About the dating of Clement: I first began to rethink the dating of his epistle when I encountered some articles touting this earlier date. Then I read Clement’s actual Epistle more carefully, paying close attention to the Greek. I am now totally convinced of an earlier, pre-AD70 date, and that on several counts.
Notice especially the following:
Clem 5:1 – 6
But, to pass from the examples of ancient days, let us come to those champions who lived nearest [ENGISTA] to our time. Let us set before us the noble examples which belong to our generation. By reason of jealousy and envy the greatest and most righteous pillars of the Church were persecuted, and contended even unto death. Let us set before our eyes the good Apostles.
He goes on to describe the exemplary testimonies and martyrdoms of Peter and Paul. Notice that he uses the word “nearest“. If he was writing in the 90s, a generation later, he would not have used that term. But, on the contrary, he refers to them as “belong[ing] to our generation.” This definitely does not fit if written in the 90s. There certainly were other persecutions, other noble examples, that would have precluded Clement’s use of the superlative here. On the face of it, a person reading this letter – if he wasn’t tainted by other “authorities” – would think that Clement was writing about a very recent example. This fits very well with Clement’s letter being before AD70.
In Clem 40:1 – 5 he speaks of the Jewish ministrations as still being current. The Temple is still standing. Note especially the last section.
They therefore that make their offerings at the appointed seasons are acceptable and blessed: for while they follow the institutions of the Master they cannot go wrong. For unto the high priest his proper services have been assigned, and to the priests their proper office is appointed, and upon the Levites their proper ministrations are laid. The layman is bound by the layman’s ordinances.
The next section has this. Note here, once again, we have a series of present tenses:
Not in every place, brethren, are the continual daily sacrifices offered, or the freewill offerings, or the sin offerings and the trespass offerings, but in Jerusalem alone. And even there the offering is not made in every place, but before the sanctuary in the court of the altar; and this too through the high priest and the afore said ministers, after that the victim to be offered hath been inspected for blemishes. They therefore who do any thing contrary to the seemly ordinance of His will receive death as the penalty. Ye see, brethren, in proportion as greater knowledge hath been vouchsafed unto us, so much the more are we exposed to danger.
Perhaps the most telling evidence that this was written pre-AD 70 is not what what Clement wrote, but what he didn’t write. Supposedly his epistle here was written two or three decades after the cataclysmic fall of Jerusalem. Yet he makes no mention of the fact, though he writes much of the actual worship of the Jews. This all fits if we realize that Clement was describing the Jerusalem of his time – before the day of doom came to the worshipers of the old dispensation.
Likewise there is no mention of the Millennium – as a thousand year reign – to come. It is my contention that that teaching was a much later one, resorted to when the overwhelming majority of Christian writers in earlier decades were no longer around to give their voice. The teaching on the Millennium is just one of several teachings that were creeping into the church.
Another teaching that crept into the church was a slow relapse into a Jewish concept of the Kingdom of God, with a the return and reign of a physical Jesus. These were all mistaken doctrines that Christ and His inspired Apostles had spoken clearly against.
The ages have not been kind to this original, spiritual concept of the Kingdom of God. Religious wars have been fought in the very name of Christ – using the very swords that Christ told to leave in the scabbard. His Kingdom is not of this world, but traditional Christianity has made it very much of this world.
As I have time I hope to add to this article other details of Clement’s epistle. Some have to do with further proof of the early date for the letter. Others have to do with underscoring some of the memorable lines from this work. Although it is not inspired, yet it is worthy of greater attention than has been given to it. It is a labor of tested and matured Christian faith – probably (in my opinion, at least) the same Clement mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
There are passages of great power and encouragement:
“How blessed and marvelous are the gifts of God, dearly beloved! Life in immortality, splendor in righteousness, truth in boldness, faith in confidence, temperance in sanctification! And all these things fall under our apprehension. What then, do you think, are the things preparing for them who are patiently waiting for Him? The Creator and Father of the Ages, the All-holy One Himself knows their number and their beauty!”