BMCR 2009.09.19

Christos Didaskalos. The Christology of Clement of Alexandria

, Christos Didaskalos. The Christology of Clement of Alexandria. Saarbrücken: VDM Verlag Dr. Müller, 2008. 245. ISBN 9783836466905. £54.00; €79.00 (pb).

Oleh Kindiy’s book on Clement of Alexandria’s Christology is worthwhile reading for those who are interested in the theme, but the book is not without problems.

The book is divided into three main parts: Part A) A comprehensive introduction; Part B) An even more comprehensive examination of the history of research in Clement’s logology, as Kindiy calls it; Part C) A presentation and discussion of what Kindiy finds are the most important themes in Clement’s Christology – Logos as the New Song, the Didaskalos, and the High Priest. In addition to these main parts, the book also contains conclusions, an appendix showing the content of Christian education in second-century Alexandria, a comprehensive bibliography, and an abstract.

The main purpose of the book, according to Kindiy’s preface, is “to explore Clement’s Christology, which comprehensively combined Christian theology with Hellenistic philosophy and poetry, traditional Jewish theology and hermeneutics, and Gnostic cosmology” (p. 3). Kindiy tries to fulfil this purpose by critically reviewing the history of research in Clement’s Christology, criticising the approaches which put too much weight on the cosmological aspects of Clement’s logos-Christology and too little weight on the perspective of logos’ incarnation (part B). In the third main part of the book (part C) this survey and critique of the previous research is followed by Kindiy’s own interpretations, where focus is on the incarnated Logos’ function as teacher and high priest. Kindiy is partially successful in fulfilling his purpose. The essential problem of the book is that its main parts are out of balance: The general introduction and the survey of the research history are far too comprehensive while his own interpretations in the third part of the book are too short. However, the survey of the research history is helpful for beginners in the study of Clement’s theology, and Kindiy’s own interpretations in the third part of the book, though short, are also informative.

The first main part of the book consists of seven introductory paragraphs on themes such as (a) method in the study of early Christianity, (b) what is patristic Christology? (c) Clement’s life, (d) Clement’s works, etc. These paragraphs occupy about 40 pages. Several of the paragraphs are very general in outline and content and do not contribute much to the investigation of Clement’s Christology.

Kindiy’s survey of the history of research on Clement’s teaching about logos (logology) begins with Paden, who represents a ‘Dogmengeschichtlich’ approach characteristic of late nineteenth-century research. Paden finds a Logos in the writings of Clement who fits into later Nicene theology – a Logos who is consubstantial with the Father. This approach was criticised by scholars in the twentieth century (Casey, Wolfson, Daniélou, Lilla and others), who all, one way or another, claimed that Clement believed in two – or even three – logoi: the one being potential inside God’s mind and the other connected with cosmos as creator or as the first of the created things. The relation between these two logoi was emanatory. Another group of scholars (Völker, Osborn, Fascher, Grillmeier, Kovac and others) claim that there is only one Logos in Clement – the Son of God. According to these scholars, Logos’ relation to God the Father is the main relation in the logology of Clement. Logos’ relation to cosmos and humanity can be seen as different aspects of Logos’ one identity (so Osborn). Kindiy agrees with the last group of scholars claiming that the Logos of Clement should also be understood in Christological terms and, further, that this Christological Logos should be understood as one with both a metaphysical aspect (the Son, Wisdom, and Countenance of God) and an aspect connected to this world (Creator, incarnated Educator, Saviour, High Priest, and New Song). Kindiy has thus prepared himself and the reader for the third part of the book, where he presents his own interpretation of Clement’s Christology, which focuses on Logos as the incarnated Educator, Saviour etc. Accordingly, the second main part of the book fits well into Kindiy’s plan of his study. However, the chapter is far too long, in my opinion, and it consists almost uniquely of summaries of earlier research. He could have reached the same result using a lot fewer pages.

In the third part of his book, Kindiy tries to transpose the metaphysically conceived logology into the sphere of Christian paideia as expressed in Christian initiation, education, preaching, rituals and so on. According to Kindiy, this is where Clement is really in his element. Therefore, to give a full picture of Clement’s understanding of the divine Logos, the metaphysically conceived logology, which is part of Clement’s logology, must be completed with this more concrete pedagogical aspect. In this way, logology is transformed to Christology. Paidea thus becomes the central concept in Kindiy’s presentation of Clement’s Christology. In the chapter, Kindiy concentrates on the images of Christ: Christ as the New Song, the teacher (Didaskalos), and the High Priest. According to Kindiy, there is a progressive relation between these three images, which reflects a programme presented by Clement in Paedagogus Here persuasion is followed by education, the care for the self and, finally, Gnostic self-realisation. Further, it is important for Kindiy to point out that the connection of the metaphysical logology with incarnational Christology implies a historicising which means that Christological pedagogy is concerned with concrete people, at concrete places, and in concrete times – in Clement’s case, Alexandria in the second century A.D.

Christ as the New Song is the captivating fish net which attracts non-Christians to Christianity and which retains them as Christians. The first changes of the new Christians in the congregation are also the work of the New Song.

At the next stage, Christ the Pedagogue takes over the responsibility for the newly converted and teaches them how to live as Christians. After that, the Pedagogue teaches the Christians how to read the Bible in a proper way, for example by introducing them to the ideas of different levels of the biblical texts. Further, the Pedagogue teaches Christians about the identity of God, which was hidden from them until then, and also about the identity and destiny of humans. Another part of the Pedagogue’s work is to heal humanity in order to lead humanity back to its original health.

Christ as High Priest brings the advanced Christians who have been taught by the Pedagogue and Teacher to the highest level of knowledge (gnosis). At this level, the Christians will be able to see and contemplate God, and they will consequently be one with God (theosis).

Kindiy has, in my opinion, managed to present quite a comprehensive picture of Clement’s logology and Christology. I think he is right to point out that it is a much too narrow interpretation of Clement’s concept of Logos’ identity and work to restrict it to the metaphysical level. A connection of the metaphysical and the pedagogical levels leads to a much fuller understanding of Clement’s concept of Logos, and it paves the way for a fuller understanding of Clement’s Christology, which includes the work of the incarnated Christ.

Kindiy reaches his results through an intensive use of scholarly literature on Clement, of which he brings long accounts. This provides the reader with a fine overview of this literature, but from time to time it is also rather tiresome reading. What is worse, however, is that only in the last part of the book does the reader get an impression of Kindiy’s own ideas. At that point, the book becomes interesting, but these paragraphs on Logos as New Song, Pedagogue and High Priest are quite short, and also here, many pages are filled with accounts of scholarly literature. It would have been very interesting if Kindiy had expended more time and space on his own readings of Clement. His ideas deserve to be further elaborated.