7 Ὁρᾶτε, ἀδελφοί, ζῆλος καὶ φθόνος ἀδελφοκτονίαν κατειργάσατο. 8 διὰ ζῆλος ὁ πατὴρ ἡμῶν Ἰακὼβ ἀπέδρα ἀπὸ προσώπου Ἠσαῦ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ. 9 ζῆλος ἐποίησεν Ἰωσὴφ μέχρι θανάτου διωχθῆναι καὶ μέχρι δουλείας εἰσελθεῖν
Translation: You see brothers, he killed his brother for jealousy and envy. Jacob, our father, fled from Esau because of jealousy. Jealousy caused Joseph to be persecuted to death, until he was reduced to slavery.
Since this is the earliest example of extra-biblical counsel given for sin, it is interesting to see how Clement makes his case. He traces the problem back to the sin of jealousy and envy. The first step in counseling (where the sin of another is at issue) must be to bring the other to see their sin as sin in all its wickedness. Due to the tendency to bring excuses and justification forward, it may be necessary to demonstrate the sin in its true colors. The Corinthians rebels had necessarily felt themselves justified in their actions and solid in their position. Why anyone seeks to conquer a church for one’s personal advantage is baffling: even more so at Corinth, considering that membership as a Christian provided not advantage and at times brought about persecution – but such is the insanity of sin.
Therefore, to make his point clear, Clement brings out a hammer: Think of this: He begins his rebuke with Cain and Able and then traces out the sin in its expressions continuing through the Bible. Clement says, “You, Corinthians are no different than Cain. You’re like Esau.”
Having given the story of Cain and Able, Clement follows the biblical narrative and demonstrates how jealousy and envy have repeatedly been lead to human damage. Moreover, the victim of the damage has been the more godly man. Clement provides seven OT examples and then seven Christian examples of jealousy leading to persecution of the righteous.
ζῆλος refers to an intense internal emotional state as the result of some circumstance, which state can either be positive (zeal or ardor) or negative (jealousy improperly focused). In Hebrews 10:27 the word is used to modify the fire of God’s judgment. It is often coordinate with eris (strife, discord, contention). Jealousy and envy both appear in the list of fruits of the flesh in Galatians 5:20-21.
This coupling of jealousy does not explicitly appear in the OT text of Cain, Esau, or the patriarchs; however, it does make psychological sense. Moreover, the concepts is found in Proverbs 6:34 where the jealousy of a husband will lead to revenge. Proverbs 27:4 may perhaps be the closest parallel, “who can stand before jealousy” where jealousy is said to be even stronger than wrath or anger.
It is possible that Clement’s emphasis upon “jealousy” is party based on his readin of the book of Acts, where Jewish attacks upon Christians are sometimes ascribed to this cause. The Sadducees were filled with jealousy (Acts 5:17); when the “the Jews” saw crows gathered to hear the word of God they were filled with jealousy (13:45); Jews at Thessalonica were jealous (17:5). But the motif means more to Clement than it did to Luke (Grant, 23).
Jealousy is notably used in the NT as an example of sin in 1 Corinthians 3:3:
for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 1 Corinthians 3:3 (ESV)
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19–21 (ESV)
And James 3:14 & 16:
14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. James 3:14–16 (ESV)
A section from Josephus is also suggestive of the idea (I am unaware of any reason to suspect that Clement had seen Josephus’s work):
Be thou also mindful of the transgressions of Joaba the captain of the host, who hath slain two generals out of envy, and those righteous and good men, Abner the son of Ner, and Amasa the son of Jether; whose death do thou avenge as shall seem good to thee, since Joab hath been too hard for me, and more potent than myself, and so hath escaped punishment hitherto
Flavius Josephus and William Whiston, The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1987), Book 7, chapter 15, verse 386.
As for envy, Matthew 27:17 and Mark 15:10 state that Pilate realized that Jesus had been handed for because of envy (ESV translate the word as ‘jealousy’ in these places).
Ὁρᾶτε, ἀδελφοί: You see, brothers.
Louw and Nida set out 49 NT verbs which can be used to reference sight. Many of these verbs also carry the nuance of a related cognitive or emotional response. To perceive and understand therefrom is listed by Louw and Nida as follows:
32.11 θεωρέω b; βλέπω e; ὁράω c: to come to understand as the result of perception—‘to understand, to perceive, to see, to recognize.’
Θεωρέω b: κατὰ πάντα ὡς δεισιδαιμονεστέρους ὑμᾶς θεωρῶ ‘I perceive that in every way you are very religious’ Ac 17:22; θεωρεῖτε δὲ πηλίκος οὗτος ‘you understand, then, how great this man was’ He 7:4.
Βλέπω e: βλέπω δὲ ἕτερον νόμον ἐν τοῖς μέλεσίν μου ‘I perceive another law at work in my members’ Ro 7:23.
ὁράω c: ὁρᾶτε ὅτι ἐξ ἔργων δικαιοῦται ἄνθρωπος ‘you can understand then that a person is justified by what he does’ Jas 2:24.
Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, vol. 1, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, electronic ed. of the 2nd edition. (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 380. One could easily overstate the nuance of the use of this verb in this place. However, some distinction can perhaps be made. Βλέπω: is often used of bare visual sight, at times with an element of warning (Phil. 3:2). Θεωρέω: has somewhat less emphasis upon physical sight. ὁράω may perhaps carry less nuanced freight than the other verbs; but it would hard to make much of it.
ζῆλος καὶ φθόνος: Zeal/jealousy and envy.
Φθόνος: Romans 1:29 lists murder immediately after envy in the list of “all manner of wickedness”.
ἀδελφοκτονίαν: Fratricide: the word is not used in the NT, although the concept appears in 1 John 3:12/
κατειργάσατο: A middle deponent aorist: to bring about, accomplish: Cain brought about the murder of his brother.
διὰ ζῆλος: dia + accusative: On account of, for the sake of jealousy (Wallace, 369).
ὁ πατὴρ ἡμῶν Ἰακὼβ: Our father Jacob. This is an interesting use of the Jacob as father, for there is no reason to suspect that either Clement or the recipients in Corinth were Jewish by birth.
ἀπέδρα ἀπὸ προσώπου Ἠσαῦ τοῦ ἀδελφοῦ αὐτοῦ: Ran from the face of Esau his brother (the brother of him). The jealousy was the jealousy of Esau.
ζῆλος ἐποίησεν Ἰωσὴφ μέχρι θανάτου διωχθῆναι: Jealousy caused Joseph to be persecuted unto death. Until does not require culmination of the thing approached, see, e.g., Hebrews 12:4.
καὶ μέχρι δουλείας εἰσελθεῖν: And until slavery to enter: reduced to slavery.