1 Clement 38 & Ephesians 5

This post picks up from John’s comment a couple posts back:

On another thread, Mike has already stated his opinion that upotassomai involves (let me put it this way) acceptance of someone’s lead “in their sphere of authority.”

So, unless Mike has since changed his mind, we in agreement on this point.

I’m not sure that anyone would say otherwise – e.g. even in the 1 Clement 38 where ὑποτάσσομαι is also paired with ἀλλήλοις there is still that sense which I’ve described, which we’ll now examine:

“So in our case let the whole body be saved in Christ Jesus, and let each man be subject to his neighbor, to the degree determined by his spiritual gift,”

Σῳζέσθω οὖν ἡμῶν ὅλον τὸ σῶμα ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, καὶ ὑποτασσέσθω ἕκαστος τῷ πλησίον αὐτοῦ, καθὼς καὶ ἐτέθη ἐν τῷ χαρίσματι αὐτοῦ.

Michael William Holmes, The Apostolic Fathers : Greek Texts and English Translations (Updated ed.; Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1999), 70-71.

In 1 Clement submission does not refer to and ordered structure of authority but simply where one defers to another regarding gifting. Submission becomes an act where one person defers to another depending on circumstances or abilities. In fact we see that the one who is in authority in 1 Clement actually ends up serving the one who submits. The following sentence continues:

(1) The strong must not neglect the weak, and the weak must respect the strong. Let the rich support the poor; and let the poor give thanks to God, because He has given him someone through whom his needs may be met. Let the wise display his wisdom not in words but in good works. The humble person should not testify to his own humility, but leave it to someone else to testify about him. Let the one who is physically pure remain so and not boast, recognizing that it is someone else who grants this self-control. (3) Let us acknowledge, brothers, from what matter we were made; who and what we were, when we came into the world; from what grave and what darkness he who made and created us brought us into his world, having prepared his benefits for us before we were born. (4) Seeing, therefore, that we have all these things from him, we ought in every respect to give thanks to him, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.

(2) ὁ ἰσχυρὸς μὴ <ἀτημελείτω> τὸν ἀσθενῆ, ὁ δὲ ἀσθενὴς ἐντρεπέσθω τὸν ἰσχυρόν· ὁ πλούσιος ἐπιχορηγείτω τῷ πτωχῷ, ὁ δὲ πτωχὸς εὐχαριστείτω τῷ θεῷ, ὅτι ἔδωκεν αὐτῷ διʼ οὗ ἀναπληρωθῇ αὐτοῦ τὸ ὑστέρημα. ὁ σοφὸς ἐνδεικνύσθω τὴν σοφίαν αὐτοῦ μὴ ἐν λόγοις ἀλλʼ ἐν ἔργοις ἀγαθοῖς· ὁ ταπεινοφρονῶν μὴ ἑαυτῷ μαρτυρείτω, ἀλλʼ ἐάτω ὑφʼ ἑτέρου ἑαυτὸν μαρτυρεῖσθαι· ὁ ἁγνὸς ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ <ἢτω> καὶ μὴ ἀλαζονευέσθω, γινώσκων ὅτι ἕτερός ἐστιν ὁ ἐπιχορηγῶν αὐτῷ τὴν ἐγκράτειαν. (3) ἀναλογισώμεθα οὖν, ἀδελφοί, ἐκ ποίας ὕλης ἐγενήθημεν, ποῖοι καὶ τίνες εἰσήλθαμεν εἰς τὸν κόσμον· ἐκ ποίου τάφου καὶ σκότους ὁ πλάσας ἡμᾶς καὶ δημιουργήσας εἰσήγαγεν εἰς τὸν κόσμον αὐτοῦ, προετοιμάσας τὰς εὐεργεσίας αὐτοῦ πρὶν ἡμᾶς γεννηθῆναι. (4) ταῦτα οὖν πάντα ἐξ αὐτοῦ ἔχοντες ὀφείλομεν κατὰ πάντα εὐχαριστεῖν αὐτῷ· ᾧ ἡ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων. ἀμήν.


So we see in this passage that the strong are the authority on strength, the rich are the authority on wealth, etc. But each of those cases, still we see that the author places the treatment of the weak and poor within the context of mutual submission – just as Paul does in Ephesians 5:21 with love and respect for the husband and wife. What’s clear here is that the author is talking about “mutual deference” (I don’t use “submit” for a number of reasons — chiefly, I don’t consider it helpful to use archaic English to convey meaning), but the expectation for the weak τοὶς ὑποτασσόμενοις (pardon the code-switching) is to respect the strong – that’s ὑποτασσόμενοι for them. So what’s interesting for me is the parallel between the 1 Clement 38 & Ephesians 5. Again the greater burden is placed on the strong/husband and his role and actions not on the weak/wife. The author of 1 Clement goes further (at least in the short passage) emphasizing the great need for humility for the strong and rich.

Even more interesting is the fact that for the poor and the rich, the poor’s role in mutual deference to the rich is their giving thank to God. And then at the end the fact that Clement requires that same act of all — almost making God the true “rich one” and the entire church “the poor.”

And there are a good half dozen other themes that pop out here that parallel Ephesians – e.g. read the “where we’ve come from” sentences in light of Ephesians 4 that are equally relevant to the topic at hand as well.

I would consider this passage to potentially be our earliest documented application of our Ephesians passage – and thus an important key for interpreting it. Granted, that is only speculation, but I think its reasonable speculation considering both the verbal and thematic parallels between the two.