CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA
(ca. 150-ca. 215)
Greek church father. Born in Athens, probably of pagan and peasant ancestry, he is not to be confused with Clement, bishop of Rome, author of the New Testament epistle. After his conversion, Clement of Alexandria traveled widely to study under Christians, finally under the learned Pantaenus in Alexandria. Of the early Fathers, he had the most thorough knowledge of Greek literature. He quoted Homer, Hesiod, the dramatists, and (most of all) Platonic and Stoic philosophers. Sometime before 200 he succeeded Pantaenus, whom he praised for his orthodoxy, as head of the catechetical school at Alexandria, but in 202 he had to flee the persecution unleashed by the emperor Septimius Severus and perhaps died in Asia Minor. Although most of his works arelost, the chief ones form a trilogy: Hortatory Address to the Greeks, written ca. 190 to prove the superiority of Christianity to paganism and philosophy; Tutor, written ca. 190 or 195 about Christ's moral teaching as it should be applied to conduct in eating, drinking, dress, expenditure, and sex; and Miscellanies, written ca. 200-2 in eight books proving the inferiority of Greek to Christian philosophy. Minor works include What Rich Man Shall be Saved? which urges scorn of worldly wealth.
Although Clement's Christianity
has been criticized as being too Hellenized,
his serene hope and classical learning
helped convert the upper classes. His
pseudo-Platonic doctrine that homosexuality
was particularly noxious because it
was "against nature" served to combine
that strand of classical philosophy with
Hellenistic Jewish homophobia, most trenchantly
exemplified by the Alexandrian philosopher Philo Judaeus (20 B.C.- A.D. 45), to justify persecution of sodomites. He thus preceded and stimulated the homophobia of the Christian emperors, from Constantine's sons to Justinian, and of the two most influential Fathers, John Chrysostom and Augustine of Hippo.
See also Patristic Writers.
William A. Percy