Friday, December 14, 2012

More Corruptions in Clement of Alexandria's Stromata

The Gnostic is therefore fixed by faith; but the man who thinks himself wise touches not what pertains to the truth, moved as he is by unstable and wavering impulses. It is therefore reasonably written, "Cain went forth from the face of God, and dwelt in the land of Naid, over against Eden." Now Naid is interpreted commotion, and Eden delight; and Faith, and Knowledge, and Peace are delight, from which he that has disobeyed is cast out. But he that is wise in his own eyes will not so much as listen to the beginning of the divine commandments; but, as if his own teacher, throwing off the reins, plunges voluntarily into a billowy commotion, sinking down to mortal and created things from the uncreated knowledge, holding various opinions at various times. "Those who have no guidance fall like leaves."

Reason, the governing principle, remaining unmoved and guiding the soul, is called its pilot. For access to the Immutable is obtained by a truly immutable means. Thus Abraham was stationed before the Lord, and approaching spoke. And to Moses it is said, "But do thou stand there with Me." And the followers of Simon wish be assimilated in manners to the standing form which they adore. Faith, therefore, and the knowledge of the truth, render the soul, which makes them its choice, always uniform and equable. For congenial to the man of falsehood is shifting, and change, and turning away, as to the Gnostic are calmness, and rest, and peace.

As, then, philosophy has been brought into evil repute by pride and self-conceit, so also ghosts by false ghosts called by the same name; of which the apostle writing says, "O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding the profane and vain babblings and oppositions of science (gnosis) falsely so called; which some professing, have erred concerning the faith." Convicted by this utterance, the heretics reject the Epistles. to Timothy. 

Well, then, if the Lord is the truth, and he is wisdom and power of God as in truth, it is shown that the real Gnostic is he that knows Him, and His Father by Him. For his sentiments are the same with him who said, "The lips of the righteous know high things." Faith as also Time being double, we shall find virtues in pairs both dwelling together. For memory is related to past time, hope to future. We believe that what is past did, and that what is future will take place. And, on the other I hand, we love, persuaded by faith that the past was as it was, and by hope expecting the future. For in everything love attends the Gnostic, who knows one God. "And, behold, all things which He created were very good." He both knows and admires.

The addition of the material from the 'Epistles to Timothy' was undoubtedly deemed necessary by Eusebius owing to two obvious difficulties from the original passage.  The first is that Clement does not explicitly condemn the hope of the heretics (= Simonians) of being assimilated to God.  Indeed Clement agrees that this is the aim of Christianity.  He just thinks that the followers of Simon are up to the task.  The second problem is that Clement certainly referenced the relationship between the Father and Son in a manner which damaged the claim that he was orthodox in the original draft.

We can certainly expect that Eusebius corrected this 'mistake' but more importantly he added the condemnation of 'false gnosis' (through 1 Timothy 6:20).  How can we be so sure?  It is clearly out of step with the original discussion, which - we should not be at all surprised to learn - is developed in turn from the writings of Philo.  For in Philo's On the Giants we read:

And the expression, "I am the Lord," must be listened to, not only as if it were equivalent to, "I am the perfect, and incorruptible, and true good," with which if any one is surrounded he will reject all that is imperfect, and corruptible, and attached to the flesh; but also as equivalent to, "I am the ruler, and the king, and the master." And it is not safe for subjects to do wrong in the presence of their rulers, nor for slaves to err before their masters; for when the punishers are near, those whose nature is not quick at submitting to admonitions are held in restraint and order by fear; for God, having filled everything with himself, is near at hand, so that he is looking over everything and standing by, we being filled with a great and holy reverence, or if not with that, at all events, having a prudent fear of the might of his authority, and of the fearful nature of his punishment, which cannot be avoided, whenever he determines to exert his punishing power, shall desist from doing wrong.

In order that the divine spirit of wisdom may not be inclined to quit our neighbourhood and depart, but that it may remain a very long time with us, as it did also with the wise Moses; for Moses is a being of the most tranquil habits, either standing still or sitting still, and not at all disposed by nature to subject himself to turns and changes; for the scripture says, "Moses and the ark did not Move," (Num 14:44) inasmuch as the wise man cannot depart from virtue, or inasmuch as virtue is not liable to move, nor is the virtuous man inclined to changes, but each of these things is established on the sure foundation of right reason. And again, the scripture saith in another passage, "But stand thou here with Me."(Deut 5:31) For this is an oracle of God, which was given to the prophet, and his station was to be one of unmoved tranquillity by God, who always stands immovably; for it is indispensable, that all things which are placed by the side of him must be kept straight by such an undeviating rule. 

On this account it is, as it seems to me, that excessive pride, named Jethro, marvelling at his unvarying and always equal choice of what was wise, a choice which always looked at the same things in the same way, was perplexed, and put a question to him in this form, "Why dost thou sit by Thyself?"(Ex 18:14) For any one who considers the continual war raging among men in the middle of peace, and existing, not merely among nations, and countries, and cities, but also among private houses, or I might rather say, between every individual man and the inexpressible and heavy storms which agitate the souls of men, which, by their evident impetuosity, throw into confusion all the affairs of life, may very naturally wonder, if in such a storm, any one can enjoy tranquillity, and can feel a calm in such a billowy state of the stormy sea.  You see that even the high priest, that is to say, reason, who might at all times remain and reside in the holy dwelling of God, has not free permission to approach them at all times, but only once in each year; for whatever is associated with reason by utterance is not firm, because it is of a twofold nature. But the safest conduct is to contemplate the living God by the soul alone, without utterance of any voice, because he exists according to the indivisible unit.

As, therefore, among men in general, that is to say, among those who propose to themselves many objects in life, the divine spirit does not remain, even though it may abide among them for a very short time, but it remains among one species of men alone, namely, among those who, having put off all the things of creation, and the inmost veil and covering of false opinion, come to God in their unconcealed and naked minds.  Thus also Moses, having fixed his tent outside of the tabernacle and outside of all the corporeal army, (Ex 33:7) that is to say, having established his mind so that it should not move, begins to worship God, and having entered into the darkness, that invisible country, remains there, performing the most sacred mysteries; and he becomes, not merely an initiated man, but also an hierophant of mysteries and a teacher of divine things, which he will explain to those whose ears are purified; therefore the divine spirit is always standing by him, conducting him in every right way: but from other men, as I have said before, it very soon separates itself, and completes their life in the number of a hundred and twenty years.

For God says, "their days shall be an hundred and twenty Years;" (Deut 24:7) but Moses, when he had arrived at that number of years, departed from mortal life to another. How, then, can it be natural for men who are guilty to live an equal length of time with the all-wise prophet? for the present, it will be sufficient to say this, that things which bear the same name are not in all cases alike, but very often they are distinct in their whole genus; and also that which is bad may have equal numbers and times with what is good, since they are represented as twofold, but still they have their respective powers, distinct from one another, and as remote and different as possible.  And we shall hereafter institute a more exact discussion of this period of a hundred and twenty years, which we will however postpone, till we come to an examination of the whole life of the prophet, when we have become fit to be initiated in it, but at present we will discuss what comes next in order.

The original material in Clement is almost incomprehensible without referencing the writings of Philo.  Philo makes it clear that the goal of the followers of Simon is the same as the ancient Israelites and now that of the earliest Christians - namely to become a 'standing one' (that is, to quote the final lines of a Stairway to Heaven, 'to be a rock and not to roll').

If Jimmy Page and Robert Plant could sing about these concepts, why do we presume that Eusebius many centuries earlier had to root them out of Clement's writings?  The clearest reason is that Jesus is certainly for Clement a heavenly hypostasis who - most importantly given Eusebius's living through the constraints of the Nicaean period - who is portrayed as a 'creature' of the Father.  Man is understood to be slowly developed into an mirror of the divine Word.  Clement clearly assumed the subordination of the Son in comparison with the Father.  This had to be changed but even more significantly the implications of Clement's mystical system - i.e. where man ultimately is capable of being 'like Jesus' is a related problem.

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