Saturday, 2 May 2015

Francesco Celia: Gregory Thaumaturgus: a reassessment of his traditional figure

For centuries scholars have considered Gregory Thaumaturgus as the pupil of Origen, the author of the Oratio panegyrica and the prodigious bishop of Neocaesarea to whom Gregory of Nyssa dedicated the De Vita Gregorii Thaumaturgi. This identification was further confirmed by Eusebius's Historia Ecclesiastica, which includes these biographical pieces of information and provides us with the first external testimony on Gregory. In 1977 Pierre Nautin raised serious doubts regarding this portrayal. His main argument was that Eusebius had arbitrarily merged together three different persons and that both the ascription of the Oratio and the later testimonies on Gregory should be deemed as erroneous because they all took over Eusebius's mistake. Notwithstanding the contrary reply of Henri Crouzel (1979), Gregory's traditional figure has been considered an open question by several scholars (e.g. Clausi - Milazzo 2002).
However, little attention has been paid to the information furnished by Gregory of Nyssa, Jerome and Socrates of Constantinople. In this paper I will argue that Gregory Thaumaturgus's traditional figure should still be considered trustworthy. My main hypothesis is that none of these authors actually depended on Eusebius's Historia. Jerome and Socrates rely on two lost works of Pamphilus, which preceded the Historia Ecclesiastica-his catalogue of the library of Caesarea, which was included by Eusebius in the third book of the Vita Pamphili, and one of the lost books of the Apologia pro Origene. It was ostensibly Pamphilus to have supplied Eusebius with the earliest traditional account of the figure of Gregory Thaumaturgus.

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