Clement of Alexandria: Wikis


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Clement of Alexandria
Born Titus Flavius Clemens
c. 150 CE
Athens, Greece
Died c. 215 CE
Home town Alexandria
Known for Mentor of Origen, theologian

Titus Flavius Clemens (c.150 - c. 215), known as Clement of Alexandria (to distinguish him from Clement of Rome), was a Christian theologian and the head of the noted Catechetical School of Alexandria. Clement is best remembered as the teacher of Origen. He united Greek philosophical traditions with Christian doctrine and valued gnosis that with communion for all people could be held by common Christians specially chosen by God. He used the term "gnostic" for Christians who had attained the deeper teaching of the Logos.[1] He developed a Christian Platonism.[2] He presented the goal of Christian life as deification, identified both as Platonism's assimilation into God and the biblical imitation of God.[1]

Like Origen, he arose from Alexandria's Catechetical School and was well versed in pagan literature.[2] Origen succeeded Clement as head of the school.[2] Alexandria had a major Christian community in early Christianity, noted for its scholarship and its high-quality copies of Scripture.

Clement is counted as one of the early Church Fathers.



Clement's birthplace is not known with certainty. Athens is named as his birthplace by the sixth-century Epiphanius Scholasticus, and this is supported by the classical quality of his Greek. His parents seem to have been wealthy pagans of some social standing. The thoroughness of his education is shown by his constant quotation of the Greek poets and philosophers. He travelled in Greece, Italy, Palestine, and finally Egypt. He became the colleague of Pantaenus, the head of the Catechetical School of Alexandria, and finally succeeded him in the direction of the school. One of his most popular pupils was Origen. During the persecution of Christians by Septimius Severus (202 or 203) he sought refuge with Alexander, then bishop (possibly of Flaviada) in Cappadocia, afterward of Jerusalem, from whom he brought a letter to Antioch in 211.

Literary work

Great trilogy

The trilogy into which Clement's principal remains are connected by their purpose and mode of treatment is composed of:

Overbeckcalls it the boldest literary undertaking in the history of the Church, since in it Clement for the first time attempted to set forth Christianity for the faithful in the traditional forms of secular literature.

The first book deals with the religious basis of Christian morality, the second and third with the individual cases of conduct. As with Epictetus, true virtue shows itself with him in its external evidences by a natural, simple, and moderate way of living.

The doctrine of apocatastasis, the belief that all people will eventually be saved, was first developed by Clement in the Stromata. He wrote that the punishments of God are "saving and disciplinary, leading to conversion."[3] However, his successor as head of the Catechetical School of Alexandria, Origen, is probably better known for espousing Christian universalism.

Other works

Besides the great trilogy, the only complete work preserved is the treatise "Who is the Rich Man that Shall Be Saved?" based on Mark 10:17-31, and laying down the principle that not the possession of riches but their misuse is to be condemned. There are extant a few fragments of the treatise on the Passover, against the Quartodecimanism position of Melito of Sardis, and only a single passage from the "Ecclesiastical Canon" against the Judaizers. Several other works are known only by their titles. His work Hypotyposes survives only in fragments.

Much of Clement's work has been published in recent years in the collection Sources Chrétiennes, in particular by Alain Le Boulluec.

His significance for the Church

Saint Clement of Alexandria
Born ca. 150, Athens, Greece
Died ca. 215-217
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church Eastern Orthodox Church Anglican Communion
Canonized Pre-congregation
Feast 4 December (Roman Catholic Church), 5 December ( Episcopal Church (United States))

Down to the seventeenth century Clement was venerated as a saint. His name was to be found in the martyrologies, and his feast fell on the December 4. But when the Roman Martyrology was revised by Clement VIII (Pope from 1592 to 1605), his name was dropped from the calendar on the advice of his confessor, Cardinal Baronius. Pope Benedict XIV in 1748 maintained his predecessor's decision on the grounds that Clement's life was little-known; that he had never obtained public cultus in the Church; and that some of his doctrines were, if not erroneous, at least suspect.

The significance of Clement in the history of the development of doctrine is, according to Adolf von Harnack, that he knew how to replace the apologetic method by the constructive or systematic, to turn the simple church tradition into a "scientific" dogmatic theology. It is a marked characteristic of his that he sees only superficial and transient disagreement where others find a fundamental opposition. He is able to reconcile, or even to fuse, differing views to an extent which makes it almost impossible to attribute to him a definite individual system. He is admittedly an eclectic (Stromata, i. 37). This attitude determines especially his treatment of non-Christian philosophy. Although the theory of a diabolical origin for it is not unknown to him, and although he shows exhaustively that the philosophers owe a large part of their knowledge to the writings of the Old Testament, yet he seems to express his own personal conviction when he describes philosophy as a direct operation of the divine Logos, working through it as well as through the law and his direct revelation in the Gospel to communicate the truth to men.

Thus he emphasizes the permanent importance of philosophy for the fullness of Christian knowledge, explains with special predilection the relation between knowledge and faith, and sharply criticizes those who are unwilling to make any use of philosophy. He pronounces definitely against the sophists and against the hedonism of the school of Epicurus. Although he generally expresses himself unfavorably in regard to the Stoic philosophy, he really pays marked deference to that mixture of Stoicism and Platonism which characterized the religious and ethical thought of the educated classes in his day. This explains the value set by Clement on gnosis. Faith is the foundation of all gnosis, and both are given by Christ. As faith involves a comprehensive knowledge of the essentials, knowledge allows the believer to penetrate deeply into the understanding of what he believes; and this is the making perfect, the completion, of faith. In order to attain this kind of faith, the "faith of knowledge," which is so much higher than the mere "faith of conjecture," or simple reception of a truth on authority, philosophy is permanently necessary. In fact, Christianity is the true philosophy, and the perfect Christian the true Gnostic -- but again only the "Gnostic according to the canon of the Church " has this distinction. Also, he rejects the Gnostic distinction of "psychic" and "pneumatic" men; all are alike destined to perfection if they will embrace it.

From philosophy he takes his conception of the Logos, the principle of Christian gnosis, through whom alone God's relation to the world and his revelation is maintained. God he considers transcendentally as unqualified Being, who can not be defined in too abstract a way. Though his goodness operated in the creation of the world, yet immutability, self sufficiency, incapability of suffering are the characteristic notes of the divine essence. Though the Logos is most closely one with the Father, whose powers he resumes in himself, yet to Clement both the Son and the Spirit are "first-born powers and first created"; they form the highest stages in the scale of intelligent being, and Clement distinguishes the Son-Logos from the Logos who is immutably immanent in God, and thus gives a foundation to the charge of Photius that he "degraded the Son to the rank of a creature." Separate from the world as the principle of creation, he is yet in it as its guiding principle. Thus a natural life is a life according to the will of the Logos. The Incarnation, in spite of Clement's rejection of the Gnostic Docetism, has with him a decidedly Docetic character. The body of Christ was not subject to human needs. He is the good Physician; the medicine which he offers is the communication of saving gnosis, leading men from paganism to faith and from faith to the higher state of knowledge. This true philosophy includes within itself the freedom from sin and the attainment of virtue. As all sin has its root in ignorance, so the knowledge of God and of goodness is followed by well-doing. Against the Gnostics Clement emphasizes the freedom of all to do good.

Clement lays great stress on the fulfilment of moral obligations. In his ethical expressions he is influenced strongly by Plato and the Stoics, from whom he borrows much of his terminology. He praises Plato for setting forth the greatest possible likeness to God as the aim of life; and his portrait of the perfect Gnostic closely resembles that of the wise man as drawn by the Stoics. Hence he counsels his readers to shake off the chains of the flesh as far as possible, to live already as if out of the body, and thus to rise above earthly things. He is a true Greek in the value which he sets on moderation; but his highest ideal of conduct remains the mortification of all affections which may in any way disturb the soul in its career. As Harnack says, the lofty ethical-religious ideal of the attainment of man's perfection in union with God, which Greek philosophy from Plato down had worked out, and to which it had subordinated all scientific worldly knowledge, is taken over by Clement, deepened in meaning, and connected not only with Christ, but with ecclesiastical tradition.

The way, however, to this union with God is for Clement only the Church's way. The communication of the gnosis is bound up with holy orders, which give the divine light and life. The simple faith of the baptized Christian contains all the essentials of the highest knowledge; by the Eucharist the believer is united with the Logos and the Spirit, and made partaker of incorruptibility. Though he lays down at starting a purely spiritual conception of the Church, later the exigencies of his controversy with the Gnostics make him lay more stress on the visible church. As to his use of Scripture, the extraordinary breadth of his reading and manifold variety of his quotations from the most diverse authors make it very difficult to determine exactly what was received as canonical by the Alexandrian Church of that period. Clement uses both canonical and apocryphal Gospels, and often talks just about "the Gospel" without specifying any of them. For the other New Testament writings he seems not to have had as definite a line of demarcation; but whatever he recognized as of apostolic origin had for him an authority distinct from, and higher than, that of all other ecclesiastical tradition.

An excerpt from the Mar Saba letter, attributed to Clement of Alexandria, is the only evidence for the existence of a possible Secret Gospel of Mark.

Clement quoted from the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles as scripture,[2] a book currently known as the Didache.


  1. ^ a b "Clement of Alexandria." Cross, F. L., ed. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005
  2. ^ a b c d Durant, Will. Caesar and Christ. New York: Simon and Schuster. 1972
  3. ^ "Apocatastasis". New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, Vol. I.

External links


  • This article includes text from the Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religion, which is in the public domain.

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA (Clemens Alexandrinus), Greek Father of the Church. The little we know of him is mainly derived from his own works. He was probably born about A.D. 150 of heathen parents in Athens. The earliest writer after himself who gives us any information with regard to him is Eusebius. The only points on which his works now extant inform us are his date and his instructors. In the Stromateis, while attempting to show that the Jewish Scriptures were older than any writings of the Greeks, he invariably brings down his dates to the death of Commodus, a circumstance which at once suggests that he wrote in the reign of the emperor Severus, from 193 to 211 A.D. (see Strom. lib. i. cap. xxi. 140, p. 403, Potter's edition). The passage in regard to his teachers is corrupt, and the sense is therefore doubtful (Strom. lib. i. cap. i. 11, p. 322, P.).

" This treatise," he says, speaking of the Stromateis, " has not been contrived for mere display, but memoranda are treasured up in it for my old age to be a remedy for forgetfulness, - an image, truly, and an outline of those clear and living discourses, and those men truly blessed and noteworthy I was privileged to hear. One of these was in Greece, the Ionian, the other was in Magna Graecia; the one of them was from Coele Syria, the other from Egypt; but there were others in the East, one of whom belonged to the Assyrians, but the other was in Palestine, originally a Jew. The last of those whom I met was first in power. On falling in with him I found rest, having tracked him while he lay concealed in Egypt. He was in truth the Sicilian bee, and, plucking the flowers of the prophetic and apostolic meadow, he produced a wonderfully pure knowledge in the souls of the listeners." Some have supposed that in this passage seven teachers are named, others that there are only five, and various conjectures have been hazarded as to what persons were meant. The only one about whom conjecture has any basis for speculating is the last, for Eusebius states (H.E. v. 11) that Clement made mention of Pantaenus as his teacher in the Hypotyposes. The reference in this passage is plainly to one whom he might well designate as his teacher.

To the information which Clement here supplies subsequent writers add little. By Eusebius and Photius he is called Titus Flavius Clemens, and " c the Alexandrian " is added to his name. Epiphanius tells us that some said Clement was an Alexandrian, others that he was an Athenian (Haer. xxxii. 6), and a modern writer imagined that he reconciled this discordance by the supposition that he was born at Athens, but lived at Alexandria. We know nothing of his conversion except that he passed from heathenism to Christianity. This is expressly stated by Eusebius (Praep. Evangel. lib. ii. cap. 2), though it is likely that Eusebius had no other authority than the works of Clement. These works, however, warrant the inference. They show a singularly minute acquaintance with the ceremonies of pagan religion, and there are indications that Clement himself had been initiated in some of the mysteries (Protrept. cap. ii. sec. 14, p. 13, P.). There is no means of determining the date of his conversion. He attained the position of presbyter in the church of Alexandria (Eus. H.E. vi. 11, and Jerome, De Vir. Ill. 38), and became perhaps the assistant, and certainly the successor of Pantaenus in the catechetical school of that place. Among his pupils were Origen (Eus. H.E. vi. 7) and Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem (Eus. H.E. vi. 14.). How long he continued in Alexandria, and when and where he died, are all matters of pure conjecture. The only further notice of Clement that we have in history is in' a letter written in 211 by Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem, to the Antiochians, and preserved by Eusebius (H.E. vi. 11). The words are as follows: - " This letter I sent through Clement the blessed presbyter, a man virtuous and tried, whom ye know and will come to know completely, who being here by the providence and guidance of the Ruler of all strengthened and increased the church of the Lord." A statement of Eusebius in regard to the persecution of Severus in 202 (H.E. vi. 3) would render it likely that Clement left Alexandria on that occasion. It is conjectured that he went to his old pupil Alexander, who was at that time bishop of Flaviada in Cappadocia, and that when his pupil was raised to the see of Jerusalem Clement followed him there. The letter implies that he was known to the Antiochians, and that it was likely he would be still better known. Some have conjectured that he returned to Alexandria, but there is not the shadow of evidence for such conjecture. Alexander, writing to Origen (c. 216), mentions Clement as dead (Eus. H.E. vi. 1 4, 9).

Eusebius and Jerome give us lists of the works which Clement left behind him. Photius has also described some of them. They are as follows: - (1) IIpos "EXXnvas X6yos b 7rporpeirruK6s, A Hortatory Address to the Greeks. (2) '0 HacSaycoy6s, The Tutor, in three books. (3) Irpcu,uareis, or Patch-work, in eight books. (4) Tis 6 Lrwi"6ELevos 7rXouveos; Who is the Rich Man that is Saved ? (5) Eight books of `T7rorvnrd,vecs, Adumbrations or Outlines. (6) On the Passover. (7) Discourses on Fasting. (8) On Slander. (9) Exhortation to Patience, or to the Newly Baptized. (to) The Kavwv EKKAncLaUTLK6s, the Rule of the Church, or to those who Judaize, a work dedicated to Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem.

Of these, the first four have come down to us complete, or nearly complete. The first three form together a progressive introduction to Christianity corresponding to the stages through which the Aim7ns passed at Eleusis - purification, initiation, revelation. The Hortatory Address to the Greeks is an appeal to them to give up the worship of their gods, and to devote themselves to the worship of the one living and true God. Clement exhibits the absurdity and immorality of the stories told with regard to the pagan deities, the cruelties perpetrated in their worship, and the utter uselessness of bowing down before images made by hands. He at the same time shows the Greeks that their own greatest philosophers and poets recognized the unity of the divine Being, and had caught glimpses of the true nature of God, but that fuller light had been thrown on this subject by the Hebrew prophets. He replies to the objection that it was not right to abandon the customs of their forefathers, and points them to Christ as their only safe guide to God.

The Paedagogue is divided into three books. In the first Clement discusses the necessity for and the true nature of the Paedagogus, and shows how Christ as the Logos acted as Paedagogus, and still acts. In the second and third books Clement enters into particulars, and explains how the Christian following the Logos or Reason ought to behave in the various circumstances of life - in eating, drinking, furnishing a house, in dress, in the relations of social life, in the care of the body, and similar concerns, and concludes with a general description of the life of a Christian. Appended to the Paedagogue are two hymns, which are, in all probability, the production of Clement, though some have conjectured that they were portions of the church service of that time. vrpcoµameis were bags in which bedclothes (vrpc.twara)7were kept. The phrase was used as a booktitle by Origen and others, and is equivalent to our " miscellanies." It is difficult to give a brief account of the varied contents of the book. Sometimes Clement discusses chronology, sometimes philosophy, sometimes poetry, entering into the most minute critical and chronological details; but one object runs through all, and this is to show what the true Christian Gnostic is, and what is his relation to philosophy. The work was in eight books. The first seven are complete. The eighth now extant is really an incomplete treatise on logic. Some critics have rejected this book as spurious, since its matter is so different from that of the rest. Others, however, have held to its genuineness, because in a Patch-work or Book of Miscellanies the difference of subject is no sound objection, and because Photius seems to have regarded our present eighth book as genuine (Phot. cod. iii. p. 89b, Bekker).

The treatise Who is the Rich Man that is Saved? is an admirable exposition of the narrative contained in St Mark's Gospel x. 17-31. Here Clement argues that wealth, if rightly used, is not unchristian. The Hypotyposes 1 in eight books, have not come down to us. Cassiodorus translated them into Latin, freely altering to suit his own ideas of orthodoxy. Both Eusebius and Photius describe the work. It was a short commentary on all the books of Scripture, including some of the apocryphal works, such as the Epistle of Barnabas and the Revelation of Peter. Photius speaks in strong language of the impiety of some opinions in the book (Bibl. cod. 109, p. 89 a Bekker), but his statements are such as to prove conclusively that he must have had a corrupt copy, or read very carelessly, or grossly misunderstood Clement. Notes in Latin on the first epistle of Peter, the epistle of Jude, and the first two of John have come down to us; but whether they are the translation of Cassiodorus, or indeed a translation of Clement's work at all, is a matter of dispute.

The treatise on the Passover was occasioned by a work of Melito on the same subject. Two fragments of this treatise were given by Petavius, and are contained in the modern editions.

We know nothing of the work called The Ecclesiastical Canon from any external testimony. Clement himself often mentions the KKX7 / 0-LacrtK6s Kavcw, and defines it as the agreement and harmony of the law and the prophets with the covenant delivered at the appearance of Christ (Strom. vi. cap. xv. 125, p. 803, P.). No doubt this was the subject of the treatise. Jerome and Photius call the work Ecclesiastical Canons, but this seems to be a mistake.

Of the other treatises mentioned by Eusebius and Jerome nothing is known. A fragment of Clement, quoted by Antonius Melissa, is most probably taken from the treatise on slander.

Besides the treatises mentioned by Eusebius, fragments of treatises on Providence and the Soul have been preserved. Mention is also made of a work by Clement on the Prophet Amos, and another on Definitions.

In addition to these Clement often speaks of his intention to write on certain subjects, but it may well be doubted whether in most cases, if not all, he intended to devote separate treatises to 1 Zahn thinks we have part of them in the Adumbrationes Clem. Alex. in epistolas canonicas (Codex Lindum, 96, sec. ix.). They were perhaps intended as a completion of the preceding course.

them. Some have found an allusion to the treatise on the Soul already mentioned. The other subjects are Marriage (yabaK aoyos), Continence, the Duties of Bishops, Presbyters, Deacons and Widows, Prophecy, the Soul, the Transmigration of the Soul and the Devil, Angels, the Origin of the World, First Principles and the Divinity of the Logos, Allegorical Interpretations of Statements made with regard to God's anger and similar affections, the Unity of the Church, and the Resurrection.

Two works are incorporated in the editions of Clement which are not mentioned by himself or any ancient writer. They are 'EK TWV 9EoSOrou Kai T'ls avaroXu i s KaXov / J v1 7 s SLSao'KaXias Kara Tous OuaXEvrivov X pOL ' OU S E71-6TOIla1, and 'EK TWY 7rpoOnTLKWY EKXoya(. The first, if it is the work of Clement, must be a book merely of excerpts, for it contains many opinions which Clement opposed. Mention is made of Pantaenus in the second, and some have thought it more worthy of him than the first. Others have regarded it as a work similar to the first, and derived from Theodorus.

Clement occupies a profoundly interesting position in the history of Christianity. He is the first to bring all the culture of the Greeks and all the speculations of the Christian heretics to bear on the exposition of Christian truth. He does not attain to a systematic exhibition of Christian doctrine, but he paves the way for it, and lays the first stones of the foundation. In some respects Justin anticipated him. He also was well acquainted with Greek philosophy, and took a genial view of it; but he was not nearly so widely read as Clement. The list of Greek authors whom Clement has quoted occupies upwards of fourteen of the quarto pages in Fabricius's Bibliotheca Graeca. He is at home alike in the epic and the lyric, the tragic and the comic poets, and his knowledge of the prose writers is very extensive. Some, however, of the classic poets he appears to have known only from anthologies; hence he was misled into quoting as from Euripides and others verses which were written by Jewish forgers. He made a special study of the philosophers. Equally minute is his knowledge of the systems of the Christian heretics. And in all cases it is plain that he not merely read but thought deeply on the questions which the civilization of the Greeks and the various writings of poets, philosophers and heretics raised. But it was in the Scriptures that he found his greatest delight. He believed them to contain the revelation of God's wisdom to men. He quotes all the books of the Old Testament except Ruth and the Song of Solomon, and amongst the sacred writings of the Old Testament he evidently included the book of Tobit, the Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus. He is equally full in his quotations from the New Testament, for he quotes from all the books except the epistle to Philemon, the second epistle of St Peter, and the epistle of St James, and he quotes from The Shepherd of Hermas, and the epistles of Clemens Romanus and of Barnabas, as inspired. He appeals also to many of the lost gospels, such as those of the Hebrews, of the Egyptians and of Matthias.

Notwithstanding this adequate knowledge of Scripture, the modern theologian is disappointed to find very little of what he deems characteristically Christian. In fact Clement regarded Christianity as a philosophy. The ancient philosophers sought through their philosophy to attain to a nobler and holier life, and this also was the aim of Christianity. The difference between the two, in Clement's judgment, was that the Greek philosophers had only glimpses of the truth, that they attained only to fragments of the truth, while Christianity revealed in Christ the absolute and perfect truth. All the stages of the world's history were therefore preparations leading up to this full revelation, and God's care was not confined to the Hebrews alone. The worship of the heavenly bodies, for instance, was given to man at an early stage that he might rise from a contemplation of these sublime objects to the worship of the Creator. Greek philosophy in particular was the preparation of the Greeks for Christ. It was the schoolmaster or paedagogue to lead them to Christ. Plato was Moses atticizing. Clement varies in his statement how Plato got his wisdom or his fragments of the Reason. Sometimes he thinks that they came direct from God, like all good things, but he is also fond of maintaining that many of Plato's best thoughts were borrowed from the Hebrew prophets; and he makes the same statement in regard to the wisdom of the other philosophers. But however this may be, Christ was the end to which all that was true in philosophies pointed. Christ himself was the Logos, the Reason. God the Father was ineffable. The Son alone can manifest Him fully. He is the Reason that prevades the universe, that brings out all goodness, that guides all good men. It was through possessing somewhat of this Reason that the philosophers attained to any truth and goodness; but in Christians he dwells more fully and guides them through all the perplexities of life. Photius, probably on a careless reading of Clement, argued that he could not have believed in a real incarnation. But the words of Clement are quite precise and their meaning indisputable. The real difficulty attaches not to the Second Person, but to the First. The Father in Clement's mind becomes the Absolute of the philosophers, that is to say, not the Father at all, but the Monad, a mere point devoid of all attributes. He believed in a personal Son of God who was the Reason and Wisdom of God; and he believed that this Son of God really became incarnate though he speaks of him almost invariably as the Word, and attaches little value to his human nature. The object of his incarnation and death was to free man from his sins, to lead him into the path of wisdom, and thus in the end elevate him to the position of a god. But man's salvation was to be gradual. It began with faith, passed from that to love, and ended in full and complete knowledge. There could be no faith without knowledge. But the knowledge is imperfect, and the Christian was to do many things in simple obedience without knowing the reason. But he has to move upwards continually until he at length does nothing that is evil, and he knows fully the reason and object of what he does. He thus becomes the true Gnostic, but he can become the true Gnostic only by contemplation and by the practice of what is right. He has to free himself from the power of passion. He has to give up all thoughts of pleasure. He must prefer goodness in the midst of torture to evil with unlimited pleasure. He has to resist the temptations of the body, keeping it under strict control, and with the eye of the soul undimmed by corporeal wants and impulses, contemplate God the supreme good, and live a life according to reason. In other words, he must strive after likeness to God as he reveals himself in his Reason or in Christ. Clement thus looks entirely at the enlightened moral elevation to which Christianity raises man. He believed that Christ instructed men before he came into the world, and he therefore viewed heathenism with kindly eye. He was also favourable to the pursuit of all kinds of knowledge. Allenlightenment tended to lead up to the truths of Christianity, and hence knowledge of every kind not evil was its handmaid. Clement had at the same time a strong belief in evolution or development. The world went through various stages in preparation for Christianity. The man goes through various stages before he can reach Christian perfection. And Clement conceived that this development took place not merely in this life, but in the future through successive grades. The Jew and the heathen had the gospel preached to them in the world below by Christ and his apostles, and Christians will have to pass through processes of purification and trial after death before they reach knowledge and perfect bliss.

The beliefs of Clement have caused considerable difference of opinion among modern scholars. He sought the truth from whatever quarter he could get it, believing that all that is good comes from God, wherever it be found. He belongs therefore to no school of philosophers. He calls himself an Eclectic. He was in the main a Neoplatonist, drawing from that school his doctrines of the Monad and his strong tendency towards mysticism. For his moral doctrine he borrowed freely from Stoicism. Aristotelian features may be found but are quite subordinate. But Clement always regards the articles of the Christian creed as the axioms of a new philosophy. Daehne had tried to show that he was Neoplatonic, and Reinkens has maintained that he was essentially Aristotelian. His mode of viewing Christianity does not fit into any classification. It is the result of the period in which he lived, of his wide culture and the simplicity and noble purity of his character.

It is needless to say that his books well deserve study; but vi. 16 a the study is not smoothed by simplicity of style. Clement professed to despite rhetoric, but was himself a rhetorician, and his style is turgid, involved and difficult. He is singularly simple in his character. In discussing marriage he refuses to use any but the plainest language. A euphemism is with him a falsehood. But he is temperate in his opinions; and the practical advices in the second and third books of the Paedagogue are remarkably sound and moderate. He is not always very critical, and he is passionately fond of allegorical interpretations, but these were the faults of his age.

All early writers speak of Clement in the highest terms of laudation, and he certainly ought to have been a saint in any Church that reveres saints. But Clement is not a saint in the Roman Church. He was a saint up till the time of Benedict XIV., who read Photius on Clement, believed him, and struck the Alexandrian's name out of the calendar. But many Roman Catholic writers, though they yield a practical obedience to the papal decision, have adduced good reason why it should be reversed (Cognat, p. 451).


The standard edition of the collected works will be that of O. Stahlin (first vol. containing Protrepticus and Paedagogus, Leipzig, 1905). Separate editions of Strom. vii., Hort and Major (1902); Q.D.S., Barnard in Texts and Studies, V. 2 (1897); W. Dindorf's edition in 4 vols. (Oxford, 1869) is little more than a reprint of the text of Bishop Potter, 1715. For the Fragments see Zahn, Forschungen zur Gesch. des neut. Kanons, part iii., or Harnack and Preuschen, Gesch. der altch. Litt., vol. i.

LITERATURE.-A copious bibliography will be found in Harnack, Chronologie, vol. ii., or in Bardenhewer, Gesch. der altk. Lit. Either of these will supply the names of works upon Clement's biblical text, his use of Stoic writers, his quotations from heathen writers, and his relation to heathen philosophy. A valuable book is de Faye, Clem. d'Alex. (1898). For his theological position see Harnack, Dogmengeschichte; Hort, Six Lectures on the Ante-Nicene Fathers; Westcott, " Clem. of Alex." in Diet. Christ. Biog.; Bigg, Christian Platonists of Alex. (1886). A book on Clement's relation to Mysticism is wanted. (C. B1.; J. D.)

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Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

(Properly TITUS FLAVIUS CLEMENS, but known in church history by the former designation to distinguish him from Clement of Rome).

Date of birth unknown; died about the year 215. St. Clement was an early Greek theologian and head of the catechetical school of Alexandria. Athens is given as the starting-point of his journeyings, and was probably his birthplace. He became a convert to the Faith and travelled from place to place in search of higher instruction, attaching himself successively to different masters: to a Greek of Ionia, to another of Magna Graecia, to a third of Coele-Syria, after all of whom he addressed himself in turn to an Egyptian, an Assyrian, and a converted Palestinian Jew. At last he met Pantaenus in Alexandria, and in his teaching "found rest".

The place itself was well chosen. It was natural that Christian speculation should have a home at Alexandria. This great city was at the time a centre of culture as well as of trade. A great university had grown up under the long-continued patronage of the State. The intellectual temper was broad and tolerant, as became a city where so many races mingled. The philosophers were critics or eclectics, and Plato was the most favoured of the old masters. Neo-Platonism, the philosophy of the new pagan renaissance, had a prophet at Alexandria in the person of Ammonius Saccas. The Jews, too, who were there in very large numbers breathed its liberal atmosphere, and had assimilated secular culture. They there formed the most enlightened colony of the Dispersion. Having lost the use of Hebrew, they found it necessary to translate the Scriptures into the more familiar Greek. Philo, their foremost thinker, became a sort of Jewish Plato. Alexandria was, in addition, one of the chief seats of that peculiar mixed pagan and Christian speculation known as Gnosticism. Basilides and Valentinus taught there. It is no matter of surprise, therefore, to find some of the Christians affected in turn by the scientific spirit. At an uncertain date, in the latter half of the second century, "a school of oral instruction" was founded. Lectures were given to which pagan hearers were admitted, and advanced teaching to Christians separately. It was an official institution of the Church. Pantaenus is the earliest teacher whose name has been preserved. Clement first assisted and then succeeded Pantaenus in the direction of the school, about A.D. 190. He was already known as a Christian writer before the days of Pope Victor (188-199).

About this time he may have composed the "Hortatory Discourse to the Greeks" (Protreptikos pros Ellenas) It is a persuasive appeal for the Faith, written in a lofty strain. The discourse opens with passages which fall on the ear with the effect of sweet music. Amphion and Arion by their minstrelsy drew after them savage monsters and moved the very stones; Christ is the noblest minstrel. His harp and Iyre are men. He draws music from their hearts by the Holy Spirit: nay, Christ is Himself the New Canticle, whose melody subdues the fiercest and hardest natures. Clement then proceeds to show the transcendence of the Christian religion. He constrasts Christianity with the vileness of pagan rites and with the faint hope of pagan poetry and philosophers. Man is born for God. The Word calls men to Himself. The full truth is found in Christ alone. The work ends with a description of the God-fearing Christian. He answers those who urge that it is wrong to desert one's ancestral religion.

The work entitled "Outlines" (Hypotyposeis) is likewise believed to be a production of the early activity of Clement. It was translated into Latin by Rufinus under the title "Dispositiones". It was in eight books, but is no longer extant, though numerous fragments have been preserved in Greek by Eusebius, Oecumenius, Maximus Confessor, John Moschos, and Photius. According to Zahn, a Latin fragment, "Adumbrationes Clementis Alexandrini in epistolas canonicas", translated by Cassiodorus and purged of objectionable passages, represents in part the text of Clement. Eusebius represents the "Outlines" as an abridged commentary, with doctrinal and historical remarks on the entire Bible and on the non-canonical "Epistle of Barnabas" and "Apocalypse of Peter". Photius, who had also read it describes it as a series of explanations of Biblical texts especially of Genesis, Exodus, the Psalms, Ecclesiastes and the Pauline and Catholic Epistles. He declares the work sound on some points, but adds that it contains "impieties and fables", such as the eternity of matter, the creatureship of the Word, plurality of words (Logoi), Docetism, metempsychosis, etc. Conservative scholars are inclined to believe that Photius has thrown the mistakes of Clement, whatever they may have been, into undue relief. Clement's style is difficult, his works are full of borrowed excerpts, and his teaching is with difficulty reduced to a coherent body of doctrine. And this early work, being a scattered commentary on Holy Writ, must have been peculiarly liable to misconstruction. It is certain that several of the more serious charges can rest upon nothing but mistakes. At any rate, his extant writings show Clement in a better light.

Other works of his are the "Miscellanies" (Stromateis) and "The Tutor" (Paidagogos). The "Miscellanies" comprise seven entire books, of which the first four are earlier than "The Tutor". When he had finished this latter work he returned to the "Miscellanies", which he was never able to finish. The first pages of the work are now missing. What has been known as the eighth book since the time of Eusebius is nothing more than a collection of extracts drawn from pagan philosophers. It is likely, as von Annin has suggested, that Clement had intended to make use of these materials together with the abridgement of Theodotus (Excerpts from Theodotus and the Eastern School of Valentinus) and the "Eclogae Propheticae". Extracts from the Prophets (not extracts, but notes at random on texts or Scriptural topics) for the continuation of the "Miscellanies". In the "Miscellanies" Clement disclaims order and plan. He compares the work to a meadow where all kinds of flowers grow at random and, again, to a shady hill or mountain planted with trees of every sort. In fact, it is a loosely related series of remaks, possibly notes of his lectures in the school. It is the fullest of Clement's works. He starts with the importance of philosophy for the pursuit of Christian knowledge. Here he is perhaps defending his own scientific labours from local criticism of conservative brethren. He shows how faith is related to knowledge, and emphasizes the superiority of revelation to philosophy. God's truth is to be found in revelation, another portion of it in philosophy. It is the duty of the Christian to neglect neither. Religious science, drawn from his twofold source, is even an element of perfection, the instructed Christian -- "the true Gnostic" is the perfect Christian. He who has risen to this height is far from the disturbance of passion; he is united to God, and in a mysterious sense is one with Him. Such is the line of thought indicated in the work, which is full of digressions.

"The Tutor" is a practical treatise in three books. Its purpose is to fit the ordinary Christian by a disciplined life to become an instructed Christian. In ancient times the paedagogus was the slave who had constant charge of a boy, his companion at all times. On him depended the formation of the boy's character. such is the office of the Word Incarnate towards men. He first summons them to be HIS, then He trains them in His ways. His ways are temperate, orderly, calm, and simple. Nothing is too common or trivial for the Tutor's care. His influence tells on the minute details of life, on one's manner of eating, drinking, sleeping, dressing, taking recreation, etc. The moral tone of this work is kindly; very beautiful is the ideal of a transfigured life described at the close. In the editions of Clement "The Tutor" is followed by two short poems, the second of which, addressed to the Tutor, is from some pious reader of the work; the first, entitled "A Hymn of the Saviour Christ" (Hymnos tou Soteros Christou), is, in the manuscripts which contain it, attributed to Clement. The hymn may be the work of Clement (Bardenhewer). or it may be of as early a date as the Gloria in Excesis (Westcott).

Some scholars see in the chief writings of Clement, the "Exhortation", "The Tutor", the "Miscellanies", a great trilogy representing a graduated initiation into the Christian life -- belief, discipline, knowledge -- three states corresponding to the three degrees of the neo-Platonic mysteries -- purification, initiation, and vision. Some such underlying conception was doubtless before the mind of Clement, but it can hardly be said to have been realized. He was too unsystematic. Besides these more irnportant works, he wrote the beautiful tract, "Who is the rich man who shall be saved? (tis ho sozomenos plousios). It is an exposition of St. Mark, x, 17-31, wherein Clement shows that wealth is not condemned by the Gospel as intrinsically evil; its morality depends on the good or ill use made of it. The work concludes with the narrative of the young man who was baptized, lost, and again rewon by the Apostle St. John. The date of the composition cannot be fixed. We have the work almost in its entirety. Clement wrote homilies on fasting and on evil speaking, and he also used his pen in the controversy on the Paschal question.

Duchesne (Hist. ancienne de l'Eglise, I, 334 sqq.) thus summarizes the remaining years of Clement's life. He did not end his life at Alexandria. The persecution fell upon Egypt in the year 202, and catechumens were pursued with special intent of law. The catechetical school suffered accordingly. In the first two books of the "Miscellanies", written at this time, we find more than one allusion to the crisis. At length Clement felt obliged to withdraw. We find him shortly after at Caesarea in Cappadocia beside his friend and former pupil bishop Alexander. The persecution is active there also, and Clement is fulfilling a ministry of love. Alexander is in prison for Christ's sake, Clement takes charge of the Church in his stead, strengthens the faithful, and is even able to draw in additional converts. We learn this from a letter written in 211 or 212 by Alexander to congratulate the Church of Antioch on the election Asclepiades to the bishopric. Clement himself undertook to deliver the letter in person, being known to the faithful of Antioch. In another letter written about 215 to Origen Alexander speaks of Clement as of one then dead.

Clement has had no notable influence on the course of theology beyond his personal influence on the young Origen. His writings were occasionally copied, as by Hippolytus in his "Chronicon", by Arnobius, and by Theodoret of Cyrus. St. Jerome admired his learning. Pope Gelasius in the catalogue attributed to him mentions Clement's works, but adds, "they are in no case to be received amongst us". Photius in the "Bibliotheca" censures a list of errors drawn from his writings, but shows a kindly feeling towards Clement, assuming that the original text had been tampered with. Clement has in fact been dwarfed in history by the towering grandeur of the great Origen, who succeeded him at Alexandria. Down to the seventeenth century he was venerated as a saint. His name was to be found in the martyrologies, and his feast fell on the fourth of December. But when the Roman Martyrology was revised by Pope Clement VIII his name was dropped from the calendar on the advice of Cardinal Baronius. Benedict XIV maintained this decision of his predecessor on the grounds that Clement's life was little known that he had never obtained public cultus in the Church, and that some of his doctrines were, if not erroneous, at least suspect. In more recent times Clement has grown in favour for his charming literary temper, his attractive candour, the brave spirit which made him a pioneer in theology, and his leaning to the claims of philosophy. He is modern in spirit. He was exceptionally well-read. He had a thorough knowledge of the whole range of Biblical and Christian literature, of orthodox and heretical works. He was fond of letters also, and had a fine knowledge of the pagan poets and philosophers; he loved to quote them, too, and has thus preserved a number of fragments of lost works. The mass of facts and citations collected by him and pieced together in his writings is in fact unexampled in antiquity, though it is not unlikely that he drew at times upon the florilegia, or anthologies, exhibiting choice passages of literature.

Scholars have found it no easy task to sum up the chief points of Clement's teaching. As has already been intimated, he lacks technical precision and makes no pretense to orderly exposition. It is easy, therefore, to misjudge him. We accept the discriminating judgment of Tixeront. Clement's rule of faith was sound. He admitted the authority of the Church's tradition. He would be, first of all, a Christian, accepting "the ecclesiastical rule", but he would also strive to remain a philosopher, and bring his reason to bear in matters of religion. "Few are they", he said, "who have taken the spoils of the Egyptians, and made of them the furniture of the Tabernacle." He set himself, therefore, with philosophy as an instrument, to transform faith into science, and revelation into theology. The Gnostics had already pretended to possess the science of faith, but they were, in fact, mere rationalists, or rather dreamers of fantastic dreams. Clement would have nothing but faith for the basis of his speculations. He cannot, therefore, be accused of disloyalty in will. But he was a pioneer in a diffficult undertaking, and it must be admitted that he failed at times in his high endeavour. He was careful to go to Holy Scripture for his doctrine; but he misused the text by his faulty exegesis. He had read all the Books of the New Testament except the Second Epistle of St. Peter and the Third Epistle of St. John. "In fact", Tixeront says, "his evidence as to the primitive form of the Apostolic writings is of the highest value." Unfortunately, he interpreted the Scripture after the manner of Philo. He was ready to find allegory everywhere. The facts of the Old Testament became mere symbols to him. He did not, howerer, permit himself so much freedom with the New Testament.

The special field which Clement cultivated led him to insist on the difference between the faith of the ordinary Christian and the science of the perfect, and his teaching on this point is most characteristic of him. The perfect Christian has an insight into "the great mysteries" of man, of nature, of virtue -- which the ordinary Christian accepts without clear insight. Clement has seemed to some to exaggerate the moral worth of religious knowledge; it must however be remembered that he praises not mere sterile knowledge, but knowledge which turns to love. It is Christian perfection that he extols. The perfect Christian -- the true Gnostic whom Clement loves to describe -- leads a life of unalterable calm. And here Clement's teaching is undoubtedly colored by Stoicism. He is really describing not so much the Christian with his sensitive feelings and desires under due control, but the ideal Stoic who has deadened his feelings altogether. The perfect Christian leads a life of utter devotion the love in his heart prompts him to live always in closest union with God by prayer, to labour for the conversion of souls, to love his enemies, and even to endure martyrdom itself.

Clement preceded the days of the Trinitarian controveries. He taught in the Godhead three Terms. Some critics doubt whether he distinguished them as Persons, but a careful reading of him proves that he did. The Second Term of the Trinity is the Word. Photius believed that Clement taught a plurality of Words, whereas in reality Clement merely drew a distinction between the Father's Divine immanent attribute of intelligence and the Personal Word Who is the Son. The Son is eternally begotten, and has the very attributes of the Father. They are but one God. So far, in fact, does Clement push this notion of unity as to seem to approach Modalism. And yet, so loose a writer is he that elsewhere are found disquieting traces of the very opposite error of Subordinationism. These, however, may be explained away. In fact, he needs to be judged, more than writers generally, not by a chance phrase here or there, but by the general drift of his teaching. Of the Holy Ghost he says little, and when he does refer to the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity he adheres closely to the language of Scripture. He acknowledges two natures in Christ. Christ is the Man-God, who profits us both as God and as man. Clement evidently regards Christ as one Person -- the Word. Instances of the interchange of idioms are frequent in his writings. Photius has accused Clement of Docetism. Clement, however, clearly admits in Christ a real body, but he thought this body exempt from the common needs of life, as eating and drinking, and the soul of Christ exempt from the movement of the passions, of joy, and of sadness.


The works of Clement of Alexandria were first edited by P. Victorius (Florence,1550). The most complete edition is that of J. Potter, "Clementis Alexandrini opera quae extant omnia" (Oxford, 1715; Venice, 1757), reproduced in Migne, P.G. VIII, IX. The edition of G. Dindort (Oxford, 1869) is declared unsatisfactory by competent judges. A new complete edition by O. Stahlin is appearing in the Berlin "Griechisehen christlichen Schriftsteller", etc. So far (1908) two volumes have been published: the "Protrepticus" and the "Paedagogus" (Leipzig, 1905), and the "Stromata" (Bks. I -VI, ibid., 1906). The preface to the first volume (pp. 1-83) contains the best account of the manuscripts and editions of Clement. Among the separate editions of his works the following are noteworthy: Hort and Mayor, "Miscellanies", Bk. VII, with English translation (London, 1902); Zahn, "Adumbrationes" in "Forschungen zur Geschiehte des Neutestamentlichen Kanons", III, and "Supplementum Clementinum" (Erlangen, 1884); Köster, "Quis dives salvetur?" (Freiburg, 1893). The last-mentioned work was also edited by P.M. Barnard in "Cambridge Texts and Studies" by W. Wilson (1897), and translated by him in "Early Church Classics" for the S.P.C.K. (London, 1901). For an English translation of all the writings of Clement see Ante-Nicene Christian Library (New York).

Portions of this entry are taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907.

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