A Tale of Two Clements


After Peter, the list of popes continues on to Linus and Anacletus (sometimes just called Cletus), both of whom are nonentities today, and there isn’t any clear proof that they even existed.

It’s the supposed fourth pope, Clement, who was the first truly known leader of the Church of Rome. Church lore has it that he was ordained by Peter himself, and he is known as the author of a letter to the Church of Corinth. This letter is called the Epistle of Clement, and its intention was to reprimand the congregation in Corinth for dismissing its leaders. Clement supported the church hierarchy, claiming that the apostles instituted the system of ranks with bishops and deacons. Actually, I’m not sure the term “bishop” was in use yet, but that was the basic idea. I have to wonder if this rigid structure was really what Jesus intended, since he had kind of an anti-authority streak about him, but the hierarchy was apparently already starting to be established a mere few decades after he died. Anyway, Clement is said to have been executed sometime around the year 100 by being thrown into the sea with an anchor tied to him, so the anchor has become his symbol.

The legend is that this took place in the Crimea, so his body is buried there now.


The other famous Clement in church history was Titus Flavius Clemens, often called Clement of Alexandria to distinguish him from Clement of Rome. He was born in Athens in the middle of the twentieth century, and studied Greek philosophy. When he discovered Christianity, he became a student of Pantaenus, a Stoic Christian who was the first known leader of the catechetical school in Alexandria. Clement was famous for his writings, which showed influence from our old friend Philo. He thought that Greek philosophy is complementary to scripture, and that the Greek philosophers drew on the teachings of Moses for their own ideas. Also, like Philo, he placed great importance on the concept of the logos, which he specifically identified with Jesus. He eventually left his school in the hands of his pupil Origen, and lived out his final days in Jerusalem. The Catholic Church officially dropped him from their list of saints in the seventeenth century, claiming that not enough about his life was known, and his only real contribution to theology was in his teaching of Origen. He’s still a well-known church father, but his teachings don’t entirely match what would become orthodox belief.

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9 Responses to A Tale of Two Clements

  1. Rich Griese says:

    I am interested in the study of early christianity, especially the creation and formative years. perhaps the first 200. To show you some of the stuff I have been collecting, and trying to organize, take a look at these two pages, and see if anything interests you;

    http://webulite.dyndns.org:8080/christianity

    http://webulite.dyndns.org:8080/tag/christianity?do=showtag&tag=tag%3Achristianity

    I am interested in convos on anything in the early christianity general areas, what are you interested in at the moment?

    Cheers! RichGriese@gmail.com

    • Nathan says:

      I have sort of a general interest in the history of religion, particularly in how it developed over time, and the mythology involved. I’m not religious myself, but I find it to be a fascinating study.

  2. Clement supported the church hierarchy, claiming that the apostles instituted the system of ranks with bishops and deacons.

    This is funny, because the (Catholic) sources I used for a project I did on Catholicism said that the heirarchy was a holdover from the Roman Empire that was just adopted by the church when Christianity became the official religion– a couple hundred years PAST that. Huh.

    • Nathan says:

      From what I’ve read, I’m unclear on whether Clement mentioned a specific hierarchy, or it was more of just a general “hey, guys, you need leaders” thing. I know the Catholic Church tries to support the apostolic succession by retroactively applying the title of Pope/Bishop of Rome to local Roman church leaders, but I don’t know how long it took them to develop the current hierarchical system. The idea that the church in Rome was always the main one (well, after Peter supposedly went there, anyway) also comes across as not really supportable.

  3. vilajunkie says:

    Are other Christian denominations as obsessed (that might not be the right word) with the hierarchy of clergy as Catholics? I imagine Orthodox denominations have something similar having originated at about the same time, but I’m not sure what Orthodox clergy is like. What’s the difference between a priest, a pastor, and a minister anyway? Aren’t the all the same thing but different names for different denominations?

    • Nathan says:

      Orthodox clergy has the same ranks as the Catholics, although I don’t think it has any one head bishop like the Catholic Church does. Some Protestant denominations also have priests and bishops, but others only have elders and deacons. I think pastors, ministers, and priests all have basically the same function in leading a specific congregation, although the terms aren’t necessarily synonymous. I would say the word “priest” conjures more of a mystical image and an influence on ritual, while some of the other congregational leaders are more like teachers.

      • vilajunkie says:

        I’ve noticed that “minister” seems to allow for any non-traditional form of Christian leader as well, such as allowing nondenominational, female, and openly gay Christians to lead masses and other church functions. Plus there’s that whole thing about being ordained through an online service, if that’s what a potential minister wants to do.

      • Nathan says:

        I think all you need to do to be ordained as a minister in some denominations is to sign up on a website.

  4. Rich Griese says:

    Nathan, I am not a supernaturalist myself, but am interested in the sttudy of the early history of the group. I recently came across a series by Stephan Huller that gives a quite reasonable explaination on how things started. Check out http://webulite.dyndns.org:8080/stephan_huller for the polycarp series. pretty interesting stuff.

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