Open main menu
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
489
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA


them. Some have found an allusion to the treatise on the Soul already mentioned. The other subjects are Marriage (γαμικὸς λόγος), 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 Έκ τῶν Θεοδότου καί τἦς ἀνατολικἦς καλουμένης διδασκαλίας κατὰ τοὺς Οὐαλεντίνου χρόνους ἐπιτομαί, and Έκ τῶν προφητικῶν ἐκλογαἰ. 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 pervades 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. All enlightenment 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