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2012 | 57 | 483-493

Article title

Chrześcijanin a dobra materialne w refleksji szkoły aleksandryjskiej: od Klemensa do Dydyma


Title variants

Christian towards material goods. Reflection of the Alexandrian school from Clemens to Didymus the Blind

Languages of publication



The article presents how three great Alexandrian writers (Clemens, Origen and Didymus the Blind) estimated possession of material wealth. The first of them in Quis dives salvetur? assures Alexandria’s rich Christians that they also can achieve salvation, although under certain circumstances. Clemens explains Jesus’ words to the rich young man: „Sell everything you have, and give to the poor” (Mk 10, 21) allegorically. This order means that the wealthy should remove from the heart attachment to material goods and extirpate all passions which are bound up with them. The author wonders rhetorically: Who will help the poor, if we all will be devoid of material goods? Clemens regards earthly riches as things which are in themselves indifferent (adiafora). Christians should use them in moderation and for God’s glory. Besides, they must look for the poor and help them. Origen, in his turn, first interprets literally the pericope of the rich young man (Mt 19, 16-26). Considering the question from the ascetic perspective, the great writer thinks that it’s impossible to reconcile riches with Christian perfec­tion. Origen accepts also the allegorical interpretation, according to which „pos­sessions” symbolize evil passions and deeds. However to him such explanation seems to be overdone. Besides, in his opinion, the man who didn’t give up his riches, will never be able to free himself from evil passions. Therefore, according to Origen, it’s hard for the wealthy to achieve salvation. That will be possible only thanks to God’s omnipotence. So Origen’s words could infuse worry and uncer­tainty into the rich. Didymus, the last teacher of the Alexandrian school, following the Stoics and Clemens, defines material goods as adiafora. He adds also that these aren’t goods in the proper sense. Moreover, the author admits that riches are a secondary gift of God. Obviously they are that, if one uses them as far as they are necessary. But the most important aspect is that Didymus emphasizes resolutely a positive potential of material wealth. By means of it one may help other people, includ­ing for example the support of the sage. Riches if used right – asserts the author following the Platonic and Aristotelian tradition – can contribute to moral virtue of their owner. This way material goods become an instrument through which one may merit eternal life. Surely with such rhetoric Didymus could impress the rich. We must admit that his stance was due to the historical context as well, since Christianity became in the IV century the official state religion. Its new condition certainly contributed to a more mature look at social and economic questions.







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Document Type

Publication order reference


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