In a seldom discussed episode from Gregory of Nyssa’s Life of Gregory Thaumaturgus, the wonderworking bishop converts a pagan temple custodian using the written word and a miracle. Physical proofs seem essential for teaching this outsider about divine power. Yet in the very next episode the narrator praises Thaumaturgus for disregarding physical appearances and for keeping silent. A close reading of the Life 34-47 demonstrates that Gregory of Nyssa models, within the narrative, a progression from basic catechesis through signs to the more complex work of interpreting signs, making inferences from what is seen to that which remains unseen. Contextualizing this paradoxical sequence of Thaumaturgus vignettes in Cappadocian discussions of divine condescension and principles of fourth-century Christian paideia, I show that Gregory of Nyssa uses the juxtaposition between Thaumaturgus’ teaching and conduct to model the flexible approach required for bishops to communicate the nature of divine power to varied audiences.
Gregory of Nyssa and Dionysius the Areopagite both contemplate the Exodus narrative of Moses’ experiences on Sinai. That narrative is complex, with Moses ascending and descending the mountain several times, sometimes in company, sometimes alone. Gregory follows the biblical twists and turns in Life of Moses; the relevant paragraph in Dionysius’ Mystical Theology tells of just one ascent. This article re-examines their dependence on the details of the biblical text, arguing that its exegetical puzzles proved fertile ground for their apophatic insights. Both seize on Exodus 20:21 as symbolising the utter incomprehensibility of God. But they resolve the enigmas of Exodus 33-34 differently. Gregory uses Exodus 33:18-23 as a springboard to his articulation of a never-ending journey into the infinite divine, while Exodus 34:29-35 provides the biblical impetus behind Dionysius’ concept of “union.”
Editio princeps of P.Duk. inv. 660, a possibly third- or fourth-century papyrus fragment containing a mixture or patchwork (i.e. a cento) of citations of and allusions to the Greek bible: Gen 27:28, Pss 26:2, 4, 41:2, 123:7, and 2 Cor 6:2 are present and a number of other scriptural references are likely. What remains of the papyrus indicates that it held some personal or devotional function.
In the fifth century, the author of the Life and Miracles of Saint Thekla transformed Thekla’s story from a simple Greek work into a grand epic. He collected stories and rewrote the Acts of Thekla using methods that were similar to other Christian and non-Christian works. The author employed classicizing language and allusions to Homer and other ancient writers in order to convey the high status he deemed appropriate to the story. Like other Christian works, the author rewrote scripture as a way of reinforcing and updating its importance. Through these stylistic features, the Life and Miracles conveys an appreciation for literary education and suggests a context in which reading, writing, and devotion were mutually reinforcing.
While the majority of previous scholarship on Augustine’s theology has treated his references to rhetorical concepts as incidental, Robert Dodaro (2004), Michael Cameron (2010), Mark Clavier (2014) and Adam Ployd (2017), have recognized recently that Augustine incorporated sundry aspects of rhetorical theory into his theology in a consequential manner. In this article I advance this new scholarly movement in two ways. First, I show that Augustine also used rhetorical theory in a consequential manner in his early theology of creation; I argue that Augustine utilized the rhetorical concept of economy (oeconomia) as the logic justifying God’s declaration that the completed creation was “very good” (Gen 1.31) by means of a close reading of De Genesi aduersus Manichaeos 1.21.32. Secondly, I combine my findings in this article with previous research to contend that future scholarship on Augustine’s theology should treat his references to rhetorical concepts as potentially consequential.
Brent D. Shaw has questioned the historicity of the Neronian persecution based on two arguments from silence: Tacitus’s use of the term “Christians” is an anachronism; and Suetonius knows of no connection between the fire in Rome and Nero’s police actions against the Christians. Both of these untestable arguments from silence are inherently weak logically. One can make a good case for the claim that Chrestianus, Christianus, and Χριστιανός are not creations of the second century and that Roman officials were probably aware of the Chrestiani in the 60s. Tacitus’s and Suetonius’s accounts of the persecution are fundamentally reliable.
Gregory of Nazianzus is an important case study for the development of autobiography, not only because he is one of the first Christians to write extended autobiographical texts, but also because he does so in verse. This paper addresses two interwoven questions: which strategies does Gregory employ in his autobiographical poems in order to create credibility for his literary self, and which of the motifs that he uses are innovative or specific to his autobiographical poetry? I suggest that Gregory constructs credibility mainly through his relationships with different entities (persons, objects, ideas …) represented in the poems. In some of the relationships (e.g., with his opponents) one can find clear parallels with pagan poets while in others, specifically Christian elements come into play (sometimes blended with pagan traditions). Gregory’s most original idea appears in his relationship with his medium of communication, where one can find a justification for poetic autobiography as a genre.