The oldest complete Christian sermon outside the New Testament itself is writing often called Second Clement. For those of you who despise Latter-day Saint views on faith, grace, and works (i.e., the idea that we gain access to the full blessings of grace by following Christ, repenting of our sins, keeping His commandments, and enduring in faith to the end), you probably shouldn’t read this (ditto for most of the writings of the Apostolic Fathers – writings from the first couple centuries of Christianity by church leaders who had been influenced directly by the early Apostolic tradition). But for those who enjoy reading good ol’ fashioned “mostly Mormon” doctrine from ancient sources, it’s definitely enjoyable reading. It sounds an awful lot like many modern LDS General Conference talks (though there are some differences, to be fair). Turn on some Tab Choir background music while you read for best results.
Here is one interesting excerpt of many to consider:
And let no one of you say that this very flesh shall not be judged, nor rise again. Consider ye in what state ye were saved, in what ye received sight, if not while ye were in this flesh. We must therefore preserve the flesh as the temple of God. For as ye were called in the flesh, ye shall also come to be judged in the flesh. As Christ, the Lord who saved us, though He was first a Spirit, became flesh, and thus called us, so shall we also receive the reward in this flesh. Let us therefore love one another, that we may all attain to the kingdom of God. While we have an opportunity of being healed, let us yield ourselves to God that healeth us, and give to Him a recompense. Of what sort? Repentance out of a sincere heart; for He knows all things beforehand, and is acquainted with what is in our hearts. Let us therefore give Him praise, not with the mouth only, but also with the heart, that He may accept us as sons. For the Lord has said, “Those are My brethren who do the will of My Father.”
Implicit in the discussion of being in the flesh and resurrecting again in the flesh is the understanding that there is something that is actually in this flesh of ours, namely, our spirit. We follow the pattern of Christ who was originally a spirit and then was clothed with flesh and rose with his flesh. The writer may be treating our original existence as spirits as common knowledge, as did the Apostles when they asked Christ if a certain blind man was born blind because he had sinned before he was born (John 9:1-2).
Faced with judgment for what we do in the flesh, the call is to seek charity, to turn to God, and to repent. Through repentance and doing the will of the Lord, we will be accepted as His children and gain the blessings of eternal life.
A few paragraphs earlier he teaches something similar:
This, then, is our reward if we shall confess Him by whom we have been saved. But in what way shall we confess Him? By doing what He says, and not transgressing His commandments, and by honouring Him not with our lips only, but with all our heart and all our mind. For he says in Isaiah, “This people honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.”
Let us, then, not only call Him Lord, for that will not save us. For He saith, “Not every one that saith to Me, Lord, Lord, shall be saved, but he that worketh righteousness.” Wherefore, brethren, let us confess Him by our works, by loving one another, by not committing adultery, or speaking evil of one another, or cherishing envy; but being continent, compassionate, and good. We ought also to sympathize with one another, and not be avaricious. By such works let us confess Him, and not by those that are of an opposite kind.
Let us then practice righteousness that we may be saved unto the end.
If you enjoted Second Clement, be sure to try First Clement and the Didache, and many other early Christian writings. Loads of fun!
18 thoughts on “Second Clement on the Resurrection , Obedience, and (Perhaps) Our Premortal Existence”
I enjoy Clement quite a bit, but my favorite ANF writing is _The Shepherd_ of Hermas. I’m sure most of your readers are already familiar with it, but those who aren’t, LDS or not, should find it pretty interesting.
Some modern theologians are willing to discuss biblical (no traditional) views of the resurrection –
I agree. The writings of the ANF are a lot of fun. Our pious Evangelical critics would do themselves big favor by actually reading their – the ANF that is -teachings (although I can see how actually reading historical sources would be difficult for the likes of Decker and McKeever, et al) since it would effectively refute the idea that western fundamentalist Protestantism represents “historical Christianity” or “Biblical Christianity”.
To Joseph Antley,
The Shepherd of Hermas is a good ANF writing, but my personal favorite is the Secret Gospel of Mark. You know, that one where Jesus tells the young man to meet him in a linen cloth by a river during the night so that he can teach him the “mysteries of the Kingdom of God”. Hmmm…. let’s see… someone being initiated into the mysteries of godliness in a linen cloth while being ritualistically washed in a secretive enviroment… where on earth have I heard that one before??
You know, that one where Jesus tells the young man to meet him in a linen cloth by a river during the night so that he can teach him the “mysteries of the Kingdom of God”.
I’ll be honest — I’d never connected the Secret Gospel of Mark to certain ordinances. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Why the profuse thanks? There are many scholarly treatments of the text which treat that passage as containing strong “homoerotic” themes. Obviously, that’s not quite how I envision the Savior, so I’m grateful for the new insight.
I like the Pearl in addition to others.
It is interesting what made it into the current Western Bible and what did not. For that reason, if no other, people ought to read Shepherd of Hermes (as it was in most early Christian Canons).
Good points. Thanks! Along these lines, I’d like to recommend John Gee’s “The Corruption of Scripture in Early Christianity in Early Christians in Disarray: Contemporary LDS Perspectives on the Christian Apostasy.
Yes—-and after all is said and done—–we are saved by?????
“There are many scholarly treatments of the text which treat that passage as containing strong “homoerotic” themes.”
You mean like the essay by D. Michael Quinn entitled “Same Sex Dynamics Between 1st Century Men: a Christian Example”? (Note the heavy sarcasm)
But, seriously, I agree with you that the idea that this passage from the Secret Gospel of Mark, henceforth SGOM,(which was, if I understand correctly, considered just as authentic by early Christians as the Gospel of Mark itself; and was used by some Coptic and Egyptian Christian sects to justify their initiation liturgy and rituals) was/is somehow reflecting homoerotic behavior in Jesus are, to put it bluntly, far-fetched and downright vulgar. I agree with scholars such as Bart Ehrman that this passage in the SGOM reflects inititory liturgical doctrines.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
Your welcome, your welcome, your welcome. ;0)
To everyone else,
I second Jeff’s recommendation to read Dr. Gee’s essay. It is rather excellent and does a good job at documenting the unfortunate corruption of the biblical texts.
I love the Apostolic Fathers. My favorite is still Ignatius. I love his passion and the clear outline he gives of the ecclesiology of the early church. Both Clement and Ignatius continually assert that they can only urge and not command, since they are not apostles. Such an argument flies in the face of those who say that bishops succeeded the apostles as leaders of the church. Ignatius, even more clearly than Paul, speaks of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in very separate terms. Clement, Ignatius, Papias, and Polycarp lived in a very different church than the one represented by “historic” christianity today.
I’ve never been crazy about the Didache, although I think it clearly points to the survival and respect of prophets even after the Apostles. But count me among the skep[tics of the Secret Gospel of Mark. I know that there was at one time a “Secret Gospel of Mark,” but the one we have today isn’t it. I find it highly suspect that no manuscript can be propduced for it and that the sole researcher who claims he found it was himself a homosexual gay rights activist. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad researcher, but it does mean he has a bias.
Any suggestions on good compilations and/or translations of the Ante-Nicean Fathers. I have looked at some of their writings on http://www.earlychristianwritings.com, but it is always nice to know a little bit about the quality of the translation and the provenance of the text (James Charlesworth’s Old Testament Pseudepigrapha as an example).
I think most tranlsations of the ante-nicene fathers are pretty good. The apostolic fathers, for instance, have three main translations that I know of. 1. The old Loeb translation by Kirsopp Lake. Lake was an early Christian historian whom Nibley read heavily. His work is good, but a little out of date. 2. Translation by J.B. Lightfoot, an Anglican bishop. Also a very good, believing scholar, though his translations reflect a little “high church” bias. The translation was recently updated by Michael W. Holmes in 1992. I like Lightfoot’s Greek text because of the critical apparatus he includes. 3. The new Loeb translation by Bart Ehrman in 2003. Despite being a staunch agnostic and very critical of the ancient church, Ehrman’s translation is fair, and he provides alternate translations where apporpriate.
In short, it’s tough to go wrong with any of the three. Ehrman’s translation is more readable though nevertheless precise. Lightfoot has a great critical apparatus and commentary available to go along with his. Lake’s, though not widely available anymore, keeps his translation more liturgical by using “thee” “ye” and “thou” etc. I guess your best bet is to read a couple of them side by side, though Lightfoot is definitely the least expensive. 🙂
I just have to quickly say how much I appreciate the time you take to blog. You are a great resource and link for the faithful follower as well as the wandering wonderer. I hope you feel appreciated. Carry On.
I really like the concept of, “confess Him by our works.” It reminds me of the passage in James 2 that states something like, “Show me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.”
It dovetails very well with the whole, “By their fruits ye shall know them.”
If I’m a believer, I shouldn’t have to convince you of that by my words, you should be able to see it for yourself by how I live. Conversely, if I’m a hypocrite stating that I’m righteous, that should be readily apparent as well.
Why haven’t we heard from our non-mormon friends lately? Don’t they have anything to say about this stuff?
Where is T4x4 and NM. I enjoy my bible as much as the next person but you are missing out on alot of good LDS doctrine by not reading some of the other writings and scriptures that were around at that time. You talk about details on our temple and many other concepts that would be hard to believe unless you were able to be a part of the LDS church and then read those many documents.
“And none shall be able to escape them, since they detain him if he does not receive a male power or a female power, the bridegroom and the bride. One receives them from the mirrored bridal chamber.”
Where have I heard this before?
Gospel of Philip?
The Gospel of Philip sounds like a temple preparation class. I noticed how he talks of temple but it does not sound like the Jewish temple but sounds so familiar to LDS temples. A lot of it is different for many reasons but any on that has been to the temple and is familiar with the Jewish temple can see how he is drawing parallel and introducing the new important concepts of the bridal chamber.
The mysteries of truth are revealed, though in type and image. The bridal chamber, however, remains hidden. It is the Holy in the Holy. The veil at first concealed how God controlled the creation, but when the veil …
It is not possible for anyone to see anything of the things that actually exist unless he becomes like them. This is not the way with man in the world: he sees the sun without being a sun; and he sees the heaven and the earth and all other things, but he is not these things. This is quite in keeping with the truth. But you saw something of that place, and you became those things. You saw the Spirit, you became spirit. You saw Christ, you became Christ. You saw the Father, you shall become Father. So in this place you see everything and do not see yourself, but in that place you do see yourself – and what you see you shall become.
If the woman had not separated from the man, she should not die with the man. His separation became the beginning of death. Because of this, Christ came to repair the separation, which was from the beginning, and again unite the two, and to give life to those who died as a result of the separation, and unite them. But the woman is united to her husband in the bridal chamber. Indeed, those who have united in the bridal chamber will no longer be separated. Thus Eve separated from Adam because it was not in the bridal chamber that she united with him.
The powers do not see those who are clothed in the perfect light, and consequently are not able to detain them. One will clothe himself in this light sacramentally in the union.
There were three buildings specifically for sacrifice in Jerusalem. The one facing the west was called “The Holy”. Another, facing south, was called “The Holy of the Holy”. The third, facing east, was called “The Holy of the Holies”, the place where only the high priest enters. Baptism is “the Holy” building. Redemption is the “Holy of the Holy”. “The Holy of the Holies” is the bridal chamber. Baptism includes the resurrection and the redemption; the redemption (takes place) in the bridal chamber. But the bridal chamber is in that which is superior …
The soul of Adam came into being by means of a breath. The partner of his soul is the spirit. His mother is the thing that was given to him. His soul was taken from him and replaced by a spirit. When he was united (to the spirit), he spoke words incomprehensible to the powers.
There is no other way for a person to acquire this quality except by putting on garments of the perfect light and he too becoming perfect light. He who has put it on will enter .
At the present time, we have the manifest things of creation. The mysteries of truth are revealed, though in type and image. The bridal chamber, however, remains hidden. It is the Holy in the Holy. The veil at first concealed how God controlled the creation, but when the veil is rent and the things inside are revealed, this house will be left desolate, or rather will be destroyed. And the whole (inferior) godhead will flee from here, but not into the holies of the holies, for it will not be able to mix with the unmixed light and the flawless fullness, but will be under the wings of the cross and under its arms. This ark will be their salvation when the flood of water surges over them. If some belong to the order of the priesthood, they will be able to go within the veil with the high priest. For this reason, the veil was not rent at the top only, since it would have been open only to those above; nor was it rent at the bottom only, since it would have been revealed only to those below. But it was rent from the top to bottom. Those above opened to us the things below, in order that we may go in to the secret of the truth. This truly is what is held in high regard, (and) what is strong! But we shall go in there by means of lowly types and forms of weakness. They are lowly indeed when compared with the perfect glory. There is glory which surpasses glory. There is power which surpasses power. Therefore, the perfect things have opened to us, together with the hidden things of truth. The holies of the holies were revealed, and the bridal chamber invited us in. Bridegrooms and brides belong to the bridal chamber. No one shall be able to see the bridegroom with the bride unless he become such a one.
Not only will they be unable to detain the perfect man, but they will not be able to see him, for if they see him, they will detain him. There is no other way for a person to acquire this quality except by putting on the garments perfect light and he too becoming perfect light. He who has put it on will enter […]. This is the perfect […] that we […] become […] before we leave […]. Whoever receives everything […] hither […] be able […] that place, but will […] the Middle as imperfect. Only Jesus knows the end of this person. “the Christ” has his name. For the Father anointed the Son, and the Son anointed the apostles, and the apostles anointed us. He who has been anointed possesses everything. He possesses the resurrection, the light, the cross, the Holy Spirit. The Father gave him this in the bridal chamber; he merely accepted (the gift). The Father was in the Son and the Son in the Father. This is the Kingdom of Heaven.
.” In the place where I will eat all things is the Tree of Knowledge. That one killed Adam, but here the Tree of Knowledge made men alive. The law was the tree. It has power to give the knowledge of good and evil. It neither removed him from evil, nor did it set him in the good, but it created death for those who ate of it. For when he said, “Eat this, do not eat that”, it became the beginning of death. If the woman had not separated from the man, she should not die with the man. His separation became the beginning of death. Because of this, Christ came to repair the separation, which was from the beginning, and again unite the two, and to give life to those who died as a result of the separation, and unite them. But the woman is united to her husband in the bridal chamber. Indeed, those who have united in the bridal chamber will no longer be separated. Thus Eve separated from Adam because it was not in the bridal chamber that she united with him.
The powers do not see those who are clothed in the perfect light, and consequently are not able to detain them. One will clothe himself in this light sacramentally in the union.
There were three buildings specifically for sacrifice in Jerusalem. The one facing the west was called “The Holy”. Another, facing south, was called “The Holy of the Holy”. The third, facing east, was called “The Holy of the Holies”, the place where only the high priest enters. Baptism is “the Holy” building. Redemption is the “Holy of the Holy”. “The Holy of the Holies” is the bridal chamber. Baptism includes the resurrection and the redemption; the redemption (takes place) in the bridal chamber. But the bridal chamber is in that which is superior to […] you will not find […] are those who pray […] Jerusalem who […] Jerusalem, […] those called the “Holy of the Holies” […] the veil was rent, […] bridal chamber except the image […] above. Because of this, its veil was rent from top to bottom. For it was fitting for some from below to go upward.
Those who say, “There is a heavenly man and there is one above him” are wrong. For it is the first of these two heavenly men, the one who is revealed, that they call “the one who is below”; and he to whom the hidden belongs is that one who is above him
But the mysteries of that marriage are perfected rather in the day and the light. Neither that day nor its light ever sets. If anyone becomes a son of the bridal chamber, he will receive the light. If anyone does not receive it while he is here, he will not be able to receive it in the other place.
I would say that it is an over simplistic view to imply that just because you find a statement in the early church fathers that this establishes the doctrine of pre-existence.
My understanding is you and your church believes there was a pure Christianity at some time during the time of Jesus Christ or within 200 years after the death of Christ. If this concept was established it is not clear from the remnants of the bible documents. Jewish thought only talks of predestination and foreordination and can not be confused with pre-existences. Such doctrines such as some pre-existence of Christ or the spirit of man were not well established in Old Testament Jewish thought or taught by Christ and his apostles which were Jewish converts. Neither are these doctrines established in bible documents but may have been lost and replaced with Greek philosophies. The earliest surviving Christian writings on the preexistence were from the Platonist Origen, who derived the doctrine from the writings of Plato. Such doctrines are better supported by corruptions of apostolic doctrines introduced by gentile converts with Greek philosophies and are given the canonized stamp of approval. If Mormonism is to establish some proofs of the pure Christianity teachings, and the early church fathers are Roman and Greek convents that changed those pure doctrines other document must be found to support such claims. Which are now pure and which are corruptions?