Friday, January 13, 2012

Was Clement of Rome a Trinitarian?

An Interlocutor once wrote:

'Saint Clement of Rome and his Letter to the
Corinthians [c. 80-96 AD]: “The Apostles received
the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; and
Jesus Christ was sent from God…they went forth in
the complete assurance of the Holy Spirit…Do we not
have one God, one Christ, and one Holy Spirit poured
out upon us?...For as God lives, and as the Lord Jesus
Christ lives, and the Holy Spirit…”. Clearly, in
the mind of Clement there is a firm conviction of the
distinction of Persons, and yet the interrelatedness
of each of these 3 Persons'

My Reply:

One thing that is "clear" from reading this electronic
submission is that the person who wrote this piece
allows his/her biases to shine forth distinctly. The
comments from Clement of Rome do not demonstrate his
belief in a triune or tripersonal God. Granted, he may
refer to God, Christ and the Holy Spirit. But mere
mention of these ascriptive designata does not prove
that Clement is a trinitarian qua trinitarian.
Moreover, notice that he speaks of "God," Christ and
the Holy Spirit. He does not use language such as God
the Son or God the Holy Spirit. For Clement of Rome,
the Father is the one true God (i.e. the maximally
excellent being).

JND Kelly analyzes a number of early church writers to
ascertain their perspectives on the divine triad in
his magisterial _Early Christian Doctrines_.
Concerning Clement of Rome, Kelly notes that "little
can be gleaned from the first" of the Apostolic
Fathers (page 90). Then, after he alludes to a few
passages found in Clement's work, he writes: "The Holy
Spirit Clement regarded as inspiring God's prophets in
all ages, as much the Old Testament writers as
himself. But of the problem of the relation of the
Three to each other he seems to have been oblivious"
(page 91). Hence, according to this authority, Clement
is not concerned with how the Three Persons relate one
to another. Little pertaining to the Trinity can be
gleaned from his work.

While Edmund Fortman thinks the divinity of Christ and
the Holy Spirit are "implied" in Clemens Romanus and
that there is a "clear trace of trinitarian belief" in
1 Clement, he concludes nonetheless:

"There is, however, no stress on the three. The stress
is on Christ, and only rarely are the three mentioned
together. There is obviously no doctrine of the
Trinity, no explicit affirmation of the divinity of
the Son and Holy Spirit but only an echo of the data
of Scripture" (_The Triune God_, page 38).

Notice that neither Christ nor the Holy Spirit are
called QEOS by Clement. Rather, the relationship
between God and His Son is delineated thus:

1 Clement 42:1:

"The Apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord
Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ was sent forth from God."

1 Clement 42:2:

"So then Christ is from God, and the Apostles are from
Christ. Both therefore came of the will of God in the
appointed order."

6 comments:

Matt13weedhacker said...

Hi Edgar.

I was about to embark on a detailed examination myself of Clement of Rome in the first of a series on the ANF & the Tri{3}nity on my blog. But many things have interupted me getting to it.

I certainly agree with your coments.

The two favourite qotes they use (as you point out) mention "...God..." as a seperate entity in his own ( totality ).

“...What traces, then, does it contain of the modern doctrine of the Trinity? It contains not the faintest trace of the supreme divinity of the Son or the Spirit...” - (Page 5, THE CHURCH FIRST THREE CENTURIES: BY ALVAN LAMSON. 1875.)

Βασίλειος said...

Clement seems that, at the beginning, was a proponent of the “two-stage” Logos Christology, that is, he believed that the generation of Logos took place in time, as Theophilus and Tertullian believed, which means, in other words, that Logos didn't eternally preexist as a person.—H.A. Wolfson, The Philosophy of the Church Fathers, 1:204-17.

Beyond that, it should never be forgotten that Logos Christology also includes the inferiority of Logos to the Father, and that is why Logos Christology is unaccepted for orthodox Trinitarians.

Actually, Clement calls Logos as πρωτόκτιστος or "first-created one".—Excerpta ex Theodoto 1,20.

Not surprisingly, Photius attacked Clement, among many others, for presenting the Son of God as a “creature”: “Tὸν Υἱὸν εἰς κτίσμα κατάγει.”—Bibliotheca 109,89.

Βασίλειος said...

How stupid I am! My eyes didn't see "of Rome".

Sorry for my confusion.

Edgar Foster said...

Matt13: Thanks for including the quote by Lamson. I've been keeping up with your posts and look forward to any further data on Clement of Rome.

Basileios: still good info. :)

Matt13weedhacker said...

Hi Edgar.

It's a tough time for me and my family at the moment. We are in the process of shifting and I have got a public talk next week to prepare and other important responsibilities preventing me from spending more time on Clement of Rome. Plus I get side tracked so easily. It's frustrating.

If I had my way I would be a monk and spend all day on it, I enjoy doing this sort of research so much, but my family wouldn't appreciate it.

So If I can, I will get onto the first two chapters, but it probably won't be for a week or so. Plus when I discovered recently the Namur Latin translation and Rufinus Latin as well, it means more time and research than what I had done previously.

I want to do this for an easy access online research tool for the benefit of my Brothers. And then they can build on it aswell, and also to provide an answer to those who dissagree with our doctrine and view of history.

Edgar Foster said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you on the public talk. I understand perfectly what you're saying because I face similar challenges. I used to love buying books, but family has to come before my love of books. I look forward to your posts when time permits.