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True Manhood Tested in Marriage—Clement of Alexandria (c. 153 - c. 215)

Clement of Alexandria, convert from paganism and eventual head of the eminent Catechetical School in Alexandria, is famous for his theological reflections on the moral life. In this striking extract he maintains that the central arena in which true manliness is forged is the family. Of course, some are called to singleness. This is not to gainsay the enormous spiritual benefit of marriage.

True manhood is not shown in the choice of a celibate life; on the contrary, the prize in the contest of men is won by him who has trained himself by the discharge of the duties of husband and father and by the supervision of a household, regardless of pleasure and pain - by him, I say, who in the midst of his solicitude for his family shows himself inseparable from the love of God and rises superior to every temptation which assails him through children and wife and servants and possessions. On the other hand, he who has no family is in most respects untried.1


Clement of Alexandria, Stromateis 7.12.70, quoted in Gary A. Anderson, The Genesis of Perfection: Adam and Eve in Jewish and Christian Imagination (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2001), 60.