Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Elucidations
(On the Greeks, cap. i. note 3, p. 347.)
The admirable comments of Stier on the Greeks, who said to Philip, “We would see Jesus,” 2436 seem to me vindicated by the history of the Gospel, and by the part which the Greeks were called to take in its propagation. Clement seems to me the man of Providence, who gives rich significance to “the corn of wheat,” and its multiplication in Gentile discipleship. And in this I am a convert to Stiers view, against my preconceptions. That the Greeks who were at Jerusalem at the Passover were other than Hellenistic Jews, or Greek proselytes, always seemed to me improbable; but, more and more, I discover a design in this narrative, which seems to me thoroughly sustained by the history of the Gentile churches, which were Greek everywhere originally, and for the use of which the Septuagint had been prepared in the providence of God. To say nothing of the New-Testament Scriptures, the whole symbolic and liturgic system of the early Christians and all the Catholic councils which were Greek in their topography, language, and legislation, confirm the sublime thought which Stier has elucidated. “The Pharisees said, The world is gone after him; and there were certain Greeks,” etc. So the story is introduced. Jesus is told of their desire to see him; and he answers, “The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified;” and he goes on to speak of his death as giving life to the world. I feel grateful to Stier for his bold originality in p. 380 treating the subject; and I trust others will find that it invests the study of the ante-Nicene Fathers with a fresh interest, and throws back from their writings a peculiar reflex light on the New-Testament Scriptures themselves.
(See p. 352, note 9.)
Μόνος ὁ σοφὸς ἐλέυφερος. Stier, in his comments 2437 on St. John (viii. 32–36), may well be compared with this chapter of Clements. The eighteenth chapter of this book must also be kept in view if we would do full justice to the true position of Clement, who recognises nothing in heathen philosophy as true wisdom, save as it flows from God, in Moses, and through the Hebrew Church. That Greek philosophy, so viewed, did lead to Christ, and that this great principle is recognised in the apostolic teachings, seems to me indisputable. This illustrates what has been noted above in Elucidation I.
(See p. 359.)
Clement notes that the false Gnostics rejected the Epistles to Timothy, 2438 chiefly because of 1 Tim. vi. 20. Beausobre (Histoire du Manichéisme, tom. ii. p. v.) doubts as to Basilides, whether he is open to this charge; but Jerome accuses him expressly of rejecting the pastoral epistles, and that to the Hebrews. For this, and Neanders qualifying comment, see Kaye, p. 263. Clement is far from charging Basilides, personally, with an immoral life, or from lending his sanction to impurity; but a study of the Gnostic sects, with whom our Alexandrian doctor was forced to contend, will show that they were introducing, under the pretence of Christianity, such abominations as made their defeat and absolute overthrow a matter of life and death for the Church. To let such teachers be confounded with Christians, was to neutralize the very purpose for which the Church existed. Now, it was in the deadly grapple with such loathsome errorists, that the idea of “Catholic orthodoxy” became so precious to the primitive faithful. They were forced to make even the heathen comprehend the existence of that word-wide confederation of churches already explained, 2439 and to exhibit their Scriptural creed and purity of discipline, in the strongest contrast with these pestilent “armies of the aliens,” who were neither Gnostics nor Christians indeed, much less Catholic or Orthodox teachers and believers.
Now, if in dealing with counterfeits Clement was obliged to meet them on their own grounds, and defeat them on a plan, at once intelligible to the heathen, and enabling all believers to “fight the good fight of faith” successfully, we must concede that he knew better than we can, what was suited to the Alexandrian schools, their intellect, and their false mysticism. His works were a great safeguard to those who came after him; though they led to the false system of exposition by which Origen so greatly impaired his services to the Church, and perhaps to other evils, which, in the issue, shook the great patriarchate of Alexandria to its foundations. It is curious to trace the influence of Clement, through Tertullian and St. Augustine, upon the systems of the schoolmen, and again, through them, on the Teutonic reformers. The mysticism of Fénelon as well, may be traced, more than is generally credited, to the old Alexandrian school, which was itself the product of some of the most subtle elements of our nature, sanctified, but not wholly controlled, by the wisdom that is from above. Compare the interminable controversies of the period, in the writings of Fénelon and Bossuet; and, for a succinct history, see LHistoire de léglise de France, par lAbbe Guettée, tom. xi. p. 156 et seqq.
Reden Jesu. St. John xii. 23-26.380:2437
“Words of Jesus.” Translation (vol. v. p. 354, ed. Edinburgh, 1856).380:2438
Stromata, book ii. cap. xi. p. 358, supra.380:2439
Quotation from Milman, p. 166, this volume.
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