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Introductory Notice to the Recognitions of Clement

Introductory Notice to the Recognitions of Clement

[by the Translator, Rev. Thomas Smith, D.D.]


The Recognitions of Clement is a kind of philosophical and theological romance. The writer of the work seems to have had no intention of presenting his statements as facts; but, choosing the disciples of Christ and their followers as his principal characters, he has put into their mouths the most important of his beliefs, and woven the whole together by a thread of fictitious narrative.

The Recognitions is one of a series; the other members of which that have come down to us are the Clementine Homilies and two Epitomes.1

The authorship, the date, and the doctrinal character of these books have been subjects of keen discussion in modern times. Especial prominence has been given to them by the Tübingen school. Hilgenfeld says: "There is scarcely a single writing which is of so great importance for the history of Christianity in its first stage, and which has already given such brilliant disclosures at the hands of the most renowned critics in regard to the earliest history of the Christian Church, as the writings ascribed to the Roman Clement, the Recognitions and Homilies."2 The importance thus attached to these strange and curious documents by one school of theologians, has compelled men of all shades of belief to investigate the subject; but after all their investigations, a great variety of opinion still prevails on almost every point connected with these books.

We leave our readers to judge for themselves in regard to the doctrinal statements, and confine ourselves to a notice of some of the opinions in regard to the authorship and date of the Recognitions.3

The first question that suggests itself in regard to the Recognitions is, whether the Recognitions or the Homilies are the earliest form of the book, and what relation do they bear to each other? Some maintain that they are both the productions of the same author, and that the one is a later and altered edition of the other; and they find some confirmation of this in the preface of Rufinus. Others think that both books are expansions of another work which formed the basis. And others maintain that the one book is a rifacimento of the other by a different hand. Of this third party, some, like Cave, Whiston, Rosenmüller, Staüdlin, Hilgenfeld, and many others, believe that the Recognitions was the earliest4 the two forms; while others, as Clericus, Möhler, Lücke, Schliemann, and Uhlhorn, give priority to the Clementines. Hilgenfeld supposes that the original writing was the Kh/rugma Pe/trou, which still remains in the work; that besides this there are three parts,-one directed against Basilides, the second the Travels of Peter (peri/odoi) and the third the Recognitions. There are also, he believes, many interpolated passages of a much later date than any of these parts.5

No conclusion has been reached in regard to the author. Some have believed that it is a genuine work of Clement. Whiston maintained that it was written by some of his hearers and companions. Others have attributed the work to Bardesanes. But most acknowledge that there is no possibility of discovering who was the author.

Various opinions exist as to the date of the book. It has been attributed to the first, second, third, and fourth centuries, and some have assigned even a later date. If we were to base our arguments on the work as it stands, the date assigned would be somewhere in the first half of the third century. A passage from the Recognitions is quoted by Origen6 in his Commentary on Genesis, written in 231; and mention is made in the work of the extension of the Roman franchise to all nations under the dominion of Rome,-an event which took place in the region of Caracalla, a.d.211. The Recognitions also contains a large extract from the work De Fato, ascribed to Bardesanes, but really written by a scholar of his. Some have thought that Bardesanes or his scholar borrowed from the Recognitions; but more recently the opinion has prevailed, that the passage was not originally in the Recognitions, but was inserted in the Recognitions towards the middle of the third century, or even later.7

Those who believe the work made up of various documents assign various dates to these documents. Hilgenfeld, for instance, believes that the Kh/rugma Pe/trou was written before the time of Trojan, and the Travels of Peter about the time of his reign.

Nothing is known of the place in which the Recognitions was written. Some, as Schliemann, have supposed Rome, some Asia Minor, and recently Uhlhorn has tried to trace it to Eastern Syria.8

The Greek of the Recognitions is lost. The work has come down to us in the form of a translation by Rufinus of Aquileia (d. 410 a.d.In his letter to Gaudentius, Rufinus states that he omitted some portions difficult of comprehension, but that in regard to the other parts he had translated with care, and an endeavour to be exact even in rendering the phraseology.

The best editions of the Recognitions are those by Cotelerius, often reprinted, and by Gersdorf, Lipsiae, 1838; but the text is not in a satisfactory condition.


To thee, indeed, O Gaudentius, thou choice glory of our doctors, belongs such vigour of mind, yea, such grace of the Spirit, that whatever you say even in the course of your daily preaching, whatever you deliver in the church, ought to be preserved in books, and handed down to posterity for their instruction. But we, whom slenderness of wit renders less ready, and now old age renders slow and inactive, though after many delays, yet at length present to you the work which once the virgin Sylvia of venerable memory enjoined upon us, that we should render Clement into our language, and you afterwards by hereditary right demanded of us; and thus we contribute to the use and profit of our people, no small spoil, as I think, taken from the libraries of the Greeks, so that we may feed with foreign nourishment those whom we cannot with our own. For foreign things usually seem both more pleasant, and sometimes also more profitable. In short, almost everything is foreign that brings healing to our bodies, that opposes diseases, and neutralizes poisons. For Judaea sends us Lacryma balsami, Crete Coma dictamni, Arabia her flower of spices, India reaps her crop of spikenard; which, although they reach us in a somewhat more broken condition than when they leave their native fields, yet retain entire the sweetness of their odour and their healing virtue. Receive therefore, my soul,1 Clement returning to you; receive him now in a Roman dress. And wonder not if haply the florid countenance of eloquence appear less in him than usual. It matters not, provided the sense tastes the same. Therefore we transport foreign merchandise into our country with much labour. And I know not with how grateful countenances my countrymen welcome me, bringing to them the rich spoils of Greece, and unlocking hidden treasures of wisdom with the key of our language. But may God grant your prayers, that no unlucky eye nor any livid aspect may meet us, lest, by an extreme kind of prodigy, while those from whom he is taken do not envy, yet those upon whom he is bestowed should repine. Truly it is right to point out the plan of our translation to you, who have read these works also in Greek, lest haply in some parts you may think the order of translation not kept. I suppose you are aware that there are two editions in Greek of this work of Clement,-the 'Anagnw/seij, that is, Recognitions; and that there are two collections of books, differing in some points, but in many containing the same narrative. In short, the last part of this work, in which is the relation concerning the transformation of Simon, is contained in one of the collections, but is not at all in the other.2 There are also in both collections some dissertations concerning the Unbegotten God and the Begotten, and on some other subjects, which, to say nothing more, are beyond our comprehension.3 These, therefore, as being beyond our powers, I have chosen to reserve for others, rather than to produce in an imperfect state. But in the rest, we have given our endeavour, so far as we could, not to vary either from the sentiments or even from the language and modes of expression; and this, although it renders the style of the narrative less ornate, yet it makes it more faithful. The epistle in which the same Clement, writing to James the Lord's brother, informs him of the death of Peter, and that he had left him his successor in his chair and teaching, and in which also the whole subject of church order is treated, I have not prefixed to this work, both because it is of later date, and because I have already translated and published it.4 But I do not think it out of place to explain here what in that letter will perhaps seem to some to be inconsistent. For some ask, Since Linus and Cletus were bishops in the city of Rome before this Clement, how could Clement himself, writing to James, say that the chair of teaching was handed over to him by Peter?5 Now of this we have heard this explanation, that Linus and Cletus were indeed bishops in the city of Rome before Clement, but during the lifetime of Peter: that is, that they undertook the care of the episcopate, and that he fulfilled the office of apostleship; as is found also to have been the case at Caesarea, where, when he himself was present, he yet had Zacchaeus, ordained by himself, as bishop. And in this way both statements will appear to be true, both that these bishops are reckoned before Clement, and yet that Clement received the teacher's seat on the death of Peter. But now let us see how Clement, writing to James the Lord's brother, begins his narrative.

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