Clement, Bishop of Rome, c. 100

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, and then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

About the Commemoration

According to early traditions, Clement was a disciple of the Apostles and the third Bishop of Rome. He is generally regarded as the author of a letter written about the year 96 from the Church in Rome to the Church in Corinth, and known as “First Clement” in the collection of early documents called “The Apostolic Fathers.”

The occasion of the letter was the action of a younger group at Corinth who had deposed the elder clergy because of dissatisfaction with their ministrations. The unity of the Church was being jeopardized by a dispute over its ministry. Clement’s letter sets forth a hierarchical view of Church authority. It insists that God requires due order in all things, that the deposed clergy must be reinstated, and that the legitimate superiors must be obeyed.

The letter used the terms “bishop” and “presbyter” interchangeably to describe the higher ranks of clergy, but refers to some of them as “rulers” of the Church. It is they who lead its worship and “offer the gifts” of the Eucharist, just as the duly appointed priests of the Old Testament performed the various sacrifices and liturgies in their time. Many congregations of the early Church read this letter in their worship, and several ancient manuscripts include it in the canonical books of the New Testament, along with a second letter, which is actually an early homily of unknown authorship. The text of First Clement was lost to the western Church in the Middle Ages, and was not rediscovered until 1628.

Clement writes: “The apostles received the Gospel for us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus the Christ was sent from God. Thus Christ is from God and the apostles from Christ. In both instances, the orderly procedure depends on God’s will. So thereafter, when the apostles had been given their instructions, and all their doubts had been set at rest by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, they went forth in the confidence of the Holy Spirit to preach the good news of the coming of God’s kingdom. They preached in country and city, and appointed their first converts, after testing them by the Spirit, to be the bishops and deacons of future believers.”


i Almighty God, who didst choose thy servant Clement of Rome to recall the Church in Corinth to obedience and stability: Grant that thy Church may be grounded and settled in thy truth by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; reveal to it what is not yet known; fill up what is lacking; confirm what hath already been revealed; and keep it blameless in thy service; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

ii Almighty God, you chose your servant Clement of Rome to recall the Church in Corinth to obedience and stability: Grant that your Church may be grounded and settled in your truth by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; reveal to it what is not yet known; fill up what is lacking; confirm what has already been revealed; and keep it blameless in your service; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Psalm 78:3–7 1


Chronicles 23:28–32

2 Timothy 2:1–7

Luke 6:37–45

Preface of a Saint (2)



7 thoughts on “Clement, Bishop of Rome, c. 100

  1. New Hebrew reading: This reading is about the responsibilities of the Levites in the Temple? This somehow seems appropriate for Clement, the 3rd Bishop of Rome?

    Is nothing known about his death, burial place, etc.? If so, it should be included in the bio.

    The text of Clement’s letter was ‘rediscovered (in) 1638’ ? Rediscovered? It was discovered before? Who ‘rediscovered’ it? Where? How? It had been ‘lost to the Western Church in the the Middle Ages’ … approximate date?

  2. Clement, Bishop of Rome, c. 100
    Clement deserves a place on the calendar, to be sure. The write-up, while generally well done, strikes me as having less sensitivity to the ambiguities of “order” at such an early stage in the Church’s history than is called for. The mere fact that, “the letter used the terms ‘bishop’ and ‘presbyter’ interchangeably,” should serve notice that “legitimate superiors must be obeyed,” is not so cut, dried, and self-evident in its meaning and application in that period as we take it to be. (Failure to include presbyters in the final quotation should suggest the same thing.) Authority in ministry is certainly not based, as the write-up seems to suggest, on sheer seniority, but on an apostolic authority that was only then being articulated through Clement and others. The extended quotation in the final paragraph is about apostolic succession, not seniority per se.

    In the collect, “keep it blameless” strikes me as self deluded. “Make it blameless” might be a tad closer to honest, albeit an eschatological likelihood at best.
    In the list of lessons we have the same kind of error as we did recently: an extra number at the end of the Psalm citation, a number needed at the beginning of the OT lesson (First Chronicles). (I have confidence Michael will tell us if it’s that way in the printed volume of HWHM.)
    The Psalm selection sounds as if it thinks Clement is all about Sunday School lessons.
    1 Chronicles makes it sound as though Christian priesthood is virtually a continuation of temple priesthood, a theological travesty in view of the Christian dispensation. These choices deserve to be re-thought.
    Second Timothy isn’t much of an improvement; at least it’s Christian (not a great surprise, coming from the NT) but sounds more like a “letter of agreement” negotiation than a charge to carry on ministry faithfully (how about one of the Book of Revelation’s seven opening letters about “those that overcome”?).
    Even the gospel selection (the mote and the beam) is a bit of a stretch for this commemoration. (Other possibilities: Matt 7:21-29 “as one having authority”; or, Matt 9:36 to 10:4 “Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority” or, Matt 28:16-20 “Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” or, Luke 24:22-30 “you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” Matthew 28 would be my preference.)

  3. Wow, that’s a very interesting justification for hierarchy as a way to have predictability and unity. The OT lesson that it echoes a little bit is the story of King Uzziah, who insisted on taking over some of the functions reserved for priests (and so recorded in scripture), I think) although he was warned not to. Even though he was a good king otherwise, God punished him rather severely for his usurpation of powers delegated to others.

  4. The wording of the bio can suggest to some that the lesson to be drawn from Clement’s letter is that clergy should be obeyed. The passages in Scripture that deal with the role of clergy are more nuanced than that, if only because they have to be interpreted in the light of the whole of Scripture. Clement’s letter is not Scripture, and we can’t assume that he had got the story right about why the younger people in Corinth felt they were being misled. I haven’t read Clement’s letter in years, and I won’t have time to this week, but if the only issue for Clement was their disobedience, rather than the fact that the younger ones were wrong about something and the elders right, then I think we’d better shift the focus. I’d rather commend Clement because he cared about what was going on in other Christian communities, and reached out to encourage them to unity, and leave the hierarchical stuff out of the picture.

  5. The sub-title should tell us something of the reason for including Clement. Perhaps adding “and Reconciler” would do.

    As always, I should like to see, in the text of the bio, for each person being memorialized, the estimated years of birth and death, and the locations, if known.

    Perhaps a sentence should be added along these lines: “An early tradition indicates that he was martyred, by being tied to an anchor and thrown into the sea.”

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