Friday, October 12, 2007

Clement of Rome [A.D. 30-100] - Amillennial Preterist

The premillennialist appeal to the apostolic fathers is built on two flawed premises.

1.) The earliest church fathers were less prone to error than later fathers, since they lived closer to the time of the apostles.

2.) The earliest church fathers were premillennialists.

With regard to the first premise, it is entirely unfounded. It is quite apparent that heresy can sneak into the church very quickly, particularly in light of the influence of Judaism in the early church (the source of much premillennial thinking). Most of the New Testament was written to correct doctrinal errors that crept in to the church within decades of its birth. How much more error could be expected a century or more later? It could be argued that church fathers in later periods would be more trustworthy, as they were able to learn from the mistakes of earlier fathers.

With regard to the second premise, the purpose of this blog series is to refute it. If church history is the strongest leg that Premillennialism is standing on, it is about to fall over.

In order to understand the eschatology of Clement’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, we must first establish the date of its writing. The popular, but not real compelling, date is around 96 AD, and since Clement makes illusions to the parable of the fig tree and relates them to a future coming, Premillennialists often use Clement to support futurism.

“The all-merciful and beneficent Father has bowels [of compassion] towards those who fear Him, and kindly and lovingly bestows His favours upon those who come to Him with a simple mind. So let us not be double-minded; neither let our soul be lifted up on account of His exceedingly great and glorious gifts. Far from us be that which is written, "Wretched are they who are of a double mind, and of a doubting heart; who say, These things we have heard even in the times of our fathers; but, behold, we have grown old, and none of them has happened to us.." You foolish ones! compare yourselves to a tree: take [for instance] the vine. First of all, it sheds its leaves, then it buds, next it puts forth leaves, and then it flowers; after that comes the sour grape, and then follows the ripened fruit. You perceive how in a little time the fruit of a tree comes to maturity. Of a truth, soon and suddenly shall His will be accomplished, as the Scripture also bears witness, saying, "Speedily will He come, and will not tarry;" and, "The Lord shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Holy One, for whom you look."”

Yet a close examination of Clement’s Epistle shows that is was clearly written before 70 AD, as it speaks of Judaism being practiced in Jerusalem

"Let every one of you, brethren, give thanks to God in his own order, living in all good conscience, with becoming gravity, and not going beyond the rule of the ministry prescribed to him. Not in every place, brethren, are the daily sacrifices offered, or the peace-offerings, or the sin-offerings and the trespass-offerings, but in Jerusalem only. And even there they are not offered in any place, but only at the altar before the temple, that which is offered being first carefully examined by the high priest and the ministers already mentioned. Those, therefore, who do anything beyond that which is agreeable to His will, are punished with death. You see, brethren, that the greater the knowledge that has been vouchsafed to us, the greater also is the danger to which we are exposed."

With that in mind, we can see that Clement expected Christ to come “soon and suddenly”, and “speedily”, warning that He “will not tarry”. Like the time frame references in Scripture, there is no mistaken about the timing of Christ’s coming in I Clement. If Clement is to be taken seriously in terms of eschatology, only a preterist interpretation would suffice. If it was assumed that Clement was writing of Christ’s Second Advent as opposed to His judgment “coming” against apostate Israel (Matthew 16:27-28, Matthew 21:33-45), then we would have to conclude that He was just plain wrong.

Clement writes of the resurrection (Chapters 24 through 28) and the final judgment (Chapter 35), yet makes no mention of a millennium. If Clement, who wrote so much in terms of eschatology, actually believed in an earthly reign of Christ, then it would have been a tremendous oversight for him not to include it. Therefore, it must be concluded that the end times views of Clement of Rome are best described as amillennial preterist.


Anonymous said...

Puritan Lad said...


Would you like to actually discuss the issue, or are you a theological drive-by shooter?

You haven't given much of a refutation on the link you posted.

John said...

An interesting article on Clement's use of Synoptic material appears at:

EricfromAz said...

Full blown preterism should be considered no less than a heresy. Did the worst time in history occur in 70 AD with the destruction of the temple? Yes the events of those days were horrible, but the point is this: "After the tribulation of "those days" {not in 70 ad} the sign of the son of Man shall appear in the clouds and "all" the tribes of the earth shall mourn! Clearly we can see that preterism should not be considered a legitmant eschaological stance.

Christopher Macfarlane said...

Eric from AZ, you said:

"After the tribulation of "those days" {not in 70 ad}"

This is just a bare assertion you are making.

"the sign of the son of Man shall appear in the clouds"

This shoudl be rendered the "sign of the son of man in the clouds" - or the sign of Christ coming in judgment, as this is clearly a judgment text that employs prophetic hyperbole such as found in Isaiah.

All the tribes of the "land," even those who pierced Him.

The tribes of Israel...

Not as clear as you propose.

Mark Carlton said...

You forgot the most interesting eschatological statement in I Clement, 42:3: "When, then, the apostles received his commands and were fully convinced of the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and were fully convinced of the word of God, the went forth proclaiming the good news that the kingdom of God was about to come..." (Ehrman's translation)

JaredMithrandir said...

Judaism was still practiced in Jerusalem all the way till the bark-Kohcba revolt. Actually a Remnant always remained there.

But if your logic for proving Preterism is that he was speaking before 70 AD and thought it would happen soon. The same argument Futurist use to response to how Preterists misquote The Bible itself applies.

Puritan Lad said...


How exactly is orthodox Judaism practiced without a temple?