Ante Nicene Fathers Timeline

Early Church Fathers of the Christian Church

Clement of Alexandria

His real name was Titus Flavius Clemens but the world knows him as Clement of Alexandria. According to the 6th century writer Epiphanius Scholasticus he was born around AD 150 in Athens. He died around AD 215. He was brought up a pagen but converted to Christianity as a young man. He was certainly an educated man and often quoted from Greek philosophy, mythology and poetry. Following his convertion he travelled extensively seeking instruction from educated Christians throughout Greece, Italy, Palestine and eventually reaching Alexandria in Egypt.

His influence on Christianity and the early church resulted from his attempts to connect the Holy Scriptures with pagen philosophy. He showed that philosophers gained much of their knowledge from the scriptures, especially the Old Testament. He firmly believed that philosophy resulted from the divine guidance of The Logos and provided a platform through which the truth could be relayed to mankind.

Clement stresses the importance of philosophy for the fullness of Christian knowledge and firmly believed in a relationship between knowledge and faith and he was quick to correct any who were unwilling to make any use of philosophy in their preaching of the Gospel. In Alexandria, Christianity was a widely accepted philosophy of life. Thus philosophy and theology were so close in Alexandria that every theologian had to be well acquainted with philosophy. 

Clement lays great stress on the fulfillment of moral obligations. In his ethical expressions he is influenced strongly by Plato and the Stoics, from whom he borrows much of his terminology. He praises Plato for setting forth the greatest possible likeness to God as the aim of life; and his portrait of the perfect Gnostic closely resembles that of the wise man as drawn by the Stoics. Hence he counsels his readers to shake off the chains of the flesh as far as possible, to live already as if out of the body, and thus to rise above earthly things.

Clement of Alexandria

It is not easy to summarise Clement's teaching but the following strands in his thought may be drawn out. 

(i) The doctrine of creation was basic in his thinking. Clement clung to the belief that all truth is one and comes from the same Father. The truths of secular science, therefore, must be one with the truths of revelation and thus there was much to be learned from the philosophers. In this way Clement at once opposed the Gnostics who disparaged the created materialistic order, and at the same time helped to rescue learning from the disrepute into which Gnosticism had plunged it in the Alexandrian church. 

(ii) Despite his opposition to the Gnostics, Clement had some affinity with the educated Greek world. Like them he described spiritual perfection in intellectual terms and taught a "true gnosis" as the Christian ideal. Faith was the foundation of Christianity but the enlightened Christian could advance to knowledge.

(iii) Clement sought to be faithful to Scripture. In attacking Gnosticism he defended the Old Testament which he explained by often using the allegorical method, a method he applied to the New Testament too. But there was none of the fantastic allegorizing typical of the Gnostics. His Scriptural exposition was safeguarded by fidelity to the apostolic tradition. 

(iv) Ethics had a considerable place in his writings. He rejected the Gnostic disparagement of sex and maintained that the good things of the material order are to be used with gratitude. His teaching was marked by moral earnestness: for Clement the high life of the spirit was to be attained by a moral as well as by a spiritual ascent. 

Clement's most lasting impact was his attempt to unite Greek pagan philosophy with Christianity. He shows that philosophers owe a large part of their knowledge to Old Testament scriptures and expresses his own personal conviction when he describes philosophy as a direct operation of the divine Logos, working through it as well as through the law and his direct revelation in the Gospel to communicate the truth to men.


Early Church Fathers

Clement of Rome Ignatius of Antioch Polycarp of Smyrna
Clement of Alexandria Tertullian of Carthage Cyprian of Carthage
Irenaeus of Lyons Origen of Alexandria Athanasius of Alexandria

The Council of Nicaea AD 325