Podcast episode

Episode 90: The Orthodox Gnostic: Introducing Clement of Alexandria

Clement is a hard man to do justice to in a single podcast episode, but we give it our best shot in this one, the first, introductory episode in a series on the early Christian father. An influential intellectual powerhouse of the early Christian movement, Clement followed the lead of Justin Martyr and Basilides of bringing Hellenic philosophy to bear on Christianity as an ally rather than an enemy, and created one of the most lasting syntheses of the two traditions still extant from antiquity. He was a teacher working within a lineage of esoteric teaching transmitted orally by figures known as ‘Elders’, and, as an Elder who decided to write some of his heavy material down, he developed amazing methodologies of esoteric writing which are unparalleled in antiquity.

We cover the biography, the basic writings, and world-view of the sage of the early Alexandrine church, hinting at more esoteric delights to come in future episodes.

Works Cited in this Episode:


  • Clement of Alexandria: Extensive travel and encounters with numerous sages topos, Strom. I.11.2. Christianity the true philosophy, but earlier philosophers like Plato and Pythagoras did have access to some aspects of the truth through the universal divine Logos: e.g. Strom. I.28.3; V.29.4; VI.42.1-3; VI.44.1; VI.64.4; VI.67.1; VI.159.9. On the oral teaching of the ‘Elders’, which Clement holds in the highest reverence: Eclogae 11; 27.1; Adumbrationes in 1 Jn 1:1; fragments 8, 14, and 25 (ap. Eusebius, HE 6.14.5, 6.9.2, 6.13.9). Greek philosophers stole their ideas from Moses, the original philosopher: Strom I.14 ff; 17. An inferior divinity steals wisdom from god and makes philosophy out of it: Strom. I.80.5.  Gnôsis of the highest revealed only by the Son: e.g. Strom. I.97.2; II.45.7; V.12.3; VII.2.2; VII.13.2; VII.16.6. Secret gnôsis taught by Jesus to certain disciples after his resurrection: Hypotyp. fr. 13 = Euseb. H.E. III.199.21 ff. If gnôsis and salvation could be separated, the Gnostic would choose gnôsis: Strom. IV.136.5.
  • Eusebius of Cæsaria: Pantænus a Stoic convert to Christianity: H.E. 5.10. On the unbroken lineage of the Alexandrian catechetical school: H.E. 5.10.1; 6.3.3.; 6.15.1.


  • G. Bardy. ‘Aux origines de l’école d’Alexandrie’. Recherches de science religieuse, 27: 65–90, 1937.
  • Lilla 1971: see below.
  • Nautin 1976: see below.
  • Oeyen 1966: see below.

Recommended Reading:

This episode is pretty dense, and assumes listeners are well stuck in with all matters Middle Platonist, Philonic, second-century Christian, and Logos-theological. Peter Adamson’s podcast on the early Greek fathers is a good intro to the scene if one is needed.

Editions of Clement’s works:

  • L. Früchtel, O. Stählin, and U. Treu, editors. Clemens Alexandrinus: Stromateis. Akademie Verlag, Berlin, 1985.

This is an updated edition of the earlier Stählin editions, which are, inclusively:

  • Otto Stählin, editor. Clemens Alexandrinus Vol 1: Protrepticus, Paedagogus. Himrichs,
    Leipzig, 1905.
  • Otto Stählin, editor. Clemens Alexandrinus Vol. 2: Stromata I-VI. Number 2 in Die
    grieschiche christliche Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jarhundert. Hinrichs, Leipzig, 1906.
  • O. Stählin. Clemens Alexandrinus Vol. 3: Stromata VII–VIII, Excerpta ex Theodoto, Eclogae propheticae, Quis dives salvetur, Fragmente. Number 17 in Die grieschiche christliche Schriftsteller der ersten drei Jarhundert. Himrichs, Leipzig, 1909.

Perhaps more useful are the Sources Chrétiennes editions, which have facing French translations along with the Greek:

  • F. Sagnard, editor. Clement d’Alexandrie: Extraits de Théodote. Number 23 in Sources
    Chrétiennes. Cerf, Paris, 1948.
  • Claude Mondésert, editor. Les Stromates I. Number 30 in Sources Chrétiennes. Cerf,
    Paris, 1951.
  • Claude Mondésert, ed., notes by Pierre Thomas Camelot. Les Stromates II. Number 38 in Sources Chrétiennes. Cerf, Paris, 1954.
  • Henri-Irénée Marrou, editor. Clement d’Alexandrie: Le Pédagogue I. Number 70 in
    Sources Chrétiennes. Cerf, Paris, 1960.
  • Claude Mondésert, ed., notes by Henri-Irénée Marrou. Clement d’Alexandrie: Le Pédagogue II. Number 108 in Sources Chrétiennes. Cerf, Paris, 1965.
  • Claude Mondésert and Chantal Matray, editors. Clement d’Alexandrie: Le Pédagogue
    III. Number 158 in Sources Chrétiennes. Cerf, Paris, 1970.
  • Claude Mondésert and André Plassart, editors. Clement d’Alexandrie: Le Protreptique.
    Number 2 in Sources Chrétiennes. Cerf, Paris, 3rd edition, 1976.
  • Alain Le Boulluec, editor. Les Stromates V, volume i-ii. Cerf, Paris, 1981.
  • Alain Le Boulluec, editor. Les Stromates VII. Number 428 in Sources Chrétiennes. Cerf,
    Paris, 1997.
  • Annewies van den Hoek, editor. Clément d’Alexandrie, Les Stromates. Stromate IV. Introduction, texte grec et notes de A. van den Hoek, traduction de C. Mondésert (Sources Chrétiennes vol. 463). Cerf, Paris, 2001.

Translations of Clement’s works:

We quote the English translation of Casey 1934 (see below).

  • Roberts, Alexander, and James Donaldson (eds.), Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. ii: Fathers of the Second Century (1887, repr. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986).
  • Stählin, Otto (ed.), Clemens von Alexandreia, Ausgewählte Schriften, Bibliothek der Kirchenväter, vols. 7; 8; 17; 18; 19; 20 (München: Kösel, 1934–8).
  • Butterworth, G. W. (ed.), Clement of Alexandria: The Exhortation to the Greeks, The Rich Man’s Salvation and the Fragment of an Address entitled To the Newly Baptized (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982).
  • Ferguson, John (ed.), Stromateis, Books One to Three, The Fathers of the Church 85 (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1991).
  • Oulton, John E. L., and Henry Chadwick (eds.), Alexandrian Christianity, The Library of Christian Classics, 2 (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1954) [contains Stromateis 3 and 7].
  • Robert Pierce Casey. The Excerpta ex Theodoto of Clement of Alexandria. Christophers,
    London, 1934 [remains the only scholarly English translation of this text; unfortunately, it is based on an older critical edition and needs updating. Any takers?].

Other recommended works:

  • Wilhelm Bousset. Jüdisch-christlicher Schulbetrieb in Alexandria und Rom: Literarische
    Untersuchungen zu Philo und Clemens von Alexandria, Justin und Irenäus. Vandenhoek and Ruprecht, Göttingen, 1915.
  • Bogdan Bucur. ‘The Other Clement of Alexandria: Cosmic Hierarchy and Interiorized Apocalypticism’. Vigiliae Christianae, 60:251–68, 2006.
  • Idem. Angelomorphic Pneumatology: Clement of Alexandria and other Early
    Christian Witnesses. Brill, Leiden/Boston, MA, 2009.
  • Denise Kimber Buell. Making Christians: Clement of Alexandria and the Rhetoric of
    Legitimacy. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 1999.
  • G.W. Butterworth. ‘The Deification of Man in Clement of Alexandria’. JTS, 17:157–69,
  • D. Dawson. Allegorical Readers and Cultural Revision in Ancient Alexandria. University
    of California Press, Berkeley/Los Angeles, CA/Oxford, 1992 [pp.183–234 have an excellent discussion of Clement’s interpretive strategies].
  • E.L. Fortin. ‘Clement of Alexandria and the Esoteric Tradition’. Studia Patristica, 9:41–56,
  • Andrew Itter. Esoteric Teaching in the Stromateis of Clement of Alexandria. Number 97
    in Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae. Texts and Studies of Early Christian Life
    and Learning. Brill, Leiden/Boston, MA, 2009.
  • Salvatore Lilla. Clement of Alexandria: A Study in Christian Platonism and Gnosticism.
    Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1971.
  • Claude Mondésert. Clément d’Alexandrie: Introduction á l’étude de sa pensée religieuse
    à partir de l’Écriture. Édition Montaigne, Paris, 1944.
  • Pamela L. Mullins. ‘Text and Gnosis: The Exclusive Function of Written Instruction in
    Clement of Alexandria’. Studia Patristica, 41:213–215, 2006.
  • A. Méhat. ‘Les ordres d’enseignement chez Clément d’Alexandrie et Sénèque’. Studia
    Patristica, 2(2):351–57, 1957.
  • Idem. Étude sur les ‘Stromates’ de Clément d’ Alexandrie. Paris, 1966.
  • Pierre Nautin. ‘La fin des “Stromates” et les “Hypotyposes” de Clément d’Alexandrie’.
    Vigiliae Christianae, 30(4):268–302, Dec. 1976.
  • Christian Oeyen. Eine frühchristliche Engelpneumatologie bei Klemens von Alexan-
    drien. Bern, 1966.
  • Eric Osborn. Clement of Alexandria. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2005.
  • A. van den Broek. ‘Juden und Christen in Alexandrien im 2. und 3. Jahrhundert’. In
    J. van Oort, editor, Juden und Christen in der Antike, pages 108–11. Kok, Kampen,



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