The Apostolic Fathers, Part 3: The First Epistle of Clement

Possibly the most detailed insight into the first century successors of the Apostles is to be found in 1st Clement, a pastoral letter written by the eponymous Clement the fourth bishop of Rome around 96 AD to second-generation believers in Corinth where the church was in turmoil with the bishops ejected by the laity (Staniforth & Louth, 1986, pp.19-20). The Clement in question has been forwarded as being the man of Philippians 4:3 but his identity is not known for certain; all that is known is from the text itself which shows a bishop who did not hold a lofty view of his own authority considering his incessant emphasis on the humility of bishop’s, whom he often calls presbyters, and never is there a mention of an archbishop, cardinal, or bishop over bishops as the later Latin and Greek Churches would claim. Aside from that he exhibits an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures and never makes a slight against them, a fact pertinent to our argument that the original believers in Yahshuah did not abrogate the Torah and were betrayed by the mainline Christian Church which sought to get away from Judaism in favour of Greco-Roman philosophy and mysticism, ensuing the numerous splits and confusions which have characterised Christian history.

The Letter is too long for a thorough commentary so we will content ourselves with the portions which concern our investigation of the origins of Christianity. Beginning in ch.5 (p.25) Peter and Paul are lauded equally, contrary to Ebonites who would insist that Paul was a schismatic who hijacked the early congregation, here he and Peter are presented as being on the same side. Clement also states that Paul travelled all the way to Spain as he promised to do in Romans 15:24.

Ch.7 Clements endorses the doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement, saying “Let us fix our thoughts on the blood of Christ; and reflect how precious that Blood is in God’s eyes, inasmuch as its outpouring for our salvation has opened the grace of repentance to all mankind.”

Ch.20 (p.31) Clement certainly drew on the Stoics for some of his language and emphasis on harmony in a community, yet he rebukes the speculations and hypotheses of the pagan philosophers by affirming the Biblical teaching that the Earth is flat. “The heavens, as they revolve beneath His [God’s] government”. “[The heavenly bodies] none swerving from its appointed orbit”. “Laws of the same kind sustain the fathomless deeps of the abyss and the untold regions of the underworld. Nor does the illimitable basin of the sea… overflow at any time the barriers encircling it”. “The impassable Ocean and all the worlds that lie beyond it are themselves ruled by the like ordinances of the Lord”. Later in ch.27 (p.34) he cites Psalm 19:1 “The heavens are a proclamation of God’s glory, and the firmament a declaration of his handiwork” in reference to the dome which arches over the Earth’s surface. It may be that this lengthy reference to the shape of the Earth was an attempt to resist the Hellenic globe theory, but it could be as easily argued contrary because Clement is obviously in the habit of digressing on many topics, including his apparent belief in the Phoenix (pp.33-34) and tangling Tanak quotations together to stretch out a point. I am undecided on the matter.

Ch.22 (p.32) He endorses the doctrine of Irresistible Grace: “All these promises find their confirmation when we believe in Christ, for it is He Himself who summons us, through His Holy Spirit”.

Ch.24 (p.33) He supports the doctrine of the resurrection which he holds to be supported by Elohim with “proof after proof”, not a Platonic heaven where souls escape to after death.

Ch.40-41 (pp.39-40) Unlike the Letter to Diognetus of second century vintage Clement in no way criticises the Jewish customs and culture expounded in the Torah, on the contrary he shows a deep and detailed understanding of these things. He does not adhere to the system of sacrifices himself but speaks of Messianic rituals and services being “In the same way” as the Jews ceremonies “when we offer our own Eucharist to God”. He explains further that unlike the Jews “we ourselves have been given so much fuller knowledge”. The message to take away is that the sacrificial offerings of the Jews were for Clement and the early believers abrogated but not to be derided, insulted, or ignored. This clear interest in the Jewish priesthood is expressed again in ch.43 (pp.40-41)

Ch.42 (p.40) In his introduction to the letter Andrew Louth as a professor of theology seeks to find any proof of the Trinity in the early church and calls the following “remarkable Trinitarian utterances ‘Have not all the same God, and the same Christ? Is not the same Spirit of grace shed upon us all?’; ‘As surely as God lives, as Jesus Christ lives, and the Holy Spirit live also’” (p.21). This is an unfounded leap without evidence, Clement nowhere affirms God to be three in one or anything of the sort, he is naming the most important figures in all creation, God, His Son, and His Spirit (and appears to believe the Holy Ghost to be a person in his own right). It is all opposed by ch.42 where Clement supposes Yahshuah to be subordinate to God “Jesus Christ was sent from God. That is to say, Christ received His commission from God and the Apostles theirs from Christ.” He also makes a point about bishops and deacons which he declares to be “in no way an innovation… there is a text that says, I will confirm their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith” [he is citing the Septuagint Isaiah 60:17]. The whole letter however meandering is dedicated to combating anarchist and libertine tendencies in Corinth, imploring the laity to restore their lawful leadership and to submit to proper authority.

Ch.51 (p.44) Clement does not mention anywhere that the damned will be tortured forever, the most he says of death is in relation to the opponents of Moses “for they went down to the grave alive, and death shall be their shepherd”; he has little else to say of their fate other than that they will die.

Ch.64 (p.49) He both affirms the subordination of Yahshuah to Yahovah, and indicates a belief in Predestination “Lord of all flesh, who has chosen the Lord Jesus Christ, and through Him ourselves to be a people for His possession”.

If one is interested in devotional reading then I recommend Matthew Henry’s commentary or the letters of Samuel Rutherford, 1st Clement’s style is self-indulgent, meandering, and often tedious but it is probably the earliest messianic text written after the New Testament and by a bishop of authority and humility, and tremendous knowledge of Scripture and Jewish tradition. Aside from the curious passage where he talks about the Phoenix he confirms Biblical doctrines on Predestination, the ‘Godhead’ or lack thereof, the shape of the world, and Irresistible Grace, and says little of offence to a Nazarene believer.

The Ulsterman

Staniforth. Maxwell & Louth. Andrew (ed.) The Apostolic Fathers: Early Christian Writings (2nd ed.) (Penguin Books: London, 1986)

The Apostolic Fathers, Part 2: The Apocalypse of Peter

Following from our discussion of Letter to Diognetus the Apocalypse of Peter is a natural sequel. It is widely thought among scholars that this apocryphal document was written in the early 2nd century (James, 1924, p. 504) and is connected to the fraudulent letters of Second Peter and Jude. In the Bible there are many references to the fate of the unsaved which state that they will be obliterated from all of history, however in passages about the Lake of Fire, fires and bodies in Hell, and especially the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), should one so desire, they can read into the text a narrative of a torture chamber awaiting the damned. This error is pervasive even among the most committed believers because of a shallow reading of relevant passages and having a prejudice in favour of the eternal torture theory which has its first detailed presentation not in the New Testament (or New Covenant) writings, but with this ‘Apocalypse’ attributed to Peter. The author shows a knowledge of the Book of Revelation and the Transfiguration, supposing then that he read at least one of the Synoptic Gospels (James, 1924, p.512), and the work presents itself as a vision of when the dead will be raised and cast into Hell (ibid.) implying that early Christian heretics did not believe that the soul leaves its body at the point of death and goes straight to Heaven or Hell. At this time already the Pharisees held a view of Hell as “an ever-lasting prison” (Josephus, quoted in Stern, 2016, p.1403), but the Apocalypse of Peter shows strong Hellenic leanings in referring to Heaven as “Elysium” (James, 1924, p.518), a Greek name and concept which Jews would have refrained from using.

Aside from these thoughts the text is to be found only in pieces with differences between the Greek and Ethiopian versions (possibly embellished?) Its content is actually not at all interesting except in illustrating what the doctrine of eternal torture can do to a man’s mind; most it is a dreary succession of imaginative scenes of torture and violence which would unsettle even modern readers. Peter the Apostle is certainly not its author, aside from the clear discrepancy in time – Revelation was written about 70 AD when Peter would have been very old if not already martyred around 65 AD (Staniforth & Louth, 1987, p.20), so the Apocalypse must have been written after his death. Stylistic differences prove our case also, the Biblical Peter is shown in the Gospels and his work, 1st Peter, to be a warm, gentle, though volatile man who could not have possibly relished describing violence and torment as this author clearly did. What it does parallel is the violent and polemical tone of 2nd Peter and Jude and many scholars believe all three to be of the same hand or from associated authors.


James. M R, The New Testament Apocrypha (Apocryphile Press: California, 1924)

Staniforth. Maxwell & Louth. Andrew (ed.) The Apostolic Fathers: Early Christian Writings (2nd ed.) (Penguin Books: London, 1986)

Stern. David, The Complete Jewish Study Bible (Hendrikson Publishers Marketing, LL.C: Massachusetts, 2016)

The Apostolic Fathers, Part 1: The Epistle to Diognetus

I shall now begin a series reviewing the writings of the ‘Apostolic Fathers’, men claimed to be the second generation of preachers and teachers of the faith after the Apostles of Yahshuah, indeed some claimed to have been tutored by the Apostles themselves. Some of these works were even forwarded as candidates for the New Testament canon which was being debated at Nicaea in 325. The intention here is to study from Judaising Nazarene perspective these purported heirs of the original disciples, where they went right and wrong; hopefully we shall explode the claims of the Christian Churches that their orthodoxy – the Sunday Sabbath, the Trinity, and so on – has been the original creed of believers in Yahshuah. It will help in developing our understanding of what the first century congregation believed and practised. These Fathers have been little known for much of history given the rarity of their works and how the later ‘Church Fathers’ upstaged them with their more profuse works, but I cannot help but suspect that it is also because the Apostolic Fathers did not reflect later Christian thinking and were omitted from Church discourse in later centuries just as were the Nazarenes. The work in question is a letter written to a wealthy pagan, Diognetus, by an anonymous Christian arguing for his faith, written between 120 and 200 AD. All quotations are from Staniforth & Louth, 1987 unless stated otherwise.

Ch.1-2 (pp. 142-143) After opening salutations the author shows a familiarity with at least some of the Tanakh, specifically Isaiah 44:9-20 which he paraphrases in his ridicule of idols.

Ch.3-4 (pp. 143-144) He shifts from the pagans to “the Jews” whom he assails for supposing that they have a faith set apart from the Gospel. I believe that he is lumping the Nazarenes in with unsaved Jews, their church in Jerusalem kept the Torah entirely for many years and was the “standard of orthodoxy” and was treated as a “venerable parent” (Gibbon, 2005, pp.128-129). My reasoning is that were the author attacking only the unsaved Jews he would criticise them only for not believing in Yahshuah as their king and Messiah, yet not once in this chapter does he mention salvation, he even admits that “they may fairly claim to be devotees of the one true God”. All he attacks them for is their customs and Torah, “their sacrificial duty to [God] by means of blood and fat”, a sentiment which alone we would commend, but it is in the context of him attacking “their scrupulousness about meats”, “their superstitions about the Sabbath”, and he calls circumcision a “bodily mutilation” regardless of Acts 15 where Paul circumcises a man. He tops his ridicule of the Torah by describing them as “all too nonsensical to be worth discussing”, which to impartial eyes is a crass way of dismissing the Torah and Judaiser arguments, such as the fact that Yashuah and the Apostles celebrated traditional Jewish festivals (John 2:13, 13:19, Matt 26:17-19, Mark 14:13) which Christian apologists have since craftily avoided discussing as the author does here.

Ch. 5-6 (pp. 144-145) He proceeds to sketch the ideal Christian community, laudable features include a communal attitude, each is “free to share his neighbour’s table, but never his marriage bed”, not exposing their infants, and acting fully as citizens wherever they live, but also reveals the deep-laid internationalism in Christian thinking: “For them, any foreign country is a motherland, and nay motherland is a foreign country”, and it Gnosticism with his claims that the soul is immortal, indivisible, and “inhabits the body” even though the “flesh hates the soul”. Such a doctrine of the soul contradicts the beating heart of Biblical truth, the promise of resurrection and the restoration of eternal life which our common father Adam squandered.

Ch. 7 (p. 146) Speaking of the nature of revelation and knowledge derived therefrom he describes as “[God’s] own holy and incomprehensible Word”, it strikes me that here is a foreshadowing of the Roman, Orthodox, and later Anabaptist Churches opinion that revelation is clouded window through which only an enlightened few can see. This is contrary to the essence of revealed religion, that mortal and divine can communicate clearly with one another.

But elsewhere in this chapter he affirms the Bible’s teaching on the shape of the Earth – “[Jesus] set the seas in their bounds” – proving that at least some truth was held at this time before the Christian Church became more fully apostate. This is evidenced equally by his exalting of Yahshuah as he by whom God made all things and as God’s messenger, but not once does the author declare him God or God’s equal. To the Trinitarians we must ask, where is the Trinity in the early Church?

Ch.8-9 (pp. 146-148) He elaborates on the Incarnation of Yahshuah and again mentions no Trinity or Godhead. He also makes clear his belief in Penal Substitutionary Atonement and in Total Depravity, better called the Total Inability of man to save himself and gain life. “[God] bore with us, and in pity He took our sins upon Himself and gave His own Son as a ransom for us”.

Ch.10-12 (pp. 148-150) He strongly endorses Genesis’s teaching that man has a special place in and dominion over nature, and that we are blessed with reason and understanding, true though inconsistent with his irrationalist view of revelation in chapter seven. But this is followed by his assertion that the wicked will face “the real death” of eternal torture in fire, a position we know to be theologically wrong. (The next article in this series will be the Apocalypse of Peter.) He concludes with a long-winded mediation on salvation in which he claims to be “an instructor of the Greeks now, I was a pupil of the Apostles once” yet attacks the Jews in broad terms for having “despised” the Messiah who the gentiles followed, a curious claim since all of his early followers were Jews, including the writer’s mentors. But he affirms the Virgin Birth and interestingly if vaguely says that “the Lord’s Passover goes forward”, if Christianity as currently constituted was the faith of the Apostles then Easter would have been the term to use, but at this early stage in Christian history they still used a Jewish holiday.

The Ulsterman


Gibbon. Edward, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Abridged Edition), David Womersley (ed.) (Penguin Books: London, 2005) pp. 128-129

Staniforth. Maxwell & Louth. Andrew (ed.) The Apostolic Fathers: Early Christian Writings (2nd ed.) (Penguin Books: London, 1986)

The Fall of the Nazarenes

HISTORY OF THE DECLINE AND FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE by Edward Gibbon, Vol. I, Chapter XV: Progress Of The Christian Religion.—Part II.

“The history of the church of Jerusalem affords a lively proof of the necessity of those precautions, and of the deep impression which the Jewish religion had made on the minds of its sectaries. The first fifteen bishops of Jerusalem were all circumcised Jews; and the congregation over which they presided united the law of Moses with the doctrine of Christ. 17 It was natural that the primitive tradition of a church which was founded only forty days after the death of Christ, and was governed almost as many years under the immediate inspection of his apostle, should be received as the standard of orthodoxy. The distant churches very frequently appealed to the authority of their venerable Parent, and relieved her distresses by a liberal contribution of alms. But when numerous and opulent societies were established in the great cities of the empire, in Antioch, Alexandria, Ephesus, Corinth, and Rome, the reverence which Jerusalem had inspired to all the Christian colonies insensibly diminished. 18b The Jewish converts, or, as they were afterwards called, the Nazarenes, who had laid the foundations of the church, soon found themselves overwhelmed by the increasing multitudes, that from all the various religions of polytheism enlisted under the banner of Christ: and the Gentiles, who, with the approbation of their peculiar apostle, had rejected the intolerable weight of the Mosaic ceremonies, at length refused to their more scrupulous brethren the same toleration which at first they had humbly solicited for their own practice. The ruin of the temple of the city, and of the public religion of the Jews, was severely felt by the Nazarenes; as in their manners, though not in their faith, they maintained so intimate a connection with their impious countrymen, whose misfortunes were attributed by the Pagans to the contempt, and more justly ascribed by the Christians to the wrath, of the Supreme Deity. The Nazarenes retired from the ruins of Jerusalem 18 to the little town of Pella beyond the Jordan, where that ancient church languished above sixty years in solitude and obscurity. 19 They still enjoyed the comfort of making frequent and devout visits to the Holy City, and the hope of being one day restored to those seats which both nature and religion taught them to love as well as to revere. But at length, under the reign of Hadrian, the desperate fanaticism of the Jews filled up the measure of their calamities; and the Romans, exasperated by their repeated rebellions, exercised the rights of victory with unusual rigor. The emperor founded, under the name of Aelia Capitolina, a new city on Mount Sion, 20 to which he gave the privileges of a colony; and denouncing the severest penalties against any of the Jewish people who should dare to approach its precincts, he fixed a vigilant garrison of a Roman cohort to enforce the execution of his orders. The Nazarenes had only one way left to escape the common proscription, and the force of truth was on this occasion assisted by the influence of temporal advantages. They elected Marcus for their bishop, a prelate of the race of the Gentiles, and most probably a native either of Italy or of some of the Latin provinces. At his persuasion, the most considerable part of the congregation renounced the Mosaic law, in the practice of which they had persevered above a century. By this sacrifice of their habits and prejudices, they purchased a free admission into the colony of Hadrian, and more firmly cemented their union with the Catholic church. 21

21  [ Eusebius, l. iv. c. 6. Sulpicius Severus, ii. 31. By comparing their unsatisfactory accounts, Mosheim (p. 327, &c.) has drawn out a very distinct representation of the circumstances and motives of this revolution.]

Eusebius states in Church History, Book IV C. 6,

“4. And thus, when the city had been emptied of the Jewish nation and had suffered the total destruction of its ancient inhabitants, it was colonized by a different race, and the Roman city which subsequently arose changed its name and was called Ælia, in honor of the emperor Ælius Adrian. And as the church there was now composed of Gentiles, the first one to assume the government of it after the bishops of the circumcision was Marcus.”

This city of Aelia we know to have arisen in 135 A.D.

Critique of the so-called Second Letter of Peter by The Ulsterman

[This article introduces a new supporter and contributor to this platform, The Ulsterman. Give him a warm welcome guys.]

Thesis: I shall critique this letter attributed to Peter, arguing that it is incongruent with the teachings of the rest of the Scriptural canon, and is certainly not the work of the Apostle Peter.

  1. This epistle begins by introducing the author as Peter, somewhat similarly to the introductory verse of 1st Peter, but then gives us with an ambiguous reference to the alleged divine power of Messiah in verse 3 “According as his [Christ’s] divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” when Yahshuah made clear that his power was entirely derivative of God’s (the lengthiest statement being John 5:25-37; Revelation 1:1 likewise tells that the revelation was given from Yahovah to His son, and then on to an angel then John, consistent with Matthew 24:36.) This would not be of concern but for the following verse:

“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (1:4)

  1. This phrase “partakers of the divine nature” is the basis of the Orthodox and Catholic doctrine of deification, in my Orthodox Study Bible (St Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology, 2008) a page-long study article is dedicated to this notion that “we participate in God’s energy… We become like God by His grace” or as the Catholic Catechism blasphemes in Chapter 2, Article 3, Point 460:

“460: The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”: 78 For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.”79 “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.”80 “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.” [Bold added]

One’s nature is the defining and determining attributes of oneself, not mysterious energies into which others can partake, and the Bible throughout states that Yahovah is not a disembodied mind or force as Christian theologians teach; they teach Plato’s God, not Abraham’s.

  1. The verses 1:10 and 2:20 exhibit another heresy, the first implying and the second openly claiming that it is possible to lose grace once held:

“1:10 Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall:

2:20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.” [Bold added]

Our salvation is then unsure and endlessly in question which contradicts 1st Peter, the real Peter, 1:23-25:

“23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.

24 For all flesh [is] as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away:

25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”

But then which of these two letters is consistent with Scripture? Could it be that 1st Peter is the forgery of the heretic? Paul answers in Romans 8:35-39 vindicating 1st Peter and the Reformed doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints:

“35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written,  For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

  1. The second and third chapters show great parallels with the little book of Jude, leading to the popular argument that one is derivative of the other, or both are of common source. Second Peter has parallels with Jude in: 1:5 with Jude 3; 1:12 with Jude 5; 2:1 with Jude 4; 2:4 with Jude 6; 2:5 with Jude 5; 2:6 with Jude 7; 2:10–11 with Jude 8–9; 2:12 with Jude 10; 2:13–17 with Jude 11–13; 2:18 with Jude 16; 3:2f with Jude 17f; 3:3 with Jude 18; 3:14 with Jude 24; and 3:18 with Jude 25.
  1. There are wild differences of style between 1st and 2nd Peter, the 2nd parallels Jude in having a polemic, almost ranting tone, and whereas 1st Peter has eleven direct quotations of Scripture the 2nd has with many paraphrasing’s and allusions but only one quotation.
  1. Jude claims, drawing on the fraudulent Book of Enoch for his evidence, that fallen angels are chained up in some dungeon awaiting judgements:

“6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day…

Likewise 2nd Peter argues that the sinful angels are “cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment” the word translated as ‘cast them down into hell’ being Strong’s 5020 ‘tartaroó’ ‘I thrust down to Tartarus’. (

A true Jew as Peter assuredly was would never cite ancient Greek mythology as the author does here, Tartarus being both the deity and the place in Greek legend where under the Earth the titans were imprisoned by Zeus. (See: If I were a speculative man, I would hypothesise that the inspiration for Enoch, Jude and 2nd Peter is this pagan mythology, which directly contradicts the Bible’s teaching about angels and hell. Job 1 and 2 depict Satan as wandering across the flat Earth, not caged under it, “Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, From going to and fro in the earth, and from walking up and down in it.” Isaiah 66:24 tells us from his brief glimpse into Hell that “they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh” not the spectacle of a third of the heavenly host in chains.

Revelation 20:13 prophesises that Hell “death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them”, so there are bodies there, but only corpses, not live angels.

  1. Another parallel to Jude is the reference to ‘brute beasts’ (2 Peter 2:12, Jude 10), a comparison between sinners and sinful angels and unthinking creatures without precedent in Scripture.
  1. Recalling argument three we see in 3:9 another heresy, the fount of the Arminian doctrine of Unlimited Atonement, a universalist and Pelagian doctrine, with the claim that Yahovah does not wish any of us to perish but that all would repent. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” This is false, philosophically because it undermines Elohim’s omnipotence, it implies that with the vast bulk of humanity damned to death that God is a terrible failure, and theologically it is dissonant with Romans 9:10-25 which defends in detail Elohim’s right to make some to honour and others to dishonour according to his perfect and perfectly good design.