St Gregory of Nazianzus: An Intellectual Biography 978-0881412222

St Gregory of Nazianzus (ca. 390-391) is one of the most important theologians of the early Christian Church and was wit

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St Gregory of Nazianzus: An Intellectual Biography

Table of contents :
Chronological Synopsis of the Vita Gregorii vii
Bibliographic Abbreviations . xiii
St Gregory Nazianzen xvii
Preludium xxi
r In Search of a Self. r
z "Then Came Athens and Letters" . J5
3 Politics and Priesthood in Cappadocia . 85
4 Bishop of Sasima. 169
5 An Invitation to Byzantium z2g
6 Archbishop of Constantinople Jrr
7 The Twilight of a Poet . . i7r
An Epilogue . 399
Bibliography. 4oJ
Orations and Letters . 4ot
Gregory's Orations.. 4o4
OtherTranslations&Editions . . .4o5
ThePoetic'S7orks . . .4c6
Other Related Classical Primary Texts . . . 4c,6
A Select Bibliography of General Studies and Biographical Sources
Releuant to the Subject . . 4o7
Studies on the Thought and Style of S, Gregory Nazianzen . 4og
A Thematic Guide to the Bibliography . 426
Maps 6c Illustrations 4zg
Index . 417

Citation preview

An Inte{(ectua(Biogrqphy JOHN MCGUCKIN

Cover icon of St Gregory of Nazianzus is taken from the frescoes in the Kariye Djami. Back cover icon by Eileen McGuckin.


Cover design: Amber Houx 9 780881 412222




'f NAZIANZIJS ,€{n Inte llectual Biograp hy

John A. McGuckin




Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data McGuckin, John Anthony. St. Gregory of Nazianzus: an intellectual biography / J.A. McGuckin.


cm. b iblio graphical references and index.



rsnN o-88r4r-229-j (alk. paper)






rsnN o-88r4r-zzz-8 (pbk. : alk. paper)

Saint. z. Christian saints-Turkey-Biogra4. Philosophers-Tirrkey-

3. Authors,Greek-Turkey-Biography. Biography. I. Tide.

Chronological Synopsis of the Vita


Abbreviations St Gregory Nazianzen Preludium In Search of a Self. "Then Came Athens and Letters" Politics and Priesthood in Cappadocia Bishop of Sasima. An Invitation to Byzantium Archbishop of Constantinople The Twilight of a Poet . An Epilogue Bibliography. Orations and Letters . Gregory's Orations..

. xiii


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Copyright @ zoor ST VLADIMIR,S SEMINARY PRESS 57y Scarsdale Rd., Cresrwood, rw ro7o7 r-8oo-zo 4-2665

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r z 3 4 5 6 7

xvii xxi r

. J5 . 85 169



. i7r . 399 4oJ

4ot 4o4

. . .4o5 . . .4c6 . . . 4c,6

OtherTranslations&Editions ThePoetic'S7orks Other Related Classical Primary Texts A Select Bibliography of General Studies and Biographical Releuant to the Subject



Studies on the Thought and Style of S, Gregory

A Thematic Guide to the Bibliography Maps 6c












CrrnoNor.ocrcAl SvNopsls oF THE

VrtL'GnEconrr Date tzj jz6


in Gregory\ Life

Nonna's conversion of her husband Gregory the Elder from the sect of Hypsistarians.


the Empire

Constantine Emperor.


the Church

Council of Nicaea Anti-Arian Homoousian creed.

Binh of Gorgonia, elder sister of Gregory Nazianzen.



Gregory the Elder's consecration as Bishop

Consecration of Athanasios of Alexandria.



329/3o Binh of Gregory at Karbala, family estates at Arianzum near Nazianzus (DioCaesarea) in S'SZ




Dedication of Constantinople.

Recdl ofArius from exile. Birth of Basil



73t/32 Binh of his brother Caesarios.

Death of Arius.

B6 Death of Constantine. Accession of Constantius


II in


Early studies under Carterios his tutor and Amphilokios the Elder.


Rhetorical studies in Cappadocian Caesarea.


Council of Sardica.

)47-48 Study tours ofPalestinian Caesarea and Alexandria

with Caesarios and Carterios. Brief residence in Alexandria. J48

Departs from Egypt with Carterios for Athens. Storm at sea (November).

This Gregorian synopsis departs at a few chronological points from that established by the pioneering scholars: Sinko, Gallay, and Bernardi. The dating of the Letters and Orations follows their schemara, in the main. The Letters are often more difficult to place precisely than the Orations, as Gallay notes in his recent critical edition. The historical notes to the Orarions in thc Migne edition are hopelessly outdated . Leners zz5-48 are the main numbcrs in thc Grcgorian corpus whosc prccisc datcs cannot be fixcd with confidence. Thcy do not fc:rrrrrc in rhc prcscnr synopsis, nor do thcy affcct rny mettcr of historical strbstancc.


viii 348-t8


Scholarship in Athens (in part with Basil).

3y5 Elevation as Caesar.



35y Basil abandons


Synod of Ancyra affirms


Homoiousian doctrine under Basil of Ancyra & Eustathios of Sebaste.

Homoian Synod of


Constantinople. Eunomios the Neo-


Basil elected Bishop.

Basilt deception over Caesarean episcopal election (Epp. ao-a6). Basil appoints Gregory as Bishop of Sasima. Episcopal ordination (Orats. 9, ro, 6{ rr); major conflicts with

Anthimos ofTyana; Relations with Basil strained (Epp. 48-5o). Retreats to seclusion. Epp. zs-28.

bishop. Gregory forcibly ordained priest by his father.


His winter flight to Pontus

Death of Constantius (Nov. 3). Julian enters his capital (Dec. rI).

Eunomios publishes his Apologia.

Return of Athanasios from third exile. Synod

(Epiphany); Possible preparation of original

Gregoly of Nyssa consecrated bishop.

$7rl37z) (Ep.+).

Meeting of Valens &

Demosthenes and Modestus at Caesarea. Valens at Caesarea.


Episcopal Preaching. (Orats. g, r6-ry); Epp. 56-6o. Epp.


Amphilokios of Ikonium


6r-62, 245-248. Poem:

consecrated; Death Athanasios. Jerome

Lamentation on My Soul.

studying with Apollinaris at

Antioch. Alienation of

Eustathios and Basil. Eusebios of Samosata

returns to Caesarea.

exiled (lZ+-tZB).


Death of his father (Orat. 18); Basil

in attendance at

funeral. Death of his

375: Death of Valentinian I. Accession of Gratian.

mother a few months later. Epp. g-7r,79 (Orat. ry).


Finishes Invectives: Contra Julianum (Orats. 4-t); Epp. 8-rz.

Julian's death in the

Basil composes: Adversus

Persian Campaign.

Eunomium. His ordination 363.

Visit to Basil to advise him on his future in light of alienation from Bishop Eusebios; return to Nazianzus to effect reconciliation with local monlugh the reflnement of the spiritual intellect.aa Though Basil might agree witlr rnuch of Gregory's theoretical system of Logos theology and clearly shared nr:lny common conceptions with him about ascetical theology in general,4t nonethclcss, in practical terms it is clear that the two men had different understandings of spiritLrality and monasticism alike. At the most concrete level where Basil saw physical labor as important in the monastic day, Gregory felt the place of study and reflection had been underestimated. The inquiring mind cannot perform its task at the rr)ost serious level while currently engaged in digging water channels for the comrnuniry. A settlement trying to be self-sufficient in a basic economic and cultural way was also, in Gregory's perception , a defacto renunciation of the achievements of l-lellenistic culture. For most of the Syrian or Egyptian hermits, for example, this was exactly the point of flight to the desert. For Gregory it was not such a renunciation of culture he sought at all, but the transformation of all that was good in human culture: the Christianization of Hellenism.


I had wasted so much time on follies, and spent nearly all my youth in vain labors, devoting myself to doctrines of a wisdom that God has rendered into foolishness.4' But suddenly I woke up; as iffrom a deep sleep. I beheld the wonderful light of the Gospel truth... I shed a flood of tears over my wretched state, and prayed for a guide who might form me in the principles of righteousness.4l

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Asceticism has been until recently, perhaps, too easily seen in Christian history in terms of physical renunciations. til(hat many critics oFGregory have failed to realize is the deep seriousness of his own intent and ascetical endeavor. He is not a figure reclining idly at home, but someone who wanted to follow the demands of intellect in a serious spiritual quest. The tools of his ascesis were books, enquiring conversation, and reflection in simple solitude. He is certainly an early and serious witness to the physical asceticism of vigils, and simpliciry of lifesryle,46 and in this followed the intellectual tradition of simpliciry of lifesryle such as advocated by his intellectual hero Origen and his own Christian teacher Prohaeresios. Perhaps he sometimes "protests too much" about his ascetical rigors so as to offset the criticism of the Eustathian radical monastic groups in Cappadocia who demanded complete renunciation in monastic life-to the point of complete equaliry. To symbolize this the Eustathian communities forbade any social distinctions,4T and certainly vetoed the slave-master relations. Gregory refuses to go this far. In his withdrawn solitude on the estates at Arianzum, when he was an old man, he certainly had the attendance of several family slaves48 and it would be a normal presumption

so all his life. For

to imagine that it


him the ascetical life is understood still, primarily, in the older

44. Cf. Spidlik (rgZt); Bouyer Gg6l). Origen's dictum was that the soul must follow "wherever the Logos leads" (Hopou Logos age). 4t. Cf. Fellechner $97). 46. See Sotiropoulos (r99o).

4o. Gregory's ideas on monasticism have not, so far, been extensively studied apart from the pioneering essay on the theme by Plagnieux (196r). 4r. And indeed it was surely the prelude and spur to his presentation for baptism soon after his return to Caesarea, paceHanson (1988), p. 68o; see rather Rousseau (t9g+), pp.z5,6r-92. 42. t Cor rzo. Basil. Ep. 223.2.


Macrina's communiry at Annesoi represents interesting examples of such a social leveling, both in terms of rank and gender. See Elm (tgg+). There is no evidence to suggest Gregory agreed with this, and his extended doctrine of philanthropy and social compassion (which is highly admirable) is more of a Christian rehabilitation of Hellenistic social theory rather than the new modeling suggested by Eustathios. 48. Manumitted in his will.



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philosophic form of intellectualabstraction from the daily round. Gregory is an aristocrat to his marro% and follows Aristotle's presumption that the virtue of intellectual life is only possible for landowners who can support the necessary leisure for contemplative theoria. Such elitist ideas of antiquiry sit uneasily on us today.

In the conflict that was operative in Gregory's time over who had the right to lead Christian communities-aristocrats, ascetics, local councils of elders, or civil servants-and partly visible in the tension introduced into local Church hierarchies in Cappadocia and Armenia by the radical Eustathian monastics who used asceticism as a way of modeling a new Christian social egalitarianism, Gregory's sympathies lay entirely with the idea that only "men of the best qualiy" (aristoi) should lead the Church. Admittedly, he modified the idea with the Christian admission that such an "aristocrary" must, of course, include spiritual attainment and discernment,ag but his qympathies lay more with the hierarchs of the Council of Gangra5o than with any nomadic groups of Christian radicals. And for all his closer involvement with the Eustathian circle, the same was more or less true for Basil as well. The ascericism of the men in the network of the Cappadocian Nicene movement is an ascesis of philanthropy, led firmly and energetically by a very wealthy ilite who support one anorher closely and know how to use the corridors of power to their advantage.

To conclude that Gregory's asceticism was primarily a matter of the intellectual rigor and simpliciry of the scholar is not to denigrate it. Even in contemporary $7estern sociery where widest access to education is given a premium, advanced scholar-

ship is an immensely costly and



still. Those, both ancient and

modern, who have never known the rigorous demands of such a focused intellectual lifesryle might more readily regard Basilt form of communitarian simpliciry as archerypal for monks, or Eustathios' social leveling as more authentic,tt but this would be to miss the chief point that Gregory was making despite all his aristocratic dlitism. Such a life of dedicated reflection is not for all. It is meant for those who have the necessary intellectual sensitiviry and are ready to devote themselves ro rhe painful asceticism of the life of theoria: a long and difficult road that customarily brings hardship, financial straightness, solitude, and simpliciry in its train. Gregory 49. See Orat z7,PG 36nf. yo. The Council of Gangra probably met in 34o (its date is conflicted in the Church historians Socrates and Sozomen, but Sozomen agrees most with Basil. Ep. 288.13). (See T.D. Barnes, "The Date of the Council of Gangra," JTS 4o hg8g], m-r24.) It tried to deal with the upheaval caused by radical ascetic groups allied with Eustathios. The conciliar canons condemned monastic separatism, and the radical social "leveling" advocated by the ascetics, and defended the rights of married Christians and a married priesthood. Eustathius was forced to accept its criticisms of his "zea).otry." tI. One needs to remember that "social equaliry" even as envisaged by Eustathios was not the same as a mcdern might imagine. Eustathios was a vigorous and dynamic leader of monarchist tendencies. The world was not big enough to contain both him and Basil, and this (apart from theology) was at the roor of much in their large falling out.


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