Drinking like Jesus: Symposiastic Ethics in Clement of Alexandria

Writing around the turn from the second to the third century, Clement of Alexandria is the first Christian writer to craft a fully fledged ethical concept of a Christian paideia that spans over nearly all aspects of daily life. Considering the importance of commensality in the ancient world, it is not surprising that the proper behavior at meals and banquets—particularly the appropriate handling of alcohol, i.e. wine—also plays a major role for him. The proposed paper outlines the “drinking ethics” that Clement encourages in his writings. This includes aspects like Clement’s attitudes to different ways of handling alcohol, the effects that he links to its consumption, his own “recom-mendations,” as well as the relation of alcohol and religious experience. The surveyed material will be set in relation to two interrelated questions that concern the development of the Christian meal: (1) What can Clement’s attitude to drinking alcohol tell us about the “Eucharist” of his community? (2) How does he relate to the New Testament Last Supper Narratives (Mt 26:17–30 par) and the Bread of Life Discourse (John 6:22–59) in his ethics?