In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Pseudo-Clementines

  • Introduction
  • Bibliographies

Biblical Studies Pseudo-Clementines
Stanley Jones
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 October 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393361-0306


By “the Pseudo-Clementines” scholarship intends a specific set of pseudonymous writings attributed to Clement I of Rome, namely, those that relate an intricate story about Clement and his travels with the apostle Peter. This novelistic autobiographical account, which involves the recovery or “recognition” of Clement’s nuclear family (separated through lust, love, and shipwreck predicated by the stars), distinguishes the Pseudo-Clementines from other writings ascribed to Clement, e.g., 2 Clement and the Letters on Virginity. The main components of the Pseudo-Clementines are the Klementia (often called Homilies) and the Recognition (often called Recognitions), both from the early fourth century and the general vicinity of Antioch. The Klementia (c. 323 CE) is found in two Greek manuscripts; an untitled book “1” commences with three preliminary writings, the Letter of Peter to James, the Declaration, and finally the Letter of Clement to James, which introduces the start of the autobiographical account, and then books numbered two to twenty follow, each titled “Homily.” The Recognition (c. 323 CE), not preserved in Greek, is best accessible via an ancient Latin translation by Rufinus of Aquileia and an old Syriac translation. Current scholarship generally agrees that the Klementia and the Recognition both derive independently from an earlier form of the story, named the Circuits of Peter and often called the Basic Writing or “Grundschrift” (c. 220 CE, vicinity of Apamaea), which can be reconstructed not least via the passages that the Klementia and Recognition have in common, often verbatim. This source-critical situation is what makes the study of the Pseudo-Clementines complicated; it vitiates any surface reading of the texts from the start because it is difficult to make any sure assertion about any one of these three authors without having a clear understanding of the other two. Also, the Circuits of Peter apparently used earlier sources, though overly speculative reconstruction of some of these sources (or supposed sources, particularly the chimeral Kerygmata Petrou, “Preachings of Peter”) muddied Pseudo-Clementine research, a state from which recent studies, with greater attention to the Circuits of Peter, are beginning to emerge. Scholarship has remained attracted to the Pseudo-Clementines particularly because they are thought to contain the perspectives of the lost Jewish Christian wing of early Christianity, for example, anti-Paulinism. Indeed, the Pseudo-Clementine Basic Writing is the greatest single repository for ancient Jewish Christian ideas. Impetus from the fields of classics, ancient Jewish studies, and church history has often driven research forward.


The text of the Pseudo-Clementines has survived only partially in its original Greek, namely, the Klementia in essentially two manuscripts, one from the tenth century and the other from 1562 to 1564 CE. Ancient Latin and Syriac translations are particularly important for access to the Greek that has gotten lost (the Recognition): Rufinus of Aquileia translated the Recognition into Latin (with certain modifications, particularly the addition of the closing section from the Klementia) in c. 406 CE; two Syriac translators rendered large portions of the Recogition and the Klementia into Syriac in the second half of the fourth century. Modern translations into English (and other European vernaculars) are useful tools for comprehending the ancient texts preserved in several languages. Ancient witnesses (excerpts or references found in ecclesiastical writers) encapsule snippets of the Klementia, the lost Greek Recognition, and even the Basic Writing and sometimes provide decisive indications for reconstructing the history of the texts. Not included here are the many medieval epitomes and translations of the Pseudo-Clementines in a variety of oriental and Western vernacular languages.

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