Clement of Alexandria, not to be confused with Clement of Rome, was an early church leader and writer based in Egypt, North Africa. Dated probably 150-215 A.D., he was head of the famous Catechetical School of Alexandria, following after Pantaenus who lead before him.
Alexandria, founded by Alexander the Great, has a deep heritage from the Greek culture. After the death of Alexander the kingdom was divided between his four generals. Ptolemy inherited the Egyptian kingdom. His family line ruled until the Romans, Cleopatra was the last of this dynasty (remember Elizabeth Taylor?). Under the line of Ptolemy, Alexandria became a center of learning and study, the famous library was kept there, with several hundred thousand volumes. The Septuagint was translated and kept there also but all was lost and burned by the Romans (a new antiquities library opened in 2002, pictured above). So there was a deep tradition of philosophy and religion in the city. It was a key place for the Christian faith to take a deep root.
Clement is known for combining Greek philosophical reasoning with the teaching of the New Testament as a way to explain the Christian faith. He found an affinity with Plato and he used philosophy as the foundation for the knowledge of Christianity. Clement compared Christianity with the paganism of Greek and Roman worship, and he ridiculed the system of many deities to say that there was only one God, three persons.
His main legacy seems to be that he was the teacher of Origen, who succeeded him to the headship of the school. Origen is one of the foremost Christian theologians of the Ante Nicene period.
The main work of Clement is divided into three volumes, “The exhortation,” “The Tutor,” and “Miscellaneous” each volume covers the three important aspects of Greek stoicism; belief, discipline and knowledge. Clement praises a high moral virtue of the Christian, one who is pure and virtuous, living a life of prayer and simple devotion to the Lord.
The lessons for us today are to follow the Lord in a disciplined way, trusting in him and studying His word. I think also, as we have considered several of the early fathers, it is important for us to remember those who have gone before us, not being deluded in a postmodern way to think we are the only ones who have challenges of faith.