Divine breastfeeding : Milk, blood, and pneuma in clement of Alexandria's paedagogus

Journal article


LaValle, Dawn. (2015) Divine breastfeeding : Milk, blood, and pneuma in clement of Alexandria's paedagogus. Journal of Late Antiquity. 8(2), pp. 322-336. https://doi.org/10.1353/jla.2015.0021
AuthorsLaValle, Dawn
Abstract

In the beginning of the Paedagogus, Clement of Alexandria (c. 200 CE) marshals a lengthy, medically-inflected allegory of God the Father breastfeeding new Christians on the milk that is Christ. In so doing, Clement enters into a medical debate about the precise substance and mechanism of lactation. Siding with the dominant view, found in Aristotle and Galen, Clement thinks that breast milk is formed from menstrual blood that has been rerouted to the breasts and transformed into milk. But Clement differs from this line of thought in claiming that the transformation from blood to milk occurs not through heating, but rather through the transformational power in pneuma. In this paper, I suggest that Clement is relying on an otherwise unattested aircentric theory, likely derived from Diogenes of Apollonia (5th century BCE). I demonstrate that Clement consistently stresses the role of pneuma not only in his discussion of lactation, but also in his discussion of conception. Given that, for Clement, conception and lactation stand as allegories for Christian baptism and Christian formation, I conclude that Clement finds a pneumatic focus useful in arguing that baptism and formation are points along the same spectrum, as both ways of transmitting heavenly pneuma.

Year2015
JournalJournal of Late Antiquity
Journal citation8 (2), pp. 322-336
PublisherThe John Hopkins University Press
ISSN1942-1273
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1353/jla.2015.0021
Research or scholarlyResearch
Page range322-336
Research GroupInstitute for Religion and Critical Inquiry
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