Clement of Alexandria: On the Passover

This is the first ever English translation of the fragments of Clement of Alexandria’s treatise On the Passover. The merits of this translation are due principally to the exertions of my Saturday morning Greek class: Ben Horvath, Dave Scherer, Jack Weisensel, Tyler Davis, Kevin Russell, and Eric Kanis. I have transcribed our efforts with a few annotations and supplied a short introduction. We release our translation into the public domain.

Clement of Alexandria

Titus Flavius Clemens was a presbyter1 of the Church of Alexandria who flourished about A.D. 200. He was an adult convert to Christianity2, born probably at Athens3 around the middle of the second century, making him a younger contemporary of St. Irenaeus.

Clement had extensive philosophical and literary training which well suited him to his position as head of the catechetical school in Alexandria.4 His learning shows through in his surviving writings, especially his famous trilogy:

  1. the Protrepticus (ca. 195), an exhortation to pagan Greeks to convert to Christianity;
  2. the Paedagogus (ca. 197), three books of basic instruction on the Christian faith; and
  3. the Stromateis (ca. 198–203), a miscellany of essays on various subjects pertaining to Christian belief and practice.

There are a number of other works also,5 which have survived whole or in fragments.

Clement fled Alexandria during the Severan persecution of 202–203,6 and died in exile about a decade later.7 He was long reckoned as a saint in the Catholic Church, but his name was not included in the Roman Martyrology on the advice of Cardinal Baronius.8 He is still venerated in the Eastern Churches (and especially among the Copts) on his feast day, December 4.

On the Passover: Introduction


One of Clement’s minor works, On the Passover, has unfortunately come down to us only in fragments. According to St. Jerome, it was only one book in length9 – by comparison, Clement’s Paedagogus was in three books and his Stromateis in eight. As with all of Clement’s works, the date of On the Passover is difficult to fix. André Méhat – the only scholar who has thus far ventured a chronology of the Clementine corpus – proposes that On the Passover was written around 213, making it the last of Clement’s works.10 Méhat hastens to add that his chronology is highly tentative – it could have been written as early as 190, when Clement began teaching in Alexandria.


Clement mentions (frag. 26) that he was prompted to write On the Passover by St. Melito of Sardis’ treatise of the same name. Eusebius tells us that Melito wrote a treatise On the Passover in two books in the mid-160s.11 Unfortunately, Melito’s work (like Clement’s) was lost except for a handful of fragments. Most assumed it was an extended argument for the Quartodecimian dating of Easter, since Melito was known to be a member of that party.12 This led to the further assumption that Clement’s On the Passover written in response to Melito’s work was a refutation of his Quartodecimianism – since the Alexandrian Church to which Clement belonged followed the Roman dating of Easter.13

Then in 1936, in one of the most spectacular manuscript finds of the twentieth century, Melito’s On the Passover was identified among the Chester Beatty papyri. But instead of a treatise on the dating of Easter, Melito’s On the Passover turned out to be a homily he preached on Good Friday.14

The problem is that Melito’s homily is rather short – hardly two books long. This has given rise to no small consternation among patristic scholars. Some think Eusebius was mistaken about its length. Others propose that the title15 only means it was delivered “on the Passover,” that is, on Easter; on this view, Melito’s the two-book treatise On the Passover mentioned by Eusebius was a different work that is still lost. Others argue our homily was one of the two books, while the other is still missing. Some have even argued the homily was delivered in two parts, like the prayers at a Passover Seder. Stuart George Hall discusses the various possibilities in the introduction to his edition and translation of Melito’s surviving works.16


The reason the question is relevant here is that Clement’s On the Passover is at least in some way a response to Melito’s. If Melito’s work was not in fact a defense of Quartodecimianism, it raises the possibility that Clement’s response was not, as was long assumed, a refutation of Melito’s errors. It is instead possible that when Clement ran across Melito’s work, he was only inspired by it to put in writing some of what he had learned on the same subject.

Our other guide to the contents of On the Passover is what survives from the work itself. It would seem from the eleven fragments translated below that it was a rather wide-ranging treatise – which is exactly what we would expect from Clement, whose most famous work, the Stromateis, was a kind of patchwork quilt of observations on various subjects. The first three fragments (25–27) are mentions of On the Passover in later patristic works. The remaining eight are actual excerpts of various lengths. There is a fragment on the chronology of the Last Supper (28), on free will (29), on self-knowledge (31), on images (33), and on the spread of leprosy (34). Two of the fragments, (30 and 32) are in fact allusions to the works of Greek philosophers, respectively Plato and Aristotle. As we know from his surviving works, Clement had a penchant for such citations – Stählin’s index of his references to profane Greek literature is an astonishing thirty pages long17 – so again this is exactly what we should expect. The final fragment (35) testifies to Clement’s text of 1 John, which will be of interest to New Testament textual critics.

There may be some insight into the contents of the work in how St. Nicephorus I introduces frag. 33, from St. Nicephorus I. Rather than introduce the excerpt (as most of the other fragments do) with something like “as Clement writes in his book On the Passover,” Nicephorus instead writes, “as [Clement] explains in what he wrote on the laws of Passover.” It would seem that Nicephorus is indicating that On the Passover is not so much an argument about calendars or the dating of Easter as an essay on the laws of Passover given in Exodus. This understanding of the treatise accounts for many of the fragments that have come down to us, which concern topics that might come up in a discussion of the meaning and fulfillment of the Law of Moses.

The texts here translated were assembled by Otto Stählin in the third volume of his edition of Clement’s works, gcs 17 (1909) 216–218. I have also given the location of each fragment in the larger works that preserve them so that they can be viewed in context.

On the Passover: Translation

From Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History (ca. 325)18

25. Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 6.13.9 (gcs 9.2.548)
In his book On the Passover [Clement] acknowledges that he had been urged by his friends to commit to writing, for posterity, the traditions which he had heard from the ancient presbyters; and in the same work he mentions Melito and Irenaeus,19 and certain others, and gives extracts from their writings.

26. Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 4.26.4 (gcs 9.1.382–384)
And Clement of Alexandria refers to this work [St. Melito’s treatise On the Passover] in his own book On the Passover, which, he says, he wrote because of20 Melito’s work.

From Pseudo-Anatolius, On the Reckoning of Easter (ca. 600)21

27. Pseudo-Anatolius, Rat. pasc. 1
But our ancestors most skilled in the Hebrew and Greek books – I speak of Isidore22 and Jerome and Clement – although they thought that the principles of the months were different owing to their different languages, yet they concurred on the one most certain reckoning of Easter, when day and moon and time come together, for the greatest veneration of the Resurrection of the Lord.

From the Paschal Chronicle (ca. 630)23

28. Chron. pasch. 7A–C (cshb 11.14–15)
But also Clement, the most holy priest of the Alexandrian Church, a man most ancient and not far from apostolic times, in his book On the Passover teaches something very similar,24 writing thus:
“In previous years, the Lord ate the Passover sacrificed by the Jews, keeping the feast. But after he preached25 – he who was the Passover,26 the Lamb of God,27 led as a sheep to the slaughter28 – at once taught the disciples the mystery of the type29 on the thirteenth day [of Nisan],30 on which also they inquired, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?”31 It was on this day, then, that both the consecration of the unleavened bread32 and the preparation for the feast took place.33 This is probably why John writes that on that day the disciples were already previously prepared to have their feet washed34 by the Lord.35 And on the following day, the Savior suffered – he who was the Passover, offered as an acceptable sacrifice by the Jews.”36
And after this he writes also:
“So it follows that on the fourteenth day (on which he also suffered) in the morning, the chief priests and the scribes who brought him to Pilate did not enter the Praetorium so that they might not be defiled, but might freely eat the Passover in the evening.37 The Gospels harmonize and the whole Scriptures sound in unison with this precise reckoning of the days. The Resurrection also bears witness to it: he surely rose on the third day, which was the first day of the weeks of harvest, on which it was commanded that the priest should offer up the sheaf.”38

From Sacred Parallels (8th century)39

29. Sac. par. II1111 / K cap. Α.2.33 (pg 86.2061A = Holl 307 = pts 74.123)
From On the Passover by the same:40
“It is a kind of compulsion, I think, when a man is stunned and overpowered by the miraculous, whom God wishes to be saved of his own free will, since this takes its origins only from the commandment. Therefore God is not coercive, nor is it right for the self-moving soul to be led around by outside causes in the manner of lifeless statues.”41

30. Sac. par. II1396 / K cap. Α.22.35 (pg 86.2069C = Holl 308 = pts 74.274)
Clement the Stromatist,42 from his On the Passover:
“It is not possible for opposite things to happen to the same thing at the same time in the same respect and the same relation.”43

31. Sac. par. II1570 / K cap. Γ.1.25 (pg 86.2072B–C = Holl 309 = pts 74.373)
Clement, from his On the Passover:
“Therefore the man who knows himself is the abode and throne of the Lord.”44

32. Sac. par. II1suppl. 250 / V cap. Z.2.44 (pg 95.1584B = Holl 310 = pts 78.140)
Clement, from his On the Passover:
“Striking lions’ bones together kindles fire just like flintstones.”45

From St. Nicephorus I of Constantinople, Antirrheticus 3 (ca. 820)46

33. St. Nicephorus I, Antirr. 3.26 (pg 100.416B)
Clement of Alexandria seems to hold likewise,47 as he explains in what he wrote on the laws of Passover, saying:
“It is like how an image of something not present conveys the impression of its archetype, and the image is lit up by the presence of the truth in it, by the likeness that it has received, which resides in it because it signifies the truth.”48

From the Catena Lipsiensis (11th century)49

34. Cat. Lips. 1.1037Α50
“And if it spreads out by diffusion in the skin, the priest shall declare him unclean: it is an infection of leprosy that has broken in the festering sore” (Lev 13:22).
Obscure. Clement says in his book On the Passover that the diffusion of leprosy is like the movement and course of a fluid.51

From Mount Athos Lavra B.64 = MS 1739 (10th century)52

35. Marginal note from MS 1739 fol. 41v
“And every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God” (1 John 4:3).
“… that separates Jesus.” Thus Irenaeus in his third book Against Heresies; also Origen, distinctly, in his Commentary on Romans, and Clement the Stromatist in his book On the Passover.53


  1. According to St. Jerome, Vir. ill. 38. Some contest this, but I am inclined to follow Jerome.
  2. Eusebius, Praep. ev. 2.2.
  3. St. Epiphanius, Pan. 32.6.
  4. There has been endless academic wrangling over this “catechetical school” and Clement’s role in it. For a full bibliography of the scholarship on Clement, see Eric Osborn’s excellent treatment in Clement of Alexandria (Cambridge UP, 2008).
  5. Listed by Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 6.13 and Jerome, Vir. ill. 38.
  6. As can be inferred from Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 6.3.3 – for Origen to take over the catechetical school, Clement had to have vacated it. Clement also is referred to as traveling outside Alexandria in the letters of St. Alexander of Jerusalem; see next note.
  7. Some time between 211 and 215, the dates of Alexander’s letters quoted in Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 6.11.6 and 6.14.9.
  8. Clement’s name was not stricken from the Martyrology, as is sometimes claimed – it was just never included. He appears in the Martyrology of Usuard (ca. 875) on which the Roman Martyrology is largely based, but from its first edition in 1583, the Roman Martyrology has never listed his name. The reasons for and against the inclusion of Clement in the calendar of saints are discussed at length by Pope Benedict XIV in the apostolic letter announcing the 1748 edition of the Roman Martyrology (19–36). He ultimately decides against inclusion for three reasons: insufficient evidence of sanctity of life, lack of public cultus, and certain doctrinally objectionable passages in Clement’s surviving works.
  9. Vir. ill. 38.
  10. André Méhat, Étude sur les “Stromates” de Clément d’Alexandrie, Patristica Sorbonensia 7 (Paris: Éditions du Seuil, 1966) 54.
  11. Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 4.26.2–3.
  12. Ibid., 5.24.5
  13. Ibid., 5.25.2.
  14. Making it the second oldest surviving Christian homily, after 2 Clement.
  15. Not present in the manuscript (which only has “Melito”), but derived from elsewhere.
  16. Stuart George Hall, Melito of Sardis: On Pascha and Fragments (oect, 1979) xix–xxi.
  17. gcs 39.1 (1936) 30–59.
  18. The translations here are lightly edited from Arthur C. McGiffert’s version in npnf 2.1 (1890) The standard Greek text is still that of Eduard Schwartz, gcs 9.1–3 (1903–1909). In the 1950s, Gustave Bardy worked through the entire text in his edition and translation of the Ecclesiastical History (sc 31, 41, 55, 73), and he found cause to change Schwartz’s readings in only a handful of places.
  19. During the reign of Pope St. Victor I (ca. A.D. 189–199) the longstanding controversy over the dating of Easter flared up to the extent that Victor threatened to excommunicate the churches of Asia who practiced Quartodecimianism. The crisis prompted St. Irenaeus to write a letter to Pope Victor (see the generous quotation in Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 5.24.12–17) in which he discusses Easter observances and urges toleration. This is probably the work used by Clement.
  20. Following Lawlor and Oulton in Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea: The Ecclesiastical History and The Martyrs of Palestine (spck, 1927) 1.132. McGiffert in npnf 2.1.205 has “on occasion of Melito’s work.” But however one dates Clement’s On the Passover, it was composed long after the death of Melito. So Clement wrote his treatise “because of” Melito’s – that is, he was prompted to write on the same subject after happening upon Melito’s work. He did not write “on occasion of” the publication of Melito’s work, as in the 160s Clement was still a child. It is similar to how Origen’s Against Celsus (ca. A.D. 248), was a response to Celsus’s anti-Christian polemic The True Word (ca. A.D. 170) despite being written several decades later.
  21. The treatise De ratione paschali purports to be the Latin translation of the Paschal Canons of Anatolius of Laodicea (d. ca. 282) mentioned by Eusebius in Hist. eccl. 7.32.13–19. In fact it is an Irish forgery dating from around 600 intended to demonstrate the antiquity of the Irish reckoning of Easter over against the Roman. Despite desultory attempts to defend its authenticity, the judgment of Bartholomew MacCarthy still stands, namely that “For textual distortion, resourceful invention and vituperative scorn, the spurious Anatolius stood peerless in the field of fabrication” (Annals of Ulster, vol. 4 [1887] cxviii – thanks to Roger Pearse for the citation). Needless to say, the ingenious Irish forger did not have access to Clement’s treatise On the Passover; his comment is included here only for the sake of completeness.
  22. Of Seville.
  23. The Chronicon Paschale is an account of the history of the world from creation down to Emperor Heraclius’ stunning victory over the Sassanid Persians in 628. The anonymous author’s keen interest in chronology is probably responsible for his including two lengthy excerpts from Clement. The Chronicon Paschale survives in only one tenth-century manuscript, Vat. gr. 1941. The standard edition is still that of Ludwig Dindorf, cshb 11 (1832), which is the edition reprinted by Jacque Paul Migne in pg 92 (1860). The version below benefited by comparison with the efforts of two previous translators: William Wilson in anf 2 (1885) 581 and Sydney Fenn Smith, S.J. in The Month (March, 1891) 374. The Chronicon Paschale has never been translated into English in its entirety; however Michael and Mary Whitby have translated its latter portion in Chronicon Paschale 284–628 (tth, 1990).
  24. Immediately above, the Chronicon Paschale gives two excerpts from St. Apollinaris of Hierapolis’ treatise On the Passover (which is entirely lost but for these passages). Apollinaris does in fact agree with Clement on the dating of the Last Supper.
  25. I am tempted to take this as a very broad allusion to Matt 26:1, “When Jesus had finished all these sayings.” The idea seems to be “after he finished preaching” – that is, when the Gospel story had transitioned decisively from our Lord’s teaching ministry to his Passion.
  26. 1 Cor 5:7.
  27. John 1:29.
  28. Isa 53:7.
  29. That is, the true meaning of the Passover sacrifice in the Old Testament. Clement writes a great deal about Christ’s presence in the Old Testament “concealed in the enigma of prophecy” and the need for spiritual interpretation (Strom., cf. Strom. 5.9).
  30. Note that Clement reckons his days according to standard Roman practice, midnight to midnight. He is here identifying the Thursday of Holy Week as Nisan 13 in the Hebrew calendar. According to the Hebrew reckoning, of course, the thirteenth would end and the fourteenth begin at sunset Thursday evening. Clement, however, counts the entire day, from the disciples’ inquiry to the Last Supper, as Nisan 13.
  31. Matt 26:17
  32. It is possible Clement is referring to the bedikat chametz – the searching out and cleansing of leaven, which according to m. Pesah. 1.1 was to take place the evening before Nisan 14. But it is more likely that this is a simple reference to our Lord’s consecrating the bread at the Last Supper. This is noteworthy in that it arguably makes Clement an early, Eastern witness to the use of unleavened bread in Christian worship.
  33. What Clement is contending here is that the Last Supper was not in fact a Passover Seder. The Passover lambs would be sacrificed in the afternoon on Nisan 14 (cf. Exod 12:6; Josephus, A.J. 3.248, B.J. 6.423). But Clement clearly identifies the date of the Last Supper as Nisan 13 – the night before Passover. So according to Clement, there was no lamb on the table at the Last Supper. At the Last Supper, the Lamb presided.
  34. Thus Wilson. Smith translates, “the disciples were already prepared in that their feet were washed,” which is possible, but I think less likely.
  35. Clement’s meaning seems to be that since the disciples had made “preparation for the feast,” they were gathered and ready to have their feet washed. On the other hand, if the sentence is understood according to Smith’s rendering, Clement’s meaning would be that the footwashing in John 13 served as a kind of preparation for the events of the following day.
  36. According to Clement’s chronology of Holy Week, our Lord was crucified on Nisan 14, at the same time the Passover lambs were being sacrificed in the Temple.
  37. Cf. John 13:28. Clement understands this verse to be in reference to the Passover Seder that evening, at which the Passover lambs to be sacrificed and roasted would be consumed.
  38. According to Josephus, A.J. 3.250, the waving of the omer commanded in Lev 23:10–11 was observed on Nisan 16. So according to Clement’s chronology of Holy Week, the Crucifixion on Good Friday (Nisan 14) coincided with the sacrifice of the Passover Lambs and the Resurrection on Easter Sunday (Nisan 16) coincided with the offering of the first fruits of the barley harvest. I would argue that the latter synchrony also lies behind St. Paul’s statement in 1 Cor 15:20 that “Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
  39. The Sacra Parallela is a long florilegium of biblical and patristic texts which has preserved a host of fragments from works which would otherwise be lost to us. Its compiler was long thought to be St. John of Damascus († ca. 750), but most scholars now hold that it was composed about a hundred years before his time. Migne printed several versions of the text in pg 86.2017–2100, 95.1040–1588, 96.9–544 (1864–1865). Karl Holl performed a great service in editing separately all excerpts from the Ante-Nicene Fathers in tu 20.2 (1899). pts is currently publishing a much-needed critical edition of all the recensions. Although most of the works from which it quotes have been translated into English, there is as yet no translation of the Sacra Parallela itself.
  40. The preceding excerpt in the Sacra Parallela is by Clement (from his Stromateis).
  41. This excerpt is in a chapter of the Sacra Parallela “On Free Will.” The Greek is somewhat obscure, but the sense seems to be that God does not coerce man by displays of supernatural power, since it is only possible to be saved by one’s own free choice. Insistence on free will is characteristic of Clement’s thought, as it is of the whole Alexandrian tradition that followed him. For instance, Clement writes concerning the rich young ruler in Matthew 19, “Choice depended on the man as being free; but the gift on God as the Lord. And he gives to those who are willing and are exceedingly earnest, and ask, that so their salvation may become their own. For God compels not (for compulsion is repugnant to God), but supplies to those who seek, and bestows on those who ask, and opens to those who knock” (Quis. div. 10 = anf 2.593).
  42. He acquired this title from his work the Stromateis (see introduction, above). In contemporary terms this means something like “Clement the Essayist.”
  43. This excerpt is in a chapter of the Sacra Parallela entitled “On the Impossible.” Clement appears to be alluding to Plato’s argument in Resp. 436e–437a that “Nothing … will make us believe that it is ever possible for the same thing at the same time in the same respect and the same relation to suffer, be, or do opposites” (lcl 237.385; cf. Resp. 436b = lcl 237.381–383). Clement makes another allusion to Plato’s argument in Strom., in the context of it being impossible for good and evil to coexist in the same person. It is possible Clement was making a similar statement here in On the Passover.
  44. This excerpt is in a chapter of the Sacra Parallela entitled “On the Saying, ‘Know Thyself.'” The saying is a favorite of Clement’s, who quotes it about a half-dozen times in his works. There are also a number of places where Clement makes similar claims about knowledge. For example: “Knowledge is a kind of divine understanding; it is that light engendered in the soul from obedience to the commandments which makes everything clear and enables a person to know what is in a state of change, to know his own humanity, to know himself, and teaches him to establish himself within reach of God.”(Strom. = fotc 85.283). Or more succinctly: “The person who yearns to touch the fringes of God’s power must of necessity become a philosopher” (Strom. = fotc 85.55).
  45. This text of Clement’s is cited in the Sacra Parallela in a chapter “On the Brute Animals” which collects texts on the marvels of nature. Clement is himself citing Aristotle, who writes in Part. an. 655a15–19 that “The lion … has such hard bones that when they are struck fire is kindled as it is from stones” (lcl 323.167; cf. Hist. an. 516b10–14 = lcl 437.195). I have no idea whether this is true. I am similarly mystified as to what possibly could have induced Clement to discuss the incendiary potentialities of the leonine skeleton in a treatise on the Passover.
  46. The Patriarch Nicephorus I wrote three Antirrhetici (refutations) of the iconoclastic positions of Emperor Constantine V Copronymus, in the course of which he appeals to many authorities, including Clement’s On the Passover. The standard edition of the Antirrhetici against Constantine Copronymus is still pg 100. They have never been translated into English.
  47. Nicephorus has just finished discussing a passage from Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite on the way images make present their originals.
  48. Image and likeness (cf. Gen 1:26) are the basis for a rich vein of thought in Clement’s works, on which see Eric Osborn, The Philosophy of Clement of Alexandria (ts, n.s., 1957) 84–94. The relation of an image to its original is used as an analogy for striving after virtue in imitation of Christ: “Men are images who need to be put right in correspondence with the archetype. Their moral and spiritual life is a striving to perfect the likeness of the image” (Osborn, 91). At the end of the Protrepticus, Clement writes in the voice of Christ, “O ye who of old were images, but do not all resemble your model, I desire to conform you to the archetype, that you may become even as I am.” (12.120.5 = lcl 92.259). And in his Stromateis, Clement writes that “if it is pure and freed from all vice, the mind is somehow capable of receiving the power of God, when the divine image is established within it” ( = fotc 85.282), and later, “He who listens to the Lord, and follows the prophecy given by Him, will be formed perfectly in the likeness of the teacher—made a god going about in flesh” ( = anf 2.553).
  49. Biblical catenae (chained-together comments from the Fathers arranged around the biblical text) grew and changed throughout late antiquity and the middle ages. Nikephoros Theotokis edited one such catena on the Octateuch (Genesis through Ruth) dating from about the 11th century. He published it between 1772 and 1773 in Leipzig (accounting for its name, the Catena Lipsiensis, or Leipzig Catena; it is sometimes also called the Catena Nicephori for its editor). In the years since, enormous amounts of labor have gone into unraveling the stemmata of the various recensions of catenae; but at the time of this writing, the best source for this excerpt of Clement is still the original edition of Nikephoros. The Catena Lipsiensis, as with most catenae, has never been translated into English.
  50. Note that the lemma, Lev 13:22, begins in the previous column, 1.1036Η
  51. Here the Septuagint uses the unusual word διάκυσις (“diffusion”) – a word more often employed of a fluid – to describe the spread of leprosy. (The Hebrew word it translates is even more unusual.) According to the catenist, Clement explained that the word choice was due to the manner of leprosy’s spread, which resembled that of a fluid.
  52. Familiar to New Testament textual critics as Minuscule 1739, Mount Athos Lavra B.64 is a 10th century manuscript containing Acts, the Catholic Epistles, and Paul. The scribe (a monk named Ephraim) copied from an ancient uncial codex of an age and text type similar to Vaticanus and Sinaiticus. His exemplar also had marginal notes drawn from the early Fathers of the Church, including Clement.
  53. This variant on 1 John 4:3 is one of the more vexing cruxes in New Testament textual criticism. The overwhelming majority of Greek manuscripts and Church Fathers read the verse as saying that “every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.” But a minority of manuscripts and a number of very early Church Fathers read instead that “every spirit that separates Jesus is not from God.” (The Greek word λύει, which I translate “separates,” admits of multiple interpretations; I have also seen “annuls” and “dissolves.”) This marginal note to MS 1739 informs us that St. Irenaeus, Origen, and Clement all witness this variant reading in their works. And as a matter of fact, Irenaeus does write “separates” in Haer. 3.16.8 as does Origen in Comm. Rom. 1.5.3. So I think we are on solid ground in trusting the annotator that Clement cites the verse in On the Passover and that when he does so, he is a witness to this variant reading. Interestingly, the Vetus Latina and Vulgate favor the text witnessed to by Clement: 1 John 4:3 in the Douay–Rheims is “And every spirit that dissolveth Jesus is not of God.”

Leave a Comment