Akin-TEMPLEMany people have the idea that, in biblical times, the Jerusalem temple was exclusively for Jewish use.

This is a natural assumption, given the hostilities that led to the Jewish War of the A.D. 60s, as well as the attitude of some Jewish Christians who thought salvation was impossible for Gentiles.

But the historical evidence shows otherwise.

This is a subject I’ve written about before, but here are some interesting examples that further illustrate the actual situation . . .


The Emperor Augustus

The first century Jewish sage Philo of Alexandria (c. 25 B.C. – c. A.D. 50) was caught up in a controversy involving the Roman emperor Caligula (aka Gaius, reigned A.D. 36-41).

This incident occurred after Caligula fell ill in early in his reign and recovered, but with a drastic personality change.

He became very cruel, started demanding to be worshipped as a god, and announced that a statue of himself (depicted as Zeus) would be placed in the Jerusalem temple for Jews to worship.

Philo wrote an account of this controversy in his work On the Embassy to Gaius.

During the course of the work, he compared Caligula’s treatment of Jews to that of previous Roman individuals, including their treatment of the temple.

He thus reported on how the emperor Augustus (reigned 27 B.C-A.D. 14) and his family supported the Jerusalem temple:

So religiously did [Augustus] respect our interests that, supported by wellnigh his whole household, he adorned our temple through the costliness of his dedications, and ordered that for all time continuous sacrifices of whole burnt offerings should be carried out every day at his own expense as a tribute to the most high God.

And these sacrifices are maintained to the present day and will be maintained for ever to tell the story of a character truly imperial (On the Embassy to Gaius 23[157]).

Here Philo reports that Augustus:

  • Adorned the temple with costly decorations
  • He was supported in this by “wellnigh his whole household” (i.e., family)—meaning others did the same (see below)
  • He arranged that sacrifices of “whole burnt offerings” would be offered to the Jewish God every day by the Jewish priests
  • That he paid for this out of his own pocket
  • That these sacrifices were still being offered, with no planned ending date for them


Temple Access for Gentiles

Philo later refers to the fact that portions of the Jerusalem Temple complex were open for Gentiles worshippers:

Still more abounding and peculiar is the zeal of [all the Jewish people] for the temple, and the strongest proof of this is that death without appeal is the sentence against those of other races who penetrate into its inner confines.

For the outer are open to everyone wherever they come from (31[212]).

This refers to the fact that the temple was built as a series of zones that different classes of people could access:

  • The outermost area (the Court of the Gentiles) was open to everyone
  • The next area (the Court of Women) was open to Jewish men and women
  • The next area (the Court of Israel) was open to Jewish men
  • The next area (the Court of Priests) was open to Jewish priests
  • The final area (the Holy of Holies) was open to the Jewish high priest once a year

These zones were places where the designated people went to worship—so the Court of the Gentiles was where Gentiles could go to worship God.

This is why Isaiah refers to the temple as “a house of prayer for all nations” (Is. 56:7).

And it is apparently the area from which Jesus drove out the money changers: They were taking up space that was reserved for Gentile worshippers (see Mark 11:17).


Sacrifices on Behalf of Caligula

Sacrifices were offered on behalf of Gentiles at the temple.

In fact, it was normal to offer sacrifices on behalf of Gentile rulers, including Roman emperors.

This had already been done on behalf of Augustus and Tiberius, and Philo refers to the fact that, as soon as Caligula’s reign began, the Jewish priests offered sacrifices to God on his behalf:

Was our temple the first to accept sacrifices in behalf of Gaius’s reign only that it should be the first or even the only one to be robbed of its ancestral tradition of worship? (32[232]).

These sacrifices were to ask God to bless the new ruler and to ask him to help the ruler govern wisely and justly. As St. Paul says:

For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.

Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment (Rom. 13:1-2; see 1 Pet. 3:13-14).

Philo refers to this matter again later, when he recounts how—in a meeting with Caligula—an anti-Jewish man named Isidorus accused the Jewish people of refusing to offer sacrifices on Caligula’s behalf.

Philo reports that they defended themselves by saying:

We cried out with one accord, “Lord Gaius, we are slandered; we did sacrifice and sacrifice hecatombs [large sacrifices of multiple bulls] too, and we did not just pour the blood upon the altar and then take the flesh home to feast and regale ourselves with it as some do, but we gave the victims to the sacred fire to be entirely consumed, and we have done this not once but thrice already, the first time at your accession to the sovereignty, the second when you escaped the severe sickness which all the habitable world suffered with you, the third as a prayer of hope for victory in Germany” (45[356]).

He thus indicates that large sacrifices of bulls were made on Caligula’s behalf three times:

  1. When he began to reign
  2. When he had his severe illness (that drove him crazy)
  3. When he was in a conflict with the German tribes


Marcus Agrippa and the Temple

Philo also quotes from a lengthy letter that King Herod Agrippa I sent to Caligula during the crisis regarding his statue.

(This Herod is the one who put St. James son of Zebedee to death in Acts 12. He was also the grandson of Herod the Great and a friend of the emperors Caligula and Claudius. He’s the Herod who appears in the BBC drama I, Claudius.)

In the letter, Herod refers to how Caligula’s own grandfather—Marcus Agrippa—honored the temple when he was in Jerusalem. He reports that he was very impressed by the temple and its priesthood (37[294-296]) and that he made gifts to the temple:

After decking the temple with all the dedicatory gifts which the law made permissible and benefiting the inhabitants by granting every favor which he could without causing mischief and paying many compliments to Herod and receiving a host of the same from him, he was escorted to the harbors not by one city only but by the whole population of the country amid showers of posies which expressed their admiration of his piety (37[297]).


More on Augustus’s Gifts to the Temple

In his letter, Herod Agrippa also gives more detail on the gifts that Augustus supplied to the temple:

Another example no less cogent than this shows very clearly the will of Augustus.

He gave orders for a continuation of whole burnt offerings every day to the Most High God to be charged to his own purse.

These are carried out to this day. Two lambs and a bull are the victims with which he added luster to the altar, knowing well that there is no image there openly or secretly set up.

Indeed this great ruler, this philosopher second to none, reasoned in his mind that within the precincts of earth there must needs be a special place assigned as sacred to the invisible God which would contain no visible image, a place to give us participation in good hopes and enjoyment of perfect blessings (40[317-318]).

Livia’s Gifts

Finally, Herod Agrippa notes that Augustus’s wife—Julia Augusta (commonly referred to as Livia; she’s also the Livia in I, Claudius)—made costly gifts to the temple:

Under such an instructor in piety your great-grandmother Julia Augusta adorned the temple with golden vials and libation bowls and a multitude of other sumptuous offerings (40[319]).

These golden vials and libation bowls were liturgical furnishings that would have been used in the temple ceremonies.



There certainly was an undercurrent of hostilities on the part of many Jews regarding their Roman overlords, but the idea that the Jerusalem temple was exclusively for Jewish use is not true.

From the beginning, it had been meant as a house of prayer for all nations, with its outermost (and largest) court reserved for Gentile worshippers.

Many of the Gentile worshippers were polytheists, but they did not deny the existence of the Jewish God or refuse to give him worship.

In fact, they made costly gifts to the temple—both in terms of decorations, liturgical furnishings, and underwriting of the costs of the daily sacrifices.

The Jewish priests not only accepted these offerings—recognizing them as permitted by the Jewish Law—they also made special offerings on behalf of the rulers, asking God to bless them with things like health and victory.

The situation may have been tense, and there certainly was Jewish resentment of the Romans, but overall the situation was more cordial than we commonly suppose.

Ultimately, those who were hostile to the Romans got the upper hand and stopped these sacrifices—and that was one of the incidents that led to the Jewish War and the destruction of the temple.


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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 26 November 2017 to 13 December 2017.


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Papal Tweets

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Pope_Francis_3_on_papal_flight_from_Africa_to_Italy_Nov_30_2015_Credit_Martha_Calderon_CNA_11_30_15Newspapers and websites erupted over the weekend with headlines like:

Shame on all of them.

The pope didn’t call for changes.

This is a classic case of the pope saying something and the media going hog-wild and completely distorting it.


How did all this start?

Italian television aired an hour-long interview with Pope Francis in which he was asked about a new version of the Lord’s Prayer in France.

You can watch the interview (in Italian) here.


What did the French church do?

They adopted a new translation of the Lord’s Prayer for use in the liturgy. It went into effect on the first Sunday of Advent (which is why Pope Francis was being asked about it).

Basically, they changed the line that in English reads “and lead us not into temptation” to one that means “do not let us fall into temptation.”


What did Pope Francis say about this?

He reportedly said:

The French have changed the text and their translation says “don’t let me fall into temptation,” . . . It’s me who falls. It’s not Him who pushes me into temptation, as if I fell. A father doesn’t do that. A father helps you to get up right away. The one who leads into temptation is Satan.

Various accounts also report him saying that the “lead us not into temptation” rendering is not a good translation because it is misleading to modern ears.


So he isn’t about to impose a new translation on everybody?

No. Commenting that a translation can be misleading is not the same thing as mandating a new one. People have grown up with the Lord’s Prayer, and changing it is a big deal.

The French bishops thought it was worth making a change, but it’s up to local episcopal conferences what they want to do in this regard.

The New York Times reports, though, that “the pope suggested that Italian Catholics might want to follow suit.”


What does the “lead us not into temptation” line really mean?

It depends on what kind of translation you are doing.

The Greek verb in this passage—eisphero—means “bring,” so “do not bring us into temptation” or “lead us not into temptation” are good, literal translations.

However, that’s not all there is to the story.

Theologically speaking, God does not tempt anyone. Thus the book of James states:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire (Jas. 1:13-14).

The petition in the Lord’s Prayer thus needs to be understood as a request that God protect us from temptation.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

CCC 2846 This petition goes to the root of the preceding one, for our sins result from our consenting to temptation; we therefore ask our Father not to “lead” us into temptation. It is difficult to translate the Greek verb used by a single English word: the Greek means both “do not allow us to enter into temptation” and “do not let us yield to temptation.” “God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one”; on the contrary, he wants to set us free from evil. We ask him not to allow us to take the way that leads to sin. We are engaged in the battle “between flesh and spirit”; this petition implores the Spirit of discernment and strength.


Shouldn’t we use as literal a translation of the Lord’s Prayer as possible?

We’re already not doing so.

The previous petition in the standard Catholic version reads “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

That’s not what the Greek literally says.

It says, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matt. 6:12).

Debts are a Semitic metaphor for sins, and the English translators have rendered this non-literally as “trespasses” to make the concept clearer to English-speakers.

Luke did the same thing for Greek-speakers in his version of the Lord’s Prayer, where this petition reads, “and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us” (Luke 11:4).

Notice how Luke shifts the first reference to “debts” to “sins” to make the meaning clearer.

Also note that, since Luke is divinely inspired, God doesn’t have a fundamental problem with using less literal translations to help people understand.


If the Catholic Church changed its translation, we’d be out of synch with other Christians. Shouldn’t all Christians who speak the same language use the same version of the Lord’s Prayer?

We’re already not.

Not only do English-speaking Catholics use “trespasses” where Protestants use “debts,” English-speaking Protestants also typically add a coda at the end:

For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory, for ever.

That’s not in the original Greek manuscripts and apparently started in the liturgy and then crept into some later copies of Matthew, which were used by Protestant translators early on.

(Modern Protestant translations typically omit this line or relegate it to a footnote as a result.)


But surely it’s a violation of God’s will for Christians to be using different versions of the Lord’s Prayer!

You might think that, but the Bible indicates otherwise. There have been differences in how the Lord’s Prayer is said going all the way back to the beginning.

We know that in the first century some Greek-speakers were using Matthew’s version, which reads:

Our Father who art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread;
And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors;
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil (Matt. 6:9-13).

But other Greek-speakers (especially those evangelized by St. Paul) used a quite different and shorter version:

Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread;
And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us;
And lead us not into temptation (Luke 11:2-4).

There might be a certain desirability for all Christians to be able to say the same version of the same prayer, but think about what we’ve got here: Two different divinely inspired versions of the prayer.

Whatever utility there may be to a common recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, it isn’t a fundamental priority for God or he wouldn’t have given us two different inspired versions in the Bible.


Are the French doing something innovative and unheard of by changing their version of the translation?

No. The standard Spanish and Portuguese translations already have the equivalent of “Do not let us fall into temptation.”

The French are just doing the same thing now.

(Incidentally, the fact the pope is a native Spanish-speaker means he’s used to the Spanish version with “Do not let us fall into temptation,” so one might expect him to have a preference for it.)


Should Protestants be worked up about this?

Not really. They should be able to recognize the points made above—which are not controversial—and the pope isn’t planning on doing anything at all here, much less anything that would affect them.

Protestants also have different versions of the Lord’s Prayer in circulation in their own communities.

Some use the version straight out of the King James—with old-fashioned words like “art” and “Thy.” But others use more modern language versions, with terms like “is” and “your.”

For that matter, some less-literal Protestant translations already vary the last petition along the lines discussed above. Here are some examples:

And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one (New Living Translation).

Don’t allow us to be tempted. Instead, rescue us from the evil one (GOD’S WORD Translation).

Keep us from being tempted and protect us from evil (Contemporary English Version).

Do not let us be tempted, but keep us from sin (New Life Version).


So who’s right here?

Nobody is definitively in the right or in the wrong. The divinely inspired word of God gives us two very different versions of the Lord’s Prayer, which shows us that God does not mind different versions being in circulation.

Further, one of these inspired versions (Luke’s) uses a less literal translation of Jesus’ original Aramaic (i.e., “sins” instead of “debts”), so God doesn’t have a fundamental problem with less literal translations as a way of helping people understand what they are saying.

We can acknowledge the benefits of having a common version we use together in the liturgy, and personally, I wouldn’t favor changing the English version of it.

However, that’s not anything anyone is proposing—not the pope, and not the U.S. bishops.

So let’s chill and recognize this for what it is: Yet another case of the media doing a sloppy, incompetent job.

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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 7 November 2017 to 6 December 2017.


General Audiences




Papal Tweets

  • “The most holy name of God can never be invoked to justify hatred and violence against other human beings.” @Pontifex 30 November 2017
  • “How much openness is needed to welcome people who feel alone and confused as they search for a meaning in life!” @Pontifex 1 December 2017
  • “May the wisdom of God help us to know how to welcome and accept those who think and act differently from us.” @Pontifex 2 December 2017
  • “Dear friends in Myanmar and Bangladesh, thank you for your welcome! Upon you I invoke divine blessings of harmony and peace.” @Pontifex 2 December 2017
  • “Every person is unique and unrepeatable. Let us ensure the disabled are always welcomed by the communities in which they live.” @Pontifex 3 December 2017
  • “Faith becomes tangible when it finds its expression in love and, especially, in the service of our brothers and sisters in difficulty.” @Pontifex 4 December 2017
  • “We are all beggars before the love of God, a love that gives meaning to our existence and that offers us eternal life.” @Pontifex 5 December 2017
  • “No child of God can be discarded in His eyes. He entrusts a mission to each one of us.” @Pontifex 6 December 2017

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western wallJesus prophesied that the Jerusalem temple would be destroyed within a generation, and it was.

Jewish rebels began a war against the Romans in A.D. 66, and four years later the temple lay in ruins.

Will it ever be rebuilt?

Many Jews and Christians think so, even claiming that this must happen for certain prophecies to be fulfilled.

Tom Nash isn’t one of them, however. In a recent article at Catholic World Report, he argues that the temple will not be rebuilt.

Let’s look at what he has to say . . .


Advocates of Rebuilding the Temple

Nash takes a special interest in a group of people known as premillennialists, who believe that—after the Second Coming—Jesus will reign on earth for a thousand years or more before the Last Judgment and the beginning of the eternal order.

In recent years, many premillennialists have also belonged to a school of thought known as dispensationalism, and dispensationalists commonly have certain additional beliefs, including:

  • There will be a rapture of believers several years before the Second Coming
  • The Jerusalem temple will be rebuilt before the Second Coming
  • The Antichrist will proclaim himself to be God in the Jerusalem temple
  • After the Second Coming there will also be a temple in Jerusalem (either the same one, reconsecrated, or a new one)
  • During the millennium, animal sacrifices will be offered at this temple in memory of what Jesus did on the cross

Nash doesn’t make this clear, but historic premillennialists would not endorse all of these ideas.

As some of their characteristic beliefs indicate, dispensationalists hold that the Jerusalem temple will be rebuilt in order for certain prophecies to be fulfilled.

They are not the only ones, however. As Nash indicates, many Jews also believe that there will be a future temple. Some think that this will not happen until the future, messianic age. Others think that it could happen sooner.

There also is a division between Jews who would favor reinstituting animal sacrifices at the temple and those who would prefer it to serve simply as a house of prayer.


Catholic Teaching

The Catholic Church has rejected premillennialism (see CCC 676, where it is rejected under the name “millenarianism”).

It believes that there will be a future appearing of Antichrist, which will precede the Second Coming. When Jesus returns, however, the Last Judgment and the eternal order will begin immediately.

The Church does not take a position on whether there will be a rebuilt temple.

Nash’s view that there will not be one is a legitimate theological opinion. However, so is the contrary.

As we will see, respected Catholics have advocated the view there will be a future temple.


The Fulfillment Argument

In his article, Nash cites several factors pointing to the fact that Jesus fulfilled the sacrificial system of the Old Testament, and so animal sacrifices are no longer necessary.

One could quibble with the details of some of his arguments (e.g., exactly what it meant when the temple veil was torn in two can be debated), but his fundamental conclusion is correct: Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament sacrificial economy.

One can even strengthen his argument, for Jesus not only predicted the destruction of the temple (Mark 13), he also identified himself with the temple (John 2:13-22). The destruction of the Jewish temple thus in some ways parallels the destruction of Jesus’ body on the cross, and Jesus takes the place of the Jerusalem temple for Christians (Rev. 21:22).

The main difficulty comes when Nash draws his conclusion:

So to think that God would authorize the reinstitution of Temple sacrifices is to misunderstand his salvific work and also, unwittingly, blaspheme Jesus, who rendered void the need for such inferior sacrifices.

Blasphemy (even unwitting) is a harsh charge, and it is not clear that it would be warranted in the case of dispensationalists. They think millennial sacrifices will not be needed in themselves but that they will be a way God has chosen to commemorate of what Jesus did on the cross.

Catholics make even stronger claims than this regarding the Eucharist, which not only commemorates but re-presents the sacrifice of the cross.

However, the key problem is that Nash seems to assume that God must “authorize the reinstitution of Temple sacrifices” for the temple to be rebuilt.

Many things happen in God’s prophetic plan that aren’t positively willed by God (e.g., the appearance of Antichrist and his evil activities).

Jesus certainly fulfilled the Old Testament sacrificial economy, and God does not will that animal sacrifices resume, but that doesn’t mean that at some point some Jews won’t build a temple in Jerusalem—whether as a house of prayer or a house of sacrifice.

Thus, if there are prophecies of a future temple, they need to be taken seriously.


The Julian Argument

Nash also cites the example of the Roman emperor Julian the Apostate, who tried to rebuild the temple in A.D. 363 but who was thwarted, with reports of unusual and possibly supernatural events playing a role in his decision to cease his efforts.

This failed attempt to rebuild could be taken as evidence for Nash’s position, but it could also be taken as evidence that it was not God’s will to allow the temple to be rebuilt then.

Julian the Apostate can be seen as a forerunner of Antichrist, and his plan to rebuild the temple as a foreshadowing of what Antichrist will do.

Julian simply didn’t get to carry the project through because it wasn’t yet God’s time.


St. Paul on the Temple

Are there prophecies that point to a future temple? A famous passage in St. Paul reads:

Let no one deceive you in any way; for [the day of our Lord Jesus Christ] will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of perdition,  who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God (2 Thess. 2:3-4).

Interpreters have proposed a number of possibilities for what temple Paul is referring to, including God’s heavenly temple, the Church, or a purely metaphorical temple.

However, one of the strongest possibilities is that he was referring to the Jerusalem temple.

This is especially likely given the recent background to this letter, which was written around A.D. 50.

Less than a decade earlier, the Roman emperor Caligula, who claimed divine honors, attempted to have his statue put in the Jerusalem temple—an event that was prevented by Caligula’s assassination.

This plan produced a major convulsion in the Jewish community, and the thought of a satanic “man of lawlessness” taking his seat “in the temple of God” and “proclaiming himself to be God” is naturally understood in terms of a world ruler doing this in the Jerusalem temple.

Since this didn’t happen before A.D. 70, the prophecy could point to a future temple—and Caligula, like Julian, could be a forerunner of Antichrist.


Church Fathers Weigh In

So what happened after the temple was destroyed? How did the Church Fathers interpret Paul’s prophecy?

They had a variety of views. Some thought the passage applied to the Church, but others simply inferred that the temple would be rebuilt and that the Antichrist would take his seat in Jerusalem.

Advocates of this view include:

We thus have a mixed tradition, with some Fathers and doctors (Cyril is a doctor of the Church) advocating the view that Paul’s prophecy points to a future Jerusalem temple.

Nash’s view that the temple will not be rebuilt should not be ruled out, but in light of Paul’s prophecy, its historical background, and the mixed tradition in the Church Fathers, the possibility of a future temple should be taken seriously.

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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 13 November 2017 to 29 November 2017.




Papal Tweets

  • “At the end of time, when the Lord comes to meet us, our joy will be immense. We live in anticipation of this encounter!” @Pontifex 23 November 2017
  • “As I prepare to visit Myanmar and Bangladesh, I wish to send a message of greeting and friendship to everyone. I can’t wait to meet you!” @Pontifex 25 November 2017
  • “Let us look to Jesus today and say to Him in our hearts: ”Remember me, Lord, now that you are in your Kingdom!”” @Pontifex 26 November 2017
  • “I want my visit to embrace all the people of Myanmar and to encourage the building of an inclusive society.” @Pontifex 28 November 2017
  • “The love of Christ is like a “spiritual GPS” that guides us unerringly towards God and towards the heart of our neighbor.” @Pontifex 29 November 2017

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mark-the-evangelist-gospelSome recent discussions have employed the concept of “editorial fatigue” as a way of shedding light on the Synoptic Problem.

The basic idea is that, in the process of adapting material for his own work, a later author may grow mentally fatigued and begin to edit in an inconsistent way, retaining some elements of his source material that he originally would have meant to take out.

Michael Goulder sees this phenomenon happening in Matthew:

When an editor begins a story, he may amend freely to suit his interest; later the magnet of the text he is following pulls him into more docile reproduction. At 6.14, Mark has “King Herod,” which Matthew amends, for accuracy, to “Herod the tetrarch” (14.1); but at 14.9, in line with Mark, he has become “the king” (Midrash and Lection in Matthew, 35).

In other words, in Goulder’s view, Matthew set out to identify Herod Antipas more precisely as a tetrarch—since the Romans did not give him the title “king.” However, after adapting a number of verses, Matthew became mentally fatigued and inadvertently repeated Mark’s less exact title.


Fatigue and the Synoptic Problem

Mark Goodacre has sought to use this phenomenon to clarify the Synoptic Problem (see his paper “Fatigue in the Synoptics,” New Testament Studies 44(1998):45-58, online here, and his book The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze, online here).

The basic reasoning is this: If a passage in a work contains examples of editorial fatigue then this reveals that it is later than whatever source the passage is based on.

For example, multiple passages in Matthew and Luke show editorial fatigue where the corresponding passages in Mark do not. This indicates Matthew and Luke were written after Mark.

Goodacre thinks this kind of argument shows particular promise because—unlike many arguments for Markan priority—it is not “reversible.” That is, the argument can’t be easily turned on its head and used to argue that Mark need not be the first Synoptic Gospel written.

He goes on to argue that, if there was no Q document, that editorial fatigue can also be used to argue that Luke was written after Matthew.


A Note on Terminology

Goodacre notes that the term “editorial fatigue” was coined by Michael Goulder, who also used the term “docile reproduction” (“Fatigue,” nn. 3-4).

Both of these terms are problematic. While “docile reproduction” is the better of the two, both suffer from a common drawback: They presuppose something about the author’s state of mind—specifically, that he has gotten fatigued or that he is being docile—but these states of mind are not evident. Perhaps the reason is for the inconsistent editing is something else.


Herod the Tetrarch

In the example cited above, it could be the case that Matthew described Herod Antipas as a king in the latter passage because this was a common way of speaking of him in certain Jewish circles.

Mark obviously described Herod that way, and if Mark is based on Peter’s preaching, Peter may have done so as well.

In popular speech, the term “king” was applied to rulers even when they did not technically have this title. Thus the crowd cries, “We have no king but Caesar” (John 19:15), and Luke reports the Jewish leaders of Thessalonica telling the city authorities that Jesus was being preached as “another king” alongside Caesar (Acts 17:7)—both of these despite the fact it was a point of pride in Rome that the Caesars were not kings (though they functioned as such de facto).

Matthew’s concern for precision may have been such that, on first instance, he makes sure to identify Herod as a tetrarch but then, having made this point, he is comfortable using a common mode of speech.

On this view, he would have retained Mark’s second description of Herod as a king, but he did not do so because of fatigue or inadvertence. He knew what he was doing. He just had a different set of editorial priorities than modern interpreters might expect him to have.

Other proposed examples of editorial fatigue also have alternative explanations.


The Case of the Missing House

Mark 3:20 reports that Jesus went “home” (eis oikon = “into a house”). Later, Mark mentions that Jesus’ family arrives and stands outside (Mark 3:31).

In Matthew’s version, however, the initial reference to Jesus going home is omitted, and he simply says, “While he was still speaking to the people [or crowds], behold, his mother and his brethren stood outside” (Matt. 12:46).

Matthew doesn’t have any prior reference to Jesus being in a house, and so it is claimed that the reference to the family standing outside is an example of editorial fatigue.

But is this the only way of looking at it?

Matthew’s interjection, “behold!” (idou) signals a sudden transition in events, and it alerts the readers to the need to re-envision what is happening with Jesus.

The reader thus might envision Jesus in a crowded house with his mother and brothers showing up outside the building.

Alternately, the reader might envision Jesus out of doors, addressing a huge crowd, with his mother and brothers standing apart from the crowd in a location where they hoped to speak with him privately.

Matthew might have expected his readers to infer either of these situations—or he might have not cared which they envisioned. For Matthew, the important point is what happened once Jesus’ family showed up, not the exact details of the setting.

In any event, it is hardly likely that, having referred to Jesus speaking to the crowd, Matthew would suddenly—within eight words in the Greek text—become “fatigued” or inattentive and begin unconsciously reverting to the Markan text he was summarizing.

Indeed, the reference to Jesus’ family being outside is the exact location where Matthew rejoins the Markan text after interjecting a bit of double tradition material (Matt. 12:43-45; cf. Luke 11:24-26). How would Matthew become “fatigued” at the exact point he resumed looking at the text?

It is more likely that Matthew deliberately chose to omit Mark’s set-up for this encounter—based on his usual pattern of abbreviating Mark in the interests of concision. When he came to the later text and saw the reference to the family standing outside, he then trusted the reader to make any necessary inferences rather than bothering to add “And while he was in a house” or something equivalent.

But if this was a deliberate choice on Matthew’s part, it wasn’t a matter of fatigue but of different priorities.

Again: Matthew is letting his Markan source material peek through. The question is whether this phenomenon is best described as being due to mental fatigue, and the latter is not evident.


Other Terms

In light of the above, a more neutral term would be preferable for this phenomenon—one that describes it objectively rather than presupposing a particular psychological state on the part of the author.

“Editorial reversion,” “editorial preservation,” “source preservation,” or simply “inconsistent redaction” would be better.

However, in this paper we need to interact with Goulder and Goodacre, who use “editorial fatigue,” so we’ll need use the term.


The Concept of Reversibility

How solid is the claim that the argument from editorial fatigue is not reversible?

When an argument for a particular order of the Gospels is said to be “reversible,” this means that it has an alternative explanation which is consistent with a different sequence for the Gospels.

Let’s look at two examples of reversibility.


Agreement with Markan Sequence

B. H. Streeter argued that Mark was the earliest Synoptic Gospel because, when Mark’s material appears in Matthew and Luke, either Matthew preserves the Markan order or Luke does so, but Matthew and Luke don’t sequence the material in a way where they agree with each other against Mark’s sequence.

The idea that Mark was written first is not the only way to explain this.

Later scholars pointed out that if Mark was the last Synoptic Gospel written, it could also explain the sequence. On this view, Mark would have partially followed Matthew’s order and partially followed Luke’s as he alternated which Gospel he was using at the moment.

The argument based on the sequence of material is thus susceptible to an alternative interpretation and is said to be “reversible” in that those who favor Markan priority and those who favor Markan posteriority can both appeal to it.


Alternating Primitivity

Another reversible argument is based on the fact that, among the passages Matthew and Luke have in common (i.e., the “double tradition”), sometimes Matthew seems to preserve the more original (primitive) version of the story or saying, while sometimes Luke does. This is known as “alternating primitivity.”

The phenomenon is sometimes proposed as a reason for thinking Matthew and Luke both used an earlier source called Q. On this view, Matthew sometimes edits Q in a way that gives him a less primitive version of the material. In other cases, Luke edits Q in a way that gives him the less primitive version.

However, alternating primitivity can be explained in other ways. Stories and sayings of Jesus originally circulated orally, and this led them to take more than one form. Matthew and Luke may have simply selected the form of a particular tradition that better suited their interests as authors.

For example, if Luke had Matthew in front of him, he may have thought at various points, “Hmm. I like this story or saying and want to include it, but I want to use a different form than Matthew does.” He would then include his preferred form of the tradition, whether it happened to be more primitive or less primitive than what was in Matthew.

We can see an example of this happening in Luke with respect to Mark. When Luke comes to Mark’s version of the Eucharistic words of institution (Mark 14:22-24), he uses a different form of them (Luke 22:19-20) that is very close to Paul’s version (1 Cor. 11:24-25).

This is likely because, as a member of the Pauline circle, Luke would have heard the Eucharist celebrated with these words on a regular basis (both by Paul and his co-ministers), and thus it was the form of the words most familiar to him.

Alternating primitivity can thus be accounted for in more than one way, so it is “reversible.”


Are Arguments from Editorial Fatigue Reversible?

What about cases of editorial fatigue? Are they subject to a similar kind of alternative explanation?

Let’s begin by looking at one of the best cases of proposed fatigue.


Luke’s Parable of the Pounds

In Luke 19:12-27, Jesus tells a parable which has striking similarities to Matthew’s more familiar parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30).

It begins with a man setting out on a journey to receive a kingdom (19:12). Before departing, he calls ten servants and gives them ten pounds (Greek, mnas), or one pound each, with instructions to trade with them until he gets back (v. 13).

When he does return, he summons them to see what profit they have made (v. 15). One servant has made ten pounds more, so the king gives him charge of ten cities (vv. 16-17). Another has made five pounds, so he gets five cities (vv. 18-19). Finally, a third servant reveals that he didn’t trade with his pound but kept it hidden in a napkin (v. 20-21).

The king is angry and orders that this servant’s pound be taken away from him and given to the one who has ten (v. 24). This prompts other servants to exclaim, “Lord, he has ten pounds!” (v. 25).

This raises questions like:

  1. If all ten servants got a pound, why do we only hear about three of them? The other seven servants seem redundant to the parable. After mentioning the first two servants, Luke even refers to the third servant as “the other” (ho heteros; v. 20), suggesting there were only three.
  2. Why do the other servants object to the final pound being given to the one who has ten? They apparently feel he’s already been sufficiently rewarded by having charge of ten pounds (technically, eleven, since he made ten “more” besides the one he started with). But after his handling of the pound, the king gave him charge of ten cities. The latter is what their attention ought to be attracted to, as the pounds are nothing in comparison.

These factors have led scholars to propose that Luke is presenting a later form of a parable that originally only involved three servants, who weren’t giving cities to reign over.

That’s exactly what we find in Matthew’s parable of the talents: It involves only three servants (Matt. 25:14). The first is given five talents and earns five more, for a total of ten (v. 20)—not eleven—and, when he is rewarded, he is only told, “you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much” (v. 21)—thus not specifying the details of what his future reward would be and making it less incongruous when the master gives the final talent “to him who has the ten talents” (v. 28). Matthew thus seems to have a more primitive version of this parable.

Goodacre proposes that Luke has a fondness for the number ten, or a ten-to-one ratio (“Fatigue,” 57, citing his Goulder and the Gospels, ch. 15), and so he sees Luke as having modified an earlier version of this parable from whatever source he got it—which he proposes to have been Matthew if there was no Q.

Luke’s references to only three servants and to ten pounds rather than ten cities thus appear to be examples of Luke’s source material peeking through in his adapted version of the parable.

However, this is a case of alternating primitivity between Matthew and Luke, and there is more than one way to explain this phenomenon.

Without bringing Q into the picture, it could be that Luke had Matthew in front of him and that he adapted Matthew’s version of the parable. But it could equally be the case that Matthew had Luke in front of him and, when he came to this parable, he thought, “Hmm. This version is a little confusing with the ten servants and ten cities. I prefer the simpler, more primitive version I am aware of in the traditions. I’ll use that one instead.”


Partial Reversibility?

It thus appears that, in particular cases of editorial fatigue—as in Luke’s parable of the pounds—alternative explanations are possible, making these cases “reversible” as points of evidence.

Goodacre seems to endorse this view when he says, after discussing a single case of Matthean fatigue with respect to Mark, “Of course the evidence of one pericope alone will not do to establish Marcan priority” (“Fatigue,” 47).

But what if we don’t just have a few individual cases of fatigue? What if we have a whole bunch?

It’s one thing if, say, Matthew has only two or three plausible cases of fatigue when compared to Mark—but it’s another thing if Matthew has dozens of them, and if there are no cases of Mark looking fatigued compared to Matthew.

We might provide alternative explanations for a handful of cases, but if there are a large number—all pointing in the same direction—then it would seem much more likely that Matthew was written after Mark rather than the reverse.

The alternative, if we are considering which author may have used the other, would be to say that Mark was an eagle-eyed editor who spotted all of the cases where Matthew looked fatigued and systematically eliminated them.

This is not consistent with the degree of precision Mark displays in other respects, but even a meticulous author would be unlikely to spot and eliminate dozens of cases, not letting any slip through.

He might catch and eliminate the most obvious incongruities (like those in the parable of the pounds), but he would likely let through minor ones if the source material had numerous instances.

It thus seems that one could make an argument for the priority of one document over another if the latter contained a large number of cases of apparent fatigue.


A Paradoxical Problem

Even here, though, there is a problem with this kind of aggregate argument, and it involves a paradox.

Suppose that Matthew contained three cases of fatigue that look really obvious (major examples) and a dozen cases that are less obvious (minor examples).

One explanation is that Matthew used Mark and edited inconsistently fifteen times, three of which are clearly anomalous.

But if Mark wrote using Matthew, the three obvious examples would be precisely the kinds of cases he would be likely to catch and eliminate. That means you can’t use those three cases—the major ones—as evidence Mark wrote first. You can only use the less obvious, minor cases.

The problem is that the minor ones are, by their nature, minor—that is, it’s less obvious that they’re cases of “fatigue” (i.e., anomalous preservations of source material).

Paradoxically, the evidence that one can most validly appeal to (the cases that are more likely to have slipped below an editor’s radar) is also the evidence that is most debatable as evidence.

Perhaps a truly large number of minor cases would still provide a solid case for the priority of one document, but if they’re genuinely minor cases, they could be simply evidence of a trend on the part of one author—such as an inclination to be less explicit about things than we might wish (e.g., by not being inclined to explicitly mention that Jesus had gone into a house).

To counter this, one could argue an one author shows many minor cases of fatigue of different kinds (so they aren’t part of an authorial trend), but this is a more sophisticated and robust claim than just that an author has what looks like cases of editorial fatigue.

The bare fatigue argument thus may be more reversible than initially thought.


Fatigue and Lukan Posteriority

In light of the above, Goodacre’s argument for Markan priority based on fatigue would need another look, but that goes beyond my purposes here. (Personally, I’m convinced of Markan priority on other grounds.)

However, I would like to look at the argument Goodacre makes for Lukan posteriority. After citing the parable of the pounds, he writes:

Nor is this parable an isolated example—there are several clear cases of Double Tradition material in which Luke appears to show editorial fatigue in his copying of Matthew, as when he begins talking about the Centurion’s ‘slave’ (Greek doulos, Lk. 7.2; cf. 7.10) in contrast to Matthew’s Centurion’s ‘son’ or ‘servant’ (Greek pais, Mt. 8.6), only subsequently to drift into Matthew’s wording (pais, Mt. 8.8//Lk. 7.7).

Or one might look at Lk. 9.5 in which Jesus speaks about when the disciples leave ‘that town’. No town has been mentioned in the previous verses, Lk. 9.1-6 (Mission Charge, cf. Mk 6.6b-13//Mt. 10.5-15). It seems, then, that Luke has copied the words from Matthew (10.14), who does have the appropriate antecedent (Mt. 10.11, ‘and whatever town or village you enter . . .’).

It could, of course, be the case that Luke is simply fatigued in such cases with a Q source better represented by Matthew. The difficulty with this idea, however, is that it seems impossible to find reverse examples, cases where Matthew has apparently become fatigued with Q, something that would be very odd given his clear tendency to become fatigued in his copying of Mark (see above, Chapter 3). This is more evidence, then, that the Double Tradition material is due not to Matthew’s and Luke’s independent copying of Q but rather to Luke’s use of Matthew (The Synoptic Problem: A Way Through the Maze, 155).

Goodacre’s fatigue-based argument that Luke wrote using Matthew but not Q thus consists of two prongs:

  1. Luke contains examples of what look like editorial fatigue with respect to the double tradition.
  2. Matthew does not contain examples of what look like editorial fatigue with respect to the double tradition (which we would expect if Matthew were using Luke or Q).

I have not yet done an analysis of Matthew’s handling of the double tradition to see if it contains cases of apparent fatigue, but it does not seem that the presumption that Matthew would display fatigue with it is a strong one. After all, Goodacre only points to two examples of fatigue in Luke’s handling of that material:

  • The parable of the talents/pounds (Mt. 25:14-30//Lk. 19:11-27)
  • The centurion’s servant (Mt. 8:5-13//Lk. 7:1-10)

If Luke only has two cases of proposed fatigue for the double tradition, it’s possible Matthew might not have any.

Goodacre also proposes a case of Lukan fatigue with Matthew from the triple tradition:

  • The mission charge (Mt. 10:1-15//Mk. 6:6b-13//Lk. 9:1-6, 10:1-12)

Whether this should be added to the above total is debatable, but even if it is—and if it and the other two cases work—it doesn’t establish a strong presumption for Matthew becoming fatigued with the double tradition (despite the way he handles Mark, which is his primary literary source).

The second prong of the argument thus looks weak. What about the first?


The Parable of the Pounds

We’ve already noted that the parable of the pounds is exactly the kind of thing that Matthew might look at and decide to use an alternate, more primitive form of the tradition.

It’s about as clear a case of editorial “fatigue” on Luke’s part as one might want, and for that reason it’s the kind of thing that would motivate Matthew to use another form of the tradition if he were writing after Luke.


The Centurion’s Servant

The way the centurion’s “slave”/“son”/“servant” is referred to is too minor and ambiguous to have much weight.

First, both Matthew and Luke use both terms: Matthew uses pais in 8:6, 8, 13 and doulos in 8:9, while Luke uses doulos in 7:2, 3, 8, and 10 and pais in 7:7.

The terms are near synonyms and are used interchangeably in this passage. Matthew simply prefers one and Luke the other, but both authors use both terms. No solid conclusions can be drawn from this.

Second, the only statement in which they both use pais is Matthew 8:8 (“my servant will be healed”)//Luke 7:7 (“let my servant be healed”).

This could be either because Luke saw pais in Matthew and repeated it (changing most but not all of the other references to his preferred term doulos) or it could be because Matthew saw pais in Luke (changing Luke’s other references to pais, though leaving the one in Matt. 8:9//Luke 7:8 as doulos since it involves the giving of orders and thus is less intimate).

Third, we’re dealing with a tiny number of instances of both words (five in Luke and four in Matthew). This is too small a sample to establish any firm conclusions.

Fourth, this story has been fundamentally recast. This is illustrated not only by the fact one text almost exclusively uses doulos while the other almost exclusively uses pais but also by the fact that Luke includes the intermediary role of both “the elders of the Jews” (7:3-4) and the centurion’s friends (7:6-8), so that the centurion never meets Jesus directly.

By contrast, in Matthew the role of both groups are omitted, making it appear that the centurion talks to Jesus directly, without intermediaries.

In light of this kind of fundamental recasting, the coincidence of a single, near-synonymous word (when both words are used) is too slender a reed on which to base any conclusions.

Fifth, the fact that Matthew omits mention of both intermediary groups makes it look like his account is the more developed and Luke’s is the more primitive.

It is more likely that Matthew would omit the intermediary groups for the sake of simplicity than that Luke would add them to a simpler text he had in front of him.


The Mission Charge

The third and final examples of Lukan fatigue that Goodacre cites is not found in the double tradition but in the triple tradition.

The discussion centers on the way Matthew and Luke modify the following statements from Mark:

And he said to them, “Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place” (Mark 6:10).

“And if any place will not receive you and they refuse to hear you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet for a testimony against them” (Mark 6:11).

In Matthew these become:

“And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it, and stay with him until you depart. As you enter the house, salute it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you” (Matt. 10:11-13).

“And if any one will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town” (Matt. 10:14).

Notice that Matthew has greatly expanded Mark’s first statement and included a reference to “whatever town or village you enter.” (On Matthean posteriority, much of this material may have been taken from Luke 10:5-6, though not the reference to towns and villages; however, that could be based on Luke 10:1, 8, 10, or 12 or it could be Matthew’s own insertion, as we will see.)

Matthew has also adapted Mark’s second statement by omitting the reference to a “place” (topos) and adding a reference to shaking the dust off their feet as they leave “that house or town.”

In Luke, the two statements become:

“And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart” (Luke 9:4).

“And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them” (Luke 9:5).

Here Luke has a reference in the second statement to “that town” but no reference to a town in the first statement (or anywhere else in the preceding material in the pericope).

On Goodacre’s theory, this is due to Luke being editorially fatigued: He apparently used Matthew’s account and edited out the reference to a town in the first utterance but inadvertently included the reference in the second.

How plausible is this?

First, note that Luke’s version of the first statement is quite close to Mark’s and not at all similar to Matthew’s. Taking the passage at face value, it looks more like Luke was adapting Mark than that he was adapting Matthew.

Second, Luke’s second statement is also more similar to Mark’s than it is to Matthew’s. Both Luke and Mark refer to the disciples shaking the dust off their feet “as a testimony against them,” while Matthew simply says “shake off the dust from your feet as you leave.”

One could propose that Luke was conflating the two passages from Matthew and Mark, but this is not the way ancient authors typically worked. They did not typically knit together tiny bits of text—individual words and phrases—from two sources. Most authors would base their account on one source in one passage and another source in another passage (see Ancient Compositional Practices by Richard Derrenbacker).

Here it looks like Luke is basing his account on Mark, not Matthew, in which case he isn’t being fatigued using Matthew’s version.

Third, it is quite possible for Luke to add the reference to “that town” to Mark’s account on his own. Houses were located in towns, and Mark has already referred to “that place” (obviously a larger location than a single house) not receiving the disciples. For Luke to refer to a town here would have been a trivial modification based on what was already in Mark. No additional textual influence is needed to explain this.

Fourth, on Goodacre’s theory, Matthew himself added two references to towns to Mark’s account—one in the first statement and one in the second. But if Matthew on his own initiative could add two references to towns, Luke could certainly add one.

Fifth, if Matthew wrote after Luke, we can still explain why his version reads as it does. Many scholars have proposed that Matthew brought together material on similar topics and grouped it together, thus explaining why material scattered in different places in Luke is found in Matthew’s large speeches—one of which is the Missionary Discourse here in chapter 10. If this was Matthew’s redactional tendency, he would have drawn material from Luke 10:5-6 forward into the Missionary Discourse and made it part of the first statement, above.

This thus does not look like a promising case of non-reversible editorial fatigue on the part of Luke with respect to Matthew.



In view of the above, Goodacre’s argument for Lukan posteriority does not succeed:

  • The presumption that Matthew would have shown editorial fatigue in the double tradition material is not strong, as Goodacre only proposes two examples for Luke in this material (only one of which is convincing).
  • The editorial fatigue in the parable of the pounds is exactly the kind of thing Matthew would have caught, so we would expect Matthew to revert to the more primitive version of this parable.
  • The wording of the centurion’s servant and the mission charge is not convincing as editorial fatigue.
  • Finally, Matthew’s version of the centurion’s servant looks less primitive than Luke’s (suggesting that it is based on Luke unless we resort to Q or some other source).

Lukan posteriority thus is not demonstrated, and Matthean posteriority looks quite possible.

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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 7 November 2017 to 22 November 2017.


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divine electionCalvinist theology places a great deal of emphasis on the concept of God’s elect.

The term “elect” is taken from the Greek word eklektos, which means “chosen.”

In Calvinist thought, the elect are those that have been chosen by God to be saved on the last day. The Westminster Confession of Faith states, “God hath appointed the elect unto glory” (3:6).

This sense of the term is not unique to Calvinism. It is also the way the term has traditionally been used in Catholic theology, from which Calvinism inherited it.

However, it is important to be careful about the way terms have come to be used in theology, because language changes over time, and sometimes the meaning a term has in later texts does not correspond to the one it has in earlier ones.

A classic example of this is “heresy.” Originally, the Greek term hairesis just meant “opinion” or “sect” (i.e., the group of people who hold a particular opinion), but today it means something very different.

What about “elect”? Can we count on early texts using it in the sense later theologies have?


Multiple Senses of “Elect”

It’s easy to show from the Bible that the term isn’t always used in the later, theological sense. When Jesus is described in John 1:34 as the “Chosen One” (eklektos) of God, it does not mean that God has chosen Jesus to be saved on the final day.

Similarly, there are various passages in the Old Testament where God’s people Israel is described as his “chosen” (Heb., bakhir; LXX, eklektos; e.g., 1 Chr. 16:13, Ps. 105:6, Is. 65:9).

However, if we set these aside and look at early Christian texts that speak of a group of people in God’s new dispensation as “the elect,” what do we find?

A striking example of where the term is not used in the later theological sense is found in 1 Clement, and it is worth looking at the way this document uses it.


Introducing 1 Clement

1 Clement is a letter written from Rome to Corinth in the first century. It is often dated to around A.D. 96, but it is more plausibly dated to the first half of A.D. 70.

Although written in a corporate manner (1 Clem. 65:2 describes it as “The letter of the Romans to the Corinthians”), its eloquence reveals that it is the product of a single author (not a committee), as was virtually universal for letters at this time.

The extensive knowledge of the Old Testament that its author clearly possesses suggests that he was of Jewish extraction.

Various early Christian sources identify the author as Clement, a bishop of Rome, and there is no good reason to doubt this identification.

It is significant for our purposes is that this Clement was a disciple of both Peter and Paul.

He may be the same Clement mentioned in Philippians 4:3, and 1 Clement describes Peter and Paul as men of “our generation” (5:1-7). Both Peter and Paul are known to have spent significant amounts of time at Rome, and both were martyred there—likely just a handful of years before the letter was written.

Although 1 Clement is not part of the New Testament, the fact it was written so early and by a disciple of Peter and Paul make its discussion of the elect significant, and it may shed light on the way this term is used in New Testament texts.

So how is the concept is handled in 1 Clement?


Election in 1 Clement

The first mention of the elect in 1 Clement occurs in its opening passage. Responding to a crisis that has occurred in the church of Corinth—whereby the leaders of that church had been unjustly expelled from office—the author notes that this “unholy rebellion” is “both foreign and strange to the elect of God” (1:1).

From this we may infer that God’s elect are to be characterized by holiness and due order in church affairs.

Clement next comments on how the Corinthians have made great efforts to seek the salvation of others. He writes:

It was your struggle,  both day and night, on behalf of the whole fellowship of believers,  to save the total number of his elect with mercy and conscientiousness (2:4).

This passage uses the term “elect” in a way distinctly different from its later theological use.

Here “the total number of his [God’s] elect” is identified with “the whole fellowship of believers”—a usage reminiscent of the Old Testament passages that speak of the people of Israel collectively as God’s chosen.

We thus need to be alert to the idea that Clement simply envisions the Christian community in the same way: Christians as a whole are God’s new elect or chosen people.

This understanding is strengthened by the fact he here says that the Corinthians have struggled to ensure that “the total number of his elect” be saved, for it suggests that the total number of the elect might not be saved.

This makes better sense if the elect are conceived of as Christians in general rather than those who will be saved on the last day. The former (people who have professed faith in Jesus Christ and been baptized) are not guaranteed salvation, but those who will be saved on the last day—by definition—are.

The natural sense of the passage is thus that the Corinthians have made great efforts to ensure the salvation of all believers, though this salvation is not guaranteed. (Indeed, Clement later warns those who fomented the Corinthian rebellion that they need to repent or they will be “driven out from his [Christ’s] hope,” literal translation; 57:2).

As we will see, this corporate understanding of the elect is consistent with all of the other references Clement makes to the elect.

Clement notes that, to Peter and Paul “a great multitude of the elect was gathered” (6:1).

He also refers to us approaching the Father, “who made us his own chosen [eklogēs] portion” (29:1)—an idea strongly reminiscent of and undoubtedly based on Israel as God’s portion, which he chose (cf. Deut. 7:6, 14:2, 32:9).

It is important to note that here Clement conceives of Roman and Corinthian Christians as a whole—not just certain individuals among them—as being God’s chosen.

Later he quotes from Psalm 118:25-26, writing:

“With the innocent one you [God] will be innocent and with the elect you will be elect and with the perverse you will deal perversely.” 

Therefore let us cling to the innocent and the righteous, as these are the elect of God (46:3-4).

Here he identifies the elect as “the innocent and the righteous”—terms that can characterize Christians in general.

In the same chapter, he writes:

Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, for it says, “Woe to that person, it would be better for him if he had not been born than to cause one of my elect to sin. It would have been better for him to be tied to a millstone and to sink into the sea than to turn away one of my elect” (Matt. 26:24 with Luke 17:1-2). Your schism has turned many away . . . ! (46:7-9).

Here Clement envisions it being possible for the elect to sin and to “turn away”—something he says the Corinthian schism has accomplished.

Clement later writes that “All of the elect of God were made perfect in love. Apart from love, nothing is pleasing to God” (49:5), indicating that the elect are to be characterized by love.

Quoting Psalm 32:1-2 (or perhaps Rom. 4:7-9), he writes:

“Blessed are those whose trespasses are forgiven and whose sins are covered up; blessed is the one the sin of whom the Lord does not take into account, and in his mouth there is no deceit.” 

This blessing was given to those who have been chosen [eklelegmenous] by God through Jesus Christ our Lord (50:6-7).

Thus the elect have been given the blessing of forgiveness.

Clement identifies the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit as “both the faith and the hope of the elect” (58:2)—meaning they believe and hope in the Persons of the Trinity.

He says that the Roman church will make “earnest prayer and supplication, that the number of those who are counted among his elect throughout the whole world, the Creator of everything may guard unharmed through his beloved child Jesus Christ” (59:2). The elect thus need to be guarded from harm.

In the same chapter, Clement addresses God directly, noting that he “multiplies the nations upon earth and chose [ekleksamenon] from all of them those who love you through Jesus Christ your beloved child” (59:3).

Here the elect are again identified with “those who love you [God] through Jesus Christ”—i.e., the worldwide Christian community.

The above are the only places where 1 Clement refers to “the elect” or uses the corresponding terms for choosing to refer to a group of people in the Christian age.

He also uses these terms to refer to specific chosen individuals, such as Aaron (43:4-5), David (52:2), and Jesus (64:1), as do various passages in the Old Testament. However, these do not pertain to the subject we are examining.

What, then, can be said about 1 Clement’s understanding of the elect?



It appears that 1 Clement’s understanding of “the elect” is based on Old Testament passages (e.g., Deut. 7:6, 14:2, 32:9, 1 Chr. 16:13, Ps. 105:6, Is. 65:9) that conceive of Israel as God’s elect or chosen people.

Clement thus refers to members of the Roman and Corinthian churches as a whole (not just certain individuals) as the subject of God’s election, saying that he “made us his own chosen portion” (29:1).

Today, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are “the faith and the hope of the elect” (58:2), and from among the nations, God “chose . . . those who love you through Jesus Christ your beloved child” (59:3). The elect are thus identified with the worldwide Christian community.

Therefore, “the total number of his elect” is identified with “the whole fellowship of believers” (2:4).

In Rome in particular, “a great multitude of the elect was gathered” around Peter and Paul (6:1).

The elect have been given the blessing of forgiveness. (50:6-7), and thus can be described as “the innocent and the righteous” (46:3-4), for “all of the elect of God were made perfect in love” (49:5). Consequently, they are to be characterized by holiness and due order in church affairs (1:1).

However, it is possible for members of the elect to sin and to “turn away”—something the Corinthian schism has caused to happen (46:7-9).

It is not guaranteed that “the total number of his elect” will be saved, and the Corinthians themselves have struggled to ensure their salvation (2:4). The Roman church likewise prays that God “may guard [them] unharmed through his beloved child Jesus Christ” (59:2).



We thus see that Clement—a disciple of Peter and Paul—conceives of “the elect” simply as the Christian people as a whole, not specifically as that group which will be saved on the last day.

His use of the term thus differs from the use it has in later Catholic and Calvinist theologies.

Given the fact his understanding of election closely corresponds to the Old Testament’s treatment of Israel as God’s elect people—not to mention his early date and the fact he was a disciple of Peter and Paul—this may well shed light on the way the term is used in the New Testament.

However, that is a subject for another time.

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This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 14 September 2017 to 16 November 2017.


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