Podcast episode

Episode 156: Recognising the Real in the Forgery: The Pseudo-Clementine Literature

[Corrigendum: we describe ‘F is for Fake’ as having been put together by Orson Welles in the nineteen-sixties. It was actually released in nineteen seventy-three. We have left the wrong dating in the episode as a small example of the kind of forging of fake history that the episode is about. Sort of]

Pseudo-Clementine literature?

In this episode, the final one in our longish series on matters Abrahamic going into the fourth century, we look at a fascinating set of documents, the Pseudo-Clementine literature, preserving an esoteric Jewish-Christian narrative ostensibly told by Clement, the first bishop of Rome and successor to Peter the Apostle. Things get very esoteric, and Simon Magus appears as a stand-in not simply for ‘Gnosticism’, but for a number of theological positions which our author rejects, including, well, Christianity.

Works Cited in this Episode:


The Pseudo-Clementines (H refers to the Homilies, R to the Recognitions):

  • The True Prophet: H 1.19; 2.5–12; 3.11–28; R 1.16; 2.22.4; etc.
  • Syzygies: H 2.15 and 2.33.
  • ‘Feminine’ prophecy: H 3.11–28.
  • Simon makes a kind of homonculus: H 3.26; cf. R 2.9, 10, 13–15; 3.47.

Simon Magus in Acts: 8:9-24; the Acts of Peter, where he flies around, can be accessed online in M.R. James’ translation.


William Gaddis. The Recognitions: A Novel. Harcourt Brace, New York, NY, 1955.

Irmscher and Strecker: see below.

F. Stanley Jones: see below.

Pouderon, Bernard, “Clementine Literature, Pseudo-”, in: Brill Encyclopedia of Early Christianity Online, General Editor David G. Hunter, Paul J.J. van Geest, Bert Jan Lietaert Peerbolte. Consulted online on 12 January 2023 <http://0-dx.doi.org.lib.exeter.ac.uk/10.1163/2589-7993_EECO_SIM_00000688> First published online: 2018.

Prince Far-I and the Arabs: Dub to Africa, off the album of the same name, Pressure Sounds 1979.

Orson Welles, dir. F is for Fake, Planfilm/Specialty Films,1973.

Recommended Reading:

Critical Editions vel sim:

Bart D. Ehrman, editor. The Apostolic Fathers, Volume I: 1 Clement, 2 Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Didache. Number 24 in Loeb Classical Library. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA/London, 2003 [for those Clementine letters we pretty much ignore in the episode, in case anyone wants to follow up on them].

Georg Strecker, editor. Die Pseudoklementinen I: Homilien. Number 42 in GCS. Akademie Verlag, Berlin, 1992.

Idem, editor. Die Pseudoklementinen II: Rekognitionen. Number 51 in GCS. Akademie Verlag, Berlin, 1993.

General Reading:

Jan N. Bremmer. The Pseudo-Clementines. Peeters, Leuven, 2010.

Dominique Côté. Le thème de l’opposition entre Pierre et Simon dans les Pseudo-Clémentines. Études Augustiniennes, Paris, 2001. Paris 2001.

Charles A. Gieschen. Angelomorphic Christology: Antecedents and Early Evidence. Number 42 in Arbeiten zur Geschichte des antiken Judenthums und des Urchristentums. Brill, Leiden/Boston, MA/Köln, 1998.

Johannes Irmscher and Georg Strecker. The Pseudo-Clementines. In Wilhelm Schneemelcher, editor, New Testament Apocrypha, Vol. 2: Writings Relating to the Apostles, Apocalypses and Related Subjects, pages 483–541. Westminster John Knox, Louisville, KT, 1992 (with an excellent further-reading section at the beginning).

F. Stanley Jones. The Pseudo-Clementines: A History of Research. Second Century, 2/1 & 2/2:1–33, 63–96, 1982.

Nicole Kelley. Knowledge and Religious Authority in the Pseudo-Clementines: Situating the Recognitions in Fourth Century Syria. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, 2006.

Bernard Pouderon. Wie ein lebendiges Gestirn: Métamorphoses de Simon le Magicien, des Actes des apôtres au Faustbuch. Paris, 2019.

Annette Yoshiko Reed. Heresiology and the (Jewish-)Christian Novel: Narrativized Polemics in the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies. In Eduard Iricinschi and Holger M. Zellentin, editors, Heresy and Identity in Late Antiquity, volume 119 of Tests and Studies in Ancient Judaism, pages 273–98. Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, 2008.

Guy G. Stroumsa. The End of Sacrifice: Religious Transformations of Late Antiquity. Chicago, IL, 2009.


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