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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter IV.—Human Arts as Well as Divine Knowledge Proceed from God.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter IV.—Human Arts as Well as Divine Knowledge Proceed from God.

Homer calls an artificer wise; and of Margites, if that is his work, he thus writes:—

“Him, then, the Gods made neither a delver nor a ploughman,
Nor in any other respect wise; but he missed every art.”

Hesiod further said the musician Linus was “skilled in all manner of wisdom;” and does not hesitate to call a mariner wise, seeing he writes:—

“Having no wisdom in navigation.”

And Daniel the prophet says, “The mystery which the king asks, it is not in the power of the wise, the Magi, the diviners, the Gazarenes, to tell the king; but it is God in heaven who revealeth it.” 1843

Here he terms the Babylonians wise. And that Scripture calls every secular science or art by the one name wisdom (there are other arts and sciences invented over and above by human reason), and that artistic and skilful invention is from God, will be clear if we adduce the following p. 305 statement: “And the Lord spake to Moses, See, I have called Bezaleel, the son of Uri, the son of Or, of the tribe of Judah; and I have filled him with the divine spirit of wisdom, and understanding, and knowledge, to devise and to execute in all manner of work, to work gold, and silver, and brass, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, and in working stone work, and in the art of working wood,” and even to “all works.” 1844 And then He adds the general reason, “And to every understanding heart I have given understanding;” 1845 that is, to every one capable of acquiring it by pains and exercise. And again, it is written expressly in the name of the Lord: “And speak thou to all that are wise in mind, whom I have filled with the spirit of perception.” 1846

Those who are wise in mind have a certain attribute of nature peculiar to themselves; and they who have shown themselves capable, receive from the Supreme Wisdom a spirit of perception in double measure. For those who practice the common arts, are in what pertains to the senses highly gifted: in hearing, he who is commonly called a musician; in touch, he who moulds clay; in voice the singer, in smell the perfumer, in sight the engraver of devices on seals. Those also that are occupied in instruction, train the sensibility according to which the poets are susceptible to the influence of measure; the sophists apprehend expression; the dialecticians, syllogisms; and the philosophers are capable of the contemplation of which themselves are the objects. For sensibility finds and invents; since it persuasively exhorts to application. And practice will increase the application which has knowledge for its end. With reason, therefore, the apostle has called the wisdom of God “manifold,” and which has manifested its power “in many departments and in many modes” 1847 —by art, by knowledge, by faith, by prophecy—for our benefit. “For all wisdom is from the Lord, and is with Him for ever,” as says the wisdom of Jesus. 1848

For if thou call on wisdom and knowledge with a loud voice, and seek it as treasures of silver, and eagerly track it out, thou shalt understand godliness and find divine knowledge.” 1849 The prophet says this in contradiction to the knowledge according to philosophy, which teaches us to investigate in a magnanimous and noble manner, for our progress in piety. He opposes, therefore, to it the knowledge which is occupied with piety, when referring to knowledge, when he speaks as follows: “For God gives wisdom out of His own mouth, and knowledge along with understanding, and treasures up help for the righteous.” For to those who have been justified 1850 by philosophy, the knowledge which leads to piety is laid up as a help.



Dan. 2:27, 28.


Ex. xxxi. 2-5.


Ex. xxxi. 6.


Ex. xxviii. 3.


Eph. iii. 10; Heb. i. 1.


Ecclus. i. 1.


Prov. ii. 3-5.


[A passage much reflected upon, in questions of Clement’s Catholic orthodoxy. See Elucidation VI., infra.]

Next: Chapter V.—Philosophy the Handmaid of Theology.

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