Do you have any references you could pass along that might shed some light on 1 Clement, both in terms of its dating and his possible authorship of Hebrews? I saw a recent question on your site regarding dating 1 Clement to the late 60’s (which makes a lot of sense to me). All I can seem to find are statements like ‘evidence points towards the 90’s’ and ‘some think Clement might be the author of Hebrews, but no one will ever know.’ I read 1 Clement and feel like either Clement was the author of Hebrews or he was the worst plagiarizer in the history of the world. I’d love to read some arguments as to why Clement was *not* the author of Hebrews. Anyway, if you have any reference suggestions, I would really appreciate it. Hope things are great in San Diego! I’ll be out there in June for Jeremy Melcher-Post’s wedding.


I do not have a lot to add to what you found in the recent Q & A at my web site. There is some supportive evidence for a date of writing around AD 65-70, but I find that evidence unconvincing. What I mean is that I will not rule out the early date, but I prefer a somewhat later one from evidence internal to the book. The author mentioned by the one who asked me a question argues principally on the monoepiscopate (or lack thereof as the case may be). I believe that this particular argument is rather weak. A date of AD 90 +-25 years would probably be a reasonable summary of the conservative estimates for the date of 1 Clement. Like you, I am tempted to go for the earlier date, but an unbiased look at all the evidence and all the arguments leads me to give a somewhat older approximate date. Evidence for a later date includes the reference to “sudden and repeated misfortunes and hindrances which have befallen us” (1:1), which may be a reference to persecutions under Domitian. It is hard to choose misfortunes and hindrances from the AD 60s. Another indication of the date comes from the fact that the church at Rome is called “ancient” and that the presbyters installed by the apostles have died (44:2), and a second ecclesiastical generation has also passed on (44:3). The evidence for an early date is also fairly strong, including the evidence for a plural eldership. The plural eldership places the letter almost certainly before the middle of the second century and fairly likely before AD 100. The fact that the Roman church is considered “ancient” and that there is a third generation of elders there places the letter probably after AD 90. The article that the person sent me to read in the question you read was significantly biased. It mentioned all possible evidence for an early date and simply ignored evidence for a later date. This is not very good scholarship in my opinion. Again, I do not simply dismiss the AD 65-70 date, but think that its likelihood is less than 50% and I would not make any strong arguments based on the early date.

About Hebrews, there has been an almost infinite amount of speculation about its author. Some are sure it is Apollos. Others are positive it is written by Paul or Barnabas. Still others, like yourself, think that Clement wrote it. I will go with the statement of Irenaeus around AD 180. “Only God knows.” Irenaeus was in a much better place than any of us to know who wrote the book, so if he was not sure, then anyone today who says he or she is sure is probably a bit biased. I agree with the author you quote: “no one will ever know.” What I would say is that if it was important or even helpful for us to know who wrote the book, then God would have given us access to that information. As for the abundant references to things spoken of in Hebrews, no one can deny this who has read the book. Clement uses type/antitype and sacrificial arguments and occasionally uses Hebrews directly. However, I can explain that by assuming that the writer of 1 Clement had thoroughly immersed himself in the book of Hebrews. When we quote the Bible in a sermon we are not accused of plagiarism. If you read the early church fathers, they quoted the New Testament a lot more than we typically do, but they almost never said “It says in the book of Colossians.” They simply quoted. That is why I say Clement is not plagiarizing, he is just doing what was normal in the early church, which is to quote freely without giving the biblical “chapter and verse” reference (which did not even exist at that time!) I believe, based on Hebrews 8:13 that the book was written some time before AD 70, when the Jewish form of worship in temples literally disappeared. This would seem to be too early for Clement of Rome to be the author. As for arguments that Clement was not the author of Hebrews, these will not be chiefly “proof” that he was not the author. How can you prove he was not the author? Arguments that he was not the author will come principally in the form of arguments that the author was someone other than Clement. I do believe that the experts will compare the fantastically elegant Greek of Hebrews and compare it critically with the Greek of the author of 1 Clement. However, this distinction might be because Hebrews is a well-refined work and the letter of 1 Clement may be a quick little letter—not pored over for hundreds of hours to perfect the language. I am not against the Clement theory, but I think that it is less likely than some of the other proposals I have heard. I would give it a less that 10% probability to be correct. Again, “only God knows.”

Sorry to be such a party pooper.

John Oakes

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