Clement describes Paul as “the divinely inspired apostle,” and his works are full of quotations from, and allusions to, thirteen of the fourteen letters attributed to Paul in the patristic period. He quotes Paul more frequently than any other author, more than any other biblical author and twice as often as the second most-cited author, Plato. One notable feature of his interpretation of Paul’s letters is how it takes place in the context of real or imagined conversations with other interpreters. This paper examines Clement’s response to the interpretations of three types of early exegetes: Christians whom Clement regards as “heterodox” (including radical ascetics, antinomians, and followers of Valentinus), simple believers who enlisted the authority of Paul in opposing Christian use of Greek philosophy, and Greek philosophers who were critical of the fledgling Christian faith. It considers which of Paul’s words most caught the attention of Clement and his conversation partners, and how these texts inspired or troubled them. Among the specific Pauline texts considered are: the discussion of wisdom and foolishness in 1 Corinthians 1–3, the counsel on marriage in 1 Corinthians 7, the image of the church as the book-body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 1, the contrast between grace and “works” in Romans 3–8, Paul’s warning against philosophy and vain deceit in Colossians 2, and the praise of faith in Hebrews 11.
The meeting in Olomouc, the Czech Republic, in May 2014 was the first international conference devoted entirely to the subject of Clement’s scriptural exegesis. The aim of this bibliographical essay is to set the articles published in the present volume of that meeting’s Proceedings in the context of earlier research relevant to this subject, and at the same time to offer a broad picture of the extent and nature of Clement’s use of biblical texts. The essay begins by considering three studies that present a general overview: the classic book of Claude Mondésert published in 1944, J. Carleton Paget’s survey of Clement’s exegesis of the Old Testament, and Ulrich Schneider’s exploration of the importance of the Bible for Clement’s theology. The rest of the essay focuses on the following specific topics: Clement’s canon of Scripture and the extent of his biblical references, his views on the nature of Scripture, different forms of citation and commentary evident in his works, the idea of multiple scriptural senses, how Clement’s interpretive practice compares with that other ancient exegetes, the purpose served by his allegorical exegesis, and how he interprets specific passages from the Old and New Testaments.