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Clemens Alexandri'nus or St. Clemens

whose name was T. Flavius Clemens, usually surnamed Alexandrinus, is supposed to have been born at Athens, though he spent the greater part of his life at Alexandria. In this way the two statements in which he is called an Athenian and an Alexandrian (Epiphan. Haer. 27.6) have been reconciled by Cave. In early life he was ardently devoted to the study of philosophy, and his thirst for knowledge led him to visit various countries,--Greece, southern Italy, Coelo-Syria, Palestine, and Egypt.

It appears, from his own account, that he had various Christian preceptors, of whom he speaks in terms of great respect. One of them was a Jew by birth, and several were from the East. At length, coming to Egypt, he sought out Pantaenus, master of the Christian school at Alexandria, to whose instructions he listened with much satisfaction, and whom he prized far more highly than all his former teachers. It is not certainly known whether he had embraced Christianity before hearing Pantaenus, or whether his mind had only been favourably inclined towards it in consequence of previous inquiries. Probably he first became a Christian under the influence of the precepts of Pantaenus, though Neander thinks otherwise. After he had joined the Alexandrian church, he became a presbyter, and about A. D. 190 he was chosen to be assistant to his beloved preceptor. In this latter capacity he continued until the year 202, when both principal and assistant were obliged to flee to Palestine in consequence of the persecution under Severus. In the beginning of Caracalla's reign he was at Jerusalem, to which city many Christians were then accustomed to repair in consequence of its hallowed spots. Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem, who was at that time a prisoner for the gospel, recommended him in a letter to the church at Antioch, representing him as a godly minister, a man both virtuous and wellknown, whom they had already seen, and who had confirmed and promoted the church of Christ. It is conjectured, that Pantaenus and Clement returned, after an absence of three years, in 206, though of this there is no certain evidence. He must have returned before 211, because at that time he succeeded Pantaenus as master of the school. Among his pupils was the celebrated Origen. Guerike thinks, that he died in 213; but it is better to assume with Cave and Schröckh, that his death did not take place till 220. Hence he flourished under the reigns of Severus and Caracalla, 193-217.

It cannot safely be questioned, that Clement held the fundamental truths of Christianity and exhibited genuine piety. But in his mental character the philosopher predominated. His learning was great, his imagination lively, his power of perception not defective; but he was unduly prone to speculation. An eclectic in philosophy, he eagerly sought for knowledge wherever it could be obtained, examining every topic by the light of his own mind, and selecting out of all systems such truths as commended themselves to his judgment. " I espoused," says he, " not this or that philosophy, not the Stoic, nor the Platonic, nor the Epicurean, nor that of Aristotle; but whatever any of these sects had said that was fit and just, that taught righteousness with a divine and religious knowledge, all that being selected, I call philosophy." He is supposed to have leaned more to the Stoics than to any other sect. He seems, indeed, to have been more attached to philosophy than any of the fathers with the exception of Origen.

In comprehensiveness of mind Clement was certainly deficient. He never develops great principles, but runs chiefly into minute details, which often become trifling and insipid. In the interpretation of the Scriptures he was guided by fancy rather than fixed rules deduced from common sense. He pursues no definite principles of exposition, neither does he penetrate into the essential nature of Christianity. His attainments in purely religious knowledge could never have been extensive, as no one doctrine is well stated. From his works no system of theology can be gathered. It were preposterous to recur to them for sound exegesis, or even a successful development of the duties of a Christian, much less for an enlightened estimate of the obligations under which men are laid to their Creator and to each other. It may be questioned, whether he had the ability to compose a connected system of theology, or a code of Christian morality. Doubtless great allowance should be made for the education and circumstances of the writer, the character of the age in which he lived, the persons for whom chiefly he wrote, the modes of thought then current, the entire circle of influences by which he was surrounded, the principal object he had in view; but after all deductions, much theological knowledge will not be attributed to him. The speculative philosopher is still more prominent than the theologian--the allegoriser rather than the expounder of the Bible appears--the metaphysician eclipses the Christian.


The works of Clement which have reached us are his Λόγος Προτρεπτικός πρὸς Ἑλλῆνας or Hortatory Address to the Greeks ; Παιδαγωγός, or Teacher ; Στρωματεῖς, or Miscellanies ; and Τίς σωζόμενος Πλούσιος; Quis Dives salvetur ? In addition to these, he wrote Ὑποτυπώσεις in eight books; Περὶ τοῦ ηάσχα, i. e. de Paschate ; περὶ Νηστείας, i. e. de Jejunio ; περὶ Καταλαλιᾶς, i. e. de Obtrectatione ; Προτρεπτικὸς εἰς Ὑπομονήν, i. e. Exhortatio ad Patientiam ; Κανὼν Ἐκκλησιαστικός, i. e. Canon Ecclesiasticus, or de Canonibus Ecclesiasticis ; εἰς τῆν Προφήτην Ἀμώς, On the Prophet Amos; περὶ Προνοίας and Ὅροι διαφόροι. If the ὑποτυπώσεις be the same as the Adumbrationes mentioned by Cassiodorus, as is probable, various fragments of them are preserved and may be seen in Potter's edition. Perhaps the ἐκλογαὶ ἐκ τῶν προφητικῶν, which are also given by Potter, were originally a part of the ὑποτυπώσεις. Among the fragments printed in the same edition are also ἐκ τῶν Θεοδότου καὶ τῆς ἀνατολικῆς καλουμένης διδασκαλίας κατὰ τοὺς Οὐαλεντίνου χρόνους ἐπιτομαί, i e. extracts from the writings of Theodotus and the doctrine called oriental, relating to the times of Valentinus. Whether these excerpts were really made by Clement admits of doubt, though Sylburg remarks that the style and phraseology resemble those of the Alexandrine father. The fragments of his lost works have been industriously collected by Potter, in the second volume of his edition of Clement's works; but Fabricius, at the end of his second volume of the works of Hippolytus, published some of the fragments more fully, along with several not found in Potter's edition. There are also fragments in the Biblioth. Patr. of Galland. In various parts of his writings Clement speaks of other works which he had written or intended to write. (See Potter, vol. ii. p. 1045.)

His three principal works constitute parts of a whole.

Hortatory Address

In the Hortatory Address his design was to convince the Heathens and to convert them to Christianity. It exposes the impurities of polytheism as contrasted with the spirituality of Christianity, and demonstrates the superiority of the gospel to the philosophy of the Gentile world by shewing, that it effectually purifies the motives and elevates the character.


The Paedagogue takes up the new convert at the point to which he is supposed to have been brought by the hortatory address, and furnishes him with rules for the regulation of his conduct. In the first chapter he explains what he means by the term Paedagogue,-- one who instructs children, leading them up to manhood through the paths of truth. This preceptor is none other than Jesus Christ, and the children whom he trains up are simple, sincere believers. The author goes into minutiae and trifling details, instead of dwelling upon great precepts applicable to human life in all circumstances.


The Stromata are in eight books, but probably the last book did not proceed from Clement himself. The treatise is rambling and discursive, without system, order, or method, but contains much valuable information on many points of antiquity, particularly the history of philosophy. The principal information respecting Egyptian hieroglyphics is contained in the fifth book of this work of Clement. His object was to delineate in it the perfect Christian or Gnostic, after he had been instructed by the Teacher and thus prepared for sublime speculations in philosophy and theology. The eighth book is a treatise on logic, so that the original seems to have been lost, and this one substituted in its place. Bishop Kaye, however, inclines to the opinion, that it is a genuine production of Clement.

Other works

The treatise entitled τίς σωζόμενος is practical, shewing to what temptations the rich are particularly exposed. It has the appearance of a homily. His Hypotyposes in eight books (ὑποτυπώσεις, translated ad umbrationes by Cassiodorus) contained, according to Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 4.14), a summary exposition of the books of Scripture. Photius gives a most unfavourable account of it, affirming that it contained many fabulous and impious notions similar to those of the Gnostic heretics. But at the same time he suggests, that these monstrous sentiments may not have proceeded from Clement, as there is nothing similar to them in his acknowledged works. Most probably they were interpolated.


The following are the chief editions of Clement's works :--Victorii, Florentiae, 1550, fol., Graece. This is the editio princeps.

Frid. Sylburgii, Heidelberg, 1592, fol. Gr. et Lat. Herveti, " Protrepticus et Paedagogus," et Strozzae libri viii. "Stromatum," Florent. 1551, fol. Lat. Herveti, "Protrepticus, Paedagogus, et Stromata," Basil. 1556, fol. and 1566, fol., Paris, 1572 and 1590, fol. in the Bibliotheca Patrum, vol. 3.1677, fol. Lugd. Sylburgii et Heinsii, Lugd. Bat. 1616, fol. Gr. et Lat.; this edition was reprinted with the additional notes of Ducaeus at Paris, 1629, fol., Paris, 1641, fol. and Colon. 1688, fol. Potteri, Oxon. 1715, fol. 2 vols. Gr. et Lat.; this edition is incomparably the best. Oberthür, Wirceb. 1788-89, 8vo. 3 vols. Gr. et Lat. Klotz, Lips. 1830-34, 8vo. 4 vols. Graece. A. B. Cailleau, in the " Collectio selecta SS. Ecclesiae Patrum," Paris, 1827 &c., vol. 4.8vo. Lat.

The treatise " Quis Dives salvetur" was published in Greek and Latin, with a commentary by Segaar, Traj. 1816, 8vo. ; and in Latin by Dr. H. Olshausen, Regiom. 1831, 12mo. The Hymn to Christ the Saviour at the end of the Paedagogus, was published in Greek and Latin by Piper, Goetting. 1835, 8vo.

Further Information

See Le Nourry's Apparatus ad Bibl. maxim. Patrum, Paris, 1703, fol. lib. iii.; P. H. de Groot, De Clem. Aleaandr. Disp. Groning. 1826, 8vo. ; H. E. F. Guerike, Comment. Histor. et Theolog. de Schola, quae Alexandriae floruit, Catechetica, Halae, 1824-25, 8vo.; Matter, Essai histor. sur l'Ecole d'Alexandrie, Paris, 1820, 2 vols. 8vo.; Redepenning, Origines, Bonn, 1841, 8vo.; Neander, De Fidei Gnoseosque Ideae, qua ad se invicem atque ad Philosophiam referatur ratione secundum mentem Clementis Alex., Heidelb. 1811, 8vo.; Allgemeine Gesch. der Christ. Religion und Kirche, 1.3, Hamburg, 1827, 8vo.; Guerike, Handbuch der Kirchenaeschichte. fünfte Auflage, 2 vols. Halle, 1843, 8vo. ; Baur, Die Christliche Gnosis, Tübing. 1835, 8vo. ; Dähne, De γνῶσει Clementis Alex. Hal. 1831, 8vo. ; Bp. Kaye's Account of the Writings and Opinions of Clement of Alexandria, London, 1835, 8vo.; Davidson's Sacred Hermeneutics, Edinb. 1843, 8vo. ; Cave's Historia Literaria, Lond. 1688, fol.; Gieseler's Text-book of Ecclesiastical History, translated by Cunningham, Philadelph. 1836, 3 vols. 8vo. vol. i.; Euseb. Histor. Eccles. lib. v. et vi., ed. Heinichen, 1827-30, Lips.


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190 AD (1)
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