as those of Cornely, Zahn, etc., and “The New Test. in the Apost. Fathers”, by a Committee of the Oxford Society of Hist. Theology, Oxford, 1906.) The tone of authority with which the letter speaks is noteworthy, especially in the later part (56, 58, etc.): “But if certain persons should be disobedient unto the words spoken by Him through us let them understand that they will entangle themselves in no slight transgression and danger; but we shall be guiltless of this sin” (59). “It may, perhaps, seem strange”, writes Bishop Lightfoot, “to describe this noble remonstrance as the first step towards papal domination. And yet undoubtedly this is the case.” (I, 70.)


There is little intentional dogmatic teaching in the Epistle, for it is almost wholly hortatory. A passage on the Holy Trinity is important. Clement uses the Old Testament affirmation “The Lord liveth”, substituting the Trinity thus: “As God liveth, and the Lord Jesus Christ liveth and the Holy Spirit — the faith and hope of the elect, so surely he that performeth”, etc. (58). Christ is frequently represented as the High-Priest, and redemption is often referred to. Clement speaks strongly of justification by works. His words on the Christian ministry have given rise to much discussion (42 and 44): “The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ was sent from God. So then Christ is from God, and the Apostles from Christ. Both [missions] therefore came in due order by the will of God….. So preaching everywhere in country and town, they appointed their first-fruits, having proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons for those who should believe. And this in no new fashion, for it had indeed been written from very ancient times about bishops and deacons; for thus saith the Scripture: ‘I will appoint their bishops in justice and their deacons in faith”‘ (a strange citation of Isaiah 60:17). . . . “And our Apostles knew through our Lord Jesus Christ that there would be strife over the name of the office of bishop. For this cause therefore, having received complete foreknowledge, they appointed the aforesaid persons, and afterwards they have given a law, so that, if these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed to their ministration.” Rothe, Michiels (Origines de l’episcopat, Louvain, 1900, 197), and others awkwardly understand “if they, the Apostles, should fall asleep”. For epinomen dedokasin, which the Latin renders legem dederunt, Lightfoot reads epimonen dedokasin, “they have provided a continuance”. In any case the general meaning is clear, that the Apostles provided for a lawful succession of ministers. Presbyters are mentioned several times, but are not distinguished from bishops. There is absolutely no mention of a bishop at Corinth, and the ecclesiastical authorities there are always spoken of in the. plural. R. Sohm thinks there was as yet no bishop at Corinth when Clement wrote (so Michiels and many other Catholic writers; Lightfoot leaves the question open), but that a bishop must have been appointed in consequence of the letter; he thinks that Rome was the origin of all ecclesiastical institutions and laws (Kirchenrecht 189). Harnack in 1897 (Chronol., I) upheld the paradox that the Church of Rome was so conservative as to be governed by presbyters until Anicetus; and that when the list of popes was composed, c. 170, there had been a bishop for less than twenty years; Clement and others in the list were only presbyters of special influence.

The liturgical character of parts of the Epistle is elaborately discussed by Lightfoot. The prayer (59-61) already mentioned, which reminds us of the Anaphora of early liturgies, cannot be regarded, says Duchesne, “as a reproduction of a sacred formulary but it is an excellent example of the style of solemn prayer in which the ecclesiastical leaders of that time were accustomed to express themselves at meetings for worship” (Origines du culte chret., 3rd ed., 50; tr., 50). The fine passage about Creation, 32-3, is almost in the style of a Preface, and concludes by introducing the Sanctus by the usual mention of the angelic powers: “Let us mark the whole host of the angels, how they stand by and minister unto His Will. For the Scripture saith: Ten thousand times ten thousand stood by Him, and thousands of thousands ministered unto Him, and they cried aloud: Holy holy, holy is the Lord of Sabaoth; all creation is full of His glory. Yea, and let us ourselves then being gathered together in concord with intentness of heart, cry unto Him.” The combination of Daniel 7:10 with Isaiah 6:3 may be from a liturgical formula. It is interesting to note that the contemporary Apocalypse of Saint John 4:8 shows the four living creatures, representing all creation, singing the Sanctus at the heavenly Mass.

The historical references in the letter are deeply interesting: “To pass from the examples of ancient days, let us come to those champions who lived very near to our time. Let us set before us the noble examples which belong to our generation. By reason of jealousy and envy the greatest and most righteous pillars of the Church were persecuted, and contended even until death. Let us set before our eyes the good Apostles. There was Peter, who by reason of unrighteous jealousy endured not one or two, but many labours, and thus having borne his testimony went to his appointed Place of glory. By reason of jealousy and strife Paul by his example pointed out the prize of patient endurance. After that he had been seven times in bonds, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, had preached in the East and in the West, he won the noble renown which was the reward of his faith having taught righteousness unto the whole world and having reached the farthest bounds of the West; and when he had borne his testimony before the rulers, so he departed from the world and went unto the holy place having been found a notable pattern of patient endurance (5). It is obvious that these two Apostles are mentioned because they suffered at Rome. It seems that Saint Paul went to Spain as he intended (Romans 15:28) and as is declared by the spurious Acts of Peter and by the Muratorian fragment. “Unto these men of holy lives was gathered a vast multitude of the elect who through many indignities and tortures, being the victims of jealousy, set a brave example among ourselves. By reason of jealousy women being persecuted, after that they had suffered cruel and unholy insults as Danaids and Dircae, safely reached the goal in the race of faith, and received a noble reward, feeble though they were in body” (6). The “vast multitude” both of men and women “among ourselves” at Rome refers to the horrible persecution of Nero, described by Tacitus, “Ann.”, XV, xliv. It is in the recent past, and the writer continues: “We are in the same lists, and the same contest awaits us” (7)- he is under another persecution, that of Domitian, covertly referred to as a series of “sudden and repeated calamities and reverses”, which have prevented the letter from being written sooner. The martyrdom of the Consul Clement (probably patron of the pope’s own family) and the exile of his wife will be among these disasters.

Date and authenticity

The date of the letter is determined by these notices of persecution. It is strange that even a few good scholars (such as Grotius Grabe, Orsi, Uhlhorn, Hefele, Wieseler) should have dated it soon after Nero. It is now universally acknowledged, after Lightfoot, that it was written about the last year of Domitian (Harnack) or immediately after his death in 96 (Funk). In 1996, as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI supported a date of A.D. 70, and by 2002 most scholars a date earlier than 96, some agreeing with the A.D. 70 date. The Roman Church had existed several decades, for the two envoys to Corinth had lived in it from youth to age. The Church of Corinth is called archai (47). Bishops and deacons have succeeded to bishops and deacons appointed by the Apostles (44). Yet the time of the Apostles is “quite lately” and “our own veneration” (5). The external evidence is in accord. The dates given for Clement’s episcopate by Hegesippus are apparently 90-99, and that early writer states that the schism at Corinth took place under Domitian (Eusebius, Church History III.16, for kata ton deloumenon is meaningless if it is taken to refer to Clement and not to Domitian; besides, the whole of Eusebius’s account of that emperor’s persecution, III, xvii-xx, is founded on Hegesippus). Saint Irenæus says that Clement still remembered the Apostles, and so did many others, implying an interval of many years after their death. Volkmar placed the date in the reign of Hadrian, because the Book of Judith is quoted, which he declared to have been written in that reign. He was followed by Baur, but not by Hilgenfeld. Such a date is manifestly impossible, if only because the Epistle of Polycarp is entirely modelled on that of Clement and borrows from it freely. It is possibly employed by Saint Ignatius, c. 107, and certainly in the letter of the Smyrnaeans on the martyrdom of Saint Polycarp, c. 156.

The Epistle is in the name of the Church of Rome but the early authorities always ascribe it to Clement. Dionysius, Bishop of Corinth, wrote c. 170 to the Romans in Pope Soter’s time: “Today we kept the holy day, the Lord’s day, and on it we read your letter- and we shall ever have it to give us instruction, even as the former one written through Clement” (Eusebius, Church History IV.30). Hegesippus attributed the letter to Clement. Irenaeus, c. 180-5 perhaps using Hegesippus, says: “Under this Clement no small sedition took place among the brethren at Corinth and the Church of Rome sent a most sufficient letter to the Corinthians, establishing them in peace, and renewing their faith, and announcing the tradition it had recently received from the Apostles” (III, iii). Clement of Alexandria, c. 200, frequently quotes the Epistle as Clement’s, and so do Origen and Eusebius. Lightfoot and Harnack are fond of pointing out that we hear earlier of the importance of the Roman Church than of the authority of the Roman bishop. If Clement had spoken in his own name, they would surely have noted expressly that he wrote not as Bishop of Rome, but as an aged “presbyter” who had known the Apostles. Saint John indeed was still alive, and Corinth was rather nearer to Ephesus than to Rome. Clement evidently writes officially, with all that authority of the Roman Church of which Ignatius and Irenaeus have so much to say.

The Second Letter to the Corinthians

An ancient homily by an anonymous author has come down to us in the same two Greek manuscripts as the Epistle of Clement, and is called the Second Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians. It is first mentioned by Eusebius (Church History III.37), who considered it spurious, as being unknown to the ancients; he is followed (perhaps not independently) by Rufinus and Jerome. Its inclusion as a letter of Clement in the Codex Alexandrinus of the whole Bible in the fifth century is the earliest testimony to a belief in its authenticity; in the sixth century it is quoted by the Monophysite leaders Timothy of Alexandria and Severus of Antioch, and it was later known to many Greek writers. This witness is a great contrast to the very early veneration paid to the genuine letter. Hilgenfeld’s theory that it is the letter of Pope Soter to the Corinthians, mentioned by Dionysius in the fragment quoted above, was accepted by many critics, until the discovery of the end of the work by Bryennios showed that it was not a letter at all, but a homily. Still Harnack has again and again defended this view. An apparent reference to the Isthmian Games in 7 suggests that the homily was delivered at Corinth; but this would be in character if it was a letter addressed to Corinth. Lightfoot and others think it earlier than Marcion, c.140, but its reference to Gnostic views does not allow us to place it much earlier. The matter of the sermon is a very general exhortation, and there is no definite plan or sequence. Some citations from unknown Scriptures are interesting.

MLA Citation

  • John Chapman. “Pope Saint Clement I”. Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913. 19 July 2013. Web. 16 April 2014. <>