We’ll call this series FWOF — Friday with our fathers. By “fathers” I mean the Apostolic Fathers (=AF), and I will rely upon my longtime friend and seminary classmate (ahem, we overlapped one year, and I’ll not mention who graduated first but there’s a good chance it was) Michael Holmes, and his splendid edition of the fathers called The Apostolic Fathers.
I’m in no hurry here; we need to live up to Kenneth Stewart’s observation that the AF have been neglected by too many connected to evangelicalism. I don’t know that our seminary students at Northern (or many seminaries) are getting enough of the AFs so I will do a series on each Father in the AF book by Holmes. Buy and it and join us.
We begin with 1 Clement, and here are some basic introductory points from Mike’s brief introduction. I am also using Clayton N. Jefford’s Reading the Apostolic Fathers.
Author: tradition has it as Clement, 3d bishop of Rome. Bishop is generous but it is probable it was Clement of Rome and he was a pastor/major leader of the church in Rome.
This text was included in some, not many, New Testaments and the letter was deeply valued in early Christianity. However, survivals of copies in Greek are scarce. Too scarce for it to be seen as canonical; it was valued but not as were Paul’s own letters.
One of the most interesting features of 1 Clement to me is how different it is from Revelation on its view of Rome, and it is quite reasonable to think they are written very nearly at the same time. Hence, in the 90s and reasonably during the time of Domitian.
Whereas in Revelation Rome is presented as the great harlot whose attacks upon the church must be resisted (to the point of death, if necessary), in 1 Clement one finds a much more positive view of the Roman government (as in the prayer in 60.4-61), and the elements of peace, harmony, and order that are so important to the author (or authors) of this letter reflect some of the fundamental values of Roman society. Thus it provides important evidence of the diverse and creative ways in which Christians sought to come to terms with the Greco-Roman culture and society within which the church was so rapidly expanding (Holmes, 33).
As Paul wrote from Corinth about troubles in Rome and as he described similar problems in Corinth, so now the Roman leaders sense a need to speak about the same kinds of disunity in Corinth.
It appears that some of the younger men in the congregation had provoked a revolt (this is the Roman point of view; the younger Corinthians no doubt defended their action in more positive terms) and succeeded in deposing the established leadership of the church (3.3; 44.6; 47.6). When news of this turn of events reached Rome (47.7), leaders of the Roman congregation were sufficiently distressed by this breach of proper conduct and order and the consequent damage to the reputation of the Corinthian congregation (1.1; cf. 39.1) that they wrote this long letter and even dispatched mediators (63.3; 65.1) in an effort to restore peace and order to the Corinthian congregation.
Assignment: get a copy of Holmes or the AF and read 1 Clement 1.1–3.4.