Sunday, 3 May 2015

J. Kinlaw: Risky Business: Exegesis in First Clement

The letter ascribed to Clement of Rome (ca. 100 CE) shows a profound familiarity with the Old Testament. Clement’s exegesis is unorthodox, and his novel interpretations may explain why the letter, albeit quite well-known, was not included in later canons of scripture.  My “Communication” will highlight two examples of this: one in his recollection of Noah’s ark (9.4), and a second in his treatment of Lot’s wife (11.1-2).  I will show how Clement uses these ancient stories to communicate the importance of concord in first-century Christian assemblies—even when the actual ideal of homonoia, or “like-mindedness” does not appear in the Septuagint’s version of those stories.  I will illustrate, furthermore, how’s Clement’s daring is not confined to exegesis of canonical scripture.  Clement also draws on the history of “other nations” (ethnē), using “many kings and leaders” from foreign lands to illustrate his own Christian homonoia message (55.1).  The most impressive example of this is his incorporation of the myth of the phoenix (25-26).  By drawing from a truly “multicultural” group of traditions (Jewish, Christian, pagan), Clement exemplifies the sort of Christian community he desires at Corinth—an ekklesia where seemingly significant temporal dividers are broken down in the interest of like-mindedness.

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