The Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, 0–12

Clement  translated by Kirsopp Lake

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prThe Church of God which sojourns in Rome to the Church of God which sojourns in Corinth, to those who are called and sanctified by the will of God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Grace and peace from God Almighty be multiplied to you through Jesus Christ.

1Owing to the sudden and repeated misfortunes and calamities[1] which have befallen us, we consider that our attention has been somewhat delayed in turning to the questions disputed among you, beloved, and especially the abominable and unholy sedition, alien and foreign to the elect of God, which a few rash and self-willed persons have made blaze up to such a frenzy that your name, venerable and famous, and worthy as it is of all men’s love, has been much slandered. 2For who has stayed with you without making proof of the virtue and steadfastness of your faith? Who has not admired the sobriety and Christian gentleness of your piety? Who has not reported your character so magnificent in its hospitality? And who has not blessed your perfect arid secure knowledge? 3For you did all things without respect of persons, and walked in the laws of God, obedient to your rulers, and paying all fitting honour to the older among you. On the young, too, you enjoined temperate and seemly thoughts, and to the women you gave instruction that they should do all things with a blameless and seemly and pure conscience, yielding a dutiful affection to their husbands. And you taught them to remain in the rule of obedience and to manage their households with seemliness, in all circumspection.

2And you were all humble-minded and in no wise arrogant, yielding subjection rather than demanding it, “giving more gladly than receiving,” satisfied with the provision of Christ, and paying attention to his words you stored them up carefully in your hearts, and kept his sufferings before your eyes. 2Thus a profound and rich peace was given to all, you had an insatiable desire to do good, and the Holy Spirit was poured out in abundance on you all. 3You were full of holy plans, and with pious confidence you stretched out your hands to Almighty God in a passion of goodness, beseeching him to be merciful towards any unwilling sin. 4Day and night you strove on behalf of the whole brotherhood that the number of his elect should be saved with mercy and compassion.[2] 5You were sincere and innocent, and bore no malice to one another. 6All sedition and all schism was abominable to you. You mourned over the transgressions of your neighbours; you judged their shortcomings as your own. 7You were without regret in every act of kindness, “ready unto every good work.” 8You were adorned by your virtuous and honourable citizenship and did all things in the fear of God.[3] The commandments and ordinances of the Lord were “written on the tables of your heart.”

3All glory and enlargement was given to you, and that which was written was fulfilled, “My Beloved ate and drank, and he was enlarged and waxed fat and kicked.” 2From this arose jealousy and envy, strife and sedition, persecution and disorder, war and captivity. 3Thus “the worthless” rose up “against those who were in honour,” those of no reputation against the renowned, the foolish against the prudent, the “young against the old.” 4For this cause righteousness and peace are far removed, while each deserts the fear of God and the eye of faith in him has grown dim, and men walk neither in the ordinances of his commandments nor use their citizenship worthily of Christ, but each goes according to the lusts of his wicked heart, and has revived the unrighteousness and impious envy, by which also “death came into the world.”

4For it is written thus: “And it came to pass after certain days that Cain offered to God a sacrifice of the fruits of the earth, and Abel himself also offered of the first-born of the sheep and of their fat. 2And God looked on Abel and his gifts, but he had no respect to Cain and his sacrifices. 3And Cain was greatly grieved and his countenance fell. 4And God said to Cain, Why art thou grieved, and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou offeredst rightly, but didst not divide rightly, didst thou not sin?[4] 5Be still: he shall turn to thee, and thou shalt rule over him. 6And Cain said to Abel his brother, Let us go unto the plain. And it came to pass that, while they were in the plain, Cain rose up against Abel his brother and slew him.” 7You see, brethren, jealousy and envy wrought fratricide. 8Through jealousy our father Jacob ran from the face of Esau his brother. 9Jealousy made Joseph to be persecuted to the death, and come into slavery. 10Jealousy forced Moses to fly from the face of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, when his fellow countryman said to him, “Who made thee a judge or a ruler over us? Wouldest thou slay me as thou didst slay the Egyptian yesterday?” 11Through jealousy Aaron and Miriam were lodged outside the camp. 12Jealousy brought down Dathan and Abiram alive into Hades, because they rebelled against Moses the servant of God. 13Through jealousy David incurred envy not only from strangers, but suffered persecution even from Saul, King of Israel.

5But, to cease from the examples of old time, let us come to those who contended in the days nearest to us; let us take the noble examples of our own generation. 2Through jealousy and envy the greatest and most righteous pillars of the Church were persecuted and contended unto death. 3Let us set before our eyes the good apostles: 4Peter, who because of unrighteous jealousy suffered not one or two but many trials, and having thus given his testimony went to the glorious place which was his due. 5Through jealousy and strife Paul showed the way to the prize of endurance; 6seven times he was in bonds, he was exiled, he was stoned, he was a herald both in the East and in the West, he gained the noble fame of his faith, 7he taught righteousness to all the world, and when he had reached the limits of the West he gave his testimony before the rulers, and thus passed from the world and was taken up into the Holy Place, the greatest example of endurance.

6To these men with their holy lives was gathered a great multitude of the chosen, who were the victims of jealousy and offered among us the fairest example in their endurance under many indignities and tortures. 2Through jealousy women were persecuted as Danaids and Dircae,[5] suffering terrible and unholy indignities; they stedfastly finished the course of faith, and received a noble reward, weak in the body though they were. 3Jealousy has estranged wives from husbands, and made of no effect the saying of our father Adam, “This is now bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” 4Jealousy and strife have overthrown great cities, and rooted up mighty nations.

7We are not only writing these things to you, beloved, for your admonition, but also to remind ourselves; for we are in the same arena, and the same struggle is before us. 2Wherefore let us put aside empty and vain cares, and let us come to the glorious and venerable rule of our tradition, 3and let us see what is good and pleasing and acceptable in the sight of our Maker. 4Let us fix our gaze on the Blood of Christ, and let us know that it is precious to his Father,[6] because it was poured out for our salvation, and brought the grace of repentance to all the world. 5Let us review all the generations, and let us learn that in generation after generation the Master has given a place of repentance to those who will turn to him. 6Noah preached repentance and those who obeyed were saved. 7Jonah foretold destruction to the men of Nineveh, but when they repented they received forgiveness of their sins from God in answer to their prayer, and gained salvation, though they were aliens to God.

8The ministers of the grace of God spoke through the Holy Spirit concerning repentance, 2and even the Master of the universe himself spoke with an oath concerning repentance; “For as I live, said the Lord, I do not desire the death of the sinner so much as his repentance,” and he added a gracious declaration, 3“Repent, O house of Israel, from your iniquity. Say to the sons of my people, If your sins reach from the earth to Heaven, and if they be redder than scarlet, and blacker than sack cloth, and ye turn to me with all your hearts and say Father, I will listen to you as a holy people.”[7] 4And in another place he speaks thus, “Wash you, and make you clean, put away your wickedness from your souls before my eyes, cease from your wickedness, learn to do good, seek out judgment, rescue the wronged, give judgment for the orphan, do justice to the widow, and come and let us reason together, saith the Lord; and if your sins be as crimson, I will make them white as snow, and if they be as scarlet, I will make them white as wool, and if ye be willing and hearken to me, ye shall eat the good things of the land, but if ye be not willing, and hearken not to me, a sword shall devour you, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken these things.” 5Thus desiring to give to all his beloved a share in repentance, he established it by his Almighty will.

9Wherefore let us obey his excellent and glorious will; let us fall before him as suppliants of his mercy and goodness; let us turn to his pity, and abandon the vain toil and strife and jealousy which leads to death. 2Let us fix our gaze on those who have rendered perfect service to his excellent glory. 3Let us take Enoch, who was found righteous in obedience, and was translated, and death did not befall him. 4Noah was found faithful in his service, in foretelling a new beginning to the world, and through him the Master saved the living creatures which entered in concord into the Ark.

10Abraham, who was called “the Friend,” was found faithful in his obedience to the words of God. 2He in obedience went forth from his country and from his kindred and from his father’s house, that by leaving behind a little country and a feeble kindred and a small house he might inherit the promises of God. For God says to him, 3“Depart from thy land and from thy kindred and from thy father’s house to the land which I shall show thee, and I will make thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and I will magnify thy name, and thou shalt be blessed; and I will bless those that bless thee, and I will curse those that curse thee, and all the tribes of the earth shall be blessed in thee.” 4And again, when he was separated from Lot, God said to him, “Lift up thine eyes and look from the place where thou art now, to the North and to the South and to the East and to the West; for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it and to thy seed for ever. 5And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth. If a man can number the dust of the earth thy seed shall also be numbered.” 6And again he says, “God led forth Abraham, and said to him, ‘Look up to the Heaven and number the stars, if thou canst number them; so shall thy seed be.’ And Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” 7Because of his faith and hospitality a son was given him in his old age, and in his obedience he offered him as a sacrifice to God on the mountain[8] which he showed him.

11For his hospitality and piety Lot was saved out of Sodom when the whole countryside was judged by fire and brimstone, and the Master made clear that he does not forsake those who hope in him, but delivers to punishment and torture those who turn aside to others. 2For of this a sign was given when his wife went with him, but changed her mind and did not remain in agreement with him, so that she became a pillar of salt unto this day, to make known to all, that those who are double-minded, and have doubts concerning the power of God, incur judgment and become a warning to all generations.

12For her faith and hospitality Rahab the harlot[9] was saved. 2For when the spies were sent to Jericho by Joshua the son of Nun, the King of the land knew that they had come to spy out his country, and sent men to take them, that they might be captured and put to death. 3So the hospitable Rahab took them in, and hid them in the upper room under the stalks of flax. 4And when the king’s men came and said, “The spies of our land came in to thee, bring them out, for the king orders thus,” she answered “The men whom ye seek did indeed come to me, but they went away forthwith, and are proceeding on their journey,” and pointed in the wrong direction. 5And she said to the men, “I know assuredly that the Lord God is delivering to you this land; for the fear and dread of you has fallen on those who dwell in it. When therefore it shall come to pass, that ye take it, save me and my father’s house.” 6And they said to her, “It shall be as thou hast spoken to us; when therefore thou knowest that we are at hand, thou shalt gather all thy folk under thy roof, and they shall be safe; for as many as shall be found outside the house shall perish.” 7And they proceeded to give her a sign, that she should hang out a scarlet thread from her house, foreshowing that all who believe and hope on God shall have redemption through the blood of the Lord. 8You see, beloved, that the woman is an instance not only of faith but also of prophecy.

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  • [1] Or, with Knopf's text "critical circumstances."

  • [2] The MS. reading means "conscience," which gives no sense. There is also a variant in the previous word: the inferior MS. (C) reads "fear" instead of "mercy."

  • [3] "God" is found only in L; the other authorities have "his fear," but the meaning is plain.

  • [4] This is unintelligible, and does not agree with the Hebrew, which is also unintelligible. It is dealt with at length in all commentaries on Genesis.

  • [5] No satisfactory interpretation has ever been given of this phrase: either it refers to theatrical representations by condemned Christians, or the text is hopelessly corrupt.

  • [6] The Greek MSS. insert "his God," but in different places, and the evidence of the versions confirms Lightfoot's view that the words are interpolated.

  • [7] The origin of this quotation is obscure: possibly Clement's text of Ezekiel was different from ours and really contained it.

  • [8] Or possibly, with the other reading, "on one of the mountains."

  • [9] Or possibly "who was called a harlot."