Sunday, July 04, 2010

Clement of Alexandria on Women

I'm currently involved in editing a book on "Paul and the Second Century" and one of the contributors Pauline Nigh Hogan has a piece on Paul and women in the second century which makes several references to Clement of Alexandria:

“So the church is full of those [worthy of martyrdom], as well chaste women as men, who all their life have contemplated the death which rouses up to Christ. For the individual whose life is framed as ours is may philosophize without learning, whether barbarian, whether Greek, whether slave, whether an old man, or a boy, or a woman” (Strom. 4.8.58).

“That there is the same equality before the righteous and loving God, and the same fellowship between Him and all, the apostle most clearly showed, speaking to the following effect: 'Before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed, so that the law became our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith; but after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster' [Gal. 3:23-25]. Then he provided the saying, clear of all partiality: ‘For in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. For as many as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is no male and female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus’” [Gal. 3:26–28] (Paed. 1.6.30–31.1).

“There are not, then, in the same Word some ‘gnostics’ and some ‘psychics’ but all who have abandoned the desires of the flesh are equal and spiritual before the Lord. And again he writes in another place: ‘For in the one spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether bond or free, and we have all drunk one spirit’” [ 1 Cor.12:13] (Paed.1.6.30–31)

I don't think that Clement was necessarily in favour of ordaining women to the priesthood or episcopacy, but he does have a view of "equality" in the spiritual sphere and especially in martyrdom that stands out against Graeco-Roman views of women as ontologically inferior.


Rod said...

Interesting Post, Michael. I took a class with Lynn Osiek on Women in the New Testament and Early Christianity and my final paper was on Clement of Alexandria's views on women in his Roman Egyptian context.

Richard Fellows said...

Michael and Rod,

In the first century did women enjoy greater freedoms in Egypt than in other parts of the empire? If so, would it be too rash to speculate that early female apostles chose Egypt as their mission field? Would this be consistent with your observations that Clement of Alexandria had a relatively egalitarian perspective?