Continuing with the series archived here.
Couchoud suggests that the author of the Gospel we attribute to Luke may quite likely have been Clement of Rome. But he sees the contribution of this person as of far greater significance than the simple composition of the works we know as Luke and Acts. First, however, the outline of Couchoud’s views of who this major author was. This p.ost should be read in conjunction with the previous one, 6(a).
The popular Shepherd of Hermas written about this time (mid second century) informs us that it was Clement’s duty to send to the other churches the edict of remission of sins which the prophet Hermas learned of in a vision:
Clement will address it to the other towns for he is charged with this duty. (Hermas Vis. 2.4)
The prophetic work of Hermas indicates that prophets were strongly influential in the Roman Church, most likely with wielding power as the Spirit whimmed them. When their authority was replaced by Elders it is suggested that Clement kept his old office as a Church Secretary and increased his authority. He may even have been one of the persons Marcion debated against when in Rome. Clement clearly had some importance among the ruling Elders when he (presumably) wrote his letter to the entire Corinthian Church admonishing them to restore the rule of the Elders they had deposed, “no doubt in order to vest authority in the bishop alone, and to wrest that Church from the Marcionite enemy.”
He was probably born a gentile. He was widely read in Greek and Latin literature and the Hebrew Bible in Greek translation, as well as the Book of Enoch and other Jewish apocryphal and apocalyptic writings. He also knew the works of Philo and Josephus.
He expresses a love of good Stoic Roman virtues. His interpretation of the Biblical literature followed the method he learned in the Epistle to the Hebrews. His love is for the Church whose portrait he is always delineating in his works. He appeals to converted Gentiles to take their possession of the spiritual goods (including the Scriptures) of the Jews that the Jews had rejected. Among this inheritance for them to claim were the traditional hopes of the Jews such as the Last Judgment and Resurrection of the Body. The promises originally meant for the Jews in his mind now belong to “the younger son”, the Gentiles who become the new people of God.
Thus this man was imbued with a deep sense of continuity between the Old and New laws and covenants — the Jewish Scriptures and the Christian faith.
It was important for him to see the Church ruled by stable authorities and that meant that the age of the independent prophets had to end. But he could not denigrate the venerated prophets of the past who each was believed to have been an agent of the Spirit of God.
Enter the Holy Spirit; Exit the Prophets
In this lies his masterpiece. He endowed the Church with a doctrine of the Holy Ghost which was to assure its stability and give it the means of checking the last prophetic explosions — those of Montanus and his prophetesses and energumens. The Holy Ghost is a celestial being derived from God and from Jesus; at times it appears in the form of a dove [i.e. from Mark 1], at others in the shape of tongues of flame [i.e. from Enoch 66:5]. It is burning and weighty, and it falls on him to whom God sends it; it seizes him. The Holy Ghost took possession of the prophets of the Old Testament and spoke by their mouths. But — here take heed! — it did this only to foretell the coming of Jesus, his sufferings, and his glory. This preparation was not done for the benefit of the prophets nor their auditors, but for Christians [1 Clem 17:1 et al]. Since Jesus’s birth all that has changed. The Holy Ghost fertilized a virgin and consecrated Jesus on earth. When Jesus returned to heaven, he caused the Holy Ghost to fall on the Apostles. Whereon they announced the coming of Jesus, told of his sufferings and his glory; the very things which the prophets of old had foretold. Prophecy is therefore replaced by the Gospel, and the two converge on Jesus. Both to-day are fixed by the written word, and should be the constant reading of the faithful; there is left no further room for prophecy. (p. 272)
There were only a few exceptions in the early days of the Church where Jesus gave special revelations to some of his apostles. But from the beginning of the Church the Holy Spirit was not restricted to prophets. The apostles could even pray and have it fall on all Christians.
After the apostles’ authority devolved to the Elders and they became the responsible ministers of the Holy Spirit and Clement, when he wrote in agreement with them, felt he was the mouthpiece of the Holy Spirit (1 Clement 63:12).
The council of Elders did not last long as the sole authority of the Church, though. Around 154, no doubt in order to more effectively withstand heresy, the Roman Church organized itself under a single bishop, and the myth that a single bishop had always ruled was created. Clement himself was assigned a place in this “historical” line of supreme bishops.
The Divine Epic of Luke-Acts
Some time between the Marcionite schism of around 139 and Justin’s Apology with its allusion to a source speaking of a census by Quirinius and that was written some time before the death of Marcion in 144, a divine epic was written for the benefit of educated Roman Christians. This epic stood in opposition to Marcionism and made the Holy Spirit the central character. The work was dedicated to an otherwise unknown Theophilus — perhaps the Maecenas who paid for the first edition, perhaps a false name concealing the identity of a bona fide inquirer.
Later the rumour was spread that this was the work of Luke, the companion of Paul who journeyed to Rome.
Next post in this series will look at the Gospel of Luke itself and how it relates to the other Gospels and mid second century setting.
Latest posts by Neil Godfrey (see all)
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- How to Read Historical Evidence (and any other information) Critically - 2021-09-05 14:00:06 GMT+0000
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