Introductory Notice to Two Epistles Concerning Virginity
By Professor M. B. Riddle, D.D.
Among the "Pseudo-Clementina" the Two Epistles concerning Virginity must properly be placed. The evidence against the genuineness seems conclusive; yet, with the exception of the homily usually styled the Second Epistle of Clement,1 no spurious writings attributed to the great Roman Father can be assigned an earlier date than these two letters. Uhlhorn, in view of the reference to the sub-introductae thinks they were written shortly before the time of Cyprian;2 and this seems very probable. Jerome was acquainted with the writings (Ad Jovinum, i. 12), and possibly Epiphanius (Haer., xxx. 15). Hence we may safely allow an early date Yet these evidences of age tell against the genuineness.
I. Early works of this character would not have disappeared from notice to such an extent, had they been authenticated as writings of Clement. Supporting, as they do, the ascetic tendency prevalent in the Western Church at and after the date when they are first noticed by Christian writers, they would have been carefully preserved and frequently cited, had they been genuine. The name of the great Roman Father would have been so weighty, that the advocates of celibacy would have kept the documents in greater prominence. The silence of Eusebius respecting the letters is an important fact in this discussion.
2. A second argument against the genuineness is derived from the ascetic tone itself. Such pronounced statements are not, we must firmly hold, to be found in the Christian literature of the sub-apostolic age. This historical argument is further sustained by other indications in the epistles. They point to a stage of ecclesiastical development which belongs to a much later period than that of Clement.
3. The use of Scripture in these letters seems to be conclusive against the Clementine authorship. A comparison with the citations in the genuine Epistle of Clement shows that these writings make much greater use of the Pauline (particularly the Pastoral) Epistles; that the Old Testament is less frequently cited, and that the mode of handling proof-texts is that of a later age.
4. The judgment of the most candid patristic scholars is against the genuineness. Of Protestants, Wetstein stands alone in supporting the Clementine authorship; and his position is readily explained by the fact that he discovered the Syriac version which restored the writings to modern scholars (see below). The genuineness is defended by Villecourt and Beelen (see below), also by Möhler, Champagny, and Brück. But such experts as Mansi, Hefele, Alzog, and Funk, among Roman Catholics, unite with Protestant scholars in assigning a later date, and consequently in denying the Clementine authorship.