The Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, 21–32

Clement  translated by Kirsopp Lake

« I Clem. 13–20 | I Clem. 21–32 | I Clem. 33–38 | About This Work »

21Take heed, beloved, lest his many good works towards us become a judgment on us, if we do not good and virtuous deeds before him in concord, and be citizens worthy of him. 2For he says in one place: “The Spirit of the Lord is a lamp searching the inward parts.” 3Let us observe how near he is, and that nothing escapes him of our thoughts or of the devices which we make. 4It is right, therefore, that we should not be deserters from his will. 5Let us offend foolish and thoughtless men, who are exalted and boast in the pride of their words, rather than God. 6Let us reverence the Lord Jesus Christ, whose blood was given for us, let us respect those who rule us, let us honour the aged,[11] let us instruct the young in the fear of God, let us lead our wives to that which is good. 7Let them exhibit the lovely habit of purity, let them show forth the innocent will of meekness, let them make the gentleness of their tongue manifest by their silence, let them not give their affection by factious preference, but in holiness to all equally who fear God. 8Let our children share in the instruction which is in Christ, let them learn the strength of humility before God, the power of pure love before God, how beautiful and great is his fear and how it gives salvation to all who live holily in it with a pure mind. 9For he is a searcher of thoughts and desires; his breath is in us, and when he will he shall take it away.

22Now the faith which is in Christ confirms all these things, for he himself through his Holy Spirit calls us thus: “Come, Children, hearken to me, I will teach you the fear of the Lord. 2Who is the man that desireth life, that loveth to see good days? 3Make thy tongue cease from evil, and thy lips that they speak no guile. 4Depart from evil, and do good. 5Seek peace, and pursue it. 6The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their petition; but the face of the Lord is against those that do evil, to destroy the memory of them from off the earth. 7The righteous cried, and the Lord heard him, and delivered him out of all his afflictions.[12] 8Many are the scourges of the sinner, but mercy shall encompass those that hope on the Lord.”

23The all-merciful and beneficent Father has compassion on those that fear him, and kindly and lovingly bestows his favours on those that draw near to him with a simple mind. 2Wherefore let us not be double-minded, nor let our soul be fanciful concerning his excellent and glorious gifts. 3Let this Scripture be far from us in which he says “Wretched are the double-minded, who doubt in their soul and say We have heard these things even in the days of our fathers, and behold we have grown old, and none of these things has happened to us. 4Oh, foolish men, compare yourself to a tree: take a vine, first it sheds its leaves, then there comes a bud, then a leaf, then a flower, and after this the unripe grape, then the full bunch.”[13] See how in a little time the fruit of the tree comes to ripeness. 5Truly his will shall be quickly and suddenly accomplished, as the Scripture also bears witness that “he shall come quickly and shall not tarry; and the Lord shall suddenly come to his temple, and the Holy One for whom ye look.”

24Let us consider, beloved, how the Master continually proves to us that there will be a future resurrection, of which he has made the first-fruits, by raising the Lord Jesus Christ from the dead. 2Let us look, beloved, at the resurrection which is taking place at its proper season. 3Day and night show us a resurrection. The night sleeps, the day arises: the day departs, night comes on. 4Let us take the crops: how and in what way does the sowing take place? 5“The sower went forth” and cast each of the seeds into the ground, and they fall on to the ground, parched and bare, and suffer decay; then from their decay the greatness of the providence of the Master raises them up, and from one grain more grow and bring forth fruit.

25Let us consider the strange sign which takes place in the East, that is in the districts near Arabia. 2There is a bird which is called the Phoenix, This is the only one of its kind, and lives 500 years; and when the time of its dissolution in death is at hand, it makes itself a sepulchre of frankincense and myrrh and other spices, and when the time is fulfilled it enters into it and dies. 3Now, from the corruption of its flesh there springs a worm, which is nourished by the juices of the dead bird, and puts forth wings. Then, when it has become strong, it takes up that sepulchre, in which are the bones of its predecessor, and carries them from the country of Arabia as far as Egypt until it reaches the city called Heliopolis, 4and in the daylight in the sight of all it flies to the altar of the Sun, places them there, and then starts back to its former home. 5Then the priests inspect the registers of dates, and they find that it has come at the fulfilment of the 500th year.[14]

26Do we then consider it a great and wonderful thing that the creator of the universe will bring about the resurrection of those who served him in holiness, in the confidence of a good faith, when he shows us the greatness of his promise even through a bird? 2For he says in one place “And thou shalt raise me up, and I will praise thee,” and “I laid me down and slept, I rose up, for thou art with me.” 3And again Job says “And thou shalt raise up this my flesh which has endured all these things.”

27In this hope then let our souls be bound to him who is faithful in his promises and righteous in his judgments. 2He who has commanded not to lie shall much more not be a liar himself; for nothing is impossible with God save to lie. 3Let therefore faith in him be kindled again in us, and let us consider that all things are near him. 4By the word of his majesty did he establish all things, and by his word can he destroy them. 5“Who shall say to him what hast thou done, or who shall resist the might of his strength?” When he will, and as he will, he will do all things, and none of his decrees shall pass away. 6All is in his sight and nothing has escaped from his counsel, 7since “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament telleth his handiwork, day uttereth speech unto day, and night telleth knowledge to night. And there are neither words nor speeches, and their voices are not heard.”

28Since then all things are seen and heard by him, let us fear him, and leave oft from foul desires of evil deeds, that we may be sheltered by his mercy from the judgments to come. 2For whither can any of us fly from his mighty hand? And what world shall receive those who seek to desert from him? 3For the Writing[15] says in one place: “Where shall I go and where shall I hide from thy presence? If I ascend into heaven thou art there, if I depart to the ends of the earth there is thy right hand; If I make my bed in the abyss there is thy spirit.” 4Whither then shall a man depart or where shall he escape from him who embraces all things?

29Let us then approach him in holiness of soul, raising pure and undefiled hands to him, loving our gracious and merciful Father, who has made us the portion of his choice for himself. 2For thus it is written: “When the most high divided the nations, when he scattered the sons of Adam, lie established the bounds of the nations according to the number of the angels of God. His people Jacob became the portion of the Lord, Israel was the lot of his inheritance.” 3And in another place he says “Behold the Lord taketh to himself a nation from the midst of nations, as a man taketh the first-fruit of his threshing-floor, and the Holy of Holies shall come forth from that nation.”[16]

30Seeing then that we are the portion of one who is holy, let us do all the deeds of sanctification, fleeing from evil speaking, and abominable and impure embraces, drunkenness and youthful lusts, and abominable passion, detestable adultery, and abominable pride. 2“For God,” he says, “resisteth the proud but giveth grace to the humble.” 3Let us then join ourselves to those to whom is given grace from God; let us put on concord in meekness of spirit and continence, keeping ourselves far from all gossip and evil speaking, and be justified by deeds, not by words. 4For he says “He that speaketh much shall also hear much; or doth he that is a good speaker think that he is righteous? 5Blessed is he that is born of woman and hath a short life. Be not profuse in speech.”[17] 6Let our praise be with God, and not from ourselves, for God hates those who praise themselves. 7Let testimony to our good deeds be given by others, as it was given to our fathers, the righteous. 8Frowardness and arrogance and boldness belong to those that are accursed by God, gentleness and humility and meekness are with those who are blessed by God.

31Let us cleave, then, to his blessing and let us consider what are the paths of blessing. Let us unfold the deeds of old. 2Why was our father Abraham blessed? Was it not because he wrought righteousness and truth through faith? 3Isaac in confident knowledge of the future was gladly led as a sacrifice. 4Jacob departed from his country in meekness because of his brother, and went to Laban and served him, and to him was given the sceptre of the twelve tribes of Israel.

32And if anyone will candidly consider this in detail, he will recognize the greatness of the gifts given by him. 2For from him[18] come the priests and all the Levites, who serve the altar of God, from him comes the Lord Jesus according to the flesh, from him come the kings and rulers and governors in the succession of Judah, and the other sceptres of his tribes are in no small renown seeing that God promised that “thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven.” 3All of them therefore were all renowned and magnified, not through themselves or their own works or the righteous actions which they had wrought, but through his will; 4and therefore we who by his will have been called in Christ Jesus, are not made righteous by ourselves, or by our wisdom or understanding or piety or the deeds which we have wrought in holiness of heart, but through faith, by which Almighty God has justified all men from the beginning of the world: to him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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  • [11] Or possibly "the Presbyters," but the context makes this improbable.

  • [12] The Editors (except Knopf) add as v. 8, "Many are the afflictions of the righteous and out of them all will the Lord deliver him."

  • [13] This quotation which is also found in II. Clem. 11, 2, cannot be identified. Some think it is from the lost apocalypse of Eldad and Modad. Cf. Hermas, Vis. 2, 3.

  • [14] The same story, with variations, is found in Herodotus (ii. 73), Pliny (Nat. Hist. x. 2), etc. It was supposed by Christians to be sanctioned by the LXX version of Ps. xcii. 12, where there is a confusion between φοῖνιξ=phoenix, and φοῖνιξ=palm tree.

  • [15] An accurate quotation of an unintelligible sentence. τὸ γραφεῖον means the third division of the Jewish bible, sometimes called the "Hagiographa"; it was in a sense "Scripture" but not considered as important as the "Law" and the "Prophets."

  • [16] The passages quoted in the margin are those which most nearly resemble this quotation, but the difference is considerable, and Clement may be referring to some lost source.

  • [17] The text is here obviously corrupt; but the corruption is in the LXX, not in Clement.

  • [18] The obscurity of this passage is partly due to an ambiguity in the Greek, partly to the faultiness of the chapter-divisions. The first verse of this chapter ought really to be closely connected with the last verse of Chapter XXXI; the "by him" in XXXII, 1 means "by God," and the "from him" in XXXII, 2 means from Jacob.