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The Authenticity of Early Post-Apostolic Christian Literature

  Those who wish to late-date many of the New Testament books, including the seven universally accepted Pauline epistles (Rom, 1-2 Cor, 1 Thess, Philemon, Philippians, Galatians), inevitably face the problem of three early Christian writings which refer to them. These are 1 Clement, the letters of Ignatius, and the letter of Polycarp. Below we examine arguments for and against the authenticity of these, as well as other early Christian documents.

1 Clement

The letter of Clement of Rome has traditionally been ascribed to Clement who was a bishop in Rome and wrote to the Corinthian Church around 96 AD about the problem of their unlawful deposition of the church's leaders. However, there have been a very small minority who in the past, mostly the middle of the 19th century, have challenged the authenticity of this letter, and have instead placed it about 40 years later, around 130-140 AD. The arguments are as follows:

Objections to authenticity

1. 1 Clem 1.1 doesn't necessarily report a recently ended persecution, and if it does, this doesn't need to be restricted to the persecution under Domitian which ended in 96. For one, such a persecution is increasingly being questioned to have existed at all. "Nor is there a bishop of Rome, secure in the episcopal lists, called Clement to keep us within a few years of 96." Second, as Acts and the Pauline epistles show, as well as Roman law, there were many persecutions and the text could be referring to any spurious one which had happened to have arisen.

Answer: It may be true that there were many persecutions ad locum wherever there were large Christian communities; such are recorded throughout Acts, and Paul speaks of them frequently. Whether Domitian intensely persecuted the Christians or not is therefore irrelevant as to the date of 1 Clement. 1 Clement 1:1 certainly does imply more than a local harassment by Jews or other anti-Christian fanatics, but not something extravangantly more. It is certainly not impossible for this to have happened under Domitian who, contrary to Sturdy, wasn't equally timid in the promotion of the emperor cult as his successors and predecessors were. Moreover, one can't comprehend Sturdy's statement about a supposed absense of Clement's name from episcopal lists, when we have virtually everyone who mentions the subject of lists of bishops (of Rome) mention Clement, usually placing him as a successor to Peter. Examples aside from Hegesippus include: Irennaeus, Tertullian, Liber Pontificalis, and Eusebius and Jerome. Where are these episcopal lists where Clement is not secure "within a few years of 96"? The only thing that would make him unsecure for 96 is his close date to Peter, according to the early church writers like Irennaeus, putting him at c.68: yes 68 is indeed a few years apart from 96! But there is no need to rely on the traditions of appointment by Peter for Clement, since these are 2nd century legends about him. In any case, if Sturdy wants to argue for an unreliability for 96 AD for 1 Clement based on reports placing him in the 60's (thus no solid tradition putting 1 Clement in 96, but instead placing it in the 60's), he doesn't need to think so, since although the statements about Clement's succession to Peter might be legendary, as Sturdy himself says, "The earlier names on the list [by Hegesippus] were no doubt remembered as leading figures of the Roman church and are not simply fictitious".

2. Hegesippus is not a reliable source for monepiscopacy prior to Anicetus (155-166 AD) because there does not seem to have been only one bishop with overall authority in 1 Clement; in other words, there is no monepiscopacy and although Hegesippus' list, most likely the one used by Eusebius and others, may have genuine names, it is not to be used since Hegesippus, is said, composed it himself, and did not overtake any earlier list. The letter does not name Clement as its author. Thus according to van Manen, the letter could not have been written by a bishop, since there was no one bishop who had authority over the Church of Rome. Also, the letter could not have come from the official governance of the Roman church, because this presupposes a too early reconciliation between Gentile and Jewish Christians.

Answer: The very first verse clearly notes there was no one bishop in authority, and that Clement is essentially a representative of a group. However, that 1 Clement must have been written by an important member of the Roman Church, therefore a bishop no doubt, is attested to both by the internal evidence and the external. 1 Clement 1:1 clearly presupposes its author as a bishop with the statement, "we feel that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the points respecting which you consulted us", not to mention the presumption of teaching the Corinthian presbyters about doctrines, which would be slightly odd to say the least, if the author considered himself a layman. But the most decisive proof is the extremely wide recognition 1 Clement enjoyed early on. The epistle of Polycarp, Irenaeus (Adv. Haer. III.3.3), Dionysius of Corinth, and many others refer to 1 Clement as the prime example of orthodoxy to be found. The tradition cannot be negated by the immature statement that 1 Clement could not have been written by a bishop by pointing out the fact that there was no monarchical bishop at Rome at the time; as if a bishop could not have written a letter to Corinth because of this. The question of Hegesippus' and others' reliability regarding the date and authorship of 1 Clement is dealt with below. As far as the early resolution of Jewish and Gentile Christianity, the Church at Rome had doubtless a majority of Gentile Christians by 96 AD, and any antagonism would have played little role in not allowing the presbyters to officially represent Rome and write a letter in the church's name, but even without this, Paul's letter to the Romans (written in 57), can be said removes any such problems of Jewish and Gentile Christians.

3. According to the Shepherd of Hermas (Vis. 2.4), Clement was a foreign correspondent of the Church of Rome. Since the Shepherd of Hermas was written while Pius was bishop of Rome (140-155) according to the Muratorian Canon, 1 Clement presumably is to be dated to around 130-140.

Answer: The Shepherd of Hermas was most likely written around 150 as the Muratorian Canon and other documents attest, such as the Liberian Catalogue. The reference in Vision 2.4 to a foreign correspondent called Clement is taken to mean that he is the same as the author of 1 Clement, and since the former clearly couldn't have been active more than a decade or two earlier than the Shepherd of Hermas' composition (130-150), 96 AD is outruled as a possibility for the date of composition of 1 Clement.

But there are countless possibilities besides this. It could have been a different Clement, or the Shepherd of Hermas could be looking back on the time of Clement of Rome, presuming the vision to have come from then. This by itself can in no way override the universal and unanimous early tradition about Clement of Rome.

4. In general, the ecclesiology and theology is cited as developed. "The evidence for the theological character of 1 Clement needs to be handled with caution since we must allow for development at different speeds in different parts of the church. But despite this it can still be said that the picture of a well-developed church with a formal structure and understanding of succession, and a more developed understanding of "Catholicism" than is found in any other New Testament writing, fits in much more happily with a date after 100 CE and even one well on the way to 150 CE. The absence of a reference to monepiscopacy is one feature that is not strikingly late; but the emergence of monepiscopacy itself...is to be placed well on in the second century."

Answer: The church structure and succession of 1 Clement is nothing that requires a date after 96. Bishops and deacons are found as early as Paul (Philippians 1:1), and the succession is nothing that could not have developed by 96. As far as the "developed" Catholicism, there is nothing that is too developed for 96.

5. 1 Clement quotes many New Testament books, some of which (Titus and 1 Timothy) are dated after 96. The multitude of citations far exceeds the books of the New Testament dated to after 100, although we see the beginning of this trend in Ephesians. The authority 1 Clement presumes the New Testament books to have, although not equal to Old Testament Scripture in the epistle's thought but nevertheless highly important, suggests a time when there was a progressing elevation of the New Testament literature in importance. The year 96 is far too early for this.

Answer: Quotations of books such as the Pastorals, James, and possibly 1 Peter are generally not agreed to be found in 1 Clement. Specifically for the Pastorals, the earliest work that is generally regarded as having cited them is Polycarp's Philippians, and even then some consider the parallels not quotations but similarities in thought arising from a common era. But even if there are such quotations, there is nothing preventing a date of the late 1st century for 1 Clement since there is nothing in the Pastorals that needs to be dated long after 80-100 (for the authenticity and date of c.64 for the Pastorals see 1 TIMOTHY, 2 TIMOTHY, and TITUS). As far as referring to New Testament writings as authoritative, this does not require any late date; during Paul's lifetime his letters were read as authoritative (2 Corinthians 10:9-11). The Apostle's opinion was certainly important while he was alive (1 Corinthians 4:14-17). Also Colossians 4:7, since nobody dates Colossians after 100. In general, any writing that was considered apostolic, or recording the words of such, was considered authoritative.

6. 1 Clement does not read convincingly as a letter. It is different from Cicero's letters, and letters unearthed from Egypt, or Philemon.

Answer: 1 Clement is no different from 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, or Romans. Cicero's letters, Egyptian parallels, and Philemon are of a different nature.

7. The letter of Polycarp does not confine 1 Clement to 90-110, since it is not clear whether anything forces us to put the composition of chapters 1-12 and 14 shortly before Polycarp's death, assuming they are authentic.

Answer: The issue of date and authorship at this point is dealt with below. Even if this is true, which is argued below that it's not, whether Polycarp confines 1 Clement to 90-110 or not is irrelevant if other factors do.

8. 1 Clement is too long to be a real letter to Corinth. Its material seems more close to other motives other than correcting the Corinthian church. Its form is closer to that of a Pauline epistle.

Answer: 1 Clement is about 10,000 words long. It is similar to Romans and 1 Corinthians in format which are 7100 and 6800 words respectively. It is therefore not "too long" to be a real letter, and its content is inkeeping with the Corinthian problem as it doesn't harbor any other visible motives. The author of Hebrews, who has long been acknowledged not to be immitating anyone, wrote a letter about 5000 words long, and calls it a short letter (Hebrews 13:22). In any case, one has to wonder why 1 Clement has to be so fundamentally different from the Pauline letter format. Both came from the same era in terms of "letter writing" (even if one places 1 Clement in 140 AD), and the content of the letter is entirely inkeeping with the idea that it is correcting an error of the Corinthian church (similarly to Paul's own letter, or letters, 2 Corinthians, correcting the Corinthians). In any case, as commentators on Acts in the first half of the 20th century noted, the way speeches with preaching were delivered in that time was with lengthy introductions starting from the history of the people in subject, and this certainly was reflected by letters as can be seen from 2 Corinthians and Galatians in Paul.

9. "The fact, that the author does not tackle the actual reason for the letter before chapter 44, is unrealistic and shows the letter form to be nothing but clothing for a pious tract on the subject „Peace and Unity in Communities”. (The author himself names it „an appeal for Peace and Harmony” 63,2, or a „script” 62,2; and see Eusebius Hist. Ecc. III 38,5 „an admonition” and Hist. Eccl. II 25,8 where Dionysus of Corinth tells us the letter was designated to be read out to the Community)."

Answer: That the main answer to the problem comes in chapter 44 shouldn't surprise us. The previous chapters are very small, a few verses each. The problem is addressed initially in chapters 1 and 3, then the reproval comes after a description of relevant Christian history and then through the building up of causes and effects through examples. We can see something similar in Stephen's speech in Acts 7:2-53, where the main point doesn't come until verse 51, after a history of Israel replete with examples of disobedience is pronounced. Even if one claims the speech was composed by Luke, it is nevertheless an example because the main point still comes after such a (relatively) long time. The letter always keeps its focus on the error of disobedience to the proper religious authority, and van Eysinga's comment that the author does a good job of pretending to be writing a real letter throughout the whole letter supports this. Thus there is no clothing for "a pious tract" and it's extremely surprising to think that in connection with those factors, the supposition that the letter addresses a fictitious situation is supported, just because the subject of the letter is "Peace and Unity in Communities".

10. It is improbable that the Corinthians would disavow their elders just because of a dissenting few. Also, details about the situation are lacking (yet compare 1 Clem 6). 1 Cor's disputes may have suggested the situation, and the purpose of 1 Clement might be to remove disputes about the continuation of ordination using the authority of the Church of Rome. This latter statement finds support in the continually growing authoritative tone of the letter (from an ever higher authority, to as if having the Holy Spirit himself).

Answer: Charismatic leaders have always held a sway over the unsuspecting masses. This is evident from Paul's disputes with the so-called "super apostles" (2 Corinthians 11:1-15). So a "dissenting few" could have easily played some sort of manipulative game to remove the presbyters, especially if they were prominent or wealthy. There is a similar situation with Diotrephes in 3 John, despite the author's wide popularity (even if he is not John the Apostle). Just because the Corinthian church was ancient does not mean that there couldn't be those who started "sparks". According to Dionysius of Corinth, in the Athenian church, another ancient church founded by Paul (Acts 17:32-34), the Athenians were very close to apostasy or non-Christian living. The lack of details, if peculiar, are due to the peculiarity of Clement's character. For example, in chapter 1 he mentions a persecution but with no details. Yet in chapter 6 he incidentally mentions the death of two women. So we see that, if it is odd that the details aren't described, it is because Clement didn't choose to do so, whether because there was no occasion/motivation for this, or for some other reason. It is also possible that Clement didn't know a lot of details about the Corinthian problem, seeing how he says in the first chapter that the brothers had requested help some time ago. It's also likely the situation was known by both the Corinthian presbyters and Clement, so if anything the silence is an argument for authenticity (why would the forger omit explaining the problem if he conscioussly wants to fool people?), especially with an admittedly skilled forgerer who could maintain the fiction of writing a genuine letter to a congregation as per van Eysinga's statement. As far as 1 Corinthians serving as the model and motivation for addressing a problem at Corinth in 1 Clement, this is just a highly speculative conjecture, and the early and wide tradition for 1 Clement's authenticity supports a real problem as having occurred. In fact, it is unlikely that the bishop of Corinth, Dionysius of Corinth, would have been oblivious to there never having been a problem with unlawful removal of presbyters from their offices in Corinth and the epistle trying to extend the Roman Church's power beyond Rome. If the purpose of 1 Clement is to "remove problems of ordination" under the Roman Church's authority, the forger of 1 Clement missed his genre: forgers write letters in the name of an apostle long dead, not a fictitious problem which could easily be verified as false. Also, it would have been known that this was the work of no bishop of Rome. If it is assumed the forger wrote in 130-140 addressing a fictitious situation in 96, this also could have easily been verified as false (and would have, and 1 Clement would have remained in ignorance, and we would have never seen or heard about it). The hypothesis that there was a real problem, and that 1 Clement is genuine, but nevertheless comes from 130-140 is the only one that remains that makes sense. The author's tone is fairly authoritative from the beginning (see chapter 1) and so any speculation of a progressively authoritative tone throughout the letter has to be disregarded. Finally, it makes no sense to needlessly create a fictitious situation regarding Corinthian presbyter ordination to address a problem at home (Rome), with problems (even if one writing in 130-140 pretended it was 96 AD) of being found out to be writing about a false situation.

11. There are problems with 1 Clement solving the Corinthian church's problems. First, it is from Rome. Then, the attempt at solution is unrealistic. The motive of the Corinthian rebellion changes sometimes to envy and so on (chapters 2, 6). Finally, this shows that the author didn't consider 1 Corinthians a letter (meaning it did not solve any problem, but was considered a fictitious document by the author of 1 Clement like his own).

Answer: That the letter from Rome, Italy, attempts to mediate a situation in Corinth, Greece, is not surprising. The Roman Church, having a big congregation, and being fairly affluent since it was located in the capital of the empire, naturally took it upon herself to help smaller sister churches both financially and spiritually. The mediation is not unrealistic; the bishop methodically starts on an exposition of the cause and history of rebellion and other evils which likely procured the Corinthian dissent. His answer in chapter 44 is anything but unrealistic. The motive of the Corinthian dissent does not change, but varying combined reasons are attributed to it. 1 Corinthians cannot be said to not have been considered a letter, because the situation may have been copied (assuming for the sake of argument inauthenticity of 1 Clement) from what was thought a genuine problem in Paul's day, but certainly the fact that 1 Corinthian along with other Pauline letters speaks against such a view, even if 1 Clement isn't genuine.

12. The mention of persecution in 1:1 is an excuse for the letter to address the fictitious situation. "Thusly this sentence does not, as often presumed, indicate a particular (Nero, Domitianus) persecution of the Christians. Because of the then prevalent Roman laws persecutions used to come not unexpectedly." So does chapter 44, and passages with liturgical use (1-12, 20, 38, and ending prayer). The statement "So let us, in harmony and as best we know, meet in the same place and with one voice emphatically praise the Lord, since we are blessed with his great and magnificent promises." shows the fictitious nature of the letter; the Romans wouldn't have met in the same place as the Corinthians, and 1 Clement forgets he is writing a letter to Corinth (though as van Eysinga admits, he keeps it up very well throughout the letter).

Answer: 1 Clement 1:1 being a fictitious occasion for the letter is a speculation, and is disproved by the details in chapter 6. The fact that the author gives details about the persecution, but not in chapter 1, speaks for authenticity, since he would have given such in the beginning, chapter 1, to establish authenticity (no forger would "remember" to include personalia about the persecution mentioned in chapter 1 all of a sudden after 5 chapters). To say he was a clever forgerer ignores the fact that the absense of such a persecution and the absense of the deaths of the two women and such mentioned in chapter 6 could easily have been verified. And one is hard pressed to find a catalogue of Roman laws which ensured the announcement of persecutions so that they never really came "unexpectedly"; the word clearly denotes the sudden and unexpected turn of events, not that everyone was suddently surprised about Christians dying left and right; this, then, can clearly be used to indicate a particular persecution, there is no reason why it can't be used, as it's a personal detail (and even if it were fictitious, a personal detail is a personal detail - if I were to refer to recent "unexpected" wars, one would try to find a "particular" war, whether it existed or not. And Domitian's persecutions certainly existed). Chapter 44 cannot be claimed to be fictional, since that is exactly the answer a bishop would have given to a congregation with this problem. There is nothing in the liturgical material, or ending prayer that could not have existed by the end of the first century. Clement's comment about "meeting in the same place" is metaphorical and shouldn't be taken literally. The fact that van Eysinga acknowledges that the author of 1 Clement throughout "does not forget" that he is writing a letter, shows that it is likely he actually was writing a genuine letter.

13. Lateness indicated by laws for clergy and different ones for laymen (40, 41, etc.) and other clericalism.

Answer: Different laws for clergy and laymen could have easily come by 96 AD.

14. The military imagery inherited from the New and Old Testament is Roman. Also, justification is both by faith alone and works and the law is found (32, 35). This to have drifted so far from Paul is not possible by 96.

Answer: The Roman Church was founded fairly early, since at least the 40's, seeing Paul writes to them in 57 AD, and there being many Christians in Rome to be able to become Nero's scapegoat for the fire in 64 AD. If Claudius' expulsion of the Jews from Rome in 49 AD is due to Christians, then the Roman Church may have even been founded in the 30's. Nevertheless, I don't see how it can be said that by 96, 50 or more years after its inception, the Roman church couldn't have contributed culturally to the thinking of its members, but this must have happened 30-40 years later. Chapter 35 does not contradict Paul's salvation by faith alone for exhorting the necessity of doing good works; it is simply the statement of the necessity for someone to "prove their repentance through their works" (Acts 26:20) which Paul called for throughout his letters (Romans 2:5-11, 13, Galatians 5:19-6:1, etc).

15. Judith, quoted in 1 Clement, wasn't written until 138.

Answer: Judith could not have been written after 70, or much after the middle of the 1st century BC. It concerns itself, allegorically and metaphorically, with the Maccabean revolt as vital in Jewish affairs meaning it was written close enough for it to have been an important, recent event. It's most likely an allegory for the Maccabean revolt and not the Roman occupation. A dating of 138 is too late.

16. Clement of Rome's bishopric is unsupported by 1 Clement or Polycarp's letter, and he's only known from the later legends. The hypothesis that the author of 1 Clement and the well known Clement of Rome are different people is untenable. Also, that the author was an important clergyman/person in the Roman Church is unsupported by the earliest history and tradition behind the epistle, and the epistle itself doesn't support it, but the opposite. Most of what we can see about the author from 1 Clement is that he was an educated man, well read in the Old Testament and Pauline writings, who supported the ecclesiastical order at Rome (and likely other areas).

Answer: 1 Clement is anonymous, that is true, and Polycarp doesn't refer to him as a bishop. Nevertheless, the later writings are not later legends, but works based on historical information which clearly identify the author as Clement of Rome, and a bishop. The letter internally supports the author as a bishop: "we feel that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the points respecting which you consulted us". The external testimony is unanimous in attributing the letter to the bishop of Rome, Clement, in 96 AD, Hegesippus, Dionysius of Corinth, Irenaeus, so on.

17. Anti-gnosticism in chapters 20, 33, 59, where dualism is rejected, announcing the Creator as the same as the Father of Christ. Also the Resurrection (24-28) is mentioned due to the Gnostic denial of it. The lack of many references to Gnosticism is either because the author was very skillful, or wasn't his purpose/interest, which was the question of the ecclesiastical control over individuals: that is the letter's first and last concern; the Corinthian disputes is the authority of the office versus those who have the Spirit, and 1 Clement aims to affirm that the former have it over the latter.

Answer: Alleged traces of anti-gnosticism in chapters 20, 39, and 59 are looking for and forcing evidence that isn't there. The chapters speak nothing that isn't already seen in Paul, and if there was some motive for rejecting the dualistic theology of Gnosticism, it is almost entirely unpursued; nothing identifies the Creator as the Father of Jesus in a Gnostic-combatting way. The author's silence on Gnosticism is entirely present. The answer that he was a skillful forgerer begs sanity. The answer that it did not concern his purpose is highly improbable, since, if the letter is inauthentic, the problem of the succession of bishops would have been greatly enhanced by the Gnostics' opposition. In fact, the main reason that Acts came to the forefront as an important book near the end of the second century was because of its usefulness in combatting the Gnostics due to its connection between Apostolic Christianity and the Orthodoxy of the Church in the 2nd century. If the letter is authentic, addressing a genuine problem at Corinth, but coming from 130-140, then the problem is also unlikely to have been ignored, since the Gnostics would have plagued the Roman church, just like the persecution mentioned in chapter 1, and would have been spoken against indirectly by emphasizing orthodox doctrines much more with a much more visible anti-Gnostic overtone. Thus the only hypothesis that remains is a date prior to 110 when the Gnostics came to the forefront and attention of the Church.

18. The reconciliation between Peter and Paul is already seen in 1 Clement, as opposed to the slow reconciliation that would have taken place. Also, knowledge of the opposition between the two is not absent from 1 Clement. Furthermore, 1 Clement 44:1f. supports the letter's lateness.

Answer: The absense of a long conciliatory process between Paul and Peter in 1 Clement is due to the absense of a long factional fracture between the two. The incident in Galatians 2 has been greatly exaggerated by Baur and his Tübingen School, that it has become into a grand theory of "nascent" versus Pauline Christianity instead of an error Peter committed at a meal when some Judaizers came present. For more on this, see NASCENT AND PAULINE CHRISTIANITY. In all, there was no opposition against Paul. He records none except the incident in Galatians 2, which was personally with Peter. Clement would have naturally known about this dispute from Galatians 2. And finally, just because the Apostles are mentioned as giving instructions for when they would eventually have "fallen asleep" in 44:1-2 does not necessitate any lateness beyond 70 AD when most of the Apostles had indeed fallen asleep.


Seeing that the objections to authenticity are weightless, we should turn to establishing a general case for authenticity. From the answer in point 17, it is clear that we have to go with Volkmar and place 1 Clement before 125. Furthermore, Ignatius in Epistle to the Trallians 10 refers to heretic Docetists who recently went out into the world, and since he wrote in 110, this means 1 Clement predates 105-110. However, this is as far as we can get from the internal evidence. We have to inevitably turn to the tradition about the epistle from the early Christian writers.

Irenaeus wrote in 180 AD that the epistle of Clement was older than the Gnostic heretics in his time. This means it was at least 50-60 years old, but since Irenaeus in the same section says that Clement had seen the apostles, he must have been born no later than 30-40 AD, and a date of composition after 100-110 is highly improbable. The list of bishops in that section supports the 96 date for 1 Clement.

Dionysius of Corinth's testimony is equally important. He says that Clement's letter is read in Corinth and affirms that Clement of Rome wrote it, and that its situation was genuine. Criticisms of Dionysius' testimony, maintaining that it is unreliable because he mentions that Rome and Corinth were co-founded by Peter and Paul, whereas Paul alone founded Corinth and did not, seeing from Romans 15:20 found the Church of Rome in all probability. However, the tradition was alive as early as 1 Clement, ironically, whether one places him in 96 or 130-140, and this could have easily become a tradition even if untrue, from the earliest times, due to the martyrdom of Peter and Paul there. This is completely uncomparable with the historical knowledge which the Dionysius of Corinth and other early Christian writers like Irenaeus would have had about bishops (of Rome nonetheless) and their time serving as such. Thus the testimony of Dionysius remains historically invaluable.

Further witnesses for Clement of Rome as author at a date in the late 1st century includes the list of bishops in Epiphanius, Hippolytus, whose list appears in the Liberian catalogue from 354 uses, the anti-Marcionite poem in Pseudo-Tertullian, and Tertullian.

In short, no testimony from anyone of that time maintains that either Clement of Rome was bishop in 130-140 (or any time long after 100), or that 1 Clement was written (long) after 100. We do not have anything that forces us to place 1 Clement in 96 from the internal evidence, but as shown above, there is nothing that forces us to place it decades after that. However, the universal, unanimous, and early tradition about such a fact, which would have occurred not too long ago, and would be easily verified, cannot be undermined. In fact, such a tradition by itself is enough to not only support the conclusion beyond doubt, but independently establish it. It is true that there were other unanimous traditions that are clearly false, such as the epistle of Barnabbas being by the apostle, but such a tradition is considerably easier to originate, since it was at a time of over 100 years from when the apostle lived, as opposed to the historical bishopric of Clement of Rome, and the letter he would have written.

Finally, the author of 1 Clement makes absolutely no use of Acts. The few references that have been pointed to as examples that 1 Clement quoted and knew Acts have been sufficiently answered by Haenchen. The fact that 1 Clement did not use Acts supports a c.96 AD date in two important ways. First, the author used for his purpose every authoritative and apostolic document that he knew of in his day. By 130-140 Acts was certainly one of these as Justin Martyr shows. The fact that there are no extensive references to Acts (not to mention none at all) in such a lengthy letter as 1 Clement, least of all on a subject as explicit as apostolic succession (the very fundamental reason Irennaeus made use of Acts against the Gnostics) speaks against a date after c.110. Secondly, the years of 130 AD and later were replete with the problems of the Gnostic heresy. For this to have remained in absolute silence without any implicit anti-Gnostic arguments is impossible for a letter in the 130's AD. Acts served as a very important proof for the 2nd century writers against the Gnostics, as Irennaeus and Tertullian attest. As Ernst Haenchen writes, "In the struggle waged by Irennaeus against gnosticism, Acts proved immediately useful: from it one could demonstrate the unity of the apostolic message - and for this purpose it was copiously quoted by Irennaeus." Granted, Irennaeus wrote c.180 AD, a full generation after 130-140, but nevertheless, how likely is it that 1 Clement, which deals centrally with the question of ordination would have omitted every chance at a reference to Acts, which by then was an authoritative work, and its history so integral to arguments about apostolic succession? Therefore, the only thing left to conclude about the case of the inauthenticity of 1 Clement, or its placing long after 100 is, there is no case.


  1. Sturdy, J.V.M., Redrawing the Boundaries: The Date of Early Christian Literature, p.4
  2. ibid. Sturdy untenably says, "Nor did Domitian apparently promote the imperial cult with any more fervour than his predecessors and successors." But that is not apparent at all! He was certainly much more active in the support of the emperor's religion (for the sake of Roman strength through religious, cultural, and economic unity) than anyone prior and since until Trajan, to the point where he did execute and exile, whereas previous emperors did not stress this as much.
  3. ibid., p.5
  4. ibid., p.6
  5. 2 Corinthians 11:23-26, Galatians 1:13,23, Acts 5:40, etc.
  6. Kümmel, W.G., Introduction to the New Testament, 14th revised ed., tr. A.J. Mattill, Jr., p.261. Also, points of contact between Ignatius and the Pastorals are isolated expressions with no obvious dependence.
  7. http://www.radikalkritik.de/clem_engl.htm, quoting van Manen, Handleiding, p. 74ff. - van den Bergh van Eysinga, Inleiding, p. 140; Oudste christelijke Geschriften, p. 171. Onderzoek, p. 20ff.
  8. Eusebius, H.E. IV, 26.2
  9. http://www.radikalkritik.de/clem_engl.htm, quoting van den Bergh van Eysinga, Oudste christelijke Geschriften, p.172; Onderzoek p.13ff
  10. Haenchen, Ernst, Acts of the Apostles: A Commentary, English Translation of the 14th German edition (1965), by Basil Blackwell (1971), p.9
  11. Adv. Haer. III, 3.3
  12. Haer. 27.6
  13. Hippolytus' list as standing behind this is widely accepted, giving it a date of the early 3rd century. If not Hippolytus, it is still clear that it used an earlier list, and this tradition is independent of Hegesippus and Irenaeus, since Clement is placed after Linus, and is nevertheless another early tradition about Clement of Rome as bishop in the late 1st century.
  14. De Praescript., 32
  15. Haenchen, Acts, pp.3-4
  16. ibid., p.9
  17. Not to mention passages that talk about the laying on of hands (Acts 8:18) and appointment of elders by Paul and Barnabbas (Acts 14:23)