Clement of Rome was an early church father who was bishop of the church in Rome. More specifically, he is considered an apostolic church father because of his connection to the apostles of the New Testament. Clement of Rome lived near the end of the apostolic era, at the end of the first century, and his writing is dated to about AD 96.
First Epistle of Clement
Clement of Rome is primarily known for one particular letter that he wrote to the Corinthian church because this letter has such an early date. This letter was probably written about AD 96, which would likely have been even before the apostle John died.
Although there is also a second letter with Clement’s name, that letter is probably not authentically Clement’s writings.
Clement of Rome’s Connection to the Apostles
Both Origin of Alexandria—AD 185–284—and Eusebius of Caesarea—AD 260–340—stated that the Clement that Paul mentions in Philippians 4:3 is Clement of Rome. However, there is no definitive evidence for this claim.
At the same time, it is very likely that Clement of Rome had direct contact with the apostles. Irenaeus of Lyons—AD 130–200—writes that Clement of Rome “had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them” (Against Heresies 3:3).
Summary of the First Epistle of Clement
The First Epistle of Clement was written to the Corinthian church regarding a conflict regarding the leadership of the church. Clement’s goal is to lead them to be humble and to follow the pattern of Jesus and the apostles. Clement calls the Corinthian church to repent and be holy.
Within this epistle, Clement of Rome cites canonical books such as Genesis, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, 1 Corinthians, Philippians, Matthew, and Luke.
Another significant teaching we find in the First Epistle of Clement is what is likely the first reference in the writings of the early church fathers to the crucial doctrine of justification by faith alone. Clement writes the following:
And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. AmenFirst Epistle of Clement, 32
Was Clement of Rome’s Doctrine Orthodox?
Clement of Rome’s doctrine was orthodox, from what we can tell from the First Epistle of Clement. He was not a heretic.
Read the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians
Below are links to the text of the First Epistle of Clement. There are three different translations.
- First Epistle of Clement – J.B. Lightfoot translation
- First Epistle of Clement – Charles H. Hoole Translation
- First Epistle of Clement – Roberts-Donaldson Translation
Rediscovering the Church Fathers: Who They Were and How They Shaped the Church