"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

St. Clement on the Church



I would like to consider the letter of St. Clement of Rome, in particular to see what he tells us about the Church. I wrote a little about this letter in a previous post earlier this year -- there I was talking about love and unity. (The relation of love and unity is a theme I intend to write about here shortly, in a series of posts.) If you wish to comment on this post, let me ask you to read first the letter of St. Clement to the Corinthians in a prayerful and careful manner. (Ideally, read it out loud.) What kind of heart and character do you hear in the words of St. Clement? Does he seem to be the kind of person who would deviate from what he had received, or does he seem to be someone who would rather gladly die than depart from what he had received?

First, what do we know about St. Clement? One of the ways we know about St. Clement is through St. Irenaeus (c. 130 – c. 200 AD). St. Irenaeus was a pupil of St. Polycarp (c. 69 - 155 AD) bishop of Smyrna. (See St. Irenaeus's description of his personal knowledge of St. Polycarp in Ad haer 3.3.4.) And according to St. Irenaeus, St. Polycarp "was not only taught by the Apostles, and lived in familiar intercourse with many that had seen Christ, but also received his appointment in Asia from the Apostles as Bishop in the Church of Smyrna." St. Irenaeus had been a priest (presbyter) in Lyon under bishop Pothinus (c. 87 - 177 AD), and around 177-178 he had been sent to St. Eleutherus (bishop of Rome from 175-189 AD), to help bring some relief from the persecution under Marcus Aurelius. (To see the letter commending St. Irenaeus to St. Eleutherus, see Eusebius, History of the Church, 5.4.) St. Irenaeus spent some significant time with the Church at Rome. He served as bishop of Lyon from approximately 177 AD until the end of his life.

St. Irenaeus, in his Adversus haeresis writes concerning St. Clement and his letter to the Corinthians:

[BOQ] The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome despatched a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace, renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately received from the apostles, proclaiming the one God, omnipotent, the Maker of heaven and earth, the Creator of man, who brought on the deluge, and called Abraham, who led the people from the land of Egypt, spoke with Moses, set forth the law, sent the prophets, and who has prepared fire for the devil and his angels. From this document, whosoever chooses to do so, may learn that He, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, was preached by the Churches, and may also understand the apostolical tradition of the Church, since this Epistle is of older date than these men who are now propagating falsehood, and who conjure into existence another god beyond the Creator and the Maker of all existing things. To this Clement there succeeded Evaristus. Alexander followed Evaristus; then, sixth from the apostles, Sixtus was appointed; after him, Telephorus, who was gloriously martyred; then Hyginus; after him, Pius; then after him, Anicetus. Soter having succeeded Anicetus, Eleutherius does now, in the twelfth place from the apostles, hold the inheritance of the episcopate. In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth. [EOQ] (Ad. haer. 3.3.3) (emphases mine)

St. Irenaeus, who had spent time with the Church at Rome, and who had been taught under St. Polycarp who had conversed with some Apostles, claims that St. Clement had also conversed with the Apostles (i.e. Peter and Paul), and that he was bishop of the Church at Rome after St. Linus and St. Cletus. That is also attested to by the liturgy of the Church at Rome, which to this day preserves the name of "Clemens" after Linus and Cletus in the litany of prayers, and these names follow directly after those of the Apostles. The recitation of these names in the Roman liturgy has been in place apparently since the second century.

The well-known Church historian and bishop of Caesarea, Eusebius (249 - 340 AD) claims (History of the Church 3.4) that St. Clement is the same Clement referred to by St. Paul in Philippians 4:3, where St. Paul writes, "I ask you also, who are a true co-worker, to help these women, for they have labored side by side with me in the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life." (See also Eusebius History of the Church, 3.15.) Some have claimed that the Fortunatus referred to at the end of St. Clement's letter is the same Fortunatus referred to by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 16:17. Eusebius goes on to refer to St. Clement's letter to the Corinthians. Eusebius writes:

[BOQ] There is extant an epistle of this Clement which is acknowledged to be genuine and is of considerable length and of remarkable merit. He wrote it in the name of the church of Rome to the church of Corinth, when a sedition had arisen in the latter church. We know that this epistle also has been publicly used in a great many churches both in former times and in our own. And of the fact that a sedition did take place in the church of Corinth at the time referred to Hegesippus is a trustworthy witness. [EOQ] (History of the Church, 3.16.)

Hegesippus (c. 110-180 AD), who visited various bishops during his travels, including the bishops of Corinth and Rome, is quoted by Eusebius as having appended some remarks to Clement's Epistle to the Corinthians; these remarks indicate that the Church at Corinth remained pure in doctrine until Primus became bishop. (History of the Church 4.22)

The tradition has always and everywhere treated the letter of St. Clement to the Corinthians as from St. Clement of Rome. Dionysius the bishop of Corinth in 170 AD mentions St. Clement's letter, and reports that it was still read in their Sunday gatherings. (Eusebius quotes Dionysius's letter in History of the Church 4.23.) The letter was cited as St. Clement's by St. Clement of Alexandria (d. c. 215) and by Origen (185 - 232 AD). Tertullian (c. 155 - c. 222), in his Prescription Against Heretics, claims that St. Clement was ordained by the Apostle Peter, as St. Polycarp was ordained by the the Apostle John. (Prescrip. c. 32)

Eusebius claims that St. Clement was still the "head of the Roman community" in the first year of Trajan. (See History of the Church, 3.21.) According to Eusebius (E.H. 3.34), St. Clement "departed this life, yielding his office to Evarestus" in the third year of the Emperor Trajan (100 AD), having been "in charge of the teaching of the divine message for nine years in all." St. Clement is thus thought to have been the bishop of the Church at Rome from about 90-91 AD to about 100 AD. The date of his letter to the Corinthians is not entirely certain, but traditionally it has been thought to come right after the persecution under Domitian, and thus around 96 AD.

Here now I wish to consider the contents of St. Clement's letter with regard to what he says about the Church. St. Clement opens his letter with this line: "The church of God which sojourns at Rome, to the church of God sojourning at Corinth". Here we see the recognition of distinct [particular] churches. There is a church that sojourns at Rome, and there is a church that sojourns at Corinth. Then he continues two lines later to address the church at Corinth as "dear brethren". These churches then, are in some way related. (More on that below.)

The situation at the church in Corinth was as follows. Members of the church at Corinth had "consulted" the church at Rome regarding a schism in the church at Corinth. (c. 1) This schism, which St. Clement describes as a "shameful and detestable sedition", involved the casting out by the laity (or some portion of them) of the elders (presbyters) of the church at Corinth. Speaking to the laity at the church at Corinth, St. Clement tells them that they had previously been "obedient to those who had the rule over you, and giving all fitting honour to the presbyters among you." (c. 1) "Moreover, you were all distinguished by humility, and were in no respect puffed up with pride, but yielded obedience rather than extorted it, and were more willing to give than to receive." ... "Every kind of faction and schism was abominable in your sight." (c. 2)

But, in their contentment and ease, they forsook their previous manner of living, and became puffed up and envious. (c. 3) He writes, "For this reason righteousness and peace are now far departed from you, inasmuch as every one abandons the fear of God, and is become blind in His faith, neither walks in the ordinances of His appointment, nor acts a part becoming a Christian, but walks after his own wicked lusts, resuming the practice of an unrighteous and ungodly envy, by which death itself entered into the world." (c. 3) He shows that since the fall of Adam and Eve, many evils have arisen from this very root of envy. (c. 4) According to St. Clement, these very same evils are what led to the persecutions and martyrdoms of Peter and Paul, "the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the church]". (c. 5)

Who should the laity obey? "It is right and holy therefore, men and brethren, rather to obey God than to follow those who, through pride and sedition, have become the leaders of a detestable emulation." (c. 14) The argument that St. Clement is constructing over the course of the entire epistle is that we follow God by following those authorities whom God has appointed, not those who rise up in sedition. We are not to follow those who make a rebellion, even if they do so claiming to be for peace. "Let us cleave, therefore, to those who cultivate peace with godliness, and not to those who hypocritically profess to desire it." (chptr 15)

He considers the examples of Christ, and the Old Testaments saints, in their humility and meekness. These are the examples we are supposed to emulate. "Thus the humility and godly submission of so great and illustrious men have rendered not only us, but also all the generations before us, better" (c. 19) We should be able to see this, he claims, from nature itself. God has established the whole universe in harmony and order. (c. 20) He wants all men to live in peace. And the Church likewise is set up by God in an ordered manner, to exist in the unity of a harmony (c. 37) so that if we follow that order in humility we will have peace and be to the world an example of humility like Christ and the Old Testament saints and Apostles. We must not therefore abandon the post that has been assigned to us in this divinely ordered body which is the Church. To do so is to go against God and the order He has set up through His wisdom and foresight. St. Clement writes:

"It is right, therefore, that we should not leave the post which His will has assigned us. Let us rather offend those men who are foolish, and inconsiderate, and lifted up, and who glory in the pride of their speech, than [offend] God. Let us reverence the Lord Jesus Christ, whose blood was given for us; let us esteem those who have the rule over us;" (c. 21)

There is an intimate connection between esteeming those who have rule over us, and reverencing Jesus Christ. To leave our post and take to ourselves an authority that does not belong to us is to offend God. (This hierarchical way of thinking is contrary to what I have termed 'monocausalism'.) St. Clement refers to those who set themselves against the will of God as God's enemies. He writes, "But who are His enemies? All the wicked, and those who set themselves to oppose the will of God." (c. 36)

All this first part of St. Clement's letter is to communicate the way in which God has set up the Church in an ordered, hierarchical way so that there will be peace and harmony, just as God created nature with an order so that all things move in harmony. St. Clement at this point (c. 37) discusses the organizational structure of an army, with its generals, prefects, commanders of a thousand, of a hundred, or of fifty. He points out that the army's ability to function in an ordered way, and also the well-being of each soldier in the army, depends upon all of its members operating in accordance with their particular rank. (c. 37) Likewise, he draws an analogy between the Church and a living body. "Let us take our body for an example. The head is nothing without the feet, and the feet are nothing without the head; yea, the very smallest members of our body are necessary and useful to the whole body. But all work harmoniously together, and are under one common rule for the preservation of the whole body." (c. 37) What is his point in drawing a comparison between the Church on the one hand, and an army and body on the other? We all need each other, and we are part of a divinely ordered whole. For that reason we cannot divide from this whole or arrogate a role or rank within it that has not been given to us. This then gives us some insight into the relation of the church sojourning at Rome and the church sojourning at Corinth. They are each members of one Body, and one army. They are not a mere plurality or mere collection of independent entities; they are a unity -- an organic Body, with different roles and different gifts.

St. Clement then appeals to the order of the Jewish priesthood, showing how God had appointed that offerings be made at certain times and at particular places by certain persons. (c. 40) He makes a very clear reference to the three-fold order in the priesthood of the Old Covenant: High priest, priest, and Levite. Then he mentions the laymen. (This is the first time this term is used in the existing Christian literature.) The clear implication is that just as there was a hierarchical order in the Old Covenant, so likewise is there in the New Covenant. Why is he saying this? In order to show those laymen who had rebelled against their presbyters that they were going against a divinely appointed authority. He writes:

"Not in every place, brethren, are the daily sacrifices offered, or the peace-offerings, or the sin-offerings and the trespass-offerings, but in Jerusalem only. And even there they are not offered in any place, but only at the altar before the temple, that which is offered being first carefully examined by the high priest and the ministers already mentioned. Those, therefore, who do anything beyond that which is agreeable to His will, are punished with death. You see, brethren, that the greater the knowledge that has been vouchsafed to us, the greater also is the danger to which we are exposed." (c. 41)

This paragraph will make more sense when we get to St. Ignatius, for St. Clement is clearly also speaking of the Eucharist. (See St. Ignatius's letter to the Smyrnaeans, chapter 8.) The Christians knew of the prescription set up by the Apostles for following the Lord's command to "Do this in remembrance of Me". St. Clement is drawing a comparison (of similarity) between the order of Jewish worship and the order of worship commanded by Christ. (There is no contradiction between what St. Clement is saying here (chapters 40-41) and what St. Paul says in Colossians 2:13-21 about Christians not needing to follow the Jewish ceremonial law.)

St. Clement now gets to the fundamental basis for the authority of the presbyters of the church at Corinth:

[BOQ] The apostles have preached the gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus says the Scripture in a certain place, I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith. [EOQ](c. 42)

Notice that by saying that these offices of bishop and deacon are not new, St. Clement is connecting the Old and New Covenants. And that makes his earlier three-fold distinction between high priest, priest, and Levite relevant to the New Covenant order as well. He sets up an expectation of the difference between the bishop and presbyter, as equivalent in a way, to the difference between the high priest and the priest. Also notice here that order (and orders) comes from the top down. God the Father sent Jesus. Jesus in turn authorized and sent the Apostles. And the Apostles in turn authorized and ordained bishops and deacons. Here we say that one does not take a 'rank' in the army (or body) of Christ by arrogating it to oneself, but by being called to do so by one having that authority. Only those having authority can give authority, because one cannot give what one does not have. The Church in its order imitates Christ who said, "My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me." (See the passages from the gospels in which Jesus specifies His relation to the Fathers here.)

St. Paul did this when he was dealing with a question of supreme importance: "I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you." (1 Cor 11:23) (See also my post on Acts 15:24 and my post on Romans 10:15.) It seems to me that gnosticism of the Montanistic sort turns the gospel into a mere message, separable from authorized persons, and received directly from heaven (making the incarnation unnecessary) by a divine spirit into one's own heart, and thus robs these verses of their true meaning and denies the organic and incarnational nature of the Mystical Body of Christ.

St. Clement goes on in chapter 43 to say the following:

[BOQ]And what wonder is it if those in Christ who were entrusted with such a duty by God, appointed those [ministers] before mentioned, when the blessed Moses also, a faithful servant in all his house, noted down in the sacred books all the injunctions which were given him, and when the other prophets also followed him, bearing witness with one consent to the ordinances which he had appointed? For, when rivalry arose concerning the priesthood, and the tribes were contending among themselves as to which of them should be adorned with that glorious title, he commanded the twelve princes of the tribes to bring him their rods, each one being inscribed with the name of the tribe. And he took them and bound them [together], and sealed them with the rings of the princes of the tribes, and laid them up in the tabernacle of witness on the table of God. And having shut the doors of the tabernacle, he sealed the keys, as he had done the rods, and said to them, Men and brethren, the tribe whose rod shall blossom has God chosen to fulfil the office of the priesthood, and to minister unto Him. And when the morning was come, he assembled all Israel, six hundred thousand men, and showed the seals to the princes of the tribes, and opened the tabernacle of witness, and brought forth the rods. And the rod of Aaron was found not only to have blossomed, but to bear fruit upon it. What think ye, beloved? Did not Moses know beforehand that this would happen? Undoubtedly he knew; but he acted thus, that there might be no sedition in Israel, and that the name of the true and only God might be glorified; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.[EOQ](emphases mine)

Notice how St. Clement is showing in chapter 43 that the order God provided to avert schism under Moses is present also in the New Covenant, through the apostolic succession -- the appointment by the Apostles of the bishops and deacons discussed in chapter 42. This leads to the key paragraph for our intention of learning what St. Clement has to say about the Church:

[BOQ]Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, that there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ, in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties. Blessed are those presbyters who, having finished their course before now, have obtained a fruitful and perfect departure [from this world]; for they have no fear lest any one deprive them of the place now appointed them. But we see that you have removed some men of excellent behaviour from the ministry, which they fulfilled blamelessly and with honour.[EOQ] (c. 44)

The Apostles knew there would be strife over the office of the episcopate; they had been foretold of this by Jesus. So when they appointed bishops, they gave careful instructions regarding the continuation of the office, and how this was to be done. This is part of the Apostolic teaching, namely, how the episcopal office is to be perpetuated, so that contention and strife over the episcopate can be averted. The means by which it is to be averted is that ordination is only from bishop to bishop, for if laymen could ordain, then there would be unending contention over the episcopal office. The whole church consents, or proposes candidates for ordination, and in this way too strife is averted, for the leaders are approved (or proposed) by the governed, even though ultimately given authority by those already having authority. It is no small sin to rebel against these divinely appointed who were appointed and authorized according to the order laid down by Christ through the Apostles.

What is the source of our divisions? St. Clements replies:

[BOQ]Why are there strifes, and tumults, and divisions, and schisms, and wars among you? Have we not [all] one God and one Christ? Is there not one Spirit of grace poured out upon us? And have we not one calling in Christ? Ephesians 4:4-6 Why do we divide and tear in pieces the members of Christ, and raise up strife against our own body, and have reached such a height of madness as to forget that we are members one of another? Romans 12:5 Remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, how He said, Woe to that man [by whom offences come]! It were better for him that he had never been born, than that he should cast a stumbling-block before one of my elect. Yea, it were better for him that a millstone should be hung about [his neck], and he should be sunk in the depths of the sea, than that he should cast a stumbling-block before one of my little ones. Your schism has subverted [the faith of] many, has discouraged many, has given rise to doubt in many, and has caused grief to us all. And still your sedition continues.[EOQ] (c. 46)

Notice how serious is the damage done by schism, according to St. Clement. It subverts the faith of many, discourages many, and gives rise to doubt to many, and causes grief to us all. The seriousness of this fault is thus treated by St. Clement as aptly described by Christ's claim about it be better that a millstone be hung around the offender's neck and that he be cast into the sea, than that he cast a stumbling-block before Christ's little ones. I wonder whether we take seriously enough how much damage the various contemporary schisms in Christianity have done to the faith of many. If we realized that the millstone prescription applied to our present schisms, wouldn't we be burning the midnight oil to be reconciled and reunited with each other?

According to St. Clement, the guilt of the Corinthian church's previous schism was lesser, because the persons followed then were Apostles [Cephas and Paul], and a man [i.e. Apollo] approved by the Apostles. "But now reflect who those are that have perverted you, and lessened the renown of your far-famed brotherly love. It is disgraceful, beloved, yea, highly disgraceful, and unworthy of your Christian profession, that such a thing should be heard of as that the most steadfast and ancient church of the Corinthians should, on account of one or two persons, engage in sedition against its presbyters. And this rumour has reached not only us, but those also who are unconnected with us; so that, through your infatuation, the name of the Lord is blasphemed, while danger is also brought upon yourselves." (c. 47)

In chapter 49, St. Clement discusses the relation of love and unity. I will pass over it here, because I have discussed it elsewhere, and hope to discuss it in more detail in the near future.

One of the things that has been handed down from the Apostles, claims St. Clement, is concord. True followers of Christ prefer to be blamed themselves rather than detract from the concord that has been handed down from the Apostles. (c. 51) This same attitude is expressed again in chapter 54 where St. Clement writes:

[BOQ] Who then among you is noble-minded? who compassionate? who full of love? Let him declare, If on my account sedition and disagreement and schisms have arisen, I will depart, I will go away whithersoever ye desire, and I will do whatever the majority commands; only let the flock of Christ live on terms of peace with the presbyters set over it. He that acts thus shall procure to himself great glory in the Lord; and every place will welcome him.[EOQ] (c. 54)

We are to rather be exiled than cause a sedition against the presbyters set over the church. At this point, St. Clement moves to the imperative voice. First he urges those who instigated the sedition to submit to the rightful presbyters:

[BOQ] You therefore, who laid the foundation of this sedition, submit yourselves to the presbyters, and receive correction so as to repent, bending the knees of your hearts. Learn to be subject, laying aside the proud and arrogant self-confidence of your tongue. For it is better for you that you should occupy a humble but honourable place in the flock of Christ, than that, being highly exalted, you should be cast out from the hope of His people.[EOQ] (c. 57)

He has spoken throughout the whole letter about the good of obedience, meekness, humility, order and harmony. Now he calls on those who have participated in the sedition to receive the counsel of the church of Rome, and to observe the "ordinances and appointments given by God", namely, the God-given authority of the Corinthian presbyters.

[BOQ] Let us, therefore, flee from the warning threats pronounced by Wisdom on the disobedient, and yield submission to His all-holy and glorious name, that we may stay our trust upon the most hallowed name of His majesty. Receive our counsel, and you shall be without repentance [i.e. have nothing to regret - BRC]. For, as God lives, and as the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost live,— both the faith and hope of the elect, he who in lowliness of mind, with instant gentleness, and without repentance [i.e. without regret] - BRC] has observed the ordinances and appointments given by God — the same shall obtain a place and name in the number of those who are being saved through Jesus Christ, through whom is glory to Him for ever and ever. Amen.[EOQ] (c. 58)

St. Clement makes his strongest statement in chapter 59, when he says:

"If, however, any shall disobey the words spoken by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and serious danger;" (c. 59)

This too is a rejection of monocausalism. St. Clement is claiming that God is speaking through him and the church at Rome, and thus that for the Corinthians to disobey the words he is speaking to them is to disobey God. This principle, that God is acting through divinely ordained authorities, can be seen both in the civil authorities as well as the ecclesial authorities, as St. Clement breaks into prayer:

[BOQ] To our rulers and governors on the earth — to them You, Lord, gavest the power of the kingdom by Your glorious and ineffable might, to the end that we may know the glory and honour given to them by You and be subject to them, in nought resisting Your will; to them, Lord, give health, peace, concord, stability, that they may exercise the authority given to them without offence. For You, O heavenly Lord and King eternal, givest to the sons of men glory and honour and power over the things that are on the earth; do Thou, Lord, direct their counsel according to that which is good and well-pleasing in Your sight, that, devoutly in peace and meekness exercising the power given them by You, they may find You propitious.[EOQ] (c. 61)

All the examples St. Clement has appealed to over the course of his letter have been to show the virtues of humility and obedience toward divinely appointed authorities. Thus he writes: "Right is it, therefore, to approach examples so good and so many, and submit the neck and fulfil the part of obedience, in order that, undisturbed by vain sedition, we may attain unto the goal set before us in truth wholly free from blame." (c. 63)

Finally, in conclusion he says, "Send back speedily to us in peace and with joy these our messengers to you: Claudius Ephebus and Valerius Bito, with Fortunatus; that they may the sooner announce to us the peace and harmony we so earnestly desire and long for [among you], and that we may the more quickly rejoice over the good order re-established among you." (c. 65) Here we see St. Clement urging the Corinthians to send back the Roman messengers with news of order having been re-established in the church at Corinth.

I am not going to make any application here of what St. Clement says to the Protestant-Catholic schism. What I want is to get inside the heart and mind of St. Clement, and to understand what he is saying about the Church. He gives an insight into the heart and mind of the Apostles regarding these things, because he still has, as St. Irenaeus says, "the preaching of the apostles ... echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes".

30 comments:

CD-Host said...

OK I'll get this started with two comments.

This letter is exactly the sort of thing that throws apostolic instruction into doubt. Levi had 3 sons: Gershon, Merari and Kohath. These correspond to the main classes of priests: the descendants of Gershon, Gershonites, the descendants of Kohath, or Kohathites, and the descendants of Merari, or Merarites. All of these are Levites. Now among the Kohathites there are Hebronite, Uzzielite.. after yet another subdivision you get to the Kohanim. It is the Kohahim that perform sacrifices all these other people perform other non sacrificial roles in the temple (for example taking care of curtains and jars). This is like mixing up an American and a North Philadelphian; it is the sort of mistake someone from the USA would never make.

Moreover the Kohanum don't rule. The ruling authority are the Pharisees who don't have any particular blood lines. Now if the claim is just this is a gentile making an analogy and blowing it, that's fine. But the claim is that this analogy is based on apostolic teaching; that is it goes back to Jews and they would have known better.

That is Judaism does not tie the performance of temple ritual (Aaron) to law (Moses) they are separate functions involving separate people. So this argument, "For his own peculiar services are assigned to the high priest, and their own proper place is prescribed to the priests, and their own special ministrations devolve on the Levites. The layman is bound by the laws that pertain to laymen." makes no sense. All male Levites are priests, not all priests perform sacrifices and religious law comes from laymen in the order he is talking about.

His analogy proves the exact opposite of what he aimed to show. And again that he got his facts backwards is not what is import. What is important however, is that this throws into much more doubt the idea that this 3 fold division analogy came from a bunch of Jewish apostles.

Second. I don't think his history of Corinth is correct. 1Cor and 2Cor show quite clearly that it was not the case that the Corinthian church was united behind the apostolic church. Walter Schmithals, Hans
Conzelmann, Gordon Fee... have (though disagreeing a bit with one another) have all been very effective in examining various aspects of the religious tradition in the Corinthian church and its ties to Jewish Wisdom schools from Alexandria. And these schools (like most of Judaism) believed in merit not arbitrary authority. So we have an equally ancient tradition (or more), an alternate authority to the one Clement claims. And what is important here is that the Corinthians ended up siding with the alternate position, so perhaps if we wish to examine authentic early Christianity it would make some sense to figure out why they did that rather than just assume they are wrong because Clement says so.

Principium unitatis said...

Collin,

I'm not following where you think St. Clement's mistake is. How is what St. Clement says incompatible with Kohahim performing sacrifices and the others performing non-sacrificial roles?

Regarding your claim that the "Kohanim do not rule", I don't think St. Clement claimed that they do. The roles of prophet, priest, and king come together in Christ, and therefore they come together in this ministry Christ ordained. So just because there are similarities that St. Clement is pointing to under the Old Covenant does not mean that St. Clement must be bound to assert an exact parallel in every respect. You are demanding that if St. Clement makes an appeal to the sacerdotal order of the Old Covenant, then it must in every respect match that of the New Covenant, or else he doesn't know what he is talking about. That seems to be a rather uncharitable hermeneutic, in my opinion.

So this argument, "For his own peculiar services are assigned to the high priest, and their own proper place is prescribed to the priests, and their own special ministrations devolve on the Levites. The layman is bound by the laws that pertain to laymen." makes no sense.

First, it is not an argument; it is a statement. Second, "makes no sense" is not a refutation; it could mean simply that you don't understand it. Third, there is a more charitable way of reading St. Clement here, instead of imposing your conception of 'priest' on his usage of the term. He could agree with you that all Levites are priests (in a broader sense of the term 'priest'), while also noting there is a a narrower sense of the term 'priest' in which only those who sacrifice are priests. If you understand Catholic theology regarding Holy Orders then what St. Clement is saying makes perfect sense, because the deacon has holy orders (and is thus consecrated to God) but does not sacrifice, i.e. offer the Eucharist.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Tim A. Troutman said...

I second Bryan's rebuttal. Cd-Host, you seem to have more of an agenda driven objection to the parallel drawn by Clement than a real reason why it doesn't work.

Christianity has always understood the Church as a combination of Synagogue (corresponding to the Pharisees, teachers of the Law, seat of Moses == Liturgy of the Word) and the Temple (corresponding to the Levites, the Christian priests == Liturgy of the Eucharist). If we understand the New covenant as a fulfillment of both types in a unique way (this sort of thing hasn't happened before, we're dealing with new categories) then I think it makes short work of your objection.

I just wish Protestants would make up their mind, some say Peter had primacy but was never in Rome, others say Peter was in Rome but didn't have primacy. Some say "we love the fathers too but they don't teach what modern Catholics do" others say "the fathers were wrong". It reminds me of those defending the gospel portrait of Christ against the wild and varying accusations of the secular intelligentsia.

CD-Host said...

Bryan --

OK keep going with this. I'm not following at all how his use of Priest is consistent with the Jewish use and not the Christian use of the term. So if you would like to keep developing these theme please go ahead. I'm not quite sure how you are piecing together the analogy between holy orders and levis, priests and Kohanum ...

As for adding prophet to the mix, in my opinion that makes things worse. Since prophecy is one of the gifts specifically promised to the non ordained (for example women) and thus I think that would also make his analogy fall apart in an even more fundamental way.

You are demanding that if St. Clement makes an appeal to the sacerdotal order of the Old Covenant, then it must in every respect match that of the New Covenant, or else he doesn't know what he is talking about.

No I'm demanding that if he is going to argue for a sacerdotal order for the new covenant by analogy to the old covenant he needs to:
a) accurately state the status within the old covenant
b) draw the analogy between analogous parts
c) justify the analogy including applicability
d) justify any differences between the new covenant object being discussed and the analogs old covenant object

He did (c) and to a limited extent (b).

This is a key argument, in Clement's piece. A church leadership had done things so badly that they are deposed by the subject population. Rather than try and address the underlying reasons there was a problem he essentially argues that Christian laymen are forever bound to obey whomever he feels like putting in office for whatever reason he puts them in office for however long he wants them in office. That's the key point in his letter.

Now you are intending to extend this to me and the current Pope (assuming nothing material has changed). Those are incredibly strong claims I think the standard of evidence needs to be very high. Now the argument you were making was made was Clement's position came from the apostles, who (IMHO) would not have made this analogy because of technical errors (i.e. confusing the role of priest, the act of performing sacrifice and the act of providing religious leadership within the temple structure). You had asked, "Does he seem to be the kind of person who would deviate from what he had received" and my position is it sure seems like it.

I can understand you feel I'm not being charitable to Clement. But you are asking me to really engage him like a contemporary theologian and react to his opinion not just see him as a historical figure and classify his opinions.

Thos said...

Collin,

I did not follow your first paragraph, but am interested to hear your argument. Would you be so patient as to re-word it, maybe dumbed down a bit for me? Thanks in advance!

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Thos said...

Collin,

This was an interesting point: "Those are incredibly strong claims [i.e., something like unconditional submission - TMB] I think the standard of evidence needs to be very high."

I tend to think in these terms, so maybe it doesn't engage many other people, but I think a big part of the ecumenical discussion has to settle standards of proof, and burdens of proof (and persuasion). Thanks for giving me this to think about.

Peace in Christ,
Tom

Principium unitatis said...

Collin,

I'm not following at all how his use of Priest is consistent with the Jewish use and not the Christian use of the term.

His use of the term 'priest' is consistent with both. He speaks of the three priestly offices under the Old Covenant: high priest, priest, and Levite. Here he is using the term 'priest' with the notion of sacrifice. The Levite does not sacrifice, and is therefore not a priest in this stricter sense, though he is among the broader priestly class. In the New Covenant, there are bishops (who correspond to the Old Covenant high priest), presbyters (who correspond to the Old Covenant priest), and deacons (who correspond to the Old Covenant Levite). That might be clearer when we discuss the epistles of St. Ignatius. The bishops and presbyters can celebrate the Eucharist, but the deacons cannot, just as in the Old Covenant the high priest and priest can sacrifice in the temple but the [mere] Levite cannot.

As for adding prophet to the mix, in my opinion that makes things worse. Since prophecy is one of the gifts specifically promised to the non ordained (for example women) and thus I think that would also make his analogy fall apart in an even more fundamental way.

An analogy is (in a simplified sense) a relation in which there is something the same and something different. You are right that there are differences between the three sacerdotal offices of the Old Covenant, and the three sacerdotal offices of the New Covenant. But those differences are compatible with there being an analogy between these two sets of offices. St. Clement is using the analogy to draw attention to the similarities. The fact that there are differences does not refute the fact that there are similarities, and thus does not refute the analogy.

This is a key argument, in Clement's piece. A church leadership had done things so badly that they are deposed by the subject population.

We don't know what the church leadership in Corinth had done. It is possible that, as St. Clement actually says, envy and pride among the laity are what prompted this sedition.

Rather than try and address the underlying reasons there was a problem

If the underlying reasons were envy and pride, then he did address them.

he essentially argues that Christian laymen are forever bound to obey whomever he feels like putting in office for whatever reason he puts them in office for however long he wants them in office.

It seems to me that you're reading too much 'papal authority' into St. Clement's letter. St. Clement says nothing about putting the presbyters in Corinth into their office. So far as we know, he did not ordain or appoint the Corinthian presbyters. So he is not urging the Corinthian laity to submit to presbyters whom he has installed. He is urging the Corinthian laity to submit to the presbyters whom God has installed, according to the order laid down by the Apostles. (Otherwise the usurpers could claim to be divinely installed.)

Now you are intending to extend this to me and the current Pope (assuming nothing material has changed).

Actually, I'm not. I'm trying to reach a shared understanding of what St. Clement teaches us about what the early fathers thought about the Church, and especially what they thought about authority and apostolic succession. Applying it to you and the current Pope would be a *long* way down the road.

Now the argument you were making was made was Clement's position came from the apostles, who (IMHO) would not have made this analogy because of technical errors (i.e. confusing the role of priest, the act of performing sacrifice and the act of providing religious leadership within the temple structure). You had asked, "Does he seem to be the kind of person who would deviate from what he had received" and my position is it sure seems like it.

I think that if you have a better understanding of what St. Clement is doing with this analogy, and what an analogy is, you won't see the differences between the OC offices and the NC offices as "technical errors" in drawing the analogy. Analogies are capable of admitting *differences* between that which is being compared.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

CD-Host said...

OK lots to respond to here, I think I'm going to have to do several posts.

The Bishop <--> High Priest analogy doesn't work either. In fact it reverses Clement's whole point.

The high priest is appointed by the non levite leadership (the Sanhedrin) not by other priests. He is often nominated by the secular leadership (for example the King). Some were actually elected. He has two primary roles politically he forms one of the key ties between the lay leadership and the priesthood and has a positive obligation to insure the priesthood is acting in accord with the lay leadership. A good analogy is the role of the Secretary of Defense with regard to the USA armed forces. In Clement's theory the Bishop stands over the lay leadership, not acting as a bridge.

So if Bishops are high priests they should be the ones most receptive the laity and the ones with the least discretion. Moreover, they aren't appointed by God they are appointed by a representative political body. He was most subject to the law and could be flogged for any sort of deviation that did not result in his being deposed of office.

Now excluding the political the particular type of sacrifice the High Priest performed is the sacrifice for the atonement of sin on Yom Kippur. Which is precisely what Jesus's function is a new High Priest offering a better sin sacrifice. Heb 4:14 makes it pretty clear that the High Priest is not some earthly minister and the sin sacrifice is performed by Jesus once and for all.

There are other differences as well, for example the High Priest had a positive obligation to be married and there is official position of a "wife in waiting" which was the wife who would assume the role of the High Priest's wife in case she died. Which needless to say is not the policy for Bishops.

So I don't see any similarity between Bishops and High Priests at all. A possible analogy might be:

All service participants (deacons, alter boys, choir) ~ Levites
Priests ~ Kohanim
Bishops ~ Sanhedrim

Except then Clement's position would be the absolute reverse of what it was. Representatives to the Sanhedrim where there because they commanded popular respect and were revered. A failure to command such respect would be good reason to depose them.

So no I don't see how this argument hangs together any better even with this clarification.

CD-Host said...

Theos

I did not follow your first paragraph, but am interested to hear your argument. Would you be so patient as to re-word it, maybe dumbed down a bit for me? Thanks in advance!

I'll use my geography analogy. Clement is saying something like, "because Santa Monica is on the Pacific Ocean all Americans traditionally owned wetsuits. Now that we British street surf instead of ocean surf all Brits are obligated to own a street surfing costume".

My point was that besides the fact that his argument is just really bad confusing Santa Monica (a small city in California) with the whole of the United States is the sort of mistake no American would ever make. I can image someone who had learned about America from watching Gidget movies but not someone from America. Hence if someone makes an argument like that, they aren't quoting an American.

Or to pick another analogy...

Clement is saying something like, "General Motors employees worked under production line supervisors. Now that we build cars using robots we need robotic supervisors for all the employees". Where the mistake is that not all General Motors employees worked the production lines, in fact the vast majority had other functions in the company. And the second point was that such a misstatement could not have come from someone who got their information from people who worked at General Motors. No General Motors employee would assume everyone worked the production lines.

I'm glad you liked the analogy. I've thought about your 2nd century
analogy which is in the same spirit as my comment. You proposed an interesting thought experiment there.

CD-Host said...

Tim --

Christianity has always understood the Church as a combination of Synagogue (corresponding to the Pharisees, teachers of the Law, seat of Moses == Liturgy of the Word) and the Temple (corresponding to the Levites, the Christian priests == Liturgy of the Eucharist). If we understand the New covenant as a fulfillment of both types in a unique way (this sort of thing hasn't happened before, we're dealing with new categories) then I think it makes short work of your objection.

I'm not the one who claims there are obvious and clear ties between the Jewish priesthood and the Catholic one. That was Clement. I happen to agree with you the two systems are very different and "fulfill" things in totally different ways.

But if Clement wants to assert they are close enough that we can derive major doctrine from roles and relationships in the old system he has to get the roles and relationships right. Arguing they are close enough to derive major doctrines then those differences do become key. You can hold one position or the other.

Moreover I disagree completely that your analogy one of the points is question. I think most Protestants would argue the church is like the synagogue fulfilling the teaching role, the sacrificial role is performed by Jesus not the church.


just wish Protestants would make up their mind, some say Peter had primacy but was never in Rome, others say Peter was in Rome but didn't have primacy.

Well I say Peter may or may not have been in Rome (I have no idea) and while I'm not sure what you mean by primacy exactly.

Some say "we love the fathers too but they don't teach what modern Catholics do" others say "the fathers were wrong".

OK well I'd say I love the fathers of the Christian faith not just the fathers of the Catholic faith. That doesn't mean they don't make some really bone headed arguments like this one.

It reminds me of those defending the gospel portrait of Christ against the wild and varying accusations of the secular intelligentsia.

Yep they are very similar. The side making the strong claims has to deal with the entire variety of objections.

CD-Host said...

Bryan --

An analogy is (in a simplified sense) a relation in which there is something the same and something different. You are right that there are differences between the three sacerdotal offices of the Old Covenant, and the three sacerdotal offices of the New Covenant. But those differences are compatible with there being an analogy between these two sets of offices. St. Clement is using the analogy to draw attention to the similarities. The fact that there are differences does not refute the fact that there are similarities, and thus does not refute the analogy.

You are missing the point. Here is the structure of the argument:

1) A and B are analogous via transformation f
2) X is true of A
3) therefore f(X) is true of B

But....
1') f doesn't transform A into B
2') X is not true of A

Either one of those would kill his point. Both together and he is just plain wrong.

We don't know what the church leadership in Corinth had done. It is possible that, as St. Clement actually says, envy and pride among the laity are what prompted this sedition.

Would the sedition have been justified if there had been real grievances? As far as I can tell your argument, and Clement's, is it wouldn't have been. Certainly for the "sedition" we are all actually interested in there are/were real grievances.

It seems to me that you're reading too much 'papal authority' into St. Clement's letter. St. Clement says nothing about putting the presbyters in Corinth into their office. So far as we know, he did not ordain or appoint the Corinthian presbyters. So he is not urging the Corinthian laity to submit to presbyters whom he has installed. He is urging the Corinthian laity to submit to the presbyters whom God has installed, according to the order laid down by the Apostles. (Otherwise the usurpers could claim to be divinely installed.)

What is the mechanism you are claiming by which God installed these presbyters? I'm assuming you aren't asserting the Heavens opened up and a list of names dropped down on stone tablets. So what do you mean here other than they were appointed by human officials loyal to Clement?

I think that if you have a better understanding of what St. Clement is doing with this analogy, and what an analogy is, you won't see the differences between the OC offices and the NC offices as "technical errors" in drawing the analogy. Analogies are capable of admitting *differences* between that which is being compared.

I'd agree that so far I don't see the situations as analogous at all. Every-time this analogy gets explained the two systems look further and further and further apart. Perhaps I am being daft, but I don't see any way to work his analogy without these technical errors. And since he is deriving doctrine from the analogy these technical errors are a big deal.

Principium unitatis said...

Collin,

The Bishop <--> High Priest analogy doesn't work either. In fact it reverses Clement's whole point.

I wonder if you would consider trying to take a more humble approach to this question. You, Collin, 1900 years removed from these things, are speaking of a leader of the early Church. You are acting as if you must be right, and he must be wrong. But please just keep in mind the possibility that you don't understand the matter as well as St. Clement did.

You think the analogy between bishop and high priest "doesn't work" because of a difference between the manner of appointment of bishops and high priests. But, as I pointed out earlier, if there were no differences, it wouldn't be a relation of analogy -- it would be a relation of identity. So, differences are fully compatible with the presence of similarities. If you want to refute St. Clement's analogy, you have to show that there are no relevant similarities. You haven't done that; you have only focused on differences.

As for your argument that since Jesus is the high priest, therefore there can be no analogous role among ministers in the New Covenant, please carefully read my post on monocausalism. Jesus is the cornerstone, for example, and yet the Apostles are also the foundation. (Eph 2:20; Rev 21:14)

One other thing you say is that St. Clement is trying to "derive doctrine" from this analogy. I'm not sure where you are getting that notion. You seem not to be considering the possibility that St. Clement is explaining doctrine. He seems to be explaining why the laity cannot perform the functions that the presbyters and deacons can.

1) A and B are analogous via transformation f
2) X is true of A
3) therefore f(X) is true of B


Collin, there are other kinds of analogies that have nothing to do with "transformation f". They are observations of similarities. You seem to be forcing your own definition of 'analogy' on St. Clement, and then saying that his analogy "doesn't work". But perhaps you could be open to the possibility of other forms of analogy, ones that don't involve "transformation f".

Would the sedition have been justified if there had been real grievances?

That's an important question, but I'm more interested in answering the second-order question: How would we know how to answer your question? And I want to have some sense of how the fathers answer *that* question.

As far as I can tell your argument, and Clement's, is it wouldn't have been.

I don't see any justification for that conclusion from St. Clement's letter. You would have to use an argument from silence, it seems, to reach that conclusion.

Certainly for the "sedition" we are all actually interested in there are/were real grievances.

Let's hold off on jumping forward 1500 years.

What is the mechanism you are claiming by which God installed these presbyters? I'm assuming you aren't asserting the Heavens opened up and a list of names dropped down on stone tablets. So what do you mean here other than they were appointed by human officials loyal to Clement?

St. Clement explains this 'mechanism' in chapters 42 and 44 in his letter. I do not know where you are getting this idea of "loyal to Clement". The Apostles appointed bishops and deacons in the various cities they went to. And the Apostles instructed these bishops to appoint successors to themselves. So the successors would have been loyal to the Apostles, and thus also loyal to each other. And in that way, the presbyters in Corinth would have been loyal to St. Clement, but not because they were appointed by St. Clement, but because of their mutual loyalty to the Apostles, and especially to the Apostle Paul.

I don't see any way to work his analogy without these technical errors. And since he is deriving doctrine from the analogy these technical errors are a big deal.

These "technical errors" to which you refer are actually merely differences between the NC orders and the OC orders. They are not "errors" at all. Moreover, differences are compatible with analogies, as I have explained. So instead of looking at differences, in order to understand the analogy you need to look for the similarities. Also, again, I don't think St. Clement is "deriving doctrine" here. It is more likely that he is explaining the apostolic deposit that he (and the Corinthians) had already received from the Apostles.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

John Bugay said...

Brian, first, with the introduction of your concept of “monocausalism,” you are introducing one of those nasty “secondary” concepts to the text. In fact, I am only posting here because your “leap” to put meaning into Clement’s words is so egregious. You are showing, by your very example, that you can’t keep to your own rules.

Keep in mind the authority that Rome claims for itself today – and that it uses this text as something foundational for that “authority.” And yet, even you are making more of “authority” than can be gotten from this text.

For example, you say, “"If, however, any shall disobey the words spoken by Him through us, let them know that they will involve themselves in transgression and serious danger;" (c. 59)

You say, “St. Clement is claiming that God is speaking through him and the church at Rome, and thus that for the Corinthians to disobey the words he is speaking to them is to disobey God. This principle, that God is acting through divinely ordained authorities, can be seen both in the civil authorities as well as the ecclesial authorities, …”

However, the antecedent for this “words spoken by him through us” do not connote anything of authority, but rather, an equivalence, found in brotherly exhortation:

“Let us then also pray for those who have fallen into any sin, that meekness and humility may be given to them, so that they may submit, not unto us, but to the will of God. For in this way they shall secure a fruitful and perfect remembrance from us, with sympathy for them, both in our prayers to God, and our mention of them to the saints. Let us receive correction, beloved, on account of which no one should feel displeased. Those exhortations by which we admonish one another are both good [in themselves], and highly profitable, for they tend to unite us to the will of God.”(57)

This whole section is in the form of brotherly exhortation, not a demand to obey authority. (It is clearly a different tone, of obedience to

Moving to just a general comment, the word “humility” is mentioned quite frequently in this letter. “Humility” is not what we find coming out of the “succession” of popes.

If your interest is to "let the content speak for itself," how is it that you are able to place “authority” above “humility”?

Principium unitatis said...

John,

As a truth-seeker, I do not evaluate claims or concepts by whether they are "nasty", but by whether they are true. So "nasty" is, for me, a red herring. I do not see St. Clement supporting any kind of monocausalism in his letter. It seems to me the other way around. St. Clement's whole letter is aimed at moving the laity in Corinth to return to their proper place under their rightful (divinely-appointed) ecclesial authorities. So the whole letter, in my opinion, is opposed to a monocausalist way of thinking about authority. St. Clement is pointing out, it seems, that the way for the Corinthian laity to submit to God is for them to obey those whom God has placed over them.

I'm not bringing up the 21st century church at Rome; I'm not making any applications at this point to our present time. I'm trying to understand what St. Clement is saying here.

I agree that St. Clement is engaged in a "brotherly exhortation", and that the words which he is speaking apply also to himself. St. Clement would no doubt also agree. The Scripture also uses this "one another" expression in contexts of authority and submission. When St. Paul, for example, tells us to be "subject to one another" (Eph 5:21), it does not erase the order of husband and wife, an order which St. Paul goes on to specify in the very next verse (Eph 5:22). The order instituted by God is the background against which we are to apply the understanding of what it means to engage in brotherly exhortation. This is why, for example, St. Paul tells St. Timothy not to "rebuke an older man sharply" (1 Tim 5:1). The underlying order provides the context for understanding the application of "one another"; the "one another" is not an affirmation of ministerial egalitarianism.

This whole section is in the form of brotherly exhortation, not a demand to obey authority.

I think that "brotherly exhortation" and a call to obey authority are not mutually exclusive. It seems to me that St. Clement is doing both.

Moving to just a general comment, the word “humility” is mentioned quite frequently in this letter. “Humility” is not what we find coming out of the “succession” of popes.

You may be right. I have not said anything about 'popes'. I'm trying to understand what St. Clement is saying here.

If your interest is to "let the content speak for itself," how is it that you are able to place “authority” above “humility”?

I don't think I have "placed authority above humility". St. Clement clearly enjoins humility, and he is clearly urging that the Corinthians be rightly related to their divinely appointed authority. So, both humility and right relation to authority seem to be important for St. Clement.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

John Bugay said...

If your desire is to stay close to the content, this statement of yours is misplaced: "I think that 'brotherly exhortation' and a call to obey authority are not mutually exclusive."

He clearly speaks of churchly authority and secular authority in different terms. He describes them differently. He makes a clear appeal for submission and obedience.

You cannot say "I think that 'brotherly exhortation' and a call to obey authority are not mutually exclusive. It seems to me that St. Clement is doing both" without an appeal to your presuppositions. I think, based on the verbiage used in the various exhortations, that there is a clear difference in what he is saying.

Principium unitatis said...

John,

Why should we accept your presupposition that brotherly exhortation and a call to obey ecclesial authority are mutually exclusive?

I am claiming that I find nothing in St. Clement's letter that demands that we see "brotherly exhortation" as incompatible with a call to submission to ecclesial authority. In fact, it seems to me, from the text alone, that he is in fact doing both, engaging in "brotherly exhortation" and calling the Corinthian laity to submit to their divinely appointed presbyters. Do you think he is not calling the Corinthian laity to submit to their divinely appointed presbyters? It seems to me that what I am saying here should not be controversial.

Just to be clear, I'm not making any claims here about whether the church at Rome has a unique authority.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

John Bugay said...

Can you show me "ecclesiastical authority" in the text? I must have missed it.

Principium unitatis said...

John,

Just to be clear, I'm talking about a concept, not a term. The term "ecclesiastical authority" is nowhere in the letter. But the concept is. See, for example, chapter 1, where St. Clement says:

"For you did all things without respect of persons, and walked in the commandments of God, being obedient to those who had the rule over you, and giving all fitting honour to the presbyters among you."

In chapter four he says that the Corinthians are no longer walking "in the ordinances of His appointment". He is speaking there of the divinely appointed order in the church at Corinth, how those leading the sedition have usurped their proper place. This is what he means in chapter 21 when he writes, "It is right, therefore, that we should not leave the post which His will has assigned us. ... let us esteem those who have the rule over us". This is the point of chapters 37, 41, 42, and 44.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Principium unitatis said...

John,

The concept is also clearly visible in chapter 47 where St. Clement writes:

"It is disgraceful, beloved, yea, highly disgraceful, and unworthy of your Christian profession, that such a thing should be heard of as that the most steadfast and ancient church of the Corinthians should, on account of one or two persons, engage in sedition against its presbyters."

It can also be seen in chapter 51. And then very clearly in chapter 57, where St. Clement writes:

"You therefore, who laid the foundation of this sedition, submit yourselves to the presbyters, and receive correction so as to repent, bending the knees of your hearts. Learn to be subject, laying aside the proud and arrogant self-confidence of your tongue."

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

CD-Host said...

Bryan --

I wonder if you would consider trying to take a more humble approach to this question. You, Collin, 1900 years removed from these things, are speaking of a leader of the early Church. You are acting as if you must be right, and he must be wrong. But please just keep in mind the possibility that you don't understand the matter as well as St. Clement did.

Sorry to be disagreeable but I see this more as debating you. This is your blog, you were constructing an argument regarding a key teaching that Clement makes and arguing that it originated with the apostles, "Does he seem to be the kind of person who would deviate from what he had received, or does he seem to be someone who would rather gladly die than depart from what he had received?". I'm presenting a series of reason for believing it did not come from the apostles.

As for humility and meek acceptance God doesn't command that he commands an aggressive 3 fold test be applied (Deut. 18:20-22).

As for the technical errors. I don't know whether do or do not know more about the priesthood than Clement does but:
1) The bible
2) The mishnah
3) secular historians
4) later jewish writings

All agree with the analysis of the priesthood I am proposing. Again if Clement wants to offer an alternative theory of the makeup of the priesthood that disagrees with the book of Numbers, at the very least he needs to say so explicitly.

One other thing you say is that St. Clement is trying to "derive doctrine" from this analogy. I'm not sure where you are getting that notion. You seem not to be considering the possibility that St. Clement is explaining doctrine. He seems to be explaining why the laity cannot perform the functions that the presbyters and deacons can.

Point taken. I'd agree that if this was an explanation and not argument then It would be possible that his explanation is fallacious and the underlying doctrine correct. That is he received the doctrine from the apostles but not the argument.

But the letter is an argument. If the argument is flawed then it provides no evidence for the underlying point other than "Clement said so". Moreover it provides some negative evidence since presumably the apostles would have had an argument for their position and he failed to present it.

St. Clement explains this 'mechanism' in chapters 42 and 44 in his letter. I do not know where you are getting this idea of "loyal to Clement". The Apostles appointed bishops and deacons in the various cities they went to. And the Apostles instructed these bishops to appoint successors to themselves. So the successors would have been loyal to the Apostles, and thus also loyal to each other. And in that way, the presbyters in Corinth would have been loyal to St. Clement, but not because they were appointed by St. Clement, but because of their mutual loyalty to the Apostles, and especially to the Apostle Paul.

The only sentence I can find is, "For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry." Which
1) doesn't describe a mechanism
2) doesn't say who
3) doesn't indicate the later ministers are divine appointed

So you can point out specifically where is the divine mechanism?

In fact in that very paragraph Clement argues that they have the right to remain in their role because they have, "blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties". Which would imply that if they had wrongly or sinfully acted they could be ejected. Which is another problem with this letter. Clement is really making two arguments:
a) The removal was unjust, the seditions are bad people the old guard are good
b) A theory of absolute despotism based on an analogy

(a) confuses (b).

You are making a strong claim here that these people were appointed by God not solely by some earthly political process and hence cannot be legitimately deposed as part of a earthly political process. That claim requires evidence. The only evidence I've seen in the letter is the analogy


Collin, there are other kinds of analogies that have nothing to do with "transformation f". They are observations of similarities. You seem to be forcing your own definition of 'analogy' on St. Clement, and then saying that his analogy "doesn't work". But perhaps you could be open to the possibility of other forms of analogy, ones that don't involve "transformation f".

This is like saying:

Humans and frogs both have skin, therefore we should both eat flies with our tongues and sit on lillypads.

Cars and bicycles both have wheels therefore the law requires bicycles to get emissions inspections.

The fact that two things have some similarities does not allow one to draw conclusions not related to those similarities. I'm not pulling in things in irrelevant to the argument (for example differences in costume) but rather the very aspects from which Clement is trying to draw his analogy.

The classic example of this type of reasoning is what you see in geometry.

1) You prove two triangles are congruent (i.e. the same up to rotation and transposition)
2) That the parts being discussed are "similar parts of congruent triangles"
3) Then what holds true for the one holds true for the other

In terms of a lessor analogy you can prove the two triangles are similar i.e. the same up to rotation transposition and scaling. And then you can draw analogies that don't refer to lengths / sizes.

But you can draw no conclusions without this structure.

John Bugay said...

Brian, the concept of obedience to elders is biblical; the concept of one church obeying another is neither biblical, nor is it to be found in the Clement letter. These are two different things.

The best that you have is Clement making a "brotherly exhortation" "so that they may submit, not unto us, but to the will of God."

This is completely different language from submitting to secular rulers.

If Clement had intended the same kind of submission, he would have outlined it just as clearly with respect to the church as he did with respect to secular rulers. That he is speaking in such different terms clearly shows that he is intending two different kinds of relationships.

In fact, there is no equivalence, "obey God by obeying the secular rulers." These rulers have a "glory and honor" given to them, which stands apart and means, "obey secular rulers, because secular rulers are to be obeyed.

I am not a textual scholar and I am finding this. What would a real, genuine textual scholar say about this difference in text?

And by the way, there's a little predestination going on there -- the Creator who "made choice of those who love You through Jesus Christ..." (61)

Principium unitatis said...

Collin,

Sorry to be disagreeable but I see this more as debating you.

When you are accusing St. Clement of error, you are disagreeing with St. Clement.

I'm presenting a series of reason for believing it did not come from the apostles.

I have yet to see one of these reasons.

As for humility and meek acceptance God doesn't command that he commands an aggressive 3 fold test be applied (Deut. 18:20-22).

Are you sure that the instructions of Deut 18 rule out the NT injunctions regarding humility and meekness?

As for the technical errors.

Could you name one? I have yet to find in what you have a said a single error in St. Clement's epistle.

So you can point out specifically where is the divine mechanism?

You just stated it. Perhaps 'mechanism' is the term that is throwing you off. Maybe 'divine means' is a better term. How has God established the means for the installation of the Corinthian presbyters? By the apostolic succession described in the very sentence you quoted from St. Clement. It directly corresponds to what St. Paul writes to St. Timothy in 2 Tim 2:2.

Clement is really making two arguments:
a) The removal was unjust, the seditions are bad people the old guard are good
b) A theory of absolute despotism based on an analogy


I don't see anywhere where St. Clement says that the Corinthian presbyters are "good". Nor do I see anywhere where he argues for "absolute despotism".

You are making a strong claim here that these people were appointed by God not solely by some earthly political process and hence cannot be legitimately deposed as part of a earthly political process.

I don't think I claimed here that ecclesial authorities cannot be "legitimately deposed". If you find where I made that claim, please let me know.

The fact that two things have some similarities does not allow one to draw conclusions not related to those similarities.

Agreed. So, what conclusion is St. Clement drawing that is not related to the similarities?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

Principium unitatis said...

John,

I don't think I claimed that St. Clement is teaching that "one church should obey another". So, perhaps you are misunderstanding me. It seems clear to me that St. Clement is urging the Corinthian laity to submit to the Corinthian presbyters.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

John Bugay said...

Brian, this is what you said, and what I was responding to: "St. Clement is claiming that God is speaking through him and the church at Rome, and thus that for the Corinthians to disobey the words he is speaking to them is to disobey God. This principle, that God is acting through divinely ordained authorities, can be seen both in the civil authorities as well as the ecclesial authorities..."

Principium unitatis said...

John,

That is indeed what I said. It is true that he is calling the Corinthians to obey what he is saying. That is undeniable, it seems to me. But that is quite different than St. Clement saying that the church at Corinth should obey the church at Rome. I don't see St. Clement saying that, not explicitly at least. It is possible, as I said elsewhere, that an awareness of the primacy of the church at Rome is part of the conceptual context in which St. Clement is writing. But I'm not advancing that thesis here.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

CD-Host said...

CD-Host: Sorry to be disagreeable but I see this more as debating you.

Bryan: When you are accusing St. Clement of error, you are disagreeing with St. Clement.


Agreed sort of. Well I'm disagreeing with Clement and with you, but you are the one I'm debating about Saint Clement. Were I directly debating Clement I'd be more respectful for his person.

CD-Host:I've presenting a series of reason for believing it did not come from the apostles.

Bryan: I have yet to see one of these reasons.


I think you mean you disagree not that I haven't presented them. The two reasons I gave were:

1) It makes errors regarding the nature and structure of something the apostles never would have said

2) The logic is poor

Now I understand you disagree. But those have been presented.


CD-Host: As for humility and meek acceptance God doesn't command that he commands an aggressive 3 fold test be applied (Deut. 18:20-22).

Bryan: Are you sure that the instructions of Deut 18 rule out the NT injunctions regarding humility and meekness?


In the fact of claims of prophecy? Well yes. The NT injunctions are equally strong: Matt 7:15-7, Heb 5:14, 1Thes 5:18-22 all indicate that believers have a positive obligation to examine claims to prophecy. None of them argue for a doctrine of meek acceptance depending on title or position of the prophet. There is not the slightest hint that this makes any difference. Nor is there any distinction between OT and NT on this issue.


CD-Host: So you can point out specifically where is the divine mechanism?

Bryan: You just stated it. Perhaps 'mechanism' is the term that is throwing you off. Maybe 'divine means' is a better term. How has God established the means for the installation of the Corinthian presbyters? By the apostolic succession described in the very sentence you quoted from St. Clement. It directly corresponds to what St. Paul writes to St. Timothy in 2 Tim 2:2.


But that is entirely an earthly process. its no different than say how George Bush is installed. Which is to say that Clement is presenting no evidence that his mechanism for choosing leaders is divine while the system of choosing leaders that have the consent of the governed is not. As for 2Tim 2:2 "2:2 And entrust what you heard me say in the presence of many others as witnesses to faithful people who will be competent to teach others as well." that deals with competence and knowledge not monarchy.

CD-Host: Clement is really making two arguments:
a) The removal was unjust, the seditions are bad people the old guard are good
b) A theory of absolute despotism based on an analogy

Bryan: ...Nor do I see anywhere where he argues for "absolute despotism".


That is the whole structure of the letter. "Despotism is a form of government by a single authority, either an individual or tightly knit group, which rules with absolute political power." That is what he is arguing for. The whole letter is a plea for submission based on station to the Bishop and those persons appointed by him.


CD-Host: You are making a strong claim here that these people were appointed by God not solely by some earthly political process and hence cannot be legitimately deposed as part of a earthly political process.

Bryan: I don't think I claimed here that ecclesial authorities cannot be "legitimately deposed". If you find where I made that claim, please let me know.


You are missing the second clause. Deposed as part of an earthly political process. That is governed choosing/creating a new government. I suspect you mean that the individuals within the system can be replaced by other members of the ruling elite. I'm not arguing that Clement doesn't permit that.


CD-Host: The fact that two things have some similarities does not allow one to draw conclusions not related to those similarities.

Bryan: Agreed. So, what conclusion is St. Clement drawing that is not related to the similarities?


The basis for his argument for a divine order is based on an analogy to a structure which doesn't exist between High Priest, Levite / Kohanim and lay leadership. Those 3 things have a relationship of derived power totally unlike the one Clement argues for.

Principium unitatis said...

Collin,

1) It makes errors regarding the nature and structure of something the apostles never would have said

I simply have yet to see one of these "errors". The claim that the "logic is poor" is based on there being "errors". So it all depends on these "errors", and as yet I have not seen one. Could you quote one sentence from St. Clement that is erroneous, and then show what about it is erroneous?

In the fact of claims of prophecy?

Do you think that St. Clement is presenting himself as a prophet? I don't, at least not in the sense for which the Deut passage would be relevant.

But that is entirely an earthly process. its no different than say how George Bush is installed.

How do you know that? When Jesus says to Peter, "whatever you bind on earth", then when Peter binds something on earth, is that an entirely "earthly process"?

That is the whole structure of the letter. "Despotism is a form of government by a single authority, either an individual or tightly knit group, which rules with absolute political power." That is what he is arguing for. The whole letter is a plea for submission based on station to the Bishop and those persons appointed by him.

It seems to me, Collin, that you may be missing the distinction between political authority and ecclesial authority. Jesus talks about this distinction in Matt 20:25, Mark 10:42, and Luke 22:25. St. Clement's letter exemplifies the servant nature of ecclesial leadership. He is meek and humble, as is Jesus. He treats the Corinthians as brothers, as Jesus treated the disciples. He is not a despot. If you don't recognize the distinction between political authority and ecclesial authority, then you will interpret the denial of ecclesial democracy as an affirmation of despotism. But that would be a non sequitur because there is another option, the one Jesus talks about in the verses I mentioned. It is neither democracy, nor is it despotism. To be under the absolute authority of Christ was not (for the Apostles) to be under despotism. Likewise, to be under the ecclesial authority of the Apostles was not (for the first generation of Christians) to be under despotism. Likewise again, to be under the first generation of bishops appointed by the Apostles, was not to be under despotism. And so on.

You are missing the second clause. Deposed as part of an earthly political process. That is governed choosing/creating a new government. I suspect you mean that the individuals within the system can be replaced by other members of the ruling elite. I'm not arguing that Clement doesn't permit that.

I don't think we have enough information in St. Clement's letter to know what he thought about the possibility (in certain cases) of the laity *rightfully* deposing their presbyters. I could speculate, but it would just be speculation on my part. It seems clear in this particular case, at least, that St. Clement thought that the Corinthian laity were *not* justified in their sedition against their presbyters. But St. Clement also says something about the good character and record of these presbyters.

The basis for his argument for a divine order is based on an analogy to a structure which doesn't exist between High Priest, Levite / Kohanim and lay leadership. Those 3 things have a relationship of derived power totally unlike the one Clement argues for.

I don't see St. Clement appealing to a structure between "High priest, Levite / Kohanim, and lay-leadership". Rather, I see him appealing to the following three offices: high priest, priest (in the sense of someone who sacrifices), and Levite (as one who does not sacrifice).

I don't see St. Clement drawing any conclusion from this that is not related to the similarities between those three offices.

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

CD-Host said...

I simply have yet to see one of these "errors"

His core conclusion. He builds a model based on the levites and then argues something that is directly false for the levites with no connecting argument.

We are of opinion, therefore [based on the model of the levites], that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole church, and who have blamelessly served the flock of Christ, in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry

When in fact the High Priest and those priests who serve can be dismissed and in fact are governed by the laity. This is key, the whole point of his letter is about this issue. That is something can't be true of a system "like the levite system" because it is "like the levite system" which is not true of the levite system.


Do you think that St. Clement is presenting himself as a prophet? I don't, at least not in the sense for which the Deut passage would be relevant.

No I think he's presenting himself as making an argument based on scripture. You however are presenting him as making an argument based on revelation. So if I assume you are correct, that he is presenting revelation and not argument then he is a prophet.

. Likewise, to be under the ecclesial authority of the Apostles was not (for the first generation of Christians) to be under despotism. Likewise again, to be under the first generation of bishops appointed by the Apostles, was not to be under despotism. And so on.

I think we have found the core of the disagreement. I'd argue that had the apostles set up a permanent ruling council based on the fact that they knew Jesus that would be a despotism. So I agree with your analogy but disagree with the conclusion.

Incidentally in doing more research it appears the underlying cause was likely embezzlement according to secondary sources.

Principium unitatis said...

Collin,

You seem to be assuming that St. Clement is trying to argue from the Levite model to the conclusion that good presbyters "cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry". But I see no place in which St. Clement makes that argument (from that premise). His reference to the high priest, priest and levite is in regard to the three ministerial offices of the New Covenant, not whether or not persons holding those offices can be dismissed from their ministry.

No I think he's presenting himself as making an argument based on scripture. You however are presenting him as making an argument based on revelation. So if I assume you are correct, that he is presenting revelation and not argument then he is a prophet.

Notice your hidden premise: if the argument comes not from Scripture, then it must be revelation and therefore the revealer must be a prophet. The whole Catholic idea of tradition (passed down from the Apostles) seems to be outside of your conceptual horizon.

I think we have found the core of the disagreement. I'd argue that had the apostles set up a permanent ruling council based on the fact that they knew Jesus that would be a despotism.

What if it was based on the fact that Jesus had told them to do it? Would it still be "despotism"?

In the peace of Christ,

- Bryan

CD-Host said...

You seem to be assuming that St. Clement is trying to argue from the Levite model to the conclusion that good presbyters "cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry". But I see no place in which St. Clement makes that argument (from that premise). His reference to the high priest, priest and levite is in regard to the three ministerial offices of the New Covenant, not whether or not persons holding those offices can be dismissed from their ministry.

So what in your opinion is the point of bring it up in this letter? The whole letter is an argument on why the X leadership should be reinstated.

Notice your hidden premise: if the argument comes not from Scripture, then it must be revelation and therefore the revealer must be a prophet. The whole Catholic idea of tradition (passed down from the Apostles) seems to be outside of your conceptual horizon.

Not at all. Lets start with American law. There is a system of civil law "black letter law" which is created by legislators. From this judges create interpretive law "common law" which acts as the effective law of the land. But what is important it is both derived from black letter law and subordinate to it. As much as possible common law helps to explicate the intent of the legislature but it is not additional revelation from them.

In the case of the Levites, the acting law would have Pharisee / Rabbinic law. The Sadducee party, held that this was useful but that scripture (the 5 books) was supreme in every respect and derivations had to be clear. Other scripture (the rest of the OT + apocryphal literature) could be considered but the again the interpretive hierarchy was in place.

What you seem to be claiming is that Clement's understanding of the nature of the church came from the apostles who got it from Jesus, not that Clement just considers it a good idea. That is it some form of additional revelation not a collection of common law.

So I'm willing to accept tradition as a subordinate framework for understanding scripture as not having to meet the criteria for prophecy. But once it moves to the level of revelation, that is once it moves to something that is claimed to come from God and not from the lay membership then yes it has to meet the tests for that sort of revelation. Otherwise you have tradition effectively superior to scripture.

What if it [permanent apostolic rule] was based on the fact that Jesus had told them to do it? Would it still be "despotism"?

Yes it would still be despotism. But then it would divinely sanctioned despotism. Given that this contradicts other scripture one would expect Jesus to have addressed it quite explicitly as he did the override on foods.