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Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Pseudo-Clementine Writings and the Brahmans

One of the more interesting pieces of early Christian literature coming down from the apostolic period is the Clementine Romance or Kerygmata Petrou (Preaching of Peter), a long romance purportedly written by St. Clement of Rome, the fourth Pope and disciple of St. Peter (whom Tertullian tells us was first ordained by St. Peter as his immediate successor as bishop of Rome, although abdicated for unknown reasons on behalf of first Linus and then Anacletus before becoming the fourth Pope, from 92-99 A.D.)

In the story Clement, speaking in the first person, tells of the preaching and exploits of St. Peter, his dispute with Simon Magus, and his reunification of Clement's family which had been separated due to misfortune and woes.  Although probably written no later than the 2nd century, the story reads like fiction and bears similarity to other romances written in many times and places - it might as well have been a Shakespearean comedy, of the ilk of Pericles, Prince of Tyre.

The story is liberally dosed with homiletic exhortations and catechetical teaching put in the mouths of Peter, Clement, and the rest of Clement's family, and one of the long monologues contained an interesting look at the Patristic view of Hinduism, of especial interest to theologians today trying to engage the Christian faith with the intellectual and spiritual inheritance of the Far East.

The Clementine Recognitions, book 9 section 20, in toto:

"There are likewise amongst the Bactrians, in the Indian countries, immense multitudes of Brahmans, who also themselves, from the tradition of their ancestors, and peaceful customs and laws, neither commit murder nor adultery, nor worship idols, nor have the practice of eating animal food, are never drunk, never do anything maliciously, but always fear God. And these things indeed they do, though the rest of the Indians commit both murders and adulteries, and worship idols, and are drunken, and practise other wickednesses of this sort. 
"Yea, in the western parts of India itself there is a certain country, where strangers, when they enter it, are taken and slaughtered and eaten; and neither have good stars prevented these men from such wickednesses and from accursed food, nor have malign stars compelled the Brahmans to do any evil. Again, there is a custom among the Persians to marry mothers, and sisters, and daughters. In all that district the Persians contract incestuous marriages."

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