‘To Open the Eyes of the Blind’ The Spectacle and Performance of Salvation in Clement of Alexandria’s Protrepticus
Writing at the close of the second century, the early Christian author Clement of Alexandria offered an innovative presentation of his Christian gospel in his exhortatory Protrepticus. Clement framed his appeal to faith in the Divine Logos of Jesus Christ within a fundamentally performative framework. Couched in the poetry, drama and mythology of the Greco-Roman world to which he wrote, Clement presented Christ on stage – performing rightly in the place of a fallen humanity. This dramatic framing was an innovation previously unseen in Early Christian literature, and offered the reader not only an introduction to the Christian faith, but to Clement’s Christian philosophy more broadly.
This thesis explores Clement’s innovative presentation of this divine drama, and the impact it has on converting his reader first into audience member, and then into Christian believer. The Protrepticus is the first in a trilogy of major works – followed by the Paedagogus and the Stromateis. Whilst the latter two texts have commanded the majority of scholarly attention devoted to Clement, this thesis will address that imbalance, and explore how a right understanding of this first major work unlocks Clement’s entire intellectual project.