But as the Carpocratians, a gnostic sect, interpreted it in their own way, Clement opposed their interpretation. Of particular interest is the story of the young man raised from the dead, which could derive from a tradition circulating at the time and must have been a free redaction, predating Jn 11, of the raising of Lazarus. From this it is evident that Clement represents a wider view of canonicity than our own, and that everything concerning the life and teaching of the Redeemer was important to him. We should note that the citations in his writings reveal a vast knowledge of earlier Christian literature, as well as of Hellenistic Jewish literature, where his main source is Philo of Alexandria. But his knowledge of secular literature is also surprising. We know various works solely through his citations; of others we know only the title, and that also through him. Manuals and school writings that he drew upon have been suggested; this may be so, but we must not forget that a master in the art of citations and in literature, as Clement was, gave his information a personal tone, and the consultation of a manual would offer him new stimuli and incentives.
III. Doctrine. For the NT, Clement uses the primitive Alexandrian text. Like other types of text this is relatively free from additions and open to different interpretative possibilities, but also faithful and good. This has led to its being seen as a prototype of the so-called Western text, whose origin must be placed much later. We must not forget the technique of the citations in Clement, who magisterially perfects the old Hellenistic practice in etymology and the use of words. Of his high esteem for Greek philosophy as a way to Christ we find many citations, a good half of them from Plato, the other half from Jesus’s words in the NT, which give the passages cited from Plato their full meaning.
Since for Clement Greek philosophy, dependent on the oldest and greatest wisdom of humankind, is a precious good, it has a function similar to the OT. Some suggestions, such as thefts of the Greeks or the mediation of demons as the origin of philosophy, come from the arsenal of apologetic and polemic and are therefore mentioned, but they are not in harmony with his specific ideas. In any case the ascending line of his search for truth starts from the primordial wells of human thought on philosophy, and still more from the OT, and ends with the apostles, and above all with Christ.
The principles of his thought, like his critical discussion of it, come mainly from JewishAlexandrian philosophy, and from that form of Platonism which included the Middle Platonism of the school tending to Neoplatonism, and finally from his dialogue with gnosticism. All this was under the guidance and light of Christian faith, the penetration of which was his ultimate aim. Considered in this light, we understand better his continuity with the earlier Christian tradition, more influenced by Semitism, which he knew well and transformed for the benefit of the Greeks. The case is different for traditions merely reported: e.g., comparing Justin’s trinitarian doctrine with that of Clement, we find nothing new, something hardly surprising in an ante-Nicene writer.