“ACCEPTABLE IN THE SIGHT OF THE ONE WHO MADE US”: THE RESTORATION OF CREATED IDENTITY IN 1 CLEM

In connection to the conference theme of theological anthropology, I hope to present a study of 1 Clement that emphasizes the image of God in human beings (1 Clem. 33:5) and the expectations incumbent on human beings as a result of that identity (1 Clem. 33:7-8). Historians of early Christianity increasingly emphasize the role texts serve in the construction of early Christian identity (Clark, Lieu), and 1 Clement presents fertile ground for such an analysis. As a result, numerous scholars have published perspectives on how the rhetoric of 1 Clement attempts to construct a specific Christian identity in Corinth with varying conclusions (De Wet, Kujanpää, Breytenbach, Khomych, Wilson). Each of these efforts emphasize the social, or communal identity the text seeks to inform. Drawing on Ryan Peterson’s important distinction between created and constructed identity, I aim to contribute to this discussion by shifting the focus of 1 Clement from constructed social identity to a divinely given created identity, placing the emphasis not in institutions of power (De Wet, Kujanpää) nor in the historical ideal (Breytenbach, Khomych), but in the one who created human beings. In doing so, I emphasize Clement’s call for the Corinthians to weigh their divinely given identity more heavily than their self-conceptions.
I argue that the rhetoric of 1 Clement functions to conform the social identity of the Corinthian church to that of their created identity by reminding the Corinthians of their special relationship to the Creator and Master (δημιουργός καὶ δεσπότης) and imploring them to conform to the implications of that relationship. I will first summarize the various conclusions previously cited scholars have drawn and highlight the strengths and weaknesses of each approach. Then, I demonstrate how the epistle purports that peace and harmony (εἰρήνῃ καὶ ὁμονοίᾳ) are expectations of the Master and Creator (1 Clem. 20). Finally, the epistle claims that the Creator and Master expects human beings made in his image (1 Clem. 33:5) to be active agents of good order in the world (1 Clem. 33:7-8). The Corinthian congregation has fallen short of these expectations because they have neglected their created identity. The church at Rome longs to see them live once more in accordance with that identity, conforming to “what is good and what is pleasing and what is acceptable in the sight of the one who made us” (1 Clem. 7:3).

5 thoughts on ““ACCEPTABLE IN THE SIGHT OF THE ONE WHO MADE US”: THE RESTORATION OF CREATED IDENTITY IN 1 CLEM”

  1. Yet another Baptist doctoral
    Yet another Baptist doctoral student paper! Unless the ETS program has unlimited slots, I fear we cannot take them all. Yet they are all worthy from a scholarly research point of view. As far as wide interest to our Society members, not so much. We have to balance giving younger students a shot with offering slots to more senior scholars who are thinking broadly about applicability to a wider ETS audience.

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