The Steps of Conversion: Biblical Exegesis and Philosophical Protreptic in Clement of Alexandria

This article explores some aspects of Clement of Alexandria’s use of moral exhortation (or protreptic), a genre widely practiced both by Greek philosophers and early Christian writers. While modern scholars have commonly limited the analysis of Clement’s use of this genre to his Protrepticus to the Greeks, I will try to take a step further by pointing to some protreptic elements found in the first book of the Paedagogus. Along with discussing some biblical and philosophical topoi, I will focus my analysis on the medical language and imagery found in that book. As I intend to show, the use of medical imagery was a rhetorical device Clement made use of to reinforce his protreptic appeal to the Greeks to convert to Christianity. Reading Clement’s Paedagogus in light of the categories of the protreptic genre is important as it allows us to readdress not only the question of its purpose, but also that of its sources and intended readership. Against the communis opinio that the addressees of this book were only the already-converted Christians, I will try to argue that Clement’s intended audience also encompassed the Alexandrian pagan intellectuals of his day.