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Various scholars have examined the possible relationship between 1 Clement and Hebrews. Eusebius of Caesarea already noted similarities in his Historia ecclesiastica 3.38.1-3. While a few modern scholars have suggested a shared common tradition,[1] most have posited literary dependence.[2] The question of literary reliance is interwoven with other matters, such as the dating of Hebrews and the dating of 1 Clement.[3] The majority estimation of 1 Clement’s composition remains around the mid-90s, providing enough chronological distance for literary dependency in the case of most placements of Hebrews.[4] Bacon landed firmly upon 1 Clement’s dependence upon Hebrews, concluding that “Clement has upwards of forty-seven echoes of Hebrews.”[5] Edgar J. Goodspeed claimed that Bacon’s collection was “only the beginning of the evidence.”[6] Donald Hagner maintained that Clement found “a veritable mine of ideas and phraseology” in Hebrews.[7] More recently, Andrew F. Gregory considers it “very likely indeed” that Clement’s epistle used Hebrews.[8] Albert Vanhoye was a little more reticent, concluding, “L’explication la plus probable, dans l’état actuel de nos connaissances, consiste à admettre que Clément a utilisé Hébreux.”[9] Yet Vanhoye acknowledges, “Mais il reste là une marge d’incertitude.”[10] Of all the parallels, perhaps the best case for literary dependency appears in 1 Clem. 36.2-5 (cf. Heb 1:3-13).[11]

Beyond literary dependence, some scholars have compared and/or contrasted thematic adaptations in Hebrews and 1 Clement. For instance, both works depict Jesus Christ as a “high priest.”[12] Yet 1 Clement lacks the “dynamic contrast” between the old and new covenants, as found in Hebrews.[13] According to Oscar Skarsaune, “So directly is the Old Testament applied to the Church, that the author betrays no awareness of the deep disruption between the Christian community and the Jewish people.”[14]

One unexplored way to advance the scholarly discussion is to compare the two works through the refracting lens of the theme of “hospitality.” Hospitality is, of course, a common subject in early Christian texts, including works now found in the New Testament (Rom 12:13; 1 Pet 4:9; Heb 13:2; 1 Tim 3:2; Titus 1:8; 3:2; 5:10).[15] This present essay will (1) provide an overview of the topics of “hospitality” and foreignness/alien status in 1 Clement, (2) examine the concentrated vocabulary of “hospitality/hospitable” within the particular passage of 1 Clement 9-12, and (3) contrast the moral lessons illustrated by the two portrayals of Abraham, as found in Hebrews 11 and 1 Clement 10.

Hospitality and Foreignness in 1 Clement

Overall, the rhetoric of hospitality in 1 Clement 9-12 connects to an embedded epistolary theme and is framed by the larger “moral language” of virtue and vice (1 Clem. 1.2; 35.5).[16] As Clement perceived matters, hospitality was a key component of the Corinthian assembly’s past, and thus it appears in his epistle’s captatio benevolentiae. The letter opening queries, “Who did not proclaim the magnificent character of your hospitality?” (1.2).[17]

The tenor of 1 Clement dramatically shifts in the third chapter. “All glory and growth were given to you, and then that which is written was fulfilled: ‘My beloved ate and drank and was enlarged and grew fat and kicked.’ From this came jealousy and envy, strife and sedition, persecution and anarchy, war and captivity. So people were stirred up: those without honor against the honored, those of no repute against the highly reputed, the foolish against the wise, the young against the old” (1 Clem. 3.1-3). The author’s purpose was to heal this intergenerational schism among the Corinthians, and to return the congregation to concord and harmony (ὁμονοία).

How does the theme of “hospitality” relate to the intergenerational conflict that surfaced within the Corinthian church?[18] Henry Chadwick proposed “that some visiting Christians at Corinth accepted hospitality from the old clergy rather than the new; that the old clergy had seen in this act of communion on the part of the other churches a golden opportunity of reaffirming their position; and that the visitors would have become the object of hostile comment from the rest of the church and therefore come away from Corinth with unfavourable impressions.”[19] Davorin Peterlin hypothesized a connection associated with the commercial role played by the city of Corinth within its geographical context: “As Corinth’s strength lay in commerce and trade, many visitors would visit it on business. Some of them were indeed Christian business persons from other cities or their representatives. (…) A most natural place for the Christian visitor was a local Christian church.”[20] Yet the geographical-economic factors may intersect with the intra-ecclesial tensions. As Peterlin added, “Although all Christians were called to showing hospitality, it was particularly enjoined upon the primitive church leaders (1 Tim 3:2; Tit 1:8).[21] Local presbyters would have been in charge of housing visitors.”[22]

In any case, “hospitality” becomes a secondary theme within 1 Clement. The recipients were “sojourning” (παροικοῦσῃ) in Corinth, and the senders themselves were likewise “sojourning” (παροικούσα) in Rome (1 Clem. inscr.).[23] Those who had “visited (παρεπιδημήσας)” the Corinthian congregation approved of their virtuous and steadfast faith, but also the “magnificent character” of their “hospitality (φιλοξενίας)” (1.2).[24] The epistle later exhorts its readers to cast off “all unrighteousness and lawlessness, covetousness, strife, malice and deceit, gossip and slander, hatred of God, pride and arrogance, vanity and inhospitality (ἀφιλοξενίαν)” (35.5).

Furthermore, the vocabulary of “foreignness” and alienation is used metaphorically for the sake of moral formation. The “detestable and unholy schism” which rocked the Corinthian church is depicted as “so alien and strange (ἀλλοτρίας καὶ ξένης) to those chosen by God” (1.1). Clement later declares, “For we shall bring upon ourselves no ordinary harm, but rather great danger, if we recklessly surrender ourselves to the purposes of people who launch out into strife and dissension in order to alienate (ἀπαλλοτριῶσαι) us from what is right” (14.2).[25] As an example, the Ninevites “had been alienated (ἀλλότριοι) from God” prior to their repentance (7.7).[26]

Overview of 1 Clement 9-12

An extended passage in 1 Clement 9-12 resembles the content of the annals of faith found in Hebrews 11, but employs the φιλοξενία word group four times.[27] Abraham is praised for his “faith and hospitality (φιλοξενίαv)” and Lot is praised for his “hospitality (φιλοξενίαv) and godliness.” “Hospitable (φιλόξενος)” Rahab is commended for receiving the Israelite spies, and thus also for her “faith and hospitality (φιλοξενίαv).”

1 Clement 9 begins with a series of hortatory subjunctives: “let us be obedient to his magnificent and glorious will,” “let us fall down before him and return to his compassion,” “let us fix our eyes on those who perfectly served his magnificent glory,” “let us consider Enoch …” This final hortatory subjunctive leads to the consideration of a series of characters from the Hebrew Scriptures: Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Lot, and Rahab. Commentators have noted the similarities between Clement’s accounts of faithfulness and Sirach 44 and especially Hebrews 11.[28] The verbal parallelism is not exact, however, causing J. B. Lightfoot to surmise that “the words are displaced, as often happens when memory is trusted.”[29]

While Lightfoot (followed by others), pointed to the similar ordering of Enoch, Noah, and Abraham as found in Hebrews 11 and 1 Clement 9-10, one must acknowledge that the ordering may simply reflect the sequence of redemptive history.[30] The stronger argument for dependence upon Hebrews 11 relies upon the cumulative case for a knowledge of Hebrews attested elsewhere in 1 Clement.[31] The use of Hebrews 11 may help explain Enoch’s inclusion in 1 Clem. 9.3.[32]

Enoch and Noah receive passing attention in 1 Clement 9. While Hebrews 11 eulogizes Enoch for “having pleased God” (Heb 11:5), 1 Clement praises him for being “found righteous in obedience” (1 Clem. 9.3).[33] Both works conceptually highlight that Enoch “was taken up and did not experience death” (1 Clem. 9.3; Heb 11:5).

Hebrews 11 praises Noah for constructing the ark and delivering his family (cf. 2 Pet 2:5). “Through faith he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith” (Heb 11:7). 1 Clement emphasizes Noah as a preacher, both as a preacher of “repentance” (Heb 7.6) and as a preacher of “a second birth” (9.4). In the Clementine material, Noah may be interpreted as implicitly showing hospitality to the animals in the ark (1 Clem. 9.4).[34] Just as Rahab welcomed the spies who entered into (εἰσῆλθον) her house (12.4), so Noah welcomed the animals who entered into (εἰσελθόντα) the ark (9.4). While Hebrews highlights Noah’s deliverance of his family, 1 Clement accentuates his saving of “the living creatures that entered into the ark in harmony.” “Harmony” (ὁμονοία) is a recurring theme in 1 Clement, and the language of the animals “entering into” the ark implies that Noah was hospitable in accommodating them.[35]

The lengthier entries in 1 Clement 9-12 narrate the faithful exploits of Abraham, Lot, and Rahab—the same three entries that also cite the virtue of φιλοξενία (“hospitality”) explicitly. For the sake of our purposes here, we will initially focus upon the examples of Lot and Rahab, and then turn our eyes upon Abraham. This approach inverts the chronological (and literary) order, but the specific case of Abraham, which we will save for last, demonstrates the distinctive adaptations of Hebrews and 1 Clement. Hebrews 11 emphasizes Abraham’s status as a foreigner and alien, seeking hospitable accommodation. By contrast, 1 Clement 10 underscores Abraham’s hospitable reception of others. When the two portrayals are brought together, Abraham becomes an illustration of both the sojourner needing hospitality and the host extending hospitality (cf. also Heb 13:2).[36] But first, we must examine the cases of Lot and Rahab.

The Examples of Lot and Rahab

Lot is not mentioned at all in the Epistle to the Hebrews.[37] His inclusion in 1 Clement highlights the latter’s thematic focus upon hospitality (rather than holding fast one’s confession of faith, as emphasized in Hebrews).[38] “Because of his hospitality and godliness Lot was saved from Sodom when the entire region was judged by fire and brimstone” (1 Clem. 11.1).[39] Lot is portrayed among “those who hope in him [the Master]” (11.1). Lot’s “hospitality” undoubtedly relates to his welcoming of the two angelic visitors (as found in Genesis 19).[40] Like Abraham, Lot also arranged for the visitors’ feet to be washed (Gen 19:2), and he “prepared a feast for them, including bread baked without yeast” (Gen 19:3).[41] Lot’s “godliness” may seem somewhat of a stretch to modern readers of the Genesis narratives, but one is reminded of 2 Pet 2:7. Lot was faithful in acting hospitably toward the visitors who appeared at the city gate.

Clement further uses the citation of Lot to draw moral insights from his wife’s negative example: “In this way the Master clearly demonstrated that he does not forsake those who hope in him but hands over to punishment and torment those who turn aside. Of this his wife was destined to be a sign (σημεῖον)” (1 Clem. 11.1-2).[42] She fell out of “harmony (ὁμονοία)”—a theme of the letter—and became a pillar of salt.[43] She thus serves as a warning “that those who are double-minded (δίψυχοι) and those who question the power of God fall under judgment and become a warning (σημείωσιν) to all generations” (11.2).[44]

1 Clement praises Rahab for her “faith and hospitality” (1 Clem. 12.1). The “hospitable Rahab” took in the Israelite spies and hid them “in an upstairs room under some flax stalks” (12.3). She diverted the authorities by pointing them in the opposite direction of the spies’ escape route (12.5). And she informed the spies that she was convinced that God would hand the country over into Israelite hands. In response, they told her to gather all her family within her home, so that they would be saved (12.6). “And in addition they gave her a sign (σημεῖον), that she should hang from her house something scarlet—making it clear that through the blood of the Lord redemption will come to all who believe and hope in God” (12.7).[45] This future-oriented cord of scarlet allows Clement to append: “You see, dear friends, not only faith but also prophecy is found in this woman” (12.8). Rahab was faithful, hospitable, and prophetic.[46]

Rahab makes a brief appearance in Hebrews 11: “By faith Rahab the prostitute escaped the destruction of the disobedient, because she welcomed the spies in peace” (Heb 11:31).[47] The author of Hebrews underscores Rahab’s faith.[48] Carl Mosser comments on the astonishment original readers may have felt in finding Rahab in the annals of those shining exemplars who walked “by faith.” “She is a woman. She is a Gentile. She is ‘the prostitute.’”[49] Yet it seems significant that Rahab stands as the last full, individual entry in both of the listings.[50] Both the author of Hebrews and Clement viewed her inclusion as somehow climactic.[51]

While Rahab’s “faith” is the foundation of praise in Hebrews 11, 1 Clement explicitly highlights her “faith and hospitality,” a virtue that remains only implicit in her “receiving” the spies in Heb 11:21 and James 2:25.[52] Rahab received the spies and claimed that they had quickly departed and were “already on their way” (1 Clem. 12.4). The Clementine portrayal of Rahab adds to the depiction found in the Book of Joshua, by filling in narrative details and by granting Rahab a “prophetic spirit,” thus demonstrating dependence upon Jewish extra-biblical tradition.[53] In this context, prophecy seems to entail “anything that is a sign of future truths.”[54] The depiction of a “prophetic” Rahab may build upon the inclusion of a “sign (σημεῖον)” in the the LXX of Josh 2:18.[55] The Midrash on Rahab depicted her as a prophetess, because she knew through the Holy Spirit that the spies would return in three days.[56] “It is clear that Clement knew quite an extensive exegetical tradition about Rahab: he knew her as a reformed profligate, as an example of both faith and works, and as a prophetess in her own right.”[57]

Rahab is also found in James 2.[58] While James 2 underscores the faith and works of Abraham and Rahab, 1 Clement emphasizes hospitality (as well as faith) in particular.[59] Yet James 2:25 does allude to Rahab’s hospitality: “And similarly, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed (ὑποδεξαμένη) the messengers and sent them out by another way?.”[60] As observed by Franklin Young, ὑποδεξαμένη meant “to receive as a guest” in both classical and koine Greek.[61] Similarly, Heb 11:31 explains, “By faith Rahab the prostitute escaped the destruction of the disobedient, because she welcomed (δεξαμένη) the spies in peace.”[62]

The Example of Abraham

We now turn to the case of Abraham, “who was called ‘the friend’” (1 Clem. 10.1; cf. Abraham as “the friend of God” in 17.2).[63] In the Jewish and early Christian traditions, Abraham served as “a paragon of hospitality.”[64] Clement’s epistle describes Abraham’s journey “from his country, from his people, and from his father’s house” (10.2). Yet there is a positive spin, in that Abraham was leaving “a small country, a weak people, and an insignificant house in order that he might inherit the promises of God” (10.2).[65] 1 Clement focuses upon the blessing that Abraham would receive: “Go forth from your country and from your people and from your father’s house to the land that I will show you, and I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you and will make your name great, and you will be blessed” (10.3). Even when Abraham separated from Lot, God reminded him of these promises (10.4-5). “And Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness” (10.6). The section on Abraham concludes, “Because of his faith and hospitality a son was given to him in his old age, and for the sake of obedience he offered him as a sacrifice to God on one of the mountains that he showed him” (10.7).

The case of Abraham is interesting, because the portrayals found in Hebrews and 1 Clement differ in emphasis. The commendation of Old Testament heroes in Hebrews 11 emphasizes Abraham’s own status as a sojourner.[66] As a “foreigner,” Abraham was called out of his homeland, without knowing his final destination, and he dwelt in the land of promise as a stranger in a foreign country.[67] “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place he would later receive as an inheritance, and he went out without understanding where he was going. By faith he lived as a foreigner (παρῴκησεν) in the promised land as though it were a foreign country (ἀλλοτρίαν), living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, who were fellow heirs of the same promise” (Heb 11:8-9).

The descendants of Abraham and Sarah were numerous, “like the number of stars in the sky and like the innumerable grains of sand on the seashore” (Heb. 11:12). Yet they were still residing as aliens and strangers, “These all died in faith without receiving the things promised, but they saw them in the distance and welcomed them and acknowledged that they were strangers (ξένοι) and foreigners (παρεπίδημοι) on the earth” (Heb. 11:13). The purpose in depicting Abraham in this manner becomes clear in verse 14: “For those who speak in such a way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland.” This desired homeland could not have been Ur, because they actually had opportunity to return there (Heb 11:15). Rather, the homeland was “a heavenly one”: “But as it is, they aspire to a better land, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them” (Heb 11:16). Similarly, the readers also were to desire the heavenly homeland.[68] Like the patriarchs and matriarchs of old, they sensed (and sometimes were treated like) they were “strangers and foreigners” in their socio-cultural context.[69]

The recipients of Hebrews had definitely faced hardship,[70] “But remember the former days when you endured a harsh conflict of suffering after you were enlightened. At times you were publicly exposed to abuse and afflictions, and at other times you came to share with others who were treated in that way” (Heb 10:32-33). The author immediately encourages them, “For in fact you shared the sufferings of those in prison, and you accepted the confiscation of your belongings with joy, because you knew that you certainly had a better and lasting possession” (Heb 10:34; cf. 12:3-4). The summative exhortation in Heb 13:13 declares, “We must go out to him, then, outside the camp, bearing the abuse he experienced.”[71] The readers of Hebrews 11 were to take heart that heroes of the past had felt similarly, and they also looked forward to the promised homeland.

In 1 Clement, the tables of hospitality have turned. The language of being a stranger and foreigner does not appear in connection with the patriarch, and Abraham is praised for his “faith and hospitality.” Abraham’s own hospitality may not be completely absent from Hebrews, since Heb 13:2 contains the famous injunction, “Do not neglect hospitality, because through it some have entertained angels without knowing it.”[72] The concept of entertaining “angels unawares” or “angels without knowing it” captures the ethical imagination.[73] Most likely, the phrase alludes to the Abrahamic materials in Genesis 18:1-5, where Abraham welcomed “three men.”[74] He had their feet washed, and he fed them food that Sarah had prepared. Two of the “men” journeyed on to Sodom (18:22), while the Lord (the third character) remained behind to converse with Abraham. In the first verse of the next chapter (19:1), the two men who left for Sodom are called “angels” (cf. 19:15). Thus, Abraham had entertained “angels without knowing it” (Heb. 13:2).[75]

Nevertheless, one must view this specific call to hospitality within the larger context of Heb 13:1-3. “Brotherly love must continue. Do not neglect hospitality, because through it some have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as though you were in prison with them, and those ill-treated as though you too felt their torment.” Hospitality is important, yet it is coupled with concerns peculiar to an oppressed community: care for the imprisoned and maltreated[76]. Thus even this explicit call to hospitality (Heb 13:2) is framed by an acknowledgment of the community’s marginalized status.

In addition to the parallel in Hebrews 11, some scholars have also compared the portrait of Abraham in 1 Clement with his inclusion in James 2.[77] Robert Grant and Holt Graham reasoned, “It is difficult not to suppose that Clement’s examples are inspired by a similar list in Hebrews 11:5-7 (…) In Hebrews these persons are listed as heroes of faith, not obedience; but (1) Clement shares with James (2:14-26) the view that faith without works is dead, and (2) he speaks of the fidelity of Noah, Abraham, and Rahab.”[78] One could add that James and 1 Clement directly speak of Abraham as “the friend (of God),” while Hebrews does not.[79] Grant and Graham deduced, “Clement is obviously following Hebrews (which he knew) or James or perhaps a traditional Jewish pattern which lies behind both.”[80] Nevertheless, unlike Hebrews 11 and James 2, 1 Clement explicitly cites Abraham’s “hospitality” (φιλοξενία) for emphatic effect.


To conclude, Hebrews was written to an audience that felt ostracized from the surrounding society and culture. The author empathized with them and acknowledged their sense of being “strangers” and “foreigners.” His resolution was to anticipate a future, heavenly home. By contrast, 1 Clement was primarily written to address internal dissension within the Christian community.[81] Clement insisted upon a repentant return to “concord” or “harmony.”[82] It seems that hospitality had a role to play in the inter-communal dynamics at work in Corinth.[83] And conversely the author used the language of estrangement to exhort his readers to distance (alienate) themselves from vices (1 Clem. 1.1; 14.2). Clement exhorted his readers instead to “live as citizens of the commonwealth of God” (1 Clem. 54.4).[84]

The differences in audience and socio-historical context affected the distinctive depictions of Abraham in the annals of Hebrews 11 and 1 Clement 9-12. In Hebrews 11, Abraham is highlighted for sojourning “in the promised land as though it were a foreign country” (Heb 11:9). By faith (“seeing” the unseen) “he was looking forward to the city with firm foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Heb 11:10). In 1 Clement 10, by contrast, Abraham is particularly praised for his “hospitality” as well as his faith. His sacrifice is downplayed, as Abraham was leaving “a small country, a weak people, and an insignificant house in order that he might inherit the promises of God” (1 Clem. 10.2). This softening of Abraham’s loss of homeland would not resonate as well with the readers of Hebrews who were called to significant sacrifice: “We must go out to him, then, outside the camp, bearing the abuse he [Jesus] experienced. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:13-14). The “spirit” of the instruction of Hebrews reminds us that “We are all strangers in this earthly dwelling, we only have the right to stay for a short time, soon we will move away again.”[85]

In sum, using the figure of Abraham, Hebrews reminds its readers of their alien residency, while 1 Clement exhorts it readers toward the amiable reception of others. In Hebrews 11, Abraham is the alien “stranger” seeking accommodation, while in 1 Clement 10 he is the host extending accommodation to alien “strangers.” In both cases, hospitality “hängt untrennbar an der Kategorie des ‘Fremden’.”[86] Does any link exist that could bind these two disparate frameworks together? Indeed, such a linkage repeatedly appears in biblical theology: Those who have been shown hospitality should themselves be hospitable (Ex 22:21; Lev 19:34; Deut 10:19).[87]