Saturday, 2 May 2015

Brice Rogers: "Trampling on the Garment of Shame": Clement of Alexandria's use of the Gospel of the Egyptians in Anti-Gnostic Polemic

It is widely recognized that Clement of Alexandria preserves the few quotes of the Gospel of the Egyptians that have survived until the present day, especially in Book III of his Stromateis.  The passages that have survived show that although it is not a Gnostic text, Egyptians diverged significantly from the perspective of the Synoptics and John.  Scholars have largely assumed that this gospel account circulated widely in the second and third centuries and was highly respected, especially in Egypt.  It has been further assumed that Clement of Alexandria fully endorsed this gospel account as authoritative.  This paper will question the prevailing view regarding Clement's perspective on the Gospel of the Egyptians and its standing in the churches of Alexandria in the late second century.  It will be argued that the bulk of available evidence indicates that Clement did not wholly approve of Egyptians and in fact merely used it as one of many weapons in his anti-Gnostic polemic.  The primary resources for this study will be Clement's own writings and certain Gnostic texts that have survived, especially those among the Nag Hammadi library.  Ancient authorities including Origen, Hippolytus and Epiphanius will also be consulted.  The opinions of early modern and contemporary scholars will also be considered.  Finally, attention will be given to how Clement constructs his arguments against the teachings of such diverse figures as Julius Cassianus, Tatian, Theodotus and Valentinus using the Gospel of the Egyptians as a tool at his disposal.

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