Clement of Alexandria Analysis

Life

Clement of Alexandria became a convert to Christianity as an adult. His travels took him through Greece and Palestine. He settled in Alexandria, where he studied under the Greek philosopher Pantaenus, head of a “school of oral instruction.” This catechetical school offered instruction in pagan philosophy as well as Christian theology. Clement, who became head of the school (c. 190 c.e.), taught that while the fullest expression of God was found in Jesus Christ, the study of philosophy was an indispensable component of a Christian’s training. This is reflected in Clement’s repeated references to Jesus Christ as “the Word” (logos, or reason), the influence of Plato and the Stoics in his writings, and his teaching that the educated Christian was the “true Gnostic” (gnosis, or knowledge).

Clement and his successor Origen taught that an allegorical rather than a literal interpretation of the Scriptures would reveal their true meaning. The persecution of the Christians in 202 c.e. under Emperor Lucius Septimius Severus (r. 193-211) forced Clement to flee to Caesarea in Cappadocia, where he died circa 215 c.e.

Influence

The Coptic Bible used by the Coptic Orthodox Church was translated from the Greek under the direction of Pantaenus and Clement.

Additional Resources

Buell, D. Making Christians: Clement of Alexandria and the Rhetoric of Legitimacy. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999.

Karavites, P. Evil, Freedom, and the Road to Perfection in Clement of Alexandria. Leiden, Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1999.