From Science to Silence: Clement of Alexandria and Origen

Andrew Radde‐Gallwitz

in Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and the Transformation of Divine Simplicity

Published in print October 2009 | ISBN: 9780199574117
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191722110 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Early Christian Studies

From Science to Silence: Clement of Alexandria and Origen

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Chapter 2 engages the theological epistemology of Clement of Alexandria. It argues that Clement portrays Christian faith along the lines of what Aristotle called ‘science’ (epistêmê), though he also draws on Epicurean and Stoic epistemology. Like Aristotelian science, faith rests upon infallible first principles. For Clement, these are the scriptures and the Logos or Christ. But beyond these principles lies the Father, whom Clement argues is utterly ineffable. Clement espouses a radical apophaticism—the idea that no name can properly be given to God. In this, he draws upon Middle Platonist commentaries on Plato's Parmenides. A final section discusses Origen, who, like Clement, distinguishes between a simple Father and a complex Son. Of particular interest is Origen's doctrine of conceptualization (epinoia), the idea that the titles of Christ in scripture provide various ways of looking at his complex being. Attention is given to the question of whether Origen held the identity thesis when discussing the attributes of the simple Father. Origen's influence on both the Cappadocians and their opponent Eunomius is suggested. To the former, Origen bequeathed the idea of conceptualization, though they will maintain the Son's simplicity.

Keywords: Clement of Alexandria; epistemology; Aristotle; Stoicism; Epicureanism; radical apophaticism; Middle Platonism; Plato; Parmenides; Origen; conceptualization

Chapter.  11937 words. 

Subjects: Early Christianity ; Christian Theology

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