Yli-Karjanmaa, Sami: “Not to All Without Distinction”: Literary Techniques of Inclusion and Exclusion in Clement of Alexandria

My postdoc project Clement of Alexandriaʼs Position on Reincarnation (funded by the Academy of Finland) deals with a specific question in the history of ideas of early Christianity. What did Clement, a Greek convert to Christianity and an early church father steeped in philosophy, think of the Pythagorean–Platonic idea of reincarnation? According to this tenet souls do not live on earth just once, because they need several lives in order to achieve the right orientation and sufficient purity in order to be saved. Despite scholarly claims that Clement rejected the doctrine, close reading of his corpus reveals that he nowehere spells out an explicit stance. This differs markedly from some of his Christian contemporaries like Tertullian or Irenaeus who denounce reincarnation in the strongest of terms. What Clement is explicit about, however, is that his largest surviving work, the Stromateis, has “the truth sowed sparse and scattered, that it may escape the notice of those who pick up seeds like jackdaws” (1.12.56). This paper looks at Clementʼs techniques of communication designed to serve a prepared audience but to fail a casual one. In particular, it analyses one technique that Clement uses in several passages related to reincarnation: mentioning the doctrine or some of its prerequisites bundled up with some other, openly criticizable idea and then debunking the latter with the purpose of creating an impression that he rejected both.