CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA
[Translated by John Ernest Leonard Oulton and Henry Chadwick in Alexandrian Christianity: Selected translations of Clement and Origen, Philadelphia, 1954.]
1. The Valentinians, who hold that the union of man and woman is derived from the divine emanation in heaven above, approve of marriage. The followers of Basilides, on the other hand, say that when the apostles asked whether it was not better not to marry, the Lord replied: "Not all can receive this saying; there are some eunuchs who are so from birth, others are so of necessity." And there explanation of this saying is roughly as follows: Some men, from their birth, have a natural sense of repulsion from a woman; and those who are naturally so constituted do well not to marry. Those who are eunuchs of necessity are those theatrical ascetics who only control themselves because they have a passion for the limelight. [And those who have suffered accidental castration have become eunuchs of necessity.] Those, then, who are eunuchs of necessity have no sound reason for their abstinence from marriage. But those who for the sake of the eternal kingdom have made themselves eunuchs derive this idea, they say, from a wish to avoid the distractions involved in marriage, because they are afraid of having to waste time in providing for the necessities of life.
2. And they say that by the words "it is better to marry than to burn" the apostle means this: "Do not cast your soul into the fire, so that you have to endure might and day and go in fear lest you should fall from continence. For a soul which has to concentrate upon endurance has lost hope." In his Ethics Isidore says in these very words: "Abstain, then, from a quarrelsome woman lest you are distracted from the grace of God. But when you have rejected the fire of the seed, then pray with an undisturbed conscience. And when your prayer of thanksgiving," he says, "descends to a prayer of request, and your request is not that in the future you may do right, but that you may do no wrong, then marry. But perhaps a man is too young, or poor, or suffers from weak health, and has not the will to marry as the apostle's saying suggests. Such a man should not separate himself from his brother Christian. He should say, I have come into the sanctuary, I can suffer nothing. And if he has a presentiment that he may fall, he may say, Brother, lay your hand on me lest I sin, and he will receive help both spiritually and physically. Let him only wish to accomplish what is right and he will achieve his object.
3. "Sometimes, however, we say with our mouth 'I wish not to sin' while our mind is really inclined toward sin. Such a man does not do what he wishes for fear lest any punishment should be in store for him. Human nature has some wants which are necessary and natural, and others which are only natural. To be clothed is necessary and natural; sexual intercourse is natural but not necessary."
I have quoted these remarks to prove in erro those Bsilidians who do not live purely, supposing either that they have the power even to commit sin because of their perfection, or indeed that they will be saved by nature even if they sin in this life because they possess an innate selection. For the original teachers of their doctrines do not allow one to do the same as they are now doing. They ought not, therefore, to take as a covering cloak the name of Christ and, by living lewder lives than the most uncontrolled heathen, bring blasphemy upon his name. "For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers" as far as the words "whose ends shall be like their works."
4. Continence is an ignoring of the body in accordance with the confession
of faith in God. For continence is not merely a matter of sexual abstinence,
but applies also to the other things for which the soul has an evil desire
because it is not satisfied with the necessities of life. There is also
a continence of the tongue, of money, of use, and of desire. It does not
only teach us to exercise self-control; it is rather that self-control
is granted to us, since it is a divine power and grace. Accordingly I must
declare what is the opinion of our people about this subject. Our view
is that we welcome as blessed the state of abstinence from marriage in
those to whom this has been granted by God. We admire monogamy and the
high standing of single marriage, holding that we ought to share suffering
with another and "bear one another's burdens," lest anyone who thinks he
stands securely should himself fall. It is of second marriage that the
apostle says, If you burn, marry.
[In his discussion of marriage, Clement disputes the teachings of several "heretics," including Julius Cassianus, who taught that all sex was to be avoided:]
91. Such are the arguments of Julius Cassianus, the originator of docetism. At any rate in his book Concerning Continence [peri egkrateias] [or Concerning] Celibacy [peri eunouchias] he says these words: "And let no one say that because we have these parts, that the female is shaped this way and the male that way, the one to receive, the other to give seed, sexual intercourse is allowed by God. For if this arrangement had been made by God, to whom we seek to attain, he would not have pronounced eunuchs blessed; nor would the prophet have said that they are 'not an unfruitful tree,' using the tree as an illustration of the man [anthropon] who chooses to emasculate [eunouchizonta] himself of any such notion" ...
97. ... Again the Lord says, "Let not the married person seek a divorce, nor the unmarried person marriage," that is, he who has confessed his intention of being celibate [eunouchias], let him remain unmarried.
98. To both the same Lord gives the following promises by the prophet Isaiah in the following words: "Let not the eunuch say: I am dry wood. To eunuchs the Lord says this, If you keep my sabbaths and do all that I command you, I will give you a place better than sons and daughters." For a eunuch is not justified merely because he is a eunuch, and certainly not because he observes the sabbath, if he does not keep the commandments. And for the married he goes on to say, "My elect shall not labour in vain nor bear children to be accursed; for they are a seed blessed by the Lord." For him who begets children and brings them up and educates them in the Lord, just as for him who begets children by means of the true teaching, a reward is laid up, as also for the elect seed. But others hold that procreation is a curse and do not understand that the Scripture speaks against them. Those who are in truth the Lord's elect neither teach doctrines nor beget children to be accursed, as the sects do.
99. A eunuch, then, does not mean a man who has been castrated [ho
kateenagkasmenos ta moria], nor even an unmarried man [ho agamos
eireetai], but a man who is unproductive of truth [ho agonos aleetheias].
Formerly, he was "dry wood," but if he obeys the word and observes the
sabbaths by abstaining from sins and keeps the commandments, he will be
in higher honour than those who are educated in word alone and fail to
do what is right. "Little children," says our teacher, "a little while
longer I am with you." That is why Paul also instructs the Galatians in
these words: "My little children, with whom I travail in birth again until
Christ be formed in you." And again he writes to the Corinthians: "For
though you may have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you have not
many fathers. For in Christ I have begotten you through the gospel." On
this account a eunuch "shall not enter into God's assembly," that is, the
man who is unproductive and unfruitful [ho agonos kai akarpos] in
conduct and in word; but blessed are those who have made themselves eunuchs,
free from all sin, for the sake of the kingdom of heaven by their abstinence
from the world."
PAEDAGOGUS [THE EDUCATOR]
[As translated in Ante-Nicene Fathers, 1950 edition, Volume 2.]
Chapter IV. With whom we are to associate.
But really I have unwittingly deviated in spirit from the order, to which I must now revert, and must find fault with having large numbers of domestics. For, avoiding working with their own
hands and serving themselves, men have recourse to servants, purchasing a great crowd of fine cooks, and of people to lay out the table, and of others to divide the meat skilfully into pieces. And the staff of servants is separated into many divisions; some labour for their gluttony, carvers and seasoners, and the compounders and makers of sweetmeats, and honey-cakes, and custards; others are occupied with their too numerous clothes; others guard the gold, like griffins; others keep the silver, and wipe the cups, and make ready what is needed to furnish the festive table; others rub down the horses; and a crowd of cup-bearers exert themselves in their service, and herds of beautiful boys, like cattle, from whom they milk away their beauty. And male and female assistants at the toilet are employed about the ladies--some for the mirrors, some for the head-dresses, others for the combs. Many are eunuchs; and these panders serve without suspicion those that wish to be free to enjoy their pleasures, because of the belief that they are unable to indulge in lust. But a true eunuch is not one who is unable, but one who is unwilling, to indulge in pleasure. The Word, testifying by the prophet Samuel to the Jews, who had transgressed when the people asked for a king, promised not a loving lord, but threatened to give them a self-willed and voluptuous tyrant, "who shall," He says, "take your daughters to be perfumers, and cooks, and bakers," ruling by the law of war, not desiring a peaceful administration. And there are many Celts, who bear aloft on their shoulders women's litters. But workers in wool, and spinners, and weavers, and female work and housekeeping, are nowhere.
But those who impose on the women, spend the day with them, telling them silly amatory stories, and wearing out body and soul with their false acts and words. "Thou shalt not be with many," it is said, "for evil, nor give thyself to a multitude;" for wisdom shows itself among few, but disorder in a multitude. But it is not for grounds of propriety, on account of not wishing to be seen, that they purchase bearers, for it were commendable if out of such feelings they put themselves under a covering; but it is out of luxuriousness that they are carried on their domestics' shoulders, and desire to make a show.
So, opening the curtain, and looking keenly round on all that direct their eyes towards them, they show their manners; and often bending forth from within, disgrace this superficial propriety by their dangerous restlessness. "Look not round," it is said, "in the streets of the city, and wander not in its lonely places." For that is, in truth, a lonely place, though there be a crowd of the licentious in it, where no wise man is present.
And these women are carried about over the temples, sacrificing and practising divination day by day, spending their time with fortune-tellers, and begging priests, and disreputable old women; and they keep up old wives' whisperings over their cups, learning charms and incantations from soothsayers, to the ruin of the nuptial bonds. And some men they keep, by others they are kept; and others are promised them by the diviners. They know not that they are cheating themselves, and giving up themselves as a vessel of pleasure to those that wish to indulge in wantonness; and exchanging their purity for the foulest outrage, they think what is the most shameful ruin a great stroke of business. And there are many ministers to this meretricious licentiousness, insinuating themselves, one from one quarter, another from another. For the licentious rush readily into uncleanness, like swine rushing to that part of the hold of the ship which is depressed. Whence the Scripture most strenuously exhorts, "Introduce not every one into thy house, for the snares of the crafty are many." And in another place, "Let just men be thy guests, and in the fear of the Lord let thy boast remain." Away with fornication. "For know this well," says the apostle, "that no fornicator, or unclean person, or covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God."
But these women delight in intercourse with the effeminate [androgunoon].
And crowds of abominable creatures [kinaidoon] flow in, of unbridled
tongue, filthy in body, filthy in language; men enough [heendromenoi]
for lewd offices, ministers of adultery, giggling and whispering, and shamelessly
making through their noses sounds of lewdness and fornication to provoke
lust, endeavouring to please by lewd words and attitudes, inciting to laughter,
the precursor of fornication. And sometimes, when inflamed by any provocation,
either these fornicators, or those that follow the rabble of abominable
creatures to destruction, make a sound in their nose like a frog, as if
they had got anger dwelling in their nostrils. But those who are more refined
than these keep Indian birds and Median pea-fowls, and recline with peak-headed
creatures; playing with satyrs, delighting in monsters. They laugh when
they hear Thersites; and these women, purchasing Thersiteses highly valued,
pride themselves not in their husbands, but in those wretches which are
a burden on the earth, and overlook the widow, who is of far higher value
than a Melitaean pup, and look askance at a just old man, who is lovelier
in my estimation than a monster purchased for money. And though maintaining
parrots and curlews, they do not receive the orphan child; but they expose
children that are born at home, and take up the young of birds, and prefer
irrational to rational creatures; although they ought to undertake the
maintenance of old people with a character for sobriety, who are fairer
in my mind than apes, and capable of uttering something better than nightingales;
and to set before them that saying, "He that pitieth the poor lendeth to
the Lord;" and this, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these
My brethren, ye have done it to Me." But these, on the other hand, prefer
ignorance to wisdom, turning their wealth into stone, that is, into pearls
and Indian emeralds. And they squander and throw away their wealth on fading
dyes, and bought slaves; like crammed fowls scraping the dung of life.
"Poverty," it is said, "humbles a man." By poverty is meant that niggardliness
by which the rich are poor, having nothing to give away.