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. 1.11.2. 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 1.14 ff; 17. An inferior divinity steals wisdom from god and makes philosophy out of it: Strom. 1.80.5.  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. HE 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: HE 5.10.


  • 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 and Translations of Clement’s works:

  • John Ferguson, trans. Stromateis: Books 1-3. Catholic University of America Press, Washington, D.C, 1991.
  • L. Früchtel, O. Stählin, and U. Treu, editors. Clemens Alexandrinus: Stromateis. Akademie Verlag, Berlin, 1985.
  • F. Sagnard, editor. Clement d’Alexandrie: Extraits de Théodote. Cerf, Paris, 1948.
  • 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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