Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter VIII.—Women as Well as Men, Slaves as Well as Freemen, Candidates for the Martyrs Crown.
Chapter VIII.—Women as Well as Men, Slaves as Well as Freemen, Candidates for the Martyrs Crown.
Since, then, not only the Æsopians, and Macedonians, and the Lacedæmonians endured when subjected to torture, as Eratosthenes says in his work, On Things Good and Evil; but also Zeno of Elea, when subjected to compulsion to divulge a secret, held out against the tortures, and confessed nothing; who, when expiring, bit out his tongue and spat it at the tyrant, whom some term Nearchus, and some Demulus. Theodotus the Pythagorean acted also similarly, and Paulus the friend of Lacydes, as Timotheus of Pergamus says in his work on The Fortitude of Philosophers, and Achaicus in The Ethics. Posthumus also, the Roman, when captured by Peucetion, did not divulge a single secret; but putting his hand on the fire, held it to it as if to a piece of brass, without moving a muscle of his face. I omit the case of Anaxarchus, who exclaimed, “Pound away at the sack which holds Anaxarchus, for it is not Anaxarchus you are pounding,” when by the tyrants orders he was being pounded with iron pestles. Neither, then, the hope of happiness nor the love of God takes what befalls ill, but remains free, although thrown among the wildest beasts or into the all-devouring fire; though racked with a tyrants tortures. Depending as it does on the divine favour, it ascends aloft unenslaved, surrendering the body to those who can touch it alone. A barbarous nation, not cumbered with philosophy, select, it is said, annually an ambassador to the hero Zamolxis. Zamolxis was one of the disciples of Pythagoras. The one, then, who is judged of the most sterling worth is put to death, to the distress of those who have practiced philosophy, but have not been selected, at being reckoned unworthy of a happy service.
So the Church is full of those, as well chaste women as men, who all their life have contemplated the death which rouses up to Christ. 2768 For the individual whose life is framed as ours is, may philosophize without Learning, whether barbarian, whether Greek, whether slave—whether an old man, or a boy, or a woman. 2769 For self-control is common to all human beings who have made choice of it. And we admit that the same nature exists in every race, and the same virtue. As far as respects human nature, the woman does not possess one nature, and the man exhibit another, but the same: so also with virtue. If, consequently, a self-restraint and righteousness, and whatever qualities are regarded as p. 420 following them, is the virtue of the male, it belongs to the male alone to be virtuous, and to the woman to be licentious and unjust. But it is offensive even to say this. Accordingly woman is to practice self-restraint and righteousness, and every other virtue, as well as man, both bond and free; since it is a fit consequence that the same nature possesses one and the same virtue. 2770 We do not say that womans nature is the same as mans, as she is woman. For undoubtedly it stands to reason that some difference should exist between each of them, in virtue of which one is male and the other female. Pregnancy and parturition, accordingly, we say belong to woman, as she is woman, and not as she is a human being. But if there were no difference between man and woman, both would do and suffer the same things. As then there is sameness, as far as respects the soul, she will attain to the same virtue; but as there is difference as respects the peculiar construction of the body, she is destined for child-bearing and housekeeping. “For I would have you know,” says the apostle, “that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man: for the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man. For neither is the woman without the man, nor the man without the woman, in the Lord.” 2771 For as we say that the man ought to be continent, and superior to pleasures; so also we reckon that the woman should be continent and practiced in fighting against pleasures. “But I say, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh,” counsels the apostolic command; “for the flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. These, then, are contrary” (not as good to evil, but as fighting advantageously), he adds therefore, so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are, fornication uncleanness, profligacy, idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, strifes, jealousies, wrath, contentions, dissensions, heresies, envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of which I tell you before, as I have also said before, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, temperance, goodness, faith, meekness.” 2772 He calls sinners, as I think, “flesh,” and the righteous “spirit.” Further, manliness is to be assumed in order to produce confidence and forbearance, so as “to him that strikes on the one cheek, to give to him the other; and to him that takes away the cloak, to yield to him the coat also,” strongly, restraining anger. For we do not train our women like Amazons to manliness in war; since we wish the men even to be peaceable. I hear that the Sarmatian women practice war no less than the men; and the women of the Sacæ besides, who shoot backwards, feigning flight as well as the men. I am aware, too, that the women near Iberia practice manly work and toil, not refraining from their tasks even though near their delivery; but even in the very struggle of her pains, the woman, on being delivered, taking up the infant, carries it home. Further, the females no less than the males manage the house, and hunt, and keep the flocks:—“Cressa the hound ran keenly in the stags track.”
Women are therefore to philosophize equally with men, though the males are preferable at everything, unless they have become effeminate. 2773 To the whole human race, then, discipline and virtue are a necessity, if they would pursue after happiness. And how recklessly Euripides writes sometimes this and sometimes that! On one occasion, “For every wife is inferior to her husband, though the most excellent one marry her that is of fair fame.” And on another:—“For the chaste is her husbands slave,
While she that is unchaste in her folly despises her consort.
. . . . For nothing is better and more excellent,
Than when as husband and wife ye keep house,
Harmonious in your sentiments.”
The ruling power is therefore the head. And if “the Lord is head of the man, and the man is head of the woman,” the man, “being the image and glory of God, is lord of the woman.” 2774 Wherefore also in the Epistle to the Ephesians it is written, “Subjecting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the Church; and He is the Saviour of the body. Husbands, love your wives, as also Christ loved the Church. So also ought men to love their wives as their own bodies: he that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh.” 2775 And in that to the Colossians it is said, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands, as is fit in the Lord. 2776 Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them. Children, obey your parents in all things; for this is well pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged. Servants, be obedient in all things to those who p. 421 are your masters according to the flesh; not with eye-service, as men-pleasers; but with singleness of heart, fearing the Lord. And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as serving the Lord and not men; knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ. For the wrongdoer shall receive the wrong, which he hath done; and there is no respect of persons. Masters, render to your servants justice and equity; knowing that ye also have a Master in heaven, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond, free: but Christ is all, and in all.” 2777 And the earthly Church is the image of the heavenly, as we pray also “that the will of God may be done upon the earth as in heaven.” 2778 “Putting on, therefore, bowels of mercy, gentleness, humbleness, meekness, long-suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if one have a quarrel against any man; as also Christ hath forgiven us, so also let us. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which ye are called in one body; and be thankful.” 2779 For there is no obstacle to adducing frequently the same Scripture in order to put Marcion 2780 to the blush, if perchance he be persuaded and converted; by learning that the faithful ought to be grateful to God the Creator, who hath called us, and who preached the Gospel in the body. From these considerations the unity of the faith is clear, and it is shown who is the perfect man; so that though some are reluctant, and offer as much resistance as they can, though menaced with punishments at the hand of husband or master, both the domestic and the wife will philosophize. Moreover, the free, though threatened with death at a tyrants hands, and brought before the tribunals, and all his substances imperilled, will by no means abandon piety; nor will the wife who dwells with a wicked husband, or the son if he has a bad father, or the domestic if he has a bad master, ever fail in holding nobly to virtue. But as it is noble for a man to die for virtue, and for liberty, and for himself, so also is it for a woman. For this is not peculiar to the nature of males, but to the nature of the good. Accordingly, both the old man, the young, and the servant will live faithfully, and if need be die; which will be to be made alive by death. So we know that both children, and women, and servants have often, against their fathers, and masters, and husbands will, reached the highest degree of excellence. Wherefore those who are determined to live piously ought none the less to exhibit alacrity, when some seem to exercise compulsion on them; but much more, I think, does it become them to show eagerness, and to strive with uncommon vigour, lest, being overcome, they abandon the best and most indispensable counsels. For it does not, I think, admit of comparison, whether it be better to be a follower of the Almighty than to choose the darkness of demons. For the things which are done by us on account of others we are to do always, endeavouring to have respect to those for whose sake it is proper that they be done, regarding the gratification rendered in their case, as what is to be our rule; but the things which are done for our own sake rather than that of others, are to be done with equal earnestness, whether they are like to please certain people or not. If some indifferent things have obtained such honour as to appear worthy of adoption, though against the will of some; much more is virtue to be regarded by us as worth contending for, looking the while to nothing but what can be rightly done, whether it seem good to others or not. Well then, Epicurus, writing to Menœceus, says, “Let not him who is young delay philosophizing, and let not the old man grow weary of philosophizing; for no one is either not of age or past age for attending to the health of his soul. And he who says that the time for philosophizing is not come or is past, is like the man who says that the time for happiness is not come or has gone. So that young 2781 as well as old ought to philosophize: the one, in order that, while growing old, he may grow young in good things out of favour accruing from what is past; and the other, that he may be at once young and old, from want of fear for the future.”
[The Edin. Translator says “courted the death;” but surely (μελετησάντων) the original merely states the condition of Christians in the second century, “dying daily,” and accepting in daily contemplation the very probable death “by which they should glorify God.”]419:2769
[Note the Catholic democracy of Christianity, which levels up and not downward.]420:2770
[This vindication of the equality of the sexes is a comment on what the Gospel found womans estate, and on what it created for her among Christians.]420:2771
1 Cor. 11:3, 8, 11.420:2772
[Gal. 5:16, 17, 19–23. S.]420:2773
[The Edin. Trans. has “best at everything,” but I have corrected it in closer accord with the comparative degree in the Greek.]420:2774
1 Cor. 11:3, 7.420:2775
Eph. v. 21-29.420:2776
[It is a sad token of our times that some women resent this law of the Christian family. In every society there must be presidency even among equals; and even Christ, though “equal to the Father,” in the Catholic theology, is yet subordinate. See Bull, Defens. Fid., Nicæn. Works, vol. v. p. 685.]421:2777
Col. iii. 18-25, iv. 1, iii. 11.421:2778
Matt. vi. 10.421:2779
Col. iii. 12-15. [Again let us note this Catholic democracy of the Christian brotherhood (see p. 416, supra), for which indeed we should be thankful as Christs freemen.]421:2780
[Book iii. cap. iii., supra.]421:2781
[He who studies the Sapiential books of the Bible and Apocrypha and the Sermon on the Mount, is a philosopher of the sort here commended.]
Next: Chapter IX.—Christs Sayings Respecting Martyrdom.
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