Moses, Statesman and Philosopher: The Philosophical Background of the Ideal of Assimilating to God and the Methodology of Clement of Alexandria’s Stromateis 1

in Vigiliae Christianae
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Clement’s so-called ‘eclectic’ style has long been noted by his modern readers, with several suggesting that this approach reflects his idea of Mosaic philosophy as having been scattered among the different philosophical traditions of his period. Here, I wish to argue that in his portrait of Moses in Strom. 1, Clement draws on Platonic and Stoic sources to provide a coherent picture of what it is to assimilate to God as a unification of the civic and contemplative lives. In doing so, Clement exploits actual historical connections between the two schools in using Stoicism as a hermeneutical lens through which to unify Plato’s dialogues, which themselves offer conflicting interpretations of the relationship between the statesman and the philosopher. This study also hopes to illuminate the ways in which conceptualizations of Judaism at times informed and controlled early Christian constructions of their relationship with pagan culture.

Moses, Statesman and Philosopher: The Philosophical Background of the Ideal of Assimilating to God and the Methodology of Clement of Alexandria’s Stromateis 1

in Vigiliae Christianae




As George Karamanolis writes“This period of competing interpretations of Plato is often called ‘Middle Platonism’. The term may convey the sense of transition from the Academic phase of a single interpretation to the pluralism of the imperial centuries. Yet for the same reason it is misleading, as it suggests a doctrinal or ideological unity which, as I argued, is hardly present.” Plato and Aristotle in Agreement? Platonists on Aristotle from Antiochus to Porphyry (Oxford 2006) p. 27.


This point is made by MortleyConnaissance pp. 167-70 and S. Lilla Clement of Alexandria: A Study of Christian Platonism and Gnosticism (Oxford 1971) p. 55. My aim here is to substantiate this observation by illustrating how Stoicism and Platonism through the framework provided by Philo can be brought into agreement with one another with respect to the issue of what it is to follow or assimilate to God.


J. Armstrong‘After the Ascent: Plato on Assimilating to God,’ Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 26 (2004) pp. 171-83 at p. 173


S.G. Pembroke‘Oikeiosis’ pp. 114-49 in A.A. Long ed. Problems in Stoicism (London 1971); G. Striker ‘The Role of Oikeiosis in Stoic Ethics’ Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 1 (1983) pp. 145-67; T. Engberg-Pedersen ‘Discovering the Good’ 145-84 in M. Schofield and G. Striker eds. The Norms of Nature: Studies in Hellenistic Ethics (Cambridge 1986); B. Inwood ‘Hierocles: Theory and Argument in the Second Century A.D.’ Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 2 (1984) pp. 151-83; K. Vogt Law Reason and the Cosmic City: Political Philosophy in the Early Stoa (Oxford 2008) pp. 89-110.


VogtLaw Reason and the Cosmic City p. 129. Kerford discusses the wise man’s knowledge as the ability to act rightly in any given situation rather than as a sort of divine omniscience of actual content in G.B. Kerford ‘What Does the Wise Man Know?’ pp. 125-137 in John Rist ed. The Stoics (Berkeley and Los Angeles 1978).


C. Levy‘Philo’s Ethics’ pp. 146-71 at pp. 146-54 in A. Kamesar ed. Cambridge Companion to Philo (Cambridge 2009).


WyrwaDie christliche Platonaneigung pp. 30-2.


WyrwaDie christliche Platonaneigung pp. 39-41.


See Boys-StonesPost-Hellenistic Philosophy p. 140 n. 50 and pp. 188-94.


Van den HoekClement of Alexandria pp. 67-8.


Van den HoekClement of Alexandria p. 58.


WyrwaDie christliche Platonaneigung p. 113.


J. Lössl“Origenes und die Begriffe ‘Naturgesetz’ und ‘Gewissen’ nach Röm 2 14-16” pp. 77-100 in A. Fürst ed. Origenes und sein Erbe in Orient und Okzident (Münster 2011).


For discussion see van den HoekClement of Alexandria p. 59 W. Richardson ‘The Philonic Patriarchs as Nomos Empsychos’ Studia Patristica 1 (1957) pp. 512-25 and idem. ‘Nomos Empsychos: Marcion Clement of Alexandria and St. Luke’s Gospel’ Studia Patristica 4 (1962) pp. 188-96. The later in particular discusses Clement’s debt to like as the living law a move which here allows him to connect the Logos of God not only to Moses but also to the common law of Stoicism. For a more recent discussion see F. Jourdan “Le Logos de Clément sourmis à la question” Revue des études augustiniennes 56 (2010) pp. 135-172.


See D. Runia“Why does Clement of Alexandria Call Philo ‘The Pythagorean?’ ” Vigiliae Christianae 49 (1995) 1-22 for discussion.


LillaClement of Alexandria pp. 106-7.


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