Sunday, 3 May 2015

Luke Drake: Reading Orthodoxy and Heresy in 2 Clement

One of the remarkable peculiarities of 2 Clement is the degree to which its reception has been determined by the reception of the books that surround it. Its imagined aim, its purported theology, even its very name, are the product of a series of associations and assumptions by early and later influential Christian readers. The history of its interpretation points to the effects of reading a text within a corpus—whether it be the dual corpus of 1 and 2 Clement, the corpus of the Apostolic Fathers, or the imagined corpus of burgeoning orthodoxy. Certainly there is nothing inherently problematic with reading 2 Clement alongside 1 Clement, the Didache, Polycarp, etc., so long as we are abundantly self-reflective of the assumptions we make by entertaining this proximity. In this paper, I trace several shifts that occur in a reading of 2 Clement when it is detached from the theological expectations that are implicit in the sort of anti-Gnostic, orthodox model of 2nd century Christianity that is often attributed to the texts of the Apostolic Fathers. With such adjustments in historical expectations come striking changes to the way that other key theological components within 2 Clement are represented: repentance, salvation, the nature of evil, etc. The result is a revised illustration of early Christian history: unruly, unpredictable, unstable, and grounded in the sort of entangled materiality that early generations of scholars were anxious to transcend.

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