CH101 - The Third Century

The Expansion of the Church, 202 - 303 A.D.

The Severan Persecution
Clement of Alexandria
Origen of Alexandria
The Decian Persecution
Cyprian, Bishops and Pope
New Testament Canon, Part 5
The Issue of the Trinity
The Church Prospers
Key People:
Emperor Diocletian
Key Documents:
Protrepticus-The Exhortation
Paidagogus-The Tutor
On First Principles
Contra Celsum
On the Lapsed
On the Unity of the Church

Clement of Alexandria
The School of Alexandria
Alexandria was an established learning center for several centuries in the ancient world, housing one of the greatest libraries of all time. Philo the Jew had taught a unique blend of Judaism and Platonism. His biblical text was the LXX, the Greek translation of the Old Testament. For Philo, Moses represented the voice of God speaking to the Jews. He held up a lens of Plato to understand and to explain the meaning of the ancient Mosaic laws to his modern world.

The Writings of Clement
From his writings we learn that Titus Flavius Clemens came to faith after a personal search for philosophical truth that had led him on a good many travels. Clement led the catechetical school and many believe his writings were used in the training. It is clear that Clement followed in the philosophical mindset of Philo. He quotes or alludes to Philo and Plato hundreds of times. For Clement, Plato was the Moses of the Greek world, revealing the truth of God through his philsophical insights.

Several works of Clement survived, but he is most known for what some have called a triology, three major works (Protrepticus, Paidagogus, Stromateis) that fit together in something of a wholistic presentation. While many disagree with this description, I believe Clement did exactly what he announced to be his plan,

Eagerly desiring, then, to perfect us by a gradation conducive to salvation, suited for efficacious discipline, a beautiful arrangement is observed by the all-benignant Word, who first exhorts, then trains, and finally teaches.  Paidagogus I.1.1-3

In summary, Clement uses his three works to point the way for the spiritual journey: he "exhorts" the hearer to embrace the gospel; he "tutors" the young believer in foundational principles - his second work deals with sacraments and spiritual ethics; finally, he lays out teaching for the mature believer in the final work, "Miscellanies."

My Ph.D. research focused on Clement of Alexandria, specifically Stromateis: "Spiritual Contemplation in Clement of Alexandria's Stromateis: The Adaptation of the Philosophical Category Theoria," (Ph.D. Thesis, University of St Andrews - March 2001). See a summary of my research on Stromateis and "Christian Spirituality."

Summary of Protrepticus
Clement's first major work is titled (Protrepticus) “Exhortation to the Greeks” and is a presentation of the gospel to the educated sector of Greco-Roman society. Many scholars say this is Clement's most graceful piece of writing. This “Exhortation” is filled with citations from the most popular Greek writers, each citation being used to prove Clement's underlying arguments. The document reads like an anthology of Greek literature, and it is clear that Clement is not new to this literature. He is an educated man and he writes in high quality Greek.

Summary of Paidagogus
The second work in this trilogy is (Paidagogus) "The Tutor." Spiritual disciplines are set forth in this work to "train" the soul and bring it to perfect knowledge. A paidagogue was typically a slave in the Greek world that would walk a child to school and help him with his studies. This document was probably used in the Alexandrian church in catechesis [from the Greek kata-cheo, "to sound down," thus "to train"]. Catechesis in the early church would have consisted in learning by vocal repetition of creeds, prayers, etc. Here Clement is giving basic instruction to the believer about how to conduct himself in everyday activities. Clement consistently uses an allusion to the Pauline/Hebrews "milk...meat" analogy to contrast spiritual babes from the mature. He urges the reader to gain the "meat" while the weak eat only vegetables.

Summary of Stromateis
The third work in this series is (Stromateis) “Miscellanies,” a strange work that covers a multitude of topics without any apparently clear outline. Clement says that his intention is to "hide" powerful teaching within a somewhat chaotic document - he will do this on purpose in order to keep the "untrained" from getting their hands on this important knowledge. Many have pointed to various philosophical points made in Stromateis, but others have observed that Clement's descriptions of the truly "spiritual" man is the important teaching being presented. There is also evidence that spiritual prayer, contemplative prayer, is the "meat" Clement wants the mature believer to get from this document,

And his whole life is a holy festival. His sacrifices are prayers, and praises, and readings in the Scriptures before meals, and psalms and hymns during meals and before bed, and prayers also again during night. By these he unites himself to the divine choir...engaged in contemplation which has everlasting remembrance.   Strom VII.7.46,4; 49,4-5

His whole life is prayer and converse with God. And if he be pure from sins, he will by all means obtain what he wishes. For God says to the righteous man, "Ask, and I will give thee; think, and I will do."   Strom. VII.12.73,1; 13.81,4

Clement's influence was eclipsed by his successor, Origen of Alexandria.

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Clement of Alexandria
Origen of Alexandria
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Clement of Alexandria and Prayer
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New Testament Canon, Canonized
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Clement of Alexandria and The Trinity
Clement of Alexandria and Contemplation
Third Century Christian Issues
Diocletian Persecution of Christians
Diocletian Persecutes Early Church
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Early Christianity New Testament
Early Christianity Constantine and War
Important Issues in Early Christianity
Clement of Alexandria and Stromateis
Stromata, Miscellanies or Stromateis