Friday, June 26, 2015

‘Seven times in chains’: 1 Clement 5.6 and the New Testament

In 1 Clement 5.6 we read that Paul had borne chains seven times: ‘After he had been seven times in chains, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, and had preached in the east and in the west, he won the genuine glory for his faith ...’ (M Holmes translation).

A question then is the source of this idea that Paul had been in chains seven times.

J.B. Lightfoot suggests vaguely the possibility of ‘some other source’
H.E. Lona accepts that it must have stood in the pre-1 Clement tradition, adding that it may have had a symbolic significance (Lona, Der erste Clemensbrief, 163, without specifying what that would be)
E. Zeller suggested that the author added captivities in Caesarea and Rome to the five punishments mentioned in 2 Cor 11.24 (Lightfoot notes that 2 Cor 11.24 doesn’t refer to imprisonments!)
J.D. Quinn made the interesting suggestion that this referred to ‘the number of documents which were at his disposal in the Roman church that referred to Paul as imprisoned’. I.e. Acts, 2 Cor, Eph, Phil, Col, Phile, 2 Tim. (‘Seven Times He Wore Chains (I Clem. 5.6)’ JBL 97(1978), 574-576)

I wonder whether it might be sufficient to think of Acts as the primary source for 1 Clement here:
  1. Acts 16.23-27: in a prison or jail [fulakh//desmwth/rion] in Philippi, with ta\ desma/; 
  2. Acts 21.33: bound with ‘two chains’ [a9lu/sesi dusi/] in Jerusalem 
  3. Acts 22.29: looks back to the imprisonment in Jerusalem 
  4. Acts 23.18: Paul is described, by a Roman centurion, as ‘the prisoner Paul’ [o9 de/smioj Pau=loj]; 
  5. Acts 23.35: Paul imprisoned in Caesarea 
  6. Acts 24.23: Paul (still) imprisoned in Caesarea 
  7. Acts 28.16, 30: Paul under house arrest in Rome 


  1. I would not have thought those examples would be easily interpreted as "seven times in chains," but an interesting consideration none the less. Is the author known to generalise in comparable ways elsewhere?

  2. Seems plausible. 1 Clement shows signs of access to some version of the circulating Pauline canon, but if Acts is in the mix, I see no reason why an only limitedly literate (i.e. predominantly audiate, oral) culture would be disposed to think of Acts as opposed to the Pauline canon. Having a bios available creates a ready point of harmonization for the letters, and this is what we see in the history of interpretation until very recently. When Acts appears, it seems reasonable for it to have begun to supplant as well as supplement the reading of Paul, diminishing the need for survey. And when writing an overview of Paul's life, where else would one turn? This could easily be an overview of the overview.

    1. (Not that the author of 1 Clement had this problem, of course—but if this is to be read by or to an audience, economy of reference suggests a preference for the most readily recognized sources to that audience.)

  3. What about Andronicus or Junia as the source of knowledge of at least one of the times in chains (Rom 16:7)?

  4. Interesting. But in which way you reckon he might have arrived, from reading the seven references to Paul's imprisonment in Acts, to speaking about the 'seven times in chains'? The references do not seem to indicate sever separate enchainings. An allegorical interpretation of Acts? If so, what sort of view of Acts would that presuppose for the author of 1 Clement to count references in it and come up with a number of imprisonments from that? I'm curious what you think.