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Černušková, Veronika, Kovacs, Judith L., and Jana Plátová [Eds.]


Clement’s Biblical Exegesis. Proceedings of the Second Colloquium on Clement of Alexandria (Olomouc, May 29–31, 2014).


Leiden u. a.: Brill 2016. XIII, 385 S. = Vigiliae Christianae. Supplements, 139. Geb. EUR 147,00. ISBN 978-90-04-33123-5.


Mark W. Elliott

These proceedings manifest a sub-discipline and research area in healthy bloom, following on from the first ›Clement‹ conference of 2010. First off, Judith Kovacs, who has contributed fine leadership in this area, offers a splendid and useful overview of past and pres-ent scholarship on Clement, which also points forward to some of the essays in the volume that follows. We learn that Clement liked to intersperse his own theological and philosophical comments with scriptural phrases, especially from his favourites, Paul and Matthew, but also at times EpBarn and KerygmaPetr. Hermeneutical vigilance meant ›interpreting received evangelical and apos-tolic traditions in light of secret oral tradition transmitted from Christ through the apostles‹ (Strom I,1,11) and received as ›the ecclesiastical gnosis‹ (Strom VII 16,104). The words of the Lord had high-est authority, though it is not quite clear how this relates to his ap­parent memorising the Gospels, resulting in variations in his texts (9). Old Testament and New Testament enjoy equivalent authority, however their relationship is subtle. (His definition of ›the rule of truth‹ as the harmony of the two testaments is not mentioned here.) Between the literal sense and the spiritual sense of a text the second item is always a metaphysical reality ( contra Daniélou for whom it was properly historical as an antitype.) Kovacs calls on U. Schneider here (Theologie als Christliche Philosophie [Berlin: De Gruyter, 1999], 155): »In der Inkarnation ist der Unterschied zwischen Geschichte und Metaphysik eben aufgehoben […] Der Mensch Jesus Christus ist die Allegorie schlechthin: Fleischliches Zeichen und metaphysisch-kosmischer (siehe Kolosserbrief!) Sinn sind hier identisch.« Yes, but the salvation-historical process surely meant for Clement that the typological should not be reduced to the allegorical. These need not exclude each other (pace Daniélou), but nor is the latter more important than the former. After all, Kovacs approves of Ramelli and Lucchetta’s insistence on salvation history as the cantus firmus: »Il semble plutôt que la manifestation visible du Logos dans le monde soit pour Clément le point stable autour duquel s’ordonnent les pouvoirs du ›genre symbolique‹, auxquels la Bible confère leur force la plus grande.« In short, surely it isn’t all about metaphysics. One can compare the ›historical Christ‹-centred interpretation of Genesis 1:26–7 in Strom II,22 versus a Valentinian reading. Also, if the Moses of Exodus is a Gnostic (mature Christian) par excellence, then he is so as part of the divine economy in history.
According to A. Le Boulluec and J. Steenbuch Clement urged that one be guided by the One in whom the Logos became manifest when reading Scriptures. True mystery lay therein. Excerpta 18.2 reminds us that Scripture actually de-codes mystery: the shadow of the light is not darkness but illumination. And yet Clement learned from Philo that God is ineffable: ›Knowing God is not the same as being able to express God in writing‹ (133). By the time of Strom I 1,13 it appears that Scripture is not so clear. The voice of the Lord can be heard only by faith. Even biblical language that sounds precise is actually parabolic; our knowledge is the saviour himself (VI 1,2,4). And yet ›Dialectics is needed to lift the veil‹ (139). Did Clement lose confidence in Scripture’s illumination, assuming the Excerpta are earlier than the Stromateis?
A. van den Hoek suggests that Proverbs and Clement were a perfect match. Only Origen dedicated more commentary to that book. God saves humans by ›angry‹ exhorting as well as by merciful condescension. Philosophy with its conceptual apparatus of virtues serves a purpose very much like the Law for Hebrews. Philosophy is preparation for Gentiles. Clement smuggles in the idea of theosebia (worship) as a ›super-virtue‹.
Veronika Černušková deals with Clement’s treatment of Matthew 5–7. There is little about promises for the future, since a de-sire for reward though legitimate is immature. Much better to be free from desires for future as a ›Gnostic‹ aim at the good for its own sake. Clement is also reluctant to discuss Evil, but prefers to say that people become similar to devils by their willed behaviour. Mean­while, although ›Provident care for all people is one of Clement’s most cherished ideas‹, only a Gnostic gets prayers answered, where prayer is not a hunger.
Piotr Ashwin-Siejkowski observes the use of the Johannine prologue plus five other famous Jesus statements in the Gospel. Clement had John in front of him, but the message of the Saviour was more important. Evidence here seems a bit sketchy. Is the message of the Saviour not John’s Gospel? If not, then what else? On the one hand the bible seems to come third in sequence after Philosophy and a ready-made Philonic hermeneutic. Yet even if the Prologue is more ›confirmatory‹ still the bible is claimed to be of ›ultimate value‹. Some of these tensions seem to resist resolution. What does seem incontrovertible is that for Clement ›Word‹ not ›silence‹ is the basis of creation followed by the divine Logos becoming tutor in the Incarnation. The Logos ›extra mentem‹ in creation is not ›lesser‹.
M. Gyurkovics deals with the Johannine theology in Clement. The world is generated and only-begotten in the same way as Son comes from Father – yet the principle of the world is material, and not divine, whereas the Logos comes from divine essence. ›Barbar-ians‹ seem to mean Christians (Strom IV 14,93). The Nous is the place of Logos, forming a noetic cosmos that also embraces the material world. The Logos seems to create that world out of himself (289). Divine ousia is the arche of divinity, whence the Logos, but the Father exceeds this arche. Logos is ›circumscribed divine nous‹, although not in a way as to be changeable. Dainese stresses the importance for Clement of unity in God (Deut 6:4). Le Boulluec is called as witness for the case that the exegete and philosopher is one and the same. The Adumbrationes in 1Jn might have been the groundwork for the lost or never written De Principiis. There are doubtless parallels between Stromateis and Adumbrationes, e. g.: ›forgiveness does not exist in order to condone, but to heal‹ (Strom II 15,70). Spirit, water and blood, which are ›in the Son‹ (Clement relates 1Jn 5:16–17 to Ps1:1) arrive to combat wickedness, sinfulness, arrogance respectively. Interestingly, as with Origen, sin becomes a doctrinal principle for Clement. In a fascinating footnote the case is made that words change meaning diachronically (315, n. 86).
In the final essay Judith Kovacs mentions that there are 1273 quotations from Paul in Clement, which is double that of Plato, who comes runner-up. For Clement’s Paul baptism is sufficient illumination, bringing knowledge. Valentinus had claimed to be student of Theudas, student of Paul (Strom VII 17,106). This school did not understand Paul’s irony but proudly took themselves to be the spiritual ones of 1Corinthians 2–3. Clement countered by assert-ing the equality of all Christians with reference to Gal 3:23 f. It is not that the elite have grace and the ordinary believers have works, but both grace and works are necessary for all. 1Corinthians 7 is about continence in marriage which exists for procreation. Faith cannot be proved, because it is a first principle, with reference to Hebrews 11. Along with the cardinal virtues of faith, hope, love, Romans 4:3 tells of faith reckoned as justice, and Abraham’s actively beneficence is emphasised. Strom VII,14 sounds forth against philosophers with a detailed exegesis of 1Corinthians 6. Forgiving offences means complete obliteration of even the memory of offence. Philosophy was given by God to Greeks, as a covenant to them on way to philosophy of Christ (Heb 1:1’s ›many & various ways‹ includes Greek philosophy). There is One God of the two testaments. All Christians are called ›to progress from simple faith to true knowl-edge, from a simple reading to a deeper, more philosophical understanding of Scripture‹.
Altogether a very useful and learned collection, with the theme of biblical exegesis running through as a red thread, which at points in this book becomes a golden one.