Two Thoughts on Gregory of Nazianzus

Just finished Dr. Christopher A. Beeley’s book Gregory of Nazianzus on the Trinity and the Knowledge of God: In Your Light We Shall See Light (an excellent introduction to Gregory’s theology), hence the many recent posts on/related to Gregory. Two thoughts have remained in my mind throughout my reading of the book.

  1. If Gregory edited his orations into the order that we now have them, then should they not be studied in that order? I wonder what insights might be gained by doing that. For instance, is it a coincidence that the first and last oration are Easter orations? Or that the first three orations deal with issues related to the difficulty of ministry? If I were to hazard a guess without actually having in my possession all 45 orations (or of even having read more than seven or eight), I would say that Gregory’s arrangement might be as a handbook for ministers which reinforces true doctrine (i.e., belief in the Trinity) with insights into the difficulties and joys of being a minister. Definitely something worth looking into.
  2. In Gregory, and in many other Patristic writers, there is a sense in which salvation is the beginning of a long healing process in which the mind and the body are slowly trained to be reoriented towards God. This got me thinking about Paul’s epistle to the Romans (now that I think about it, I’m not sure where the connection was), specifically the part in Romans 7 about the two different laws; one of my mind and one of the “members” of my body. When I revisited this passage, I all of a sudden saw the human flesh as a hindrance to spiritual progress (of course, the good Kupyrians/neo-Calvinists/N.T. Wright may shudder at the thought of “demonizing” physical existence as “Platonic”). Paul’s rhetorical quesiton about deliverance from a body of death refers to his real body (but not necessarily a complete removal from the physical body). If this is the case, could the law of the Spirit be a literal transformation of my physical humanity? I don’t know, and would have to look into this more. At the same time, I wondered if there are any precedents in earlier writers (Greek or Hellenistic Jew) which referred to human nature in terms of “law”. Maybe I’m barking up the wrong tree, but I am interested in biblical precedents for the Patristic understanding of the transformation of human nature by the spirit pre-resurrection.

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