- Christ in the Life and Teaching of Gregory of Nazianzus by Andrew Hofer
Andrew Hofer’s new monograph argues that Gregory of Nazianzus’s life, ministry, and Christology are mutually informative and that to understand any one fully requires understanding its interplay with the other two. To show the connections, Hofer presents the concepts of autobiographical Christology (a framing of “the Incarnation as the mystery of the Word coming to mingle with human life, the life that Gregory knows to be his own” [p. 91]) and christomorphic autobiography (the blending of “Christ into the troubles, fears, and joys of [Gregory’s] own life” [p. 56]).
Hofer’s argument for Gregory’s autobiographical Christology is developed in chapters 1, 3, and 4. Chapter 1 ties Gregory’s rhetorical efforts to his logos-theology (the Greek logos is used for both God’s Word and Gregory’s rhetorical discourse): for Gregory, the true art of rhetoric is “persuading others to be similarly purified in their lives by the Word” (p. 34). Chapter 3 shows how Gregory builds on Aristotelian thought to claim that Christ “recreates not simply the human race, but Gregory in particular” (p. 91) by using a mixture with divinity to transform the human constitution, a re-creation that occurs primarily in the human mind. This sets up chapter 4, which boldly reinterprets Letter 101 to Cledonius as a treatise that attacks the “mindless Christ” (p. 124) of Apollinarius and not the Christological duality of Diodore (the scholarly consensus’s assumed target). To make his case, Hofer resorts to connecting Letter 101’s ten anathemas with the anti-Apollinarian polemic of writers like Athanasius and Epiphanius. Autobiographical Chris-tology, however, makes the Apollinarian challenge personal: to call Christ mindless is to call Gregory mindless.
Hofer develops his argument for Gregory’s christomorphic autobiography in chapters 2, 5, and 6. In chapter 2 he argues that Gregory’s self-writing is best understood as a pastoral project of compositional soul-searching that “makes the [End Page 598] reader experience the form of Christ in Gregory’s own life” (p. 57). It is a personal expression of the relevance of doctrine and devotion. Chapter 5 illustrates the point through expositions of Gregory’s festal orations (Oration 38–40, 41, and 44): festivals, Gregory proposes, are prime opportunities for the ecclesial body of Christ to mimetically experience the very things that the physical body of Christ did. Chapter 6 shows that Gregory’s priestly and episcopal activities are an embodied model of Christ’s ministerial work, whereas the leadership of bad bishops reveals them to be anti-Christs (p. 225). In sum, Hofer argues that Gregory’s personal demonstration of his connection to Christ will show other Christians how to live the truly philosophical life.
Hofer’s rejection of the traditional compartmentalization of Dogmengeschichte is laudable, as are the lucidity of his textual expositions and his willingness to engage many of Gregory’s lesser-known works. The book, however, suffers from multiple weaknesses. Most notably, Hofer never develops into a full treatment his oft-repeated assertion that Gregory’s life and experience affects his understanding of Christ (autobiographical Christology). The reader is left to wonder what, if any, effect Gregory’s life had on his Christology, and how Hofer’s autobiographical Christology departs from previous understandings of Gregory’s Christology. Moreover, Hofer never presents the logic for pairing autobiographical Christology with christomorphic autobiography. A nice wordplay, no doubt, but the pairing joins concepts that are fundamentally different: one pertains to his doctrine, the other to the genre of self-writing. With regard to christomorphic autobiography, Hofer’s argument is obvious to any reader of Gregory’s oeuvre and does not guide the reader to appreciate how Gregory’s characteristic torment and soul-searching contribute to his self-presentational strategies. Simply put, if the reader is to take the interplay between autobiographical Christology and christomorphic autobiography as the best framework for...