About the Author(s)

Willem H. Oliver Email
Department of Christian Spirituality, Church History and Missiology, University of South Africa, South Africa


Oliver, W.H., 2017, ‘Documents written by the heads of the Catechetical School in Alexandria: From Mark to Clement’, Verbum et Ecclesia 38(1), a1766. https://doi.org/10.4102/ve.v38i1.1766

Note: This is part 1 of a series of two articles, as a follow-up on a series of two articles that were published in 2015 in Verbum et Ecclesia on the Catechetical School in Alexandria, based on Chapter 2 of the DTh Thesis of the author. The first article described the School itself (Oliver 2015a), while the second one discussed all the possible heads of the School (Oliver 2015b). This article is based on a part of Chapters 3 of the completed DTh thesis (Oliver 2016).

This article is partially based on the author’s thesis of the degree of Doctor of Theology in Church history at the University of South Africa, South Africa, with supervisor Prof. M.J.S. Madise, received March 2016, available here: http://uir.unisa.ac.za/bitstream/handle/10500/22668/thesis_oliver_wh.pdf?isAllowed=y&sequence=1

Original Research

Documents written by the heads of the Catechetical School in Alexandria: From Mark to Clement

Willem H. Oliver

Received: 02 May 2017; Accepted: 16 Aug. 2017; Published: 10 Nov. 2017

Copyright: © 2017. The Author(s). Licensee: AOSIS.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The Catechetical School in Alexandria has delivered a number of prolific scholars and writers during the first centuries of the Common Era, up to its demise by the end of the 4th century. These scholars have produced an extensive collection of documents of which not many are extant. Fortunately, there are many references to these documents supplying us with an idea of the content thereof. As the author could not find one single source containing all the documents written by the heads of the School, he deemed it necessary to list these documents, together with a short discussion of it where possible. This article only discusses the writings of the following heads: Mark the Evangelist, Athenagoras, Pantaenus and Clement, covering the period between approximately 40 CE and the end of the 2nd century. The follow-up article discusses the documents of the heads who succeeded them.

Intradisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary implications: The potential results of the proposed research are a full detailed list of all the documents being written by the heads of the School in Alexandria. The disciplines involved are (Church) History, Theology and Antiquity. These results will make it easier for future researchers to work on these writers.

The great feature of the ante-Nicene theology,

even in the mistakes of the writers, is its reliance on the Holy Scripture.

What wealth of Scripture they lavish in their pages! (Schaff 1885b:546)


This article contains information on all the extant and known writings (those which did not survive, but were referred to by others, or in the case of Clement, by himself) of the heads of the Catechetical School in Alexandria, that the author could get hold of, covering the period from the first half of the 1st century to the end of the 2nd century. The writings of the heads of the School (cf. Oliver 2015b for a discussion on the heads) are noted and discussed shortly, where necessary. If there are no known writings of a particular head (like Justus), there will be no reference made to that head in this article. Although in many cases only secondary references to the works of the heads are available, these are used to provide the reader with a broader view of the thoughts of these writers.

The importance of this study on the documents of the heads of the Catechetical School in Alexandria lies in the fact that these documents formed the foundation for the theology of that school, as well as the theology of the earliest Christians, laying a foundation for Christianity worldwide (Oden 2007:21; cf. Fogarty 2004:27; Oliver 2016:309).

For the convenience of the reader, Table 1 is added, containing all the abbreviations of the documents being referred to inside the article.

TABLE 1: Abbreviations used when referring to documents.

Mark the Evangelist

ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΡΚΟΝ (The Gospel according to Mark) is most probably written by Mark himself. It is the earliest Gospel in the Bible and:

probably the earliest extant narrative book about Jesus … Most scholars [addition added] further agree that Mark was very quickly and widely circulated and influential, becoming the pattern and major source for the authors of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke … This makes the Gospel of Mark particularly important as a source for study of early Christianity, the history of early Christian literature, and, of course, Jesus of Nazareth. (Hurtado 2004:132)

The Gospel according to Mark was written before 68 CE, which was the year in which Mark was martyred in Alexandria (cf. Oden 2011:128–129). Because scholars are still indifferent about the most likely place of origin of the Gospel – Syria (Theissen & Merz 1996:24–27), Palestine (Schröter 2010:278) or Rome (Clement’s Hyp. 8; cf. also Pseudo-Clement’s Letter to Theodore 2.6.12; Oden 2011:193–194) – Alexandria can also be added as an alternative, as Mark spent a large part of his last 20 years in this city (Oliver 2016:180). If the Gospel was not written there, then at least it could have been expanded there, as Paananen (2012:89), quoting Pseudo-Clement, argues:

Clement affirms that in Alexandria Mark the evangelist expanded the Gospel that he had written in Rome during Peter’s lifetime, and that this ‘μυστικὸν εὐαγγέλιον’ (Theod. II.6,12; ‘secret Gospel’ in Smith’s translation) was still in use in Alexandria. (cf. also Brown 2003:109–110)

Carlson (2005:132) calls the expanded Gospel a ‘more spiritual Gospel’, which was created in Alexandria for those believers who were already advanced in knowledge (cf. also Brown 2008:535). Clement and Origen quoted Mark in their writings (Clement: Paed.–2; Quis Div. 37.1–4; Origen: Fr. Luc. 210; Edwards 2010:194).


Athenagoras has written two apologetic works: The Legatio (Legatio pro Christianis), also called Apology or Presbeia (from the Greek ΠΡΕΣΒΕΙΑ ΠΕΡΙ ΧΡΙΣΤΙΑΝΩΝ), translated as Embassy or A Plea for the Christians, written between 176 and 180 (Migne 1857b:890–972; cf. Blount 2001:72) and De Resurrectione (De Resurrectione Mortuorum, from the Greek ΑΝΑΣΤΑΣΕΩΣ ΤΩΝ ΝΕΚΡΩΝ), translated as Treatise on the Resurrection of the Dead (Migne 1857b:973–1023; cf. Berry 2007:59; Jacobsen 2014:83).

In the foreword to the Legatio, consisting of 37 chapters, Athenagoras clearly stipulates, in the form of a petition, to whom he is addressing his writing: Αὐτοκράτορσι Μάρκῳ Αὐρηλίῳ Ἀντωνίνῳ, καὶ Λουκίῳ Αὐρηλίῳ Κομμόδῳ, Ἀρμηνιακοῖς, Σαρματικοῖς, τὸ δὲ μέγιστον, φιλοσόφοις (To the Emperors Marcus Aurelius Antoninus and Lucius Aurelius Commodus, conquerors of Armenia and Sarmatia, and more than all, philosophers) (Migne 1857b:887–888). In this treatise, he shows a sound knowledge of the works of Menander, especially in the introduction and conclusion (Schoedel 1989:56). Clear parallels to Menander’s work can be seen in the praise to the Emperors in the introduction (cf. the Crown Speech of Menander 422.5–423.5) and the prayer for a long reign at the conclusion (Leg. 37.2, compared to the Crown Speech 377.19–20).

As he was famous for his clarity of thought and strength of negotiation, this writing is philosophical, though non-rhetorical, and was intended to show the Emperors the falsity and absurdity of the defamation against Christians. He analyses and discusses the three accusations of that time against Christians, being cannibalism, atheism and Oedipean ideals (also called ‘Oedipean intercourse’ or ‘incest’). This is why he divided his work into three sections (cf. Berry 2007):

  • The introduction (Books 1–3): In a very polite way he emphasises that the mistreatment of Christians is unjust, in fact non-sensical.
  • Section 1 (Books 4–12): A response to the charge that Christians are atheists.
  • Section 2 (Books 13–30): A response to the charge that Christians are cannibals. He also responds to the complaint that Christians refuse to make sacrifices to and worship the civic and imperial gods (cf. Jacobsen 2014:93).
  • Section 3 (Books 31–35): A response to the charge that Christians are sexually immoral and are committing incest. (p. 59)

Buck (1996:209–226) argues that it is very likely that Athenagoras never presented this petition to the Emperors.

Athenagoras’ work De Resurrectione, ‘the first complete exposition of the doctrine in Christian literature’ (New Advent 2012a), which he has written somewhat later than the Legatio, consists of 25 chapters divided into two parts:

  • Part 1 (chapters 1–10) is called God and the Resurrection: This forms the negative side of the treatise in which the apologist responds to the objections of philosophers to the resurrection of the body.
  • Part 2 (chapters 11–25) is called Man and the Resurrection: This is the positive side in which Athenagoras intends to prove the truth of the resurrection, maintaining that human existence only makes sense if there is a resurrection.

This work is probably the best early Christian treatise on the subject of resurrection and was intended as a public lecture:

It shows skilful understanding, and is regarded as the first attempt ever made by a Christian writer to prove this dogma by means of philosophical arguments and not by revelation and the biblical texts alone. (Coptic Orthodox Church Network 2014:n.p.)

Schaff (1885a) adds:

Both his Apology and his treatise on the Resurrection display a practiced pen and a richly cultured mind. He is by far the most elegant, and certainly at the same time one of the ablest, of the early Christian Apologists (p. 279)

Schaff (1885a) also makes the following appreciative remark:

It is very remarkable that Eusebius should have been altogether silent regarding him; and that writings, so elegant and powerful as are those which still exist under his name, should have been allowed in early times to sink into almost entire oblivion. (p. 278)

The name of Athenagoras is hardly ever mentioned by other writers in history. The only allusions to him in early Christian literature are quotations from his Legatio in the fragment Discourse on the Resurrection 3 of Methodius of Olympus (312 CE) (as a reference to Athenagoras’ Legatio 24.2; cf. Schaff 1885c:846), as well as in the Πανάριον of Epiphanius (Κατὰ Μαρκιωνιστῶν 29; cf. Khazarzar 2017a), Photius of Constantinople (The Library of Photius Vol. 1.224.150 Phrynicus the Arabian; cf. Archive s.a.) and in the (untrustworthy) biographical details in the fragments (Fr. 2) of the Historia Ecclesiastica of Philip Sidetes in Pamphylia (ca. 425 CE) (cf. Pearse 2010). One reason for this could be that his treatises were circulated anonymously and were therefore considered to be the work of another apologist. His writings witness to his scholarship and culture, combined with his:

power as a philosopher and rhetorician, his keen appreciation of the intellectual temper of his age, and his tact and delicacy in dealing with the powerful opponents of his religion. (New Advent 2012a:n.p.)

According to Schaff (1885a:276), Athenagoras’ work opened ‘the way for Clement’s elaboration of Justin’s claim, that the whole of philosophy is embraced in Christianity’.


Jerome had the privilege to read the documents of Pantaenus, as he witnesses: Huius multi quidem in sanctam Scripturam exstant commentarii [Many of his commentaries on Holy Scripture are indeed extant] (De Vir. 36; Khazarzar 2017b). This reference to Pantaenus’ writings is usually regarded as based on a misunderstanding by Eusebius of Clement’s words, which seem to indicate that such writings were not available to him: One of his purposes in writing the Stromateis was to preserve in his memory what he had learned from Pantaenus and he apologised there for the fact that a part of what he had learned from the blessed man had already escaped his memory.

In fact, only two fragments written by Pantaenus are extant: The first fragment is referenced in Extracts from the Prophets written probably by Theodotus (also called Excerpts of Theodotus 56) and was collected by Clement of Alexandria or some other writer, being a short commentary on Psalm 19:4b. The second fragment is found in the Scholia of Maximus on Gregory the Divine (Migne 1857b:1329–1330; cf. Schaff 1885d:2067).

According to New Advent (2012c), Pantaenus might have been the writer of the concluding chapters of the Epistle to Diognetus. The main reason for this suggestion is that, in two passages, Anastasius Sinaita singles out Pantaenus and two or three other early Church Fathers as interpreting the 6 days of creation and the Garden of Eden as figuring (representing) Christ and the Church.

According to Schaff, the broad and liberal tone of Alexandrian Theology may be in part because of the influence of Pantaenus, as:

[m]uch of his exegetical work was still extant in the days of Jerome, who, however, reports that he did more for the Church as a teacher than as a writer. (Schaff 1885e:530)

Clement of Alexandria

Jerome dedicates chapter 38 of his book, De Viris Illustribus, to Clement, stating in the opening line: ‘Clemens, Alexandrinae Ecclesiae Presbyter, Pantaeni, de quo supra retulimus, auditor, post ejus mortem Alexandriae ecclesiasticam scholam tenuit’ [Clement, presbyter of the Alexandrian church, and a pupil of the Pantaenus mentioned above, led the theological school at Alexandria after the death of his master] (Khazarzar 2017b). Schaff (1885:276) refers to Clement in a charming way as ‘that man of genius who introduced Christianity to itself, as reflected in the burnished mirror of his intellect’. He also regards Clement as the founder of Christian literature, after Justin and Irenaeus (Schaff 1885a:276). As both of the last-mentioned writers were 2nd-century writers, Griggs (1990:56) rightfully claims that Clement was the first Christian teacher of the 3rd century of whom a number of works remained. There are, however, two other Christian writers of the 2nd century who were both connected to the School and who can be added to Justin and Irenaeus, from whom we have fragments of writings left, namely Athenagoras and Pantaenus (already discussed).

Clement prefers the oral tradition to the written one. His writings are aimed at upholding the apostolic tradition. He was not a systematic theologian and attempts to treat him as such are futile. In the words of Ensor (2013):

Clement’s writings are notoriously unsystematic. Despite his promise at the beginning of the second work of his trilogy [Paedagogusaddition added] that he will give teaching which will ‘guide the soul to all requisite knowledge’, the third work, the Stromata, as its very name implies, turns out to be a disorganised patchwork of ideas rather than a systematic theology, and hardly fulfils this promise. In fact it is very difficult to establish exactly what Clement believed in many areas of doctrine, including his doctrine of the atonement. (p. 20)

During his time there was one main form of exegesis, a:

style of interpretation long associated with the delta of the Nile: allegorical exegesis. It is to be found on every page of his writing and is fantastic in the extreme. (Enslin 1954:238)

Though he was not a systematic theologian, one finds ‘in him a theory of Scripture, its inspiration and its nature, which is followed also by Origen, and which determines the whole character of Alexandrian exegesis’ (Schaff 1885e:530). Allegorical exegesis implies that one has to assign two meanings to every text in the Scriptures1: A mystical (deeper) meaning in addition to the obvious literal meaning. By implementing this method of interpretation of the Scriptures, Clement followed in the footsteps of Philo (Oliver 2016:185).

He was a humble man and his writings reflect his humility. However, his humility does not reflect in his attitude towards the Jews and the Greeks, as he insists that the Greeks had borrowed their insights from the barbarians, that is, from the Jewish Scriptures. He goes so far as to say in Stromateis 5.14 with the heading (only in Latin) Graecos ex Hebraeorum libris decreia sua mutuatos esse (Greek plagiarism from the Hebrews): Δεδειγμένου τοίνυν σαφῶς, ὡς οἶμαι, ὅπως κλέπτας εἰρῆσθαι πρὸς τοῦ Κυρίου τοὺς Ἕλληνας ἐξακουστέον [It having been then, as I think, clearly shown in what way it is to be understood that the Greeks were called thieves by the Lord] (Migne 1857d:205; cf. Enslin 1954:232). Through his writings, he became the ethical philosopher for the early Christians (Schaff 1885a:369).

When Clement quotes from Scripture, he uses the Septuagint, sometimes with verbal adaptations. He also quotes from memory (which is not always accurate) and sometimes he blends texts together (Oliver 2016:185). If Clement’s works cannot be described as commentaries, they should be regarded as extended discussions of specific texts. Clement also displays what Schaff calls, a ‘theory of Scripture, its inspiration and its nature’, determining with it the whole character of exegesis being done in the School, being ‘an inspired and infallible storehouse of truth’ (Schaff 1885e:530) unknown to his readers. The reason is that he believed that everything in Scripture not only has a literal (obvious) meaning but also a mystical – in line with the allegorical method.

According to Dinan (2008:31), Clement made ample use of the works of Heraclitus who lived during the last part of the 6th and the first part of the 5th century BCE. About 21 (possibly 22) passages written by Clement contain almost literal quotations of Heraclitean fragments, while 20 other passages are found to contain paraphrases or reminiscences of Heraclitus.

Schaff (1885a:369–370) depicts the situation in the Empire when Clement was the head of the School, stating that Alexandria became the brain of Christendom, while Antioch was the heart, and the West ‘still receptive only’.

The classification of Eusebius

It is worthwhile to look at the works of Clement in the classification of Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 6.13.1–3: Περὶ τῶν Κλήμεντος συγγραμάτων [On the writings of Clement]; Migne 1857f.:546–550), as they were apparently extant during his time (cf. also Kovacs 2009:264):

  • Στρωματεῖς [Stromateis, or Miscellanies].
  • Ὑποτυπώσεις [Hypotyposes, Deliniations, Sketches or Outlines]. Eusebius adds: ἐν οἷς ὀνομαστὶ ὡς διδασκάλου τοῦ Πανταίνου μνημονεύει [In them he mentions Pantænus by name as his teacher] (Migne 1857f.:548).
  • πρὸς Ἕλληνας Λόγος ὁ προτρεπτικὸς [Cohortatio ad Gentes, or Protrepticus or Exhortation to the Greeks/Heathen] (Migne 1857c:49–246).
  • Παιδαγωγός [Paedagogus, Instructor or Tutor].
  • Τίς ὁ σωζόμενος πλούσιος; [Quis Dives Salvetur? or Who is the rich man that is being saved? or What rich man is saved?].
  • Περὶ τοῦ Πάσχα [De Pascha or On the Pascha – a treatise on Easter].
  • Διαλέξεις Περὶ νηστείας [Discussions on Fasting].
  • Καὶ Περὶ καταλαλιᾶς [And {discussions} On Slander or On Speaking Evil].
  • ὁ Προτρεπτικός εἰς ὑπομονήν ἢ πρὸς τοὺς νεωστὶ βεβαπτισμένους [Hortatory Discourse on Patience or To the Newly Baptised].
  • Κανών ἐκκλησιαστικὸς, ἢ πρὸς τοὺς Ἰουδαΐζοντας [Ecclesiastical Canon or Against the Judaizers].
Extant writings of Clement
The Trilogy

The three major works of Clement, referred to as his Trilogy, have survived in full (cf. Hyldahl 2014:140), consisting of the Protrepticus [Exhortation to the Greeks/heathen], written in approximately 190/195, the Paidagogus [The Instructor], written in approximately 198, and the Stromateis (Miscellanies, called ‘Patchwork Quilts’ by Kovacs 2009:264; Migne 1857d:9–602; cf. also Kovacs 2001:3), also referred to as Stromata and written before 211. These three writings are ‘among the most valuable remains of Christian antiquity, and the largest that belong to that early period’ (Schaff 1885a:372). The writings contain:

  • an apology for pagan consideration of Christianity
  • responses to Gnosticism and gnosis
  • an exposition of philosophy for the Christians
  • moral instructions.

The Trilogy is interconnected with one idea, that of the Logos, the Word, the Son of God, in the following way:

  • The Protrepticus: In this writing Clement exhibits the Son of God by attempting to draw his readers from the superstitions and corruptions of heathenism to faith.
  • The Paedagogus: Here he exhibits the Son of God by training his readers with precepts and discipline.
  • The Stromateis: In this writing, he introduces his readers to the higher knowledge of God.

What Clement constantly has in mind is the passage of John 1 about the Logos: The Word, who was with God, and who was God, became man and dwelt among us.

The Protrepticus: This document, consisting of 12 chapters, is an apologetic writing and includes polemics – like most apologies do – with the intention to win pagans over to the Christian faith (Hyldahl 2014:141; Migne 1857d:777–788). It is an appeal to the ‘educated polytheists of the time to abandon their traditional gods and listen to the one true God who has made himself known in Jesus Christ’ (Ensor 2013:23). It is aimed specifically at the Greeks and not at gentiles in general. It:

contains a complete and withering exposure of the abominable licentiousness, the gross imposture and sordidness of paganism. With clearness and cogency of argument, great earnestness and eloquence, Clement sets forth in contrast the truth as taught in the inspired Scriptures, the true God, and especially the personal Christ, the living Word of God, the Saviour of men. It is an elaborate and masterly work, rich in felicitous classical allusion and quotation, breathing throughout the spirit of philosophy and of the Gospel, and abounding in passages of power and beauty. (Schaff 1885a:372)

In this document, Clement tries with all his heart to prove that Christianity is superior to the religion(s) and philosophies of especially the Greeks. He presents Christianity as a solution to the negative aspects of Greek mythology. Against the Gnostics, he states that Christianity is the true heir to Greek philosophy (cf. Hägg 2006:63). This attitude of his is characteristic of the Catechetical School (Enslin 1954:228). Being well acquainted with Philo’s work intended for the Jews, Clement emulates it with regards to content, aim and method (cf. Dinan 2010:435). His writing style is very complicated and intellectual:

[S]entence structure, a very wide vocabulary, figures of speech, a plethora of quotations, a regular habit of veering from one subject to the next when to his quick-witted mind he had finished his argument or at least had sketched its chief aspects. In the Protrepticus all of this is particularly conspicuous. (Enslin 1954:229, cf. also 230)

According to Enslin (1954:229), Clement was an Atticist, meaning that he used the language and style typical of Athens and Attica as can be seen in the polished, elegant and concise rhetorical style on every page of his writings. In the Protrepticus he clearly shows his non-Christian readers that there is nothing inferior to Christianity, not even in their use of words. However, the way in which Clement accommodates his opponents, especially the philosophers, and Plato in particular, may present a somewhat unfair picture of him. Although he was a convinced Christian, he was very fair to his opponents. This led to the debate about Clement being a Platonic Christian or simply an ‘intellectually Christianised’ Platonist: ‘But he sees profound values in other systems and is not ashamed to recognize them … In the Protrepticus this is less evident. Here he is definitely the apologist’ (Enslin 1954:229). The Protrepticus is filled with philosophical art, but above all with the gospel.

The Paedagogus: This is a practical treatise containing three books (Migne 1857d:788–794; Schaff 1885a:372–373):

  • Book 1: This book consists of 13 chapters in which Clement details ‘the person, the function, the means, methods, and ends of the Instructor’, that is, Jesus himself, the Word and the Son of God.
  • Books 2 and 3: These two books, consisting of 13 and 12 chapters, respectively, contain rules as well as a code of Christian morals and conduct for the ‘regulation of the Christian, in all the relations, circumstances, and actions of life, entering most minutely into the details of dress, eating, drinking, bathing, sleeping, etc.’

In the Paedagogus, which is a follow-up to the Protrepticus, Clement addresses the people who are converted to Christianity and who have already exhibited Christian morals and manners (Barrett 2011:25; Ensor 2013:24). It also serves as a guide for the newly converted to form and develop their character and therefore to live a Christian life. The focal point of this writing is παιδεία [training and teaching] which is central to ‘Clement’s explication of Christianity’ (Kovacs 2001:3). Therefore, the aim of this three-part book is to present Jesus as the only Παιδαγωγός and Διδάσκαλος, ‘and to expound and enforce His precepts’ (Schaff 1885a:372). Clement puts it this way (Prot. 11.1): Διό μοι δοκεῖ, ἐπεὶ αὐτὸς ἦκεν ὡς ἡμᾶς οὐρανόθεν ὁ Λόγος, ἡμᾶς ἐπ’ ἀνθρωπίνην ἰέναι μὴ χρῆναι διδασκαλίαν ἔτι, Ἀθήνας καὶ τὴν ἄλλην Ἑλλάδα, πρὸς δὲ καὶ Ἰωνίαν, πολυπραγμονοῦντας. Εἰ γὰρ ἡμῖν ὁ διδάσκαλος, ὁ πληρώσας τὰ πάντα δυνάμεσιν ἁγίαις, δημιουργίᾳ, σωτηρίᾳ, εὐεργεσίᾳ, νομοθεσίᾳ, προφητείᾳ, διδασκαλίᾳ, πάντα νῦν ὁ διδάσκαλος κατηχεῖ, καὶ τὸ πᾶν ἤδη Ἀθῆναι καὶ Ἑλλὰς γέγονε τῷ Λογῷ [Wherefore, since the Word himself has come to us from heaven, we need not, I reckon, go any more in search of human learning to Athens and the rest of Greece, and to Ionia. For if we have as our teacher him that filled the universe with his holy energies in creation, salvation, beneficence, legislation, prophecy, teaching, we have the Teacher from whom all instruction comes; and the whole world, with Athens and Greece, has already become the domain of the Word] (Migne 1957e:229).

In his Paedagogus 1.2–2.1 Clement equates the Logos with the Paedagogus and details his actions: κεκλήσθω δ’ ἡμῖν ἑνὶ προσφυῶς οὗτος ὀνόματι Παιδαγωγός. πρακτικὸς, οὐ μεθοδικὸς ὢν ὁ Παιδαγωγὸς. ᾗ καὶ τὸ τέλος αὐτοῦ βελτιῶσαι τὴν ψυχήν ἐστιν, οὐ διδάξαι. σώφρονός τε, οὐχ ἐπιστημονικοῦ καθηγήσασθαι βίου. Καίτοι καὶ διδασκαλικὸς ὁ αὐτός ἐστι λόγος, ἀλλ’ οὐ νῦν. Ὁ μὲν γὰρ ἐν τοῖς δογματικοῖς δηλωτικὸς καὶ ἀποκαλυπτικὸς, ὁ διδασκαλικός. πρακτικὸς δὲ ὦν ὁ Παιδαγωγὸς, πρότερον μὲν εἰς διάθεσιν ἠθοποιίας προὐτρέψατο, ἤδη δὲ καὶ εἰς τὴν τῶν δεόντων ἐνέργειαν παρακαλεῖ, τὰς ὑποθήκας τὰς ἀκηράτους παραγγυῶν, καὶ τῶν πεπλανημένων πρότερον τοῖς ὕστερον ἐπιδεικνὺς τὰς εἰκόνας [Let the Logos be called by the single name παιδαγωγός, which suits him well, since the pedagogue is practical, not systematic, and his aim is to improve the soul, not to teach it, and to introduce it to the life of moderation, not the life of knowledge. And yet the same Logos also acts as διδάσκαλος, but not at present. The one who reveals and explicates in matters of doctrine is the Logos acting as teacher. The pedagogue, who is concerned with practical life, first exhorted us to attain a firm character and now urges us on to carry out our duties, by delivering faultless precepts and displaying as examples to those who come after the errors of those who have gone before] (Migne 1857c:249).

Here one gets a very revealing picture of Clement, the cultivated and educated gentleman (Enslin 1954:227), who was entirely at home in the world that he knew so well. Enslin states that in this writing Clement works quietly and effectively to help the ‘intellectually undisciplined Christian movement’ to take a respectable standing among the educated (Enslin 1954:231). He continues:

No better introduction to Clement as a man of poise, savoir faire, and native refinement and delicacy is to be found than in his unconscious amplification of this thesis: ‘There is nothing which God hates’. Books II and III of the Paedagogus provide the locus classicus. In contrast to the allegorical tours de force and absurdities of derivation which are so frequent in his pages, here we find a man who is thoroughly at home in the world of culture and refinement, who is neither afraid nor enamoured of God’s good things but who has a constant, if unself-conscious, set of mind – seemingly the product of years of a genuinely liberal background – against both vulgar ostentation and ignorant or illiberal abstinence. (p. 236)

As he sees it, Καθόλου καὶ ὁ Χριστιανὸς ἠρεμίας, καὶ ἡσυχίας, καὶ γαλήνης, καὶ εἰρήνης οἰκεῖός ἐστι [In a word, the Christian is characterized by composure, tranquillity, calmness, and peace] (Paed. 2.7; Migne 1857c:465; cf. Enslin 1954:237). In this writing Clement also gives special prominence to Mary, the mother of Christ: μία δὲ μόνη γὰρ μήτηρ παρθένος. Ἐκκλησίαν ἐμοὶ φίλον αὐτὴν καλεῖν [One is the only virgin mother. I love to call her the Church] (Paed. 1.6; Migne 1857c:300; cf. Rule 2008:35–52).

The Stromateis: The full title of this work is Τίτου Φλαυίου Κλήμεντος τῶν κατὰ τὴν ἀληθῆ φιλοσοφίαν γνωστικῶν ὑπομνημάτων στρωματεῖς [Titus Flavius Clement’s miscellaneous collections of speculative {gnostic} notes on the true philosophy] (Migne 1857f.:548; cf. also Eusebius [Hist. Eccl. 6.13] and Photius, the 19th-century lexicographer and epitomist [Bibl. Cod. 111]). Other writers and readers became so familiar with it that they started to call Clement the Στρωματεύς (Stromatist; cf. Schaff 1885a:373). Clement finished the first part in 192/194 after the death of Commodus (cf. Havrda 2011:373), and the rest during the reign of Severus from 193–211 (cf. Hist. Eccl. 6.6). With reference to the place where Clement wrote it, Schaff (1885a) remarks:

So multifarious is the erudition, so multitudinous are the quotations and the references to authors in all departments, and of all countries, the most of whose works have perished, that the works in question could only have been composed near an extensive library – hardly anywhere but in the vicinity of the famous library of Alexandria. (p. 374)

The writing consists of seven books. Many scholars believe that it originally consisted of eight books, with the eighth book being lost. However, the content assigned to the eighth book has no connection with the rest of the writing (cf. Schaff 1885a:373), depicting only a ‘collection of extracts drawn from pagan philosophers’ (New Advent 2012b), probably added after Clement left Alexandria (Hyldahl 2014:140). The books (including the mentioned eighth book) are divided into chapters as follows:

  • Book 1: 29 chapters.
  • Book 2: 23 chapters.
  • Book 3: 18 chapters.
  • Book 4: 23 chapters.
  • Book 5: 14 chapters.
  • Book 6: 14 chapters.
  • Book 7: 28 chapters.
  • Book 8: 9 chapters.

Most scholars have regarded the Stromateis as their chief source for reflection on Clement, because in the Stromateis Clement is concerned with the more weighty matters of doctrine. It could possibly be that these books contain the lectures that he gave in the School (New Advent 2012b). As the title indicates, this work is written (in opposition to Gnosticism?) to equip the readers with a true gnosis – that would be a Christian philosophy. Faith forms the basis from which those who are trained by the Paedagogus can be led to this higher knowledge. Kaye (1835) describes the aim of the Stromateis as follows:

The object of Clement, in composing the Stromata, was to describe the true ‘Gnostic’, or perfect Christian, in order to furnish the believer with a model for his imitation, and to prevent him from being led astray by the representations of the Valentinians and other gnostic sects. (p. 229)

He defines Clement’s description of a true Gnostic as follows:

By γνῶσις, Clement understood the perfect knowledge of all that relates to God, His nature, and dispensations. He speaks of a twofold knowledge, (sic.) – one, common to all men, and born of sense; the other, the genuine γνῶσις, bred from the intellect, the mind, and its reason. This latter is not born with men, but must be gained and by practice formed into a habit. The initiated find its perfection in a loving mysticism, which this never-failing love makes lasting. (Kaye 1835:238–239)

Clement himself states (in Strom. 2.10; cf. 7.1): Τριῶν τοίνυν τούτων ἀντέχεται ὁ ἡμεδαπὸς φιλόσοφος. πρῶτον μὲν τῆς θεωρίας, δεύτερον δὲ τῆς τῶν ἐντολῶν ἐπιτελέσεως, τρίτον ἀνδρῶν ἀγαθῶν κατασκευῆς. ἅ δὴ συνελθόντα τὸν γνωστικὸν ἐπιτελεῖ. Ὅ τι δ’ ἂν ἐνδέῃ τούτων, χωλεύει τὰ τῆς γνώσεως [Our philosopher clings to these three things: first contemplation, second the performance of the commandments, and third the training of good men. When these things come together, they complete the Gnostic. But whichever of these is lacking makes knowledge incomplete] (Migne 1857c:981). This writing of Clement is the longest and in many ways the most important one (Ensor 2013:27). The previous two writings largely repeat traditional views and also reflect less independent development than is seen in the Stromateis (Mosser 2005:55). According to Klibengajtis (2004:317), if one considers the Opus Clementinum in its entirety, it is only from the Stromateis that one can derive ‘abstrakte und epistemologische Gedankengange’ [abstract and epistemological thought patterns; author’s own translation]. This work is also more doctrinal than his two earlier works, even though it lacks a clear structure. The chief significance of this writing lies in the fact that:

Clement seeks to steer a middle path between those who had a simple, traditional faith and shunned all association with Greek philosophy, on the one hand, and those ‘Gnostic’ Christians who, in their eagerness to syncretise Christianity with other streams of thought outside the Christian tradition, had fallen into heresy, on the other. (Ensor 2013:27)

A good example of this is when people are trying to distinguish between Christian faith and knowledge, asserting that the ‘former is related to the Son and the latter to the Father’ (Havrda 2010:2). Clement (Strom. 5.1–2) clearly states that one must also have knowledge about the Son.

This writing, being a miscellaneous collection, contains the speculations of Greek philosophers and heretics, which were compared to those who ‘cultivated the true Christian gnosis, and of quotations from sacred Scripture’ (Schaff 1885a:373). True Christian gnosis and quotations from sacred Scripture were regarded to be the source of higher Christian knowledge. Being devoted to philosophy, Clement describes this discipline as a divinely ordered preparation for the Greeks to come to faith in Christ. He puts it on the same level as the Law of the Jews. If one wants to obtain true Christian knowledge, then one has to become familiar with the literature and culture of philosophy, which Clement regards highly. In this he opposes certain other Christians of his time who believed that study (learning) was useless and dangerous. He sees himself as an eclectic, believing that there is truth in every faith or system. However, he adds that all the truth that can be found will only become real truth in Christ, who is the true origin of it all.

The following words of Schaff (1885a) can be applied as a conclusion to this writing:

The Stromata are written carelessly, and even confusedly; but the work is one of prodigious learning, and supplies materials of the greatest value for understanding the various conflicting systems which Christianity had to combat. (p. 373; cf. also sub-heading 5.9)

Quis Dives Salvetur?2

This writing, also called Salvation of the Rich (Migne 1857d:603–680; cf. Cosaert 2008:11), comprising 42 chapters. It is a very practical treatise, based on the Markan version of the rich young man – Mark 10:17–31 (cf. Quis Div. 4–5) – showing the reader that it is the love of, and not the possession of riches that is evil (Ensor 2013:31; cf. Clarke 2009:447–468) and that the attitude of the soul is of the greatest essence. Ensor (2013:31) maintains that, with this, Clement rejects ‘the ascetic ideal and instead commends the principles of moderation and good stewardship of what God has entrusted to us’. According to the author, he only distinguishes between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’ and encourages the ‘haves’ to use their riches in the service of the Lord. According to Isichei (1995:20), this sermon ‘has been read and cited more than any of his other works’.

Writings preserved in part

Although Cosaert (2008:12) has the conviction that the first two mentioned works below are fully extant, the texts that the author could find clearly indicate that they are not (cf. also Bucur 2006:252). These two documents show two different roles that Clement showcased in his writings (cf. Casey 1934:4):

  • Eclogae Propheticae [The prophetic selections or Selections from the prophetic Scriptures] are compositions of the same character as the Hypotyposeis and may be part of that work (cf. Bucur 2009b:313; Schaff 1885a:374). In this writing, Clement is a commentator.
  • Excerpta ex Theodoto [Excerpts from Theodotus or Epitomes of the Writings of Theodotus and of the Eastern Doctrine; cf. Migne 1857d:681–696]. In this work, most probably containing extracts made by Clement for his own use, providing the reader with considerable insight into Gnosticism (cf. Bucur 2009b:313), Clement acts as a critic and theologian.
  • The eight books of the Hypotyposeis. These books consist of expositions of all the books of the Bible (almost an ‘abridged commentary’ – New Advent 2012b). Rufinus has translated these books into Latin, with the title Dispositiones (New Advent 2012b) – however, the translation is not extant. Numerous fragments of these books have been preserved in Greek by Eusebius, Oecumenius, Maximus Confessor, John Moschos, as well as Photius. A Latin fragment, Adumbrationes Clementis Alexandrini in epistolas canonicas, was a translation of Cassiodorus and represents in part the text of this document (New Advent 2012b).

According to Enslin (1954:224–225), it seems likely that these three documents by Clement, as well as the so-called ‘eighth book’ of the Stromateis, are unfinished works, or are abridged extracts that Clement has made for his personal use (cf. Schaff 1885a:375). These writings provide considerable insight about Gnosticism.

Bucur (2009a:189) is of the opinion that these documents ‘represent the pinnacle of Clement’s mystagogical curriculum, whose purpose is to communicate the highest mysteries of Christian doctrine by means of advanced biblical exegesis’. In his Excerpta ex Theodoto, Clement refers mostly to quotations from Valentinian works and adds his own, sometimes very sharp, criticism to it. This is complemented by consequent theological speculation. It really creates the impression that these are pages from Clement’s workbook.

The Eclogae Propheticae, which follows the Excerpta in the 11th-century Florence manuscript (Laur. 5.3) and its 16th-century copy, also contains only notes and is not a finished literary product. In contrast with the Excerpta, the Eclogae Propheticae is exegetical in nature and could form part of the exegetical work, the Hypotyposeis (seemingly still extant in the days of Eusebius). Although these writings, in which Clement quotes frequently from the Hypotyposeis, are lost, we do have a Latin translation by the 6th-century Cassiodorus of the sections dealing with four of the Catholic Epistles: 1 Peter, Jude, and 1 and 2 John (Stählin 1906:203–215). According to Stählin (1906:202), it could be this work of Clement that led Photius (Bibl. Cod. 109) in the 19th century to accuse Clement of heresy. The accusations are referring to:

  • the eternity of matter, a doctrine of ideas that degrade the Son to a created being
  • metempsychosis, a belief that there were many worlds before Adam
  • a non-scriptural view of the birth of Eve
  • the actual marriage of the fallen angels and daughters of men
  • a docetic view of the incarnation
  • the view that there are two logoi, the lesser of which appeared to men.

Photius (Bibl. Cod. 109) concludes his charge with these words: Καὶ ἄλλα δὲ μυρία φλυαρεῖ καὶ βλασφημεῖ, εἴτε αὐτὸς, εἴτε τις ἕτερος τὸ αὐτοῦ προσωπον (sic.) ὑποκριθείς [And he utters a myriad other nonsensical and blasphemous notions – either he himself or some other purporting to be he] (Migne 1857g:384). It is probable that this criticism by Photius, perhaps together with the fact that Origen was Clement’s student, contributed to the official scepticism regarding the propriety of considering Clement a saint.

Fragments of writings

Of the following books, only fragments have been preserved (Migne 1857d:729–776):

  • On the Pascha (a controversial document on the Paschal question – cf. New Advent 2012b).
  • Exhortation to endurance/patience or To the newly baptised (cf. Cosaert 2008:12).
  • Ecclesiastical canon or Against the Judaizers (cf. Cosaert 2008:12).
  • Schaff (1885a:1222–1223) also refers to fragments on:
    • 1 Corinthians 11:10
    • 2 Corinthians 5:16
    • 2 Corinthians 6:11
    • Galatians 5:24
  • Adumbrationes: The Adumbrations or Commentaries on some of the Catholic Epistles (most probably also part of the Hypotyposeis; cf. Bucur 2009a:6, 2009b:313).
Lost works referred to by Clement

In his writings, Clement referred to the following completed (and planned?) works (Schaff 1885a:375), though no trace of them could be found (cf. Roberts & Donaldson 1868:16):

  • περὶ ἀρχῶν καὶ θεολογίας [On first principles and Theology] (cf. Giulea 2009:187–213; Osborn 1994:1–24), referenced in Stromateis 3.13.1, 21.2, 5.140.2 and Quis Dives Salvetur 26.8.
  • In Paedagogus 2.10, Clement mentions a writing titled On Continence or Concerning Marriage (cf. also Paed. 3.8). This creates the impression that it could be one document. However, Cosaert (2008:12) is of the opinion that these are two different documents referred to by Clement, as he (Clement) has made separate references to On Marriage in Paedagogus 3.41.3, and On Continence in Paedagogus 2.52.2 and 94.1.
  • On the Devil (cf. Strom. 4.85.3).
  • On the Origin of the Universe (cf. Strom. 6.168.4).
  • περὶ προφητείας (On Prophecy – cf. Strom. 4.2.2; 5.88.4).
  • περὶ ψυχῆς (On the Soul; together with the previous document, most probably part of the Hypotyposeis, cf. Bucur 2009a:5), referred to in Stromateis 5.88.4.
  • περὶ ἀναστάσεως (On the Resurrection – cf. Paed. 2.104.3).
  • On the Origin of Man (cf. Strom. 3.95.2).
  • On Prayer (cf. Strom. 4.171.2), to be distinguished from a work by Origen with the same title.

According to Schaff (1885a:375) and Early Christian Writings (2017), Clement also refers to the following five works, but the author could not get any references to these works from the extant works of Clement:

  • On the Allegorical Interpretation of Members and Affections when ascribed to God.
  • On Angels.
  • On the Unity and Excellence of the Church.
  • On the Offices of Bishops, Presbyters, Deacons and Widows.
  • Against Heresies.
References by other writers

Below are references made by other writers to lost works by Clement:

  • Maximus the Confessor, the most prominent Greek theologian of the 7th century, refers several times (in at least two books) to a work by Clement titled On Providence (cf. Schaff 1885a:1225–1226; Stählin 1906:LIV–LX, 219–221). This causes Cosaert (2008:12) to refer to this document as ‘partially extant’.
  • Both Maximus and Antonius Melissa, a Greek monk of the 12th century, refer to On the Soul (Schaff 1885a:1226).
  • Antonius Melissa in his Book 2 Sermon 69, referred to On Slander.
  • Palladius, in his Historia Lausiaca (ca. 420 CE), mentions a work On the Prophet Amos (the full title is The treatise of Clement, the Stromatist, on the Prophet Amos – cf. Oliver 2016:197), which does not seem to have been part of the lost Hypotyposeis and may have been an independent writing. No fragment of it is known.
  • Stählin (1906:LX–LXII) cites and evaluates the meagre evidence regarding dubious references to specific letters written by Clement, but fails to name any of them.
  • Schaff (1885a:1208–1226) refers to ‘fragments of Clement’, mostly cited by other writers (and therefore put under this sub-heading):
    • From the Latin translation of Cassiodorus: On the First Epistle of Peter; Comments on the Epistle of Jude; Comments on the First Epistle of John and Comments on the Second Epistle of John.
    • From the catena of Nicetas, the Bishop of Heraclea: Job 1:21; Job 34:7; Matthew 5:42; Matthew 13:31 and Matthew 13:46.
    • From the catena on Luke, edited by Corderius: Luke 3:22 and Luke 16:17.
    • Moschus, in his Spiritual Meadow, Book 5, chapter 176 refers to the fifth book of the Hypotyposeis.
    • Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 6.2.1 & 6.2.15) refers to the sixth book of the Hypotyposeis.
    • Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 6.14) gives a general reference to the Hypotyposeis, stating that Clement has commented on every book of the ‘testamentary Scripture’ and even on disputed books like ‘Jude and the rest of the Catholic Epistles and Barnabas, and what is called the Revelation of Peter’ (cf. Schaff 1885a:1224).
    • Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 7) refers to Clement’s commentary on 1 Timothy 2:6, 1 Timothy 3:16, 1 Timothy 5:8, 10, 21, 1 Timothy 6:13 and 2 Timothy 2:2.
    • Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 7.2.2) refers to the seventh book of the Hypotyposeis.
    • Eusebius (Hist. Eccl. 7.6.14) refers to the Hypotyposeis in general (‘same books’ as an allusion to his previous remarks in 7.2.2), in which he refers to Rome as the place where Mark has written his Gospel, containing the words of the Apostle Peter. He also refers to John, who ‘composed a spiritual Gospel’ (cf. Schaff 1885a:1225).
Another lost writing

The document Discussion on fasting, still extant in the time of Eusebius (cf. sub-heading 5.1), is not referenced by any writer (cf. Schaff 1885a:1226) and does not exist today.

A Pseudo-Clementine writing

The Letter from Clement of Alexandria to Theodore: This letter dates back to the last part of the 2nd century or the first part of the 3rd century (Jay 2008:596). Smith (1973:1–25) attributes it to Clement, but Watson argues that the letter’s internal anomalies are incompatible with Clementine authorship (Watson 2010:128, 170; cf. also Brown 2008:535; Paananen 2012:87–125; Viklund & Paananen 2013:235–247). The reason given by many scholars for their rejection of this document as being written by Clement is that the ‘style and vocabulary is too much like Clement to be by Clement’ (Jay 2008:574; cf. Carlson 2005:50–54; Criddle 1995:215–220).

The ‘clarity’ of Clement’s writings

Interestingly, scholars who criticise Clement for not writing in an easy manner are picking on his Trilogy in doing so: Van den Hoek depicts Clement in general as a ‘difficult author’ (Van den Hoek 1996:223; cf. Mansfeld 1994:155–161) because he expresses himself in ‘obscure’ ways, but she immediately adds: ‘This unclear style may be intentional. Clement warns the reader (Strom. 1.2.2; 20.4; 56.2) that knowledge of the ultimate truth is not to be obtained easily’ (Van den Hoek 1996:223). Von Campenhausen (1963:31) refers to the Stromateis as a ‘wide-ranging work really leading nowhere in particular’. This concurs with what is said about Clement’s work as a whole in the introductory remarks, as Clement’s writing style is not easy to understand (cf. Van den Hoek 1996:223).


While doing research on the documents of the above-mentioned heads that are at our disposal today, the words of Paget (2010:124) were always borne in mind: ‘Christian material from Alexandria is very scarce’. When researching documents like these, one has to be content with the fact that:

  • Most of the documents are not originals, but copies, some of which were ‘amended’ with the best of intentions, some to fit the theological view of the transcriber, while others were just copied incorrectly.
  • Many documents were translated from Greek (the language in which most of the documents were originally written) to Latin – the lingua franca of Rome. Obviously a translation is not on the same standard as the original, but here too, emendations and other editorial changes as shown above were implemented.
  • Many of the documents referred to no longer exist, and one has to try to make sense of the references to determine the intended meaning of the original author, or even try to (re-)construct the document from all the different references.

All in all, however, there are enough extant documents, complemented by references to documents that do not exist anymore, to arrive at hopefully all the documents written by the heads of the Catechetical School. With this article, other scholars are invited to add to the list of documents, if possible, and to write articles on the rich content of those documents that are still extant. The follow-up article discusses the documents of the heads from Origin to the demise of the School in 642.


Competing interests

The author declares that he has no financial or personal relationships that may have inappropriately influenced him in writing this article.


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1. In this article reference to ‘the Scriptures’ implies those parts of the known Bible available to the writers, and not the whole Bible.

2. Quis Dives Salvandus?, according to Verster (2014:111).

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