In his letter to the Philippians Paul wrote a little sentence in a part of that book that we now refer to as chapter four, verse 3, that goes like this:
"Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life"
And you might read that and say "Yeah? So what?" - and I'd say - what's cool about this verse is that this guy Paul mentions by name, Clement, wrote a book and more or less went on be a righteous dude drenched in awesome sauce.
Lemme explain ... no lemme sum up.
We really don't know a lot about Clement - like if you look him up - it will say that he was born in the Roman Empire in the first century ... born in the Roman Empire at that time almost means "born on earth." He is sometimes listed as Pope Clement - sometimes pope number 2 sometimes number three, and sometimes number 4. He's called a saint too by a larger number of ancient churches found around the Mediterranian than I realized even existed before I was bit by the curiosity bug that sent me looking all this stuff up in the first place.
Here's why I think Clement deserves to be thought about, read about, and talked about. Here was a guy - born at a time - maybe not a few of a us have wished we might have been alive to be a part of events unfolding. We weren't born then though - were we? No we were not. But this guy was. He seems to have not only traveled about with Paul - but to have spent a bit of time with Peter. I kind of doubt that he called himself a Pope - but whether he did or not - we might be envious of his opportunity to be in such close proximity to both Peter and Paul.
What would you do if you'd been stomping about the Roman Empire at that time and had met Peter and Paul? Clement seems to have wasted no time devoting himself to the early church and its leaders. Regardless of what titles he did or did not hold - he became himself a leader of the early church in Rome itself. His devotion seemed to inspire quite a lot of speculation and interest in him - so much so that he was a popular figure for people at that time to insert into their stories of daring-do (leading to Martyrdom) and even appeared as the star of more than one early version of a romance novel! If you google a picture of Clement of Rome - you're likely to find an anchor with him in many of them - because later on it was claimed that he'd been martyred by having an anchor tied around his neck and pitched into the sea. Gotta love those early Christian's fondness for creepy bluntness. I imagine if I were living back then my wake-pic would show me dying tripping over my murderous cat while walking to get my first cup of coffee in the morning (though I'm pretty sure this wouldn't count as martyrdom)
While we know Clement through things written about him by Eusebius, Jerome and Tertullian - but we also know about him through his own writing - namely First Clement. While there are many interesting bits for historians and theologians to chew on in Clement - what captures my attention is that this is one of the very earliest Christian writings that's remained to this day - that was written during the first century. It reads partly like Paul's writings to the Corinthians - and is actually written to the church there in Corinth - and it reads like Peter's writings - which of course makes sense - because other than this guy having been born on earth during the 1st century - we know he happened to spend some amount of time - probably in Rome - with both of those figures. It is even possible that Clement was among the people who were with them right up until the end of their lives. Imagine meeting Peter and Paul and being tasked with writing something still worth reading 19 centuries later. I'm pretty sure I'd resort to jokes.
Every year - according to google - up to 1,000,000 books are published (about half self-published with an average of just 250 copies) - so - the longevity of these literary endeavors is well ... uncertain. The earliest years of Christianity have always loomed in my earliest imagination as a mix between exploration and Sunday-school. There came a day not all that long ago when I started looking up the earliest years/centuries of the faith and trying to learn how we came to be where we are. Clement's writings may not be the first ever - but they are the oldest surviving and it seems more undisputed than you might imagine that First Clement really was written by Clement. Who knows - maybe the twenty century's interest in blogging about faith finds it's origins 19 centuries ago in a guy who was inspired by Peter and Paul and put pen to paper. If you'd like to check out First Clement for yourself - click here.