Please comment on Thomas Herron's thesis that the letter of 1 Clement was written just before AD 70
Hi, please do read the doctoral thesis by the late Thomas Herron in which he presents a persuasive argument for re-dating 1 Clement to just before 70 AD. There are of course explosive implications if 1 Clement was pre 70 AD – for example if Clement is quoting at least one of the gospels then this would require the existence of a pre AD 70 gospel.
Never mind. I found the document. I had read it before, actually, I find the argument of Thomas Herron to be unconvincing. I am not saying that the letter could not have been written around AD 70 or that his argument is deeply flawed. Not at all, but his argument about the developing monoepiscopate is simply not very convincing. Alexandria did not have a monoepiscopate until the third century. There was a wider variety of church government that Herron seems to be allowing for. Of course, Ignatius was a very strong advocate of the monoepiscopate in the early second century, but that does not prove that it was established in Rome before AD 96 as Herron concludes. The best I can say for this paper is that it makes a reasonable case for the possibility that the book was written in the 70s AD, but it is far from being anything like “proof.” In fact, I believe it is less than a 50/50 proposition. Of course, that is my opinion, and you should decide for yourself.
I assume your interest in the date is as an apologetic for the early date of writing of the gospels quoted by Clement. I appreciate this desire. Apart from this evidence I am already convinced that Matthew, Mark and Luke were all written before AD 70. The argument for an earlier date is very strong. However, the case for Clement is sufficiently weak that I would not use it as an argument for the early date of writing of these gospels. When I present an argument I like to be sure it will hold up well to scrutiny. For this reason, I like to be careful to not use relative weak arguments,even when I am speaking to believers only. Weak arguments actually undermine the credibility of our conclusions. It gives an uneccesary opening to the skeptics.
So, I appreciate this paper and find it to be good scholarship, but I suspect it is a bit biased and it is not a good basis for proving the early authorship of the synoptic gospels. I wish it was!