Why were Clement's letters not included in the canon?


#1

Did the Church decide they didn’t have apostolic approval?


#2

What exactly is Apostolic approval?

CARose


#3

Mark, Luke, and Jude weren’t apostles, so I would imagine the canonicity of their works was based largely on their acceptance by the apostles, or the apostolic approval.


#4

Why were Clement’s letters not included in the canon?

Because the Holy Spirit did not motivate the Church to include them. This does NOT mean these writings are “bad” or in error - it simply means they were not written at the direction of the Spirit.


#5

The writings included in the New Testament when it was finalized in the fourth century were limited to those which could be authenticated, and which were the testimony of either the apostles themselves or their pupil/scribes. For the sake of this, Paul was recognized as having been commissioned by Jesus as an apostle after the resurrection.

Matthew is presumed to be written by the tax-collector apostle, although some scholars dispute this. Mark (John Mark) was Peter’s scribe. Luke, who wrote both the gospel and Acts, was Paul’s biographer/scribe. John was the apostle, the younger son of Zebedee.

Of the various letters, the only one who’s author is not definitively identified is the Letter to the Hebrews; if not written by Paul it was probably outlined and approved by him. Jude is the apostle named in Luke Ch 6 as “Judas son of James” and Mark/Matthew as “Thaddeus.” The Apocalypse, which almost was not accepted into the New Testament, is believed by most to have been written by the same John who wrote the gospel, when he was imprisoned by the Romans.

Clement, although being taught by the apostles and having written much that was notable, was neither an apostle himself, nor did he act as their scribe. It is unfortunate that his writings, therefore, were omitted, but a line had to be drawn somewhere. Admitting his writings into the New Testament, while denying the same privilege to the other notable second-generation Christians was something that could not be reconciled, and might have opened a “Pandora’s Box.”


#6

[quote=michaelgazin]Mark, Luke, and Jude weren’t apostles, so I would imagine the canonicity of their works was based largely on their acceptance by the apostles, or the apostolic approval.
[/quote]

St Jude, also called Thadeus, was one of the original twelve Apostles. Ss Mark and Luke, while not numbered among the twelve Apostles were certainly contemporaries with the Twelve and many other firsthand witnesses of Jesus, and may have been firsthand witnesses themselves. St Clement was the fourth pope, from AD 88-97 according to the Catholic Encyclopedia. It is almost certain that St Clement was not a firsthand witness of Jesus, and probable that he had not met any of the other Apostles or firsthand witnesses either, probably with the exception of St Peter. The editors of the Canon may have wished to give priority to accounts from firsthand sources.


#7

So, when we talk of the early Church being guided in determining the New Testament canon, essentially we just mean that they determined what was written by apostles or their close workers. I understand it may have been more difficult back then, but it would seem that anyone with enough facts could determine what to include in the NT canon without be divinely guided. I was hoping that Clement received some sort of apostolic acceptence, because in that way the Church could declare it was the working of the Holy Spirit that led them to excluded his letters. When it is only a matter of facts however, it seems anyone that knew enough about the writings could have developed the canon with as much accuracy as the infallible Church. Why is so much emphasis put on this in apologetics, claiming that if it wasn’t for the Church, no one would have a clue about the NT canon. With the criteria that it had to be from an apostle, or someone they associated with, how much divine guidance was really needed to determine this?


#8

[quote=michaelgazin]Did the Church decide they didn’t have apostolic approval?
[/quote]

For a very detailed treatment of the development of the Canon of the New Testament, visit:

newadvent.org/cathen/03274a.htm


#9

Well, it was the Church that determined the criteria for inclusion, and the Church that determined which books would be included. There was some early thought given to including Clement, but eventually, for the reasons mentioned above, his letter was not included in the canon.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth reading. He was, after all, the 4th bishop of Rome, the 4th pope.


#10

The subject of the Bible is revelation. With the passing of the Apostles, public revelation is closed. it was proper to include documents written FOR the apostles, as well as documents written based on personal contact with the Apostles.

But Clemen’t epistles are too far removed – if we included Clement, why not John Paul II and all the popes in between?


#11

[quote=michaelgazin]So, when we talk of the early Church being guided in determining the New Testament canon, essentially we just mean that they determined what was written by apostles or their close workers… It would seem that anyone with enough facts could determine what to include in the NT canon without be divinely guided. I was hoping that Clement received some sort of apostolic acceptence, because in that way the Church could declare it was the working of the Holy Spirit that led them to excluded his letters. When it is only a matter of facts however, it seems anyone that knew enough about the writings could have developed the canon with as much accuracy as the infallible Church… With the criteria that it had to be from an apostle, or someone they associated with, how much divine guidance was really needed to determine this?
[/quote]

I have to admit you make a good point for which I don’t have a ready answer. The best response that I can make is that I believe you are grossly oversimplifying the process and overestimating the availability of evidence the Church councils had to work with.

The NT canon was compiled and formally accepted some 300 years after Christ walked the earth, and took the efforts of several church councils between 325 and 381 AD. In the world of 1700 years ago, when entire historical records could be wiped out forever by an accidental fire, attempting to verify the authenticity of 300-year-old documents was FAR more difficult than it is today.

The councils which formalized the NT canon had to consider about 20 “apostolic gospels” before selecting four, and some 200 “apostolic letters” before finally selecting the 21 that we now have. And there were some other notable works of likely apostolic origin, such as the Didache (aka The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles), which were omitted for reasons that are not altogether clear to us today. The councils wanted to include ALL of the truly authentic, verifiable documents, but wound up eliminating nearly 90%. It was not possible to complete this task without at least SOME divine guidance.

The task was compounded by the many local churches which had early Christian writings they truly believed (but couldn’t prove) to be authentic, which had been copied and widely disseminated, and for which they lobbied fiercely to be included. Just trying to cull through the mess and deal with the advocates of the various presumed “apostolic” documents DEFINITELY required the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

All this was BEFORE trying to authenticate other non-apostolic first-century documents such as Clement’s. As I said before, a line had to be drawn somewhere. I would argue that, in and of itself, the painful decision to cap the considered documents to apostolic-only had to have been the WORKING of the Holy Spirit.


#12

Everyone has it wrong. Clement’s letters were not included in the canon, because it was not handed down in apostolic Tradition that his letters were inspired.

That is the sole reason. Remember, St. Paul wrote at least two other letters that were not included in the canon, because it was not handed down in apostolic Tradition that his letters were inspired. By apostolic Tradition we mean that God revealed to the apostles which books were inspired and this revelation was handed down through the bishops of the Church. This revelation was not clear, so the Church held councils to determine which books met the criteria of being handed down in apostolic Tradition as being inspired.

The Catechism teaches:
120. It was by the apostolic Tradition that the Church discerned which writings are to be included in the list of the sacred books**.**

All public revelation ended with the apostles. Thus the revelation of which books were inspired had to come from them, and they learned it from God Himself.
All the Church did was to discern which books were handed down in apostolic Tradition as inspired. The criteria was apostolic Tradition.

Now, lets clear up some confusion. This does NOT mean that only the inspired writings are the word of God. After all, the Gospel that Jesus taught and preached was NOT inspired, but it was the Word of God. Inspired simply means that God wrote it, instead of taught it. Since Jesus taught His Gospel, by definition it cannot be inspired.
The Gospel the apostles taught and preached was NOT inspired, but it was the Word of God, since they learned it from God, (Jesus and the Holy Spirit)
This Gospel that they preached and taught has been handed down in apostolic Tradition through the succession of bishops. This same exact Gospel is taught by the Church today and it is presented in the Catechisms of the Catholic Church. In other words, the basic teachings of the creed, sacraments, commandments and prayer, including the teachings on purgatory, prayer to saints, special honor to Mary, the sacraments of confession, the Eucharist, etc,. the authority of the Popes, etc, are all part of the Gospel the apostels taught and preached. The Catechism of the Catholic Church contains the whole Gospel that the apostles taught and preached. Since these teachings of the Catechism come from the apostles, who learned from God, then the teachings of the Catechism are the Word of God, thus equal to scripture. And since they are the Word of God, they are without error. Now, the Catechisms says only some of the apostolic teachings were written in scripture. And as most apologists know, few or no teachings in scripture are explicit and clear, but all the fundamental teachings of apostolic Tradition are explicit and clear, (that is why all the Church fathers agreed on the fundamental teachings) and since scripture must be interpreted according to apostlic Tradition, then the teachings of the Catechisms must be learned first and understood before the teachings of scripture can be understood.


#13

[quote="Nan_S, post:11, topic:22425"]

The councils which formalized the NT canon had to consider about 20 "apostolic gospels" before selecting four, and some 200 "apostolic letters" before finally selecting the 21 that we now have. And there were some other notable works of likely apostolic origin, such as the Didache (aka The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles), which were omitted for reasons that are not altogether clear to us today. The councils wanted to include ALL of the truly authentic, verifiable documents, but wound up eliminating nearly 90%. It was not possible to complete this task without at least SOME divine guidance.

[/quote]

Source?


#14

[quote="Joseph_Bilodeau, post:6, topic:22425"]
St Jude, also called Thadeus, was one of the original twelve Apostles. Ss Mark and Luke, while not numbered among the twelve Apostles were certainly contemporaries with the Twelve and many other firsthand witnesses of Jesus, and may have been firsthand witnesses themselves. St Clement was the fourth pope, from AD 88-97 according to the Catholic Encyclopedia. It is almost certain that St Clement was not a firsthand witness of Jesus, and probable that he had not met any of the other Apostles or firsthand witnesses either, probably with the exception of St Peter. The editors of the Canon may have wished to give priority to accounts from firsthand sources.

[/quote]

Clement was a disciple of Peter and Paul.
Polycarp was a disciple of John.
Ignatius of Antioch was a disciple of Peter and John.


#15

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.