Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Unity based on the Creator Judge (1 Clement 21-27)

Clement's exhortation to unity to the Corinthians is argued from God's character and eschatology as portrayed in the OT.

Clement thoroughly addresses the division taking place at Corinth and points to numerous OT examples, Jesus and the apostles to correct the problem. Next, Clement moves to arguing from the character of God. Drawing from a rich OT creation theology, Clement portrays God as the gracious creator of the peaceful earth. So he writes, "The great Creator and Master of all appointed all these things to be in peace and harmony, bringing great benefits to all things, but most especially to us, who flee to his compassion through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Clem 20.11). Implicit in this creation theology is a critique of the dissention that had engulfed the Corinthian church.

Not only is God's glory on display in creation, but God is an all-powerful judge (1 Clement 21.1‒9). Clement uses a form of Proverbs 20.27. The LXX reads, "The light of the Lord is the breath of man, which searches the inner belly" whereas Clement writes, "the Spirit of the Lord is a lamp searching the deepest parts of the stomach." Obviously, the "deep parts of the stomach" or "belly" is a euphemism for "inner self" or hidden things‒a euphemism that Clement feels no need to translate. While Clement's passage makes less sense, it communicates the same point. In the LXX (and MT) the breath of man is from God and searches the inner parts of a man. In Clement the spirit/breath (pnema) of God searches the depths of each person. His point in citing this text is to remind the Corinthians that their division is not hidden from God. "For he is the one who explores our understandings and desires. His breath is in us, and when he wishes, he will remove it" (21.9).

According to Clement, however, God's role as judge does not overshadow his grace. "Faith in Christ" (ἡ ἐν Χριστῳ πίστις) is the guarantee of grace. Christ speaks Psalm 34.11-17, 19 and Ps 32.10 through the Holy Spirit. Here obviously, deliverance is offered to those who repent. The gifts of this repentance are ready to be dispensed as quickly as his judgment. Clement even betrays an imminent eschatology citing Isa 13.22LXX, "Quickly he will come and not delay" (23.5). The LXX reads "[referring to the day of the Lord in Isa 13.19] it is coming quickly and it will not delay." The context of Isaiah 13 is a judgment oracle against prideful Babylon. Clement uses this as a judgment oracle against the prideful who would divide the Corinthian church.

The imminent eschatology spills over into 1 Clement 24 as well. Clement reminds the Corinthians of "the future resurrection that is about to occur" (τὴν μέλλοθσαν ἀνάστασιν ἒσεσθαι 24.1). Clement illustrates the resurrection with Greek imagery of the rising sun, cycle of crops (24.2‒5) and the Phoenix bird (25.1‒5) along with classic rabbinic "how much more" logic arguing that these things images pale in comparison to the promise of the resurrection (26.1‒3).

Clement exhorts, "Let our souls, therefore, be bound by this hope in to the one who is faithful in his promises and upright in his judgments" (27.1). Clement prays that "his [God's] faithfulness would be rekindled in us" (27.3). Here is a beautiful image of salvation- God's faithfulness at work in us!

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