Thursday, 7 February 2019

Brendan Harris: The Spirit as Creator in Gregory Nazianzen’s Or.41.14

Previous discussions of Gregory Nazianzen's Pneumatology have portrayed Gregory's sharing Basil's understanding of the Spirit's creative role as limited to that of "perfecting cause" (Ayres, 2004; Alfeyev, 2006). This paper will challenge this characterisation of Gregory's Pneumatology by showing that, first, Gregory also holds a broader understanding of the Spirit's creative activity, viewing the Spirit as co-operating with the Father and the Son in the original creation of all things and, second, Gregory diverges from Basil on this point due to his engagement with other pro-Nicene Pneumatological traditions of which Basil was either unaware or chose not to use when developing his account of the Spirit's creative function.I will establish these two contentions through a close reading of Gregory's discussion of the Spirit's creative activity in Or.41.14. There, Gregory cites Psalm 32.6 and Job 33.4 in support of his contention that the Spirit is active in the creation of all things. In so doing, he departs from Basil's interpretation of these passages, according to which Psalm 32.6 indicates the Spirit's sanctification of the angels, while Job 33.4 refers to the moral perfection of human beings. Gregory's divergent interpretation of these passages, I contend, reflects his engagement with broader currents in pro-Nicene Pneumatology. Specifically, I will show that Gregory learns his interpretation of Psalm 32.6 from Epiphanius's exegesis of the same passage in the Ancoratus,while his interpretation of Job 33.4 follows that found in Pseudo-Basil's Against Eunomius IV-V, which most likely stems from the hand of Didymus the Blind.

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