Saint Pope Clement I is also known as Clement of Rome. There are differing views as to exactly when and where he was born. The general agreement is that he may have been a freed man from a Roman household. He is generally considered by the Roman Catholic Church to be one of the Greek Fathers and an Apostolic Father. He was the third successor to Peter as Pope, after Linus and Anacletus (Cletus), and writings from other Early Fathers including those of St. Irenaeus, Origen, and St. Jerome, to name a few, say that Clement was baptised by Peter. He was also a contemporary of Paul, and one of the early writers in speaking of Clement, said that "the preaching of the Apostles still rang in his ears".
The one thing that gives us more knowledge about Clement than the first two sucessors of Peter, is Clements "Epistle to the Corinthians", a letter he wrote to the "sojourning Church in Corinth from the sojourning Church in Rome", in regard to a schism happening there. The date of the letter is believed to have been around 96 A.D. His name does not appear in the letter nor did he direct the letter to a bishop at Corinth, but, the letter seems to have been generally intended for all in the Church at Corinth. Clements Epistle, is also the first evidence of papal correction to a Church outside of Rome. The letter he wrote was so highly regarded by the Church at Corinth, that a decade or so later, the bishop in Corinth in a letter to Rome, mentions that the letter from Clement was read at their assemblies. Indeed, this letter was also included in the early Bibles of many of the eastern Churches, before the canon was established in the Latin Vulgate.
He apologizes for sending the letter much later than he wanted, due to: "the suddenly bursting and rapidly succeeding calamities and untoward experiences that have befallen us, we have been somewhat tardy, we think, in giving our attention to the subjects of dispute in your community, beloved". The "calamities and untoward experiences" were due to the persecutions of the Christian community from the emperor Domitian.
He recalls the former reputation of the Church in Corinth, it's piety, obedience, and charity. He warns them that jealousy, in causing their divisions, was also the cause for the fall of Cain and Esau, Saul and others in the Old Testament, and was what led them into sin. He goes on to point out to them, that it was jealousy and envy that was the cause of martyrdom for the Apostles: "Let us take the noble examples of our own generation. It was due to jealousy and envy that the greatest and most holy pillars were persecuted and fought to the death... Peter, who through unmerited jealousy underwent not one or two, but many hardships and, after thus giving testimony, departed for the place of glory that was his due... Paul demonstrated how to win the prize of patient endurance: seven times he was imprisoned; he was forced to leave and stoned ... he won the splendid renown which his faith had earned".
Nevertheless, Clement himself soon began to attract attention, and he was exiled to Crimea. There he was put to work in the mines with other Christians and slaves, and he continued to teach and preach, and gained so many converts it is said, that 75 Churches had to be built. There is also told, how they had to go six miles to get water, and that Clement miraculously brought forth a spring near the mines. Once again (during the reign of the emperor Trajan), Clement began getting notice due to his success, and because of his "disruptions", an anchor was tied around his neck, and he was cast into the Black Sea. The tide went out two miles, and there was a marble tomb exposed, where Clement was "buried by angels". Some years later, Saint Cyril of Alexandria went to the Crimea, and there miraculously found a mound, and upon digging into the mound, found bones and an anchor, which were taken back to Rome as relics of Saint Pope Clement I, and placed in the Basilica of Saint Clement of Rome.
Clements letter is a true treasure in that it gives us insight to the early Church in Rome that we might not otherwise have. It is also obvious from reading his letter to Corinth, that Clements references to scripture, or events in scripture were almost entirely from the Old Testament. He does make mention of Saint Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians, and the Epistle to the Romans. This has led some to believe that Clement may have indeed been a Jewish convert to Christianity, due to his frequent use of the Old Testament in his epistle, although some also think he may have been Greek. Whether he was Jewish or Gentile matters not at all, because he was Roman. Regardless, what we have from Saint Pope Clement is valuable insight to the early Church, and his epistle is well worth the read, and can be read by clicking on the title, "The Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians".
This is from Saint Jerome's work, "Lives of Illustrious Men":
Clemens the bishop
Clement, of whom the apostle Paul writing to the Philippians says "With Clement and others of my fellow-workers whose names are written in the book of life," the fourth bishop of Rome after Peter, if indeed the second was Linus and the third Anacletus, although most of the Latins think that Clement was second after the apostle. He wrote, on the part of the church of Rome, an especially valuable Letter to the church of the Corinthians, which in some places is publicly read, and which seems to me to agree in style with the epistle to the Hebrews which passes under the name of Paul but it differs from this same epistle, not only in many of its ideas, but also in respect of the order of words, and its likeness in either respect is not very great. There is also a second Epistle under his name which is rejected by earlier writers, and a Disputation between Peter and Appion written out at length, which Eusebius in the third book of his Church history rejects. He died in the third year of Trajan and a church built at Rome preserves the memory of his name unto this day.
Copyright © 2005 Steve Smith. All rights reserved.