What is your response to the claim in the Clementine Homilies stating that there are falsehoods in scripture and that the Bible was written to try us and test our faith. Apparently it was Peter who told Clement that. Also Simon was used as an alias for Paul in the Clementine Homilies, and in them he tried to corrupt the teaching of Jesus. It’s seems a little far fetched to me but I wanted to know your opinion about these homilies.


The question of the Clementine Homilies is a somewhat complex one.  First of all, there are two versions which have been preserved in ancient manuscript form—one in Greek and one in Latin translation.  The two versions are somewhat similar in length and content, but have some major differences.  The accepted opinion of scholars seems to be that both arose from an earlier, longer, Greek original.

Here is why this interesting Christian document need not disturb the Christian.  According to the evidence, scholars tell us that this document was probably written in the early fourth century—almost certainly not before the late third century.  There is some gnostic influence here, as the recipient is told to hide this knowledge.  The theological terminology implies it was written before the Council of Nicaea.  There is some evidence that heretical Arians had interest in this document.  There is no evidence that this document was used widely in the early church, and there is evidence against it being a very early letter.  You can assume 100% that this was not written by Clement, the bishop of Rome of the late 1st century.

The book was not written to test our faith.  It was written to express the theology of a particular person who was either not a true Christian at all or one who was, at best, on the fringe of the Church at the time he wrote.  The document is written in the form of a historical fiction.  It is a fictionalized account of a discussion between Peter and Paul which obviously never happened.   The author was a dualist, who chose to express his dualism in a falsified argument between Peter and Paul.   This set of letters is in no way whatsoever inspired or authoritative for us, so it should be read for historical reasons so that we can understand the beliefs of one fringe element in Christianity in the fourth century.

The first mention of this book is by Eusebius, writing in AD 325.  He remarks that this book had recently appeared and that it had nothing in it from the truly ancient authors.  This is a fun topic, but it is not relevant to any important question about the reliability of the Bible.

John Oakes

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