GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS, SAINT (329-389)
Known as the Theologian. Along with Saint BASIL THE GREAT and Saint GREGORY OF NYSSA, Gregory of Nazianzus is one of the three Cappadocian Fathers. He was born in Nazianzus. For a few months, he was bishop of Constantinople, but he then withdrew to private life. Among his principal works are a collection of forty-five homilies, including five theological homilies on the Holy Spirit; the Philokalia, a collection of passages from ORIGEN; a collection of 425 letters; and a collection of poems.
Although Gregory is a saint in the Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions, the Coptic church did not venerate him particularly. Indeed, he has no individual feast in the Copto-Arabic SYNAXARION; nevertheless, he is mentioned, for example, in the Great Euchologion of DAYR ANBA SHINUDAH (the White Monastery). The Coptic literary tradition attributes eight homilies to him; four are authentic, one is erroneously attributed, and three are later spurious works.
The authentic homilies (translated from the Greek) include Homily 14, De charitate, which survives in Bohairic in a complete codex (Vatican Library, Coptic 66. 12) and in some fragments from another codex (Lafontaine, 1979); Homily 21, In Athanasium, which survives in fragments of a codex of the White Monastery (Orlandi, 1970); a fragment of Homily 43, In Basilium, from a papyrus codex (Browne, 1979); and some unpublished fragments from Homily 45, De Pascha, in a codex of the White Monastery.
The erroneously attributed homily is, in fact, Gregory of Nyssa’s De deitate Filii et Spiritus Sancti, partly reworked.
The three spurious homilies show all the signs of being the fruit of original Coptic production of about the seventh century and are attributed to Gregory for reasons of convenience.
De Michaele Archangelo et de diabolo (Lafontaine, 1979, from the manuscript in the Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, M592, fols. 8-16; a fragment in the British Museum, Or. 6782, fol. 9) is a refutation of a doctrine attributed to heretics and Manichaeans concerning the sin committed by Satan and the tasks subsequently taken on by Michael. According to the heretics, Satan was banished for having refused to adore man when the latter was created. Against this view, the author states that Satan, the first of the heavenly creatures, sinned by pride before the earth was even created, and it was then that he was replaced by Michael. The text then speaks of Michael’s role as an intercessor for men with God.
Some papyrus fragments (Pierpont Morgan Library, C7; Crum, 1913, no. 7) contain a commentary, In Rom. 4:15, that deals principally with baptism. Also concerning baptism, we have a homily that has survived in some unpublished fragments from the White Monastery.
Last, we should mention two liturgical passages (Pleyte and Boeser, 1897, pp. 441ff.), called “Prayer and Exorcism,” of mysterious content. It is not certain, however, that the Gregory given as the author is to be identified as Gregory of Nazianzus.
- Browne, G. M. Michigan Coptic Texts. Papyrologica Castroctaviana 7. Barcelona, 1979.
- Crum, W. E. “Theological Texts from Coptic Papyri.” In Anecdota Oxoniensia. Semitic Series 12. Oxford, 1913.
- Lafontaine, G. “Une Homélie copte sur le diable et sur Michel attribuée a Grégoire le Théologien.” Le Muséon 92(1979):37-60.
- . “La Version copte bohairique du discours “Sur l’amour des pauvres’ de Grégoire de Nazianze.” Le Muséon 93 (1980):199-236.
- Lanne, E., ed. Le Grand euchologe du Monastere Blanc. PO 28, 2. Paris, 1958.
- Orlandi, T. “La traduzione copta dell ‘Encomio de Atanasio’ di Gregorio Nazianzeno.” Le Muséon 83 (1970):351-66.
- Pleyte, W., and P. A. A. Boeser. Manuscrits coptes du Musée d’Antiquités des Pays-Bas à Leide. Leiden, 1897.