Clement of Alexandria (love/hate in Gnostic studies)
- Ok Pneuman
Thanks for stating that you understood that have made no points
concerning all Gnostics in this conversation. It is mighty big of ya,
and it also helps me to know when we are or are not on the same page.
It is not only honerable to admit misunderstandings, but also
important for greater conversational interaction.
Please keep in mind that I am not one to speak in absolutes, and even
when I do (which as you yourself realized, I did not in this case) it
is nearly always nothing more than colloquial linguistic convention
(something unfortunately common in my region of upbringing, and hard
to shake... as well as certain spelling and grammatical failings).
Perhaps that has been a point of confusion between us in the past? In
any event, any academic you read on this subject should avoid
absolutes like the plague. Any time you read "Gnostics believed...."
it should be a red flag.... not always wrong but something that
should make you look into the subject a bit further. There ARE some
things we can say that about, but we do have to be careful.
So, now more to the points you bring up. I would not argue against
the fact the Clement had some Gnostic influence, or that he at least
chose to use some Gnostic lingo. This is so well established that I
think the point is virtually worthelss (well, maybe interesting and
new for some who are new to thte subject). SO, I sort of am thinking
that you mean to go further to the point of arguing that Clement IS
Gnostic. This means either we agree on the first point and I am
misunderstanding you... OR... we do disagree. With that disclaimer,
the only point of this conversation is if you intend the last point
so I will procede with that in mind. However, I do this with the
understanding that we may actually not be disagreing on anything
other than what the category entails.... and how it fits in the
>>>"I'm not so sure that Clement did not assign it the same function(Gnosis and Gnosticism)."<<<
Well, Pneuman... we can say that with quite a bit of certainty since
the word "Gnosticism" did not exist in the time of Clement. There
simply was no such thing. Essentially then, the question is whether
what WE call "Gnosticism" is what Clement called "Gnosis" or being a
true Gnostic. So, in order to prove your point that Clement
equates "Gnosis" with what we call "Gnosticism", here is the point
you need to demonstrate..... where in your readings does Clement say
that some of the specific groups that we call Gnosticism are valid in
thier belief? He certainly doesn't extend this to the Carpocrations.
In fact, he is so dogmatic in his debate there that it is hard to
take him seriously. In fact, his points here are based so
specifically on behavior, to the absolute disregard of meaning, that
it seems to go against the observations you make concerning his
This point has an importance in the fact that we should consider if
he may have a different meaning for the word "Gnosis" than the
Gnostics did. After all, he did take great effort to demonstrate why
the Church was the true Gnostics, while all those other people using
the term were only pretenders.
>>>"I think it is more a question of emphasis."<<<<In this case, emphasis is an extremely important point.
>>>"Clement said that Gnosis could happen over time with Faith,something the Gnostics (certainly not the Valintinians) did not deny
or oppose. Indeed, the Gnostics assigned Pistis an important (albeit
secondary) function to the "slave". On his part, Clement did assign
Gnosis the function of Salvation, claiming it was better than Faith,
but seemed to exalt the path more than the end state."<<<
My memory is that Clement talked about a sort of rudimentory faith,
then a gnosis (Whether that is "Gnosis" is a point you need to
demonstrate), which then led to a more true faith and praxis... and
it was that last faith that was the true salvation. He DID give a
salvational function to gnosis, just as Catholics today do.... well,
maybe a little more.... but actually he may be a primary source for
the modern Catholic view of "gnosis". Now, as I said before I am only
working from memory as a sort of devils advocate, so, I am not so
much making my own argument here as hopefully inciting you to make
your own point in more specific terms. Show us where Clement presents
Now... I will tell you up front that this is quite OLD memory for me.
If you can demonstrate otherwise then I will very happily discard
that memory. The fact is, you are the one here who is providing the
theory, but you are not really telling us the outline we need to use
it. C'mon, give us some points to actually work with here.
>>>"Well, technically, the Gnostics believed this too (thateverything came from one father)."<<<
No Pneuman, that is not exactly accurate... at least not in Clement's
meaning. One could argue (as most scholors do) that one of the main
points of the Gnostic cosmogeny is to seperate physical creation from
the 1st Father. Let me get back to that more with the point after
your next point....
>>>"The distinction between the demiurge and the Father seems verydeliberately ambiguous in John and Genesis as well."<<<
Well, in the post Platonic understanding of Genisis, sure... you are
right. In the pre Platonic understanding things are quite different.
Then again, neither Genesis nor John are techinically works
of "Gnosticism". If you want to make this point, you need to choose
>>"Clement would not be the only one to avoid a head on collisionwith the question, wisely leaving it to the allegory to speak for
No, you are right, Merkabah mystics also did the same. So do modern
Kabbalists. Since I am hoping you have a good enough grasp of our
focus to understand why these other movements are not
technically "Gnosticism", you then will quickly see my point as to
why this does not help your point.
Ambiguity does not prove a point. I know that you are quite familiar
with our methodology here. We do not assume that since we cannot
prove something is not, that it must not be... but we also don't
accept that it must then be!
Since I cannot PROVE Bigfoot does not exist, so he MUST exist? NO,
that does not wash here.... so by the same token, just because I
can't prove absolutely that Clement did not agree with the idea of
the Demiurge the he must have believed in the Demiurge. Once again,
it doesn't work. In this case we are dealing with only evidence, and
I believe the evidence works against you here.
My memory is of Clement arguing that everything comes from one
Fatheris that it is in direct response to the notion of the Demiurge.
Which is to say that it seems that he is debating the very idea.
NOW.... let me point out that I AGREE with you that he is soft on the
idea, but I believe that this softness comes from his desire to
connect Platonic an Pythagorian ideas to Judism (he also argues that
Pythagoras studied under Moses.... laughable but a common belief that
we should not hold against him alone.)
What I mean is, I think he wants to soften his stance for the
Platonist and Gnostic listeners more than he wants to support the
idea. He is in sympathy with, but not in agrement with, the idea. It
is up to you to prove an actual belief.
>>>"Not sure if that is the real point (whether we can demonstratethat he believed in a demiurge). You could just as soon ask why
he did not mock or denounce this idea (many did), even though he saw
the material world as worthy in itself."<<<<
But Pneuman, my point was that he DID denounce it.... just in a way
that was a bit more subtle than others. That is, while he did not
mock it with the rabid hatred of Ireneaus, he still denounced it (as
I stated in my previous point).
You know, some scholors believe that the reason John uses some
Gnostic language is that it is intended to debate the Gnostics on
their own ground. Clement was partly a Platonist, that is not at
issue I know... I only point it out in case some are not familiar.
Clement uses some Gnostic lingo. Clement is quite forceful against
some of the ideas that fit within "Gnosticism"... yet another point I
know very well. Clement himself claims that Plato and Pythagoras took
thier ideas from Moses Though we could laugh at the idea). It is
interesting this, since Philo also said the same thing before
Clement.... could Clement have been familiar with Merkabah.... I
would bet he was and that could be an important point here. A
Christian Merkabah practitioner does not a Gnostic make. Can you do
more to draw the two together? You ARE going to need to get into
quotes here... sorry but it is a fact.
>>>"So perhaps the real point is why so many were deliberately vagueand unclear on the issue, despite being very concerned and familar
with both Gnosis and the Gnostics."<<<<
Who is this "Many"? Valentinians were pretty clear, as were the
Sethian groups. Which "Gnostics" are you talking about here who were
>>>>"There is clearly a continuum of thought between Orthodoxyand Gnosticism that really shouldn't be too surprising. It is
perhaps the portal through which Gnostic ideas and mythology entered
the Orthodox Church."<<<<
Now that, Pneumen, is not something I debate. I doubt anyone here
debates that point. In fact, I would say that this is perhaps the
best point you have demonstrated here. In fact, that is part of my
own point. I am absolutely of the belief that Gnostic ideas DID enter
the Orthodox church, and I believe that Valentinus and Clement are
important in that function (as are others like Origen). However,
maybe my only contention is about the destinction between where
Gnosticism enters the church and where something is
Let me give you a more personal example. There is a theory out there
that St Bernard was a person who introduced the true Troubadour ideal
into the Catholic Church. The fact is, what he introduced was only
enough of the lingo to try to discredit the original idea. This is
not at issue here, and I am introducing an idea outside the focus of
the club... BUT, in one way the situation is exactly the same.
Bernard was not an intiate.... I KNOW this in ways you can't know. I
would argue that the same is true of Clement. Yes, he uses Gnostic
terms, and he even believes in some of the Gnostic outline. After
all, he was a Platonist and he surely understood the connection...
which is why he dedicated time aginst Gnostic groups... they hit too
close too home.
>>>"I'm not really sure if I believe in a demiurge either. That's notto say I do not find it an interesting allegory. How can you really
know what people really believe, especially that far in the past,
AND when they were often deliberately vague and veiled about it? A
leap of imagination is required somewhere."<<<
Well, they are not so vague as you seem to imply. Actually, the
points I have brought up are often quite direct. The point I make is
not so much whether there is a literal Demiurge, as to whether the
person in mind understands the point of "Demiurge" in the same
context.... I don't believe Clement does but the real point is up to
you to make.
Don't forget, we do try to keep to a certain level of scientific
- I tend to see it more as the latter. If you take this as Christ being the Logos, and John the B being the demiurge (or rather their representations), then when the Logos descended, gnosis was then available to each individual, rather than through the prophets which the demiurge sanctioned. The logos replaced all priests, and the spirit within us replaced the prophets. We are now qualified to be our own prophet, in other words. This is just my understanding from a combined variety of sources and insight.I also think he's getting onto James more for the reason that James is still searching superficially, instead of inwardly following the lead that Jesus gave. James wants more explanations, kind of like he's being lazy and instead of thinking his way there, he wants a 'gimme'.love from annie----- Original Message -----From: lady_caritasSent: Friday, September 24, 2004 10:21 AMSubject: [Gnosticism2] Re: John the Baptist--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "janahooks" <janahooks@y...>
> Thanks, Cari. So does the following passage simply mean that the
> time for prophecy is over, everything has come to pass? (I hope
> that's somewhere close to the meaning since Jesus basically calls
> James a ninny for not understanding. :) jana
> "Then I asked him, "Lord, how shall we be able to prophesy to those
> who request us to prophesy to them? For there are many who ask us,
> and look to us to hear an oracle from us."
> The Lord answered and said, "Do you not know that the head of
> prophecy was cut off with John?"
> But I said, "Lord, can it be possible to remove the head of
> The Lord said to me, "When you come to know what 'head' means, and
> that prophecy issues from the head, (then) understand the meaning
> of 'Its head was removed.' At first I spoke to you in parables, and
> you did not understand; now I speak to you openly, and you (still)
> not perceive. Yet, it was you who served me as a parable in
> and as that which is open in the (words) that are open."
That sounds good to me, jana.
Cutting off the head of prophecy is quite an explicit image when
considering John the Baptist, isn't it? Now that the Lord is here,
the prophecy of John's has been fulfilled. Why would there be a need
for continued prophecy?
Also, consider Logion 46 from _The Gospel of Thomas_:
Jesus said, "From Adam unto John the Baptist there has been none
among the offspring of women who has been more exalted than John the
Baptist, so that such a person's eyes might be broken. But I have
said that whomever among you (plur.) becomes a little one will become
acquainted with the kingdom, and will become more exalted than John."
I also see John as possibly a representation of an exalted
prophetic "head" honcho able to directly prophesize that someone
would be superseding him. John is a man nonetheless, whose psychic
limitations ("head" possibly even also representing a psychic
awareness) are supplanted by the appearance of the Christ. No need
to get stuck in neutral, going around in circles, with continued,
showy psychic prophecies at this point. All those (little ones)
acquainted with the kingdom are indeed more exalted than John.
Perhaps other members have additional ideas.