[By the Translator, Rev. Thomas Smith, D.D.]
The Recognitions of Clement is a kind of philosophical and theological romance. The writer of the work seems to have had no intention of presenting his statements as facts; but, choosing the disciples of Christ and their followers as his principal characters, he has put into their mouths the most important of his beliefs, and woven the whole together by a thread of fictitious narrative.
The Recognitions is one of a series; the other members of which that have come down to us are the Clementine Homilies and two Epitomes.
The authorship, the date, and the doctrinal character of these books have been subjects of keen discussion in modern times. Especial prominence has been given to them by the Tübingen school. Hilgenfeld says: |There is scarcely a single writing which is of so great importance for the history of Christianity in its first stage, and which has already given such brilliant disclosures at the hands of the most renowned critics in regard to the earliest history of the Christian Church, as the writings ascribed to the Roman Clement, the Recognitions and Homilies.| The importance thus attached to these strange and curious documents by one school of theologians, has compelled men of all shades of belief to investigate the subject; but after all their investigations, a great variety of opinion still prevails on almost every point connected with these books.
We leave our readers to judge for themselves in regard to the doctrinal statements, and confine ourselves to a notice of some of the opinions in regard to the authorship and date of the Recognitions.
The first question that suggests itself in regard to the Recognitions is, whether the Recognitions or the Homilies are the earliest form of the book, and what relation do they bear to each other? Some maintain that they are both the productions of the same author, and that the one is a later and altered edition of the other; and they find some confirmation of this in the preface of Rufinus. Others think that both books are expansions of another work which formed the basis. And others maintain that the one book is a rifacimento of the other by a different hand. Of this third party, some, like Cave, Whiston, Rosenmüller, Staüdlin, Hilgenfeld, and many others, believe that the Recognitions was the earliest of the two forms; while others, as Clericus, Möhler, Lücke, Schliemann, and Uhlhorn, give priority to the Clementines. Hilgenfeld supposes that the original writing was the Kerugma Petrou, which still remains in the work; that besides this there are three parts, -- one directed against Basilides, the second the Travels of Peter (periodoi) and the third the Recognitions. There are also, he believes, many interpolated passages of a much later date than any of these parts.
No conclusion has been reached in regard to the author. Some have believed that it is a genuine work of Clement. Whiston maintained that it was written by some of his hearers and companions. Others have attributed the work to Bardesanes. But most acknowledge that there is no possibility of discovering who was the author.
Various opinions exist as to the date of the book. It has been attributed to the first, second, third, and fourth centuries, and some have assigned even a later date. If we were to base our arguments on the work as it stands, the date assigned would be somewhere in the first half of the third century. A passage from the Recognitions is quoted by Origen in his Commentary on Genesis, written in 231; and mention is made in the work of the extension of the Roman franchise to all nations under the dominion of Rome, -- an event which took place in the region of Caracalla, a.d.211. The Recognitions also contains a large extract from the work De Fato, ascribed to Bardesanes, but really written by a scholar of his. Some have thought that Bardesanes or his scholar borrowed from the Recognitions; but more recently the opinion has prevailed, that the passage was not originally in the Recognitions, but was inserted in the Recognitions towards the middle of the third century, or even later.
Those who believe the work made up of various documents assign various dates to these documents. Hilgenfeld, for instance, believes that the Kerugma Petrou was written before the time of Trojan, and the Travels of Peter about the time of his reign.
Nothing is known of the place in which the Recognitions was written. Some, as Schliemann, have supposed Rome, some Asia Minor, and recently Uhlhorn has tried to trace it to Eastern Syria.
The Greek of the Recognitions is lost. The work has come down to us in the form of a translation by Rufinus of Aquileia (d.410 a.d.). In his letter to Gaudentius, Rufinus states that he omitted some portions difficult of comprehension, but that in regard to the other parts he had translated with care, and an endeavour to be exact even in rendering the phraseology.
The best editions of the Recognitions are those by Cotelerius, often reprinted, and by Gersdorf, Lipsiæ, 1838; but the text is not in a satisfactory condition.