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Gregory Thaumaturgus

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Estimated Range of Dating: 265-282 A.D.

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Enrico Norelli writes, "We begin with the writings attributable with certainty to Gregory. The Canonical Letter is a set of eleven canons (the 11th being a later addition), addressed by Gregory the Wonderworker to another bishop, having to do with the attitude to be adopted in the church toward problems raised by the invasion of the Goths and Borads: What attitude was to be taken toward women who had been violated and toward Christians who had taken advantage of the situation to enrich themselves by expropriating the possessions of their own brethren, or who had joined the barbarian invaders and participated in the killings? The norms to be followed are taken from the Bible. But in his determination to restore order, Gregory displays a balance and a leniency towards all who are ready to repent. Gregory has also left a Metaphrasis of Ecclesiastes, that is, a word-for-word transcription of that book into classical Greek." (Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature, vol. 1, p. 309)

H. Schneider writes, "In the panegyric on Origen (pan. Or.), Gregory sees divine providence at work in the complicated events leading to his meeting with Origen in Caesarea. This speech of thanks and farewell gives valuable information on Origen's dealings with his students and his program of studies. In addition to the study of the natural sciences, all the ancient poets and philosophers were read and explained, except for the atheists. Dialectical abilities were trained more socratico in penetrating discussions. Ethical instruction aimed not only at the four cardinal virtues and self-knowledge in accordance with the Delphic oracle's 'know thyself' (gnothi seauton) but also at the specifically Christian virtues of patience (hypomone, i.e., of the martyrs) and piety (eusebeia, 'the mother of all virtues'). Theology was the high point in the course of studies. Origen proved an expositor of genius in biblical exegesis. The panegyric is an eloquent testimony to the extraordinarily close and friendly relationship between student and master. Gregory describes Origen as the paradigm of the wise man (paradeigma sophou). Gregory thought of his stay with Origen in Caesarea as 'paradise' (to use the language of the panegyric). When he had to say farewell, he felt like a second Adam being expelled form the garden." (Dictionary of Early Christian Literature, p. 270)

Enrico Norelli writes, "The traditional reconstruction of Gregory's youthful years depends on his identification as the author of the Address of Gratitude to Origen, an identification based not only on the attribution of the work to him in the manuscripts but also and above all on Eusebius (Hist. eccl. 6.30), who says that among the most illustrious of Origen's students in Caesarea, he himself knew 'Theodore, who was the Gregory famous among the bishops of our time, and his brother Athenodorus.' But P. Nautin has raised important objections to this identification and has concluded that Eusebius knew the Address under the name of a Theodore who was a disciple of Origen for eight years (Orat. paneg. 3), not for five as Eusebius claims. Eusebius arbitrarily identified this man with Gregory the Wonderworker, whom the adolescent Eusebius had met, solely on the basis of the fact that both men had studied law. Gregory, then (according to Nautin), was never a student of Origen, and Origen's letter was addressed to a different Gregory." He continues, "A balanced view that has recently been proposed by M. Simonetti values Nautin's criticisms but leaves open the possibility that Eusebius really did know that Gregory the Wonderworker studied under Origen. Simonetti therefore thinks that the attribution of the Address to Gregory the Wonderworker is possible, but with no greater degree of probability than the attribution of other debated writings: Profession of Faith, Dialogue with Gelian, To Philagrius on Consubstantiality, and To Theopompus on Passability and Impassibility in God." (Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature, vol. 1, p. 308)

Quasten writes, "Gregory the Wonder-Worker (Thaumaturgos) was born of a high-ranking pagan family at Neocaesarea in Pontus about the year 213. Apparently, he was originally called Theodore and received the name Gregory only at baptism. After studying rhetoric and law in his home town, he was on the point of setting out with his brother, Athenodorus, for Berytos in Phoenicia to complete his education, when he was invited to Caesarea in Palestine by his sister; her husband had been appointed the imperial governor of Palestine. While there, he attended some of Origen's lectures and this was the turning point in his life ... He and his brother remained in Caesarea five years (233-238) in order to take Origen's whole course, both embracing Christianity. On the eve of their departure, Gregory thanked Origen in an academic Farewell Address, which is preserved to us and is a valuable source of information for Origen's personal history and method of teaching (cf. above, p. 39). A few years later, Phaedimus, the bishop of Amasea, consecrated him the first bishop of his native city, Neocaesarea. Gregory preached the Gospel in town and in countryside with such zeal and success that at his death but a handful of pagans remained in all Pontus. He took part in the council of Antioch in 265 and died in the reign of Aurelian (270-275). The legends which soon afterwards grew up around the first bishop of the province procured for him the title Thaumaturgos or Wonder-Worker, but, at the same time, they testify to the striking personality of a great master. The Cappadocian Fathers of the fourth century venerated him as the founder of the Church of Cappadocia. Gregory of Nyssa has left us his Life, and three other biographies, all mythical in character, have been preserved." (Patrology, vol. 2, pp. 123-124)

Enrico Norelli writes, "For the remainder of Gregory's biography we are dependent on five, largely legendary lives that probably go back to oral tradition: one in Greek, one in Syriac, one in Armenian, and two in Latin. One of the latter is a chapter included by Rufinus of Aquileia among the additions he made in his translation of Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History. Between 240 and 250 Gregory was consecrated bishop of Neocaesarea: during his episcopate the persecution of Diocletian occurred, which he escaped by withdrawing into the mountains with many of the faithful, and a short but devastating invasion of the barbarian Goths and Borads into Pontus. Around 264 he and Athenodorus were said to have attended the synod of Antioch that was to pass judgment on Paul of Samosata, who had been accused of adoptionism. The majority of the bishops assembled there were former students of Origen." He continues, "The participation is attested by Eusebius (Hist. eccl. 7.28.1) on the basis of the synodal letter, which has a Theodore among the signers (Hist. eccl. 7.30). This fragile construction has also been criticized, rightly, by Nautin. Paul's defense of himself and the protection given him by Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, prevented a decision. Paul was deposed only at a later (3d) synod, probably in 268, but Gregory does not appear among the signers. It is doubtful that he was already dead, since according to other sources he died under Aurelian, therefore between 270 and 275. In his native area Gregory remained famous chiefly as an apostle and worker of miracles (hence his nickname), which the lives hand on with obviously legendary expansions. If we accept Nautin's critique, we must conclude that the only sure information about Gregory is that he was bishop of Neocaesarea when Eusebius was a young man." (Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature, vol. 1, p. 309)

Quasten writes, "The treatise To Philagrius on Consubstantiality, preserved in Syriac, under Gregory's name, is of doubtful authenticity. Containing a brief exposition of the trinitarian doctrine, it is nothing but a translation of the Greek Epistle to Euagrius found among the works of Gregory of Nazianzus (MG 37, 383-386) and of Gregory of Nyssa (MG 46, 1101-1108). Also doubtful are the treatise To Tatian On the Soul and six homilies preserved in Armenian." (Patrology, vol. 2, pp. 127-128)

Enrico Norelli writes, "A profession of faith is contained in Gregory of Nyssa's Life of Gregory the Wonderworker; its authenticity has likewise been recently called into question (by L. Abramowski). The profession consists of four articles, having to do respectively with the Father, the Son, the Spirit, and the Trinity; there is no reference to the incarnation. It is meant to remove the dangers of Origenist subordinationism by emphasizing the point that there is nothing created, nothing of servant status, within the Trinity, nor anything introduced into the Trinity only at a certain point. The breadth of the last two articles cannot easily be fitted into the third century, since the points taken up in these two articles were still marginal at that time. In addition, Basil of Caesarea, who was well acquainted with the heritage of the Wonderworker, says nothing of this formula, even in circumstances in which it would have been useful to cite it. Gregory of Nazianzus quotes from the fourth article as from a recently composed profession of faith. While it is difficult to imagine Gregory of Nyssa forging anything, for it would have been quickly denounced, it is likely that at least the last two articles were formulated in the second half of the fourth century (M. Simonetti)." (Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature, vol. 1, p. 310)

H. Schneider writes, "Also transmitted under Gregory's name are some works regarded by scholars as not authentic (e.g., addresses on Mary). The authenticity of the panegyric, the confession of faith, and the work on God's inability to suffer has been doubted by some scholars, but it is generally accepted. Still disputed is the authenticity of the dialogue on consubstantiality addressed to Philagrius (ep. Philagr.) and the short treatise on the soul addressed to Tatian (anim.). The debate with Ailianus (see Basil, ep. 210.5) and some letters are lost." (Dictionary of Early Christian Literature, p. 270)

Enrico Norelli writes, "A dialogue between Gregory and someone named Theopompus, On Passibility and Impassibility in God, is preserved in Sytriac under Gregory's name. Theopompus puts forward the opinions of someone called Isocrates, who, in the name of divine impassibility, refuses to accept the incarnation and the passion. Gregory defends these in the name of the freedom of God, who proves his own impassibility precisely by becoming passible and overcoming suffering and death. At the end, this God is identified with Jesus, which gives the work a modalist tone; this has led many scholars to doubt the authenticity of the work." (Early Christian Greek and Latin Literature, vol. 1, p. 310)

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