Friday, April 9, 2010

The Fifth Letter (Item 11): Pope Clement I to James, Jesus's Brother, For the Last Time


Who says we have to go in order? Let's make today all about James.

As everyone knows, the less illustrious son of Zebedee is also the addressee of the last letter Pseudo-Isidore ascribes to Clement. Unlike the first two Jacobian missives, though, there's no foundational document. This letter is the invention of our forgers.

The Recognitiones forms the backbone of this short piece. It starts out with exhortations towards the common life and the common use of goods. In a moment of blinding anachronism, Pseudo-Isidore has Clement write to James the Apostle that "the apostles and their disciples adhered to this manner of life." As if in compensation, a few lines later he adds parenthetically that "we were all present" when Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead (Acts 5:1-10, otherwise related more or less verbatim). Clement recalls the story as a warning to those who might try to keep any of their wealth out of communal use.

About halfway through the letter there are some vague lines about people in James's diocese who hold heretical views; there follow admonitions about the proper understanding of scripture and the divine law. And that's the whole of this, Clement's last letter to James.

Now that I've reread all the three James letters, I want to return to a point made by Fuhrmann that I reported earlier. Medieval chronological authorities, Fuhrmann noticed, have James predeceasing Peter by seven years, which makes the first of the three Clementine epistles in Pseudo-Isidore appear chronologically impossible. Fuhrmann argued that Pseudo-Isidore was unaware of this problem, for he not only included a second Clementine forgery addressed to James, but invented his own Clement-to-James missive (i.e., this one) as well.

I'm not sure that's right. Bede (along with Jerome/Eusebius) certainly has James dying in 61 and Peter living until 68. But I believe the Recognitiones also has Peter consecrating Clement well in advance of his death. Bede himself says as much (check out the Historia Ecclesiastica II.5); apparently Clement needed to be a bishop so that he could help Peter evangelize. This means that when Peter chose Clement to succeed him in the preface to the Recognitiones, Clement was already a bishop, and had been for some time.

Now only the first Clement letter mentions Peter's death at all, and there of course the chronological error is not Pseudo-Isidore's fault. He's inherited it, as we said before. The second Clement letter says not a word about Peter's death, though the address styles Clement as "Romanae ecclesiae praesul." Once again, as the address comes from the underlying foundation document, it implies nothing about Pseudo-Isidore's knowledge.

Only in the final Clement/James letter do we get an address that Pseudo-Isidore has actually composed himself. And how does that address read?

Behold:

"Dilectissimis fratribus et condiscipulis Hierosolimis cum carissimo fratre Iacobo coepiscopo habitantibus Clemens episcopus."

That is: "To beloved brothers and codisciples dwelling in Jerusalem, together with his dear brother and cobishop James -- the bishop Clement."

No see for Clement!

This is not all that at all unusual in the broader context of the forged decretals; I'd estimate that Pseudo-Isidore has his popes describing themselves as nothing more than episcopi -- without any gesture towards their see -- about ten percent of the time about half the time (corrected now that I've embarked upon a serious survey of the addresses). Of the five Clementine epistles that occur in Pseudo-Isidore, though, this is the only one with an address that does not describe Clement as bishop of Rome. I think it's at least worth considering that our forgers might, in fact, have been aware of the problem with making Clement a pope (at least explicitly) while James was still alive.

(I hasten to add that the rubric heading the fifth Clement letter does refer to "Clemens papa": but I think there's plenty of room to read that retrospectively.)

SCORECARD

Recipient: James

Date: none

Sources: Recognitiones, the Bible, and a few bits from that 567 Council of Tours that we also found in the second letter

Lines: 50

Cross references: none

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