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Saint Pantaenus the Philosopher
Born2nd century AD
Diedc. 200
Alexandria, Egypt
Venerated inCatholic Church
Coptic Christianity
Eastern Orthodox Church[1]
FeastJuly 7[2][3]
Attributeslecturing from a pulpit

Philosophy career
EraAncient philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy
InstitutionsCatechetical School of Alexandria
Main interests
Christian theology

Saint Pantaenus the Philosopher (Greek: Πάνταινος; died c. 200)[4] was a Greek theologian and a significant figure in the Catechetical School of Alexandria from around AD 180. This school was the earliest catechetical school, and became influential in the development of Christian theology.


Pantaenus was a Stoic philosopher teaching in Alexandria. He was a native of Sicily.[5] He converted to the Christian faith, and sought to reconcile his new faith with Greek philosophy. His most famous student, Clement,[6] who was his successor as head of the Catechetical School, described Pantaenus as "the Sicilian bee".[7] Although no writings by Pantaenus are extant,[8] his legacy is known by the influence of the Catechetical School on the development of Christian theology, in particular in the early debates on the interpretation of the Bible, the Trinity, and Christology. He was the main supporter of Serapion of Antioch for acting against the influence of Gnosticism.

Silk Road map showing ancient trade routes

In addition to his work as a teacher, Eusebius of Caesarea reports that Pantaenus was for a time a missionary,[9] traveling as far as India where, according to Eusebius, he found Christian communities using the Gospel of Matthew written in "Hebrew letters", supposedly left them by the Apostle Bartholomew (and which might have been the Gospel of the Hebrews).[10][11] This may indicate that Syrian Christians, using a Syriac version of the New Testament, had already evangelized parts of India by the late 2nd century. However, some writers have suggested that having difficulty with the language of Saint Thomas Christians, Pantaenus misinterpreted their reference to Mar Thoma (the Aramaic term meaning Saint Thomas), who is currently credited with bringing Christianity to India in the 1st century[12][13] by the Syrian Churches, as Bar Tolmai (the Hebrew name of Bartholomew). The ancient seaport Muziris on the Malabar Coast (modern-day Kerala in India) was frequented by the Egyptians in the early centuries AD.[14]

Saint Jerome (c. 347 – 30 September 420), apparently relying entirely on Eusebius' evidence from Historia Ecclesiastica, wrote that Pantaenus visited India, “to preach Christ to the Brahmans and philosophers there.”[15] It is unlikely that Jerome has any information about Pantaenus' mission to India that is independent of Eusebius. On the other hand, his claim that "many" of Pantaenus' Biblical commentaries were still extant is probably based on Jerome's own knowledge.

His feast day as July 7.[16][17][18]

The Coptic synaxarium mentions "Pantaenus and Clement" in its entry regarding the return of the relics of St Mark the Apostle by Pope Paul VI of Rome on 15 Paoni[19][20][21] but does not assign Pantaenus any specific feast date.

19th century and modern study on Pantaenus[edit]

The Universalist Church of America historian J. W. Hanson (1899) argued that Pantaenus "must, beyond question" have taught Universalism to Clement of Alexandria and Origen.[22] However, since it is now considered that Clement of Alexandria's views contained a tension between salvation and freewill,[23] and that he and Origen did not clearly teach universal reconciliation of all immortal souls in their understanding of apokatastasis, Hanson's conclusion about Pantaenus lacks a firm basis.[24]


  1. ^ "Orthodox Calendar. HOLY TRINITY RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH, a parish of the Patriarchate of Moscow".
  2. ^ "Saint Pantaenus, Father of the Church. July 7. Rev. Alban Butler. 1866. Volume VII: July. The Lives of the Saints".
  3. ^ "Saint Pantaenus, Doctor of the Church and Apostle to the Indies".
  4. ^ "As he was succeeded by Clement who left Alexandria about 203, the probable date of his death would be about 200. " (Catholic Encyclopedia)
  5. ^ Alban Butler; Paul Burns. Butler's Lives of the Saints, Volume 7. A&C Black. p. 48.
  6. ^ Cf. Article "Clement of Alexandria" in the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Ed. George Menachery, Vol. II, 1973, p.201
  7. ^ Clement, Stromata, 1.1.
  8. ^ Although Lightfoot (Apost. Fathers, 488), and Batiffol (L'église naissante, 3rd ed., 213ff) attribute the concluding passages of the Epistle to Diognetius to Pantaeus; see "Pantaenus" in The Westminster Dictionary of Christian History, ed. Jerald Brauer.
  9. ^ Cf.Article "Christian Influences on Hinduism before the European Period" by P. Thomas in the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Vol.II, 1973, p. 177 et. sq.
  10. ^ Church History by Eusebius. Book V Chapter 10. Pantaenus the Philosopher.
  11. ^ Article by S. S. Koder, "History of the Jews in Kerala", in the St. Thomas Christian Encyclopaedia of India, Vol. II, 1973, pp.183 ff.
  12. ^ The Encyclopedia of Christianity, Volume 5 by Erwin Fahlbusch. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing - 2008. p. 285. ISBN 978-0-8028-2417-2.
  13. ^ The Jews of India: A Story of Three Communities by Orpa Slapak. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. 2003. p. 27. ISBN 965-278-179-7.
  14. ^ Cyclopaedia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia. Ed. by Edward Balfour (1871), Second Edition. Volume 2. p. 584.
  15. ^ De viris illustribus 36
  16. ^ "Saint Pantaenus, Father of the Church. July 7. Rev. Alban Butler. 1866. Volume VII: July. The Lives of the Saints".
  17. ^ "Pantaenus, St. |".
  18. ^ "Saint Pantaenus, Doctor of the Church and Apostle to the Indies".
  19. ^ "Paona 15 : Lives of Saints : Synaxarium -".
  20. ^
  21. ^ "The Blessed Month of Baounah".
  22. ^ J. W. Hanson Universalism: The Prevailing Doctrine of the Christian Church p49 "Pantænus was martyred AD 216. The Universalism of Clement, Origen and their successors must, beyond question, have been taught by their great predecessor, Pantænus, and there is every reason to believe that the Alexandrine school had never known any contrary teaching from its foundation"
  23. ^ Itter, Andrew C. Esoteric teaching in the Stromateis of Clement of Alexandria 2009 p181 "... universal salvation and hinges on the tension between an individual soul's freedom to refuse the chastisements of God, ... universal capacity to save all things.44 It is a tension between the soul's autonomy and universal salvation"
  24. ^ FW Norris, "Apokatastasis," in Westminster Handbook to Origen, 59-62. 58.

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