Wealth and poverty and the occasion of First Clement.
This dissertation investigates the conflict in the Corinthian church described by 1 Clement. Using primarily social, rhetorical, and intertextual methods, it proposes a reading of the conflict that attributes it to root social problems created by inequality within the Corinthian community. The dissertation offers a near comprehensive survey of the dozens of theories and variations of theories which have attributed the conflict to structural conflicts over polity, to social differences of various sorts, or to theological disputes. After suggesting shortcomings with most of the dominant theories, the thesis that the poor have rebelled against rich presbyters is advanced as the most plausible option. This supposition is justified by three primary lines of argumentations. First, the letter is situated in its geopolitical context by considering Roman Christianity broadly in the first two centuries. First Clement participates in certain theological discussions connected specifically to the Roman setting. Second, the theological development of wealth ethics is traced from the Hebrew Bible through the Second Temple literature and into the New Testament. First Clement’s understanding of the relationship of the divine to wealth is ultimately situated within the Second Temple Jewish spectrum and particularly indebted to the Wisdom literature of this period. Third, the dissertation presents a close socio-rhetorical reading of the descriptions of the conflict in 1 Clement 3 and 37-47 and considers the explanatory benefits of the rich-poor conflict hypothesis for understanding the structure and broader theology of the letter.