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Clement Of Alexandria (Christian Theologian)

Born 150

Died between 211 and 215

Clement was a Christian apologist and missionary theologian to the Greek cultural world. He was the second known leader and teacher at the catechetical school of Alexandria. With Alexandria having been the home of Philo’s allegorical interpretation of the Pentateuch and various brands of Gnosticism; it is necessary to note Clement’s use of allegory and his description of the perfect Christian as a ‘true Gnostic’. Though he vigorously opposes Gnosticism, Clement apparently retains docetic elements in his Christology, by denying emotions and certain corporeal functions in the man Jesus. He frequently uses the trinitarian formula, emphasizing the distinction between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and affirming the eternity of the Son’s existence, without however coming to any clear definition of the nature of the Trinity.

Clement believed that before the incarnation, knowledge of God was given to the Jews through the law and to the Greeks through philosophy, which was inspired by the Logos (Christ). The Logos became incarnate to impart knowledge and to serve as our model. Clement uses the language of atonement and conquest of evil with respect to Christ, but his main emphasis is on Christ as teacher. Though faith, understood as assent to the teaching of Christ, is sufficient for salvation, the true Gnostic moves beyond faith to knowledge, a full understanding of Christ’s teaching, coupled with an exemplary mode of living (which corresponds closely to Platonic and Stoic ideals). This knowledge leads to perfect love and to a mystic relationship with God, fully consummated only after death, when the believer becomes (like) God.

Salvation is obtained in relation to the church, and through baptism one is made a member of the church. In his arguments against the heretics, Clement emphasizes the antiquity and unity of the catholic church, the tradition handed down orally in the church from the apostles and the importance of interpreting the scriptures (which for Clement included rather more than our present canon) in accordance with the ‘rule of the church’. Clement strongly affirms the freedom of the will and the need for man to co-operate with God by accepting salvation. He apparently conceives of the possibility of repentance even after death.

Apart from fragments preserved by various authors, his existing works consist of:
Protrepticus ("Exhortation"); a polished work of Christian apologetics.
Paedagogus ("Instructor"); a detailed guide for Christian life and conduct.
Stromateis ("Miscellanies"); a rich assortment of notes and outlines on a wide variety of topics.
Quis Dives Salveturan extended sermon on the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17–31.

In his various roles, as missionary theologian, apologist, and polemicist, Clement developed or touched upon ideas that were to influence the Christian world in the areas of monasticism, political and economic thought, and theology. In his area of theology, the Greek church regarded his views as too close to Origen’s, some of which were considered heretical. In the Latin church, however, he was regarded as a saint, and his feast day was celebrated on December 4. In 1586, however, because some of his views were questioned in regard to their orthodoxy, Pope Sixtus V deleted his name from the Roman martyrology.

For more information on Clement, here are some helpful links:
The New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2nd Edition (15 Volume Set)

Connected study article: December 25: Christian Or Pagan Origin?

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