Monday, February 03, 2020

Eusebius, EH.6.13-15: Clement of Alexandria and Origen

This is an occasional series of readings from and brief notes and commentary upon Eusebius of Caesarea’s The Ecclesiastical HistoryBook 6, chapters 13-15. Listen here.

Notes and Commentary:

These chapters focus on Clement of Alexandria, teacher of Origen, and on Clement’s writings.

Chapter 13 gives an overview of the writings of Clement, student of Pantaenus.
His chief works are listed as:

Stromateis. Note: J. E. L. Oulton says this term came from “the striped bag in which slaves rolled up the bedclothes.” It came to refer to a “patchwork” or collection of miscellanies. Works by this title were also produced by Plutarch and Origen.

Hypotyposeis. Interpretations of Scripture and tradition.

Exhortation to the Greeks.


Who is the Rich Man that is being Saved?

On the Pascha.

On Fasting.

On Slander.

Exhortation to Endurance, or To the Recently Baptized.

The Ecclesiastical Canon, or Against the Judaizers.

Turning to the Stromateis, Eusebius points out that it includes references to the disputed works (the antilegomenoi). He includes in this works both apocryphal (the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, Barnabas, and 1 Clement) and canonical (Hebrews and Jude).

In On the Pascha, Clement made reference to traditions “from the elders of olden times”, including Melito and Irenaeus.

Chapter 14 begins with a description of the content of the Hypotyposeis, noting that here also Clement addressed the disputed works (the antilegomenoi), listing both apocryphal (Barnabas and the Apocalypse of Peter) and canonical works (Jude and the Catholic epistles).

Special attention is given to Hebrews. Clement says it was written by Paul in Hebrew and Luke translated it for the Greeks, as is evident by its similarity in style to Acts. He adds that Paul’s name was not attached to the work, since the Jews had great prejudice and suspicion against Paul. He adds that Paul did not add his name also out of modesty, since he was primarily an apostle to the Gentiles.

Also, in this work, Clement discusses the order of the Gospels. He says that the first Gospels written were those with genealogies (Matthew and Luke). Mark then wrote his Gospel based on Peter’s preaching in Rome. Finally, John wrote his “spiritual Gospel”, urged by his disciples, aware that “the outward facts” had been set down in the other Gospels.

A letter from Alexander to Origen is cited mentioning both Pantaenus and Clement.

It is then noted that Adamantius (Origen) had visited Rome during the time of Zephyrinus, before returning to Alexandria, to serve under the bishop Demetrius.

Chapter 15 describes how Origen was committed to doctrinal study, especially to Scripture and teaching. When overwhelmed with students, he made his pupil Heraclas his assistant, with Heraclas teaching the beginning students and Origen the more experienced.


These chapters provide a useful survey of Clement of Alexandria and especially his insights into Scripture and canon. It also shows his influence on Origen, fueling his particular interest in the study of Scripture.


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