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Papers (Abstracts) K-Z

(as they come in and have been approved; speakers should reckon roughly 15-20 minutes for the paper, 5-10 minutes for questions. Each session is supposed to stop at the 25 minute mark to allow people to move between sessions)

Gregory of Nyssa on the Creation of the world: Theology and Science in IN HEXAEMERON

Dr Robin Orton
Visiting research fellow
King’s College, London


Gregory’s ‘apology’ on the six days of creation, a follow-up to his brother Basil of Caesarea’s series of sermons on the same topic, is rather a neglected work in the English-speaking world, although there are important studies in German by F.X. Risch (1999) and Charlotte Köckert (2009). The work combines an exegesis of some parts of Genesis 1.1-19 with apologetics, metaphysics and natural philosophy. It deals only with the creation of the physical world, and is thus a companion work to Gregory’s ‘On the Making of Humankind’ (de hominis opificio)

 About half the book is devoted to an elaborate and, in parts, highly technical rebuttal, based on Aristotle’s theory of the elements, of Basil’s notion that the water above the firmament (Genesis 1. 6-7) was ordinary physical water, serving as a reservoir from which the water under the firmament could be ‘topped up’ as it was progressively consumed by fire.  This, in itself, is of little direct theological interest and has probably contributed to the work’s relative neglect

 Theologically much more interesting is Gregory’s explanation of how, in terms of natural philosophy, the process of creation actually worked and how it relates to God’s original creative act. He suggests God initially created the whole material universe - out of himself (ex Deo) rather than ex nihilo – instantaneously and in a potential form, rather like sowing a seed. This initial creation was not itself matter, but rather a mixture of abstract qualities, including diastema or spacing, which would in due course, by the process of akolouthia, or sequence, produce the various constituents of the material world, as set out in narrative form in Genesis 1. This suggests interesting parallels with modern scientific cosmology.  Gregory insistence that the wisdom and will and power of God remain immanent in creation – that akolouthia is not a mechanical necessity - could be of interest to modern systematic theologians. 






Augustine in the underworld. An example of intertextuality in Saint Augustine’s Confessions

Math Osseforth, Ph.D.



Reading Saint Augustine’s Confessions one gets the feeling that the young Augustine’s life story should be seen as exemplary; it is what Annemaré Kotzé, among others, has dubbed the protreptic character of the Confessions. To make it easier for the addressee to identify with the protagonist, it is essential that the young Augustine’s world should be familiar to the addressee’s own world.

I hope to show in this communication how the substantial presence of Virgil in the Confessions is instrumental towards that goal, by analysing one example of that presence that has gone hitherto unnoticed in this context. It is the passage about memory in book ten, which I will present as an allusion to the underworld passage in book six of the Aeneid. An analysis of the function of the passage in book ten will also enhance our understanding of the macrostructure of the Confessions as a whole.




Kotzé, A. (2004) Augustine’s Confessions: Communicative Purpose and audience.


Osseforth, M.H.J.G.

(2017) Friendship in Saint Augustine’s Confessions, between social convention

and Christian morals. Amsterdam.

Hübner, W. (1981) ‘Die praetoria memoriae im zehnten Buch der Confessiones’.

Revue d' Etudes Augustiniennes et Patristiques 27.

MacCormack, S. (1998) Shadows of Poetry. Vergil in the Mind of Augustine.



The Logos/Nous One-Many between ‘Pagan’ and Christian Platonism:
Bardaisan, Clement, Origen, Plotinus, and Gregory of Nyssa

Ilaria Ramelli


I shall investigate the  conception of Christ-Logos-Wisdom , God's Mind, as being One-Many, “One as all things” and “all things as One”, in Clement of Alexandria’s Strom. IV 25,156, a fundamental passage which I shall carefully analyse from the philosophical point of view. I shall then examine the background of this specific conception in Middle Platonism, ‘pagan’ Jewish and Christian, including Bardaisan of Edessa, the concept of Nous as One-Many in Plotinus, and the complex and rich reception of Christ-Logos.Wisdom as One-Many in Origen and Gregory of Nyssa, against the backdrop of Neoplatonism. I shall argue that these two philosophical theologians applied the notion under investigation both to Christ-Logos as the seat of all Ideas/logoi of creation, and to Christ’s humanity as coinciding with all humankind. The latter notion, as will be argued, has important consequences in Origen’s and Gregory’s eschatology as well.


Relationship between Divine Grace and Human Efforts in the Process of Salvation and Purification of Passions

Rozumna Yulia

In this paper I will examine the role of human efforts and of the Holy Spirit in salvation in the thought of the Cappadocian Fathers. I will look specifically at the purification of the soul from passions, and the relationship between human works and divine grace. We know that God and sin are incompatible. The goal of human life is union with God which is possible only after the process of purification of human nature from sinful passions has started. According to St Gregory of Nazianzus, we live in the era of the Holy Spirit who enables our approach to God. Nowadays we can find many Pentecostal and charismatic churches which emphasize the role of the Spirit in salvation. Thus, it seems important to look at what the Cappadocian Fathers, who stood at the roots of developing the doctrine of the Trinity and the Holy Spirit, can tell modern world about the role of the Spirit in completing human salvation. On the one hand, St Basil of Caesarea, one of the Cappadocians, writes that the Spirit does not come close to the unworthy souls but only to those who have been purified from passions. The Spirit gives his energies only to those who are worthy of it, those who have driven out evil passions from their souls. Thus, it seems to be the task of humans to purify their nature from passions. St Basil also states that in order to receive divine light, through divine grace, one has to be worthy of it, humans should open wide their minds and accept this Light. So, from one point of view, first comes human effort, and then divine help. However, St Basil also writes that the Spirit ‘cools down’ human passions by mortifying their bodies. He assists humans in purification from passions, perfecting their zeal and eagerness for the good. Thus, the Spirit approaches even the ‘dirty’ soul of a person who is fighting with passions. Moreover, on the one hand, according to St Basil, the grace of God is the only foundation of salvation. On the other hand, the life of virtue requires many labours on the part of humanity. We see a similar dynamic in St Gregory of Nazianzus who writes that, on the one hand, not everyone can theologize, but only those who have purified their souls. Theologian should purify him/herself before he/she can purify others. St Gregory of Nyssa also insists that one can talk about theology only if one is purified by the virtue and grace of the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, St Gregory of Nazianzus writes that whoever is aware of their own unworthiness but tries to purify themselves is illuminated and given grace by God to theologize. They can speak about God only if they have been examined, and have been previously purified in soul and body, or at the very least are being purified. Thus, we see in these theologians a harmonious interaction between divine grace and human labours. The Spirit comes not after the human nature has been totally purified, which is almost impossible to achieve, but when a person recognizes their sins and started purifying their nature.


Gregory of Nyssa on the Father’s progeneration of the Son in his Against Eunomius: Evidence of engagement with the conceptual metaphor CAUSATION IS PROGENERATION

Isabella Sandwell (University of Bristol)


In his Death is the Mother of Beauty: Mind, Metaphor, Criticism Mark Turner identifies an underlying tendency in western literature from the Bible to the 20th century to map from the conceptual domain of progeneration to that of causation as seen in individual metaphorical expressions ‘Despair is the mother of madness’(Despair causes madness) and Hatred is the child of misunderstanding (Hatred derives from misunderstanding). He argues that this mapping is based on a shared common sense understanding of progeneration found in the societies producing that literature, an understanding that is based in human experience of natural reproduction and child-birth. As such it is a classic example of the type of conceptual metaphor outlined by the work of Lakoff and Johnson among others (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980 and 1999). This paper will argue that as Gregory of Nyssa sought to assert his view of the way the Father caused the Son in the Trinity as a form of progeneration against Eunomius’ view of it as primarily a type of creation, Gregory had to engage with the conceptual metaphor CAUSATION IS PROGENERATION, and alter some of the of the ways that his listeners and readers thought about it. In so doing I hope to add a detailed case study to work that ahs tried in general terms to apply conceptual metaphor to ancient Christian doctrine (Barcelona, 2003)

In Book 3 of the Against Eunomius when combatting Eunomius’ notion that the Son came into existence at a particular moment in time rather than pre-existing for eternity with the Father, Gregory accepts that Eunomius is correct in thinking that it is ‘typical of all things that have come into being through generation that they do not exist before being generated’ (3.6.44) and he makes similar comments elsewhere (3.6.44, 1.626-7).  These comments are interesting because they coincide with what Mark Turner has identified as a deep-seated tendency of western societies, from biblical times to the twentieth century, to experience, and so conceptualize, natural reproduction and child-birth as ‘creation out of nothing’ because one minute there is no baby there and the next there is (Turner, 1987). This suggests that Gregory realised he was arguing against not just Eunomius but also a more widespread view and that if he wanted his use of the analogy of natural reproduction to be convincing he had to change how people thought about it.

In book 3, Gregory’s initial response is to say that the analogy of natural reproduction can only ever be an imperfect and partial one for the Trinity, a characteristic of Gregory that is often emphasized in more recent secondary literature (Ayres 2004, Barnes 2001). However, in Book 1 of Against Eunomius he provides an alternate way of thinking about natural reproduction that draws on different aspects of the experience of it that, when combined with scientific (Aristotelian) knowledge still current in his day, allowed him to argue that natural reproduction did provide a suitable model for the way the Father caused/produced the Son. Building on some aspects of Zacchbuber’s work on human nature in the writings of Gregory and rejecting others (Zacchuber, 2000), I shall argue that the Aristotelian understanding of natural reproduction as the transmission of the form (eidos) of the species provided Gregory with a way to imagine the divine nature of the Son as always pre-existing in the Father who shares that nature. I then show that Gregory encapsulated this reimagining of natural reproduction in a vivid image of Levi pre-existing in the loins of his great-Grandfather Abraham (see Hebrews 7.5-10) through their ‘community of being (ousia)’ or eidos (Against Eunomius, 1.634-6). In so doing, I argue that Gregory sought to reshape how his audience mentally represented natural reproduction so that he could still make use of an analogy that was powerful precisely because it was based in human experience (as argued by Lakoff and Johnson, 1980), while adjusting it so that it was appropriate for his conception of the Trinity.



Ayers, L. (2004) Nicaea and its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth Century Trinitarian Theology, Oxford.

Barcelona, A. (2003) ‘The Metaphorical and Metonymic Understanding of the Trinitarian Dogma,’ International Journey of English Studies 3 (1): 1-27.

Barnes, M. R. (2001) The Power of God: Dunamis in Gregory of Nyssa’s Trinitarian Theology, Washington D.C.

Lakoff, G and Johnson, M. (1980) Metaphors We Live By, Chicago and London.

  • (1999), Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its Challenge to Western Thought, New York.

Turner, M. (1987) Death is the Mother of Beauty: Mind, Metaphor, Criticism, Chicago.

Zachhuber, J. (2000) Human Nature in Gregory of Nyssa: Philosophical Background and Theological Significance, Leiden



Gregory of Nazianzus in the byzantine liturgical hymnography

Alexandre Siniakov

Byzantine liturgical hymns - especially those of the great feasts as Easter, Christmas and Theophany - are largely inspired by Gregory of Nazianzus texts. Some of them, the most important, like matins canon of Easter and Christmas, contain long and literal quotations of the Theologian. Gregory’s feast homilies (38-41) seem to have been the main reference for many of the monastic hymnographs. It is probably due to the fact that those works were read by the monks during the services and the meals and, consequently, known almost by heart by many of them. It is also interest to notice that christological texts of Gregory are used as much as trinitarian ones. This part of Theologian’s heritage is unknown but it is worthy of being appreciated.

Identical foundations on opposite Christologies: Nestorius of Constantinople and Severus of Antioch. The critique of Saint Maximus the Confessor

Giorgios Siskos

Aristotle University of Thessaloniki




Maximus the Confessor’s engagement with the monothelite controversy produced a series of arguments which revealed Nestorianism and Severan monophysitism as the foundations of monotheletism. At first sight it seems difficult to see how two opposite Christological interpretations serve as the common ground for a theological construct. Still, Saint Maximus, inheriting the critical legacy of postchalcedonian orthodox tradition towards Nestorianism and Severan monophysitism, reveals the identical presuppositions that lie under their Christological expressions. The article explores the Nestorian and Severan textual sources in which Saint Maximus draws his critique. Focal points are: first, the notions of hypostasis, nature, terms used in both Christological interpretations and signifying identical content, yet, bearing two opposite interpretational results: two natures, hypostases, prosopa versus one nature, hypostasis, prosopon. Second, where Nestorius formulates the third prosopon of union in Christ in order to establish the two hypostases and two natural prosopa in Christ, Severus of Antioch formulates the fictional notion of epinoia of the two hypostases in order to eliminate the duality of hypostases in Christ. Third, whereas Nestorius uses gnomi in order to unite the two hypostases by keeping them intact and divided, Severus uses the difference in natural qualities to exclude the possibility of a second hypostasis which leads according to him to the division between God the Word and His humanity. The formulations of gnomi and natural qualities serves the ultimate axiom, common to both, that every nature is necessarily self-subsistent. The result is either union as division (Nestorius) or union as confusion (Severus).



Methods and Misconceptions: Approaching the Study of Gender in Manichaeism



This paper will discuss methodological challenges and difficulties encountered in my recent research concerning the construction of gender in Manichaean studies. Research to date has focused primarily upon the roles allowed to women in the Manichaean community and in Manichaean praxis. Manichaean cosmological mythology, both as written by Mani himself and as developed in subsequent generations of the Manichaean faithful, offers a rich source for the study of Manichaean constructions of gender. Mani’s own explanation of his use of gendered relational terms will be discussed.

The study of gender in Manichaeism must sustain a robust defence against concerns of anachronism. This paper will seek to address these concerns by considering the successful application of theoretical models of gender in related disciplines such as Jewish and Christian studies. The application and absorption of these models into Manichaean studies reveals the significance of the changing socio-political circumstances of the Manichaean community upon formations and reformations of gender. This approach is exemplified by an exploration of constructions of gender implicit in the characterisation of the Manichaean Primal Man, a masculine-gendered divinity central to Manichaean cosmological mythology. Analysis of the characterisation of the Primal Man in Manichaean cosmological mythology reveals two parallel but paradoxical representations of masculinity as both battle-ready warrior and defeated victim of the violence of demonic forces. This paper will seek to reconcile these two apparently opposing characterisations by considering the changing socio-political circumstances of the Manichaean community. Research findings support the construction of masculinity as a fluid concept shaped by cultural and historical circumstances and demonstrates the struggle experienced to maintain masculinity in communities under siege.





Vergil as Christian Exegete in the Paradisiac Landscape of Prudentius’ Cathemerinon 5

Thomas Tsartsidis

University of Thessaly


 At a pivotal point of Prudentius’ Cathemerinon 5, the hymn to the lighting of the lamp (end of the 4th/ beginning of the 5th c. AD), the poet includes a description of paradise (113-124). In his description of the paradisiac landscape, which is replete with flowers, exotic plants and streams of water, Prudentius alludes to Vergil’s poems as well as the Bible, and more specifically to the “enclosed garden” (hortus conclusus) from the Song of Songs. This multiple allusion to Classical and Christian tradition is a quintessential feature of Prudentius’ poetry. Nonetheless, a closer examination of this passage shows that Prudentius’ appropriation of Vergil operates on a double level of Christian exegesis. On the one hand, by alluding to the idyllic landscapes of Vergil’s poems in order to depict paradise, Prudentius represents Vergil as an extra-biblical poet who described the concept of paradise, in other words, Prudentius applies a typological interpretation to Vergil’s poems with the Classical poet’s locus amoenus corresponding to the Christian paradise. On the other hand, some of the elements contained in the Vergilian hypotexts, but not in the biblical text describing the hortus conclusus that Prudentius alludes to, are in line with the views of Christian exegetes about the biblical hypotext (Cyprian, Augustine). Thus, in addition to alluding to Vergil in order to describe paradise, Prudentius also uses Vergil in order to support contemporary exegesis about the hortus conclusus. In so doing, Prudentius links the paradise on earth from the Song of songs, (that is, according to contemporary exegesis, the Christian folk who leads a pious life) to the paradise in the afterlife from Vergil’s text.

Ignatius of Antioch - Seven Letters in Three Recensions?

Markus Vinzent

King's College London/Max-Weber-Kolleg, University of Erfurt

Since Theodor Zahn (1838 -1933) and Joseph Barber Lightfoot (1828-1889), researchers are unanimous that the Ignatiana survived in three recensions (short, middle, long) and that the seven letters of the middle recension are the authentic ones, written by either the historic second bishop of Antioch, Ignatius (so the majority of scholars) in the early 2nd c. or by a forger between 150 and 180 CE. The short recension is seen as an abridged form, only extent in three letters, the long version is not only a broadening of the seven letters, but there are also 6 more letters added to the collection.

The present paper will challenge all these assumptions, first discussing whether in the light of the extant manuscripts one can still speak of only three recensions, and if not, how else we have to describe the state of these letters. It will also shed light on the connected question of the number of letters and the potential date of them. Finally, a few conclusions will be drawn on the impact, the new hypothesis on the development of the Ignatiana has for the writing of the history of early Christianity.

Literature: Markus Vinzent, Writing the History of Early Christianity. From Reception to Retrospection (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming).


Subverting Subversion:
An Ontological Reading of Gregory of Nyssa’s Refutation of Slavery in In Ecclesiasten Homiliae IV



In his Fourth Homily on Ecclesiastes Gregory of Nyssa condemns both slavery and usury.  His disavowal of usury is fully in line with conventional patristic polemic.  However, his refutation of slavery goes well beyond the patristic consensus which, while condemning the maltreatment of slaves, stops short of denouncing the institution itself.

Modern scholarship has endeavoured to identify those drivers which propelled Gregory to offer such an unequivocal rejection and theological subversion of this social evil.  One points to an anthropology which is rooted in the Imago Dei and also in the consubstantiality of all humanity.  Another focuses on an eschatology which announces resurrection and liberation from bondage.  Another links it more precisely to an ἀναγωγία which cannot tolerate the objectification of a human being who is destined for heaven.

Such is the richness and variety of Gregory’s thought that each of these insights is to be affirmed and applauded.  However, the purpose of this paper is to argue that, alongside these drivers, there is a further concern which prompted his outrage against slavery, and this is to be found in Gregory’s ontology.  This is an ontology which above all affirms the absolute distinction between creator and creature, and which therefore rages against any attempt or pretence on the part of the latter to usurp or subvert the sovereignty of the former.

How to Survive the End of the World? Study of the Latin Christian Letters of the 4th and 5th Centuries

Marcin Wysocki

KUL Lublin


A man is constantly faced with the end of certain realities. One of the most mysterious and incomprehensible for humans is the end of the reality in which they are and they live - in the micro and macro sense. Christian eschatology tries to help man in answering his dilemmas and hopes. Special witnesses of such dilemmas and questions about the end of the world, the early-Christian writers living in the late 4th and early 5th were, who faced the fall of their contemporary world, but also expectations for the eschatological end of the universe. They presented their questions, doubts and answers in their treatises, but also in the letters that were always a special kind of exchange of the ideas and testimony of the development of the Christian doctrine. They were often a carrier of feelings and values that were speaking almost heart to heart. In the letters of Ambrose of Milan, Jerome, Paulinus of Nola and Augustine, we often find references to the end of the world but understood in many different ways. The proposed paper will show how they understood the end of the world and what ways they proposed to survive both when their visible world in which they live ends, as well when the end of the cosmos and the final judgment comes.

The (Well-Mannered) Physician of Souls:  Ethics and Comportment in Galenic and Monastic Literature

Dr Jonathan L. Zecher

Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry, Australian Catholic University


Spiritual direction is regularly characterized in monastic sources as a medicine of the soul.  This presentation is both an inheritance of philosophical self-presentations and a counterpart to medical work.  Scholars have long noticed this analogy, but, while scholars have traced Galenic psycho-physiologies less attention has been given to the characterization of the “physician.”

This paper, therefore, interrogates a narrow but valuable range of medical literature, centered on Galen’s That the Best Physician is a Philosopher, dealing with the ethical expectations of physicians, and emphasising the rhetorical skill and good manners expected of physicians.  For example, the often public setting of ancient medicine meant that medical practice was highly agonistic, and patients had to be persuaded, first, to accept the authority of a particular physician and, second, to act on that physician’s advice.  Achieving these ends meant that good manners could mean as much in clinical practice as extensive anatomical knowledge. 

Having mapped the ethical and mannerly concerns of Late antique physicians, we turn to monastic sources from Gaza (6th c.) and Sinai (7th c.) to show the same concerns at work in the construction of the “confessor” or “spiritual director.”  Barsanuphios and John of Gaza (Quaestiones et Responsiones), Dorotheos their pupil (Doctrinae), and John Klimakos (Scala paradisi), all characterize the director’s role in ways consonant with, and at times perhaps determined by, Hippocratic, or Galenic, medical ethics and manners.  By studying their dependencies and departures alike, it is hoped that the medical model will complement philosophical backgrounds and rhetorical techniques to develop a more robust account of spiritual direction as medicine of the soul.