"Providence and Paideia in Early Christian Alexandria" Open Access

Woods, Ryan Thomas (2013)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/jd472x01z?locale=en



"Providence and Paideia in Early Christian Alexandria"
By Ryan T. Woods

In this dissertation, I investigate reflection on divine providence and the formation of paideia (school culture) in Christian Alexandria (c. 100-250). My research focuses on a conceit developed in the writings of Clement and Origen of Alexandria that divine providence functions as an educator. This cosmic pedagogy serves as a model for the Christian teacher, who participates in a divine economy of instruction. It frames discussions of free will, ethics, and the interpretation of canonical texts, providing a point of comparison with other educational traditions in late antiquity. Faulty paradigms and selective reading of the evidence have led scholars to mischaracterize the Hellenic features of their thought as evidence of dependence or even corruption of a Christian essence. Although Clement and Origen develop this conceit using philosophical and literary discourse, I argue that their primary loyalty lies with the biblical narrative. In this respect, they built upon the pre-existing traditions of the Alexandrian Judaism from which they emerged. I devote particular attention to the adoption of philological techniques to interpret Scripture as a curriculum of ascent, and to the idealized depictions of the "divine" educator as the product of this paideia in the writings of these Alexandrian Christians. Clement and Origen see Hellenic culture as a useful instrument for clarifying and articulating Christian identity, but remain wary of its limitations. What emerges from my analysis, then, is not the dilution of a pure expression, but the translation of a religious tradition into a new idiom.

Table of Contents


Table of Contents

Introduction 1

Chapter 1. At the Origins of Alexandrian Christianity: Texts, Traditions, Trajectories 21

Chapter 2. Providence as Divine Pedagogy in Clement of Alexandria 86

Chapter 3. Cosmos, Scripture, and the Pedagogy of the Soul in Origen 141

Chapter 4. The Grammar of Grace: Philology as Divine Pedagogy 188

Chapter 5. The Divine Instructor 239

Bibliography 286


Clement's Programmatic Statements about the Purpose of the Stromateis 115

Works of Clement and the Laurentianus 117

Uses of Proverbs in Stromateis 1 130

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