Clement of Alexandria°

views updated


CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA ° (Titus Flavius Clemens ; 150?–?220 c.e.), a Church Father, writing in Greek. He was profoundly influenced by *Philo in his approach to Scripture, ethics, attitudes toward Jewish history, and metaphysics. Clement certainly knew no Hebrew and relied on Philo, whose knowledge of Hebrew is itself debated. Besides accepting specific comments from Philo, he also followed Philo's allegorical approach to Scripture, which became the hallmark of Alexandrian Christian scholars. Clement preached a modified asceticism and praised the biblical dietary laws and injunctions regarding dress and sexual restrictions as instruments which help man reach that goal (Paedagogus, passim; Stromata 2:20). Like Philo he emphasized the primacy of piety (Stromata 2:18). His approach to history follows Philo: e.g., Moses is an ideal Hellenistic ruler (1:24); Greek philosophers plagiarized Jewish thoughts (1:17; 5:11; 5:14). His theology, both in substance and method, echoes Philo; e.g., philosophy should serve as Scripture's handmaid (1:50); the biblical commandments contain historical, legislative, ceremonial and theological divisions (1:28); Mosaic Law is natural law (1:29); God is ineffable and unknowable (2:2; 5:12). Yet despite his sympathies toward Judaism vis-à-vis paganism, Clement expressed antipathy toward Jews vis-à-vis Christianity and even wrote a tract against them: Adversus eos qui errores Judaeorum sequuntur (Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, book 13).


L. Ginzberg, in: je, 1 (1901), 403–11; H.A. Wolfson, Philo, 2 vols. (Eng., 1947), passim; idem, The Philosophy of the Church Fathers, 1 (19642), passim; H. Chadwick, in: The Cambridge History of Later Greek and Early Medieval Philosophy, ed. by A.H. Armstrong (1967), 168–81; Bibliography: ibid., 675.

[Jacob Petroff]