That was a real pleasure. I’ve posted a page with the complete text of my translation on my website Bombaxo, here. For now, the text is identical to the serial installments I’ve posted here on the blog. Eventually I’ll break it down into paragraphs, changing the numbering to something less obtrusive, and insert the references and maybe a very few notes. I’ll also write a short introduction at some point. Right now I want to keep the translation momentum going.
For those who are too busy to read that very long letter, here’s the scoop. The Roman church was requested to intervene by some people in the Corinthian church. It took some time for the Roman church to respond, because there was an intervening period of persecution. This letter is the response. The situation in Corinth appears to be that some innovating younger men who were probably good talkers managed to convince the church that they should be running things at Corinth instead of the elders who succeeded those appointed by the apostles. These young men apparently had very high opinions of themselves. In this letter, constant reference is made to “humble-mindedness” (ταπεινοφροσυνη), the character trait that the author particularly wants these young men to attain. Even so, however, the author suggests the solution is for the young men to leave the Corinthian church for other churches, where they would (supposedly) be welcome, and, it is inferred, without the support base that made them such a problem in the first place, Corinth being apparently prone to factionalism, as was historically known from even the Paul/Kephas/Apollos factions mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, referenced even by the author here. One of the most striking things about this reference is that when the author tells the Corinthians to “take up Paul’s letter,” he is referring, of course, to the original letter itself, not to one of the copies. Wow. This letter, 1 Clement, was apparently successful, as we don’t hear any more about factionalism in the Corinthian church. It seems they’d learned their lesson.
The timing of the letter is an interesting subject. Although I’d always remained an agnostic on whether the letter was written sometime before 70 AD or around 96 AD, I am no longer. Throughout the letter, there is a logical consistency in the usage of verb tenses, quite modern, probably in keeping with a Roman familiarity with the usage of tenses in classical Latin (comparing, say, Caesar or Cicero with Tertullian or Jerome and you’ll see the difference; the latter were affected by the somewhat looser particularity of tenses represented in Greek as opposed to Latin, which English usage follows to a large degree, as well). This aspect plays a role in understanding the timing of the letter when, in 41.2, sacrifices at the Jerusalem Temple are described in the present tense. This is really the clincher, rather than being equivocal, as the references to “elders” in both Corinth and Rome are, and the reference late in the letter, at 63.3, describing some who’d been believer “from youth to old age” — “old age” being relative, the period covered by such aging could be a mere twenty to thirty years. Very importantly, while we do know about a very intense persecution of Christians in Rome during Nero’s reign, we’re finding that there isn’t much evidence at all for persecution of Christians in Rome or abroad during the reign of Domitian. It is a general persecution of Christians in Rome during the reign of Domitian which has been the lynchpin for a late date for First Clement. Anyhow, I seem to be in quite good company in preferring the earlier date. As Mike Aquilina noted, the former Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, is of the same opinion (see particularly note 27), as was John A. T. Robinson.
Why is the letter associated with Clement, who is mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Philippians (4.3), written sometime during Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome in 60-62 (see here on the dates)? The answer is, as a Jewish man famously sang, “Tradition!”