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Kirchengeschichte: Alte Kirche, Christliche Archäologie
Daley, Brian E.
Gregory of Nazianzus.
London-New York: Routledge 2006. IX, 273 S. 8° = The Early Church Fathers. Kart. £ 17,99. ISBN 978-0-415-12181-7.
›The Early Christian Fathers‹ is a well known and useful collection, still in progress, where the reader can find essays about the most important Fathers of the ancient Christian world; its volumes are a synthesis of the life, the thought, the literary or theological production of each figure, combined with an anthology of his most representative texts. We can quote, among the essays which have a connection with B. E. Daley’s Gregory of Nazianzus, the synthesis of Anthony Meredith about Gregory of Nyssa, and Andrew Louth about Maximus the Confessor, even though other ones could deserve at least a mention. D.’s book is concurent with the criteria of the series and presents to the beginners or to those who are interested in the subject an up-to-date introduction; the interpretations are pondered, though it is not easy to collect in less than 300 pages what is important about Nazianzen and a choice of his works.
The introduction (1–61) draws a detailed biography of Gregory, mainly following the newly published, and important, book by J. Mc Guckin. It describes the literary, philosophical and theological production of Nazianzen, jointly interpreting the most significant events of his life. All this is presented briefly, but convincingly, even though it is obvious that one might not agree with this or that detail: for instance, I don’t think it is convenient to characterize Gregory as a »pragmatic eclectic like Origen and many before him« (34), instead of as a Christian Platonist; on the contrary, I think it is quite right to underline the creativity of Gregory’s theological language (45) and the new, paradoxical, and anyway brilliantly coherent style of his theological speeches. As a whole, D. has well accomplished his task of collecting the most important data and interpreting them in a convincing way, and, last but non least, the introduction and the translations are briefly, but well annotated. (Personally, I would give more room to Gregory’s biography and doctrines, and less to the translations: for instance, it was not necessary to translate in extenso the long and a bit boring oration 14, On the love of the poor: 22 pages).
Translations satisfy the criteria of giving an example for each of the literary genres Gregory practised. Therefore, we find the funeral oration for Gregory’s sister Gorgonia (n. 8); then On the love of the poor, On Theology and the Appointment of Bishops (n. 20: really, I don’t understand the reason of this translation, since this oration is a patchwork of others), n. 26 About Himself, on His Return from the Country (which is one of his most beautiful and most personal), two liturgical orations, the famous On the Theophany (n. 38), the On the Holy Lights (n. 39), the equally well known n. 42 (Farewell Address) and n. 44 (For the »New Sunday«: so important as far as Easter liturgy is concerned). The so called ›Theological Orations‹ are completely missing: perhaps they would have requested a lot of scholarly doctrine, not fitting by this book, so that they have been substituted by nn. 38 and 39, which are theological just the same. Among poems, D. chose II 1,39 (On His Own Verses), not a beautiful one, but important for Gregory’s theory of poetry; some Hymns and other short, lyric compositions. Among the Letters, we find some sent to the friends: Gregory of Nyssa, Basil (among which n. 58, on the divinity of the Holy Spirit), Philagrius, Nicobulus (›how to write an epistle‹). Quite interesting, lastly, and useful for knowing Gregory’s personality, is Gregory’s Will, a difficult translation, due to its language.
Bibliography wants to be essential, but complete, as far as it is possible. However, Italian and French critic is a bit neglected: Manlio Simonetti’s studies on Arianism are not mentioned at all; and it would have been a helpfull tool for the reader if Francis Gautier’s La retraite et le sacerdoce chez Grégoire de Nazianze, Brepols 2002, had been quoted; the writer’s Filosofia e letteratura in Gregorio di Nazianzo (Milano, Vita e Pensiero 1997), though mentioned, doesn’t seem to be employed.
But, to sum up, this is an useful and intelligent work.