Today’s post about the patristics is about 1 Clement 54-55.
Our series uses for its text Michael Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers.
1 Clement is from a leader in Rome to the leaders and people of Corinth, and in chps 54-55 he addresses taking blame for the common good.
The appeal is to being “noble” and “compassionate” and “love.” The term “noble” translates gennaios is used a number of times in this letter (5:1, 6; 6:2; 25:3), and its sense is someone who has become noteworthy (“someone who has become”). But this is not reknown as used in the empire, but reknowned for Christian virtue, which is why the parallel terms are “compassionate” and “love.”
The issue is schisms among Christians in Corinth. One strategy is for people to take hits for the good of the whole. The aim is take hits for the sake of peace.
1Clem. 54:1 Now, then, who among you is noble? Who is compassionate? Who is filled with love? 2 Let that one say: “If it is my fault that there are rebellion and strife and schisms, I retire; I will go wherever you wish, and will do whatever is ordered by the people. Only let the flock of Christ be at peace with its duly appointed presbyters.” 3 The one who does this will win great fame in Christ, and every place will welcome that person, for “the earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it.”
4 These are the things that those who live as citizens of the commonwealth of God—something not to be regretted—have done and will continue to do.
In a common move in the ancient world, a writer appeals to examples known to many in order to offer anecdotal evidence. Even gentiles have done this!
1Clem. 55:1 Let us, moreover, bring forward some examples of Gentiles as well: in times of pestilence, many kings and rulers, being prompted by some oracle, have given themselves over to death, so that they might rescue their subjects through their own blood. Many have left their own cities, so that there might be no more rebellions.
Next he appeals to acts done by fellow Christians that support offering oneself for the good of others:
2 We know that many among us have had themselves imprisoned, so that they might ransom others. Many have sold themselves into slavery, and with the price received for themselves have fed others.
He appeals to women, surely an evocative rhetorical move in several directions at once:
3 Many women, being strengthened by the grace of God, have performed many manly deeds. 4 The blessed Judith, when the city was under siege, asked the elders to permit her to go to the enemy’s camp. 5 So she exposed herself to peril and went out for love of her country and of her besieged people, and the Lord delivered Holophernes into the hand of a woman. 6 To no less danger did Esther, who was perfect in faith, expose herself, in order that she might deliver the twelve tribes of Israel when they were about to be destroyed. For through her fasting and her humiliation she entreated the all-seeing Master, the God of the ages, and he, seeing the humility of her soul, rescued the people for whose sake she had faced the danger.