Thursday, March 06, 2014

The Model Young Woman - The Instructor on a compendious view of the Christian life

This is a continuation of my series on Clement of Alexandria and his book, "The Instructor." If you are new to this series or are unfamiliar with Clement and his book, you may want to first read the introduction to this series. You may also want to read my introduction to this chapter as it will help you understand his views in this area.
"Zeno the CittiƦan thought fit to represent the image of a young maid, and executed the statue thus: 'Let her face be clean, her eyebrows not let down, nor her eyelids open nor turned back. Let her neck not be stretched back, nor the members of her body be loose. But let the parts that hang from the body look as if they were well strung; let there be the keenness of a well-regulated mind for discourse, and retention of what has been rightly spoken; and let her attitudes and movements give no ground of hope to the licentious; but let there be the bloom of modesty, and an expression of firmness. But far from her be the wearisome trouble that comes from the shops of perfumers, and goldsmiths, and dealers in wool, and that which comes from the other shops where women, meretriciously dressed, pass whole days as if sitting in the stews.'" (Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, Book 3, Chapter 11)
In this one-paragraph treatise on the subject, Clement quotes from the philosopher Zeno of Citium who lived and taught around 300 BC. Why would Clement, being a Christian man, teach the lessons of a Greek philosopher? First, Clement is not so much trying to define behavior that is lawful but behavior that is good and wise. He is not trying to lay down law but rather expose wisdom. Wisdom can be found in many places, even among some of the ancient Greek philosophers. Even Plato, while deviating from Christ's teachings in some regards, still understood and taught that there was one supreme God, them maker of all. Clement was not afraid to find wisdom where ever it may reside, provided it was in line with the scriptures he had received. Secondly, Clement was writing to Greeks who knew of these philosophers and many who had read them and understood their teachings. Many of these Greeks had never read the scriptures and had no background and training in the holy word of God. These were the men and teachings they knew, and Clement would make use of them, when appropriate, to drive home some point that the people could readily comprehend and understand.

Zeno describes a model young women in three parts. First, appearance. A young woman should present herself with confidence and dignity, not cowering or unbecomingly. Secondly, her mind. A young woman should be more than another pretty face, she should have a mind that is sharp and accustomed to reason and contemplation, specking the things that are right and wise. Finally, morals. A young woman should not act or dress in a way that would give anyone else the hope of licentiousness. She should not act or dress in a way as to purposefully arouse the lusts in others or to imply her willingness to yield to their lusts.

Zeno ends with a warning that a young women aught not to be addicted to shopping. Life is so much more than thing,s and the pursuits of life than the pursuit of things. A life spent in the shops is a life wasted on the unimportant. Shopping may be a necessity, but it should not be a lifestyle for the young woman.

David Robison

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