Thursday, 30 June 2011

Piotr Ashwin-Siejkowski - Clement of Alexandria on the creation of Eve: exegesis in the service of a pedagogical project

During the second century of the Common Era the Scriptural motif of the creation of Eve (Gen 1.27 and 2:22-23) received particular attention among exegetes and theologians representing the whole spectrum of Christianity. It served various purposes such as the construction of the feminine as opposed to masculine; a basis for the acceptance or rejection of the possible androgyny of the first human being; the justification or challenging of male dominance in the emerging Christian social and ecclesiastical order. 

My paper offers insight into some aspects of Clement of Alexandria’s exegesis through which he participated vigorously in the early Christian debate on the creation of Eve and her original nature. The purpose of the paper is to highlight Clement’s creative reinterpretation of the motif. His interpretation served two main purposes: first it promoted Clement’s conviction about women’s potential to progress towards the highest degree of ethical and spiritual excellence. Secondly, Clement’s interpretation challenged the concepts of his direct opponents, such as for instance the Valentinians, who presented a different anthropology, ethics and theory of salvation. My reconstruction of Clement’s exegesis briefly points out limits of his dependence on earlier significant authors such as Plato, Philo of Alexandria and Paul the Apostle. In conclusion I estimate the value of Clement’s exegesis, as a part of his wider educational project of leading his female disciples to more advance faith and knowledge. 

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