restricted access Studien zu Gregor von Nyssa und der christlichen Spätantike (review)
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Reviewed by
Hubertus R. Drobner and Christopher Klock, editors. Studien zu Gregor von Nyssa und der christlichen Spätantike. Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae, 12. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1990. Pp. x + 418.

Seven international conferences have already taken place since 1969 on the subject of Gregory of Nyssa and several publications have resulted from them. The present volume is a series of twenty-one studies on a wide range of questions which indicate the present state of the question on current research on Gregory. Of these contributions seven are in English, seven in German, four in Spanish, two in French, and one in Italian. A brief resume in German by H. Drobner is appended to each article and the volume is introduced by a Foreword from the editors in the same language. The contributions fall into four categories: Language, Philosophy, Theology, and Related Material.

In the first category Michel van Esbroeck analyzes four treatises, attributed variously to Gregory of Nyssa or Gregory the Wonderworker (or even Gregory Nazianzen), considered in their Marcellian context. Of particular interest is the translation into French that he offers of an unedited collection of texts from the Treatise to Evagrius, That the Trinity is Consubstantial, and the Treatise on the Trinity. Martin F. G. Parmentier presents Gregory's De differentia essentiae et hypostaseos in its Syriac version and an English translation on facing pages. This is Basil's letter 38, now accepted as belonging to Gregory, in a sixth-century Syriac translation, most of which is preserved in the British Library. The text is important, on the need to distinguish the two basic terms of trinitarian discussion. Three other manuscripts of Monophysite origin are also included (in Syriac and English) and set alongside the main text. Everett Ferguson studies Gregory's use of the terms psalm, psalter, psalmody, etc. and concludes that he follows the biblical usage of this term and thus does not differ from other Christian authors in this regard. The final contribution in the Language section, by Manfred Kertsh, studies the excerpts of the Cappadocians and Chrysostom by Isidore of Pelusium and Nilus of Ancyra.

In the section on Philosophy, Martin Esper offers an interesting study of the use of analogy and allegory in Gregory, who explains his principle "from the known to the unknown" in the prologue to his commentary on the Song of Songs. His allegorical exegesis changes the pagan analogia entis to the Christian analogia fidei. We see the wisdom of God's working only in a mirror. Esper understands the meaning of In Canticum 4.4 as a paradigm of Gregory's homiletic. God's boundless eternity, where contraries are included, corresponds to human finitude, with our continual progress to God. Alden Mosshammer sees in the debate with Eunomius Gregory's stress on the "role of the human mind in structuring through language the nature of reality as men perceive it." Thus we see the need for a constant reinterpretation of language. As God's infinity contrasts with the finitude of human language, one does not move from the literal to the spiritual but rather understands the spiritual as embodied in the literal. For this reason Mosshammer understands [End Page 76] Gregory as anticipating Kant and Heidegger, not to mention the deconstructionists. Gregory's emphasis on the gap between signifier and signified makes him an important witness in the contemporary heremeneutical debate. On page 119 there is an uncharacteristic typo in this well-edited book, 'principle' for 'principal' (other typos are found in n. 11 on p. 128 and also on pp. 139 and 151, and a misplaced note on p. 242).

The third section, on Theology, has understandably the greatest number of papers, eleven in all. In separate articles, Anthony Meredith and Christopher Stead consider Gregory's notion of God, the former investigating the coherences and discordances of the bishop of Nyssa's treatment of God. The stress of each of the five works studied is different, showing Nyssa to be not as consistent as Aquinas. Stead's study is one concerned with the logic of Gregory's trinitarian doctrine, meeting his opponents on the level of logic, accepting a proportion between the human...