Monday, April 03, 2006

Haustafeln in 1 Clement

The advice for families in Ephesians, Colossians, and 1 Peter, as structured by the relationship of husband-wife, parent-child, and master-servant, are often called haustafeln or "house rules." There are other such "house rules" in early Christian literature as well. That in 1 Clement, a truly magnificent piece of Christian exhortation, is well worth citing. Clement of Rome, one of the college of bishops/elders at Rome responsible for dealings with other churches (Shepherd of Hermas, Vis. II.4) is writing in around 96 AD to the church of Corinth, to make peace between a faction of younger men who have ejected some of the elders/bishops in their churches. Thus he begins by painting a picture of the peace and order that should reign in the church:

For you did all things without respect of persons, and walked in the laws of God, obedient to your rulers [hegoumenoi], and paying all fitting honor to the elders [presbyteroi] among you. On the young, too, you enjoined temperate and seemly thoughts, and to the women you gave instruction that they should do all things with a blameless and seemly and pure conscience, yielding a dutiful affection to their husbands. And you taught them to remain in the rule of obedience and to manage their households with seemliness, in all circumspection. And you were all humble-minded and in no wise arrogant, yielding subjection rather than demanding it, "giving more gladly than receiving," satisfied with the provision of Christ, and paying attention to His words you stored them up carefully in your hearts, and kept his sufferings before your eyes (1 Clement 1:3-2:1).

Passages from the Old Testament and reminders of the harmony reigning in the heavens alternate with passages of exhortation to humility and peace, like this:

Let us observe how near He [that is, the Lord Jesus Christ] is, and that nothing escapes Him of our thoughts or of the devices we make. It is right, therefore, that we should not be deserters from His will. Let us offend foolish and thoughtless men, who are exalted and boast in the pride of their words, rather than God. Let us reverence the Lord Jesus Christ, whose blood was given for us, let us respect those who rule us [proegoumenoi], let us honor the elders [presbyteroi], let us instruct the young in the fear of God, let us lead our wives to that which is good. Let them [that is, our wives] exhibit the lovely habit of purity, let them make the gentleness of their tongue manifest by their silence, let them not given their affection by factious preference, but in holiness to all equally who fear God. Let our children share in the instruction which is in Christ, let them learn the strength of humility before God, the power of pure love before God, how beautiful and great is His fear and how it gives salvation to all who live holily in it with a pure mind. For He is the searcher of thoughts and desires; His breath is in us, and when He will He shall take it away (1 Clement 21:3-9).

And after further citations of things from nature offering signs of the resurrection of the dead, and of citations from the Old Testament about the examples offered by the patriarchs, he reminds us:

And if anyone will candidly consider [the faith of the patriarchs] in detail, he will recognize the greatness of the gifts given by God. For from Jacob come the priests and all the Levites, who serve the altar of God, from him comes the Lord Jesus according to the flesh, from him come the kings and rulers and governors in the succession of Judah, and the other scepters of his tribes are in no small renown seeing that God promised that "thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven." All of them therefore were all renowned and magnified, not through themselves or their own works or the righteousness actions which they had wrought, but through His will. And therefore we who by His will have been called in Christ Jesus are not made righteous by ourselves, or by our wisdom or understanding or piety or the deeds which we have wrought in holiness of heart, but through faith, by which Almighty God has justified all men from the beginning of the world; to Him be glory for ever and ever.

What shall we do, then, brethren? Shall we be slothful in well-doing and cease from love? May the Master forbid that this should happen, at least to us, but let us be zealous to accomplish every good dead with energy and readiness. (1 Clement 32:1-33.2)

Altogether a noble introduction to his theme that frowardness and arrogance and boldness belong to those that are accursed by God, gentleness and humility and meekness are with those who are blessed by God (30:8).

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