The Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, 46–61

Clement  translated by Kirsopp Lake

« I Clem. 39–45 | I Clem. 46–61 | I Clem. 62–65 | About This Work »

46We also, brethren, must therefore cleave to such examples. 2For it is written, “Cleave to the holy, for they who cleave to them shall be made holy.”[26] 3And again in another place it says, “With the innocent man thou shalt be innocent, and with the elect man thou shalt be elect, and with the perverse man thou shalt do perversely.”[27] 4Let us then cleave to the innocent and righteous, for these are God’s elect. 5Why are there strife and passion and divisions and schisms and war among you? 6Or have we not one God, and one Christ, and one Spirit of grace poured out upon us? And is there not one calling in Christ? 7Why do we divide and tear asunder the members of Christ, and raise up strife against our own body, and reach such a pitch of madness as to forget that we are members one of another? Remember the words of the Lord Jesus; 8for he said, “Woe unto that man: it were good for him if he had not been born, than that he should offend one of my elect; it were better for him that a millstone be hung on him, and he be cast into the sea, than that he should turn aside one of my elect.” 9Your schism has turned aside many, has cast many into discouragement, many to doubt, all of us to grief; and your sedition continues

47Take up the epistle of the blessed Paul the Apostle. 2What did he first write to you at the beginning of his preaching? 3With true inspiration he charged you concerning himself and Cephas and Apollos, because even then you had made your selves partisans. 4But that partisanship entailed less guilt on you; for you were partisans of Apostles of high reputation, and of a man approved by them. 5But now consider who they are who have perverted you, and have lessened the respect due to your famous love for the brethren. 6It is a shameful report, beloved, extremely shameful, and unworthy of your training in Christ, that on account of one or two persons the steadfast and ancient church of the Corinthians is being disloyal to the presbyters. 7And this report has not only reached us, but also those who dissent from us, so that you bring blasphemy on the name of the Lord through your folly, and are moreover creating danger for yourselves.

48Let us then quickly put an end to this, and let us fall down before the Master, and beseech him with tears that he may have mercy upon us, and be reconciled to us, and restore us to our holy and seemly practice of love for the brethren. 2For this is the gate of righteousness which opens on to life, as it is written “Open me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter into them and praise the Lord; 3this is the gate of the Lord, the righteous shall enter in by it.” 4So then of the many gates which are opened, that which is in righteousness is the one in Christ, in which are blessed all who enter and make straight their way in holiness and righteousness, accomplishing all things without disorder. 5Let a man be faithful, let him have power to utter “Knowledge,”[28] let him be wise in the discernment of arguments, let him be pure in his deeds; 6for the more he seems to be great, the more ought he to be humble-minded, and to seek the common good of all and not his own benefit.

49Let him who has love in Christ perform the commandments of Christ. 2Who is able to explain the bond of the love of God? 3Who is sufficient to tell the greatness of its beauty? 4The height to which love lifts us is not to be expressed. 5Love unites us to God. “Love covereth a multitude of sins. Love beareth all things, is long-suffering in all things. There is nothing base, nothing haughty in love; love admits no schism, love makes no sedition, love does all things in concord. In love were all the elect of God made perfect. Without love is nothing well pleasing to God. 6In love did the Master receive us; for the sake of the love which he had towards us did Jesus Christ our Lord give his blood by the will of God for us, and his flesh for our flesh, and his soul[29] for our souls.”

50See, beloved, how great and wonderful is love, and that of its perfection there is no expression. 2Who is able to be found in it save those to whom God grants it? Let us then beg and pray of his mercy that we may be found in love, without human partisanship, free from blame. 3All the generations from Adam until this day have passed away; but those who were perfected in love by the grace of God have a place among the pious who shall be made manifest at the visitation of the Kingdom of Christ. 4For it is written, “Enter into thy chambers for a very little while, until my wrath and fury pass away, and I will remember a good day, and will raise you up out of your graves.” 5Blessed are we, beloved, if we perform the commandments of God in the concord of love, that through love our sins may be forgiven. 6For it is written “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not reckon, and in whose mouth is no guile.” 7This blessing was given to those who have been chosen by God through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

51Let us then pray that for our transgressions, and for what we have done through any attacks of the adversary, forgiveness may be granted to us. And those also who were the leaders of sedition and disagreement are bound to consider the common hope. 2For those who live in fear and love are willing to suffer torture themselves rather than their neighbours, and they suffer the blame of themselves, rather than that of our tradition of noble and righteous harmony, 3for it is better for man to con fess his transgressions than to harden his heart, even as the heart of those was hardened who rebelled against God’s servant Moses, and their condemnation was made manifest, 4for “they went down into Hades alive” and “death shall be their shepherd.” 5Pharaoh and his army and all the rulers of Egypt, “the chariots and their riders,” were sunk in the Red Sea, and perished for no other cause than that their foolish hearts were hardened, after that signs and wonders had been wrought in the land of Egypt by God’s servant Moses.

52The Master, brethren, is in need of nothing: he asks nothing of anyone, save that confession be made to him. 2For David the chosen says:—”I will confess to the Lord, and it shall please him more than a young calf that groweth horns and hoofs: let the poor see it and be glad.” 3And again he says “Sacrifice to God a sacrifice of praise, and pay to the Highest thy vows; and call upon me in the day of thy affliction, and I will deliver thee and thou shalt glorify me. 4For the sacrifice of God is a broken spirit”

53For you have understanding, you have a good understanding of the sacred Scriptures, beloved, and you have studied the oracles of God. Therefore we write these things to remind you. 2For when Moses went up into the mountain, and passed forty days and forty nights in fasting and humiliation, God said to him: “Go down hence quickly, for thy people, whom thou didst bring out of the land of Egypt, have committed iniquity; they have quickly gone aside out of the way which thou didst command them; they have made themselves molten images.” 3And the Lord said to him: “I have spoken to thee once and twice, saying, I have seen this people, and behold it is stiffnecked; suffer me to destroy them, and I will wipe out their name from under heaven, and thee will I make into a nation great and wonderful and much more than this.” 4And Moses said, “Not so, Lord; pardon the sin of this people, or blot me also out of the book of the living.” 5O great love! O unsurpassable perfection! The servant is bold with the Lord, he asks forgiveness for the people, or begs that he himself may be blotted out together with them.

54Who then among you is noble, who is compassionate, who is filled with love? 2Let him cry: “If sedition and strife and divisions have arisen on my account, I will depart, I will go away whithersoever you will, and I will obey the commands of the people; only let the flock of Christ have peace with the presbyters set over it.” 3He who does this will win for himself great glory in Christ, and every place will receive him, for “the earth is the Lord s, and the fullness of it.” 4This has been in the past, and will be in the future, the conduct of those who live without regrets as citizens in the city of God.

55Let us also bring forward examples from the heathen. Many kings and rulers, when a time of pestilence has set in, have followed the counsel of oracles, and given themselves up to death, that they might rescue their subjects through their own blood. Many have gone away from their own cities, that sedition might have an end. 2We know that many among ourselves have given themselves to bondage that they might ransom others. Many have delivered themselves to slavery, and provided food for others with the price they received for themselves. 3Many women have received power through the grace of God and have performed many deeds of manly valour. 4The blessed Judith, when her city was besieged, asked the elders to suffer her to go out into the camp of the strangers. 5So she gave herself up to danger, and went forth for love of her country and her people in their siege, and the Lord delivered over Holofernes by the hand of a woman. 6Not less did Esther also, who was perfect in faith, deliver herself to danger, that she might rescue the nation of Israel from the destruction that awaited it; for with fasting and humiliation she besought the all-seeing Master of the Ages, and he saw the meekness of her soul, and rescued the people for whose sake she had faced peril.

56Let then us also intercede for those who have fallen into any transgression, that meekness and humility be given to them, that they may submit, not to us, but to the will of God; for so will they have fruitful and perfect remembrance before God and the saints, and find compassion. 2Let us receive correction, which none should take amiss, beloved. The admonition which we make one to another is good and beyond measure helpful, for it unites us to the will of God. 3For the holy word says thus: “With chastisement did the Lord chastise me, and he delivered me not over unto death; 4for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.” 5“For,” he says, “the righteous shall chasten me with mercy, and reprove me, but let not the oil of sinners anoint my head.” 6And again he says “Blessed is the man whom the Lord did reprove; and reject not thou the admonition of the Almighty, for he maketh to suffer pain and again he restoreth; 7he wounded, and his hands healed. 8Six times shall he deliver thee from troubles, and the seventh time evil shall not touch thee. 9In famine he shall rescue thee from death, and in war he shall free thee from the hand of the sword. 10And he shall hide thee from the scourge of the tongue and thou shalt not fear when evils approach. 11Thou shalt laugh at the unrighteous and wicked, and thou shalt not be afraid of wild beasts; 12for wild beasts shall be at peace with thee. 13Then thou shalt know that thy house shall have peace, and the habitation of thy tabernacle shall not fail. 14And thou shalt know that thy seed shall be many and thy children like the herb of the field. 15And thou shalt come to the grave like ripened corn that is harvested in its due season, or like a heap on the threshing-floor which is gathered together at the appointed time.” 16You see, beloved, how great is the protection given to those that are chastened by the Master, for he is a good father and chastens us that we may obtain mercy through his holy chastisement.

57You therefore, who laid the foundation of the sedition, submit to the presbyters, and receive the correction of repentance, bending the knees of your hearts. 2Learn to be submissive, putting aside the boastful and the haughty self-confidence of your tongue, for it is better for you to be found small but honourable in the flock of Christ, than to be pre eminent in repute but to be cast out from his hope. 3For “the excellent wisdom”[30] says thus:— “Behold I will bring forth to you the words of my spirit, 4and I will teach you my speech, since I called and ye did not obey, and I put forth my words and ye did not attend, but made my counsels of no effect, and disobeyed my reproofs; therefore will I also laugh at your ruin, and I will rejoice when destruction cometh upon you, and when sudden confusion overtaketh you and catastrophe cometh as a storm, or when persecution or siege cometh upon you. 5For it shall come to pass when ye call upon me, I will not hear you. The evil shall seek me and they shall not find me. For they hated wisdom and they chose not the fear of the Lord, neither would they attend to my counsels but mocked my reproofs. 6Therefore shall they eat the fruits of their own way, and shall be filled with their own wickedness; 7for because they wronged the innocent they shall be put to death, and inquisition shall destroy the wicked. But he who heareth me shall tabernacle with confidence in his hope, and shall be in rest with no fear of any evil.”

58Let us then be obedient to his most holy and glorious name, and escape the threats which have been spoken by wisdom aforetime to the disobedient, that we may tabernacle in confidence on the most sacred name of his majesty. 2Receive our counsel, and there shall be nothing far you to regret, for as God lives and as the Lord Jesus Christ lives and the Holy Spirit, the faith and hope of the elect, he who with lowliness of mind and eager gentleness has without backsliding performed the decrees and commandments given by God shall be enrolled and chosen in the number of those who are saved through Jesus Christ, through whom is to him the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

59But if some be disobedient to the words which have been spoken by him through us, let them know that they will entangle themselves in transgression and no little danger; 2but we shall be innocent of this sin, and will pray with eager entreaty and supplication that the Creator of the Universe may guard unhurt the number of his elect that has been numbered in all the world through his beloved child Jesus Christ, through whom he called us from darkness to light, from ignorance to the full knowledge of the glory of his name. 3Grant us[31] to hope on thy name, the source of all creation, open the eyes of our heart to know thee, that thou alone art the highest in the highest and remainest holy among the holy. Thou dost humble the pride of the haughty, thou dost destroy the imaginings of nations, thou dost raise up the humble and abase the lofty, thou makest rich and makest poor, thou dost slay and make alive, thou alone art the finder of spirits and art God of all flesh, thou dost look on the abysses, thou seest into the works of man, thou art the helper of those in danger, the saviour of those in despair, the creator and watcher over every spirit; thou dost multiply nations upon earth and hast chosen out from them all those that love thee through Jesus Christ thy beloved child, and through him hast thou taught us, made us holy, and brought us to honour. 4We beseech thee, Master, to be our “help and succour.” Save those of us who are in affliction, have mercy on the lowly, raise the fallen, show thyself to those in need, heal the sick, turn again the wanderers of thy people, feed the hungry, ransom our prisoners, raise up the weak, comfort the faint-hearted; let all “nations know thee, that thou art God alone,” and that Jesus Christ is thy child, and that “we are thy people and the sheep of thy pasture.”

60For thou through thy operations didst make manifest the eternal fabric of the world; thou, Lord, didst create the earth. Thou that art faithful in all generations, righteous in judgment, wonderful in strength and majesty, wise in thy creation, and prudent in establishing thy works, good in the things which are seen, and gracious among those that trust in thee, O “merciful and compassionate,” forgive us our iniquities and unrighteousness, and transgressions, and short-comings. 2Reckon not every sin of thy servants and handmaids, but cleanse us with the cleansing of thy truth, and “guide our steps to walk in holiness of heart, to do the things which are good and pleasing before thee “and before our rulers. 3Yea, Lord, “make thy face to shine upon us” in peace “for our good” that we may be sheltered by thy mighty hand, and delivered from all sin by “thy uplifted arm,” and deliver us from them that hate us wrongfully. 4Give concord and peace to us and to all that dwell on the earth, as thou didst give to our fathers who called on thee in holiness with faith and truth, and grant that we may be obedient to thy almighty and glorious name, and to our rulers and governors upon the earth.

61Thou, Master, hast given the power of sovereignty to them through thy excellent and inexpressible might, that we may know the glory and honour given to them by thee, and be subject to them, in nothing resisting thy will. And to them, Lord, grant health, peace, concord, firmness that they may administer the government which thou hast given them without offence. 2For thou, heavenly Master, king of eternity, hast given to the sons of men glory and honour and power over the things which are on the earth; do thou, O Lord, direct their counsels according to that which is “good and pleasing” before thee, that they may administer with piety in peace and gentleness the power given to them by thee, and may find mercy in thine eyes. 3O thou who alone art able to do these things and far better things for us, we praise thee through Jesus Christ, the high priest and guardian of our souls, through whom be glory and majesty to thee, both now and for all generations and for ever and ever. Amen.

« I Clem. 39–45 | I Clem. 46–61 | I Clem. 62–65 | About This Work »


  • [26] The source of this quotation is unknown.

  • [27] Clement takes the word for "with" (μετά) to mean "in the company of": in Ps. 17 (in Hebrew and English Ps. 18) it means "in the case of," and the subject of the verbs is God.

  • [28] "Knowledge" is here no doubt used in the almost technical sense of "secret knowledge, conveying power, and specially revealed," approaching closely to the meaning which it had in the various "Gnostic" systems and in the Mystery religions.

  • [29] Or, perhaps "life for our lives"; but there seems to be an antithesis in the Greek between σάρξ, flesh, and ψυχή, soul.

  • [30] "The excellent wisdom" is a title used (a) of Proverbs, (b) of Proverbs, Ecclesiasticus, and Ecclesiastes, (c) of the third division of the O.T. (Hagiographa or "Writings") as a whole. Cf. note on p. 57.

  • [31] Some such addition, though not in any authority for the text, appears to be necessary.