Book Review: The Second Epistle Of Clement To The Corinthians

The Second Epistle Of Clement To The Corinthians, edited by T.W. Crafer

The difficulty of finding a good English translation of Second Clement [1] will lead the writer into some investigations of other texts, as was the case for me.  It should be noted that this book, which I found on is not the English translation of the work.  Rather, it is a short (roughly 30 pages) copy of the Greek text translated by Lightfoot, which is readily accessible elsewhere, with a short amount of commentary material by the editor and then the Greek text in its entirety.  As such this book is a pretty short one and is really only recommended to those with at least a high degree of literacy in koine Greek.  This is, in other words, a book that is to be read by scholars and is not really meant for the common and ordinary reader, which is unfortunately a very common problem when one seeks to read books as obscure as 2 Clement.  Admittedly, there are probably not many people who want to read 2 Clement or have even heard of the book to be curious about it in the first place.

Be that as it may, this book does have interesting contents in it despite the difficulty of understanding its text.  For one, the editor does a good job at placing 2 Clement in a context that points to its value as the first (or second) known example of a Christian homily as well as to its general lack of interest in grounds other than historical ones.  The speaker of the message–which was somehow committed to recording–praises an obscure and non-canonical Gospel that was known to Clement of Alexandria and not very highly viewed by him, and few people who have read Second Clement have anything nice to say about him as a writer.  While he would probably be happy to have known that his sermon has survived history and is at least a text that it is possible to read (albeit with difficulty) even today, it is unlikely that any sermon speaker, even an anonymous one, would be happy to be thought of as a person with small understanding and little style.  I know quite a few ministers who want their work to be remembered, but none of them who would want to be remembered as a terrible speaker with nothing of worth to say.

Perhaps it is for the best, though, that this work is best known as a pioneer in a genre of literature that would be much better known later on.  Homiletics is something that many more people are familiar with than they are with the word that describes it, and the art of putting together a worthwhile sermon or sermonette message is still one that is considered important in various Christian traditions, including my own.  And as we can learn from bad examples as well as good ones, it is instructive at least that Second Clement should be so uniformly regarded as a defective message, as a writing that has survived can give tips to contemporary writers and speakers of sermons on what aspects of his early example of the genre are defective so that we can avoid mimicking what has made this particular text to be so uniformly panned.  Yet even if this book is not entirely useful for the reader who does not have a firm grasp of the Greek of the immediate post-biblical period, this book’s commentary at least can provide some humorous and worthwhile reading, at any rate, and that is at least some value.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, Christianity, History and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Book Review: The Second Epistle Of Clement To The Corinthians

  1. Pingback: An Introduction To The Apostolic Fathers Series | Edge Induced Cohesion

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