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The semantics of benefaction in First Clement

July 15, 2012

I can’t seem to find anything written on this, but perhaps I have missed it. if so let me know. What follows is a list of some of the vocabulary used in the First Epistle of Clement which relates to God and Christ as our benefactor.

καὶ ταῖς μεγαλοπρεπέσι καὶ ὑπερβαλλούσαις αὐτοῦ δωρεαῖς τῆς εἰρήνης εὐεργεσίαις τε κολληθῶμεν 19:2
and let us cleave to the glorious and excellent gifts and benefits of his peace. Hoole
And cleave unto His splendid and excellent gifts of peace and benefits Lightfoot

Ὁ οἰκτίρμων κατὰ πάντα καὶ εὐεργετικὸς πατὴρ 23:1
The Father whose mercies are over all things, who loveth to do good, Hoole
The father, who is pitiful in all things, and ready to do good Lightfoot
The all-merciful and beneficent Father Kleist

Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν, τὸν ἀρχιερέα τῶν προσφορῶν ἡμῶν, τὸν προστάτην καὶ βοηθὸν τῆς ἀσθενείας ἡμῶν. 36:1
Jesus Christ, the high priest of our oblations, the champion and defender of our weakness.36 Hoole
Jesus Christ, the High Priest of our offerings, the Guardian and Helper of our weakness Lightfoot
Jesus Christ, the High Priest who offers our gifts, the patron and helper in our weakness Kleist

προετοιμάσας τὰς εὐεργεσίας αὐτοῦ, πρὶν ἡμᾶς γεννηθῆναι. 38:3
having prepared beforehand his benefactions, even before we were born. Hoole
having prepared His benefits aforehand ere ever we were born Lightfoot
Where he had prepared His benefits before our birth Kleist

ὑπὲρμαχος καὶ ὑπερασπιστής 45:7
champion and defender Hoole
champion and protector Lightfoot
champion and shield Kleist

μόνον εὑρέτην πνευμάτων καὶ θεὸν πάσης σαρκός 59:3
the only benefactor of spirits, and God of all flesh Hoole
who alone art the Benefactor of spirits and the God of all flesh Lightfoot
who alone are the Benefactor of spirits and the God of all flesh Kleist

ἀξιοῦμέν σε, δέσποτα, βοηθὸν γενέσθαι καὶ ἀντιλήπτορα ἡμῶν. 59:4
We ask thee, Lord, to be our helper and assister Hoole
We beseech thee, Lord and Master, to be our help and succour Lightfoot
We beg thee, O Master, to be our Helper and Protector Kleist

σοὶ ἐξομολογούμεθα διὰ τοῦ ἀρσιερέως καὶ προστάτου τῶν ψυχῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ 61
to thee do we give thanks through the high priest and protector of our souls, Jesus Christ Hoole
We praise thee through the High Priest and Guardian of our souls, Jesus Christ Lightfoot
We render thanks and praise through the High Priest and Ruler of our souls, Jesus Christ Kleist

The three translations are Hoole, Lightfoot and Kleist. Some of the vocabulary is not difficult to translate. We find the common terms of father, creator, shepherd, king, saviour and high priest. But other terms are more abstract.

προστατης – champion, guardian, patron, protector, ruler

βοηθὸς  – defender, helper

εὑρετής – benefactor

ἀντιλήπτωρ – assister, succour, protector

In fact, of all these terms, only “father” is essentially masculine. Curiously, the term “patron” derived from “father” is used for Phoebe and other women patrons. According to Richard Fellows, about half of the patrons in the Christian scriptures are women. In spite of the Latin etymology, there is no need to be male to be a patron. As we have always known, there is no need to be male to be an imitator of Christ. Rather than balancing out God our father with God our mother, it is perhaps more useful to think of God our benefactor.

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