[St. Pachomius Library]

St. Pantænus of Alexandria

II Century
St. Pantænus, the "Sicilian Bee", is the first Director of the Catechetical School of Alexandria whose name has been preserved. Under his administration, the School emerged as a serious academic institution, a Christian competitor of the famous University at the Musæum. The writings of Pantænus have survived only in fragments, but these indicate that he and his students grappled with very difficult philosophical problems, including the meaning of grammatical tense in prophecies and the question of how a God who transcends matter (and thus has no sense-organs) knows what is happening in the created world. (Their tentative answer -- that He knows it because it happens according to His will -- leads at once into the deep and dangerous waters of theodicy.)

St. Pantænus was evidently aware of the Egyptian church's bicultural identity; tradition makes him responsible for the adoption of a modified Greek alphabet to transliterate Coptic. The use of this alphabet weakened Egyptian ties to pagan religion by replacing the demotic script descended from hieroglyphics, and at the same time made possible a distinct non-Greek literary and liturgical tradition in the country. It is interesting that a foreigner would be associated with the invention of the alphabet; some Coptic nationalists, bothered by this, insist he was a native Egyptian educated abroad.

Around the year 190, St. Pantænus resigned as Director and launched a mission to "India" or "Ethiopia", terms then used interchangeably for most parts of Asia and Africa not incorporated into the Romano-Persian political system. Wherever it may have been, the country to which he went had been evangelised before; Pantænus reported finding a copy of the Gospel of Matthew in Hebrew, left by the Apostles.

The post of Director of the Catechetical School after St. Pantænus's departure went to his most famous student, St. Clement of Alexandria.

--- Norman Hugh Redington

Under construction --- far from complete! Read with caution.


Return to St Pachomius Library.