Thursday, 7 February 2019
Francisco Bastitta Harriet: Jewish, Pagan and Christian Compassion: the Shaping of a Virtue in Gregory of Nyssa’s De Beatitudinibus V
At the time of Christ's birth, the Jewish and biblical conception of compassion and mercy had gone through centuries of mutual influence with Greek and then Roman theories and practices of love. In the first centuries of Christianity, this exchange continues with great intensity, resulting in attempts of assimilation and agreement of different perspectives, but also in sharp contrasts and mutual resistance. The present paper intends to analyse the theory of compassion (éleos) and its practical corollaries in Gregory of Nyssa’s fifth homily on the Beatitudes. By presenting compassion as a virtue, the author tries to assimilate the Jewish and Christian biblical tradition with the classical conception of the Greeks, and for that he challenges some of the main assumptions of the philosophical schools of his time, Platonic, Aristotelian and Stoic. Gregory describes compassion as a fundamental human attitude that springs from love and can transform society by restoring equality, justice and communion among human beings.