Canons Of Clement


Or “Letter of to Clement.” Under one or the other of these titles, there is current among the Copts, as among the Melchites, an apocryphon containing alleged revelations of Jesus, given on the Mount of Olives before his ascension, concerning the moral life of his community and various ritual prescriptions. The order of the collection is not well established, and the whole is transmitted, as often happens (this is a certificate of authenticity!), through the medium of Clement.

The principal difference between the Coptic manuscripts and the others (Melchite or Maronite) comes from the fact that the text is here divided into forty paragraphs, while elsewhere it is not put into canonic form.

Unfortunately, there is no critical edition: Riedel (1900, pp. 166- 75) gives a German translation without the Arabic text, and only the Arabic text of the Maronites, according to the version of the David, is given in the edition of the al-Huda (1935, pp. 249-60). The text of the Copts is rather different, although it and the Melchite have no doubt a common origin; the numerous Greek words, which we find in both, lead one to posit the existence of a Greek original.

It is difficult, for lack of a study of its origin and a comparison with the related documents, to say how old the Canons is. Nevertheless, a good judge, F. Nau (1932, col. 1626), is of the opinion that it is a late piece. The presence of numerous Greek words simply transliterated into Arabic characters suggests placing its composition before the Muslim conquest or even before the Council of CHALCEDON in 451.

The Canons forms part of the Senodos (synod) of the Ethiopians (Riedel, 1968, p. 155, no. 18); it is given as one of the sources of the Nomocanon of al-SAFI IBN AL-‘ASSAL.


  • Darblade, J. B. La Collection canonique arabe des Melkites (XIIIe- XVIIe siècles). Fonti serie 2. Harissa, 1946.
  • David. al-Huda ou livre de la direction. Aleppo, 1935.
  • Khalil, S. “ al-Huda, Kitab al-Kamal and Kitab al-Namus.” Orientalia Christiana Periodica 42 (1976):207-16.
  • Nau, F. “ des apôtres.” In Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, Vol. 2, cols. 1605-1626. Paris, 1932.
  • Riedel, W. Die Kirchenrechtsquellen des Patriarchats Alexandrien. Leipzig, 1900; repr. Aalen, 1968.