Clement of Alexandria and the Beginnings of Christian Apophaticism (Oxford Early Christian Studies)

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These are exactly the three domains that Bardaisan postulated in his treatise Against Fate. These are reflected in the Liber legum regionum , which posits the three principles of Nature, ruling on bodies, fate, ruling on the lower, vital soul, and free will, which depends on intellect, the noblest part of the soul, free from fate. The same is testified to by Augustine in the early fifth century. It is also remarkable, I add, that this very same idea emerges in Christian Neoplatonists such as Gregory of Nyssa and especially Evagrius, both of whom knew Plotinus well.

To this testimony I would add that—usually overlooked—of Marcellus of Ancyra, fr. This is a widespread assumption, but there are reasons to believe that, for Origen, the logika were disembodied only when they were ideal projects in the mind of God, but not after their actual creation as independent substances. Now, this is certainly true of a postlapsarian body, with its corruptibility and passions, but not of the angelic-like body, which poses no impediment to the intellect.

The statement ought to be qualified: due to sin, the soul does not descend into a body for the first time while being disembodied beforehand, but rather descends into an earthly, mortal body, or has its fine, immortal, angelic body changed into mortal and corruptible. In this connection, K. It occurs frequently to find Gregory and Origen opposed in this way. Investigation is still going on in this respect.

After the death of the body, the soul continues to exist as a created, living, and intellectual substance, but it ceases to infuse in the body the faculties of life and sense-perception. The full relation between the soul and its body will be restored at the resurrection.


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In granting much importance to psychology, Origen in turn was following a tradition of Christian thinkers who wrote whole treatises on the human soul, like Justin and Tertullian, as K. One should consider, however, that there were exceptions in terms of ancient Christian thinkers who, like Justin, Clement, and later Calcidius, did not postulate the creation of matter by God creatio ex nihilo , but rather assumed the preexistence of a substratum to which God lent qualities, forms, and order. Other interesting discussions of the same issue are those of Cinzia Arruzza and—too late to be taken into account by K.

Parmenides is a dialogue with the reputation of being the most difficult to understand. The first one is the principle of unity which transcends all plurality to such an extent that it refuses every predicate. We cannot even say of it that it exists. There have been some differences among scholars about how to understand his teaching on first principles. We will come back to Middle Platonists in the next part of our study, but for now, it is important to note that the relation between the two principles is unclear. He argues that there must be divine intellect that thinks the ideas.

But this divine intellect is twofold. The intellect which thinks of the ideas is an active intellect, but there must also exist the intellect which transcends any substratum and this highest principle is the same with the unmoved mover of Aristotle. Such God is simultaneously characterized by Platonic terms and forms the combined notion of good from the Republic , and Philebus , with the demiurge from Timaeus.

All those attributes are not distinct because they characterize the same object. Therefore, intellect cannot form any scientific knowledge on Him, and can grasp Him only in an intuitive way. The second God — second Intellect — is the place where ideas dwell because ideas are the thoughts of this intellect. Since there is intellect, there also must be the object of intellect.

It generates all beings is in motion and is connected with both the sensible and the intelligible. There is yet another aspect which allows to treat the negative theology of Alcinous and Middle Platonism in general as a less radical version of negative theology, because the first God is placed within the realm of intellect, not above it. For Clement of Alexandria, negative theology seems to have a more important role to play when man tries to reach God. The aphaeretic method is used in the famous fragment of Stromata in the context of the soul ascending to God.

He evokes pagan mysteries which start with purification and are followed with the teaching aimed at preparing an adept for the next stage. This fragment is also crucial for the entire tradition of Christian theology because Clement makes a distinction between the essence and power of God and admits that it is possible to know God by His power. This seems to be the first step to what in the 4th century would become knowing the energies of God.

But for Clement himself, this distinction, which is consistent with the theory of creatio ex nihilo , explains not only the transcendental character of the essence of God, but also shows that He is very close to the creations. In His essence, He is remote, but is very close and accessible to us in His power.

He admits that God has many names, and we can call Him One, Good, Being, Intellect and the Father, but none of those names should be taken as His definitive name since they all only indicate the infinite power of God. There is, however, yet another significant change in the doctrine of Divine Power.

David T. Runia suggests that although for both Philo and Clement God is present in His Creations by His Power, Clement has a more positive attitude when describing its role in keeping us away from the remote essence of God.

280 Clement of Alexandria teaching Doctrine of Christ & the Observance of Torah with David Carrico

Runia suggests that Clement wishes to emphasize the presence of God in the form of the Logos who is our instructor and guide. While the former connects the powers with the creation and presence of God in the cosmos, the latter uses the power to describe how we can know unknowable God in the Divine Logos — the Son of God. This indicates that for Clement the ultimate manifestation of the power and action of God is not the Creation and Governing of the Universe, but the act of Incarnation and the salvific activity of Christ.

As the expression and realization of the divine power, the Logos now overrides incomprehensibility by means of grace. The primary concept in Clement is thus reciprocity of the Father and Son. Eric Osborn underlines that the same duality of the first cause is found in Middle Platonists, such as Moderatus and Alcinous. They also understood their first principle as having a dual nature, both simple and transcendent, as well as multiple and inclusive. Later, in the Neoplatonic system of Plotinus, those aspects were separated to make up two different hypostases, but for Clement, such twofold nature of the first principle perfectly fits Christian theology, having its sources in the prologue of the Gospel of John.

But Clement saw no need for such a tight formulation of relations between the Father and the Son as it was later forced by the radical claims of Anomeans, and Middle Platonism was a great tool for explaining reciprocity of the Father and the Son as a twofold account of the divine mind. Before we turn to the Arian conflict at the beginning of the 4th century, it is necessary to have a quick look at yet another phase of the shaping of early Christian doctrine of God which could be observed in the writings of Origen.

Although he is not recognized as having influence on the development of negative theology, his statements about the knowledge of the Father and the Son are very important because of their influence on the theology of Arius and all of the Alexandrian tradition.


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Origen is also a very important participant in the discussion between Greek philosophy and Christian dogma. Traces of that discussion are to be observed in Peri archon , which can be interpreted as a Christian answer to the Platonic accusation that they believe in God as having a corporeal nature. Clearly referring to the Sun Simile of the Republic , Origen writes:. Origen then admits that human mind cannot grasp the essence of God, and no object present in human cognition can give man a means to grasp His nature.


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  8. But this does not make him turn to negative theology and use of negative language. It seems that impossibility of knowing God is not essential to him.

    Clement of Alexandria and the Beginnings of Christian Apophaticism.

    It is best seen in the fragment of the Commentary of John where he speaks about darkness which man meets on the mystical path leading towards God. But we can also observe here the same pattern which we saw in Clement of Alexandria. While God is incomprehensible, the Son of God, who is the Logos, can be grasped by the mind, and he reveals to some extent the nature of God. Origen constantly tests the idea of the Logos, which constitutes the means to attain the knowledge of God. See also, D. Balentine, The Hidden God , Oxford , pp.

    The fact that his doctrine was not acknowledged in the Jewish theology shows that Philo was probably a representative of a minority of the Alexandrian Jewish community D. Carabine, op. Osborn, Clement of Alexandria , Cambridge , p. I, 13, 1—3. Colbert, Cambridge , p. First way depends on Gods actions as Creator and second is possible thanks to ideas logos which are given to the soul by illumination of Logos.

    Louth, op. Adrian Walker, San Francisco , pp. Halton, p. Origins to Constantine , ed. Mitchell, F. Young, Cambridge , p. Droge also sees the same idea in Antiochus of Ascalon. I, , 4. ANF, vol. Droge, p. Halton, pp.

    Incomprehensibility of God during the Trinitarian Controversy of the 4th Century

    Droge, op. Mortley, From Word to Silence , op. SC, , pp. ANF, vol 2, p. Palmer, op.

    Clement of Alexandria and the Beginnings of Christian Apophaticism. - Free Online Library

    I, 2, 3 SC 20, pp. I, 3, 2—3. I, 3, 4—6. I, 3, 2, 6— I, 5, 19— I, 5, 9—10 SC 20, pp. I, 5, 6—8 SC 20, p. I, 5, 10,14 SC 20, p. I, 6, 1—7, 1 SC 20, pp. II, 4 SC 20, pp. Wickham, C. Bammel, eds. Raaflaub, ed. Roth, ed. Note: These are works that address the violence that was carried out by the Church of Christendom throughout history. Perez, J. Sohm, Martyrs Mirror Herald, 2nd rpt. Flannery, The Anguish of the Jews Paulist, 3. Knopf, 2. Rausch, A Legacy of Hatred Moody, 2. Althaus, The Theology of Martin Luther , trans. Schultz Philadelphia: Fortress, 3.

    Augustine, Confessions Oxford University Press, 2. Augustine, City of God Image Books, 2. Chadwick, Augustine Oxford University Press, 3. De Lubac, Histoire et Esprit Aubier, 3. Elders, The Philosophical Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas Brill, 3. George, The Theology of the Reformers Abingdon, 2. Minns, Irenaeus Chapman, 1. Origen, On First Principles Torchbook, 3.

    Trigg, Origen Routledge, ;. Yoder, ed.

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    Dreyer, ed. Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition Mowbays, 2nd ed. Muller, J. Viladesau, Beauty of the Cross Oxford, 3. In several instances works are anonymous and publisher information is not available. Noon, 3. Bonsall, Essay on the Attribute of Knowledge in God 3. Blanshard, 3. Calcidius, On Fate 4th cent. Den Boeft, in Philosophia Antiqua Brill, 3. Hunter, 3d ed. Hayes, The Foreknowledge of God 2. Hibbard, Memoirs of the Life and Travels of B.



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