Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Clement's Use of the Term Chrestoi Clearly Belies Its Contemporary Attachment to a Heretical Group

If the reader looks carefully at Clement's testimony it becomes near certain that Celsus is the original source of these arguments against the heresies. We shall take a closer look at this later. But first the testimony from Clement:
For it is not suitable to the nature of the thing itself, that they should apprehend in the truly gnostic manner the truth, that all things which were created for our use are good (καλὰ); as, for example, marriage and procreation, when used in moderation (σωφροσύνη); and that it is better than good (καλοῦ δὲ εἶναι ἄμεινον) to become free of passion, and virtuous by assimilation to the divine.

But in the case of external things, agreeable or disagreeable (εὐχρήστοις ἢ δυσχρήστοις), from some they abstain, from others not. But in those things from which they abstain from disgust, they plainly find fault with the creature and the Creator; and though in appearance they walk faithfully, the opinion they maintain is impious. That command, "Thou shall not lust," needs neither the necessity arising from fear, which compels to keep from things that are pleasant; nor the reward, which by promise persuades to restrain the impulses of passion.

And those who obey God through the promise, caught by the bait of pleasure, choose obedience not for the sake of the commandment, but for the sake of the promise. Nor will turning away from objects of sense, as a matter of necessary consequence, produce attachment to intellectual objects. On the contrary, the attachment to intellectual objects naturally becomes to the Gnostic an influence which draws away from the objects of sense; inasmuch as he, in virtue of the selection of what is good, has chosen what is good according to knowledge (gnwstikwu), admiring generation, and by sanctifying the Creator sanctifying assimilation to the divine.

But I shall free myself from lust, let him say, O Lord, for the sake of alliance with Thee. For the economy of creation is good, and all things are well administered: nothing happens without a cause. I must be in what is Thine, O Omnipotent One. And if I am there, I am near Thee. And I would be free of fear that I may be able to draw near to Thee, and to be satisfied with little, practising Thy just choice between things good and things like. [Strom 4.23]

Let me note that the reference to 'Do not lust' is a passage from an extra-canonical gospel Clement's Alexandrian community shared with the heresies (cf. Stromata Book Three).  Assuming of course Clement's community is not in reality the heretical association being attacked by outsiders.

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