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The Writings of Clement of Alexandria

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Second page of the Mar Saba letter, courtesy of wikipedia

In getting at ‘the other Clement’ you inevitably need to approach not only the Stromateis – his masterpiece of esoteric Christianity –but also a number of little-known, often-ignored, and highly heretical works. These include the surviving Eighth Book of the Stromateis itself, the Excerpts from Theodotus, the Prophetic Eclogues, the lost Outlines, and the exceedingly controversial Mar Saba Letter.

We try to get them all straight and talk about what’s in them a little. We also reflect a bit on the ways in which inconvenient works of authors can be written out of history in various ways, and why this happens.

Works Cited in this Episode:


  • Eusebius of Cæsaria: List of Clement’s works, with mention of an eight-book Stromateis: H.E. 6.13.1–3.
  • Photius, Bib: We cite cod. 109, translation from here.


  • Bogdan Bucur on ‘the other Clement’: e.g. ‘The Other Clement of Alexandria: Cosmic Hierarchy and Interiorized Apocalypticism’. Vigiliae Christianae, 60:251–68, 2006.
  • Ronald E. Heine. ‘The Alexandrians’. In F. Young, L. Ayres, and A. Louth, editors, The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature, pages 117–130. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2004 [we cite p. 121].
  • Nautin 1976, 269: ‘Il n’y a pas à douter que tous ces fragments appartiennent à Clement, car on a découvert pour chaque section des passages parallèles dans le reste de son oeuvre.’
  • Smith 1973 [see below].

Secondary on the question of the Stromateis VIII:

  • A. Harnack. Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur bis Eusebius. Teil 2. Hinrichs, Leipzig, 2nd edition, 1904 [pp.17-18].
  • Salvatore Lilla. Clement of Alexandria: A Study in Christian Platonism and Gnosticism. Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1971.
  • A. Méhat. Étude sur les ‘Stromates’ de Clément d’ Alexandrie. Paris, 1966.
  • Theodor Zahn. Forschungen zur Geschichte des neutestamentlichen Kanons , Bd. Ill: Supplementum Clementinum. Erlangen, 1884 [pp. 104-130, esp. 117-119].
  • Pierre Nautin. La fin des “Stromates” et les “Hypotyposes” de Clément d’Alexandrie. Vigiliae Christianae, 30(4):268–302, Dec. 1976.
  • Hans von Arnim. De octavo Clementis Stromateorum libro. Rostock, 1894.

Recommended Reading:

See the list of critical editions and translations at Episode 90.

On the MS Laurentianus V 3:

For the problems of textual division, see the evidence collected by Theodor Zahn, Forschungen zur Geschichte des neutestamentlichen Kanons , Bd. Ill: Supplementum Clementinum (Erlangen 1884) 28 ff.
For a detailed description of the Codex see Otto Stahlin in Clemens Alexandrinus , Bd. I (GCS 12, Leipzig 1905) xxxix-xlii; Pierre Nautin. La fin des “Stromates” et les “Hypotyposes” de Clément d’Alexandrie. Vigiliae Christianae, 30(4):268–302, Dec. 1976.

On the nature of the Eighth Book of the Stromateis and related texts:

On the present state of the debate see e.g:

  • Bogdan G. Bucur, Angelomorphic Pneumatology. Clement of Alexandria and Other Early Christian Witnesses (Suppl. to Vigiliae Christianae 95. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2009), pp. 6-10.
  • Andrew C. Itter, Esoteric Teaching in the Stromateis of Clement of Alexandria (Suppl. to Vigiliae Christianae 97. Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2009) 59-76.
  • Antonio Servino, Clemente Alessandrino: il problema di Stromata VIII, Quaderni del Dipartimento di filologia, linguistica e tradizione classica «Augusto Rostagni» 17 (2001) 97-104.

The Mar Saba Letter Controversy:

Our friends at the Gnostic Society Library have posted online Smith’s translation of the letter from his Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark, from which we quote in the episode; scroll down to ‘Annotated Manuscript Edition’. Here follows a chronological bibliography with a few milestone sin the debate:

  • Morton Smith. Clement of Alexandria and a Secret Gospel of Mark. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1973 [Smith’s full-length study of the Letter].
  • Morton Smith. The Secret Gospel: The Discovery and Interpretation of the Secret Gospel According to Mark. Harper and Row, New York, NY, 1973 [Smith’s more popular presentation of the findings of the Mar Saba letter].
  • Quentin Quesnell. The Mar Saba Clementine: A Question of Evidence. Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 1975 [the first major attack on the Letter’s authenticity].
  • Shawn Eyer. The Secret Gospel of Mark: Commentary on Recent Scholarship’. Alexandria: The Journal for the Western Cosmological Traditions, 3:103–129, 1995 [a useful summary of the debate up to 1995].
  • Stephen C. Carlson. The Gospel Hoax: Morton Smith’s Invention of Secret Mark. Baylor University Press, Waco, TX, 2005 [I include this book as a representative of the full-on ‘it’s a hoax’ school of thought].
  • Tony Burke, editor. Ancient Gospel or Modern Forgery? The Secret Gospel of Mark in Debate. Proceedings from the 2011 York University Christian Apocrypha Symposium. Cascade Books, Eugene, OR, 2013 [a recent collection of articles around the Mar Saba Letter].