Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

St. Gregory of Nazianzus: An Intellectual Biography

Academic journal article Anglican Theological Review

St. Gregory of Nazianzus: An Intellectual Biography

Article excerpt

St. Gregory of Nazianzus: An Intellectual Biography. By John A. McGuckin. Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 2001. xxviii + 433 pp. $35.99 (cloth); $22.95 (paper).

John McGuckin has done us a great service in bringing out a new critical biography of Gregory Nazianzen, which makes several needed corrections to the modern Western view of his life and works.

Most significant is McGuckin's argument that the historical standard of trinitarian orthodoxy comes not from the Council of Constantinople, but from Gregory. The Council explicitly rejected Gregory's trinitarian doctrine and opted instead, with Gregory of Nyssa's support, for the non-trinitarian theology of Basil. In the Creed of Constantinople (much like today's "Nicene Creed"), the gathered bishops refused to declare that the Holy Spirit is "of one being (homoousios) with the Father," but stated only that "together with the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified." By his own literary efforts, however, Gregory achieved the supreme historical irony of making his theology the official interpretation of the Creed of Constantinople, so that in the centuries to come it would be taken to mean not what the bishops of the Council intended, but what Gregory had argued all along: that the Son and the Spirit share fully in the Father's divine being, and together with the Father are the one God (pp. xxii, 367-368 and passim).

The book further illuminates Gregory's relationship with Basil as well. After their bitter estrangement in 370-372, Gregory showed his theological leadership by repeatedly urging Basil to join him in confessing the divinity of the Holy Spirit (pp. 173-180, 200-206 and passim). And it was Gregory who, after Basil's death (Or. 43), associated Basil with the trinitarian confession, in order to regain the support of Basil's orthodox followers in Cappadocia (p. 374).

And there are other treats: the rhetorical situation of each of Gregory's orations; Gregory's real concern for ecclesiastical life; his disapproval of his Constantinopolitan successor, the recently baptized Nectarius (pp. …

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