Parrhesia: Freedom of Speech in Early Christianity

Enrico Cattaneo, SJ

 Enrico Cattaneo, SJ / Church Thought / Published Date:14 October 2017/Last Updated Date:21 January 2022

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The philosopher Michel Foucault defines parrhesia as “the frankness, the openness of heart, the opening of word, the openness of language, the freedom of speech.”[1] However, this does not mean saying what one wants in the way one wants, for by its very nature parrhesia reflects an ethical attitude in that what one has to say is said “because it is both necessary and useful, as well as being true.”[2] Therefore, parrhesia is connected to the truth and to the good, and so excludes calumny, defamation and disinformation, while satire is admissible.[3]

“Parrhesia” in the GrecoRoman world

The Romans had translated the term primarily as libertas but also as licentia (in the etymological sense of “faculty”) and in Christian Latin as constantia, fiducia, losing in this way something of the original meaning, the essential connection to the word.[4] The attitude of “frankness” in speaking is distinct from both adulation, typical of opportunists, and from that empty rhetoric that goes hand in hand with adulation.[5]

La Civilta Cattolica

No discourse, however, can exclude rhetoric understood as “the art of speaking.” Speaking well in an appropriate and effective manner is not a defect but a virtue. Speaking freely and frankly presumes a risk, especially if the one speaking must do so before the powers that be or by confronting public opinion; and many prefer to remain silent or to have recourse to adulation in order to avoid such a risk.

Frankness in speaking the truth – a virtue that was rather rare then as it is today – was a characteristic of the Cynic philosophers and the Stoics: “One of the goals of the philosophers of the first century was the parrhesia, that is, audacious, frank and courageous discourse” even before the Emperor, “whatever the consequences might be. […] Many famous philosophers of the end of the first century, especially under Nero and the Flavian dynasty, had to face death or exile for their interminable moral discourses.”[6]

Even though freedom of speech was a serious thing that was exercised even to the point of risking one’s life, there were those who did not resign themselves to the life of adulators. Among these there were Christians.

Parrhesia in the New Testament

In the synoptic Gospels, only Mark uses the term parrhesia in a central point in his Gospel, between Peter’s profession of faith and the first foretelling of the passion: “He spoke about this openly” (parrhesia) (Mk 8:32).[7] In the Gospel of John, Jesus often speaks “openly” (parrhesia) both with his disciples (Jn 11:14; 16:25, 29), as well as to the world (Jn 18:20). It is true that when he spoke of the “mysteries” of the kingdom of God, Jesus sometimes communicated his message in parables, but in his ethical teachings his language was frank and he wanted the same to be true for all: “Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the evil one” (Mt 5:37).

This quality of Jesus was recognized even by his adversaries: “Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone’s opinion; You do not regard a person’s status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.” (Mk 12:14). Freedom of speech as exercised by Jesus is also inferred in his capacity to recognize who is on the path of righteousness (“Blessed are you…”) and who, on the other hand, is on the path to perdition (“Woe to you…”). Jesus knows how to speak kind words, as in “Courage, son” to the paralytic and “Courage, daughter” to the woman suffering the loss of blood (Mt 9:22), but he also speaks hard words like “Hypocrites!” (Mt 22:18), “blind guides!” and “whited sepulchers” (Mt 23:16, 27).

In the Acts of the Apostles, frankness in announcing the Gospel becomes the “courage” given by the Holy Spirit in situations of persecution: “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness (meta parrhesias)” (Acts 4:31). In this way, “parrhesia is the supreme apostolic virtue.”[8] But the Christian innovation has primarily to do with one’s relationship to God. Imbued with the Holy Spirit given at baptism, the Christian can turn to the Father “in total confidence” as a child who “dares to say” “Abba, Father!” (Gal 4:6; Eph 3:12; Heb 4:14-16). “Parrhesia is, therefore, this trust in the love of God, love that God manifests when hearing the prayers that are offered up, love that God will manifest on the day of judgment (1 Jn 4:16).”[9]

Within the Christian community, relationships should be characterized by frankness, always with an eye toward charity. “Fraternal correction” requires gradualness, but is to be practiced (Mt 18:15-17; Gal 6:1). Clearly immoral behavior, like that described in 1 Cor 5:1 (a Christian who lives with the wife of his father) cannot be tolerated: “Do you not know that a little yeast leavens all the dough? Clear out the old yeast” (1 Cor 5:6-7). Paul wants to speak to the Corinthians “with great frankness” (polle parrhesia) (2 Cor 7:4) and desires that among themselves, believers have a true love, not a fake, hypocritical one (Rom 12:9). Therefore, he says, “We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, cheer the fainthearted, support the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thes 5:14). And if someone does not obey and rebels, it is to be pointed out in public. “Do not regard him as an enemy but admonish him as a brother” (2 Thes 3:15).

Finally, when the Gospel was being put on trial, Christians exercised parrhesia before the public authorities, taking on the attitude of the prophets of the Old Testament who were not afraid to announce the word of God, even to the point of risking their lives.[10] In fact, anyone animated by the spirit of the Gospel refuses both the theocratic ideal, which forces the reign of God to coincide with the State, and also the totalitarian pretenses of a pagan State.[11]

Christians were loyal citizens; they prayed for the Emperor and for the public authorities[12] but they refused to obey those orders or customs that involved a recognition of idolatry or denigrated human dignity. For this reason, “the martyr is the ‘parrhesist’ par excellence.”[13] Here, one can see how parrhesia can be expressed even without words, in refusing to carry out a determined act for reasons of conscience. In the case of the martyr, the courage of “confession” goes hand in hand with rejecting a specific request that implies a denial of the faith, be this an act of idolatry or of blasphemy against Christ.[14] 

Parrhesia in First Clement

The lineage of New Testament parrhesia carries through to the oldest Christian text still in existence (outside of those in the New Testament), which is probably the work known as the Letter of Clement of Rome to the Corinthians, or First Clement (hereafter, 1 Clem).[15] The majority of scholars date the letter to the year 96/97, shortly after the murder of the Emperor Domitian who had acted cruelly against Jews and Christians in the final years of his reign.[16] There is, however, a minority of scholars who believe the work to be even earlier, dating to the year 69/70, before the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem at the hands of Titus (August 70). Putting the letter at this date, the historical context would be much more stimulating, because of the rise of Vespasian (July 1, 69) signaling for Rome the end of the turbulent year of the “Four Emperors” who succeeded Nero (Galba, Otho, Vitellius and Vespasian), as well as the end of the bloody Jewish war.

1 Clem presents itself, first and foremost, as an official letter from the ekklesia of Rome, as is seen in the prologue: “The ekklesia of God residing in Rome to the ekklesia of God residing in Corinth.” The term ekklesia was not unknown in the Greek world. It was used solely in a civic context but not to denote a building as was the case with the term synagoge. This ekklesia (singular) is defined simply as an adelphotes, a fraternity (1 Clem 2:4). Its members, even though they could not all gather in the same space but rather in different ekklesiai in different cities, all loved to present themselves as a single ekklesia, following the line of Paul who uses the singular next to the plural to denote a reality created by God that embraces all of the local ekklesiai, that is, all of the believers in Christ in all places.

Describing itself as ekklesia tou theou, that is, “of God”, using a typically biblical expression, this gathering immediately demonstrates its extremely religious nature with a visible, social dimension: that of a community that “gathers” in assembly (ekklesia). In declaring its residence in the Empire not as one who has full citizenship but rather as a “foreigner” (paroikousa), the ekklesia shows not that it is composed of foreign members – which, nevertheless, was true from the perspective of Rome – but rather that its identity, its true citizenship (politeia) is not within the Roman State but rather is “elsewhere,” while recognizing the hospitality of the Roman Empire.

The term parrhesia appears explicitly in 1 Clem. In 34:1-5 we read how a good worker goes to collect his wage, looking his employer in the eye “openly” (meta parrhesias). In the same way, the Christian should not present himself before God in a half-hearted and lazy fashion, but should place in God “his pride and his trust (parrhesia).” This happens primarily in the moment of liturgical prayer, when the entire community is gathered with the hymn of the angels, in divine service, to boldly proclaim the “thrice Holy”[17] thereby becoming participants “in his great and glorious promises.”[18]

An example of this “frankness” before God is that of Moses, who, putting his own life at stake, dared to pray to God to give up his plan to exterminate the people who had fallen into idolatry: “What great love! What insuperable perfection! A servant who speaks in total freedom (parrhesiazetai) to his Lord, asking forgiveness for his people, or to be annihilated together with them” (1 Clem 53:5).

If the term parrhesia and the verb parrhesiazo appear only a few times,[19] nevertheless, a positive attitude towards “frank speech” is present throughout the letter. Clement,[20] like a good writer, cannot do without using the art of words. We have seen, in fact, that parrhesia is not opposed to rhetoric but rather to “vain rhetoric,” to adulation. Moreover, frankness in speech does not concern only condemnation and admonition, but also compliments and praises. They are two complementary aspects that are frequently found together and used in the art of rhetoric. Often one begins with acclaim (laudatio), which includes a well-mannered way of beginning (captatio benevolentiae) only then to move on to a rebuke. Or, one may begin with a rebuke (vituperatio), leaving open the possibility of amendment.

Our author is very good at switching between these two approaches and we will see how he is able to join them together without contradicting himself. We will first look at the attitude of parrhesia within the ekklesia, and then that in relation to the Emperor and the State.

Parrhesia within the ekklesia

Regarding the ekklesia in Corinth, 1 Clem uses a pattern: rebuke/praise/rebuke. But what exactly had happened in that community? Unfortunately, the author follows the rules of rhetoric and speaks only by way of allusion, exposing only the heart of the question without entering into specifics. In brief, the community in Corinth, influenced by a small number of its members, had deposed some presbyteroi from their office without having good reasons to do so. For us, this can appear to be merely a question of secondary importance but this was a very serious matter for the ekklesia in Rome.

This is deduced from the harsh terms used in the passages of condemnation: “[We refer], my beloved, to that unbecoming, extraneous from the elect of God, wicked and irreligious sedition, that a few rash and arrogant individuals have stirred up, to the point of insanity so much so as to gravely discredit your venerated, famous and beloved-by-all name” (1:1). Further on, the persons who were at the origin of the “sedition” are described bluntly as “unworthy,” “thoughtless” and “the last” (3:3). Later, these same people are stigmatized as “idiots,” “fanatics” and “arrogant” (21:5). Similar epithets are repeated in 39:1: “obtuse,” “crazy,” “ignorant.” Speaking directly to these people, the author says: “Learn to submit yourselves, laying aside militant arrogance and pride from your speech” (57:2).

The frankness with which the letter speaks to the brothers in Christ is notable. In effect, charity, to which 1 Clem dedicates a most ample encomium (c. 49), cannot be separated from the truth. This position is masterfully synthesized in the formula “truth with parrhesia” (35:1), that is, the truth spoken with total frankness. In fact, “it is better to displease people […] than to displease God” (21:5). The gravity of the situation created in Corinth can be deduced also from the solemnity of the final admonition (58:2-59:2a), in which the Church in Rome asks obedience from the disobedient under penalty of finding themselves excluded from salvation.[21]

Harsh rebuke, however, does not involve a condemnation without appeal; it contains an invitation to conversion (metanoia),[22] that is, a return to the way things were before, as the author of the Book of Revelation says in the letter to the angel of the Church in Ephesus: “Yet I hold this against you: you have lost the love you had at first. Realize how far you have fallen. Repent, and do the works you did at first” (Rev 2:4-5).

What are these works that were practiced by the Corinthians? The list in 1 Clem is noteworthy. First of all, “a praiseworthy and solid faith”; then, “a piety in Christ that is full of temperance and moderation”; then a “great custom of hospitality”; and finally, “a perfect and secure conscience” (1:2). Corinth was truly an exemplary community: “You did all things without blame and walked according to the laws of God” (2:3); “all were humble and free from arrogance, preferring submission to command, more glad to give than to receive. The support of Christ was enough for you, you kept his words with care, keeping them diligently in your hearts, with his sufferings always before your eyes” (2:1).

The fruit of this behavior is described in a way that may seem idyllic, but rhetorical exaggeration should not hide the fact that the same fruit is deemed possible with the grace of Christ. Even if rather long, this final commendation merits to be read in its entirety: “Thus a profound and rich peace was given to all, and an insatiable desire of doing good. An abundant outpouring also of the Holy Spirit fell upon all; and, being full of holy counsel, in excellent zeal and with a pious confidence you stretched out your hands to Almighty God, supplicating Him to be propitious, if you had committed any sin unwillingly. You had conflict day and night for all the community, that the number of His elect might be saved with fearfulness and intentness of mind. You were sincere and simple and free from malice one towards another. Every sedition and every schism was abominable to you. You mourned over the transgressions of your neighbors: you judged their shortcomings to be your own. You repented not of any well-doing, but were ready unto every good work. Being adorned with a most virtuous and honorable life, you performed all your duties in the fear of Him. The commandments and the ordinances of the Lord were written on the tablets of your hearts” (2:2-8).

Paul had also begun his letter to the Corinthians with a lengthy compliment: “I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 1:4-7). However, this did not prevent Paul from speaking openly when it came to pointing out the Corinthians’ failings.

The compliments of Paul and Clement should not be taken as a “photograph” of the community but rather as an indication of the path it tends toward without distraction, because it is easy to fall and turn back. In fact, Paul wrote: “whoever thinks he is standing secure should take care not to fall” (1 Cor 10:12). This is exactly what happened to the Corinthians as reflected in 1 Clem, who behaved themselves like a fatted calf who began to “balk” (3:1). It is as if one can hear the words of Paul to the Christians in Galatia: “You were running well; who hindered you from following (the) truth?” (Gal 5:7). Clement observes with pain: “For this cause righteousness and peace stand aloof, while everybody has forsaken the fear of the Lord and has forgotten faith in Him, nor do they follow his commandments or live in ways that are pleasing to Christ. Instead, people go after the lusts of their evil hearts, seeing that they have conceived an unrighteous and ungodly jealousy, through which also death entered into the world [ Wis 2:24]” (3:4).

Parrhesia in regard to State authorities

1 Clem knows that the Christian ekklesia is still a fragile reality in regard to the State, without any juridical protection (compared to the Jewish synagogues), and therefore carefully avoids naming names as a precaution. Even though they are involved in the question raised, those leaders of the ekklesia in Rome and Corinth, called presbyteroi, are mentioned but oddly not those who exercise the office of episcope.

Only the names of the Apostles Peter and Paul appear, and that of one disciple, Apollos (5:4-5; 47:1-3), but they are all historical figures who have died. The only living people named are the bearers of the letter, Claudius Ephebus and Valerius Bito, who, as can be seen by their nomina, were two freedmen of imperial rank; one bears the nomen of the Emperor Claudius, and the other that of Valeria (Messalina), his penultimate wife. Often these freedmen reached high socio-economic rank and it is not beyond belief that the expenses for the travel of the bearers of the letter were actually paid for by them. With them is also named Fortunatus, perhaps a member of the ekklesia of Corinth but certainly of Roman origin.

Despite these precautions and this “coded language,” 1 Clem speaks frankly, even if in an indirect manner. In fact, making references to biblical examples that mention the basileus (king or emperor), it is clear that the message is directed to contemporaries. In citing the story of Daniel, cast into the lions’ den by order of the king, and recalling the three young men condemned to the furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar, the author speaks in terms that resonate like an open condemnation of recent cruelties: “For what must we say? Was Daniel cast into the lions’ den by people who feared God? Or were Ananias and Azarias and Mishael shut up in the furnace of fire by those who professed the excellent and glorious worship of the Most High? Far be this from our thoughts. Who then did these things? Abominable people full of all wickedness were stirred up to such a pitch of wrath as to bring cruel suffering on those who served God in a holy and blameless purpose, not knowing that the Most High is the champion and protector of those who serve His excellent Name with a pure conscience. But those who endured patiently in confidence inherited glory and honor; they were exalted, and had their names recorded by God forever and ever. Amen” (45:6-8).

The rhetorical questions in the style of a Cynic-Stoic diatribe merely demonstrate a typical example of parrhesia, with a not-so-veiled allusion to the persecutions of Nero, a king truly “abominable and full of evil.”[23] At the same time, if it is true that the oppression of the just by the impious is part of the general law of history that repeats itself constantly, this only highlights references to the recent past: “Righteous men were persecuted, but it was by the lawless; they were imprisoned, but it was by the unholy. They were stoned by transgressors: they were slain by those who had conceived a detestable and unrighteous jealousy” (45:4).

Even these comments seem to be gibes thrown at the cruelty of Nero and his minions: “impious,” “sacrilegious,” “criminal” and “wicked people.” The author could not speak any more clearly. As for those who had suffered torture, even having served God “with holy and immaculate purpose” and with “a pure conscience,” this cannot but recall the Roman martyrs “who through many indignities and tortures, being the victims of jealousy, set a brave example among ourselves” (6:1) and in so doing, received from God “glory and honor.” This is a clear reference to the persecution unleashed by Nero in the year 64. Previously, the two “good apostles” had been named, Peter and Paul. Both “gave witness” (emartyresan) before the authorities, in word and with their lives (5:3-7).

As Oscar Cullmann observed, disapproval of a totalitarian state that goes beyond the limits of its authority does not equate to anarchical rejection of any institution predisposed to the good working of civic life.[24] In the same way, it is not contradictory that 1 Clem after having so strongly stigmatized the basileus as impious and a persecutor should offer a fervent prayer to God for the well-being of sovereigns: “Grant unto them therefore, O Lord, health, peace, concord, stability, that they may administer without failure the government you entrusted to them … Direct their counsel Lord, according to what is good and well-pleasing in your sight, that, administering in peace, gentleness and godliness the power you have given them, they may obtain your favor (61:1-2).[25]

It is manifest from the context that this is not an adulatory laudatio, which shows that the author is aware of a clear theological doctrine of the state. Authority comes from God: “You, Lord and Master, gave them the power of sovereignty by your excellent and unspeakable might” (61:1); and this means that subjects have the duty of “submitting,” that is, of cooperating with authority for the common good. This is not an unquestioning submission because the same authority remains subject to the judgment of God, to whom it must give an account if it has governed with piety and moderation, seeking peace, or with tyranny and violence.[26]



We have examined the attitude of parrhesia adopted by the earliest Christians both before God and within the ekklesia, as well as in regards to those who govern. This frankness, or freedom of speech assumes a dual dimension of laudatio and vituperatio, without however involving the extremes of adulation or insult. In fact, one of the key concepts that guides Christian parrhesia, and the thought of Clement in particular, is that of epieikeia, which means “attention to the concrete situation” and therefore “comprehension,” “meekness” or “moderation.”[27] It relates to seeing the good that already is, and noting what is lacking or what blocks it.

The praise that 1 Clem gives to the Church in Corinth, as great as it is, is “moderated” by the consideration that all good is the fruit of the grace of God and that without vigilance this grace can be lost. On the other hand, the vituperatio is made in the context of “fraternal correction”[28] and must be done in

charity. As severe as it is, it is “moderated” by the possibility of conversion, a door which is always open.

With regard to civil authorities, the words of condemnation, as strong as they are, are limited to impious and unjust acts, whereas the laudatio, as it is expressed in the form of a prayer, is moderated by the knowledge that all are subject to the supreme sovereignty of God, to whom all must give an account, including those who govern and that because of this role, they have an even greater responsibility.

[1].M. Foucault, L’ermeneutica del soggetto. Corso al Collège de France (19811982), Milan, Feltrinelli, 2003, 326.

[2].Ibid., 327. The theme of parrhesia appears in all of the courses given by Foucault at the Collège de France from 1981 to 1984, the year of his death. The last lecture he gave (March 28, 1984) was on Christian parrhesia (Le courage de la vérité. Le gouvernement de soi et des autres, II, Paris, Gallimard-Seuil, 2009, 296-312).

[3].In the ancient world, it is sufficient to recall the Latin writers Horace, Persius and Juvenal. Even Seneca was not without a “veiled causticity” (P. Wendland, La cultura elleneisticoromana nei suoi rapport con giudaismo e cristianesimo, Brescia, Paideia, 1986, 114).

[4].See G. Scarpat, Parrhesia greca, parrhesia cristiana, Brescia, Paideia, 2001.

[5].The two to which parrhesia is opposed, that is adulation and empty rhetoric, were well demonstrated by M. Foucault, L’ermeneutica…, cit., 332-344.

[6].S. Mason, Giuseppe Flavio e il Nuovo Testamento, Turin, Claudiana, 2001, 245. Often, however, Cynic parrhesia was identified with insult.

[7].In the New Testament, the term parrhesia occurs 30 times and the verb parrhesiazomai 9 times. See H. Schlier, “parrhesia” in Grande Lessico del Nuovo Testamento IX, 891 f; G. Scarpat, Parrhesia…, cit., 93-99.

[8].M. Foucault, L’ermeneutica…, cit., 301. Also said of Paul in Acts 28:31.

[9].Id., Le courage del la vérité, II, cit., 301.

[10].Also in the realm of wisdom literature the value of frankness of speech was appreciated. A good example of parrhesia can be seen before the powerful in Wis 6:1-11.

[11].See O. Cullmann, Dieu et César. Le procès de Jésus, Saint Paul et l’autorité, L’Apocolypse et l’État totalitaire, Neuchâtel – Paris, Delachaux & Niestlé, 1956, 12.

[12].See E. Cattaneo, “La preghiera per coloro che ci governano”, in Civ. Catt. 2003 III 258-271.

[13].M. Foucault, Le courage del la vérité, II, cit. 302. On parrhesia of the martyrs, see G. Scarpat, Parrhesia…, cit., 103-119; A. Carfora, I cristiani al leone. I martiri cristiani nel contesto medatico dei giochi gladiatori, Trapani, Il Pozzo di Giacobbe, 2009.

[14].The unity of word and behavior is expressed well in Rev 12:11: “They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death.”

[15].In antiquity two letters were attributed to Clement of Rome: the first is that which is currently being examined (from this, the name Prima Clementis), while the second is a homily of an unknown author from the 2nd century. Both are present in the Liturgy of the Hours of the Roman rite (13 fragments from the first and 7 fragments from the second). For a critical edition of 1 Clem with an ample introduction and commentary by Emanuela Prinzivalli in Italian, see E. Prinzivalli-M. Simonetti, Seguendo Gesù. Testi cristiani delle origini, vol. I, Mondadori, Milan, 2010, 77-275. The English translation of 1 Clem here is inspired by the Lightfoot version. On Clement the author, see note 20.

[16].It is difficult to speak, however, of a true “persecution.”

[17].1 Clem 34:6 “Holy, holy, holy Lord Sabaoth: all creation is full of his glory” (See Is 6:3).

[18].1 Clem 34:7.

[19].The section from 35:2, will be examined later on.

[20].The name, itself, does not appear in the letter, which represents the only case in all of Christian literature where the sender is the “ekklesia that is in Rome.” That the task of redacting the letter was given to Clement is attested to around the year 170 both by Hegesippus and Dionysius, bishop of Corinth (in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 4:22; 23:11). They do not, however, say who this Clement is. More widely known, instead, is the news of Irenaeus (around the year 180), who affirms that Clement exercised episcopacy in the Church in Rome as third, behind Peter and Paul, and had personally known the two Apostles (Against Heresies, 3,3,3). And he added: “Under this Clement, a not-small rebellion took place among the brothers in Corinth; then, the Church in Rome sent a very strong letter to Corinth in order that they might reconcile in peace and renew their faith and the tradition that they had recently received from the Apostles” (ibid).

[21].This step, because of a doxology that cuts it in two, is never considered in its singular structure. On this, see E. Cattaneo, “Un ‘nuovo passo’ della ‘Prima Clementis’: la ‘grande ammonizione’ di 58, 2-59, 2A”, in Ph. Lusier (ed.), Studi su Clemente Romano, Rome, Pontificio Istituto Orientale, 2003, 57-82.

[22].This is also one of the central themes of the letter.

[23].We note in this passage that the exact tortures practiced by Nero are named: exposureto beasts (lions) and death by fire as human torches (according to the account of Tacitus).

[24].The position of Jesus and of Christians on this point is not a contradiction, but is complex, characterized by the “eschatological concept”: cfr. O Cullmann, Dieu et César…, cit., 6f.

[25].For an examination of this prayer, cfr. G. Pani, “La ‘Prima Clementis’: l’originalità della preghiera per i governanti”, in Studia Patristica 40 (2006) 475-481; E. Cattaneo, “I ‘vota’ della Chiesa di Roma per l’’adventus’ di Vespasiano nel 69 d.C. (1 Clem 60, 4-61,3)” in Rassegna di Teologia 52 (2011) 533-553.

[26].Similar thought is found in Rom 13:1-2 and 1 Pet 2:13-14. This notion of the state, far from the extremism of zealots, who recognize only the sovereignty of God, to the exclusion of any human sovereignty, was formed and matured in Alexandrian Judaism, as seen in the book of Wisdom: “Because authority was given you by the Lord and sovereignty by the Most High, who shall probe your works and scrutinize your counsels! Because, though you were ministers of his kingdom, you judged not rightly, and did not keep the law, nor walk according to the will of God, terribly and swiftly shall he come against you, because judgment is stern for the exalted. For the lowly may be pardoned out of mercy but the mighty shall be mightily put to the test” (Wis 6:3-6).

[27].See 2 Cor 10:1; Phil 4:5. The term is not easy to translate but it is certainly fundamental to Clement’s thought. See G. Pani, “Il concetto di ‘epiekeia’ nella strutture della ‘Prima Clementis’”, in Studia Patristica, vol. 36 Leueven, Peeters, 2001, 282-292.

[28].See E. Cattaneo, “La ‘Prima Clementis’ come un caso di ‘correptio fraterna’”, in Ph. Luisier (ed), Studi su Clemente Romano, cit., 83-105.