While looking for High Gygaxian quotes for my recent entry, I came across a passage in the Players Handbook I'd forgotten. In his introduction to the book, Gygax states that
Clerics and fighters have been strengthened in relation to magic-users, although not overly so. Clerics have more and improved spell capability.On first reading, one might assume Gary is referring primarily to the fact that, in AD&D, clerics get a spell at first level, unlike in OD&D. He probably is, but there's more to it than that. The selection of clerical spells in AD&D is much larger than in OD&D and, more significantly, it includes a few spells that deal direct damage, such as flame strike and spiritual hammer. These spells don't predominate by any means, but their appearance is a deviation from the way cleric spells are presented in OD&D -- as defensive, restorative, and divinatory in character.
I wrote previously about my vision for how to explain clerical magic. I largely stand behind what I wrote earlier and think that the key to that approach is eliminating direct damage dealing spells from the cleric's repertoire, except as reversed spells. One of the many things I disliked about the 3e cleric (and, by extension, the 4e one) is the way that the class was given access to a wider variety of combat-oriented spells. If one is to envision clerics as "white magicians," as I do, then it doesn't make a lot of sense to include direct damage dealing spells, except as willful perversions of the "path" of magic they've undertaken by their vocation.
I realize that, in many people's eyes, I'm relegating the cleric to a "support" role, but I see that as a feature rather than a bug. Clerics shouldn't have spells that are as mighty or versatile as a magic-user; that's not the archetype they represent, at least as I see it. They're a defensive class, which is why they have such good saving throws, the second best attack progression, and the ability to put on plate mail armor. There is a certain logic to it all, even if it's a somewhat strained logic at times and I feel it's important to buttress it whenever I can. The end result might not be a true pulp fantasy-style priest, but it also won't be the heavily armored wizards that they eventually came to be over the years.