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The Young Against the Old


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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Prolegomena Chapter 2: Hypothesis Chapter 3: Context Chapter 4: Application Chapter 5: Reconstruction

About the Author

L.L. Welborn is professor of New Testament and early Christian literature at Fordham University.


In this fascinating study of intergenerational conflict in the church in Corinth, Welborn employs, once again, his superlative scholarly skills: he makes brilliant use of his encyclopedic knowledge of the Greco-Roman world, he offers a subtle, close reading of a complex text, and he constructs a new and convincing historical reconstruction of a church struggle between young and old. As a result, he exposes in 1 Clement a decisive moment in the advance of the hierarchical ideology that came to dominate the early Christian movement. Welborn has now solved the conundrum of the exigence and rhetoric of 1 Clement as never before. Quite simply, a brilliant piece of work. -- John M. G. Barclay, Lightfoot Professor of Divinity, Durham University
Welborn's The Young Against the Old: Generational Conflict in First Clement is a tour de force that assembles the case for intergenerational conflict in First Clement. The exquisite care he takes in situating the many rhetorical tropes of the letter within their ancient discursive contexts is matched by his systematic and penetrating review of practically all the literature on First Clement. This is a model of careful scholarship. -- John S. Kloppenborg, University of Toronto
Many have speculated on the nature of the conflict that, that according to the so-called First letter of Clement, disturbed the congregation at Corinth in the late first century CE. Welborn solves this riddle by arguing that First Clement takes a position in ongoing intergenerational conflict. After drawing an impressively vivid image of what it meant to be a young male at Rome and Greco-Roman Corinth, and how far social and political power and the notion of good political order was shaped by a regime of the old, Welborn demonstrates in an absolutely convincing way that First Clement constructs its epistolary discourse so as to crush the revolt of the young and to ensure the reinstatement of the deposed church leaders for the older generation. First Clement becomes thereby not only one of the first witnesses to subvert the original message of its own hero Paul, but also points to some hidden social and political conflicts that need attention in contemporary theological discussion. -- Angela Standhartinger, Philipps University of Marburg
In this excellent prolegomenon to an eagerly awaited Hermeneia commentary, Larry Welborn, leading voice of our generation on 1 Clement, addresses the topic of the letter's opponents ("young") and purpose ("reinstate the old"). In a meticulous investigation driven by genuine curiosity and a comprehensive knowledge of all appertaining texts and contexts, Welborn convincingly demonstrates that the late first-century church in Corinth suffers intergenerational strife-discord parallel to, if qualitatively different from, that of the churches in the same city to whom Paul addressed his letters. In a letter characterized by sophisticated rhetorical argumentation, Welborn argues it is nevertheless clear that a few young men have brought about the deposition of some of the presbyters with the consent of the church. Viewing the shift of leadership as a violation of proper procedures of succession, Clement writes to persuade the usurpers to withdraw in the interest of peace and concord. This book informs not only about First Clement but about late first- and early second-century Christianity-its priorities and struggles. Readers have much to learn from Welborn's capacious breadth of knowledge of the Greco-Roman world, ancient texts, ancient rhetoric, and the moral-philosophical topos of age over youth-not to mention the role of this letter as a link in the development of Christian institutions. -- Clare K. Rothschild, Lewis University
Professor Larry Welborn has over several decades acquired a well-deserved reputation as a meticulous and imaginative historian of early Christianity. In this monograph, a first-fruit of a forthcoming Hermeneia commentary on First Clement, Professor Welborn amply demonstrates his extensive knowledge and understanding of the dynamics of early Christian communities. The monograph focuses on one of the most vexing issues regarding First Clement, namely the cause of the conflict in Corinth which provided the impetus for the author's composing the letter. Because there is little or no external evidence regarding this conflict, a careful analysis of the letter itself is required. In the history of interpretation, however, scholars have interpreted the textual evidence in many different ways. One of the strengths of this monograph is therefore the lucid and instructive overview of the history of research on this topic. In view of the divergent conclusions reached by earlier scholars, Welborn first establishes important hermeneutical principles that will guide his own investigation into the problem, before turning to a detailed substantiation of the hypothesis that intergenerational conflict in the church at Corinth provided the occasion for the letter. This hypothesis, first mooted by Harnack and Lietzmann, has come under attack under influence of the greater appreciation of the rhetorical character of the letter, which lead scholars to assume that the references to opposing groups are mere rhetorical cliches. Welborn shows, to the contrary, that the rhetorical devices in the letter are not merely conventional and ornamental, but are indeed used to allude to, and admonish, the conflict between the younger and the older generations in Corinth. He further undergirds this hypothesis by a careful analysis of the scriptural allusions throughout the letter as well as by a detailed examination of the role the topos and reality of intergenerational conflict played within the broader cultural context of the letter. Welborn's extensive description of the theme of conflict between generations in the history and literature of the Greco-Roman world is a significant contribution by itself, while his application of the insight gained by this survey to a reading of First Clement provides an exemplary illustration of how knowledge gained from a close consideration of the literary and historical context could be used to advance our understanding of early Christian texts. This monograph, with its wealth of literary references and historical comparisons, offers stimulating and fresh perspectives on the social dynamics at work in early Christian communities. It is essential reading not only for the study of First Clement, but for the social history of the formative period of early Christianity in general. -- Johan C. Thom, University of Stellenbosch
Larry Welborn's monograph on the conflict in the congregation of Corinth for the first time makes full use of the deliberative discourse ( ), of the First Letter of Clement. On the basis of his superb knowledge of ancient rhetoric and familiarity with international (including Dutch) research on the letter since the 19th century, Welborn convincingly argues that the symbyleutic letter strongly rebukes the instigators of generational conflict between the younger men and elderly presbyters in the congregation. Based on deep insight into the Greek text and built on sound knowledge of how congregational conflict was viewed in ancient society, the thesis that the discourse is about generational conflict is for the first time fully developed and lucidly presented. The monograph is a fine contribution to research on 1st Clement and will pave the way for discussion on Welborn's much awaited Hermeneia Commentary. -- Cilliers Breytenbach, Humboldt University of Berlin

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