|St Clement of Alexandria
Claim to fame: Titus Flavius Clemens, also known as Clement of Alexandria was a Christian theologian and philosopher who taught at the Catechetical School of Alexandria. Among his pupils were Origen and Alexander of Jerusalem. A convert to Christianity, he was an educated man who was familiar with classical Greek philosophy and literature. As his three major works demonstrate, Clement was influenced by Hellenistic philosophy to a greater extent than any other Christian thinker of his time, and in particular, by Plato and the Stoics. His secret works, which exist only in fragments, suggest that he was familiar with pre-Christian Jewish esotericism and Gnosticism as well. In one of his works, he argued that Greek philosophy had its origin among non-Greeks, claiming that both Plato and Pythagoras were taught by Egyptian scholars.
Clement is usually regarded as a Church Father.
His ministry, both in and outside the Alexandrian church, was cut abruptly short in 202, when persecution broke out during the reign of Emperor Septimius Severus. Clement was compelled to flee the city. He settled in Cappadocia, and by 215 had died.
But his influence did not end when his life did. He was, according to tradition, the teacher of Origen, a theologian of immense influence in the next generation. His mystical theology may have also influenced Psuedo-Dionysius, who was the theologian who shaped medieval mysticism. And in the 1700s, John Wesley drew on Clement’s depiction of the true Gnostic for help in describing Christian perfection.
Quote: “Let us remove the ignorance and darkness that spreads like a mist over our sight, and let us get a vision of the true God.”
Fun fact: Neither Clement’s birthdate or birthplace is known with any degree of certainty. It is conjectured that he was born sometime around 150 AD. According to Epiphanius of Salamis, he was born in Athens, but there is also a tradition of an Alexandrian birth.