Documents written by the heads of the School

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Chapter 3 Documents written by the heads of the School

The great feature of the ante-Nicene theology, even in the mistakes of the writers, is its reliance on the Holy Scripture. What wealth of Scripture they lavish in their pages! (Schaff Vol 4, 1885:546).


This Chapter is crucial in the sense that it contains information on all the extant and known (those who did not survive) writings of the identified heads of the Catechetical School in Alexandria. The writings of the heads of the School (the heads being discussed quite elaborately in the previous Chapter) will now be named and discussed.
If there are no known writings by a particular head (like Justus), his name will simply be omitted from the list. Although in most cases only secondary references to the works of the heads are available, they will provide the reader with a broader view of the thoughts of these writers.

Mark the Evangelist

The Gospel according to Mark was allegedly written by Mark himself. It is the earliest Gospel in the Bible and probably the earliest extant narrative book about Jesus…Most [scholars – my addition] further agree that Mark was very quickly and widely circulated and influential, becoming the pattern and major source for the authors of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke…This makes the Gospel of Mark particularly important as a source for study of early Christianity, the history of early Christian literature, and, of course, Jesus of Nazareth (Hurtado 2004:132).
If Mark was indeed the author of the Gospel, then it must have been written before 68 CE, which was the year in which he was allegedly martyred. Since scholars are still indifferent about the most likely place of origin of the Gospel – Syria (Theissen & Merz 1996:24-27), Palestine (Schröter 2010:278), or Rome (Pseudo-Clement’s Letter to Theodore 2.6.12) – Alexandria can also be added as a possibility as Mark spent a large part of his last twenty years in this city. If the Gospel was not written there, then at least it could have been expanded there. According to Paananen (2012:89), who quoted Pseudo-Clement, « Clement affirms that in Alexandria Mark the evangelist expanded the Gospel that he had written in Rome during Peter’s lifetime, and that this ‘μυστικὸν εὐαγγέλιον’ (Theod. II.6,12; ‘secret Gospel’ in Smith’s translation) was still in use in Alexandria. »
Contrary to this view, scholars like Koester (1983:35-57; 1989:19-37; 1990:275-303), Schenke (1984:65-82) and Crossan (1985:91-121; 1988:283-284; 1990:155-168; 1991:328-329) argued that the longer version of the Gospel represented an earlier form of the Markan document. After an elaborate discussion of these viewpoints, Brown (2003:109-110) concluded that (Pseudo-)Clement was probably right when he said that the Gospel had been expanded in Alexandria. Carlson (2005:132) called this a « more spiritual Gospel » which was created in Alexandria for those believers who were already advanced in knowledge (cf Brown 2008:535).
Pearson (1986b:153) stated that « the tradition of the preaching of Mark in Alexandria may predate the acceptance of the canonical Gospel in the Alexandrian Church. » Clement and Origen had quoted Mark in their writings (cf Paed; Quis Div 37.1-4 by Clement; Fr Luc 210 by Origen; Edwards 2010:194).


The two works of Athenagoras that are referenced are both apologetic. They are the Legatio (Legatio pro Christianis, also called Apology or Presbeia, translated as Embassy or A plea for the Christians), written between 176 and 180 (cf Blount 2001:72) and De Resurrectione (Treatise on the resurrection) (cf Berry 2007:59; Jacobsen 2014:83).
In the foreword to the Legatio, which consists of thirty-seven chapters, Athenagoras clearly stipulated, in the form of a petition, to whom his writing was addressed: « To the Emperors Marcus Aurelius Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, conquerors of Armenia and Sarmatia, and more than all, philosophers. » In this treatise he showed a sound knowledge of the works of Menander, especially in the introduction and conclusion (Schoedel 1989:56). Clear parallels to Menander’s work can be seen in the praise to the Emperors in the introduction (cf the Crown Speech of Menander 422.5-423.5) and the prayer for a long reign at the conclusion (Leg 37.2, compared to the Crown Speech 377.19-20).
As he was famous for his clarity of thought and strength of negotiation, this writing was philosophical but non-rhetorical and was intended to show the Emperors the falsity and absurdity of the defamation against Christians. He analysed and discussed the three accusations of that time against Christians, namely cannibalism, atheism and Oedipean ideals (also called « Oedipean intercourse » or plainly « incest »). This was why he divided his work into three sections (cf Berry 2007:59):
The introduction – Books 1 to 3: In a very polite way he emphasised that the mistreatment of Christians was unjust, in fact non-sensical.
Section 1 – Books 4 to 12: A response to the charge that Christians were atheists.
Section 2 – Books 13 to 30: A response to the charge that Christians were cannibals. He also responded to the complaint that Christians refused to make sacrifices to and worship the civic and imperial gods (cf Jacobsen 2014:93).
Section 3 – Books 31 to 35: A response to the charge that Christians were sexually immoral and committed incest.
According to Buck (1996:209-226), it is very likely that Athenagoras never presented this petition to the Emperors.
His work De Resurrectione, « the first complete exposition of the doctrine in Christian literature » (New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia on Athenagoras sa) which he wrote somewhat later than Legatio, consisted of twenty-five chapters divided into two parts:
Part 1 (chapters 1-10) is called God and the resurrection: This formed the negative side of the treatise in which the apologist responded to the objections of philosophers to the resurrection of the body.
Part 2 (chapters 11-25) is called Man and the resurrection: This was the positive side in which Athenagoras intended to prove the truth of the resurrection, maintaining that human existence only makes sense if there is a resurrection.
This work was probably the best early Christian treatise on the subject of resurrection and was intended as a public lecture. « It shows skilful understanding, and is regarded as the first attempt ever made by a Christian writer to prove this dogma by means of philosophical arguments and not by revelation and the biblical texts alone » (Coptic Orthodox Church Network sa). Schaff (Vol 2, 1885:279) added: « Both his Apology and his treatise on the Resurrection display a practiced pen and a richly cultured mind. He is by far the most elegant, and certainly at the same time one of the ablest, of the early Christian Apologists, » together with the following appreciative remark: « It is very remarkable that Eusebius should have been altogether silent regarding him; and that writings, so elegant and powerful as are those which still exist under his name, should have been allowed in early times to sink into almost entire oblivion » (Schaff Vol 2, 1885:278).
The name of Athenagoras was hardly ever mentioned by other writers in history. The only allusions to him in early Christian literature are quotations from his Legatio in a fragment of Methodius of Olympus (312 CE), as well as in Epiphanius, Photius of Constantinople and Boethos of Chalcedon, and in the (untrustworthy) biographical details in the fragments of the Historia Ecclesiastica of Philip Sidetes in Pamphylia (ca 425 CE). One reason for this could be that his treatises were circulated anonymously and were therefore considered to be the work of another apologist. His writings witnessed to his scholarship and culture, combined with his « power as a philosopher and rhetorician, his keen appreciation of the intellectual temper of his age, and his tact and delicacy in dealing with the powerful opponents of his religion » (New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia on Athenagoras sa).
According to Schaff (Vol 2, 1885:276), Athenagoras’ work opened « the way for Clement’s elaboration of Justin’s claim, that the whole of philosophy is embraced in Christianity. »


Jerome (De Vir 36) referred to the writings of Pantaenus with these words: « Many of his commentaries on Holy Scripture are indeed extant. » This reference to Pantaenus’ writings is usually regarded as based on a misunderstanding by Eusebius of Clement’s words, which seemed to indicate that such writings were not available to him: One of his purposes in writing the Stromateis was to preserve in his memory what he had learned from Pantaenus and he apologised there for the fact that a part of what he had learned from the blessed man had already escaped his memory.
Schaff (Vol 8, 1885:2066-2067) documented two fragments written by Pantaenus. The first fragment occurs in « Extracts from the Prophets written probably by Theodotus (also called Excerpts of Theodotus in number 56) », and « was collected by Clement of Alexandria or some other writer, » being a short commentary on Psalm 19:4b. The second fragment is to be found « in the Scholia of Maximus on St. Gregory the Divine » (Schaff Vol 8, 1885:2066-2067).
According to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia on Pantaenus (sa), he (Pantaenus) might have been the writer of the concluding chapters of the Epistle to Diognetus. The main reason for this suggestion is that, in two passages, Anastasius Sinaita singled out Pantaenus and two or three other early Church Fathers as interpreting the six days of Creation and the Garden of Eden as figuring (representing) Christ and the Church.
According to Schaff, the broad and liberal tone of Alexandrian Theology may be due in part to the influence of Pantaenus, but « [m]uch of his exegetical work was still extant in the days of Jerome, who, however, reports that he did more for the Church as a teacher than as a writer » (Schaff Vol 9, 1885:530).

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Schaff (Vol 2, 1885:276) referred to Clement in a charming way as « that man of genius who introduced Christianity to itself, as reflected in the burnished mirror of his intellect. » He also regarded Clement as the founder of Christian literature, after Justin and Irenaeus (Schaff Vol 2, 1885:276). As both of the last-mentioned writers were 2nd-century writers, Griggs (1990:56) rightfully claimed that Clement was the first Christian teacher of the 3rd century from whom a number of works remained. There were, however, two other Christian writers of the 2nd century who were both connected to the School and who can be added to Justin and Irenaeus, from whom we have fragments of writings left, namely Athenagoras and Pantaenus.
Clement preferred the oral tradition to the written one. His writings were aimed at upholding the apostolic tradition. He was not a systematic Theologian and attempts to treat him as such were futile. In the words of Ensor (2013:20),
Clement’s writings are notoriously unsystematic. Despite his promise at the beginning of the second work of his trilogy [Paedagogus – my addition] that he will give teaching which will « guide the soul to all requisite knowledge, » the third work, the Stromata, as its very name implies, turns out to be a disorganised patchwork of ideas rather than a systematic theology, and hardly fulfils this promise. In fact it is very difficult to establish exactly what Clement believed in many areas of doctrine, including his doctrine of the atonement.
Von Campenhausen (1963:31) also referred to the Stromateis as a « wide-ranging work really leading nowhere in particular. » Van den Hoek depicted Clement as a « difficult author » (Van den Hoek 1996:223; cf Mansfeld 1994:155-161), because he expressed himself in « obscure » ways, but she immediately added: « This unclear style may be intentional. Clement warns the reader (Strom 1.2.2; 20.4; 56.2) that knowledge of the ultimate truth is not to be obtained easily » (Van den Hoek 1996:223). During his time there was one form of exegesis, a « style of interpretation long associated with the delta of the Nile: allegorical exegesis. It is to be found on every page of his writing and is fantastic in the extreme » (Enslin 1954:238). Though he was not a systematic Theologian, one finds « in him a theory of Scripture, its inspiration and its nature, which is followed also by Origen, and which determines the whole character of Alexandrian exegesis » (Schaff Vol 9, 1885:530). This implied that he assigned two meanings to every text in Scripture: A mystical (deeper) meaning in addition to the obvious literal meaning. By implementing this method of interpretation of the Scriptures, called the allegorical method, he followed in the footsteps of Philo (cf Chapter 2).
He was a humble man and his writings reflected his humility. However, he was less positive about the Jews and the Greeks and insisted that the Greeks had borrowed their insights from the barbarians, that was, from the Jewish Scriptures. He went so far as to say (in Strom 5.14 with the heading Greek plagiarism from the Hebrews): « It having been then, as I think, clearly shown in what way it is to be understood that the Greeks were called thieves by the Lord » (cf Enslin 1954:232). Through his writings he became the ethical philosopher for the early Christians (Schaff Vol 2, 1885:369).
When Clement quoted from Scripture, he used the Septuagint, sometimes with verbal adaptations. He also quoted from memory (which was not always accurate) and sometimes he blended texts together. If Clement’s works cannot be described as commentaries, they should be regarded as extended discussions of specific texts. Clement also displayed what Schaff (Vol 9, 1885:530) called, a « theory of Scripture, its inspiration and its nature, » determining with it the whole character of exegesis being done in the School, being « an inspired and infallible storehouse of truth » (Schaff Vol 9, 1885:530) unknown to his readers. The reason was that he believed that everything in Scripture had not only a literal (obvious) meaning, but also a mystical – that was the allegorical method.
According to Dinan (2008:31), in his writings Clement made ample use of the works of Heraclitus who had lived during the last part of the 6th and the first part of the 5th century BCE. About twenty-one (possibly 22) passages written by Clement contained almost literal quotations of Heraclitean fragments, while twenty other passages were found to contain paraphrases or reminiscences of Heraclitus.

The writings of Clement

The writings of Clement can be categorised as follows:

According to Eusebius

In his Historia Ecclesiastica 6.13.1-3 Eusebius listed ten writings of Clement, all apparently extant at the time he wrote (cf Kovacs 2009:264). The first three are referred to as Clement’s Trilogy:
Protrepticus (Exhortation to the Greeks, also referred to as the Cohortatio).
Paedagogus (Instructor or Tutor).
Stromateis (Miscellanies).
Hypotyposeis (Sketches).
Quis Dives Salvetur? (Quis Dives Salvandus? according to Verster 2014:111) (Who is the rich man that is being saved?).
On the Pascha (Treatise on Easter).
Discussion on fasting.
On slander (On speaking evil).
Exhortation to endurance/patience or To the newly baptised.
Ecclesiastical canon or Against the Judaizers.

The Trilogy

The three major works of Clement, referred to as his Trilogy, have survived in full (cf Hyldahl 2014:140). The Trilogy consisted of the Protreptikos (λόγος ὁ προτρεπτικὸς πρὸς Ἕλληνας – Exhortation to the Greeks/heathen), referred to as Protrepticus, written in approximately 190/195, the Paidagogos (παιδαγωγός – The Instructor), referred to as Paedagogus, written in approximately 198, and the Stromateis (Στρωματεῖς – Miscellanies, which is also called « Patchwork Quilts » by Kovacs 2009:264; cf Kovacs 2001:3), also referred to as Stromata and written before 211. These three writings are « among the most valuable remains of Christian antiquity, and the largest that belong to that early period » (Schaff Vol 2, 1885:372). The writings contain
an apology for pagan consideration of Christianity;
responses to Gnosticism and gnosis;
an exposition of philosophy for the Christians;
moral instructions.
The Trilogy was interconnected with one idea, that of the Logos, the Word, the Son of God, in the following way:
The Protrepticus: In this writing Clement exhibited the Son of God by attempting to draw his readers from the superstitions and corruptions of heathenism to faith.
The Paedagogus: Here he exhibited the Son of God by training his readers with precepts and discipline.
The Stromateis: In this last part of the Trilogy he introduced his readers to the higher knowledge of God.
What he constantly had in mind was the passage of John 1 about the Logos: The Word, who was with God, and who was God, became man and dwelt among us.
The Protrepticus
This document, consisting of twelve chapters, was an apologetic writing and included polemics, like most apologies do, with the intention to win pagans over to the Christian faith (Hyldahl 2014:141). It was an appeal to the « educated polytheists of the time to abandon their traditional gods and listen to the one true God who has made himself known in Jesus Christ » (Ensor 2013:23). It was aimed specifically at the Greeks and not at gentiles in general. It
contains a complete and withering exposure of the abominable licentiousness, the gross imposture and sordidness of paganism. With clearness and cogency of argument, great earnestness and eloquence, Clement sets forth in contrast the truth as taught in the inspired Scriptures, the true God, and especially the personal Christ, the living Word of God, the Saviour of men. It is an elaborate and masterly work, rich in felicitous classical allusion and quotation, breathing throughout the spirit of philosophy and of the Gospel, and abounding in passages of power and beauty (Schaff Vol 2, 1885:372).
In this document Clement tried with all his heart to prove that Christianity was superior to the religions and philosophies of especially the Greeks. He presented Christianity as a solution to the negative aspects of Greek mythology. Against the Gnostics he stated that Christianity was the true heir to Greek philosophy (cf Hägg 2006:63). This attitude of his was characteristic of the School (Enslin 1954:228). Clement was well acquainted with Philo’s work intended for the Jews, and emulated it with regards to content, aim and method (cf Dinan 2010:435). Clement’s writing style was very complicated and intellectual:
[S]entence structure, a very wide vocabulary, figures of speech, a plethora of quotations, a regular habit of veering from one subject to the next when to his quick-witted mind he had finished his argument or at least had sketched its chief aspects. In the Protrepticus all of this is particularly conspicuous (Enslin 1954:229, cf also 230).
According to Enslin (1954:229), Clement was an Atticist, meaning that he used the language and style typical of Athens and Attica as can be seen in the polished, elegant and concise rhetorical style on every page of his writings. In the Protrepticus he clearly showed his non-Christian readers that there was nothing inferior to Christianity, not even in their use of words. However, the way in which Clement accommodated his opponents, especially the philosophers and Plato in particular, may present a somewhat unfair picture of him. Although he was a convinced Christian, he was very fair to his opponents. This led to the debate about Clement really being a Platonic Christian or simply an « intellectually Christianised » Platonist: « But he sees profound values in other systems and is not ashamed to recognize them…In the Protrepticus this is less evident. Here he is definitely the apologist » (Enslin 1954:229). The Protrepticus is filled with philosophical art, but above all with the gospel.
The Paedagogus
In this writing, which was a follow-up to the Protrepticus, Clement addressed the people who were converted to Christianity and who already exhibited Christian morals and manners (Barrett 2011:25; Ensor 2013:24). It served as a guide for the newly converted to form and develop their character and therefore to live a Christian life. The focal point of this writing was παιδεία (training and teaching) which was central to « Clement’s explication of Christianity » (Kovacs 2001:3). Therefore the aim of this three-part book was to present Jesus as the only Παιδαγωγός and Διδάσκαλος, « and to expound and enforce His precepts » (Schaff Vol 2, 1885:372). Clement put it this way (Prot 11.112.1): « Therefore since the Logos himself has come to us from heaven, it seems to me that we need no longer have resort to human teaching, seeking knowledge in Athens or the rest of Greece or Ionia. For if we have as teacher the one who has filled everything with his holy activities – creation, salvation, beneficence, law-giving, prophecy, teaching – this teacher now gives us all instruction, and, through the Logos, the whole universe has now become Athens and Greece. »
In his Paedagogus Clement equated the Logos with the Paedagogus and detailed his actions: « Let the Logos be called by the single name π αιδαγωγός, which suits him well, since the pedagogue is practical, not systematic, and his aim is to improve the soul, not to teach it (διδάξαι), and to introduce it to the life of moderation, not the life of knowledge. And yet the same Logos also acts as teacher (διδάσκαλος), but not at present. The one who reveals and explicates in matters of doctrine is the Logos acting as teacher. The pedagogue, who is concerned with practical life, first exhorted us to attain a firm character and now urges us on to carry out our duties, by delivering faultless precepts and displaying as examples to those who come after the errors of those who have gone before. »
Here one gets a very revealing picture of Clement, the cultivated and educated gentleman, who was entirely at home in the world that he knew so well. Enslin stated that in this writing Clement worked quietly and effectively to help the « intellectually undisciplined Christian movement » to take a respectable standing among the educated (Enslin 1954:231). He continued:
No better introduction to Clement as a man of poise, savoir faire, and native refinement and delicacy is to be found than in his unconscious amplification of this thesis: « There is nothing which God hates. » Books II and III of the Paedagogus provide the locus classicus. In contrast to the allegorical tours de force and absurdities of derivation which are so frequent in his pages, here we find a man who is thoroughly at home in the world of culture and refinement, who is neither afraid nor enamoured of God’s good things but who has a constant, if unself-conscious, set of mind – seemingly the product of years of a genuinely liberal background – against both vulgar ostentation and ignorant or illiberal abstinence (Enslin 1954:236).
As he saw it, « [i]n a word, the Christian is characterized by composure, tranquillity, calmness, and peace (Paed. » (Enslin 1954:237). This writing also gave special prominence to Mary, the mother of Christ: « There is only one Virgin Mary, and I delight in calling her the Church » (Paed; cf Rule 2008:35-52).
This writing contains three books (Schaff Vol 2, 1885:372-373):
Book 1: This book consists of thirteen chapters in which Clement detailed « the person, the function, the means, methods, and ends of the Instructor, » that is Jesus himself, the Word and the Son of God.
Books 2 and 3: These two books, which consist of thirteen and twelve chapters respectively, contain rules as well as a code of Christian morals and conduct for the « regulation of the Christian, in all the relations, circumstances, and actions of life, entering most minutely into the details of dress, eating, drinking, bathing, sleeping, etc. »
The Stromateis
According to Eusebius (Hist Eccl 6.13) and Photius (Bibl Cod 111), the 19th-century lexicographer and epitomist, the full title of this work was Τίτου Φλαυίου Κλήμεντος
τῶν κατὰ τὴν ἀληθῆ φιλοσοφίαν γνωστικῶν ὑπομνημάτων στρωματεῖς (Titus Flavius Clement’s miscellaneous collections of speculative [gnostic] notes bearing upon the true philosophy). Other writers and readers became so familiar with it that they started to call Clement the Στρωματεύς (Stromatist; cf Schaff Vol 2, 1885:373). Clement finished the first part in 192/194 after the death of Commodus (cf Havrda 2011:373) and the rest during the reign of Severus from 193-211 (cf Hist Eccl 6.6).
With reference to the place where Clement wrote it, Schaff (Vol 2, 1885:374)
So multifarious is the erudition, so multitudinous are the quotations and the references to authors in all departments, and of all countries, the most of whose works have perished, that the works in question could only have been composed near an extensive library – hardly anywhere but in the vicinity of the famous library of Alexandria.
The writing consists of seven books. Many scholars believed that it originally consisted of eight books, with the eighth book being lost. The content assigned to the eighth book, however, had no connection with the rest of the writing (cf Schaff Vol 2, 1885:373). The books (including the so-called eighth book) were divided into chapters as follows:
Book 1: twenty-nine chapters.
Book 2: twenty-three chapters.
Book 3: eighteen chapters.
Book 4: twenty-three chapters.
Book 5: fourteen chapters.
Book 6: eighteen chapters.
Book 7: twenty-eight chapters.
Book 8: nine chapters. This book was probably added after Clement left Alexandria (Hyldahl 2014:140).

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