The role of Greek rhetorical education in the Pseudo-Clementine Novel: Judeo-Christianity versus Paganism for the ‘True’ Paideia”
The Pseudo-Clementines is the traditional title of a unique, Jewish-Christian novel (3rd-4th century), transmitted in several versions of which the Greek, Latin and Syriac ones are the most extensive. This contribution focuses on the Greek version, called the Homilies. This novel in which the main characters, the Apostle Peter and his follower Clement of Rome, enter into discussion with the opponents Simon Magus and the Egyptian grammaticus Appion, shows us how those characters claim truth and argue about the true culture and education, and the role philosophy, rhetoric, mythology and revelation were thought to play in cultural identities.
This contribution focuses on the role Greek rhetorical education, in particular progymnasmata, played in the Clementines, and this in two ways. On the one hand, Greek paideia in all its aspects is refuted in an epistemological and moral way, among which Greek rhetorical education and the accompanying progymnasmata. On the other hand, Greek paideia, among which those rhetorical principles, is just very important in the construction of this novel. It is interesting to note how the Jewish-Christian Homilist shows himself as a good student of Greek rhetoric, while refuting it, he is using it. For example, he is the one who is able to refer to works of classical philosophy and literature – such as Homer, Hesiod, and Plato –, which resulted in an interesting, paradoxical opposition between pagan “paideia” (in the double meaning of Greek culture and education) and the Jewish-Christian identity in the Pseudo-Clementines. This contribution will elaborate on this paradoxical opposition by showing that the Homilist is a master of dissimulation, irony and intellectual wrestling with the world of the non-Jewish-Christian ‘opponents’, which has more in common with the Homilist and his background than he wants to show at first glance. What does this mean for the socio-historical context of this unique, Jewish-Christian novel? How does the author deal with this seemingly paradoxical stance concerning Greek paideia? And what does that teach us about the role Greek paideia played in the late ancient, Jewish-Christian context?