Good Question...were the Apostolic Fathers unable to distinguish between authentic and unauthentic books?



(Part Two: Created August 28, 1998) 

Continuing from Part One...

In the last piece, we saw that the answer to Part One of this question:

...was a decided "YES", and so we move on to the next Part of the question: The first step is to establish a methodology for determining the answer to this question. We might look for things like: Let's see what we can glean from the data in each one of these areas...

 
1. Are there any explicit comments about the NT materials?

Some.

First, we note (as does the questioner) that the words of Jesus are put on a par with the OT Scriptures.

Second, the apostles are compared to Moses, and the apostolic teaching to the written Mosaic Law.
 
This is apparent from the argument in 43-44. In 43, Moses is held up as a source of teaching, which is the target of sedition: And in 44, the pattern is applied to the Apostles: [EXCURSUS--"Levels" of inspiration: Third, there is the explicit mention of Paul's letter to the Corinithians in 47.1: Although we cannot press this too far, given the differential between Patristic authority and Apostolic authority, this amounts to a high claim of 'biblical inspiration.' Indeed, the standard Greek lexicon of the period (BAG, s.v. "pneumatikos") translates this as " full of the (divine) Spirit, he wrote to you".

However, the fact that this argument from Paul is used immediately after the words of Jesus in 1CL46, lends credence to the idea that Clement saw the epistle as quite authoritative and binding upon his audience.
 
So, in this first aspect--explicit mention--we see that:

This would strongly suggest that the NT documents were understood as 'inspired' by Clement.

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2. Does he mix OT and NT allusions/connections indiscriminately?

 
Here we want to look at the patterns of conflations
 
Let's consider a couple of passages:
 
 
Let's look first at 1CL 27, and lay out the possible connections, phrase-by-phrase.

 

The thing to notice here is that 1CL mixes indiscriminately--without ANY markers, formulae, or "clues"--OT quotes (Ps 19, Dan 4.35), OT allusions (Ps 139, Ps 119), NT quotes (Lk 1.37, Heb4.13; 6.18), and NT allusions (2 Peter 3; Col 3.9). This argues quite strongly that 1CL made no distinctions in authority, teaching appropriateness, and 'inspiration' between the OT and NT.
 

I might also point out that the comment in 27.2 ("He commanded us not to lie"), if indeed a reference to Col 3.9 and the related NT passages--instead of the more remote OT passages bearing on 'false witness'--makes God the author of Paul's epistle to the Colossians! This would represent inspiration at the same level (e.g., dual authorship) of the OT Scripture.
 

To show that this is not an isolated phenomena, let's look at another passage in this same way, 1CL 34:

 

Notice that you have NT and OT connections intermingled here, but also notice something strange about the citation formulae:

  1. "And thus He forewarns us" introduces a conflation of OT, and possible one NT, passages.
  2. "He exhorts us" introduces a conflation of NT quotes, taken from Titus et. al.
  3. "For the Scripture says" introduces a conflation of OT quotes, but definitely influenced by the NT.
  4. "For He says" introduces a verbatim quote from the NT, but which is probably meant to be from the OT.
Number Two above indicates that 1CL could introduce NT texts with a 'high inspiration' intro formula!
 
 
Let's consider one final passage, 1CL 38. (here I will omit material without close parallel/connection) The main thing to notice here is that embedded in the middle of a string of NT allusions is an OT allusion--without marker or discriminating clues, and the string finishes up with an OT cite, rounded out with some verbiage from the NT. It looks as if 1CL made no practical distinction between his use of the OT and his use of the NT.
 
So, from the survey of three passages, we have gleaned:  
Thus, the pattern of usage of 1CL in mixed passages indicates no distinction between OT and NT material.
 
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3. Does he use the same or similar introductory phrases?

Here we want to see if any of the introductory phrases, which we saw applied to the OT, also occur in front of NT connections.

The first thing to note is that almost half of the OT connections have no introduction at all, and that we have identified (in part One) several NT connections that fell into the same pattern.

The second thing to note is that we could probably find introductory formulas applied to NT material, if we looked more at the 'closer parallels' than simply assuming a direct OT background. We saw specifically (above, for example):

To this we could certainly add the epithet "commandments of God/the Lord", for in chapters one and two of 1CL, he describes their faithfulness to a string of NT injunctions, and then twice says they were obedient to the "commandments of God/the Lord": Even a cursory glance at the above will reveal a mass of NT 'specialty' motifs, all subsumed under the rubric of "the commandments of" God or the Lord. This not only demonstrates the divine authority of the NT motifs, but even the God-originated character of them. In short, they were inspired at the 'commandments level' (i.e., Moses)!
 
The third thing to note is that the word "scripture" is not applied to it, but this is of little practical import. Given that NT connections are "written", "commandments of the Lord", "commandments of God", and God-authored (e.g., "God exhorts us..."), the lack of applying the word 'scripture' to them is apparently only a historical note. That those closest to the activity of the Spirit (e.g., Paul and Peter) could recognize the NT material as 'scripture' counts more than the lack of use of the term in Clement's writing. [I personally suspect that the term was merely a traditional-use term, for the 'venerable' scrolls of the Tanakh/OT, which were in less circulation than the more 'common' codex-forms of most of the NT documents. Eventually, as we shall see, even this traditional usage gave way to the sheer power of the NT to impress upon its readers the divine character of its docs.]
 
Hagner understands this lack of attribution of "scripture" to the apostolic writings as being a non-issue. He discusses the several factors which probably contributed to this phenomena, but consistently points out that they were treated as being as authoritative as the OT writings. So HI:UONTCL:341, 343]: So, the intro formulas seem to indicate a parity between the OT and NT documents (despite the lack of using the word 'scripture').
 
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4. Does he seem to appeal to it as authoritative (or at least the allusions/connections as being 'binding')?

This we have already noted above, esp. in regards to (a) the introductory formula and (b) the pattern of weaving OT and NT connections together into single arguments.
 
We might also note here the intermingling of OT and NT in the great argument form of 1CL 46-47. In this section, Clement uses the following warrants:

 
This mingling of material, in such a short section of argument, can leave no doubt that they all are cut from the same cloth--the OT, the gospel material, and the NT apostolic writings.
 
What we keep seeing, is that the very texture of 1CL reveals the high status accorded to the NT writings, and its usage in authoritative contexts and conflation illustrate this quite clearly.
 
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5. How much from each testament does he "use", and what implications from this might we be warranted in drawing?
 
There are essentially two points to look at here.
 
First we need to note the massive amount of NT material in 1CL. In part One, I had built a table of OT citations/connections (111 or so), and the same thing for NT connections (200+). Given this mix of material, in a book roughly the size of 1 Corinthians or Romans, we should be careful in drawing any contrasts between Clement's attitudes to the OT and to the NT. Citation formulae aside, the very intermingled usage is clear in its import.

 
But the second point is the one raised by the questioner:

Let me make some observations about this: With all of this in mind, I personally have my theory on why he didn't use the same OT citation style as frequently for the NT arguments:
 
1. First of all, it seems clear to me that he is trying to demonstrate that the "upstarts" in Corinth had broken with tradition much older than even the NT. It would serve his purpose better to use OT examples and OT maxims to prove his point, than more novel and recent NT materials. This can be seen quite clearly in his argument from apostolic 'method' in 42.4-5: 2. This emphasis on 'continuity' and 'antiquity', besides being a dominant value in Roman life, was consistently used and pointed out by Clement, in a way that NT material would be useless to him: 3. Clement is not just going for 'antiquity', but he also wants to argue from quantity. In 63.1 he states: "It is therefore right that we should respect so many and so great examples...." Any such argument from example--if trying to build a case from quantity--is simply going to be forced to get most of its material from the OT.
 
4. Additionally, there is a distinct possibility that Clement is trying to "look apostolic" in the letter, adding force to his arguments. His very deliberate imitation of the style of Paul and of the author of Hebrews shows he is going for this effect, but his lack of citing them may indicate a desire on his part to not draw attention to the gap in authority between himself and his sources. In other words, if Clement had said "Submit to your elders, as the apostle Peter said" , then this would have been a tacit admission that Clement did not possess the requisite authority to command them. And this may have been a point that Clement did NOT want to bring up, since technically speaking, at 95ad the church at Rome had no "authority" over Corinth in any real sense of the word. He could use apostolic forms and terms and arguments, and as long as he didn't cite them, then he stood the chance of being perceived at 'apostolic level', as he actually was briefly. [1CL was accepted as canonical scripture briefly in Egypt, being cited as 'scripture' by Clement of Alexandria, and it was included in a few NT canonical lists in Syria for a short period of time.]

Richardson points out that the fine line between "influence" and "authority" was only now being developed in early thinking [HI:ECF:35-36]:

 
5. The above points make sense from the nature of Clement's argument, but I personally think that a more fundamental reason exists. I personally am convinced that the NT materials do not support his thesis to begin with! Apart from the more generic comments of Jesus on humility and meekness (which Clement uses), I am hard pressed to find any other sections in the Gospels that support Clement's position! Jesus seemed to be constantly rejecting the leadership of Judaism--even setting up a "sect" of Judaism(!)--and the one passage that might be useful to Clement (i.e., telling the healed leper "to do what those that sit in Moses' seat command"), would end up being a condemnation of the elders he wanted re-instated! I can almost visualize the Corinthians, in response, using the Parable of the Wicked Tenants against Clement!
 
And Clement's hero and role-model Paul might present the same problem. The general sections on love, humility, and unity Clement uses, but the passages on false apostles, 'wolves from among your midst' , his public rebuke of Peter, his rejection of some local leaders (cf. John's similar action in 3 Jn 9), and his seeming lack of authority-based action in Galatians (cf. the "reputed to be pillars" texts) might render much of Paul's material (other than the pro-hierarchy material that he does use) counter-productive to Clement.
 
It is certainly thought by many that Clement is considerably at variance with Pauline thought (so ABD, HI:ECF). Note Richardson's summary in HI:ECF:39: So, between the method of Clement's argument (i.e. that the recent activity in Corinth is against the entire tradition of God throughout history) and possible lack of suitable NT materials to support his argument, it makes perfect sense why he would not and could not cite the NT materials any more than he did!
 

I cannot help but believe--given the argument of the book--that had Clement found suitable materials in the NT, he would have used them.

So, where does this leave us?

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So, I have to conclude on the basis of the textual and literary data, that the answer to the question:

...is that 1CL held the NT material to be on a par with the OT material.
 
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But as our questioner noted, there seems to be some non-canonical material in 1CL, and we must now get to the next question: in the next section...

Glenn Miller,

August 29, 1998


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