The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great

By Henry Chadwick | Go to book overview

18 Clement of Alexandria

At the western mouth of the Nile Alexander the Great founded a great Greek city, a citadel of high culture under his successors the Ptolemies until their last representative Cleopatra succumbed to Rome. With its double harbour, this rich mercantile centre was second city of the empire, and the Jewish quarter contained a million Jews. Here the Greek version of the Hebrew scriptures was produced, and early in the first century ad Philo wrote his allegorical commentary and other writings in defence of Jewish monotheism and belief in providence. Alexandrian Jews suffered unpleasantnesses from the empire, but most of Philo's voluminous works survive copied by Christian scribes. The Jews of Alexandria were anxious not to be thought too liberal because many of them were well educated in Greek literature and interpreted Moses philosophically. This did not dispense them from literal observance of the Torah. Philo was hostile to Jews who so asserted freedom. Their synagogue at Jerusalem did not admire the less conservative views of Stephen (Acts 6: 9). The apostle Paul found a mission to Gentiles parallel to his own in the work of Apollos, an Alexandrian Jew familiar with his Bible. At Corinth one group looked more to Apollos than to Peter or Paul.

Second-century Christianity at Alexandria was not all by later standards orthodox. There were teachers such as Basilides who would soon seem to be deviant from the Irenaean rule of truth. The spirit of the Christians was to be open to speculations reaching out beyond simple faith. They wanted to explore a higher knowledge (gnosis), and this word came to be associated with a certain scorn towards naïve orthodoxy. Clement candidly described some writings by Basilides and Valentinus as pretentious nonsense (Strom. 2. 37. 1). He did not think naïve orthodoxy possible either.

Towards the end of the second century Titus Flavius Clemens settled at Alexandria after travels to sit at the feet of Christian teachers in various places. A well read and thoughtful person, he was strongly influenced by the contemporary (Middle) Platonism which provided his bridge towards Christianity, as had happened with Justin. At Alexandria he encountered a Christian named Pantaenus who had once taught Stoicism. Clement found him excellent, and called him a 'Sicilian bee' (the island was famous for honey). Together they shared a programme of instruction in Christian faith

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The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Church in Ancient Society iii
  • Prefatory Note vi
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The First Followers of Jesus 5
  • 2: The Jewish Matrix 13
  • 3: Jews and Christians Survive Rome's Crushing of Revolts 21
  • 4: The Hebrew Scriptures in the Church 27
  • 5: Interpreting Scripture 32
  • 6: Apostles and Evangelists 43
  • 7: Women Among Jesus' Followers 53
  • 8: 'Barnabas', Jewish Christianity, Trouble at Corinth 56
  • 9: Ignatius of Antioch 65
  • 10: Didache 84
  • 11: Marcion 89
  • 12: Justin 93
  • 13: Irenaeus of Lyon 100
  • 14: The New Testament Text 108
  • 15: Celsus: A Platonist Attack 110
  • 16: Montanism: Perpetua 114
  • 17: Tertullian, Minucius Felix 118
  • 18: Clement of Alexandria 124
  • 19: Julius Africanus 130
  • 20: Hippolytus and Liturgy 132
  • 21: Origen 135
  • 22: Cyprian of Carthage 145
  • 23: Dionysius of Alexandria 161
  • 24: Paul of Samosata 166
  • 25: Mani 170
  • 26: Plotinus, Porphyry 173
  • 27: Diocletian and the Great Persecution; Rise of Constantine 176
  • 28: Constantine 190
  • 29: The Seeds of Reaction 201
  • 30: The Church at Prayer 212
  • 31: Athanasius, Marcellus, and the Gathering Storm 226
  • 32: A Fiasco at Serdica 240
  • 33: Religious Division 254
  • 34: Athanasius' Return 260
  • 35: Constantius' Double Council of Unity 279
  • 36: Julian and the Church 295
  • 37: Damasus, Siricius, Papal Authority, Synesius of Cyrene 314
  • 38: Basil of Caesarea (Cappadocia) 331
  • 39: Ambrose 348
  • 40: Ambrosiaster 379
  • 41: Donatism 382
  • 42: Monks: The Ascetic Life 394
  • 43: Messalians 411
  • 44: Schism at Antioch 415
  • 45: Jerome and Rufinus 433
  • 46: Pelagius, Caelestius, and the Roman See in Gaul and North Africa 446
  • 47: Julian of Eclanum 464
  • 48: Augustine 473
  • 49: John Chrysostom 479
  • 50: Innocent I and John Chrysostom's Honour 499
  • 51: The Christological Debate, I 515
  • 52: The Christological Debate, Ii 538
  • 53: The Christological Debate, Iii 557
  • 54: The Aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon 592
  • 55: Justinian, Origen, and the 'Three Chapters' 612
  • 56: The Ancient Oriental Churches 628
  • 57: The Church and the Barbarian Invasions in the West 633
  • 58: Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) 658
  • 59: Worship After Constantine 675
  • 60: Pilgrims 684
  • 61: Penance 688
  • Further Reading 694
  • Dates of Roman Emperors 714
  • Index 721
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