The Pastoral Epistles in First Clement, Part III

[This post is part of a series on The Pastoral Epistles in the Apostolic Fathers. RWB]


There are some affinities between 1Cl 61.2 and 1Ti 1.17.


1Cl 61.2 || 1Ti 1.17



(2) σὺ γάρ, δέσποτα ἐπουράνιε, βασιλεῦ τῶν αἰώνων, δίδως τοῖς υἱοῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων δόξαν καὶ τιμὴν καὶ ἐξουσίαν τῶν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς ὑπαρχόντων· σύ, κύριε, διεύθυνον τὴν βουλὴν αὐτῶν κατὰ τὸ καλὸν καὶ εὐάρεστον ἐνώπιόν σου, ὅπως διέποντες ἐν εἰρήνῃ καὶ πραΰτητι εὐσεβῶς τὴν ὑπὸ σοῦ αὐτοῖς δεδομένην ἐξουσίαν ἵλεώ σου τυγχάνωσιν. (1Cl 61.2)
(2) For you, heavenly Master, King of the ages, give to the sons of men glory and honor and authority over those upon the earth. Lord, direct their plans according to what is good and pleasing in your sight, so that by devoutly administering in peace and gentleness the authority which you have given them they may experience your mercy. (1Cl 61.2)
Holmes, M. W. (1999). The Apostolic Fathers : Greek texts and English translations (Updated ed.) (98, 99). Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.


17 Τῷ δὲ βασιλεῖ τῶν αἰώνων, ἀφθάρτῳ ἀοράτῳ μόνῳ θεῷ, τιμὴ καὶ δόξα εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας τῶν αἰώνων, ἀμήν. (1Ti 1.17, NA27)
17 To the King of eternity, impervious to death, invisible, the only God, honor and glory forever and ever, amen. (1Ti 1.17, my own translation)


The phrase under discussion is βασιλεῦ τῶν αἰώνων, “King of the ages/eternity”. It is a striking phrase and grabs one’s attention. However, the phrase does occur in Tob 13.6, 10a [LXX 13.7, 11] (also in a variant of Rev 15.3). Here’s the Tobit 13.10a/11 instance:



11 ἐξομολογοῦ τῷ κυρίῳ ἀγαθῶς
     καὶ εὐλόγει τὸν βασιλέα τῶν αἰώνων,
ἵνα πάλιν ἡ σκηνὴ αὐτοῦ οἰκοδομηθῇ σοι μετὰ χαρᾶς.
(Tob 13.11 LXX)
10a Acknowledge the Lord, for he is good,
     and bless the King of the ages,
so that his tent may be rebuilt in you in joy. (Tob 13.10a NRSV)


The 1Cl and 1Ti instances, however, have a little more in common as they each have alternate formulations describing God in close context. In 1Cl “heavenly Master” and “King of the ages” are both, surprisingly, in the vocative case; working together to describe the same God of whom Clement is making requests. In 1Ti 1.17, the dative case is used in a list of attributes; God is the King of the ages, he is also “impervious to death”, “invisible” and “the only God”. Tobit, on the other hand, has no immediately preceding or following appositional statements. God is referred to as King or Father of eternity a few times (Tob 13.1, 4, 6 NRSV), but that’s it.


Still, there seems little to commend any direct influence of 1Ti 1.17 (or Tob 13) on 1Cl 61.2. Lightfoot notes Clement’s earlier use of πατηρ των αιωνων (§35) and Θεος των αιωνων (§55); in light of that βασιλεῦ τῶν αἰώνων does not seem out of place for the author. According to the Oxford Committee, Lightfoot also notes similarity with this phrase and Jewish liturgical form:



The phrase is striking, but Dr. Lightfoot has pointed out in his notes on the passage, that it is probably based upon Jewish liturgical forms … (54-55).


The direct notes on the passage in Lightfoot’s 2-volume work on Clement do not mention anything about Jewish liturgical forms, but Lightfoot probably does mention this elsewhere in the work. I have foggy memories of such a statement in general but no specific reference handy to cite.


All in all, this seems like a phrase that could arise in 1Cl based on other phrases in 1Cl. It is also a phrase that has been used in thanksgivings to the Lord (cf. Tob 13). There seems to be no compelling reason to attribute Clement’s usage directly to the Pauline benediction in 1Ti 1.17.


Next up: 1Cl 29.1 || 1Ti 2.8